Sunday, July 31, 2022

Films That I Saw: July 2022

 

This has been hell of a summer not just in terms of the chaos of the world but also in the fact that it’s fucking hot. Not just here in Georgia where the heat has been unbearable at times but also around the world. Once again, it is climate change and we have done little to really confront this issue as the world is still dealing with the remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic while here in the U.S. Things aren’t getting any better with the country just being divided on all sorts of things and it is just showing the ugly and stupid aspects of humanity. Everyone has to pick sides and such as I just prefer not to be involved since I think both liberals and conservatives can just fuck off. I have other things to worry about that are more important than a bunch of stupid issues and causes that I have no interest in.

The world of professional wrestling this year has been insane considering not just the highs and lows with WWE having its most chaotic year so far as they would have a good match worth watching every now and then but there’s too much shit that their audience have to endure. Even if that audience are nothing more than a bunch of mindless sheep who are unaware that the people at that company really doesn’t give a fuck about them. Ever since November of 2014 is when it was the last time I watched an episode of WWE Monday Night Raw in its fullest only to stop altogether as I had become not just bored by the product but also disillusioned with the whole company in the way they treated their talent and the booking. Most of all, Vince McMahon himself as he was starting to become more of a liability in the way he had been booking and organizing everything to the point of writing the shows up to the last minute.

Ever since he bought World Wide Wrestling Federation from his father back in 1982 and re-branded it as World Wrestling Federation only to change it 20 years later to World Wrestling Entertainment following a legal loss with the World Wildlife Fund. McMahon has been the creative force behind the company as would take his father’s company from this regional promotion in the Northeast of the U.S. and make it national where if it wasn’t for him. I wouldn’t be watching pro wrestling but then he made “wrestling” a dirty word as he chose to not brand his company as pro wrestling but sports entertainment. Sports entertainment is a term that McMahon used as a way to not deal with sports commissions and other things as some of it is true as what he does is entertainment but the product for more than a decade has been anything but entertaining.

It’s not just the product that I think drove away fans to either look for other and better things such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Impact, and now All Elite Wrestling. It’s McMahon himself as the show Dark Side of the Ring on Vice has definitely showcased a lot of the dark aspects of pro wrestling and a lot of it involves McMahon. There’s no question that the stories of how he helped destroy the wrestling territories in the 1980s to go national as well as the steroid trial of 1994 and other activities he had done back in the 1980s and 1990s. It is also no surprise for those that had read about him are aware that he’s been having extramarital affairs with other women including women wrestlers and such. However, what happened this past month in the fact that there’s NDAs involved and $12 million in hush money toward a few women in the past 20 years has become concerning. When you’re a CEO of a publicly-traded company, there’s certain behaviors that can’t be tolerated and the fact that he wasn’t taking it seriously until a few weeks ago is definitely alarming.

There have been stories of McMahon doing awful things to women including raping then-WWF referee Rita Chatterton in 1986 and told about it six years later only for a settlement to occur with no resolution. Chatterton’s story isn’t the only thing that wrestling fans know about as there is also a story about the late Ashley Massaro back in 2006 at a Tribute to the Troops show where she had been raped and the company did nothing to help her. Even as she was treated as more of a sexual object to McMahon and longtime WWE TV director Kevin Dunn as she later left the company never to return and is unable to tell her story due to her suicide in 2019. It’s not just McMahon that’s being investigated but also former head of talent relations in John Laurinaitis who had also been having extramarital affairs behind the scenes. Laurinaitis is pretty much gone as this point as I hope HHH told him in Laurinaitis’ own raspy voice “budget cuts kid” in the same Laurinaitis told released talents in the past few years.

It’s not just Laurinaitis that is pretty much out of the company but Kevin Dunn is also likely on his way out because he has been really unpopular with a lot of the people in the company in the way he presents the TV product with its shaky-cams and fast-cuts as well as the fact that he’s a fucking creep. Also on borrowed time are two more of McMahon’s cronies in longtime creative head/booker Bruce Pritchard and Michael “P.S.” Hayes as they’re just a couple of old farts who WWE don’t really need as it is clear that it’s not just McMahon’s cronies that are on their way out but also McMahon. On July 22, 2022, Vince McMahon announced his retirement as CEO of WWE placing his daughter Stephanie and Nick Khan as co-CEOs of WWE with HHH now doing double-duty as head of talent relations (w/ Pritchard for the time being) and head of creative. McMahon’s retirement is something fans have been waiting for though it’s a forced retirement due to the fact that $14 million dollars was unrecorded in tax records as it allows the federal government the one thing they didn’t get to do back in 1994 during the steroid trial. That is to put McMahon in jail.

With McMahon and his cronies on their way out for now and Stephanie and her husband HHH along with Nick Khan in charge, change is going to come to the WWE but it’s going to be a slow process. Will it get me back on board? Probably not as I’m largely content with AEW, New Japan, and the NWA while I’ll watch something from Impact and GCW. The WWE wrestling style doesn’t impress me though I’ll watch a match or two from them on YouTube depending on word of mouth. HHH is someone I’m rooting for as he did a lot of amazing work in creating and building new stars that came from the indies in NXT as it was the brand that kept WWE afloat though once someone from NXT is called up to the main roster whether it’s on RAW or Smackdown, they’re fucked. I hope HHH succeeds and allow the talent to find themselves and get over on their terms without having the old man micro-manage everything and have them say stupid things to appeal to the audience.

The one thing I’m worried about for HHH, Stephanie, and Nick Khan is the WWE audience as they really have no clue what they want as they would cheer for Vince which is proof that they’re sheep. Plus, they would want this and then want them which only adds the argument of what Bryan Danielson said during his heel-run in the late 2010s in WWE by calling them fickle. There’s also the idea that McMahon and his cronies could return which is what will hold this company back as well as it relates to business as WWE might be putting themselves up to be sold to some other company. The library and content of the past is worth a lot of money but the television and pay-per-view programming however is largely terrible. Who will buy WWE and for how much? What will happen when McMahon comes back and makes things worse to the point where the company could go bankrupt? This is now a new era for WWE but where it is going is now filled with uncertainty. For their competitors, they’re keeping a close eye knowing what WWE has done in the past as they will be ready for a big fight.
In the month of June 2022, I saw a total of 31 films in 20 first-timers and 11 re-watches with 7 of these first-timers directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Slightly down from last month yet there was a lot of good films that I saw as a highlight this month has been my Blind Spot film in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. Here are the top 10 first-timers that I saw for July 2022:

1. Midsommar
2. Hereditary
3. Endless Poetry
4. New York City Ballet
5. La Ricotta
6. North Terminal
7. Summer of 85
8. Thor: Love and Thunder
9. All the Crows in the World
10. Blue
Monthly Mini-Reviews/What Else I’ve Watched

The “Dew” Project



A short film made by Brie Larson when she was just a kid, it is a hilarious short that has Larson running away from something that is really horrifying. She’s in a park with her mom and sister as she keeps seeing some object that is just scaring the living fuck out of her. Honestly, I don’t blame her. I don’t like what’s scaring her at all. It’s disgusting. No wonder she was freaking out as this is just a fun short from an already incredible figure in cinema.

