Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sing Street

Directed by John Carney and screenplay by Carney from a story by Carney and Simon Carmody, Sing Street is the story of a teenage boy who falls in love with a girl who is a few years older than her as he decides to impress by forming a band. The film is a coming-of-age film set in 1980s Dublin at a time when the indie music scene is thriving as a boy tries to win the heart of a girl through music. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton, and Aiden Gillen. Sing Street is a charming and entertaining film from John Carney.

Set in 1985 Dublin, the film follows a 15-year old boy who is transferred to a new school where he meets a 16-year old girl and falls for her by claiming he’s in a band which he would form to impress her. The film definitely play into a period in time where so much is happening with popular music in the 1980s as this young kid is trying to find his place in the world as he’s encouraged by his older brother to make music to win over this girl as well as find an outlet in this stifling environment through the school he’s forced to attend as well as dealing with his parents who are on the verge of splitting up. John Carney’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the situation that the protagonist Conor Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is in as it relates to financial issues within the family that forces him to attends a public school and deal with some of the way things are as well as his family life which is in disarray as his eldest brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) would introduce him to different kinds of music as well as comment about his own failures and observation about their parents.

When Conor meets this beautiful girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), he would lie to her about being in a band as he would meet a fellow student in Darren (Ben Carolan) who would introduce him a talented multi-instrumentalist in Eamon (Mark McKenna). Through Eamon, Conor would learn to write songs as they would get other students to be part of their band and Raphina, who is an aspiring model, would be their ingénue who would appear in their videos. Though Raphina has a boyfriend, she would begin a relationship with Conor as she would be his muse as well as give him a new name in Cosmo. It would play into Conor’s own development as well as revelations about why Brendan hasn’t gone through with his own aspirations into being a musician as he and Conor, along with their sister Ann (Kelly Thornton), are dealing with the growing split from their parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy). The growing turmoil in Conor’s family life as well as his own growing pains would give Conor ideas for songs as he would ultimately get the chance to play these songs to the kids in Dublin.

Carney’s direction is quite straightforward as it does have a few wide shots yet Carney chooses to go for more simplistic compositions with the usage of close-ups and medium shots. Shot on location in Dublin with much of it set in the area near the Synge Street CBS high school, the film does play into this world of the 1980s where there is a clash between the old ways and the new ways in some respects. Especially as Carney makes it aware of Conor’s own alienation as he’s first seen wearing brown shoes as the requirement of the school is to wear black shoes as he gets into some trouble with its headmaster Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). Carney also uses the 80s as inspiration for some of the visuals such as the music videos Conor and his band known as Sing Street would create as it is amateurish but also quite lively. Especially as there’s a great scene of Conor’s own imagination for a video to express what could’ve been but has to face with the realities of his own life as well as the fact that Raphina isn’t some perfect ingénue. Yet, Carney does make the film show what can be done in the face of adversity which can create great art if that person can express it and not be afraid to fail. Overall, Carney creates an engaging yet exhilarating film about a teenage boy creating music to win over a girl.

Cinematographer Yaron Orbach does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the natural look of the daytime exteriors to the usage of low-key lights for the scenes at night including the climatic school dance scene. Editors Andrew Marcus and Julian Ulrichs do nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of presenting the drama and some of the humor while finding the right rhythms for the film’s musical moments. Production designer Alan Macdonald and art director/set decorator Tamara Conboy do fantastic work with the look of the some of the interior of the schools as well as some of the cheap set design for some of the homemade music videos Sing Street would make. Costume designer Tiziana Corvisieri does brilliant work with the look of the costumes from the clothes the band would wear for the videos as well as the stylish clothing of Raphina.

Makeup artist Barbara Conway and hairstylist Sandra Kelly do terrific work with the look of the characters from the makeup the band would wear in the videos as well as Raphina’s unique look as well as the hairstyle of the mid-80s which was big. Visual effects supervisor Paddy Eason does some fine work with the visual effects as it’s mainly some bit of set-dressing including a key aspect of the film’s ending as well as some of the shoddy look of the homemade music videos. Sound editors Niall Brady and Michelle Fingleton do amazing work with the sound in the way the instruments are heard naturally as well as the presentation of music including the way it is mixed to drown out the loud argument Conor’s parents are having in some scenes. Original music by Gary Glarck and John Carney is wonderful for its mixture of folk and post-punk to play into the evolution of the music as it has elements of pop while the original songs they create that include contributions from Glen Hansard and Adam Levine that bring some liveliness and earnestness to those songs while music supervisor Becky Bentham provides a fun soundtrack that feature music from Genesis, A-ha, the Cure, the Clash, Spandau Ballet, the Jam, M, Duran, Hall & Oates, Joe Jackson, and Motorhead.

The casting by Louise Kiely is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Lydia McGuinness as the school’s very liberal art teacher, Ian Kenny as the school bully Barry, Conor Hamilton and Karl Rice in their respective roles as the rhythm section brothers of Larry and Garry, Percy Chamburuka as the African-Irish teen Ngig who is the band’s keyboardist, Kelly Thornton as Conor’s older sister Ann who is dealing with her college education and family struggles, and Don Wycherley in a terrific performance as the school’s headmaster Brother Baxter who watches over Conor as he would try to make the boy’s life hellish. Ben Carolan is superb as Darren as a young student who has the skills to get connections as he is eager to become a manager while Mark McKenna is fantastic as Eamon as a talented musician who would help Conor write some songs as well as encourage him to go into deeper places with the music.

Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy are excellent in their respective roles as Conor’s parents Robert and Penny Lawlor as a couple who are on the rocks with Gillen dealing with the financial trouble he’s put towards his family while Penny would work overtime creating suspicion over why she’s home late. Jack Reynor is brilliant as Conor’s older brother Brendan as a college dropout/stoner who would introduce Conor to all types of music and guide him on what music could do as a way to live through his younger brother and give him the chance that he never got. Lucy Boynton is amazing as Raphina as an aspiring model at the age of 16 with an older boyfriend who is eager to go to London as she becomes Conor’s muse as she also cope with wanting to make it as she also has to deal with some of the realities of the world. Finally, there’s Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in an incredible performance as Conor “Cosmo” Lawlor as a 15-year old kid who is trying to find himself as well as impress this girl where he would eventually find his own voice as well as take the opportunity to make something of himself as it’s very naturalistic and charming performance from Walsh-Peelo.

Sing Street is a sensational film from John Carney. Featuring a great ensemble cast, amazing music, a riveting story, and a colorful look. It’s a film that captures a moment in time where kids try to use music to express themselves with the aid of an older person trying to help them reach that dream. In the end, Sing Street is a remarkable film from John Carney.

John Carney Films: (On the Edge) - Once - (Zonad) – Begin Again

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse

Based on the Marvel Comics series, X-Men: Apocalypse is about a group of mutants who deal with an ancient being who has been awaken for many years wanting to wipe out civilization prompting members of the original X-Men to band together with new students. Directed by Bryan Singer and screenplay by Simon Kinberg from a screen story by Singer, Kinberg, Michael Dougherty, and Dan Harris, the film is a continuation of the origins story of the X-Men in which Charles Xavier/Professor X, Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, Raven Darkholme/Mystique, and old friends guide their newer students who would become part of the new generation of X-Men. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. X-Men: Apocalypse is an extravagant though flawed film from Bryan Singer.

Set a decade after events where mutants would help save the world and prevent from the creation of sentinel robots, the film is about its aftermath where the founders of the X-Men each take on different paths once again only to unite by a new threat in a figure known as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse is reawaken since the time of ancient Egypt where he had been betrayed by his followers. Upon his reawakening, Apocalypse sees what the world has become in 1983 as he decides to wipe out civilization and create a new one as he would take four powerful mutants including a grief-stricken Erik Lehnsherr as part of his new army. It’s a film that has a simple plot but with so much going on in Simon Kinberg’s screenplay where it is quite messy but does establish who the characters are and their part in this new adventure. Charles Xavier is still running with his school with friend Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) while Raven Darkholme has gone into hiding due to events of the past as she would eventually discover a young mutant who can teleport in Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) whom she would take him to Xavier’s school.

Kurt would be one of two new students arrive at the school as original X-Men Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) would bring in his younger brother Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) who has just gotten his new powers of shooting optic beams from his eyes. The two would meet a young telepath/telekinetic student in Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) whom Scott falls for as well as Jubilee (Lana Candor) who can create psionic energy plasmoids. Yet, Raven’s arrival back to Xavier’s school isn’t just for Kurt but also about Erik who had been in hiding in Poland with a wife and daughter until an accident at work exposed him as things become tragic leading him to lose all hope and reluctantly join Apocalypse as part of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It is in CIA agent Moira Taggart is where Xavier learns about Apocalypse as she would join him in trying to stop Apocalypse and his army that would include Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). While Kinberg’s script would give some introduction to characters like Scott, Jean, Storm, and Wagner, they’re not given more to do as Storm is just an orphan who reluctantly becomes part of the Four Horseman once she meets Apocalypse who would enhance her powers.

It’s not just that the script feature so many characters, including Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who would reveal something about his own connection with Lehnsherr that makes the story hard to keep up with. It’s just that it tries to be so many things and have all of these subplots whether it’s Xavier reuniting with McTaggart who has no recollection of their previous meetings or Raven reluctantly wanting to get back home and be an idol to the students who look up to her as an inspiration. None of it are really fleshed out while the tone of the story often ranges from being very serious to comical at times where some of the humor feels forced.

Bryan Singer’s direction is quite extravagant as it’s expected to be as it opens with this sequence about Apocalypse and the betrayal that would put him into a long sleep for many centuries. Shot largely in Montreal, Canada, the film does play into this world of 1980s culture at the time when the Cold War was still raging and there is this obsession with pop culture for a scene where Scott, Jean, Kurt, and Jubilee go to the mall as it is Kurt’s introduction into American culture. Much of the direction is quite stylish at times in terms of some of the camera angles that Singer goes for in some of the action and dramatic sequence. Yet, he keep things very straightforward when it comes to focusing on the characters as he would use close-ups and medium shots for those scenes as well as some wide shots.

