Monday, October 12, 2015

Escape from L.A.

Directed by John Carpenter and screenplay by Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Kurt Russell from characters by Carpenter and Nick Castle, Escape from L.A. is a sequel to the 1981 film Escape from New York in which Snake Plissken is asked by the President and the U.S. government to save the President’s daughter who had hijacked a plane to Los Angeles as she gives a weapon to a rebel leader. The film is another exploration into dystopian America where Los Angeles is separated by the U.S. due to an earthquake as Kurt Russell reprises his role as Snake Plissken. Also starring Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Cliff Robertson, Georges Corraface, Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, Bruce Campbell, A.J. Langer, Pam Grier, and Peter Fonda. Escape from L.A. for all of its action and thrills is really just a lazy and uninspiring film from John Carpenter.

Set in 2013 just 13 years after an earthquake had destroyed much of Los Angeles and separated itself from the U.S., the film revolves around Snake Plissken being asked by the President (Cliff Robertson) to retrieve a black box carrying a weapon that can save the country from evil forces as the box had been taken by his daughter Utopia (A.J. Langer). Plissken reluctantly takes the mission due to a virus he is carrying as he has less than 10 hours to retrieve the black box as well as deal with a rebel leader who wants to take down the U.S. and its President. In some ways, it’s really the same narrative of the first film made 15 years earlier but with a different set of rules, villains, and people as the only thing that hasn’t changed is Snake Plissken himself. It’s just that the world Snake Plissken is in is a very weird one and affirmation that he really has no place in the future whether it’s in America or the rest of the world.

The film’s screenplay does play into a traditional structure where much of the first act is exposition in which plays into what happened to America since the events of the previous and what Plissken needs to do. The second act is about Plissken arriving in Los Angeles as he meets an assortment of crazed characters including a tour guide named Eddie (Steve Buscemi), a woman named Taslima (Valeria Golino) who was deported to L.A. because she was a Muslim, a transgender outlaw named Hershe (Pam Grier), and an aging surfer named Pipeline (Peter Fonda). Some of which are either affiliated with the terrorist leader Cuervo Jones (George Corraface) or against him. Yet, many of these characters really just caricatures where some just offer exposition or others are just there for laughs as it never really meshes or do anything to drive the story. Even as everyone knows that the President and his cronies are also villains because of what he wants to do and the bullshit morality that he stands for which doesn’t really make the story very engaging.

John Carpenter’s direction does have its moments in some of the action scenes and how he re-creates Los Angeles as paradise in Hell. Even as it does have some satire in the way the world is along with bits of commentary about a third-world revolution going up against the superpower that is America. Unfortunately, the script’s unwillingness to really do so much more really bogs the film down as Carpenter had to rely on humor to get some things going where it doesn’t really mesh with who Snake Plissken is. Even as there’s a lot of reliance on visual effects that don’t look great or finished as well as moments where it tries to be outrageous but ends up being very dumb. Carpenter’s approach to compositions are still potent in his approach to close-ups and medium shots but there’s scenes that don’t look good such as seeing Plissken surfing nearby or a scene where Plissken has to play basketball to survive. It’s not what he’s about as it doesn’t have the element of suspense nor any stakes that are bigger as it’s ending sort of mirrors the one in the previous film. Overall, Carpenter makes a very messy and dull film about a guy trying to retrieve a black box for some asshole dictator he doesn’t even like.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does nice work with the cinematography as much of the film was set at night where it features some unique lighting for some of the action scenes as well as play up to the look of Los Angeles. Editor Edward A. Warschilka does some fine work with the editing though it deviates from many of the conventional fast-paced cutting style that is derivative of most action films. Production designer Lawrence G. Paull, with set decorator Kathe Klopp and art director Bruce Crone, does superb work with the set design from the look of the city as well as some of the landmarks of the cities in their post-earthquake look. Costume designer Robin Michel Blush does excellent work with the costumes from the Che Guevara-inspired look of Cuervo Jones to look of the many characters that Plissken encounters in the film.

Special effects makeup designer Rick Baker does some brilliant work with the design of some of the freaks that appear in Los Angeles including those who took too much plastic surgery. Visual effects supervisors Michael Lessa and Kimberly Nelson LoCasio do terrible work with the visual effects where it looks like early 90s computer animation where things look wobbly and some of it looked unfinished as it is among one of the lowlights of the film. Sound editor John Dunn and sound designer John Pospisil do fantastic work with the sound to play up some of the sound effects and layers of sound in some of the action scenes. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Shirley Walker is alright for its mixture of electronics and rock with bits of blues to play into that sense of the old-school that Plissken is fond for while its soundtrack is a mixture of metal, alt-rock, and industrial from acts like Gravity Kills, Tool, White Zombie, Tori Amos, Sugar Ray, the Toadies, Ministry, Butthole Surfers, Stabbing Westward, Clutch, and the Deftones.