Avengers: Quantum Encounter



While this is just a short film Marvel made strictly for Disney cruise ships (like I would ever go to another fucking cruise ever again), there is something that fans of Marvel would like to see. It is in this short in which Ant-Man and the Wasp are trying to present a new gadget that suddenly goes wrong which brings in Ultron and his army as the two along with Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Ms. Marvel to come in and save the day. It is a fun little short film that does give audience the chance to see old and new heroes saving a cruise ship and having some fun with Ms. Marvel definitely holding her own and having fun interactions with Sam Wilson.

La Ricotta
From Pier Paolo Pasolini, that was part of an anthology film made with Jean-Luc Godard, Roberto Rossellini, and Ugo Gregoretti known as Ro.Go.Pa.G., is a segment that got Pasolini in trouble with the authorities in Italy over its religious content. Yet, it is a segment that marks a unique period in Pasolini’s career that would have him explore not just comedy but also serious subject matters in the years to come. Starring Orson Welles as a filmmaker trying to make a film about the Passion as it includes an actor trying to get some food to eat as it is told in a comical manner. Add a difficult actress to the mix as well as shot in an array of cinematic style is a short that fans of Pasolini need to see as it is available on MUBI.

ASSEMBLED: The Making of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
From Disney+ is the next making-of documentary film from the ASSEMBLED doc series that focuses on Sam Raimi’s film that is hosted by Bruce Campbell. Featuring interviews with the cast and crew, the documentary series does showcase the work that Sam Raimi put in towards the film with a lot of the actors wanting to do their own stunts in order to add some realism to a film that is largely a fantasy. The subject of the multiverse is also discussed with the actors as well as the sources from the many comics on the characters in the film. It is a strong effort from Marvel as well as another entry in the ASSEMBLED documentary series.

All the Crows in the World
The 2021 winner of the short film Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival by Tang Yi is an incredible short that explores a young schoolgirl asked by her cousin to attend a dinner with a bunch of older men as if she is meant to become a future bride for one of these men. Yet, it a short that does play into bits of fantasy but also revelations into one of the men at the dinner whom the young schoolgirl befriends where they would act out as it is told in colorful style.

North Terminal
From Lucrecia Martel is a 36-minute short released exclusively on MUBI is a documentary short of sorts set in the largely-conservative area of Salta, Argentina that explore a group of musicians and artists who don’t play to the conventions of that area. Lead by Julieta Laso, the film is shot largely in the forest that explore different array of music including a transgender folk performer as it allow these musicians and artists who are expressing themselves as there’s a richness to these performances. Especially with Laso who is accompanied by a pianist who fucking kills it with that instrument as it is something that anyone who loves music must see.

New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet 2021 Spring Gala from Ivan s3m on Vimeo.



A short film by Sofia Coppola funded by Chanel and shot in March of 2021 is about the ballet group who return to the stage after a year because of the pandemic. The short feature five different performances by members of that group where four of them are shot in black-and-white. Coppola and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd bring a lot of movement and style while knowing when to step away to let the dancer or dancers do their work with the final performance shot on the main stage and in color. It is something fans of ballet would need to see while it is also an incredible short by Coppola who adds another winner to her body of work.

The Unseen River
One of two shorts from Southeast Asia that I saw on MUBI revolves around paralleling stories set in a river in Vietnam. One about a couple who travel to a monastery where a young seeks a cure for his insomnia while another story revolves around a middle-aged woman meeting an old lover she hadn’t seen in years. It is a short that explore the world of nature and the modern world and its collision yet also this sense of peacefulness that these characters encounter.

Blue
From Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a surreal short film about a woman trying to sleep as it is shot on a soundstage where the backgrounds would change at times while there are also these moments that add to the surreal elements of the film. It is a fascinating and visually-entrancing short that showcases why Weerasethakul is considered one of the best living filmmakers working today.

Volleyball (Foot Film)
A 10-minute avant-garde silent show by Yvonne Rainer is essentially a shot of a volleyball on the floor with a person’s feet on display. It is just a simple short that was available on MUBI that is still worth watching despite its lack of a strong premise.

Gucci Premiere



One of two commercials helmed by Nicolas Winding Refn has him making one for Gucci with Blake Lively for a new perfume as it is told with such style. Notably as it revolves around this perfume with Refn making an appearance in the commercial as it is a worthwhile commercial to watch.

Hennessy X.O.: Odyssey



Refn’s second commercial but for Hennessey’s new cognac in how it is created. It is again told in style as it has a lot of things going on but it showcases the hard work that it takes in creating cognac. It is the better of the two commercials that Refn has directed as it is something filmmakers need to do for the money they need to fund their own projects.

Ms. Marvel (episodes 5 & 6)
Given the polarizing reaction towards the fourth phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as far as the films are concerned (though I do enjoy most of what they’ve done), it is the television work that Marvel has been producing that’s been really solid. After the viewing the last two episodes of this show, I must say that this isn’t just best thing of Phase 4 so far but easily one of the best things of the MCU. My only gripe about the fifth episode was that it was too short though it did give Western audiences not just a closer look into the Partition but also a look in who Kamala’s grandparents are as they’re played by Pakistani-film icons in Mehwish Hayat and Fawad Khan (that man is GORGEOUS) as well as how Kamala’s grandmother was able to be saved during the last train to Karachi. The season finale is one of the best in not just how the titular hero got her name but all of the things she had gotten for her costume that was ultimately made by her mother and named by her father.

This show really grabbed me in ways I didn’t expect as it not just giving me a history lesson and a look into a world that not many Western audiences know about but also in the sense that there is a community and a group of people who care about each other and just want to live peacefully. Even if they have to deal with a racist government agent who had the audacity to walk into a mosque while wearing shoes and to be dismissive of quotes that aren’t even from Qu’ran. I was moved by it at times but I was also enthralled as I really love the look and feel of it as well as the ensemble cast with Iman Vellani giving such a phenomenal performances. If this show doesn’t get any serious Emmy nominations including in the acting front, then the Emmys can go fuck themselves. The lone post-credit scene is definitely a joy to watch as it now has me even more excited for what is to come that is… The Marvels.