While there are moments in the film such as Quicksilver’s arrival to the school in this very spectacular and fun sequence as well as a few action scenes including an appearance from a legendary X-Men character. The rest of the film is an absolute mess as it’s about trying to do so many things with the results being very underwhelming. Notably the film’s climax which features a battle between the old and new members of the X-Men against the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse in this massive battle as it is over-the-top in terms of the visual effects and the attempts to make it extremely huge. Yet, it becomes a little too much as it has Xavier battle Apocalypse in a battle of the minds while the X-Men try to deal with Apocalypse and his minions in Cairo as it’s just a mess. Overall, Singer makes a worthwhile though very bloated film about a group of mutants who try to save the world once again and defeat an ancient being who claims to be their father.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel does excellent work with the cinematography from the colorful and sunnier look of the scenes in Westchester where Xavier’s mansion is to the very sunny world of Cairo and the usage of dark and colored lights for the scenes set in Eastern Europe. Editors John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill do some nice work with the editing as it is stylish in its usage of jump-cuts and other fast-cutting styles but also know when to slow down for the non-action scenes. Production designer Grant Major, with supervising art director Michele Laliberte plus set decorators Geoffroy Gosselin and Anne Kuljian, does fantastic work with the interior of Xavier’s home as well as his Cerebro machine plus the look of the pyramid where Apocalypse did some of his greatest work in the past. Costume designer Louise Mingenbach does terrific work with the costumes from the new X-Men suits that some of the students would wear as well as the clothes that Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen would wear.

The makeup work of Charles Carter, Rita Ciccozzi, and Rosalina Da Silva do brilliant work with the look of Nightcrawler as well as Raven’s look when she’s Mystique though it’s the look of Apocalypse that is just underwhelming. The visual effects work of John Dykstra, Tim Crosbie, and Dennis Jones is quite fine in the look of some of the powers of the characters including Quicksilver’s light-speed as well as the sequence where he arrives to Xavier’s school but the look of Apocalypse as well as the film’s climax is a bit clunky visually. Sound designers Craig Berkey, Lee Gilmore, and Chuck Michael, with sound editor John A. Larsen, do superb work with the sound in the way some of the machines and powers are presented by sound as well as some of the moments in the film’s climax. The film’s music by John Ottman is wonderful for its sense of orchestral bombast in some of the action and suspense while being low-key in the dramatic moments while the soundtrack feature a lot of the music of the 80s from acts such as the Eurythmics, Venom, and Metallica.

The casting by Roger Mussenden is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Zeljko Ivanek as a Pentagon scientist, Tomas Lemarquis as a mutant black markets dealer in Caliban, Ally Sheedy as Scott’s teacher before his powers emerged, Berdj Garabedian as the old Apocalypse before his attempt to transfer into another being, Carolina Bartczack as Erik’s wife Magda, T.J. McGibbon as their daughter Nina, Zehra Leverman as Quicksilver’s mother, Josh Helman as the evil military official Col. Stryker, and Lana Condor as one of Xavier’s students in Jubilee who befriends Kurt and gets him to fit in. Other noteworthy small roles include Lucas Till as Alex Summers who would take Scott to Xavier’s school in the hopes his younger brother finds a place to fit in while Ben Hardy is alright as Angel as a mutant with big wings who would join the Horsemen as he wants to go after Nightcrawler for nearly wounding him. Olivia Munn’s performance as Psylocke is bland where it’s not that she’s given much to do but she doesn’t really do anything to give a compelling performance other than say lines and wield a sword. Alexandra Shipp’s performance as Ororo Munroe/Storm is alright as someone who can control the weather though her African accent at times is quite spotty.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is superb as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler as a teleporting mutant who is the comic relief of the new students while Evan Peters is also funny as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver as a young mutant who arrives to the school needing some answers as he would help out the team in dealing with Apocalypse. Sophie Turner is pretty good as the young Jean Grey as a telekinetic/telepathic student who is dealing with her powers as well as being afraid of them while Tye Sheridan is terrific as Scott Summer/Cyclops as a mutant who can shoot beams from his eyes as someone new to the school as he’s learning to control his powers as well as be a leader for the next generation of X-Men. Rose Byrne is wonderful as Moira McTaggert as a CIA agent who is an old ally of the original X-Men as she helps Xavier and McCoy in her discovery on Apocalypse. Nicholas Hoult is alright as Hank McCoy/Beast as one of the original X-Men who help run the school with Xavier as well as re-establish his friendship with Raven though he is kind of underwritten in his role.

Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Raven Darkholme/Mystique as a shape-shifting mutant who is dealing with her role as a heroine as she reluctantly returns home only to take control when she and Xavier’s students become threatened. Oscar Isaac’s performance as En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse is definitely one of the film’s lowlights as Isaac definitely suffered through the lackluster material he’s given as well as be covered up by makeup and visual effects as it’s really a terrible performance from Isaac. Michael Fassbender is excellent as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto as a co-founder of the X-Men who tries to start over with a family only to succumb to tragedy as he becomes consume by grief and anger where he reluctantly helps out Apocalypse. Finally, there’s James McAvoy in a brilliant performance as Charles Xavier/Professor X as a powerful telepath who tries to run a school as well as deal with Apocalypse whom he sees as a false god that has done nothing but bring fear to the people prompting him to try and stop Apocalypse from taking over his body.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a good but very flawed film from Bryan Singer. While it does have an amazing cast and some exciting moments, it’s a film that falls short due to a bland antagonist as well as its over-emphasis on visual effects for the film’s very bloated climax. In the end, X-Men: Apocalypse is a fine but underwhelming film from Bryan Singer.

