Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Man of Steel

Based on the comic Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Man of Steel is an origin story in which Kal-El struggles with his identity as a man from another planet while also being known as Clark Kent where he later becomes Superman and fight the enemies from his former planet of Krypton. Directed by Zack Snyder and screenplay by David S. Goyer with a story by Goyer and Christopher Nolan. The film is a reinterpretation of the Superman origin story where it reveals Clark Kent/Kal-El’s struggle with his upbringing and where he really came from before he finally embraces his role. Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Russell Crowe as Jor-El. Man of Steel is a thrilling yet flawed film from Zack Snyder.

The film is about the young man who would become Superman (Henry Cavill) as he struggles with who he is and what he needed to be as he would eventually find the answers from his late father Jor-El. Yet, Kal-El/Clark Kent also struggles with keeping his powers and identity secret as his late adoptive father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) knows of that struggle as he tries to show him that not everyone can be saved. While a journalist in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) tries to uncover the secrets of Superman through her early encounters, an exiled general and his people from the planet Krypton in Zod (Michael Shannon) tries to find him in the hopes he can create a new Krypton in Earth and exterminate the human race. This would prompt Superman to save Earth and the human race and to see that Zod wouldn’t make the same mistakes his father and the Kryptonians had made many years ago that led to the planet’s destruction.

David S. Goyer’s screenplay does pay true to many of the origins of Superman and where he came from along with the destruction of Krypton. Yet, there’s aspects of the film’s screenplay that isn’t successful as there’s a lot of exposition into an object known as the codex that Jor-El would put into his son as he was the first natural newborn in many centuries for the planet since Jor-El and his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) wanted their son to have the choice in being an individual unlike the other people of the planet. Upon meeting the shadow of his late father, Kal-El wouldn’t just learn about what happened to Krypton and who he is as it would play into the struggle that he would have. Some parts of the script has Clark reflect on his childhood with his father and mother Martha (Diane Lane) as he would live a nomadic lifestyle to find himself as an adult before he realizes the role he has to play.

While the Kents, Jor-El, Zod, and Lane are characters that are quite complex, some of the minor characters that is part of Superman’s world get shafted by the wayside once the film’s second half becomes more about Superman dealing with Zod and his army. Especially in how Zod and his army were able to leave the Phantom Zone due to explosion of Krypton as it leads to more exposition which does get tiresome. Yet, the Zod character is a complex antagonist for the fact that he had been born and raised to save the planet and its people but he becomes lost in his desire to create a new planet as he is making the same mistakes that led to Krypton’s demise.

Zack Snyder’s direction is quite interesting in the way he portrays Superman and his struggle with his identity where the scenes set in Smallville when Kent is a child definitely has this Malickian look to the film is quite entrancing. Yet, there’s also a griminess to some of the action scenes where the scenes set in Krypton as it’s collapsing are very big and unsettling. Snyder does know how to slow things down and establish some key aspects to the story yet the two different tones he wanted to present in the film is uneven at times. Especially as the scenes set in Smallville and other worldly locations are beautiful but the scenes filled with the chaotic reminders of Krypton is quite ugly. Even as Snyder would create some scenes of Lois Lane often getting into trouble only to be saved by Superman as it kind of becomes a running gag.

There are some great compositions and set pieces that occur that includes its climax but at times, it gets overwhelming as all of the destruction Superman and the Kryptonians have created. Even as it involves lot of visual effects where some of it isn’t that great as some of the direction gets into overdrive in terms of the action and destruction of buildings. Another aspect of the film that is very annoying is the presence of lens flares that isn’t really necessary and doesn’t say anything for the film on a visual level. Despite the flaws that the film carries, Snyder does manage to create an exciting and engaging film about the Man of Steel.

Cinematographer Amir Mokri does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the evocative look of the scenes set in Smallville with its use of darkened colors along with some of its shadows and lighting for some of the film‘s interior scenes and material set in Krypton. Editor David Brenner does nice work with the editing in some of the montages that is created as well as some of the action scenes though some of it moves a bit too fast at times. Production designer Alex McDowell, with set decorator Anne Kuljian and supervising art director Helen Jarvis, does fantastic work with the look of Krypton and its ships along with the look of Metropolis and Smallville as it‘s the two world that Clark Kent lives in. Costume designers James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson do terrific work with the costumes from the look of Superman‘s suit to the suits and armor of the Kryptonians.

