Monday, September 18, 2017

Wind River

Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, Wind River is the story of a young FBI agent who helps a tracker find a murderer at an Indian reservation in Wyoming. The film is an exploration into the world of Native Americans and how two different people try to do what is right as they also explore the dark aspects of their surroundings. Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, and Graham Greene. Wind River is a riveting and somber film from Taylor Sheridan.

An 18-year old Native American woman is found dead by a wildlife tracker as he is aided by a young FBI agent who wants to know if it was a homicide as they deal with not just their surroundings but also the sense of tension among the Native American community in a small town in Wyoming. It’s a film that isn’t just about a murder in an area that features a prominent Native American community in this small Wyoming town but also a man who knows that girl as she was the best friend of her daughter who had died a few years earlier. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay isn’t just about the mystery of who killed this young girl but also the neglect towards Native Americans as it relate to them being victims of crime despite the fact their local sheriff in Ben (Graham Greene) is a Native American who cares about them but isn’t given enough resources to do justice.

Yet, the Native Americans do have an ally and friend in Cory Booker (Jeremy Renner) who is agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that tracks wild animals that is harmful to any farm animals as he is first seen killing wolves from afar for trying to attack a herd of sheep where he would find the body of this girl in Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow). The idea that Natalie could’ve been murder catches the attention of FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who arrives to Wyoming unprepared for its conditions and the land itself as she believes that it is a murder. Banner is definitely the outsider as someone who hasn’t been on the field nor does she know how to conduct herself as a Caucasian in a Native American community as she needs Booker to help her. Booker’s role in the investigation is personal as he is still reeling from the loss of his daughter a few years ago that led to him being separated from his wife as he makes a promise to Natalie’s father Martin (Gil Birmingham) to find out what happened. Even as he has to contend with some in the Native American community who don’t like him because he’s Caucasian yet is one of the few that can actually help them.

Sheridan’s direction is definitely exquisite in terms of the setting and locations though it is actually shot in Utah as part of this small town in Wyoming with areas near the Rocky Mountains. Much of the direction is quite simple as it play into this very cold and snowy land that is Wyoming in the northwestern part of America as it features images of the Native American community feeling disconnected from traditional society as there’s a shot of the American flag shown upside down. For someone like Booker, he understands their disconnect as he too is disconnected from traditional society due to his grief yet is still trying to be a good father to his son Casey (Teo Briones) as well as help out his ex-wife’s parents. While Sheridan would use a lot of wide shots to capture the scope of the locations, he does maintain an air of intimacy in the close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the investigation and the interaction between characters during the non-investigation scenes.

Sheridan would take his time in letting things unfold for the film’s climax where he would put in something that is a major reveal about what happened but also this air of isolation that is prevalent to those who aren’t part of conventional society. It adds to this harrowing conclusion that emphasizes on this neglect in American society towards not just Native Americans but also this region such as Wyoming, the Dakotas, Utah, and areas with Native American reservations that doesn’t seem to really be part of the United States of America. Especially when it comes to justice as there are very few instances where the right thing is done yet America is more concerned with what’s happening in other parts of the country and the world rather than those who were in this country first. Overall, Sheridan crafts a gripping and chilling film about a tracker and a FBI agent trying to find out who killed an 18-year old Native American woman.

Cinematographer Ben Richardson does excellent work with the film’s cinematography in the way many of the daytime exteriors are presented with its emphasis on natural lighting with the scenes at light displaying some low-key lighting for some scenes including the exterior settings in some scenes. Editor Gary D. Roach does brilliant work with the editing as it is straightforward for much of the film with some rhythmic cuts to play into the suspense and action. Production designer Neil Spisak, with set decorator Cynthia A. Neibaur and art director Lauren Slatten, does fantastic work with the look of the homes of Booker, the Hanson family, as well as some Native American junkies who live in trailer parks. Costume designer Kari Perkins does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the look of the uniforms the deputies wear with winter hats and such as well as the winter gear that Banner had to borrow on her search of the murder site.

Hair/makeup designer Felicity Bowring does terrific work with some of the makeup as it relates to the sense of loss that Martin Hanson is dealing with as he’s wearing war paint to express his grief. Visual effects supervisor Dottie Starling does some fine work with the visual effects as it is mainly set-dressing for a few exterior shots in the film. Sound editor Alan Robert Murray and sound designer Tom Ozanich do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound of gunfire and such throughout the film. The film’s music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is amazing as it is a major highlight of the film for its mixture of folk and ambient music with violins to play into the somber tone of the film while the rest of the soundtrack consists mainly of folk and country music.

The casting by Jordan Bass and Lauren Bass is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Tantoo Cardinal and Apesanahkwat as Booker’s former in-laws, Eric Lange as the local autopsy official, Tokala Black Elk as a notorious junkie in Sam Littlefeather, Martin Sensmeier as Martin’s estranged drug-addict son Chip, Teo Briones as Booker’s son Casey, Althea Sam as Natalie’s mother, Kelsey Chow as Natalie, Julia Jones as Booker’s estranged ex-wife Wilma, James Jordan as a man working at an oil rig in Pete, and Jon Bernthal as an oil worker named Matt who was seeing Natalie on the night she died. Gil Birmingham is excellent as Martin Hanson as Natalie’s father who is given the news about his daughter as he succumbs to grief and anger while asking Booker to do what is right. Graham Greene is brilliant as Ben as the town’s local sheriff who is also Native American as a man that had seen a lot as he tells Banner about how things work in the town as he also hopes to do what is right for everyone.

Elizabeth Olsen is phenomenal as Jane Banner as a rookie FBI agent who is given her first real test as an agent while being someone that is an idealistic in wanting to do what is right as she also copes with the severity of her assignment and what she has to do to get things done. Finally, there’s Jeremy Renner in a sensational performance as Cory Booker as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent/tracker who would find the body of this young woman forcing him to deal with his own loss from years ago where he would help Banner and others find out who killed her as well as gain some redemption for how he lost his own daughter.

Wind River is a tremendous film from Taylor Sheridan that features top-notch performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. Along with its supporting cast, themes on justice and neglect, eerie music score, and a chilling setting. It’s a suspense film that doesn’t play by the rules while acknowledging the sense of alienation and neglect towards a group of people who never have things go in their favor. In the end, Wind River is a magnificent film from Taylor Sheridan.

Related: Sicario - Hell or High Water

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

mother! (2017 film)

Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, mother! is the story of a couple whose quiet life in the country is disrupted by visitors who come in for some unknown reasons causing all sorts of trouble. The film is an unconventional horror story revolving around unexpected visitors as it explores the idea of idol worship and desires to start a family. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, and Ed Harris. mother! is a visceral and harrowing film from Darren Aronofsky.