X-Men Films: X-Men - X2: X-Men United - X-Men 3: The Last Stand - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - X-Men: First Class - The Wolverine - X-Men: Days of Future Past - Deadpool - (Logan (2017 film)) - (New Mutants) - (Deadpool 2) – (X-Men: Dark Phoenix)

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of a troubled young boy who is sent to foster care where he finds an unlikely father figure in a cantankerous man as they get into trouble by the authorities as they flee into bushes of New Zealand. Written for the screen and directed by Taika Waititi, the film is a genre bender of adventure and comedy where a boy and a man who initially wanted nothing to do with each other become this unlikely duo who don’t play by the rules. Starring Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Waita, and Rachel House. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a witty and heartfelt film from Taika Waititi.

The film is a simple story of a teenage boy who is sent to live with a foster family where things go wrong prompting the boy and his new-foster uncle to go on the run into the New Zealand bushes with their dogs as a manhunt ensues for the two. It’s a film that is an adventure story of sorts yet it is really about this boy and this cantankerous man who is reluctant to be the uncle for this kid yet realizes the boy’s worth and what he has to do help him. Taika Waititi’s screenplay, with contributions from Te Arepa Kahi, explores this unique family situation where Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) arrives to this farm ran by a woman named Bella (Rima Te Waita) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). For Ricky, he had been in a bunch of foster families all over New Zealand as he’s been causing trouble in places as his arrival to his home has him expecting another bad situation. Yet, Bella would be this very positive and loving figure for Ricky as it gives him something he’s never had but it would all change when child welfare want Ricky back and take him to a juvenile prison which Ricky refuses to go.

Hector isn’t keen on taking care of Ricky but upon realizing that Ricky and his new dog Tupac is lost in the bushes, he would find him as more trouble ensues when it is believed that Hector kidnapped Ricky. It’s not just these authorities such as the police and a child welfare officer named Paula (Rachel House) that are after Hector and Ricky but also three hunters the two encountered earlier as there’s a bounty for the two. During the course of the story, Ricky and Hector would have this bond in not just surviving the bushes with their dogs but also in each other as Hector is a man that has a hard time fitting into the world as he is still dealing with things as well as why he was reluctant to have Ricky in his life. During the course of evading the authorities, the two would become heroes in and around New Zealand though there’s some that think of them as just bad people where Ricky would find himself confronting Paula in one scene as it’s very funny due to the pop culture references mentioned in the scene.

Waititi’s direction definitely has some gorgeous visuals as a lot of it is shot in the areas in the Central Plateau and Waitakere Ranges in New Zealand with some of it shot in small towns in the country. The bushes in the film are definitely a major character as it provide this sense of a world that is completely disconnected from society which seems fitting as both Ricky and Hector are kind of outcasts who don’t fit in with the conventions of society. While Waititi would use some wide shots for these locations, he favors more intimate compositions with the usage of medium shots and close-ups as he would create unique framing that play into the growing bond between Ricky and Hector. There are also these amazing shots in which Waititi would use a tripod to shoot around the surroundings as it is among some of the most beautiful shots in the film as it play into some of the humor but also moments that are quite serious.

Even in scenes that are quite chilling including an encounter with a wild boar and other moments that are quite adventurous show Waititi emphasizing on the scale of the manhunt for the two as it would give Ricky and Hector the chance to deal with these setbacks and such. There are also these moments that are quite offbeat which include a brief animated sequence directed by Caroline Ting as it relates to this manhunt led by Paula as well as a moment early in the film where Ricky is lost in the woods as he becomes hungry. It’s part of Waititi’s own brand of humor where it’s not forced in order to get a laugh but rather play into some of the absurdity that goes on throughout the film. Yet, Waititi doesn’t use any of that to get to the importance of the story as it feature a lot of heart as it relates to this very unlikely relationship between a man and a boy that don’t have anything in common other than just being outcasts. Overall, Waititi creates an exhilarating yet heartfelt film about a teenage boy and a man hiding out in the bushes of New Zealand from some very bad people.

Cinematographer Lachlan Milne does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural light for some of the film’s exterior scenes including some in the bushes as well as the interior lighting in a few scenes inside the home of a few characters Ricky and Hector would meet. Editors Luke Haigh, Tom Eagles, and Yana Gorskaya do excellent work for utilizing some stylish cuts such as jump-cuts and dissolves while creating a few inventive montages that add to the film’s unique tone. Production designer Neville Stevenson and art director Jon Lithgow do amazing work with the look of the farm Ricky lived in with Hector and Bella as well as the home of a family he encounters and ranger huts he and Hector would find. Costume designer Kristen Seth does fantastic work with the costumes from the hip-hop inspired clothing that Ricky wears to the more rugged look of Hector as much of it is casual.

Hair/makeup designer Dannielle Satherley does nice work with the look of a few characters including Hector and a reclusive man known as Psycho Sam. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Andrew Smith does terrific work with the look of a few moments of visual effects that include a hilarious scene of hallucination from Ricky as well as the eerie moment with the wild boar. Sound designer Dick Reade does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the bushes as well as the sound of gunfire and such that add to some of the chaos as well as moments of humor. The film’s music by Lukasz Buda, Samuel Scott, and Conrad Wedde is incredible for its mixture of low-key electronic music as well as some folk and piano-based music that give the film different flavors in the music to play into New Zealand’s diverse musical culture while music supervisor Natalie Wilson creates a fun soundtrack that features music from acts like Moniker, Bob Marley, the Alessi Brothers, and Leonard Cohen.