The casting by Carrie Frazier is amazing though many of the appearances of such noted cult actors like Pam Grier as an old friend of Plissken in a transgender fighter named Hershe, Bruce Campbell as a weird-looking plastic surgeon from Beverly Hills, Jeff Imada as a gang member, Robert Carradine as a skinhead, Paul Bartel as a congressman, and Leland Orser as an associate of Cuervo as they’re kind of given nothing to do as does Valeria Golino as a woman who helps Plissken to find locations in Los Angeles, Breckin Meyer as a young surfer, Michelle Forbes as an assistant chief to the police force, Stacy Keach as Commander Malloy, and Peter Fonda as the aging surfer Pipeline as they’re just used to appear and don’t do much. A.J. Langer is horrible as the President’s daughter Utopia as she doesn’t really do much for the story nor give any reason to save her as the President himself is indifferent about her. Georges Corraface is alright as Cuervo Jones as this rebel leader who wants to destroy the American dictatorship yet is also just as bad as the President.

Cliff Robertson is pretty good as the President as a man of morality who wants to clean up the country but is also quite ruthless in maintaining his rule as he is given a lifetime term. Steve Buscemi is fantastic as a tour guide named Eddie who is kind of a sleazy guy that is in it for himself and whoever that can give him money where he is the only guy that is able to bring some humor to the film. Finally, there’s Kurt Russell in a brilliant performance as Snake Plissken as this renegade soldier who is forced to take part in a mission to retrieve a weapon in a black box as he copes with illness and other things in a world he doesn’t relate to as Russell is the only thing in the film that works.

While it features a strong performance from Kurt Russell and some exciting action scenes, Escape from L.A. is just a very disappointing and lazy film from John Carpenter. It’s a film that tries to update its predecessor for the 90s but doesn’t do enough to stand out from the original while it is hampered by some bad humor and awful visual effects. In the end, Escape from L.A. is just a bad film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - Assault on Precinct 13 - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - (Christine) - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - In the Mouth of Madness - (Village of the Damned) - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015

In the Mouth of Madness

Directed by John Carpenter and written by Michael De Luca, In the Mouth of Madness is the story of an insurance investigator who tries to find a mysterious horror writer who has disappeared as he deals with the phenomenon of his work. Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the film is an exploration into the world of books and its power where a man deals with the chaos that surrounds him. Starring Sam Neill, Jurgen Prochnow, Julie Carmen, David Warner, and Charlton Heston. In the Mouth of Madness is a strange yet thrilling film from John Carpenter.

The film revolves an insurance investigator who is asked by a publishing company to find a popular horror writer and the manuscript of his new book as the writer itself had disappeared. The film plays into a man who went through a hellacious journey as he would tell his story to a doctor at a mental institution about what happened where his attempt to disprove a writer’s power would only have him question the world he is in. It’s a film that also explores the power of fiction where the investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is trying to believe that the small town he is in isn’t real but there’s too many things that have him question what is real and what is fiction.

Michael De Luca’s screenplay begins with Trent being taken to a mental asylum as he claims he’s not crazy though Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) wants to disprove that as Trent tells him his story. Trent is a very unique character as someone who is good at disproving many insurance claims as he thinks his search for the popular horror writer Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) is nothing more than another easy assignment as he’s joined by Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen). Styles is more in tune with Cane’s work though Trent is very dismissive but once they believe where Cane is, things become very strange where they arrive into a town that is named after one of Cane’s books. Styles would see things as she admits to try to fool Trent in getting the insurance money but what she and Trent would see wasn’t part of the plan where it becomes clear how dangerous the book is as well as Cane’s influence.

John Carpenter’s direction is very stylish not just in his approach to some of the compositions he creates but also in the strange world that is presented which plays into the works that Cane has created. While it is set largely in New York and New Hampshire, the film is actually shot in parts of Toronto and small town areas in Toronto play up this look of a world where it seems very innocent and quiet. Instead, Carpenter goes for something that is odd in terms of the compositions he creates in its close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots to display a world where it could be real, fictional, or both. It’s these kind of ambiguities that adds to the tone of the film where its second and third act is about the journey Trent and Styles would go to and the things they encounter. Plus, it is also clear that any chance for any of them to get out would be impossible as it adds to this blur of reality and fiction.