Hair/makeup supervisor Victoria Down does wonderful work with some of the makeup work for Martha Kent as in her aging look. Visual effects supervisors John “D.J.” Des Jardin and Ged Wright do some superb work with the visual effects in the look of Krypton and some of its machines though at times they look wobbly such as the weapons from its ships. Sound designer Eric A. Norris and co-sound editor Scott Hecker do brilliant work with the sound work from the sound of lasers as well as some of the natural moments presented on location. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is pretty good for its bombastic orchestral themes and soaring string pieces to play into the drama and sense of adventure that occurs in the film.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Claire Simon is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Richard Schiff as the scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton, Michael Kelly as Lane’s colleague from the Daily Planet, Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy, Harry Lennix as Lt. General Swanwick, and Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora. Ayelet Zurer is pretty good as Kal-El’s mother Lara while Laurence Fishburne is terrific though somewhat wasted as Lane’s boss Perry White as he doesn’t get more to do other than boss Lane around and save a few employees from the destruction of Metropolis. Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry are solid in their respective roles as the 11 and 13-year old Clark who struggles with his identity and powers. Diane Lane is wonderful as Clark’s mother Martha who brings a great sense of warmth and wisdom to Clark while Kevin Costner is superb as Jonathan Kent as he would help the young Clark deal with his identity and gifts.

Russell Crowe is excellent as Kal’s father Jor-El as a man who is aware of the destruction that Krypton has created for itself as he would later guide his son into discovering his identity. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod as this mad general who is eager to save Krypton at any cost while wanting to rebuild the planet on Earth and hope to bring a new civilization to this new version of Krypton. Amy Adams is brilliant as Lois Lane as a reporter for the Daily Planet who tries to uncover the mystery of Superman as she falls for him as Adams has a lot of energy and charisma to her role despite getting herself into lots of trouble. Finally, there’s Henry Cavill in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a man struggling with who he is and how he would later accept that role as Cavill has the look and determination to play Superman as well as the humility of Clark Kent.

While it does have its flaws in terms of presentation, Man of Steel is still a worthwhile and fun film from Zack Snyder. With a great leading performance from Henry Cavill along with strong supporting performances from Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Michael Shannon. It’s a film that will satisfy fans of Superman though it pales to the brilliance of the 1978 film that introduced him to cinephiles. In the end, Man of Steel is a pretty good film from Zack Snyder.

Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) - 300 - Watchmen - (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) - Sucker Punch

Superman Films: (Superman) - (Superman II) - (Superman III) - (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) - (Superman Returns) - (Superman II: The Richard Donner’s Cut)

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Young and Beautiful

Written and directed by Francois Ozon, Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful) is the story of a young woman who becomes a teenage prostitute following the loss of virginity during a summer vacation in Germany. The film is an exploration of a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality while keeping her new profession secret from her mother. Starring Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot, and Charlotte Rampling. Jeune & Jolie is a ravishing yet haunting film from Francois Ozon.

The film is about a young woman exploring her sexuality as she had just turned 17 where she secretly becomes a prostitute. After some trouble and the eventual discovery by her mother, Isabelle (Marine Vacth) copes with her encounters as she becomes confused about the role she took and her own beauty. It’s a film that is about this young woman who loses her virginity to a German boy during a summer vacation in the country as the film is told through four seasons in the life of this young woman. The script has a very unique yet odd narrative structure where much of the first half is very straightforward from Isabelle’s time in the summer to becoming a prostitute to men who are older than her in various places in Paris during after school hours.

The film’s second half not only has her reveal, through flashbacks, into what drove into prostitution and why she didn’t stop immediately as it causes tension between herself and her mother Sylvie (Geraldine Pailhas). Especially as Isabelle accuses Sylvie of straying from her marriage to Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick (Frederic Pierrot). Isabelle’s confusion and her unwillingness to open up to her family and her friends adds to her melancholic state as she would later talk to a psychiatrist about her work and the moment that forced to quit for good. All of which would lead to a third act where Isabelle not only confronts her actions but also deal with the incident that drove her to stop becoming a prostitute.

Francois Ozon’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way he explores a young woman coming of age as she discovers her sexuality as much of the film is set in France while the first scenes in the summer are shot in Germany where Isabelle would lose her virginity. Ozon’s compositions in some of the wide and medium shots in Germany have a sense of beauty as it would shift once the film moves to France where it’s not as colorful as it would play to the melancholia of Isabelle as she lives this double-life as a 17-year old girl going to school and hang out with friends while she would have this other life sleeping with men who are older than her as she claims to be 20 year old.