The casting by Stuart Turner is great as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Taika Waititi as a funny minister, Hamish Parkinson as a police official talking about a device that would help Paula, the trio of Cohen Halloway, Stan Walker, and Mike Minogue as hunters who meet Ricky and Hector only to hunt them down for the bounty later on, Troy Kingi as Maori man who is excited about Ricky in his house, and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne as Maori girl named Kahu that Ricky falls for as she lets him stay at his house for a night. Oscar Kightley is terrific as a dim-witted officer named Andy who often accompanies Paula as he’s treated like an idiot though it is clear he’s not as dim as she thinks he is. Rhys Darby is superb as Psycho Sam as this recluse who would help Ricky and Hector in the third act as he has some issues toward the authority as well as the government. Rachel House is excellent as Paula as a child welfare official who is determined to bring Ricky to juvenile detention as she isn’t this conventional antagonist but rather someone who believes in this idea of not leaving any child behind as it’s a very funny performance to watch.

Rima Te Waita is brilliant as Bella as Hector’s wife who is this warm figure that would bring a positive world to Ricky as well as provide a sense of importance to Ricky and Hector. Finally, there’s the duo of Sam Neill and Julian Dennison in tremendous performances in their respective roles as Hector and Ricky. Dennison’s performance is so lively as well as being quite funny in some of the hip-hop slang he says as well as being a quick learner in surviving the bushes as it’s a very engaging performance for someone that could’ve been grating but his development into someone trying to survive as well as needing a father figure is key to Dennison’s winning performance. Neill’s performance as Hector is definitely complex as someone who starts off as quiet and cantankerous as someone who doesn’t want to deal with people but he does have this toughness into his performance as someone who did go to prison as well as weariness of someone who has been through a lot and is trying to help Ricky survive the bushes. Neill and Dennison together are a joy to watch in the way they build up the relationship with Dennison as the funny guy and Neill as the straight man as they’re a major highlight of the film.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a phenomenal film from Taika Waititi that feature sensational performances from Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. Along with a great supporting cast, gorgeous visuals, a touching yet witty story, and a fantastic music soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t just this exciting and funny adventure film but also a film with a lot of heart as it play into the unlikely relationship between a man and a boy who are outcasts in modern society. In the end, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an outstanding film from Taika Waititi.

Taika Waititi Films: (Two Cars, One Night) - (Eagle vs. Shark) - (Boy (2010 film)) - What We Do in the Shadows - (Thor: Ragnarok)

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Small Back Room

Based on the novel by Nigel Balchin, The Small Back Room is the story of a research scientist who is asked to take part in a research involving a new German weapon during World War II. Written for the screen and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the film is an exploration of a man dealing with his role in the world as well as succumbing towards self-destructive behavior that would trouble his relationship with his secretary. Starring David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Michael Gough, and Cyril Cusack. The Small Back Room is a gripping yet evocative film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

It’s 1943 during World War II as the film revolves a bomb expert/research scientist who is asked to do work for the government on a series of new bombs created by the Germans which had killed a few people including children. It’s a film that follows this man who is reluctant in doing the job as he finds himself dealing with military and government officials who don’t do enough to help him while he is becoming troubled by his dependence on alcohol which is troubling his own relationship with his secretary whom he’s in a romantic relationship with. The film’s screenplay by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wouldn’t just follow the struggle that Sammy Rice (David Farrar) is coping with both at work and at home but also the expectations and demands from his bosses at work in trying to understand what this bomb has done. Rice’s secretary/girlfriend Susan (Kathleen Byron) is aware of the chaos that is looming upon him but also his lack of ambition to do more as he’s hampered by a bad leg as well as his growing alcoholism that would eventually take its toll.

The direction of Powell and Pressburger is visually entrancing not just for some of noir-like visual style but also in the fact that it’s a story that is grounded in reality. Shot largely at various sound stages in Britain with some of the exterior locations are shot in and around Britain including the famous site of Stonehenge. The direction for some of the exterior scenes are simple in terms of the few wide shots in the film as much of it have Powell and Pressburger utilize medium shots and close-ups for many of the film’s interior scenes including the scenes at Rice’s lab with his staff at it has this claustrophobic feel for how small it is compared to a conference room during the film’s second half. The scenes at a nightclub where Rice and Susan go to are quite spacious but also intimate where it also has these unique compositions in where the characters are in the frame as well as Rice’s view when he sees Susan dancing with another man.

The direction also include this very surreal sequence as it relates to the struggle that Rice has in his alcoholism where it involves this bottle of whiskey and a clock as it is this amazing sequence filled with unique camera angles and extravagant set designs. It’s a scene that help play into the drama that would intensify in its third act where Rice’s desperation and fragility come into play. The film’s climax which involves a bomb that Rice is researching is quite intense in terms of its suspense where Powell and Pressburger choose to present the whole thing in a restrained approach. It is a moment in the film that is quite chilling in what is going through Rice’s head as tries to figure out what the creator of the bomb would do as it would also force him to confront himself. Overall, Powell and Pressburger create a riveting and mesmerizing film about scientist’s struggle to maintain his sanity during World War II and battling alcoholism.

Cinematographer Christopher Challis does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography with its emphasis on stylish lighting and moods that play into the drama including Rice’s struggle with his sobriety as well as the soft lights for some of the close-ups. Editors Reginald Mills and Clifford Turner do excellent work with the editing as it is quite straightforward with some stylish shots for the nightmare sequence as well as some rhythmic cutting for some of the dramatic suspenseful moments. Production designer Hein Heckroth and art director John Hoesli do amazing work with the look of the lab and offices that Rice works at in how small it is as well as the look of Rice’s apartment home including the nightmare sequence which is a highlight of the film’s art direction.