The film follows the life of a couple living in the middle of the country as a writer (Javier Bardem) is struggling to write a new book while his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) is finishing the redecoration of their house where they get some unexpected visitors that would shake everything up. It’s a film that explores the idea of worship as the writer is dealing with the expectations of a new book as he has writer’s block as well as the fact that starting a new life hasn’t helped him with his wife seemingly happy with the tranquility in shaping their home. Yet, she would see things such as a beating heart inside the house as if it’s haunted as it would worsen with the arrival of an ailing doctor (Ed Harris) who is later joined by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Darren Aronofsky’s screenplay is filled with a lot of themes as the writer is willing to have guests in his home as the doctor is a fan of the writer’s work as it later goes into chaos due to the people that come to the house. For the wife, it becomes overwhelming as these visitors would disrupt everything as the wife questions her husband’s generosity as she believes he is selfish and often too inviting as well to the point that he neglects her. All of this happens during its first half as the second half becomes about the arrival of a new person for the writer and his wife but also more chaos and tragedy that would loom throughout due to the fact that writer revels in the worship of his readers who have taken his work way too seriously.

Aronofsky’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he would open and end the film in the same way as if it’s all part of something biblical. Shot near Montreal, the film is set entirely in a country house in the middle of nowhere as it serves as this kind of idyllic world where the wife is in charge while her husband struggles with trying to write a new book. While there’s some wide shots in the film for much of the exteriors, Aronofsky aims for something more intimate with the usage of medium shots and close-ups as there’s a lot of emphasis on the latter. Notably in moments where the wife would touch the wall as if there is something living in the house as it would show the image of a heart beating as if the house is real. Aronofsky would create moments that are quite calm yet there is something that is uneasy such as the wife’s interaction with the doctor’s wife who would say these very offbeat yet cruel things throughout the film as it would baffle the wife who becomes more uneasy. Another part of Aronofsky’s direction that is unique is the fact that he would shoot close-ups of certain objects as well as the focus of a crystallized object at the writer’s office.

Things would intensify during the second act when the doctor and his wife would receive a visit from their two sons (Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) as it adds more chaos where Aronofsky’s usage of hand-held cameras to follow the action would show the sense of disruption at the house. Notably in the third act following the aftermath of the release of the writer’s new book where it’s just mayhem. There’s moments in this sequence that is quite ridiculous as well as grotesque but there’s also some dark humor in the film that add to the insanity of what is happening. Even as the writer is forced to see what his work has done as it adds a lot of religious and biblical allegory into everything that has happened with the wife at the center of it all. Overall, Aronofsky crafts a chilling and intense film about a couple’s tranquil life disrupted by strange visitors.

Cinematographer Matthew Libatique does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of natural colors for some of the daytime exteriors as well as some low-key lighting and moods for many of the interior scenes including the ones at the basement and for the scenes at night. Editor Andrew Weisblum does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylized cuts to play into the suspense and heightened drama that looms throughout the film. Production designer Philip Messina, with set decorators Larry Dias and Martine Kazemirchuk plus art directors Isabelle Guay and Deborah Jensen, does amazing work with the look of the house and the way the different rooms look as well as how they would look in its decayed form including the basement. Costume designer Danny Glicker does nice work with some of the costumes as it is mostly casual with a bit of stylish clothing from the things the doctor’s wife wears as well as a dress the wife would wear in the third act.

Special effects makeup artists Mathieu Baptista and Shane Shisheboran does terrific work with some of the makeup for the look of some of the people that would emerge at the house as it adds to the insanity that occurs in the film. The visual effects work of Kenneth Caines and John Mangia does fantastic work with the visual effects from the look of the heart as well as some of the stranger things that occur in the house that would haunt the wife. Sound designers Paula Fairfield and Craig Henigan do superb work with the sound from the way some of the sounds of the house is presented as well as how objects are heard as it help add to the film’s approach to suspense and horror. The film’s music by Johan Johansson is wonderful as it’s very low-key with its approach to ambient music as it’s used very sparingly as sound texture while the only real piece of music in the film is a cover of The End of the World by Patti Smith.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu is incredible as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Stephen McHattie as a zealot, Kristen Wiig as the writer’s publisher, Jovan Adepo as a mysterious cup holder, and the duo of Domhnall and Brian Gleeson as the feuding sons of the doctor and his wife. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer are phenomenal in their respective role as the doctor and his wife with Harris as this kind and curious man that is eager to meet the writer as he is becoming very ill while Pfeiffer is just sublime as this very bitchy and intrusive woman that wants to know what is in the mind of the wife.

Javier Bardem is remarkable as the writer as this man that is struggling to write something as well as be attentive to his wife where he’s trying to find inspiration as it’s a very complex role of a man trying to be this figure for his adoring fans but also be there for his wife. Finally, there’s Jennifer Lawrence in a sensational performance as the wife as this young woman struggling to create a life for herself and her husband as she deals with these intrusive visitors as well as the neglect she’s getting from her husband as it’s a role of anguish and terror of a woman trying to protect the home she’s created.

mother! is a marvelous film from Darren Aronofsky that features incredible performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris. Along with its eerie visuals, biblical references, eerie suspense, and moments of horror, it’s a film that is willing to push all sorts of boundaries and raise discussion though some of its presentation is flawed. In the end, mother! is a riveting film from Darren Aronofsky.

Darren Aronofsky Films: Pi - Requiem for a Dream - The Fountain - The Wrestler - Black Swan - Noah (2014 film)

The Auteurs #2: Darren Aronofsky

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Written and directed by Werner Herzog, Stroszek is the story of a German street performer who is released from prison as he dreams of going to America in the hopes he can find great promise there as he is joined by a prostitute and an old man in his journey. The film is an unusual road film in which a man tries to go to America to see if there is such a thing as the American Dream only to face the realities of his new surroundings. Starring Bruno S., Eva Mattes, and Clemens Scheitz. Stroszek is a mesmerizing yet harrowing film from Werner Herzog.

The film follows a man named Bruno Stroszek (Bruno S.) who is released from prison as he has trouble trying to find his role in the world as he joins a down-on-her-luck prostitute and an old man to travel to America where the old man’s nephew lives and work at Wisconsin. It’s a film that is about a trio of misfits who don’t really fit in with the many ideas of modern-day West German society as they hope to go to America to find a new life and something good. Werner Herzog’s screenplay doesn’t just follow the struggle that Bruno, the prostitute Eva (Eva Mattes), and the old man in Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz) as they deal with their dreary surrounding in West Berlin. It’s also for the fact that there isn’t really anything for them as they hope going to America would change things.