Ozon’s use of close-ups on Isabelle are entrancing not just for her beauty but in how men are willing to fall for her as Ozon’s presentation of the sex is very seductive and not graphic. Even as some of it plays for laughs as it relates to Isabelle’s younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) and their stepfather as the latter is baffled by his stepchildren’s fascination with sex. Yet, Ozon keeps it simple and restrained in his approach to humor and drama where it would lead to a climax where Isabelle confronts her fears. Overall, Ozon crafts a very evocative and chilling film about a young woman coming to her terms with her sexuality.

Cinematographer Pascal Marti does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful and lush cinematography for the German beach scenes to the low-key lighting and mood for the hotel interior scenes in Paris. Editor Laure Gardette does wonderful work with the editing with its stylish cuts that includes a montage of Isabelle and her classmates talking about a poem by Arthur Rimbaud as well as some straightforward cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does brilliant work with the apartment that Isabelle and her family lives to the look of the hotel rooms and hallways that she goes to as a prostitute.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does terrific work with the clothes from the casual look that Isabelle wears at home and around her friends to the more adult-like clothing she wears as a prostitute. Sound editor Benoit Gargonne does nice work with the sound from the quiet atmosphere of the hotels to the array of sounds of a party that Isabelle attends with her friends. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is superb for its somber and melancholic score that plays into moods that Isabelle goes through while its film soundtrack includes some electronic pieces by M83 and Crystal Castles at a party scene plus songs by Francoise Hardy that plays to Isabelle’s evolution as a person.

The casting by Sarah Teper is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Djedje Apali and Nathalie Richard as friends of Sylvie and Patrick, Laurent Delbecque as a classmate of Isabelle, Jeanne Ruff as Isabelle’s best friend Claire, Serge Hefez as Isabelle’s psychiatrist in the film’s second half, Akela Sari as the family maid Mouna, and Lucas Prisor as the German boy that Isabelle loses her virginity to. Johan Leysen is terrific as one of Isabelle’s aging clients as a man who treats her very well while Fantin Ravat is wonderful as Isabelle’s younger brother Victor who is intrigued by the world of sex as he is also coming of age.

Frederic Pierrot is excellent as Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick who brings some humor to the film as he tries to deal with the boundaries while being baffled by his stepchildren’s discovery of sex as he also tries to help out Sylvie with her problems. Geraldine Pailhas is fantastic as Isabelle’s mother Sylvie as a woman who eventually learns what her daughter does as she tries to cope with the news and her own failings as a mother. In a cameo performance of sorts, Charlotte Rampling is remarkable in small yet radiant performance as a woman Isabelle meets late in the film as it’s one that is really unforgettable. Finally, there’s Marine Vacth in a brilliant performance as Isabelle as this young woman who becomes fascinated by sex as she becomes a prostitute where she deals with her beauty and sensuality as well as coming to terms with her identity as it’s a real breakthrough for the young actress.

Jeune & Jolie is a sensational film from Francois Ozon that features a dazzling performance from newcomer Marine Vacth. It’s a film that is told with such sensitivity and curiosity in the way a young woman explores her sexuality and the power of sex while dealing with the consequences of her actions which would later lead to her becoming a woman. In the end, Jeune & Jolie is a marvelous film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: Sea the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - Le Refuge - Potiche - In the House - (The New Girlfriend) - (The Auteurs #32: Francois Ozon)

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

Joe (2013 film)

Based on the novel by Larry Brown, Joe is the story of a 15-year old boy who meets an ex-convict as the man would become a surrogate father figure from the boy’s troubled home life. Directed by David Gordon Green and screenplay by Gary Hawkins, the film is an exploration into a man taking in a boy that needed help as he also seeks redemption for his past sins. Starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Joe is an entrancing yet heartfelt film from David Gordon Green.

The film is an exploration into an ex-convict who runs a lumber company as he hires a young boy who had just moved into town with his alcoholic and abusive father. It’s a film where this man who tries to maintain a low-key lifestyle as he deals with his own sins and not get into trouble despite the presence of a few young and eager police officers who want to nab him as they think he is trouble. Yet, Joe (Nicolas Cage) just wants to do his work and live a quaint life while helping out this young boy Gary (Tye Sheridan) who works to help his very poor family as Gary finds a father-figure in Joe while old demons come creeping into Joe’s life in order to make things uneasy for him.