By the time the Crane character is formally introduced as well as the world he is in, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft does come into play as far what Crane has written over the years as it starts to become real. Even in its third act where Styles’ encounter with Crane would have some serious repercussions on Trent who has no idea what is real and fiction. Some of it plays into the kind of creatures that Lovecraft is known for such as Cthulhu where it added to some of the elements of horror and dark fantasy that emerges where it would have a far more troubling aftermath once the film returns to the mental asylum where Trent tells his story to Dr. Warren. Even as the aftermath would not only play elements of the Apocalypse but also an ending that is very weird where it also breaks the fourth wall about the impact of the book. Overall, Carpenter creates a very eerie yet riveting film about an insurance agent who encounters the strange world of a horror novelist.

Cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the colorful look of the small town exteriors in the day to the usage of lights for the scenes set at night as well as the scenes in the church where Crane lives. Editor Edward A. Warschilka does brilliant work with the film‘s editing with its stylish usage of fast-cut montages as well as rhythmic cuts to play into its suspense and terror. Production designer Jeff Ginn, with set decorator Elinor Rose Galbraith and art director Peter Grundy, does fantastic work with the look of the hotel Trent and Styles live in to some of the design of the place that Crane lives and works at which adds to the sense of horror and Lovecraft visual style. Costume designer Robin Michel Bush does nice work with the costumes from the casual clothes that Trent wears to the stylish clothes that Styles wear.

Special makeup effects designers Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Greg Nicotero do amazing work with the design of some of the creatures as well as some of the makeup and such in some of the characters who follow Crane and his work along with the look Trent would give to himself early in the film. Visual effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does terrific work with the visual effects from the look of some of the backgrounds in the realm between the real world and fantasy as well as a few scenes involving the monsters. Sound editor John Dunn and sound designer John Pospisil do superb work with the sound to create some sound effects as well as some of the moments in the violence and terror. The film’s music by John Carpenter and Jim Lang is wonderful for its mixture of haunting electronic textures with some metal-based guitar music as it plays into the sense of darkness that looms in the film.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small roles from a young Hayden Christensen as a paperboy, Wilhelm von Homburg as a local from the small town named Simon, Frances Bay as a hotel owner named Mrs. Pickman, Bernie Casey as a friend of Trent early in the film named Robinson, and John Glover as the mental asylum director Saperstein. Charlton Heston is fantastic as the publisher Jackson Harglow who hires Trent for the insurance investigation claim as he wonders what is going on with Cane. David Warner is superb as Dr. Wrenn as the man who interrogates Trent at the asylum as he tries to figure out if Trent is really insane. Julie Carmen is brilliant as Linda Styles as an editor who joins Trent in the trip as she tries to comprehend what she is seeing while being the one person who knows Cane’s books as she tries to hold on to her humanity. Jurgen Prochnow is amazing as the writer Sutter Cane as a man whose imagination comes to life as he believes in the power of his work where he would unleash the Apocalypse. Finally, there’s Sam Neill in a remarkable performance as John Trent as an insurance investigator who is good at disproving things where he is challenged by what he sees as he tries to make sense of the chaos as there’s elements of humor in his performance that makes it one of his best.

In the Mouth of Madness is a phenomenal film from John Carpenter. Armed with a great cast, an intriguing premise, and engrossing elements of horror and suspense. The film is truly an off-the-wall horror/suspense film that plays into the world of reality vs. fiction as well as the power of what fiction can do. In the end, In the Mouth of Madness is an exhilarating and evocative film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - Assault from Precinct 13 - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - (Christine) - Starman - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - (Village of the Damned) - Escape from L.A. - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Directed by John Carpenter and written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, Starman is the story of an alien who arrives to Earth as he is presented in the form of a widow’s recently-deceased husband. The film is a genre-bending film in which an alien encounters humanity and the world around him with a woman who shows him the world as they try to go to Arizona so he can go back home. Starring Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, and Richard Jaeckel. Starman is a compelling yet heartfelt film from John Carpenter.

The film revolves an alien from a distant planet who receives a message from the Voyager 2 as he crash lands on Earth where he meets a recently-widowed woman whom he asks to take her to Arizona so he can go home. It’s a film that plays into a woman helping this alien, who takes in the form of her recently-deceased husband, while evading all sorts of things including government agents who want the alien believing he is hostile. Yet, there are those including a scientist who just wants to know about the alien for the right reasons as he has to deal with the tactics of a national security supervisor.

The film’s screenplay by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, with additional and un-credited work by Dean Riesner, plays into the journey of this alien (Jeff Bridges) and the widow Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) as she reluctantly takes him to Arizona from Wisconsin as she isn’t sure about his motives. During the course of their road trip, Jenny sees the alien do things that are otherworldly due to the seven small silver spheres he carries which allows him to perform a few miracles. It would spur Jenny to do what she thinks is right while evading the authorities from state troopers and government agents while the only character in that group that is sympathetic is the scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith). Even as he makes a discovery about the Voyager 2 probe as he realizes that the alien is there for something else.