The first act is set in West Berlin while the second act begins in New York City as they would go to the small town of Railroad Flats, Wisconsin to meet Scheitz’s nephew Clayton (Clayton Szalpinski). With Bruno getting a job working for Clayton in his garage and Eva working as a waitress at a diner, it seems like the idea of the American Dream would come true but it would turn out to be just a myth. Especially in what they had to do to get things they want as it causes all sorts of problems for Bruno, Eva, and Scheitz with Scheitz succumbing to paranoia. Adding to this problem is the language barrier and cultural differences as Bruno and Scheitz don’t speak nor understand a word of English with Eva being the only person who can as she becomes indifferent to her surroundings as well as towards Bruno.

Herzog’s direction is definitely straightforward for much of the film while it is also very offbeat in terms of how he showcases America from a foreigner’s point of view. Shot on location in West Berlin, New York City, parts of North Carolina, and various small towns in Wisconsin such as Madison, Nekoosa, and Plainfield. Herzog would create something where it play into individuals who have no place in the world as Bruno’s release from prison has him forcing to not do certain things like drink alcohol or get into trouble as the first place he goes to following his prison release is a bar and have a drink of beer. Yet, life in Berlin is quite troubling as he’s constantly bullied by a couple of pimps who often abuse Eva while finding places to play his accordion and glockenspiel become harder forcing him to believe that America might be the place to go. Much of Herzog’s approach to compositions has him using close-ups and medium shots to play into the way the characters deal with each other and their situations as there are a few wide shots for the scenes in Berlin. Once they arrive to America, the wide shots are more prominent as it displays this sense of culture shock and bedazzlement for the scenes in New York including a shot at the observatory floor at the Empire State Building.

The scenes in Wisconsin are also straightforward as Herzog would use non-actors to be in the film to give it a sense of authenticity as well as that sense of confusion the Germans would deal with upon their arrival. Much of the approach to compositions remain the same but the tone is different as it has bits of humor but also some low-key drama as it play into not just this sense of alienation for these characters but also the growing dissolution among the three as Scheitz’s interest in animal magnetism and Eva’s own interest toward truckers add to Bruno’s own sense of loneliness. The film’s climax which is set in another small town somewhere in America doesn’t just play into Bruno’s own realization of the myth of the American Dream but also wonder if there is a place for him in the world. The film’s ending is definitely brutal mainly for its imagery as it has something that is very dark in its humor but also says a lot about humanity trapped into the expectations of their role in society. Overall, Herzog crafts a haunting yet intoxicating film about three Germans traveling to America to find a new life only to face the realities of the world.

Cinematographer Thomas Mauch does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the look of the low-key yet naturalistic lighting for the scenes set in Germany to the more colorful look of the scenes in America including some of the dreary scenes in Wisconsin. Editor Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus does brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts play into some of the drama and humor as it is a highlight of the film. The sound work of Haymo Heyder and Peter van Anft is superb for the way it captures all of the natural elements of the location without the need to heighten the sounds. The film’s music consists of an array of musical pieces such as the stuff Bruno performs with his accordion as well as some country music from Chet Atkins and Sonny Terry.

The film’s incredible cast mainly consists of non-actors such as Clayton Szalpinski as Scheitz’s nephew Clayton, Scott McKain as a banker, Ely Rodriguez as Clayton’s assistant, Ralph Wade as an auctioneer, and the duo of Wilhelm von Homburg and Burkhard Driest as a couple of brutal pimps who bully Bruno and often abuse Eva. Clemens Scheitz is amazing as Scheitz as Bruno’s elderly neighbor who is given a chance to go to America as he becomes interested in animal magnetism while dealing with the downside of American society. Eva Mattes is great as Eva as a young prostitute who has endured a lot of abuse in Berlin as she is eager to go to America where she is able to find her role but becomes indifferent once she is unable to get what she wants forcing herself to take her own direction that wouldn’t involve Bruno. Finally, there’s Bruno S. in a phenomenal performance as the titular character who is this unemployed street performer who just got released from prison as he deals with his role in the world as well as the growing sense of alienation in America that forces him to question the decisions he’s made in his life and if there is a role for him in the world overall as it’s just an engaging and eerie performance from Bruno S.

Stroszek is a tremendous film from Werner Herzog that features sensational performances from Bruno S., Eva Mattes, and Clemens Scheitz. Along with its gorgeous visuals and compelling story on alienation and demystifying the myth of the American Dream. It’s a film that explores America from the point of view of those who had never been to the country and deal with the realities to fit in with society. In the end, Stroszek is a spectacular film from Werner Herzog.

Werner Herzog Films: Feature Films: (Signs of Life) - (Even the Dwarfs Started Small) - (Fatana Morgana) – Aguirre: The Wrath of God - (The Enigma of Kasper Hauer) - (Heart of Glass) – Nosferatu, the Vampyre - Woyzeck - Fitzcarraldo - (Where the Green Ants Dream) – Cobra Verde - (Scream of Stone) - (Lessons of Darkness) - (Invincible (2001 film)) - (The Wild Blue Yonder) – Rescue Dawn - (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) – (My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?) – (Queen of the Desert) – (Salt and Fire)

Documentaries: (The Flying Doctors of East Africa) - (Handicapped Future) - (Land of Silence and Darkness) - (The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner) - (How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck) - (La Soufri̬re) - (Huie's Sermon) - (God's Angry Man) - (Ballad of the Little Soldier) - (The Dark Glow of the Mountains) - (Wodaabe) РHerdsmen of the Sun) - (Echoes from a Somber Empire) - (Jag Mandir) - (Bells from the Deep) - (The Transformation of the World into Music) - (Death for Five Voices) - (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) РMy Best Fiend - (Wings of Hope) - (Pilgrimage) - (Ten Thousand Years Older) - (Wheel of Time) - (The White Diamond) РGrizzly Man - Encounters at the End of the World - Cave of Forgotten Dreams - (Into the Abyss) Р(On Death Row) РFrom One Second to the Next - (Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World) Р(Into the Inferno)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017


Directed by Yann Demange and written by Gregory Burke, ’71 is the story of a British soldier who finds himself separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the tumultuous period known as the Troubles. The film is a look into the real-life conflict that began in the late 1960s between Britain and IRA as a young man finds himself in the middle of this conflict which was at its most dangerous in 1971. Starring Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot, Richard Dormer, Paul Anderson, and Charlie Murphy. ’71 is a gripping and intense film from Yann Demange.

The film follows a young soldier who is tasked with other young soldiers to control a situation in Belfast where it turned into a riot as he finds himself all alone when his unit had fled and IRA soldiers trying to find and kill him. It’s a film that explore what happens to a young man who goes head-on into the turmoil between the British and the Irish where the original plan from the former is to help officials arrest those suspected of being involved in the IRA. What happens becomes very chaotic as this young man finds himself lost after seeing a fellow soldier shot in the head who was trying to save him as he goes on the run and hide from the IRA. Gregory Burke’s screenplay explores the plight that this young soldier in Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is dealing with as he has to hide while befriending a few locals along the way. Yet, just as he thinks he has found some form of safety. Something bad happens immediately as he has to keep on running and survive while his unit deal with having to find him in Belfast knowing there’s trouble as they’re also dealing with undercover officers who pretend to be IRA soldiers.