Gary Hawkins’ screenplay doesn’t play into any kind of traditional structure as it’s more about a man trying to restrain himself from getting into any trouble as he would often visit a local brothel, visit a few people, and run his tree-poisoning company with the help of men whom he pays fairly. When Gary stumbles into Joe’s line of work, Joe hires him as he is aware of how hard-working Gary is as he is a kid that doesn’t take shit from anyone despite the abuse he deals with his from his father Wade (Gary Poulter). Wade is an immoral drunk that wants to drink as he will do anything for booze as he would abuse his son as well as do things to his teenaged mute daughter Dorothy that Gary is protective of.

Joe does see something in Gary that intrigues him as he would also help the boy in not just dealing with his father but also in how to survive and become a man. Gary would unveil a side of Joe that was lost as he had been in trouble with the law as he is considered untrustworthy Though the locals who know him do trust him and see him as a good guy trying to do good again, there are those who want to create hell for Joe as they would even try to create trouble for Gary. Eventually as Wade would meet these men and force Joe and Gary to an uneasy standoff to save Gary’s family.

David Gordon Green’s direction is very mesmerizing as it recalls some of his early work with its emphasis on beautiful images to play into the world of rural and working-class small towns in Texas with these hypnotic images of nature. Yet, Green would infuse that mix of beauty and ugliness to play into Joe’s desire to live his life and not cause any trouble as much of Green’s direction includes a lot of medium shots and close-ups to play into Joe’s state of mind. Green has this very eerie approach to these compositions and how it plays into the world that Joe has created as he surrounds himself with weak pine trees that he needed to poison and make sure that they’re weak enough to be cut down so new ones can grow.

In shooting in locations nearby Austin and other small towns in Texas, the film definitely has a grimy yet majestic feel that plays true to the atmosphere of the American South. Even as it has that sense of darkness where lawlessness can happen as it would play into that world of suspense where Wade and the men from Joe’s past would try and cause some trouble. Eventually as it leads to this dark climax where Joe would try to find redemption for himself and do something for the life of this young boy he’s become close to. Overall, Green crafts a very haunting yet powerful drama about a man who comes to the aid of a young boy.

Cinematographer Tim Orr does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting for much of the film‘s exterior scenes in the forests and rivers along with some low-key lighting for some of the film‘s interiors as it plays to that mix of beauty and ugliness. Editor Colin Patton does fantastic work with the editing as it is stylized with its use of jump-cuts and dissolves as it plays to its suspense and drama. Production designer Chris L. Spellman and set decorator Helen Britten do amazing work with the look of the homes that Joe and Gary lives as it doesn‘t just play into their personalities but also the look of rural Texas as it‘s a world that still has some semblance of tradition and not be distracted by the modern world.

Costume designers Karen Malecki and Jill Newell do nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual to play into that rural look of the film. Sound editor Lewis Goldstein does superb work with the sound to play into natural atmosphere of the locations as well as the layering of voices in some of the conversations that happen. The film’s music by Jeff McIlwain and David Wingo is excellent for its ambient-based score that is very somber and melancholic to play into the sense of loss and loneliness that Joe lives while music supervisors Gerry Cueller, Greg Danylyshyn, and Devoe Yates create a soundtrack that mixes hard rock, folk, and country music.

The casting by Karmen Leech and John Williams is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Brian Mays as Joe’s second-in-command at the lumber company, Heather Kafka as a young hooker named Lacy John Daws as the police captain who keeps an eye on Joe knowing that Joe isn’t really trouble, Brenda Isaacs Booth as Gary’s mother, and Anna Niemtschk as Gary’s mute-sister Dorothy. Sue Rock is terrific as the aging brothel madame Merle while Adriene Mishler is wonderful as Joe’s sometimes-lover Connie. Ronnie Gene Blevins is excellent as the criminal Willie who wants to put Joe into trouble as he would also have a bad encounter with Gary who beats him up. Gary Poulter is brilliant as Gary’s alcoholic father Wade as a man who drowns his sorrows into alcohol as it’s a performance that is just engaging to watch as he is definitely a scene-stealer as the film would be dedicated to him as he died before its release.

Tye Sheridan is brilliant as Gary as this young 15-year old kid who struggles to help his family as he works for Joe and does whatever to help Joe out as he also comes to him as someone in need of a father figure as it’s definitely a real showcase for Sheridan who can be an equal to his co-star. Finally, there’s Nicolas Cage in a remarkable performance as the titular character as a man who likes to keep his life simple and not-so-complicated as he befriends a young boy whom he would care for as it’s a role that has Cage being funny but also brooding and intense as it’s definitely his best performance in a very long time after some years of weird and bad performances.