John Carpenter’s direction is unique for the fact that he’s going for something that is sort of straightforward in terms of compositions and the fact that it’s a road film of sorts. With its usage of close-ups and medium shots for the intimate moments and wide shots for the many location established shots, Carpenter plays into the development relationship between Jenny and the alien as well as the many things they would encounter. Some of which involve some comical moments and heartfelt moments as it plays into what an alien would encounter with the world of humanity. While some of the sci-fi elements don’t look so great, it does help create something that is otherworldly where some in humanity don’t understand what the alien is trying to do while there are those like Shermin who believe that the alien is here with good intentions. Even as its climax would play into what the alien wanted but also the gift he would give to Jenny as well as what humanity would learn from him. Overall, Carpenter creates a very touching and magical film about a woman who helps an alien return to his home.

Cinematographer Donald M. Morgan does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its naturalistic yet colorful look of many of the locations in the day along with some unique lighting set-ups for the scenes set at night. Editor Marion Rothman does superb work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with a few jump-cuts for some action scenes and a few dramatic moments. Production designer Daniel A. Lomino and set decorator Robert R. Benton do fantastic work with the look of Jenny’s cabin as well as some of the government military bases that is looking for the alien.

Special effects makeup designer Rick Baker does brilliant work with the sequence of the alien taking the form of Jenny‘s husband. Special effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does nice work with some of the visual effects though some of it looks a little cheesy considering how primitive the technology was in those times. Sound editor Tom McCarthy Jr. does terrific work with the sound in creating some sound effects of the spheres and some of the other elements in the film including a few of its action scenes. The film’s music by Jack Nitzsche is wonderful as it’s mostly a low-key electronic score that plays into some of the film’s sci-fi elements while the soundtrack includes different kinds of music from the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones.

The casting by Jennifer Shull is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from George Buck Flower as a cook who gives the alien a ride, Lu Leonard as a roadhouse waitress, Dirk Blocker and M.C. Gainey as a couple of cops who try to cause trouble, Tony Edwards as an army sergeant helping out Shermin, and Ted White as a deer hunter who is annoyed by the alien. Richard Jaeckel is superb as national security leader George Fox who wants to capture the alien as he thinks the alien is hostile. Charles Martin Smith is fantastic as the scientist Mark Shermin who is tasked to find the alien where he believes that the alien isn’t hostile but just receiving a message as he is looking for answers from the alien.

Karen Allen is amazing as Jenny Hayden as a recently-widowed woman still dealing with the loss of her husband as she is shocked by the appearance of the alien who would look like her husband as she guides him about the ways of the world and such as it’s a very engaging performance from Allen. Finally, there’s Jeff Bridges in a remarkable performance as Jenny’s husband Scott and the alien where Bridges brings a sense of restraint to his performance as the alien who doesn’t know much English or anything that relates to humanity. It’s one that allows Bridges to be quiet but also display some low-key ideas to humor while he is more lively in the home movie footage as Jenny’s husband as it is one of Bridges’ finest performances.

Starman is a sensational film from John Carpenter that features great performances from Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. While it’s a very different film from what Carpenter is known for. It is still a fascinating and engaging one due to its romantic elements as well as the fact that it bends all sorts of genres. In the end, Starman is a phenomenal film from John Carpenter.

John Carpenter Films: (Dark Star) - Assault on Precinct 13 - (Halloween) - (Someone’s Watching Me!) - (Elvis) - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - (Christine) - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - (Memoirs of an Invisible Man) - (Body Bags) - In the Mouth of Madness - (Village of the Damned) - Escape from L.A. - (Vampires) - (Ghosts of Mars) - (The Ward)

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, October 09, 2015

Blow Out

Written and directed by Brian De Palma, Blow Out is the story of a sound effects technician who discovers he had recorded a murder after seeing a car crash into a creek. Inspired by Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, the film is an exploration into a man trying to uncover something that could be drastic as he finds himself getting more than he bargains for. Starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, and John Lithgow. Blow Out is a stylish yet entrancing film from Brian De Palma.

When a sound effects technician is at creek recording some sound for sound effects, he witnesses a car crashing into the lake as he saves a woman was in the car where he realizes that this wasn’t an accident. It’s a film that isn’t just about sight and sound but also what this sound technician would uncover as the victim who was killed in the crash is a presidential candidate as questions come into play. At the same time, the sound technician Jack Terry (John Travolta) realizes that there’s a cover up as there are those who want to say it’s an accident as he doesn’t think so while he believes he and the young woman he saved in Sally (Nancy Allen) are targets in this cover-up.