Yann Demange’s direction is definitely very intense as it has this sense of immediacy once the event in Belfast come into play. Shot on mainly in Britain, the film doesn’t start off with this air of combat but rather soldiers involved in a boxing match of sorts between soldiers who are in training. Once they’re assigned to Belfast to aid British police officials in arresting suspects, the film has this sense of unease as Hook would visit his younger brother before he goes to Belfast as a reminder that he’s just a young man. Once he’s in Belfast on assignment with his unit that is led by a young lieutenant and a corporal who are there to smooth things and not get into trouble. Chaos ensues as Demange’s direction become intense and immediate with its usage of hand-held cameras for the close-ups and medium shots while the violence is unexpected and unsettling. Especially in the moment where Hook is being beaten by locals as he is trying to be saved by another young soldier only for that man to be shot in the head.

While there are some wide shots, Demange would prefer to maintain that air of intimacy into what Hook is going through as Demange’s close-ups help play into his fear. There are moments in the film that are intense as well as in the suspense as it also show what some of these men in the IRA are up to as some are for a cause with some having their own personal motives. Even the men working undercover have this air of ambiguity as the British lieutenant isn’t sure if he could trust them. The film’s climax is about the rescue for Hook who is also has to fend for himself and protect those who were able to help him despite their cultural and social differences. All of which would play into this conflict that had brought a lot of pain where this young man ponders his role in this conflict. Overall, Demange crafts a visceral and harrowing film about a young British soldier and his encounter with war in 1971 Belfast.

Cinematographer Tat Radcliffe does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of low-key and natural lighting for the scenes in the daytime as well as elements of sepia and lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Chris Wyatt does amazing work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts play into the suspense as well as the action that goes on throughout the film. Production designer Chris Oddy, with set decorator Kate Guyan and supervising art director Nigel Pollock, does fantastic work with the look of the home base of the British unit as well as the pub and houses in Belfast. Costume designer Jane Petrie does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual from the look of the locals in the style of the clothes of the early 70s as well as the uniforms of the British soldiers.

Makeup designer Emma Scott does fantastic work with the makeup from the look of Hook with the blood and bruises that he would suffer throughout his body. Visual effects supervisor Simon Hughes does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects for one key sequence in the film as well as a few set dressing for some wide shots of Belfast at night. Sound designer Paul Davies does superb work with the sound that play into the chaos of the riots as well as some of the violent conflict in the film as it has this array of mixes to play into Hook’s perspective as he would encounter all sorts of violence. The film’s music by David Holmes is incredible for its mixture of low-key synthesizers, guitars, and bombastic beats to play into the suspense and sense of terror while music supervisor Dan Rodgers does wonderful work with the soundtrack as it feature some music of the times from Wanda Jackson, Arthur Alexander, Solomon Burke, Lee Hazelwood, Jack Scott, and Butch Moore plus an electronic cut from Aphex Twin.

The casting by Jina Jay is great as it feature some notable small roles from Paul Popplewell as a training corporal, Corey McKinley as an Irish child who is a loyal to the IRA that helps Hook, Harry Verity as Hook’s younger brother Darren, Babou Ceesay as the unit’s corporal, Paul Anderson as an undercover officer in Sgt. Lewis, Barry Keoghan as a teenage member of the IRA in Sean, and Sam Reid in a terrific role as a sympathetic British lieutenant who is trying to ensure the well-being of Hook and other soldiers while questioning the methods of the undercover officers. Killian Scott is superb as an IRA leader in James Quinn who is eager to find Hook and kill for the cause while David Wilmot is fantastic as the senior IRA leader Boyle who goes to the British in dealing with the crazed Quinn.

Richard Dormer and Charlie Murphy are excellent in their respective roles as the father-daughter duo Eamon and Birgid as two people who help the wounded Hook with Murphy as the conflicted woman who had been part of the riot while Dormer is the more understandable man who knows what Hook has to do. Sean Harris is brilliant as Captain Sandy Browning as an undercover officer who is trying to do everything to stop the IRA as he has some very brutal tactics and ideas that make some who are working for him uneasy. Finally, there’s Jack O’Connell in a remarkable performance as Gary Hook as a new recruit for the British army who endures a terrifying experience as he tries to survive as well as deal with the reality of the conflict he’s involved in forcing him to fight for himself as well as face the truth on the war he’s in.

’71 is a phenomenal film from Yann Demange that features an incredible performance from Jack O’Connell. Along with its ensemble cast, gripping action, and a look into the period known from the Troubles from both sides, it’s a film that is intense as well as being very engaging into what was happening in these turbulent times. In the end, ’71 is a spectacular film from Yann Demange.

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Financial World

For the second week of September 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We venture into the world of finances as films allow audiences to go into place they’re not familiar with such as world of stocks, money, and deals. It’s a subject that can be complicated but here are three different films that allow audiences to venture into that world in a very accessible way:

1. Trading Places

From John Landis is one of the funniest comedies ever as its interpretation of Prince and the Pauper is set in the world of finances where two ultra-rich commodities broker-brothers make a bet in changing the lives of one of their rich employees and a poor, homeless man and see how their lives turn out. Though it’s not really about finances, it does contain a lot of ideas into the financial world such as its climax where both Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy both team up to get revenge over this bet that affected both of their lives.

2. Margin Call

From J.C. Chandor is one of the finest debut films of the 2010s so far as it explores the financial crisis of 2007-2008 in the span of 36 hours in which a group of people learn about what happened and what they can do to save themselves. It’s a film that is quite complex with a large ensemble cast yet it is about the human drama and what they’re dealing with as it’s not just that they’re losing their jobs but also finding someone to blame. It’s a very compelling film that is hard to get into at first but it does pay off in the end.

3. The Big Short

From Adam McKay comes this adaptation of Michael Lewis’ novel that is also about the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Yet, it’s a multi-layered film that explore three different storylines in which a group of individuals would make some serious discoveries that would impact the world of finances. With a great ensemble cast as well as some very humorous cameos from celebrities that explain some of the complexities of finances, it’s a film that showcases a sense of humanity in a group of people just trying to make sense of everything that went wrong as well as deal with immorality that comes with capitalism.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

Directed and shot by Les Blank, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is a documentary short film in which German filmmaker Werner Herzog fulfills a bet that he loses to another filmmaker in Errol Morris. The film chronicles what Herzog had to do after seeing that Morris had finally made a film that would be the documentary Gates of Heaven as Herzog would show what he had to do to live up to promise. The result is a hilarious documentary short film Les Blank.