Wrestling Match of the Month: FTR vs. the Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Championship at Death Before Dishonor (Best 2 out of 3 falls)
While Ring of Honor currently doesn’t have a TV/streaming deal at the moment, it is still thriving under its new ownership under the eye of Tony Khan despite some issues behind the scenes with the-now former ROH World Heavyweight Champion Jonathan Gresham before the Death Before Dishonor event that eventually saw Gresham drop the championship to Claudio Castignoli. It proved to be a great show that featured incredible matches including Wheeler Yuta vs. Daniel Garcia for the ROH Pure Championship and Mercedes Martinez vs. Serena Deeb for the ROH Women’s World Championship. Yet, the match of the night that could be another contender for the match of the year towards the end of the year is a rematch for the ROH World Tag Team Championship between current champions FTR and the Briscoes.

This match was tag team wrestling at its most pure in terms of not just the stakes but also in the sense of physicality. These are two teams that are definitely among the best working in professional wrestling as the Briscoes are long-time veterans of ROH and have often prove to be among one of the best tag teams ever. The two matches against FTR have proven that they will always be considered to be one of the best tag teams ever while FTR are continuously being the best tag team right now. How can anyone root against a couple of guys from North Carolina with one of them delivering a heartfelt promo about his own daughter who had a hole in her heart and then was able to fill that hole a few years later and say “I’m gonna fight like an 8-year old girl” get over with the people? While Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee are currently the AEW World Tag Team Champions, FTR should be next in line to have those tag titles to add to the belts they already have from ROH, AAA, and New Japan.

Top 10 Re-Watches

1. Citizen Kane
2. Coming to America
3. Mickey’s Trailer
4. Three Little Pigs
5. The Tortoise & the Hare
6. Hawaiian Holiday
7. Mickey’s Rival
8. The Grasshopper & the Ants
9. The Big Bad Wolf
10. Toby Tortoise Returns
Well, that is all for July 2022 while let’s take a moment to pay respect to those who have passed such as Bill Russell, Nichelle Nichols, Pat Carroll, David Warner, Tony Dow, Mary Alice, Tony Sirico of The Sopranos, Paul Sorvino, Paul Ryder of the Happy Mondays, Monty Norman, L.Q. Jones, Lenny von Dohlen, and James Caan as they will all be missed. Especially Sirico, Sorvino, and Caan as with the passing of Ray Liotta back in May, God is already assembling one hell of a fucking crew. In August, I hope to watch Nope as whatever new release coming in theaters or in streaming services based on my different watch lists while I’m not sure what Blind Spot I will do next as there’s still a couple of them that I need to get that I wasn’t able to in this month’s Barnes & Noble Criterion sale. I hope to get those two films in the next flash sale as I’m just going to focus on what I have right now. Until then, this is thevoid99 signing off…

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Midsommar

 

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Midsommar is the story of a couple who travel to Sweden for a midsummer festival in the hopes of repairing their relationship where they learn that it’s part of a big cult ritual. The film is an exploration of a couple trying to salvage their relationship unaware that the festival they’re attending is part of something bigger as it lead to all sorts of revelations and terror. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, and Will Poulter. Midsommar is a ravishing and terrifying film from Ari Aster.

The film is about a group of people who travel to Sweden for an event that happens every 90 years in which is part of a midsummer festival where a couple hope to repair their relationship following a young woman’s family tragedy. It is a film that explore these people who are attending an once-in-a-lifetime event that is filled with all sorts of intrigue as one of them is from that world as he invites his friends to this ceremony unaware of its intentions. Ari Aster’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative and structure yet he also brings in a lot of complexities not just into these ceremonies at this event in the middle of Sweden but also the people attending this event as well as the inhabitants in the small and tranquil community that is cut off from the modern world. Even as they hold certain rituals that are dark and violent that is shocking to its outsiders who would all unknowingly play a role into this big midsummer event. The film opens in the U.S. during the winter where its protagonist Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) is trying to reach her mentally-ill sister while calling her parents only to learn that her sister had killed them and herself in a murder-suicide event that left Dani traumatized.

Her boyfriend Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) is spending time with her despite the fact that he’s thinking about breaking up with her as he is hoping to go to Sweden for this event for his anthropology studies where he would join fellow students Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) for the trip as they’re invited by their friend in the Swedish student Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) who is from this remote community. Dani joins in much to the reluctance of everyone except Pelle who wants to help her with her grief as they arrive at the rural area of Halsingland in this ceremony known as Harga as they meet a British couple in Simon and Connie (Archie Madekwe and Ellora Torchia, respectively) who are the few outsiders attending this event. Yet, things do become weird that involve certain psychedelics and such while Dani, Christian, and their friends witness these events that are considered shocking and violent as it leads to all sorts of trouble. Some would want to leave only to disappear mysteriously while revelations would occur during the event with Dani dealing with her relationship with Christian.

Aster’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in terms of not just his meticulous approach to framing and compositions but also the atmosphere he presents. With the scenes in the U.S. shot on location in Utah and Brooklyn, New York, much of the film is shot on location in Hungary with some of it shot on location in Sweden to play into the Scandinavian landscape as well as the fact that there’s barely any nighttime in this world that these characters are in. The first 20 minutes is set in the U.S. where Aster creates these tight compositions that do play into Dani’s own drama as well as a scene where her family are killed by her own sister along with this unique tracking shot of Dani walking into the bathroom of her own apartment and then being in a bathroom inside an airplane where she is having an emotional episode. When the film arrives in Sweden at this tranquil and open-spaced community, Aster’s direction definitely gets broader as it is shot largely during the day.

The usage of wide and medium shots add to the scope of the commune as it include houses and such where people live but also landscapes and such for certain ceremonies. Even in how Aster would create these careful framing and compositions such as a scene where Josh is trying to get a closer look into a book that relates to the ritual as he is shown in a close-up in one room and then it cuts to the same close-up but in another room. It is among these moments that play into Aster’s style but there are also these surreal moments such as a scene late in the second act where Dani takes part of a contest that would be crucial to the film’s third act. Even as it lead to revelations about her own tragedy as well as her own relationship with Christian who would go into his own personal journey that has him playing a key role in the third act. Notably as it play into this final ceremony as there is so much at stake with everyone playing a role with Dani being the most crucial as it follows her own journey from tragedy and heartache. Overall, Aster crafts an evocative yet eerie film about a group of college students including a young couple attending an once-in-a-lifetime event that is filled with dark rituals.

Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key lights for the scenes in the U.S. in its interior settings including at the house in Sweden while a lot of the exterior lighting in Sweden that is filled with vibrant colors that are heightened with some natural lighting in some scenes. Editor Lucian Johnston does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish moments but also some straight cuts that help play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Henrik Svensson, with set decorators Klara Alfredson Jofs Svensson and Zsuzsanna Svertecki plus art directors Csaba Lodi, Richard T. Olson, Nille Svensson, and Eszter Takacs, does amazing work with the look of the houses at the commune as well as a few places and such that serve as a sense of importance to the commune. Costume designer Andrea Flesch does fantastic work with the costumes such as the white clothing for all of the people at the commune including the casual look from its visitors.

Hair supervisor Monika Toth and makeup supervisor Katalin Jakots, with prosthetics makeup designer Ivan Poharnok, does brilliant work with the look of a key character in the film as well as the design of some of the gory elements in the film. Special effects supervisor Gabor Kiszelly and visual effects supervisor Gergely Takacs do terrific work with the visual effects as it play into some of the psychedelics the visitors take as it adds a surreal element to the film. Sound designer Ruy Garcia and sound editor Gene Park do superb work with the sound as it help play into some of the natural elements of the location as well as other sounds that help add to the sense of horror in the film. The film’s music by Bobby Krlic is phenomenal for its haunting and eerie music score that relies largely on vocals and folk instrument that play into the sense of tradition in this ritual that these characters deal with while music supervisor Joe Rudge compiles a couple of songs such as a piece of music by Freez at a restaurant early in the film and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) for the film’s final credits.

The casting by Jessica Kelly and Jeanette Klintberg is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Klaudia Csanyi as Dani’s troubled sister Terri, Zsolt Bojari and Gabriella Fon as Dani’s parents, Liv Mjones as a commune resident in Ulla, Hampus Hallberg as a young man in Ingemar who invited Simon and Connie, Mats Blomgren as an elder in Odd, Isabelle Grill as a red-headed young woman in Maja who takes a liking towards Christian, and Bjorn Andersen as an old man who plays a key role in one of the first rituals at the event. Archie Madekwe and Ellora Torchia are superb in their respective roles as the young British couple Simon and Connie as two people who are invited by Ingemar to this event unaware of what is going on as they would later disappear. Will Poulter is fantastic as Mark as a college student who is more interested in getting stoned and getting laid where he ends up rubbing some of the residents at the commune the wrong way.

William Jackson Harper is excellent as Josh as an African-American anthropology student who is hoping to learn more for his thesis only to be at odds with Christian over who should write the thesis as he is hoping to get all of this information into the outside world. Vilhelm Blomgren is brilliant as Pelle as a Swedish student who invites everyone to Sweden for this big event without stating their intentions while is also hoping to help Dani as he too endured his own family tragedy. Jack Reynor is amazing as Christian Hughes as Dani’s boyfriend and an anthropology student who is eager to go to Sweden for his studies but is also secretly hoping to break-up with Dani where he finds himself as an object of affection for a young woman at the commune unaware of the role he’s playing. Finally, there’s Florence Pugh in a phenomenal performance as Dani Ardor as an American psychology student troubled by family tragedy as she is unaware of Christian’s intentions where she travels to Sweden as a way to escape from her issues only to deal with a lot. It is a performance that showcases Pugh at her most vulnerable as well as someone that is trying to find some form of solace and a sense of belonging as it is a career-defining performance from Pugh.

Midsommar is a spectacular film from Ari Aster that features a great leading performance from Florence Pugh. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous locations, ravishing visuals, themes of loss and trauma, and its eerie yet evocative music score. The film is truly an intoxicating yet haunting film that explore people attending this once-in-a-lifetime event that is filled with dark rituals and violence that play into a world that is disconnected with the modern world. In the end, Midsommar is a magnificent film from Ari Aster.

Ari Aster Films: Hereditary - (Disappointment Blvd.)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Female Bosses

 

For the 27th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the subject of lady bosses suggested by Getter where it’s something that is starting to happen recently where women are the one with the power as some for good or some for bad. Here are my three picks:

1. Working Girl
Mike Nichols’ comedy-drama about a young woman from Staten Island trying to make it in the world of finance where she works for a new boss played with such gusto by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver’s character is someone who has made it yet only because of connections from her upper-class environment as opposed to Melanie Griffith’s more working-class background. Weaver is devilishly fun as someone who is just bullshitting her way as well as take an idea that Griffith’s character suggested as well as to try and woo Harrison Ford who ends up falling for Griffith.

2. The Devil Wears Prada
If there’s a film that should be lauded as a classic and would definitely be a great inclusion to the Criterion Collection. David Frankel’s adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s novel is that film in its exploration of the world of fashion and how a young woman, with little knowledge of that world, has to do whatever she can to please this boss in Miranda Priestly who is played with such mastery by Meryl Streep. Streep’s performance is definitely chilling but also with some humor and a vulnerability that isn’t seen often in mainstream films. With Anne Hathaway playing the new assistant just trying to understand this world and Emily Blunt as the other assistant who knows what to do, it is a film with a lot of humor but also heart as its reputation continues to soar.

3. The Proposal
Anne Fletcher’s 2009 romantic comedy is definitely a light-hearted film that definitely brings in the laughs and a whole lot more. Starring Sandra Bullock as a Canadian business executive who learns she is about to be deported asks her assistant to propose to her in order to stay in the U.S. Yet, he has to return to Alaska for family reasons as she joins him as they pretend to be a couple while dealing with authorities who are suspicious of this marriage proposal. It is a funny film that does feature a great small role from Betty White as Ryan Reynolds’ grandmother as she just steals every moment in the film. It is just a fun movie that isn’t afraid to be unoriginal as it does favor story and interesting characters rather than cheap gags.

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, July 17, 2022

2022 Blind Spot Series: Dreams

 

Written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, Yume (Dreams) is a collection of stories based on Kurosawa’s own dreams as it play into the life of a man who goes through many journeys in his life from childhood to adult hood. The film is an epic of sorts that follow eight different stories that all revolve around the ideas of humanity all seen through the eyes of a boy who then becomes a man. Starring Akira Terao, Chishu Ryu, Mieko Harada, Mitsuko Baisho, and Martin Scorsese as Vincent Van Gogh. Yume is a ravishing and intoxicating film from Akira Kurosawa.