Brian De Palma’s screenplay explores Jack’s obsession with what he heard as he think what he hears at first is a tire blow-out but through the tape he’s listening to. He realizes that it was a gunshot that hit a tire as he knows something isn’t right as he asks what Sally was in the car for. Once the story progresses as Jack is trying to see what is going on as he becomes aware of a cover-up. Things start to unravel more as it relates to Sally’s involvement as well as the man who took the pictures of the chase in Manny Karp (Dennis Franz) who using the photos so he can get some big money. Another person that is involved in these events is a mysterious man named Burke (John Lithgow) as it is clear he’s involved in these cover-ups as he helps drive the story as well as Jack’s own investigation where Jack knows he can only rely on himself and Sally since he doesn’t trust the police due to a bad experience working as a surveillance man for them.

De Palma’s direction is very ravishing for the way he presents the film as it begins as a creepy slasher film where it’s really a film within a film as it establishes what kind of work Jack does. It is De Palma sort of making fun of the world of horror including himself as it showcases how the slasher genre was becoming parody while it would also lead to some key moments into what Jack’s boss wants. Shot on location in Philadelphia, the film does play into this event as it relates to the anniversary of the Liberty Bell as it adds to this sense of suspense and paranoia that looks over Jack as he would try to do the right thing as well as turn to the police but things become complicated. De Palma’s approach to compositions from the way would shoot things in the foreground and the background add to the drama as well as the use of split-screens.

The direction also has De Palma create some unique ideas of framing in the way he creates the element of mystery from the usage of high angles and other stylistic shots as well as his usage of close-ups and medium shots. Even in scenes that involve Jack and Sally as they both talk about what is happening as there’s an attraction between the two yet both of them see the bigger picture of what is going on. Once it become clear that there are forces behind this cover-up, the film does get darker as it showcases what kind of power some have as it would play into this very thrilling climax. A climax that is very stylish but also has a sense of power into the way things are in the world and what Jack is being asked to do in his job. Overall, De Palma crafts a very smart and riveting film about a sound technician witnessing a murder through his eyes and ears.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does brilliant work with the film‘s very low-key yet stylish photography from some of the exterior scenes set at night to the naturalistic look of the city locations in the day as well as the film‘s climax as it‘s awash with lots of colors as the film also features additional photography from Laszlo Kovacs for the film‘s climax. Editor Paul Hirsch does amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylized cuts to play into the suspense and chilling elements of the film as well as the cheesier cuts in the film within the film. Production designer Paul Sylbert and set decorator Bruce Weintraub do nice work with the look of the home apartment of Manny as well as the home and workplace of Jack that showcases their different lifestyles.

Costume designer Ann Roth does terrific work with the clothes that Sally wears to present her unique style as someone who becomes aware of the target she has on her back. Sound editor Dan Sable does excellent work with the sound with the sound is cut as well as the many textures in the sound effects and such as it‘s one of the film‘s highlights. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio is fantastic for its orchestral bombast with its lush string arrangements and themes that play into the drama and suspense with elements of piano and low-key percussions as it helps drive the film as it is another of the film’s technical highlights.

The casting by Lyn Stalmaster is superb as it features some notable small performances from John Aquino as Detective McKay, John McMartin as the governor’s aide Lawrence Henry, John Hoffmeister as the governor who is running for president, Peter Boyden as Jack’s director Sam, and Curt May as the news reporter Frank Donahue. Dennis Franz is wonderful as Sally’s friend Manny who took the pictures of the crash as he realizes the kind of money would be astronomical unaware of the severity and lies he’s creating. John Lithgow is brilliant as Burke as a man who is hired to take care of things as he is good in creating chaos as well as spy on those whom he feels will unveil the truth.

Nancy Allen is fantastic as Sally as a young woman who was part of a conspiracy as she is unaware of the involvement as she tries to deal with the situations and help Jack reveal the truth. Finally, there’s John Travolta in an incredible performance as Jack Terry as this sound man who discovered that he had recorded an assassination as he realizes the danger of what is happening. It’s a performance where Travolta is quite restrained but also filled with a determination and humility that is engaging as he also has these amazing scenes with Allen as this film showcases Travolta in one of his finest performances of his career.

Blow Out is a phenomenal film from Brian De Palma that features a tremendous performance from John Travolta. Along with a great supporting cast, some amazing technical work, and Pino Donaggio’s mesmerizing score. It’s not just this smart and visually-stylish thriller but also an intriguing study into the world of conspiracy and what is seen and heard in an act of murder. In the end, Blow Out is an outstanding film from Brian De Palma.