The film follows filmmaker Werner Herzog who arrives to San Francisco for a screening of Gates of Heaven to spread the word about the film as well as eat his shoe in front of the public following its screening. Throughout the course of the film, Herzog comments on the industry and his views on film as he would stop at a restaurant to cook his shoes. With footage from Charles Chaplin’s film The Gold Rush, Herzog’s own film Even the Dwarfs Started Small, and bits of Errol Morris’ Gates of Heaven interspersed with Herzog holding his public feast of shoes. Shot with hand-held cameras by Blank, the film has Herzog making humorous anecdotes about what he’s about to eat as well as the recipes he put into his shoes to give it taste. With the aid of editor/sound recordist Maureen Gosling, Blank would put in footage of other films to play into everything Herzog is about to get himself into. Yet, it is all about honoring the wager that he had with another filmmaker all in the name of cinema.

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is a delightful film from Les Blank. It’s a very witty and enjoyable documentary short that follows a revered filmmaker doing what he says he was going to do as well as provide his own views on the world of film and the industry that often doesn’t take risk. In the end, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is an incredible film from Les Blank.

Related: (Gates of Heaven) – Burden of Dreams

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Directed by George Miller and screenplay by Miller, Terry Hayes, and Brian Hannant, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is the story of a man driven by loss as he reluctantly help a group of settlers deal with marauders wreaking havoc during a post-apocalyptic period in Australia. The film is a sequel to the 1979 film in which Mel Gibson reprises his role as Max Rockatansky as he tries to cut himself off from humanity only to realize what he needs to do to regain. Also starring Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Michael Preston, and narration by Harold Baigent. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a thrilling and high-octane film from George Miller.

The film follows a man who would go on the road with his dog as he finds himself dealing with crazed marauders where he later finds a small village with lots of gasoline that is being threatened by marauders as gas is now the biggest currency in this post-apocalyptic environment. It’s a film that forces a man to deal with the demons from his past as he struggles to survive with just by himself as he knows that there are marauders just creating havoc and doing whatever they can for one bit of gasoline. The film’s screenplay that feature opening and closing narration by Harold Baigent as an unknown character who describes the events that led to what has happened showcases a world that has lost its way.

Max Rockatansky is just passing by trying to salvage whatever he can find as he would encounter a gyro pilot (Bruce Spence) where he would show him an oil refinery that is constantly attacked by the marauders. He agrees to help them retrieve an oil rig in exchange to get his car fixed and with his own supply of oil in return. Yet, things become complicated due to the marauders including a crazed henchman named Wez (Vernon Wells) who just likes to kill no matter what while he also wants revenge for the death of his companion in the hands of a feral boy (Emil Minty) that befriends Max.

George Miller’s direction starts off with a montage filled with stock footage and images from the previous film as it relates to the chaos that lead to the events in the film as this opening montage is presented in a full-frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio before being presented in a widescreen format in the 2:35:1 aspect ratio. Shot on location near the mining town of Broken Hills, New South Wales in Australia, the film play into this world that is quite desolate and chaotic where it’s cars that kind of rule the land as they’re used as weapons all in the need to get oil so the marauders can wreak havoc. There are some wide and medium shots Miller uses to capture the scope of the location while he would use close-ups for a few moments in the action but most of its usage is on the characters in the non-action scenes as a lot of those shots are straightforward.

In the action scenes, Miller maintains a realism in the way stunts are performed as well as the intensity of the action where much of it is on the road with some of it on the air. Miller also maintain some focus on what is at stake as well as identifying the people at the oil refinery who just want to live and restart their lives with Max unsure if he wants to help them. The film’s climax is intense as it play into the stakes as well as what Max has to do to help these settlers find hope. Overall, Miller crafts an exhilarating yet intense film about a loner trying to help settlers deal with marauders in a post-apocalyptic world.

Cinematographer Dean Semler does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with the natural approach to the daytime exterior scenes as well as the usage of low-key lights and fire for the scenes at night. Editors Michael Balson, David Stiven, and Tim Wellburn do excellent work with the editing as it captures the energy of the action with some jump-cuts as well as some transition wipes and dissolves to help play into the non-action scenes. Art director Graham “Grace” Walker does amazing work with the look of the cars as well as the oil refinery which looks a bit like a fortress. Costume designer Norma Moriceau does fantastic work with the costumes as some of the marauders wore some kind of strange leather gear with spikes and masks.

Makeup supervisor Lesley Vanderwalt does nice work with the makeup from the look of some of the characters as well as the Mohawks of some of the marauders. Sound editor Bruce Lamshed does terrific work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the action as well as the sound of gun fire and engines as it add to the film’s chaotic tone. The film’s music by Brian May is superb for its bombastic orchestral score that add to the action and suspense as it is a major highlight of the film.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Arkie Whiteley as the captain’s girlfriend whom the gyro pilot is fond of, Max Phipps as a marauders crier Toadie, Virginia Hey as a woman warrior who isn’t fond of Max at first, Michael Preston as the settlers’ idealistic leader Pappagallo, and Kjell Nilsson as the marauders’ charismatic leader Lord Humungus who is never seen without his mask as someone that wants to bargain with the settlers or else would cause mayhem. Emil Minty is fantastic as the feral kid who wields a boomerang that can kill people as he is fascinated by Max despite the fact that he never says anything other than scream and bite.

Vernon Wells is excellent as Lord Humungus’ henchman Wez as this Mohawk-sporting marauder who is quite wild and vicious as he shoots arrows from his arms. Bruce Spence is brilliant as the gyro captain as a gyro-copter pilot who is kind of the film’s comic relief as a wanderer that is trying to survive as he would eventually be an ally of Max. Finally, there’s Mel Gibson in an incredible performance as Max Rockatansky as a loner with an Australian Cattle Dog who is just moving along to not deal with anything as he reluctantly help some settlers as a way to get him back in touch with reality as it’s a very restrained yet chilling performance from Gibson.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a phenomenal film from George Miller that features a great performance from Mel Gibson. Armed with dazzling visuals, high-octane action sequences, and a chilling story of survival in the post-apocalyptic world, it’s a film that offers so much in terms of what is expected in action films but also provide something more as it’s about a man trying to come to grips with loss and his reluctance to reconnect with humanity. In the end, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a spectacular film from George Miller.