Joe is a phenomenal film from David Gordon Green that features a tremendous performance from Nicolas Cage as the titular character along with a superb performance from Tye Sheridan. It’s a film that not only marks a return-to-form from Cage but also for Green after a period of disappointing comedies as he returns to his roots. Especially in the way he explores the world of the American South and tell a story about a man and a boy who would help each other. In the end, Joe is an outstanding film from David Gordon Green.

David Gordon Green Films: George Washington - All the Real Girls - Undertow - Snow Angels - Pineapple Express - (Your Highness) - (The Sitter) - (Prince Avalanche) - (Manglehorn)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Under the Skin (2013 film)

Based on the novel by Michel Faber, Under the Skin is the story of an alien who arrives to Earth taking in the form of a woman who preys on the men of Scotland as she begins to discover humanity in her journey. Directed by Jonathan Glazer and screenplay by Glazer and Walter Campbell, the film is an exploration of an alien who uses her sexuality to lure men for her own means as she deals with her new surroundings and the world she’s in. Starring Scarlett Johansson in the lead role as the alien. Under the Skin is a haunting yet audacious film from Jonathan Glazer.

It’s a film that explores what would it be like for an alien to land on Earth as its sole mission is to lure men into a trap by taking the form of a beautiful woman. Upon the journey of this alien as a woman, she treks around Glasgow and other nearby towns in Scotland to lure young men who are eager to have sex with her unaware of what she is and her intentions. That’s all that happens in much of the film’s first act as it’s second act has her encountering the actions of humanity through good and bad while beginning to act human. The film’s screenplay does play to a traditional narrative structure yet it is more concerned with the development of this alien as she becomes accustomed to her surroundings and the idea of humanity itself.

The second act has the alien encounter a disfigured man that would change not just her mission but everything she sees about herself and her work. Even as things like food and what humans do is foreign to her as well as looking into the mirror as a woman is also intriguing as it’s the alien discovering more about who she is. It all plays into that idea of an alien discovering humanity and what it means to be human as she knows that she is in trouble. The script doesn’t have a lot of dialogue as it’s more about an alien observing everything around her that includes parties, sex, and all sorts of things that baffles her.

Jonathan Glazer’s direction is very hypnotic not just for the imagery that is created but also in the way it allows the story to be told in a manner that is simple and to the point. Notably in the way the film opens as Glazer definitely aims for that sense of the unknown as the opening scene has these images that are very strange and intoxicating as if it is a sci-fi film that is about entering the unknown. Then the story starts to take shape where Glazer’s camera definitely aims for a cinema verite style of sorts in its tracking shots and other things as it makes Glasgow and other locations in Scotland be just as important to express the encounter with the unknown from the alien’s perspective. Some of the compositions that Glazer creates is intimate as some of it has the alien driving around in a van through Glasgow.

There’s also sequences that are very strange in the way the alien lures her captors as the mixture of image, sound design, and music play into that sense of terror that occurs. Even as Glazer would use close-ups to play into the alien’s development as she understands the meaning of humanity such as a scene where she’s at a restaurant about to eat human food for the first time. It’s a scene that could’ve been played for laughs but Glazer’s restrained approach to the image makes it much more engaging as the landscapes and fogs in Scotland add that sense of intrigue that the alien encounters. The images of the Scotland hills and lakes play into the alien’s curiosity as if she is in that world of the unknown where there is an element of suspense about who might capture her or what will happen to her if she is revealed to be an alien. Overall, Glazer crafts a very intoxicating yet unsettling film about an alien who encounters a new world that is very alien to her.

Cinematographer Daniel Landin does incredible work with the cinematography from the dream-like yet naturalistic look of the locations in Scotland as well as its use of low-lights and such for some of the film‘s interior scenes along with the sequence of the men being trapped. Editor Paul Watts does brilliant work with the editing from the opening montage scene of strange images to the usage of jump-cuts and dissolves to play into the wonderment of the alien as well as some of the suspenseful moments of the film. Production designer Chris Oddy, along with art directors Martin McNee and Emer O’Sullivan, does nice work with some of the set pieces such as the home the alien lives in along with her van yet the real standout of the art direction is the room where the alien lures her prey.