Related: Blow-Up - The Conversation

Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) - (Obsession) - Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Dressed to Kill - Scarface - (Body Double) - (Wise Guys) - (The Untouchables) - (Casualties of War) - (The Bonfire of the Vanities) - (Raising Cain) - (Carlito’s Way) - (Mission: Impossible) - (Snake Eyes) - (Mission to Mars) - (Femme Fatale) - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - (Passion (2012 film))

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Dressed to Kill (1980 film)

Written and directed by Brian De Palma, Dressed to Kill is the story of a murder mystery where the woman’s son, her psychiatrist, and a young prostitute try to figure out who killed her. The film isn’t just about a murder mystery but an exploration into the world of eroticism and why a housewife was killed which was partly due to her own sexual desires. Starring Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, and David Margulies. Dressed to Kill is a sexy yet thrilling film from Brian De Palma.

The film revolves the mysterious murder of a housewife in New York City who was killed just after having a tryst with a man she had just met in order to fulfill her own sexual desires. It’s a film that isn’t just a simple whodunit but also a film that explores the world of sex as it relates to certain desires and what people want. At the same time, it also explores the idea of transsexuality where the killer is suspected to be a transsexual as the housewife’s psychiatrist is also treating a transsexual. Once the housewife had been killed where a young hooker is the only witness, she along with the psychiatrist and the housewife’s genius son each to into their own investigation.

Brian De Palma’s screenplay has a unique structure where the first act is about Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) as she is sexually-frustrated with her marriage as she goes to Metropolitan Museum of Arts where she encounters a man she had seen in her fantasy. While it would be fulfilling, it would have some very serious consequences and an eventual outcome that would set the entire mystery to play out. With the prostitute Liz (Nancy Allen) being the sole witness as she would also be an unfortunate suspect due to carrying the murder weapon. The second act is about the mystery where Liz and Kate’s son Peter (Keith Gordon) both do their own investigation where the latter would use his skills in creating gadgets to stake out the office of his mother’s psychiatrist Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine). Dr. Elliott would also be questioned by the police detective Marino (Dennis Franz) who wants access to Dr. Elliott’s files as things become more complicated as it relates to the identity of the killer who is a patient of Dr. Elliott with the name Bobbi.

The character of Bobbi raises a lot of question of transsexuality where Dr. Elliott would reveal to Marino that Bobbi is a man that wants to be a woman as he tries to tell him to not go with this sex change. It adds to this sex of intrigue into the world of sex while there all of these little details that De Palma uses in the script that plays into the dangers of infidelity as well as the world of unprotected sex. In some ways, it is De Palma making a bit of commentary over the drawbacks of the sexual revolution in the age where sexually-transmitted diseases are starting to become public just before the era of AIDS. Even as it is clear that there’s some very strange motives into what goes on in Kate’s sex life as well as the world of sex itself.

De Palma’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way it emphasizes largely on style but allowing every image and scene to matter. The film opens with this very sexy shower scene where Kate is masturbating in a shower as it plays to a fantasy of Kate wanting to have sex with this man. Yet, it then cuts to reality where she is having very unsatisfying sex with her husband where De Palma’s usage of medium shots and close-up play to Kate’s own boredom in her married life. While the film is set in New York City, it is shot largely in Philadelphia with the exception of a few second-unit shots of NYC as it plays into this world of that is quite dangerous where things are becoming nothing as it seen. Even in the world of sex and such where Kate would meet her fantasy man at the museum where it leads to one of the finest sequences in film with this steadicam tracking shot of these two flirtatiously chasing each other in the museum with very sparse dialogue.

It is among some of the finest sequences in film as well as some of the sexual-driven scenes such as Kate having sex with a man in a cab and the aftermath where it’s about the sense of timing and usage of memory. De Palma’s usage of split-screens help play into that sense of memory as well as a sense of intrigue as it relates to the different investigations held by Dr. Elliott and Liz. De Palma’s approach to suspense is very intense such as a sequence where Liz is being chased by Bobbi in the subway as she also makes trouble with a young gang and a major sequence in the third act. Notably a scene where Liz meets Dr. Elliott where she is hoping to get a record of Bobbi’s identity with the help of Peter. The sense of tension and how De Palma would compose some of the scenes where one character would be in the foreground and the other in the background just adds to this sense of style and intrigue over the mystery of who killed this woman. Overall, De Palma creates an unsettling yet rapturous film about a murder mystery involving transsexual and other forays into the world of sex.

Cinematographer Ralf Bode does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its soft yet colorful look of some of the interior/exterior scenes at the museum to the eerie scenes set at night as well some unique lighting and textures for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editor Jerry Greenberg does brilliant work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, slow-motion, split-screens, and other stylish cuts to play into the suspense and elements of eroticism. Art director Gary Weist and set decorator Gary J. Brink do fantastic work with the look of Dr. Elliott‘s home office as well as the home where Kate and Peter lives in along with the scenes set in the apartment building where Kate would have her tryst.