Costume designer Josephine Boss does fantastic work with the design of the gowns and dresses that Susan wears at work as well as in the nightclub scenes. The sound work of Alan Allen is superb for some of the sound effects that play into the testing of weapons and such including the conference scene where sounds would pop up every now and then to play into some of the film’s intense moments including its climax where it is used sparingly. The film’s music by Brian Easdale is terrific for its mixture of bombastic orchestral music with some eerie textures with the usage of the theremin to play into some of the suspense and drama that looms throughout the film.

The casting by Madeleine Godar is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Bryan Forbes as a dying gunner who had a fatal encounter with a German bomb, Sid James as a bartender at the bar Rice frequents at, Milton Rosmer as a fellow professor, Renee Asherson as a corporal at the beach site for the film’s climax, Leslie Banks as a colonel who is trying to speed things up with the weapons test, and Robert Morley as a minister of war who is trying to use his position of power to get Rice to speed things up. Cyril Cusack is terrific as a stuttering soldier in Corporal Taylor who often guards the building that Rice works at as he is one of the few friends that Rice has. Michael Gough is excellent as Captain Dick Stuart as the person who goes to Rice for help about the bomb as he would take part in the research.

Jack Hawkins is brilliant as R.B. Waring as a military official who is trying to help Rice but also be aware of the many things that are happening behind the scenes. Kathleen Byron is incredible as Susan as a secretary who is also Rice’s girlfriend as it’s a radiant performance from Byron as a woman who is supportive but also not afraid to speak her mind about Rice’s lack of ambition as well as dependence on alcoholism. Finally, there’s David Farrar in a phenomenal performance as Sammy Rice as a bomb expert who is also a research scientist that is troubled by the demands from his bosses about the bomb as he also copes with his alcoholism where Farrar’s sense of anguish is riveting to watch.

The Small Back Room is a sensational film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger that features remarkable performances from David Farrar and Kathleen Byron. Featuring a compelling story, eerie visuals, and a great supporting cast, the film is definitely one of the finest war dramas made about World War II that doesn’t feature any combat as well as an exploration of man’s battle with substance abuse. In the end, The Small Back Room is a tremendous film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Powell-Pressburger Films: The Spy in Black - Contraband - (The Lion Has Wings) - (An Airman’s Letter to His Mother) - 49th Parallel - One of Our Aircraft is Missing - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - (The Volunteer) – A Canterbury Tale - I Know Where I'm Going! - A Matter of Life and Death - Black Narcissus - The Red Shoes - (The Elusive Pimpernel) - (Gone to Earth) - The Tales of Hoffman - (Oh… Rosalinda!!!) - (The Battle of River Plate) – Ill Met by Moonlight - Peeping Tom - (They’re a Weird Mob) - (Age of Consent) - (The Boy Who Turned Yellow)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: The Woods

For the fourth week of June 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the woods where it’s either films about the woods or films set in the woods. Here are my three picks:

1. Ivan's Childhood

Andrei Tarkovksy’s first feature film is an unusual war film that is about a young boy who is a spy for the Russian army during World War II. It’s a film that largely features images in the woods as it would feature not just some incredible cinematography as well as these gorgeous images in the forest. Notably a scene where a nurse is being carried by an officer at a trench as it is one of these entrancing images as is the setting which has been imitated by many filmmakers including Jim Jarmusch and Lars von Trier.

2. First Blood

One of the definitive action films of the 1980s has scenes that is largely set in the woods as it relates to the character of John Rambo who finds himself being chased by local authorities who consider him a nuisance when he didn’t do anything wrong. Yet, they pissed off the wrong motherfucker who would use the woods as his fortress as he would grab anything he can find and use the woods as his weapons. Colonel Trautman was right, those fuck-heads needed a shitload of body bags for fuckin’ with Rambo.

3. The Revenant

From Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is a film about survival as much of the action is set in the woods where Leonardo DiCaprio fights and nearly gets killed by a bear as he’s left for dead by Tom Hardy. It’s a film that features some beautiful cinematography from Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki that give the film a look that is ravishing while making the snowy woods an important centerpiece of the film.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Ninotchka

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and screenplay by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and Walter Reisch from a story by Melchior Lengyel, Ninotchka is the story of a Russian woman who goes to Paris for official business relating to her government as she meets and falls in love with a man who represents everything she stands against. The film is a romantic comedy in which a woman who is on a mission to retrieve three men in trouble who are tempted by the offers in Paris as she tries to avoid that sense of temptation. Starring Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, and Bela Lugosi. Ninotchka is an enchanting and splendid film from Ernst Lubitsch.

The film revolves around a Soviet envoy who travels to Paris, after three men working for the government in retrieving jewels that once belonged to a grand duchess, where she comes to get the jewels and return them to the Soviet Union until she meets a Russian count who is working for the grand duchess. It’s a film that has a lot in not just being this romantic-comedy but also a film involving dueling political ideals as a woman with very socialist views arrive into a country that is more democratic with some leanings toward capitalism. Yet, the character of Nina Ivanova “Ninotchka” Yakushova (Greta Garbo) is a woman that would be new to this world as she struggles to be loyal to her own beliefs but also become tempted by what the free world has to offer. The film’s screenplay begins with the arrival of these three Soviet officials who hope to get these jewels from the Grand Duchess Swana (Ina Claire) that they can use for government funding. Instead, the three men meet Swana’s friend Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas) who charms them with lavish gifts as they lose sight of why they’re in Paris.