Costume designer Steven Noble does terrific work with the clothes that the alien wears as it plays to her beauty but also in the way she stands out among the people she encounters. Hair/makeup designer Christine Beveridge does wonderful work with the wig that the alien wears as well as the look of the deformed man that she meets that features the work of special makeup effects artist Andy Garner. Visual effects supervisors Tom Debenham and Dominic Parker do amazing work with some of the film‘s evocative visual effects in the sequence where the men who are lured by the alien go to as well as some other moments that are just eerie to watch.

Sound designer Johnnie Burn does fantastic work with the sound design as it has this sense of disconcerting layers of sound where the mixing and editing play into the alien trying to understand what she‘s hearing as a lot of it sounds confusing but also very engaging as it‘s one of the film‘s highlights. The film’s music by Mica Levi is remarkable for its unsettling yet ravishing score that is this mixture of ambient with brooding sound textures to play into the suspense and horror while music supervisors Jay James and Peter Raeburn bring in a mix of pop and electronic music that is played on location for the alien to discover.

The casting by Kahleen Crawford is excellent for the men she brings in as most of them are non-actors who were unaware that they’re being filmed as the real standouts in the film are Jeremy McWilliams as the fellow alien as well as the two men the alien encounters in the deformed man as well as a man who the alien meets as he takes her into his home. The star of the film is definitely Scarlett Johansson as her performance as the alien is truly one for the ages. It’s a role that has Johansson not only contain a sense of restraint in how she plays as this alien observing her surroundings but also the people she encounters as it’s one that has Johansson not saying much in the film. Whenever she is talking, it’s in a British accent as Johansson has that sense of darkness to her performance but also one of curiosity as she isn’t afraid to use her sensuality into her performance as she does go full-frontal but it’s where the nudity has something to say as her performance in the film is beyond sensational.

Under the Skin is an outstanding film from Jonathan Glazer that features a tour-de-force performance from Scarlett Johansson. While it’s definitely a film that will baffle audiences about the idea of an alien discovering Earth and humanity. It’s a film that definitely takes great risks into telling a story that doesn’t play by the rules while finding a way to see how an alien would react to her surroundings. In the end, Under the Skin is a magnificent film from Jonathan Glazer.

Jonathan Glazer Films: (Sexy Beast) - (Birth)

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Batman Returns

Based on the DC Comics by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman Returns is the sequel to the 1989 film in which Batman faces a new foe in the Penguin who teams up with a business tycoon to take down the Batman while a mysterious vigilante in Catwoman also creates trouble. Directed by Tim Burton with a screenplay by Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters from a story by Hamm, the film is a darker story than its predecessor as Bruce Wayne/Batman deals with his new foes as Michael Keaton reprises his role with Michelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Danny Devito as Oswald Cobblepot/the Penguin. Also starring Pat Hingle, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway, and Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. Batman Returns is a superbly thrilling film from Tim Burton.

The film is an exploration into Bruce Wayne adjusting to his role as Gotham’s peacekeeper as new enemies emerge during the Christmas holidays to wreak havoc on the city. Among them is a deformed man known as the Penguin who wants to take over Gotham where he kidnaps the industrialist Max Shreck as the two team up to control Gotham. Adding to the chaos is a woman named Selina Kyle who was a secretary of Shreck as she was pushed out of a window and fell many stories to the ground. Kyle would survive the fall as she becomes Catwoman as she becomes a vigilante of her own as she causes problems for Batman where she briefly aligns with the Penguin. Yet, Kyle’s life is more complicated when she falls for Bruce Wayne unaware that he’s Batman and vice versa as it would lead to a very troubling climax.

The film’s screenplay by Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters, with additional work by Wesley Strick, doesn’t just explore Bruce Wayne being this hero for Gotham but also encounter these new forces. The real villain in the film is Max Shreck as he is this industrialist that wants to create a new power-plant for Gotham when the city doesn’t need it. When Kyle accidentally learns what Shreck is doing, Shreck tries to kill her as he would use the Penguin to usurp Gotham’s mayor (Michael Murphy) to become the new mayor so Shreck can build his power plant. Though Penguin had his own plans to create chaos in Gotham, he teams up with Shreck for power while trying to discredit Batman with the help of Catwoman. One of the aspects of the script that is unique is the fact that it’s a film about identity as it relates to Batman, Penguin, and Catwoman.