Costume designer Ann Roth does superb work with the costumes from the clothes that Liz wears to the stylish white dress that Kate wears in the film. Sound editor Dan Sable does nice work with the sound to create some tension in some of the moments of suspense as well as the great usage of cuts and mixing for the museum sequence in the scenes without music. The film’s music by Pino Donaggio is amazing as it is one of the film’s major highlights thanks to its soaring and lush orchestral-based score with its strings to some of the eroticism of the film as well as some more eerie themes for its suspenseful moments.

The casting by Vic Ramos is terrific as it features some notable small performances from David Margulies as a fellow psychiatrist in Dr. Levy, Fred Weber as Kate’s husband Mike, Bill Randolph as a cab driver in a chase scene, William Finley as the voice of Bobbi, and Ken Baker as Kate’s object of desire as the man she would flirt with at the museum. Dennis Franz is superb as the detective Marino who is leading the investigation as he doesn’t trust Liz because of who she is as well as Dr. Elliott because of the information he didn’t want to reveal. Keith Gordon is excellent as Peter Miller as Kate’s son who is an inventor who feels guilty over what happened as he is driven by grief to find out who the killer is as he would also help out Liz in the investigation.

Angie Dickinson is brilliant as Kate Miller as the bored housewife who is sexually-frustrated with her marriage as she would have a tryst with a man who is her ideal fantasy as things would go wrong in its aftermath. Nancy Allen is amazing as Liz Blake as this young prostitute who would witness the murder as she also becomes an unfortunate suspect as she does whatever to help Peter and keep herself out of jail knowing she has done enough trouble in her life. Finally, there’s Michael Caine in a fantastic performance as Dr. Elliott as this psychiatrist who is treating Kate as he learns that one of his patients could be a serial killer who also wants a sex change as it is a very straightforward performance with some unique complexities that makes it very interesting.

Dressed to Kill is a phenomenal film from Brian De Palma. Featuring a great cast as well as some amazing technical feats and Pino Donaggio’s thrilling score. It’s a film that isn’t just a stylish and engaging erotic thriller but also a unique commentary into the downsides of sex and the fallacy of the sexual revolution in the pre-AIDS era. In the end, Dressed to Kill is a spectacular film from Brian De Palma.

Brian De Palma Films: (Murder a la Mod) - (Greetings) - (The Wedding Party) - (Dionysus in ‘69) - (Hi, Mom!) - (Get to Know Your Rabbit) - Sisters - (Phantom of the Paradise) - (Obsession) - Carrie - The Fury - (Home Movies) - Blow Out - Scarface - (Body Double) - (Wise Guys) - (The Untouchables) - (Casualties of War) - (The Bonfire of the Vanities) - (Raising Cain) - (Carlito’s Way) - (Mission: Impossible) - (Snake Eyes) - (Mission to Mars) - (Femme Fatale) - The Black Dahlia - (Redacted) - (Passion (2012 film))

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Twin Peaks: Episode 12-The Orchid's Curse

Directed by Graeme Clifford and written by Barry Pullman, the fifth episode of the second season of Twin Peaks entitled The Orchid’s Curse revolves around Special Agent Cooper’s attempt to rescue Audrey Horne from the hands of Jean Renault as he makes a discovery about the note she wrote to him which he hadn’t received while he watches over Leland Palmer’s trial and the decision over the now comatose Leo Johnson as the latter is coming home with Shelly and Bobby Briggs watching over him. It’s an episode where different paths start to emerge for the central characters where Cooper makes a plan to save Audrey as well as a plot by Donna Hayward and Maddy Ferguson to retrieve Laura Palmer’s diary from Harold Smith.

In the latter, it’s Donna’s attempt to try and make-up with Maddy after their issues over Maddy’s feelings for James Hurley as Donna tries to woo Smith in order to get the diary which she thinks is key to the mystery of her death. Yet, things become very complicated as Donna learns the severity of Smith’s agoraphobia as well as how plans can go wrong. The plan for Audrey’s rescue would be less complicated though both Benjamin Horne and Jean Renault would have different ideas of how to handle things with Horne hiring Hank Jennings to take care of some things including the money. Renault meanwhile has plans of his own where it’s more about getting leverage on Horne’s finances as well as complete control of One-Eyed Jack’s.

While it is a largely serious episode, there are elements of humor as it relates to Shelly Johnson and Bobby Briggs getting ready for Leo’s homecoming as well as Nadine Hurley returning from the hospital as it is one of the funniest moments of the episode. With Andy filling for Lucy and learning about his own sperm count, it’s one of the finest episodes of the second season as there’s also some intriguing moments that goes on. Most notably the arrival of the Japanese businessman Mr. Tojamura (Fumio Yamaguchi) who has a big business proposition for Benjamin Horne with money that is quite funny. It’s an episode that has this unique balance of intrigue, drama, and humor where a lot of things are coming together as well as some elements of the story that is starting to have some closure.