The film is essentially a collection of eight different stories all based on the dreams of a man that play into his development of his life that include encounters with nature, the dead, life away from modernism, and apocalyptic nightmares. It is a film that explore a man’s journey through humanity as well as the many ideas on life from the wonders he saw as a boy and what he would experience as a man all told in eight different stories by its creator in Akira Kurosawa. Featuring additional contributions from Ishiro Honda, all eight stories are seen from the eyes of its protagonist known as I (Akira Terao) who would encounter these events with the first two shows him as a child (Toshihiko Nakano) and as an adolescent (Mitsunori Isaki). The first segment entitled Sunshine Through the Rain is about the child encountering an event he’s not supposed to see involving a wedding between two foxes as his mother (Mitsuko Baisho) warned him not to watch this event. The second segment entitled The Peach Orchard has the adolescent I encounter a ghostly fairy (Misato Tate) mistaking her for one of his sister’s friends. There, he encounters ghosts who want to punish him for being associated with those that destroyed the peach orchard when he begs them not to where he watches a ceremony.

The remaining six episodes involve I as an adult with The Blizzard being about his time as a mountaineer with three other mountaineers trying to reach camp in a blizzard where I encounters a mysterious ghost (Mieko Harada). The Tunnel has I walking into a tunnel where he once again encounters the dead in the form of Private Noguchi (Yoshitaka Zuki) as well as the entire regiment of his platoon who all appear where I begs for their forgiveness blaming himself for being the only man that lived during the war. Crows has I as an art student where he finds himself in the world where Vincent Van Gogh is creating paintings with Van Gogh commenting on what it means to be an artist. The next two segments in Mount Fuji in Red and The Weeping Demon are both these apocalyptic segments with the former revolving around nuclear catastrophe where I tries to protect a woman (Toshie Negishi) from the radiation while the latter has I meeting this demon (Chosuke Ikariya) with a horn on his head who laments over the state of his surroundings and his own impending doom. The final segment in Village of the Watermills is this tranquil setting where I walks into this peaceful village as if it is completely disconnected with modern society where he befriends an old man (Chishu Ryu) who talks about the things he has and why he has no use for modern conveniences.

Kurosawa’s direction is definitely grand in terms of the overall presentation of the film as it is shot on various locations in Japan with the final segment shot on location at the Daio Wasabi Farm. Each segment Kurosawa presents all have some kind of personal ideas as the Sunshine Through the Rain segment is shot near a forest where this child watches a ceremony that is choreographed by Michiyo Hata as there is a richness in the presentation where Kurosawa utilizes a lot of wide and medium shots of these scenes. Most notably in The Peach Orchard where the adolescent watches this ceremony that would revive all of these peach orchards as there are these meticulous imagery into the way Kurosawa would present these naturalistic moments. The segments in The Blizzard and The Tunnel do play into the idea of death with the former being this battle against nature in this furious blizzard while the latter is about grief following the aftermath of war where I is near the home of a private he was with in his final hours.

The segment for Crows is a lush and almost surreal sequence where Kurosawa would recreate the world that Van Gogh would make his paintings as well as these sequences with these grand visual effects where I is walking on painting sketches. The segments for Mount Fuji in Red and The Weeping Demon are among Kurosawa’s most intense as the former is shot near gray beaches as if Mount Fuji is surrounded by these nuclear reactors that are exploding as there’s loads of people trying to run from the explosions as there is this sense of real fear that is emerging. Even with the radiation as the color of red drowns a lot of what is happening as a man (Hisashi Igawa) laments over his role in the nuclear power plant. The Weeping Demon segment is shot on a mountain where there are these large dandelions towering over the man and demon as this strange form of beauty that is deformed while the land of the demons is one of great horror as it also has this commentary on the many fallacies of capitalism.

The final segment in Village of the Watermills is definitely the most somber as Kurosawa would shoot a lot of long and gazing monologues where he doesn’t employ a lot of close-ups in order to get conversations be presented. Instead, Kurosawa aims for simplicity in the final segment while it would also feature an elaborate parade of sorts with I watching it from afar. It is a moment in the film that parallels with the parade in the first segment yet it plays into the protagonist’s own journey in life as well as the fact that these are all ideas based on dreams about humanity, nature, life, and death. Overall, Kurosawa crafts a majestic yet rapturous film about a collection of dreams that play into a man’s journey through life.

Cinematographers Takao Saito and Shoji Ueda do amazing work with the film’s luscious and colorful cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes with additional lighting by Takeji Sano for some scenes set at night such as the scenes at the blizzard and in the tunnel. Editor Tome Minami does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with bits of style in a few slow-motion cuts and a few other stylish bits to play into the drama and suspense. Art directors Yoshiro Muraki and Akira Sakuragi, with set decorator Koichi Hamamura, does amazing work with the look of the home where the young child and adolescent lived in as well as the look of deformed giant-flowers. Costume designer Emi Wada does fantastic work with the costumes in the look of the robes for some of the parades as it has a lot of vibrancy in the colors of the robes as well as a sense of feeling and idea of what they’re representing.

Special effects supervisor Mark Sullivan and visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston do terrific work with the visual effects as it play into some scenes involving rainbows, nuclear terror, and the Van Gogh sketches as it is a major highlight of the film. The sound work of Kenichi Benitani is superb for its approach to natural sound as well as sound effects for the scenes at Mount Fuji. The film’s music by Shinichiro Ikebe is incredible for its mixture of traditional Japanese folk music with some orchestral flourishes as it play into not just some of the intense and dramatic moments but also lighter moments while its soundtrack also include some classical compositions from Frederic Chopin and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast feature some notable small roles such as members of the 20-ki No Kai as I’s former platoon, the trio of Masayuki Yui, Shu Nakajima, and Sakae Kimura as mountaineers dealing with the blizzard, Tessho Yamashita as I’s former lieutenant, Mieko Suzuki as the adolescent’s sister, Misato Tate as the peach fairy, and the Kiku-no Kai dancers as dancers at the fox wedding. Other noteworthy small roles include Hisashi Igawa as a remorseful power plant worker looking at the chaos at Mount Fuji, Toshie Negishi as a woman with two kids watching the horror at Mount Fuji, Mitsunori Isaki as the adolescent I who laments over the loss of the peach orchard, and Toshihiko Nakano as I as a young boy whose curiosity over the fox wedding parade gets him in trouble. Mitsuko Baisho is terrific as I’s mother in the first segment who warns her son about watching the fox parade.

The duo of Mieko Harada and Chosuke Ikariya are superb in their respective roles as the ghostly figures as the Snow Woman and Weeping Demon with the former being this silent figure that would guide I during the blizzard while the latter is a figure is someone who laments over his role in the world as he is filled with regret. Yoshitaka Zushi is fantastic as the ghostly figure of Private Noguchi as a former soldier that I took care of back in World War II who asks him about his death. Martin Scorsese is excellent in his small role as Vincent Van Gogh as he is covered largely by makeup yet brings this offbeat approach to his take on the artist as someone that is just trying to find ideas in his surroundings. Chishu Ryu is amazing in his small role as an old man fixing a wheel at a watermill as he converses with I as he talks about what he has and the contentment he has in his life. Finally, there’s Akira Terao in a brilliant performance as the character known as I as a man who would endure many different adventures and encounters as it relates to life and death but also meaning as he tries to find himself as well as his role in the world.