Whereas Bruce Wayne tries to cope with his dual role as he is also seeking some balance as a man where he wouldn’t need to keep secrets. Though he accepts his role as Gotham’s hero, it’s not one that he easily accepts as he has few allies in the city. The Penguin maybe an antagonist but not a conventional one as the film begins with his birth as he arrives as a deformed baby his rich parents would dump into a sewer just days after his birth. In being this outcast, he wants to destroy Gotham only to become a pawn in Shreck’s plans that forces him to become more determined for Gotham’s end. Then there’s Selina Kyle who starts out as this timid secretary who lives with a cat as her near-death experience in the hands of Shreck has her becoming this unstable woman that not only wants to get revenge on Shreck but her encounter with Batman would create a very complicated relationship as their real-life personas are in love with each other while there’s a strange attraction between the two in their other personas. Catwoman isn’t a villain nor a hero but a true anti-hero who is only in it for herself.

Tim Burton’s direction is definitely more extravagant in some respects but also very offbeat in its mix of dark humor, action, and suspense. Yet, there’s a looseness to the story where Burton is able to make all of these elements fuse together though not all of these moments work. Still, he is able to create some exotic scenes and action sequences that are very exciting as it includes a very memorable moment where Catwoman introduces herself to Batman and the Penguin. The use of close-ups, wide shots, and medium shots gives Burton some room to breathe in the way he creates some of these moments while being able to explore the complexity of identity in the film in shots that are much more simpler. Especially in the romantic attraction between Wayne/Batman and Kyle/Catwoman as there’s an element of sensuality in that attraction.

The direction is also stylish in the way some of the action scenes and in some of the humor that is presented though a lot of its very dark. Especially in the film’s climax as it involves Batman, the Penguin, Catwoman, and Shreck as it features extravagant set pieces as well as a lot of penguins where some of it is real and some are robotic. The usage of animals do add some style to the film where they would aid whoever is needed as its climax is both enthralling but also somber where it would play into Batman/Wayne’s struggle to find a balance in his dual role. Overall, Burton crafts a very exciting and stylish film about Batman coming to terms with his identity and the new foes he faces.

Cinematographer Stefan Czapsky does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the look of the exteriors of Gotham as well some of the lighting in the sewer home of the Penguin and his army as well as the shadows in the Batcave. Editors Chris Lebenzon and Bob Badami do nice work with the editing as it‘s pretty straightforward with some stylish cutting for some of the film‘s action scenes as well as some of its humorous moments. Production designer Bo Welch with set decorator Cheryl Carasik and supervising art director Tom Duffield, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the city square in Gotham to the Batcave as well as the Penguin‘s lair, and the apartment Kyle lived in. Costume designers Bob Ringwood and Mary E. Vogt do fantastic work with the look of Catwoman‘s costumes as well as the clothes of the Penguin and the suits that Max Shreck wears.

Makeup designers Stan Winston, Ve Neill, and Ronnie Specter do brilliant work with the makeup design of the Penguin as well the look of his band of freaks that he leads. Visual effects supervisor Michael L. Fink does terrific work with some of the visual effects that includes some early ideas of CGI as well as the use of miniatures in some of the action sequences. Sound editors Richard L. Anderson and David E. Stone do superb work with the sound to create some layering of sounds in the action scenes as well as some of the scenes set in Gotham. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is incredible for its mixture of bombastic orchestral pieces to some more serene and enchanting pieces to play into some of the melancholia as the film’s soundtrack also includes a few Christmas pieces and a collaboration with Siouxsie & the Banshees for the song Face to Face.

The casting by Marion Dougherty is great for the ensemble that is created as it features cameo appearances from Jan Hooks as a PR assistant, Vincent Schiavelli as one of the Penguin’s henchmen, Anna Katarina as the poodle lady who works for the Penguin, and in the role of Penguin’s parents, Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger who had appeared in Burton’s first film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Other notable small roles include Andrew Bryniarski as Shreck’s son Chip, Cristi Conaway as the Ice Princess who lights Gotham’s Xmas tree, and Michael Murphy as the city’s mayor. Reprising their roles from the first film, Pat Hingle and Michael Gough are terrific in their respective roles as Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth where Gordon becomes one of the few men who trusts Batman while Pennyworth helps Batman/Wayne in uncovering some of the mysteries relating to the Penguin.

Christopher Walken is brilliant as the very manipulative and power-hungry Max Shreck as Walken has this charm that makes him a very unique villain that doesn’t have any personas but is willing to use people for his own means. Danny DeVito is fantastic as the Penguin as a man who learns about his family as he becomes manipulated into becoming a politician only to realize that he is who he is as he wants to destroy Gotham and its hero Batman. Michelle Pfeiffer is phenomenal as Selina Kyle/Catwoman as this woman who despises Shreck for his plans and later trying to kill her as she becomes this very unstable woman that wants to create chaos as she also falls for Wayne/Batman. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a superb performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman as Keaton displays more aggression in his role as Batman while still being a bit brooding as he showcases Wayne’s struggle to balance his dual roles as he also has some great chemistry with Pfeiffer in their different personas.