The Orchid’s Curse is a sensational episode of Twin Peaks from Graeme Clifford and writer Barry Pullman. It’s an episode that manages to make some closure on a few subplots but also pave the way for other things to happen as the mystery over who killed Laura Palmer continues. Even as it has this nice mix of chaos, mystery, and drama that makes the show so exciting. In the end, The Orchid’s Curse is a phenomenal episode of Twin Peaks by Graeme Clifford.

Twin Peaks: Season 1: Pilot - Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3 - Episode 4 - Episode 5 - Episode 6 - Episode 7

Season 2: Episode 8 - Episode 9 - Episode 10 - Episode 11 - (Episode 13) - (Episode 14) - (Episode 15) - (Episode 16) - (Episode 17) - (Episode 18) - (Episode 19) - (Episode 20) - (Episode 21) - (Episode 22) - (Episode 23) - (Episode 24) - (Episode 25) - (Episode 26) - (Episode 27) - (Episode 28) - (Episode 29)

Season 3: (Coming Soon)

(Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me) - (The Missing Pieces)

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

5 Years of the Auteurs & Announcement of Auteur #50

Five years, 49 filmmakers, and a lot of films along the way came an unexpected thing that would become part of my world as a writer. It wasn’t meant to be a regular thing but it just evolved that way and I ended up enjoying. When I made my very first piece on Sofia Coppola back on September 3, 2010, it originally started off as a one-off thing for the LAMB Director’s project. Then came Darren Aronofsky in December and I realized that I had something that could be a side-project from my work in reviews and such. The timing for this new discovery couldn’t have come at a better time.

For anyone that has read me for the past few years know how bad of a year 2010 was for me personally as I wasn’t just struggling with depression but also began to shut myself off creatively. Just as I was starting to rebuild myself, I realized that using this blog shouldn’t just be for film reviews as I knew that something more needed to be done. Doing the piece on Sofia Coppola and then Darren Aronofsky made me realize that I could do a whole lot more as I felt that ten years at had sort of held me back into doing a lot more. In 2011, four more came in the form of Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Payne, and Lynne Ramsay. The last of which was someone I had just discovered and was blown away by her work to the point that she just became a subject immediately.

Thus came what would become a monthly thing where I explored all sorts of different filmmakers from favorites like the Coen Brothers, Lars von Trier, Wes Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and Stanley Kubrick to filmmakers I’ve heard about but was unfamiliar with like Andrei Tarkovsky and new discoveries like Nicolas Winding Refn. All of which happened in 2012 and more would come in 2013 where things would become more diverse in the coming years.

Part of the reason for the Auteurs series to happen isn’t just to profile established filmmakers like David Cronenberg, Ang Lee, and Baz Luhrmann but also women filmmakers like Nicole Holfocener, Jane Campion, Kathryn Bigelow, Andrea Arnold, and Julie Taymor as it is something that I’m proud of. It also gives me the chance to profile filmmakers that many haven’t heard of like Carlos Reygadas, Jean Vigo, Leos Carax, and Gaspar Noe as well as an emerging filmmaker in Xavier Dolan.

It’s been an adventure as I’ve seen so many films and watch so many filmmakers that I didn’t think it would come to some big milestones. Especially as it relates to a couple of giants such as doing a four-part piece on the works of Woody Allen (Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, & Pt. 4) as well as the films of Francois Truffaut. At the same time, filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodovar, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Terry Gilliam, Jim Jarmusch , Wong Kar-Wai, Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Whit Stillman would be explored along with the likes of Francois Ozon, Noah Baumbach, Jason Reitman, Julian Schnabel, Michael Cimino, Bong Joon-Ho, and Bennett Miller as it helped cultivate a slate of films and filmmakers who have done so much for cinema.

In the course of doing these profile on filmmakers, I have seen a lot of films that is now becoming impossible to count at this point as I’m sure I own about a 1/3 of these films on DVD/Blu-Ray. And thus, the time has come for the next and final subject of the series for 2015. This individual was someone I’ve been a fan of for years as I knew that this person has to become a subject but when? Well, for anyone that has been following some of my activities in the past few months would probably have a good idea of who it is. Ladies and gentlemen, the fiftieth person to be profiled in the Auteurs series is….

David Lynch.

The 50th Auteurs piece on Lynch will be a three-four part series not just devoted to his work on films but also television, shorts, and other projects as there will be additional pieces covering his work in short films and music videos that will come for the remainder of the year as well as the remaining parts of the TV show Twin Peaks as well as its film Fire Walk with Me and The Missing Pieces.

© thevoid99 2015