George Miller Films: Mad Max - (Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) – (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) – (The Witches of Eastwick) – (Lorenzo’s Oil) – (40,000 Years of Dreaming) – (Babe: Pig in the City) – (Happy Feet) – (Happy Feet Two) – Mad Max: Fury Road

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Most Wanted Man

Based on the novel by John le Carre`, A Most Wanted Man is the story of a German security agency leader who leads a team of German and U.S. security agents to track down a political refugee from Chechnya who has entered Hamburg. Directed by Anton Corbijn and screenplay by Andrew Bovell, the film is a suspense-thriller where a group of individuals track down a man who could be anything as they hope to protect the world. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Daniel Bruhl, Nina Hoss, Grigoriy Dobrygin, and Willem Dafoe. A Most Wanted Man is a chilling yet evocative film from Anton Corbijn.

The film revolves around a security agent leader who learns that a half-Chechen, half-Russian man, who is the son of a Russian mafia leader, has arrived to Hamburg seeking political asylum as well as revealing he is the heir to money his father has hidden wanting nothing to do with it. It plays into this increasing sense of paranoia that looms around the world as this German security official is forced to go rogue with his team as they want to know what this young man is doing in Hamburg as he’s aided by an immigration lawyer and a wealthy banker who has the money that belongs to the young man. Andrew Bovell’s screenplay is quite unconventional in terms of its lack of grand suspenseful moments in favor of investigation and see if the man they’re targeting is a threat. Leading the pack is Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as he is a man that’s seen a lot including the events in Beirut in the early 1980s as he is been asked to track down a noted Muslim philanthropist who is believed to be funding a terrorist group.

When Bachmann receives word that Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) is in Hamburg trying to seek asylum with the help of the immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) who hears about Karpov’s situation as well as the banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) whose father laundered money for Karpov’s father many years ago. Much of the first act is about Bachmann doing his job as well as deal with others wanting Bachmann to go after anyone and deal with them personally as he befriends the American securities agent Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright). The second act is about Bachmann trying to find Karpov and what he’s really trying to do as they target Richter for information and wanting her help. Richter and Brue are reluctant to help at first but they would be the ones to get Karpov to get access to his money as well as go after the Muslim philanthropist Dr. Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi) where Bachmann has secret meetings with Dr. Abdullah’s son Jamal (Mehdi Dehbi). All of which leading to Bachmann finding a way to help both Karpov and Dr. Abdullah in the chance he could do something right and regain some idea of hope.

Anton Corbijn’s direction is quite straightforward though it has elements of style as it is shot largely on location in Hamburg, Germany with additional shots set in Berlin. While much of the compositions that Corbijn creates are straightforward in terms of the wide and medium shots. It’s his emphasis on the latter as well as close-ups that give the film an intimacy as well as the way Corbijn would shoot compositions or scenes of Bachmann doing surveillance with his team in a van. There are some hand-held shots in the film as well as a few stylized crane shots in parts of the film as Corbijn wanted to create something that feels real with the audience feeling like they’re a part of a team.

The direction also maintain a low-key approach to the suspense where it would give the film a slow pace that is challenging due to the lack of action for much of the film. It all plays into Bachmann trying to do what he feels is right yet has to contend with the fact that there’s others involved who have their own interest and ideas of justice. Even if that idea doesn’t involve what is right for a safe and secure society. Overall, Corbijn crafts a thrilling yet engaging film about a German securities agent trying to help a Chechen man gain asylum.

Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme does excellent work with the cinematography with its usage of low-key and colorful lights for many of the interior/exterior scenes set at night as well as a more natural look for the scenes set in the daytime. Editor Claire Simpson does fantastic work with the editing as it feature some jump-cuts to play into the suspense and drama while it is largely straightforward to play into its slow yet methodical pace. Production designer Sebastian T. Krawinkle, with set decorator Yesim Zolan and art director Sabine Engelberg, does nice work with the look of the places that Bachmann and his team work at including the interrogation base where they try to get answers from Richter as well as the home of Brue.

Costume designer Nicole Fischnaller does terrific work with the costumes as it largely straightforward in terms of the look of the characters with many of the top security officials wearing business-like clothing. Visual effects supervisor Malte Sarnes does some good work with the visual effects as it’s mostly set-dressing for a few locations. Sound designer Frank Kruse is brilliant for the sound in capturing the world as well as how audio is recorded during some of the surveillance as it’s a highlight of the film. The film’s music by Herbert Gronemeyer is amazing for its low-key mixture of electronic music and soft orchestral strings to play into the drama and suspense while the soundtrack features music from Gang of Four, Phil Phillips, Claudia Brucken, Brainbox, Tom Waits, and Roy Orbison that is played on location including a jukebox.

The casting by Simone Bar and Jina Jay is great as it feature some notable small roles from Derya Alabora and Tamer Yigit as a Muslim mother-and-son duo who take Karpov in, Kostja Ullmann and Franz Hartwig as a couple of Bachmann’s associates who help watch over Karpov and Richter, Vicky Krieps as a female agent who works for Bachmann, Rainer Bock as Bachmann’s superior who wants him to nab Dr. Abdullah, Mehdi Dehbi as Dr. Abdullah’s son Jamal, and Homayoun Ershadi as Dr. Abdullah as a Muslim philanthropist who is possibly connected in funding a terrorist organization as Bachmann wants to help him do good in the hopes he can be saved. Daniel Bruhl is superb as Bachmann’s jack-of-all-trades in Maximilian who helps watch over everything as well as do whatever he can to get things done.

Nina Hoss is fantastic as Bachmann’s right-hand woman Irna Frey as a woman who approaches things much more differently than Bachmann as she would prove to be someone that even Richter can trust. Grigoriy Dobrygin is excellent as Issa Karpov as a political fugitive who has fled Chechnya as he seeks political asylum as well as not wanting anything to do with his father’s dark legacy in the hopes he can start over. Willem Dafoe is brilliant as Tommy Brue as a wealthy banker who learned about what his father did for Karpov’s father as he tries to do whatever he can to put the money Karpov is supposed to inherit for good. Robin Wright is amazing as Martha Sullivan as an American securities agent who is trying to understand what Bachmann is doing as she is willing to help him despite her own motives as it relates to what her country wants.

Rachel McAdams is remarkable as Annabel Richter as an immigration lawyer who is trying to help Karpov gain asylum as well as deal with the severity of her situation as she is reluctant to trust Bachmann only to see what he’s really trying to do. Finally, there’s Philip Seymour Hoffman in a phenomenal performance as Gunther Bachmann as a securities agent official who is trying to find a way to stop any form of terrorism from happening as he learns about a political prisoner seeking asylum as he tries to do whatever he can to help as Hoffman displays a humility and weariness to his role as a man had seen a lot as this mission gives him some idea that he could bring hope to the world.

A Most Wanted Man is a marvelous film from Anton Corbijn that features an incredible leading performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final film roles. Along with its great ensemble cast, themes on security and justice, and eerie visuals, it’s a film that explores the post-9/11 world where everyone is trying to identify who is on the right side and if the people that’s supposed to protect are in the right side. In the end, A Most Wanted Man is a sensational film from Anton Corbijn.