Yume is a tremendous film from Akira Kurosawa. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous images, a rich music score and soundtrack, and themes of life, death, meaning, and environment all told through the idea of dreams. It is a film that isn’t just one of Kurosawa’s great films but is also one of his most accessible in terms of the themes he explores as well as showcasing a world when things were simple and can be again but also the horrors brought on by the darkest aspects of humanity. In the end, Yume is a spectacular film from Akira Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa Films: (Sanshiro Sugata) – (The Most Beautiful) – (Sanshiro Sugata Part II) – (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail) – No Regrets for Our Youth - (Those Who Make Tomorrow) – (One Wonderful Sunday) – Drunken Angel - (The Quiet Duel) – Stray Dog - Scandal (1950 film) - Rashomon - The Idiot (1951 film) - Ikiru - The Seven Samurai - (I Live in Fear) – Throne of Blood - (The Lower Depths (1957 film)) – The Hidden Fortress - The Bad Sleep Well - Yojimbo - Sanjuro - High and Low - Red Beard - Dodesukaden - Dersu Uzala - Kagemusha - Ran - (Rhapsody in August) – (Madadayo)

© thevoid99 2022

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Thursday Movie Picks: Non-English Language Films

 

For the 27th week of 2022 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. We go into the recurring subject of non-English Language films as it’s something that has been done a bunch of times in this series. Even as there’s a lot of films from parts of the world that many haven’t seen as my picks are based on films that I watched from my MUBI subscription this year as that’s become a streaming service that I really love. Here are my three picks:

1. Oslo, August 31st
A loose remake of sorts of the Louis Malle film The Fire Within that was adapted from a novel by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Joachim Trier’s sophomore film is a fascination study of a day in the life of a man who is given a one-day leave from drug rehab to attend a job interview in Oslo. It is a fascinating character study that features an incredible leading performance from Anders Danielsen Lie who exudes a lot of the sense of alienation and uncertainty in the course of a day as he returns to Oslo and see that the world around him has changed and ponders his existence in life.

2. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s crime drama is an unconventional film as it revolves around a police chief, a prosecutor, a doctor, various officials in the police force, a couple of diggers, and two suspects trying to the find the location of a body being buried but also the impact of the crime itself. It is a film that doesn’t have much plot and is slowly-paced but it works as it play into these characters who are all just ordinary as the location itself is a major part of the story. Even as they deal with what had happened and the complexity of the crime.

3. Matthias & Maxime
From Xavier Dolan is his most recent feature film that is not just a massive improvement over the misfire that is The Death and Life of John F. Donovan but a new sense of maturity as it play into two life-long friends who participate in a student film where they kiss each other for the film. Thus, things start to become complicated as the titular characters would both endure their own journeys to understand what had happened and such. Even as one of the characters has a girlfriend though she believes that he’s not being totally honest. It is a film filled with rich visuals but it also more of a study of lingering feelings toward one another as it is a must for fans of Xavier Dolan.

© thevoid99 2022

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Summer of 85

 

Based on the novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, Ete 85 (Summer of 85) is the story of a 16-year old boy who is rescued by an 18-year old boy in Normandy as they embark on a romance but also a pact in the case one of them dies soon. Written for the screen and directed by Francois Ozon, the film is a coming-of-age tale set during a moment in time as two young men make a pact while also being in love with one another. Starring Felix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Isabelle Nanty, Melvil Poupaud, and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi. Ete 85 is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Francois Ozon.

The film is the story of a young man who is arrested as it relates to the death of another young man he met in the summer as he tells a case worker and his teacher about what happened in this summer in which he fell in love. It is a film that explore this relationship between two young men and a pact they would make in case one of them dies where something did happen. Francois Ozon’s screenplay has this back-and-forth reflective narrative where its 16-year old protagonist Alexis Robin (Felix Lefebvre) is arrested where he talks to a case worker (Aurore Broutin) about what happened though he is reluctant to divulge into information about his relationship with the 18-year old David Gorman (Benjamin Voisin).

Alexis met David when the former was on a boat that capsized as he was saved by the latter as the two become friends with David’s mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) taking a liking to Alexis thinking he would be a good influence on her son. Alexis doesn’t tell his parents (Isabelle Nanty and Laurent Fernandez) about David fearing that his more conservative father would disapprove. The script reveals the pact that they created but also Alexis’ own reluctance to open up as his literature professor Lefevre (Melvil Poupaud) suggests writing about what happened and such. Notably as a young English au pair in Kate (Philippine Velge) was thrown into the mix that created tension between the two young men.

Ozon’s direction definitely bear some style in terms of the looseness of his overall presentation yet a lot of it is straightforward as it is shot on location in Normandy. There are wide and medium shots as it capture the scope of these locations along with some intimate shots at a fishing shop that David’s mother own where Alexis would work at. There are close-ups in Ozon’s direction as it play into the drama where Alexis is being interrogated but also in some emotional moments in the film. There are different tones that Ozon maintain throughout the film with the second act being this lively and romantic film as it relates to these two young men just falling in love but also complications as David is someone that wants to experience different things that include Kate. It would be the source of chaos that would loom throughout the film as well as what happened to David.

Ozon’s approach to the scenes where Alexis is being questioned and interrogated are a bit more claustrophobic in its framing as if the world is closing on Alexis. Notably as he becomes distant with his parents worrying about him including his own father, despite his own conservative views on life, as he tries to reach out to David’s mother. Ozon also play into this pact that Alexis and David make as it is a strange promise the two made but one that needs to be honored. Even as its aftermath ends up being a moment of growth where Ozon ends the film on a cold day signifying not just the end of the summer but the end of a part of Alexis’ life but also the beginning of a new adventure. Overall, Ozon crafts a somber yet intoxicating film about a young man who falls in love with another man during a whirlwind summer in Normandy.

Cinematographer Hichame Alaouie does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of colorful lighting for some of the scenes at night as well as some natural lighting for some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Laure Gardette does excellent work with the editing with some jump-cuts as well as other rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and the light-hearted moments in the film. Production designer Benoit Barouh, with set decorator Frederic Delerue and art director Teddy Barouh, does fantastic work with the look of the fishing shop owned by David’s mother as well as the homes of David and Alexis. Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does brilliant work with the costumes as it play into the look of the 1980s as well as a dress that Alexis would wear for a key scene in the film’s third act.