The script does show Ninotchka as a no-nonsense woman who knows what she is in Paris for as she presents herself as someone that isn’t afraid to spout her own socialist beliefs as well as doing things for herself. In meeting Count d’Algout, she tries to resist all of his temptation as he would try to humor her to see if she can crack and eventually does. The film’s first half is about Ninotchka’s resistant towards the frivolities and capitalist ventures in Paris while its second half is about her conflict with what Count d’Algout wants to give her as well as her loyalty to the Soviet Union. The third act would begin with Ninotchka meeting the Grand Duchess where it is a key moment in the film where it is about Ninotchka’s idea for the new Russia versus everything the Grand Duchess had stood for and why those jewels mean a lot to her. It’s a meeting that would showcase what the Grand Duchess would sacrifice but also what Ninotchka would have to do for her country as it would come at a price for herself.

Ernst Lubitsch’s direction does have an air for style but much of the film’s compositions throughout the film are quite straightforward. Shot mainly in studio backlots at MGM, the film dos play into this world of pre-World War II Paris as it play into this very thriving and lavish world where everyone is staying at posh hotels or eating at cafes that are quite affordable. Much of Lubitsch’s direction include some close-ups to play into the expression of the characters as well as some medium shots to play into the world of the characters and the growing attraction between Ninotchka and Count d’Algout. Lubitsch’s approach to humor is straightforward but also has this slow build into the way it would show Ninotchka as someone becoming less stern and more outgoing. Even as she would buy this very silly hat as it would play into her development as a person as well as scenes that showcases some of the flaws of socialism and capitalism as it’s shown with some very subtle humor.

The dramatic moments would have Lubitsch use some unique compositions that include the meeting between Ninotchka and the Grand Duchess as it is this very simple yet evocative scene that showcase a game kind of being played. Yet, it is a moment in the third act that would shift things a bit but also play as a key moment of development for both Ninotchka and Count d’Algout for the film’s third act as it relate to their growing infatuation for each other. Even as the latter would do something to get Ninotchka out of the Soviet Union in an inventive way but also have scenes set in Moscow into the life that Ninotchka and her comrades are living in as it show a world that is changing where both socialist and capitalist ideals do have their good but also the bad as it’s all about how one could compromise for the good of the world. Overall, Lubitsch creates an evocative and engaging film about a Soviet envoy who falls for an exiled count in Paris.

Cinematographer William H. Daniels does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography from the usage of low-key interior lighting for some of the scenes set in Moscow for its third act to the very gorgeous array of lighting and textures for much of the film’s interiors including the club scene in Paris. Editor Gene Ruggiero does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with a couple of transition wipes and fade-outs that play into the drama and comedy. Art director Cedric Gibbons and set decorator Edwin B. Willis do fantastic work with the look of the Parisian hotel sweet the Soviet officials and Ninotchka stay in as well as Count d’Algout’s apartment and the interiors of the nightclub and cafe.

Gown designer Adrian does amazing work with the look of the dresses that Ninotchka would wear at the nightclub as well as the dresses that the Grand Duchess wears. Sound editor Wally Heglin does nice work with the sound as it play into the world of the cafes and clubs as well as some of the exterior scenes set in Paris. The film’s music by Werner R. Heymann is wonderful for its sumptuous orchestral score that play into some of the funnier moments of the film as well as the dramatic and romantic moments in the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from George Tobias as a Russian visa official, Charles Judel as a café owner, Rolfe Sedan as the hotel manager, Tamara Shayne as Ninotchka’s Moscow roommate, and Bela Lugosi in a small but superb performance as Ninotchka’s superior Commissar Razinin who is concerned about Ninotchka’s behavior and her time in Paris. The trio of Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, and Alexander Granach are fantastic in their respective roles as Iranoff, Buljanoff, and Kopalski as three government officials who give in to the temptation of what Paris has to offer as they have a hard time wanting to stay loyal to the Soviet Union as they become more enamored with the world of capitalism.

Ina Claire is brilliant as the Grand Duchess Swana as a former royal who had lost her jewels during the Russian Revolution as she is eager to get them back while making a major compromise that would affect Ninotchka greatly as she believes this compromise would be good for herself and her former country. Melvyn Douglas is amazing as Count Leon d’Algout as a former Russian royal who is a friend of the Grand Duchess as he is eager to get her jewels back only to be intrigued by Ninotchka whom he would fall for as he decides to help Ninotchka and do whatever he can to be there for her. Finally, there’s Greta Garbo in a magnificent performance as the titular character as a no-nonsense Soviet envoy who goes to Paris to do her job and get out as she tries to resist temptation where Garbo starts off as humorless and mechanic only to loosen up as someone full of charm and radiance while being vulnerable later on as it is one of her defining performances.

Ninotchka is a phenomenal film from Ernst Lubitsch that features incredible performances from Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, and Ina Claire. Along with its gorgeous visuals, top-notch art direction, and a witty script co-written by Billy Wilder. It’s a film that isn’t just a fun romantic-comedy but also a study of social classes and ideals that play into two people with different ideals who come together for one common goal. In the end, Ninotchka is a spectacular film from Ernst Lubitsch.