Anton Corbijn Films: Control (2007 film) - The American (2010 film) - (Life (2015 film))

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, September 09, 2017


Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson and written by Kaufman that is based on his own play under the pseudonym Francis Fregoli, Anomalisa is the story of a lonely man who meets a woman at a hotel in Cincinnati prompting him to realize not everyone is identical to him. Presented in a stop-motion animated film, the film is an exploration of a world where everyone is the same as a man copes with that sense of loneliness in his life. Featuring the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan. Anomalisa is a mesmerizing yet evocative film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.

The film revolves around a man who is arriving to Cincinnati for a conference he’s holding on customer service as he copes with his loneliness and the decisions he’s made in his life as he meets a woman he would fall for. It takes place in the span of 24 hours as this man is dealing with the fact that he is probably one of the few who feels different as everyone else around sounds or look the same. Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is filled with a lot of dialogue that play into the internal and emotional crisis that the film’s protagonist in Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is going through. Many of the people he encounter all kind of have the same face in some ways and all with the same voice in different ways as he also copes with the fact that he still carries a letter from a former lover who lives in the city.

When he encounters a woman named Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Stone begins to feel more upbeat as well as open himself to Lisa who is quite insecure herself as she is in the city with a friend to attend Stone’s conference. The two would have a drink with Lisa’s friend Emily as it would lead to Stone’s fascination with Lisa as it is clear they have a lot in common. Notably as they’re two people unhappy in their life as Kaufman’s script doesn’t really have much of a plot in favor of exploring these characters who both don’t feel like they fit in with anyone.

The direction of Kaufman and Duke Johnson is definitely entrancing for the way they present the film in this form of stop-motion animation in the way the characters look as well as the world they’re in. With the help of animation director Dan Driscoll, the film’s direction would have Kaufman and Johnson create some unique camera movements as well as some tracking shots for some long takes in some scenes though the camera has to move one frame at a time as it relates to form of stop-motion animation. There are also some unique compositions with the usage of the wide and medium shots in the way Kaufman and Johnson would film the conversations. Part of the animation’s look of the characters are reminiscent of the art of puppetry as there’s outlines of the character’s faces in the eyes and jaws so that they can move their body parts while they talk or display some form of emotional expression. 

There are also moments in the film where the animation takes some risk such as a sex scene between Michael and Lisa as it does have a lot of emotional weight. Even as it play into the former’s need to find himself and what he wants in life as it would culminate with this conference that would be the catalyst for the anguish he’s dealing with in his life. Overall, Kaufman and Johnson create a compelling and riveting film about a man dealing with an existential crisis while meeting another lost woman at a hotel in Cincinnati.

Cinematographer Joe Passarelli does brilliant work with the cinematography from the way all of the interiors are lit as well as how the exterior settings are presented in the lighting. Editor Garret Elkins does excellent work with the editing as it is quite straightforward to play into the drama and bits of humor while there are a few stylish cuts for a surreal sequence late in the film. Production designers John Joyce and Huy Vu do amazing work with the look of the hotel halls, the hotel rooms, and other places including some of the exteriors of the city. Costume designer Susan Donym does fantastic work with the look of the clothes and how they would move as well as play into the personality of the characters.

Visual effects supervisors Billy Brooks, Culley Bunker, Stuart Cripps, and Derek Smith do terrific work with the visual effects which is essentially a bit of set-dressing as well as a key moment in a surreal sequence. Sound editors Christopher S. Aud and Aaron Glascock do superb work with the sound as it captures some of the atmosphere of the hotel bars, the conference room, and other sound effects that was created for the film. The film’s music by Carter Burwell is wonderful as it is this very low-key score with its somber orchestral score and jazz-like music to play into some of the dramatic moments of the film where there is also an original song in the film sung by Tom Noonan as well as a cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun sung by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The film’s cast mainly consists of three actors with Tom Noonan providing the voice for pretty much all of the characters with the exception of the two protagonists as he provides a variation of voices the many characters in the film as if they’re all the same. The voice performances of Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Thewlis in their respective roles as Lisa Hesselman and Michael Stone are incredible as they both provide the sense of loneliness and despair into their roles with Leigh being very lively in her voice role with Thewlis in a more dry and cynical approach that would loosen up as the story progresses.

Anomalisa is a phenomenal film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules while showcasing that animated films can explore adult subject matters as well as be racy. Even as it’s a film that is quite complex and dares to ask big questions about life and what it means to live. In the end, Anomalisa is a spectacular film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.

Related: Synecdoche, New York

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling that is based on her fictional guidebook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the story about a British wizard who arrives in New York City where he tries to find three magical creatures who had escaped from his suitcase as he is aided by a demoted Auror, her Legilimens sister, and non-magical baker in retrieving them as he’s been accused of unleashing a mysterious creature wreaking havoc on the city. The film is a prequel of sorts to the Harry Potter universe as it takes place in 1926 New York City as it follows around a young Newt Scamander who would write the guidebook on magical creatures. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, and Colin Farrell. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an extraordinary film from David Yates.

Set in 1926 New York City as the magical community is dealing with anti-wizard sentiment from individuals as well as the threat of Gellert Grindelwald wreaking terror around the world. The film revolves around a young British wizard in Newt Scamander who arrives to the city originally going to Arizona to bring a creature home where he would embark on a series of misadventures in the cities as he would be accused of unleashing a creature that is causing all of the trouble in the city. Among them would involve a non-magical man who would accidentally take Scamander’s luggage causing trouble when three magical creatures are loose forcing Scamander to retrieve them with the non-magical man and two other wizards. J.K. Rowling’s screenplay explore not just the wizarding world in New York City which is very different from Britain but also how they’re having a hard time trying to conceal it to the non-magical community as they’re called No-Majs.

There are multiple characters involved in the story that would play into Scamander’s search as well as him being a major suspect of the terror that is looming around the city. One of the antagonists is an anti-wizard activist in Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) who wants to expose the wizarding world as she turns to a newspaper publisher in Henry Shaw Sr. (Jon Voight) for help as he’s busy making a senate campaign for his son Henry Jr. (Josh Cowdery). Scamander would come across Barebone early in the film though she is unaware of what he really is as the meeting would set off a chain of events when one of his creatures in a niffler would go inside a bank as he would meet the No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who is trying to get a loan to start a bakery. Accidental events happen where Scamander is taken by the demoted Auror Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) for his actions where they go on a chase to find the three missing creatures with Kowalski and Tina’s younger sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) who is a Legilimens that is very interested in Kowalski.