Visual effects supervisor Mikael Tanguy does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is largely bits of set dressing for some of the exteriors to give it a 1980s look and feel. The sound work of Jean-Paul Hurier and Brigitte Taillander do superb work with the film’s sound in playing to the atmosphere of the film’s locations as well as how music would sound at a club and on location. The film’s music by Jean-Benoit Dunckel is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that play into the drama and romance while the music soundtrack feature music from the Cure, Bananarama, Rod Stewart, and French/Euro pop music of the 1980s.

The casting by Elodie Demey and Anais Duran is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Antoine Simon as a drunk that Alexis and David meet early in the film, Yoann Zimmer as a friend of Alexis in Luc who doesn’t like gays, Bruno Lochet as a man named Bruno who runs a morgue, Laurent Fernandez as Alexis’ stern yet caring father, Isabelle Nanty as Alexis’ warm and loving mother, and Aurore Broutin as a case worker who is handling Alexis’ case as she tries to find answers knowing the severity of his crime. Melvil Poupaud is superb in his small role as Alexis’ literature teacher who is convinced that something did happen as he knows that the only way to get an answer was for Alexis to write about it. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is fantastic as David’s mother as a woman who is enthralled by the presence of Alexis believing he would be a good influence of her son while later be ravaged by grief and seeking answers. Philippine Velge is excellent as Kate as a British tourist whom Alexis befriends as she unknowingly attracts the attention of David as she didn’t realize she would be the source of tension between Alexis and David.

Finally, there’s the duo of Felix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin in incredible performances in their respective roles as Alexis Robin and David Gorman. Voisin provides an energetic performance as the wilder David as a young 18-year old who is trying to find himself but also is someone who wants to evolve and seek new adventures. Lefebvre’s performance as the 16-year old Alexis is a bit more reserved as someone that is just trying to figure himself out but would also be emotional as it relates to loss and heartbreak. Lefebvre and Voisin together are electrifying in the way they react towards one another but also in how much these two men love each other.

Ete 85 is a sensational film from Francois Ozon. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a study of young love and identity during the 1980s, and a wondrous music soundtrack. It is a film that is this fascinating coming-of-age story that play into young love but also the idea of promises and its effect on many. In the end, Ete 85 is a phenomenal film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool (2003 film) - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - Le Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) – (Frantz (2016 film)) – (Double Lover) – (By the Grace of God) – (Everything Went Fine) – (Peter von Kant) – The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2022

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder

 

Based on the Marvel Comics series by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber and the Mighty Thor storyline by Jason Aaron, Thor: Love and Thunder is the story of the titular God of Thunder who goes on a journey for inner peace as well as helping the universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy only to go on a journey to deal with a god-killing villain as he seeks the help from a few allies including his former girlfriend Jane Foster who has become the Mighty Thor. Directed by Taika Waititi and screenplay by Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, the film is the fourth in a series that explores the Asgardian God who not only deals with many issues including grief but also trying to find himself as well as deal with the fact that his former girlfriend has become a superhero as both Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman reprise their respective roles as Thor and Jane Foster/the Mighty Thor. Also starring Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, Jaimie Alexander, with the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, and Russell Crowe as Zeus. Thor: Love and Thunder is an exhilarating and witty film from Taika Waititi.

In the years after defeating Thanos and saving the universe, the film follows Thor Odinson going on a journey for inner peace as he learns that gods are being killed by a madman where he returns to New Asgard and learns this new foe’s intentions prompting Thor to seek help including his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster who has become the Mighty Thor. It is a film that explore a man who is still dealing with the loss of loved ones as he spends some time trying to help others until he learns about the death of a god where he found one of his old friends in Lady Sif (Jaime Alexander) wounded from her fight as he brings her home to New Asgard where things are already problematic involving shadow creatures trying to destroy New Asgard where Thor and the rock-like creature Korg (Taika Waititi) helps King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as they’re aided by a new ally in the Mighty Thor who is revealed to be Jane Foster.

The film’s screenplay by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Katyin Robinson is messy in terms of the many genres they try to put in as well as some backstory and exposition. Still, Waititi and Robinson do create a compelling narrative that do play into this element of comedy and tragedy as the opening scene play into the latter as it relates to the origin of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) who was an ordinary man with a daughter (India Rose Hemsworth) where he prayed to the Gods for water in a desolate desert only for his daughter to die. Seeing that the god Rapu (Jonathan Brugh) treats him with indifference, Gorr finds the god-killing weapon known as Necrosword where makes a vow to kill all gods as the script does succeed in justifying some of Gorr’s actions which also forces Thor to see that some of the gods he idolized including Zeus are living in a bubble who prefer to not be involved in war and just do nothing. By kidnapping the children of New Asgard that includes Heimdall’s son Axl (Keiron L. Dyer) whom Thor can communicate with through Axl’s powers. Thor, Valkyrie, Korg, and Jane go on a journey to find the kids while there’s also something else happening as it relates to Jane wielding the newly-fixed Mjolnir as she is also dying from stage 4 cancer which adds a lot more emotional weight for Thor.

Waititi’s direction does bear a lot of style in terms of the different worlds that Thor and all of the principle characters go to but it is also grounded in this idea of what a god should be as it play into Thor’s own personal journey. Shot largely on locations at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney as well as some locations in and around Sydney, Waititi definitely creates different worlds that Thor, Jane, Korg, and Valkyrie go into with New Asgard being a character in the film as a world that isn’t just a tourist destination but also a home that allow Asgardians and other alien refugees a place where they can belong. While Waititi does create some unique wide and medium shots to capture a scope of these locations as well as a few scenes inside the Guardians of the Galaxy ship known as The Milano where Thor gains a couple of goats as they would accompany him and his team to an adventure. Still, Waititi does ground things as the first act does reveal what Jane was up to before as she is trying to find a way to stop her illness while some of Korg’s flashback montages do showcase how Mjolnir was in the hands of Jane.

The direction does also play into the stakes where Waititi do play into why Gorr has a point in wanting to kill all gods as it does relate to Thor pleading to Zeus and other gods to join him to stop Gorr. It is a commentary on why it is wrong to worship false idols with Thor being an idol that not only wants to help people and keep the universe safe but is also someone trying to understand who and what he needs to fight for based on advice from Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) early in the film. Though the presentation of the script is uneven in its attempt to balance comedy and tragedy that is part of Waititi’s own exploration of existential meaning in these two subjects. It does have stakes where it would play into this confrontation between Thor and Gorr with the latter wanting to reach this mysterious being with Thor knowing what he will do with Jane taking a major step of her own knowing that it might cost her own life as she and Thor both have to realize what it means to fight for love at all cost. Overall, Waititi crafts an adventurous and heartfelt film about a god trying to find peace of mind while having to fight a man that wants to kill all gods.