Ernst Lubitsch Films: (Shoe Palace Pinkus) – (When Four Do the Same) – (Die Augen Der Mumie Ma) – (Carmen (1918 film)) – (Intoxication (1919 film)) – (The Doll) – (My Wife, the Movie Star) – (The Oyster Princess) – (Meyer from Berlin) – (Madame DuBarry) – (Sumurun) – (Kohlhiesel’s Daughter) – (Anna Boleyn) – (The Wild Cat) – (The Loves of Pharaoh) – (The Flame (1923 film)) – (Rosita) – (The Marriage Circle) – (Three Women (1924 film)) – (Forbidden Paradise) – (Kiss Me Again) – (Lady Windermere’s Fan) – (So This is Paris) – (The Honeymoon Express) – (The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg) – (The Patriot (1928 film)) – (Eternal Love) – (The Love Parade) – (Monte Carlo (1930 film)) – (Paramount on Parade) – (The Smiling Lieutenant) – (Broken Lullaby) – (One Hour with You) – (Trouble in Paradise (1932 film)) – (Design for Living) – (The Merry Widow) – (Angel (1937 film)) – (Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife) – (The Shop Around the Corner) – (That Uncertain Feeling) – (To Be or Not to Be (1942 film)) – (Heaven Can Wait (1943 film)) – (A Royal Scandal) – (Cluny Brown) – (That Lady in Ermine)

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Marley (2012 film)

Directed by Kevin MacDonald, Marley is a documentary film about the life and career of reggae music legend Bob Marley. Told through archival footage, rare audio and film clips, and new interviews with family, friends, and collaborators. The film explores Marley’s early life as well as his career into becoming an international superstar until his untimely death in 1981 of cancer. The result is an engrossing and lively film from Kevin MacDonald that explores the life one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century.

Bob Marley is an icon in the world of music who would introduce the world to reggae music as he wouldn’t just make it popular but also display characteristics to express the need for social changes as well as giving voice to the oppressed and neglected. From his early years singing as part of a doo-wop group of sorts called the Wailers with Bunny Livingston and the late Peter Tosh that would later become a full-on reggae band until Livingston and Tosh left the group in 1974. Marley’s impact on popular music was immense as he would bring the music of his home country of Jamaica into the attention of the world as well as the idea of Rastafarian to give Africans and Jamaicans an identity of their own.

With interviews from Marley’s widow Rita as well as two of his eleven children in the singers Cedella and Ziggy plus longtime girlfriend Cindy Breakspeare, Bunny Livingston, producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, and fellow reggae artist Jimmy Cliff as well as many others. The film follows a simple narrative of Marley’s early life living in the small town of St. Ann in the Jamaican countryside where he never knew his father who was a white man named Norval Marley who was a government official that was known for sleeping with a lot of Jamaican women as he was from a well-off family. The film would also feature interviews with Marley’s mother Cedella Booker (who would die four years before the film’s release) as well as half-sister of his in Constance who also admits to not knowing much about her father as she is featured in one scene listening to a song called Corner Stone where one of his second cousins is listening to as it relates to the rejection that Marley would have throughout his life as someone related to this white family known as the Marleys as he is related to them.

While Kevin MacDonald does follow the narrative about Marley’s music career that would blossom for much of the 70s and peaking towards the 1980s until his death in May of 1981. Much of the film focuses on aspects of Marley’s personal life as well as his relationship with his family and his notorious womanizing which Rita knew but let it happen as she had so much respect for her husband and his work ethic. She would be with him as she along with many others survived an assassination attempt on Marley in 1976 on the eve before he was to give a free concert during a tumultuous period in Jamaica’s history relating to an election and divisive political standings. It would lead to a brief exile from Jamaica for Marley, his family, and entourage as the film showcases his growing audience all over the world including Africa where he played at an independence concert for Zimbabwe. The film also play into the final months of his life as it reveal what he was trying to fight the cancer he had for years due to an infection in one of his big toes.

Much of MacDonald’s direction in the film is straightforward as he’s aided by cinematographers Mike Eley, Alwin H. Kuchler, and Wally Pfister in shooting much of the interviews as well as some gorgeous shots of the locations in Jamaica as well as places such as a small town in Delaware Marley stayed at in the early 60s and the German resort he would go to in his final months. Editor Dan Glendenning would compile many of the rare concert footage and old video interviews Marley did during his lifetime with sound designer Glenn Freemantle compiling much of the audio including some rare demos and early tracks that Marley did as well as some of the audio interviews. Visual effects supervisor Hayden Jones would do some wonderful work in creating some 3D effects for some of the photos to make it come alive. Music supervisor Liz Gallacher does amazing work with compiling the soundtrack that doesn’t just feature much of the music that Marley did in his lifetime including some rare demos but also in the music that was playing in the early 1960s in Jamaica before Marley’s ascendance into the becoming its cultural icon.

Marley is a phenomenal film from Kevin MacDonald. Not only is it a film that offer some new stories and insights for those familiar with the life and music of Bob Marley but it also offer for those new or not entirely familiar with Marley the chance to hear his music as well as get some ideas about the world of Rastafarian. In the end, Marley is a sensational film from Kevin MacDonald.

© thevoid99 2017