Also involved in the search for the mysterious creature that is wreaking havoc in the city is a magical securities director in Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) who believes that Barebone’s adopted son Credence (Ezra Miller) might know what it is and where to find it in exchange to free him from the abuse of Barebone. Yet, so much is happening as it play into the search for the mysterious creature wreaking havoc in the city while the three creatures that Newt is trying to find prove to be more fascinating as he has a collection of them inside his luggage which he is studying for the book that he would later create. At the same time, he is trying to learn more about his new surrounding as he is also coping with his own issues which Queenie would learn accidentally as it play into his eccentric and awkward persona when he’s around people as he’s more comfortable with magical creatures and animals.

David Yates’ direction is definitely dazzling in terms of the world that he creates though the film begins with a montage of the chase for Grindelwald as he’s only seen briefly from the back as it sets the tone for much of the film with the wizarding community in New York City struggling to hide this terror from the non-magical community despite the verbal attacks from Barebone. Shot mainly at the Warner Brothers studio lot in Hertfordshire, England with some of it shot in London and St. George’s Hall in Liverpool as 1926 New York City. The film does play into a world that is filled with intrigue but it’s also quite rich in the way the wizarding community presents itself as house-elves are doing jobs and bartend speakeasies, goblins are the leaders of the financial world, trolls are also citizens, and there’s even a government based in New York City known as the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) led by President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo).

There are also laws that is established such as that magical and non-magical people can’t socialize while magical creatures are banned which makes Scamander’s mission not just difficult but also the need to prove that he’s not the one causing trouble. There are some wide shots in the film to establish the locations yet Yates would use medium shots and close-ups to focus on the characters as they deal with trying to find the lost creatures as well as go after the mysterious creature wreaking havoc on the city. Yates would mix in elements of suspense and humor throughout the film as it would culminate with this grand third act as it play into the reveal of this mysterious creature as well as Scamander’s suspicions towards Graves who has his motives in wanting to find this creature. Especially in his interest towards the troubled Credence which makes Tina uneasy as Credence played a part in her demotion prompting her and Scamander the need to confront Graves. Overall, Yates creates an enchanting and exhilarating film about a British wizard trying to save New York City from a mysterious creature and retrieve three others from harm with the help of two American wizards and a No-Maj baker.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does amazing work with the film’s beautiful cinematography as it has a sepia-like tone to the way some of the daytime exterior looks in terms of grey skies and sunny look as well as the usage of lights for some of the scenes at night including the interiors inside Scamander’s home-made zoo inside his luggage. Editor Mark Day does excellent work with the editing for its usage of montages for the opening sequence as well as some jump-cuts for some of the action and other stylish cuts to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Stuart Craig, with art directors David Allday and Leslie Tomkins plus set decorator Anna Pinnock and associate set designer James Hambidge, does amazing work with the look of 1926 New York City from the home of MACUSA, the apartment that the Goldstein sisters live in, Newt’s zoo inside his luggage, and the dreary home of Barebone. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does fantastic work with the costumes as it play into the period of the mid-1920s with some dresses for the women as well as the clothes that President Picquery wears.

Hair/makeup designers Fae Hammond and Marilyn MacDonald do nice work with the look of the hairstyles of the women as well as the haircuts that men had and the makeup for a few of the characters in the film. Visual effect supervisors Tim Burke, Pablo Grillo, Christian Manz, and David Watkins do incredible work with the visual effects from the design of the different creatures that Scamander has collected including his pet plant-like creature in a bowtruckle as well as the look of the city and other magical things. Sound designers Glenn Freemantle and Eilam Hoffman do superb work with the sound from the way some of the creatures sound to the sounds of terror and suspense in some of the darker moments in the film. The film’s music by James Newton Howard is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that play into the action and suspense as well as some low-key music for the light-hearted moments while music supervisors Alejandro de la Llosa and Karen Elliott provide a jazz-like soundtrack to some of the original songs played in the film.

The casting by Fiona Weir is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Dan Hedaya as the voice of house-elf elevator operator, Kevin Guthrie as Tina’s supervisor, Ronan Rafferty as Henry Shaw Sr.’s youngest son Langdon who wants to help Barebone expose the wizarding world, Josh Cowdery as the cruel and arrogant Henry Shaw Jr., Jenn Murray as Barebone’s adopted eldest daughter, Faith-Wood Blagrove as Barebone’s youngest adopted daughter in Modesty whom Credence suspects to have magical powers, and Zoe Kravitz in a small role as the picture of Scamander’s former lover Leta Lestrange. Ron Perlman is terrific as the speakeasy owner Gnarlack as a goblin who was an informant of Tina as it is a charming role in this mixture of visual effects and performance-capture. Jon Voight is superb as Henry Shaw Sr. as a newspaper owner who would come across a major incident as he wants to go after the mysterious creature. Carmen Ejogo is fantastic as President Seraphina Picquery as the leader of MACUSA who is trying to ensure the law and make sure the magical world isn’t exposed as well. Samantha Morton is brilliant as Mary Lou Barebone as an anti-wizard activist who wants to expose the wizarding world as well as destroy wizard and witches while being very abusive towards Credence.

Ezra Miller is excellent as Credence as Barebone’s adopted son who is troubled by the beatings he receives from Barebone as he befriends Graves who promises him a chance for freedom in exchange for knowledge of the mysterious creature wreaking havoc. Colin Farrell is amazing as Percival Graves as a magical securities director for MACUSA who is in charge of protecting wizards as he is very powerful while having his own reasons for helping Credence. Alison Sudol is incredible as Queenie Goldstein as Tina’s younger sister who is kind-hearted as well as being an accomplished Legilimens, the ability to read minds, where she knows what to do to help out her sister, Newt, and Jacob whenever they get into trouble.

Dan Fogler is marvelous as Jacob Kowalski as a No-Maj cannery worker who aspires to become a baker that finds himself being exposed to the world of magic via accident as he proves to be a helpful ally for Newt and prove his worth to the world of magic. Katherine Waterston is phenomenal as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein as a demoted Auror who works in a lowly position at MACUSA as a witch trying to do what is right as it was the reason she got demoted while helping Newt retrieve his creatures to realize that he’s not the one that is at fault for the chaos in the city. Finally, there’s Eddie Redmayne in a remarkable performance as Newt Scamander where Redmayne provides this very odd and eccentric collector of magical creatures who arrives to New York City where he unknowingly causes mayhem as Redmayne has this air of charm into his role but also that awkwardness that allows him to be vulnerable when it comes to people as he prefers the company of magical creatures.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a sensational film from David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling. Featuring a great ensemble cast, top-notch visual effects, amazing art direction, lovely visuals, and a compelling story about a wizard’s arrival into America. It’s a film that explores the world of magic in a different setting that allow audiences to be enchanted into what the magical world in America is like from the mind who brought Harry Potter into the world. In the end, Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them is a spectacular film from David Yates.

Harry Potter Universe Films: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 - (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Part 2) – (Pt. 3) – (Pt. 4) – (Pt. 5)

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