Cinematographer Barry Idoine does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for some of the daytime exterior scenes set in New Asgard as well as some stylish lighting including some black-and-white lighting for a scene set in Gorr’s home that is the Shadow Realm. Editors Matthew Schmidt, Peter S. Elliot, Tom Roche, and Jennifer Vecchiarello do terrific work with the editing as it is stylish in terms of some of the fast-cuts for the action and humor while also keeping things straightforward in some of the dramatic and suspenseful moments. Production designer Nigel Phelps, with set decorator Katie Sharrock and supervising art director Charlie Revai, does incredible work with the set design from the look of New Asgard in its houses and such as well as the look of Omnipotence City where all of the gods including Zeus live in. Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo does fantastic work with the costumes that includes new armor for Thor as well as a new leather jacket as well as the armor for Jane and Valkyrie plus the ridiculous clothing that Zeus wears.

Makeup designer Matteo Silvi and creature/prosthetics designer Adam Johansen do brilliant work with the look of Gorr as well as some of the looks for the Olympians including Zeus. Special effects supervisor Dan Oliver, with visual effects supervisors Mathieu Assemat and Dominic Drane, does nice work with the look of some of the planets and space scenery as well as the look of the goats Thor gained in saving a planet as they would become his pets. Sound designers David C. Hughes, Samson Neslund, and Steve Orlando, with sound editor Quianbaihui Yang, do superb work with the sound as it play into some of the sound effects including the comical sounds from the goats as well as other sounds that play into the action and suspense. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad is phenomenal for its rock-based orchestral score that feature metal-inspired guitars and bombastic string arrangements to play into the scope of the film while music supervisor Dave Jordan creates a fun music soundtrack that features an original song by Waititi as Korg plus music from ABBA, Ciara with Petey Pablo, Enya, Michael Raphael, Mary J. Blige, Dio, and four songs by Guns N’ Roses.

The casting by Sarah Halley Finn is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and cameos from Stephen Curry as a God in King Yakan whom Thor and the Guardians help early in the film, Carly Rees in a motion-capture performance as Valkyrie’s assistant Miek, Jonathan Brugh as the god Gorr worshipped in Rapu, Zia Kelly as a former girlfriend of Thor in a pirate girl, Elsa Pataky as another former flame of Thor in the Wolf Woman, Tristan Hemsworth as a young Thor, Samson Alston as the teenage Thor, Eliza Matengu as Axl’s mother Grace, Ava Caryofyllis as a young Jane, Simon Russell Beale as the god Dionysus, Akosia Sabet as the Wakandan goddess Bast, Jenny Morris as an New Asgardian resident, India Rose Hemsworth as Gorr’s daughter, and in the various roles of the Asgardian children kidnapped include Aleph and Amalia Millipied, Te Kainga O’Te Hinekahu Waititi, Sasha Hemsworth, and Rex Bale. Other notable cameos in the role of the Asgardian theatre troupe include Matt Damon as the actor playing Loki, Luke Hemsworth as the actor playing Thor, Sam Neill as the actor playing Odin, Melissa McCarthy as the actress playing Hela, and Ben Falcone as the stage manager.

Other noteworthy small roles include Kieron L. Dyer as Heimdall’s son Axl who is among one of the Asgardian children kidnapped as he has inherited his father’s powers while Daley Pearson is funny in his small role as Thor’s former roommate Darryl who is now a tour guide. Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard are terrific in their brief appearances as Dr. Darcy Lewis and Dr. Erik Selvig as two of Jane’s longtime colleagues who are there for her early in the film as they’re concerned with her ailing health. Jaime Alexander is superb in her own brief appearance as Thor’s childhood friend Lady Sif who is severely wounded from her own fight with Gorr as Thor would get her home to safety. In the roles of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the performances of Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, the voice of Bradley Cooper as Rocket, the voice of Vin Diesel as Groot, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Dave Bautista as Drax, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord are fun to watch as they get to kill bad guys while dealing with Thor’s own issues with Pratt being the person to give Thor some needed advice on fulfillment and love.

Taika Waititi is excellent in his motion-capture performance as the rock-monster Korg who is a fun comic relief that is always helpful and provide some comical insight into Thor’s own existential issues. Russell Crowe is hilarious in his performance as the god Zeus where he has this larger-than-life persona while doing one of the worst accents ever presented on film that just adds to how ridiculous the character is. Tessa Thompson is amazing as King Valkyrie as a former warrior turned King of Asgard who is hoping to have another adventure as a distraction from bureaucratic duties while finding a sense of sisterhood with Jane that she never thought she would have again. Christian Bale is incredible as Gorr the God Butcher as a man who is dismissed by a god only to take up the Necrosword that would make him into a man that has justified reasons to kill gods while is also a character filled with some unique humor as well as be an imposing and intimidating foe.

Natalie Portman is phenomenal as Jane Foster/the Mighty Thor as the astrophysicist who is dying from cancer until she learns that the damaged Mjolnir calls to her where she becomes the Mighty Thor as she adjust to her newfound powers where Portman brings a lot of complexity but also humor in trying to find a catchphrase that is suited to her character. Finally, there’s Chris Hemsworth in a sensational performance as Thor Odinson as the God of Thunder who is embarking on a journey for peace of mind following loss and grief where he deals with not just Gorr but also Jane becoming worthy of the Mjolnir where he does what he can to save the children of New Asgard. Hemsworth brings a lot of humor to his performance but also a lot of humility as his scenes with Portman definitely showcase a lot of chemistry in which both characters grow with Hemsworth learning what he needs to do and why he needs to be the God that people can count on.

Thor: Love and Thunder is a remarkable film from Taika Waititi that features great performances from Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Waititi, and Russell Crowe. Along with the rest of its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, study on idol worship, and a killer music soundtrack with the rocking music of Guns N’ Roses. It is a film that doesn’t just deliver in high-stake action and suspense but is also filled with humor but also some commentary on fulfillment through love despite some tonal issues with the film’s script. In the end, Thor: Love and Thunder is a marvelous film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One Night - Eagle vs. Shark - Boy (2010 film) - What We Do in the Shadows - Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Jojo Rabbit - (Next Goal Wins) – The Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - Spider-Man: Far from Home

Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Spider-Man: No Way Home - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Werewolf by Night - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Phase Five: (Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania) - (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) – (The Marvels) - (Blade (2023 film)) - (Captain America: New World Order) - (Thunderbolts)

Phase Six: (Deadpool 3) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) - (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) - (Avengers: Secret Wars)

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