Batman Returns is an excellent film from Tim Burton that manages to be a worthy sequel to its 1989 predecessor. Armed with an amazing cast as well as dazzling set pieces and Danny Elfman’s sumptuous score that includes a song by Siouxsie & the Banshees. While it is a darker film than its predecessor, it is still an engaging one for the way it explores identities and one man’s desire to balance his role as a man and crime fighter. In the end, Batman Returns is a marvelous film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - (Beetlejuice) - Batman - (Edward Scissorhands) - (Ed Wood) - (Mars Attacks!) - (Sleepy Hollow) - (Planet of the Apes (2001 film)) - (Big Fish) - (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) - (Corpse Bride) - (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) - (Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)) - (Dark Shadows) - (Frankenweenie) - (Big Eyes)

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - (Batman Forever) - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day for Night

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut, Suzanne Schiffman, and Jean-Louis Richard, La nuit americaine (Day for Night) is the story about a filmmaker trying to make a film where a lot of things go wrong. With Truffaut playing the director, it’s a film that chronicles the turbulent world of filmmaking and what goes on during a film production. Also starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jacqueline Bissett, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Dani, Nathalie Baye, Jean Champion, and Alexandra Stewart. La nuit americaine is a whimsical and engaging film about the world of filmmaking.

The film is about a filmmaker, his actors, and his crew trying to make a film called Meet Pamela where the director Ferrand learns he only has seven-weeks to shoot the film while his leading English actress has not arrived on set due to her melancholic state. Adding to the chaos is an aging diva who boozes up as she can’t remember her lines while her co-star is a former lover while one of her younger co-stars is dealing with his girlfriend’s infatuation with other crew members. It’s a film that explores a filmmaker trying to make this romantic love-triangle with all of the pressures that goes on as it relates to funding and all sorts of things. All of which is told in a very whimsical manner where Francois Truffaut pokes fun at the world of the studio system but also pays homage to it as the film is also a tribute to cinema itself.

The film’s screenplay has a lot of jokes that relates to cinema where Truffaut even pokes fun at himself as some of the characters he creates are composites of some of his collaborators and actors he worked with. Yet, Truffaut treats them as real people as the aging actor Alexander (Jean-Pierre Aumont) tries to keep things calm and be professional as he often takes trips to the airport. The aging diva Severine (Valentina Cortese) deals with aging as she has a hard time remembering her lines while reflecting on the days when she and Alexander made films in Hollywood. The young actor Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a variation of the many characters that Leaud had played in Truffaut’s films as he’s hung up on his girlfriend Liliane (Dani) who gets hired as a script girl as she is more interested in other men. Then there’s the young English leading lady Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bissett) who has just got married to an older man (David Markham) yet is still reeling from depression.

It all plays to the craziness that goes on as Ferrand and his producer Bertrand (Jean Champion) try to make sure that things don’t go wrong as crew members start to sleep around and do crazy things. It plays into the sense of pressure that goes on as Julie is uninsured in case things go wrong as Ferrand just tries to film while he would have recurring dreams featuring a kid. The script also has a lot of commentaries about film itself and what it means to people as it adds to the sense of reality and fiction blurring.

Truffaut’s direction is quite stylish for not just the way he presents the film-within-a-film in Meet Pamela but also in the realness that he creates when he’s trying to make a film as if there is a bit of a cinema verite feel to it. Much of the direction about Ferrand making the film has a lot of style from wide shots to display a crew shooting where there’s some elaborate crane shots to some close-ups that are on display for the film. The scenes for Meet Pamela is presented as a typical melodrama with a lot of cinematic references to some of films that Truffaut has made in some of the visuals. There is a lot of humor that goes on but it’s very subtle as it doesn’t go too far into whimsy.

There’s also moments where there’s an idea where the fourth wall might be broken as there’s a famous scene where a woman who is shown often in the background as she finally states her opinion about cinema. Even as the film’s American title relates to what filmmakers do to shoot scenes in the day for nighttime scenes as it plays to some of the absurdity of cinema as there’s a famous scene of two crew members watching a game show where the questions relates to films that starred Jeanne Moreau. Overall, Truffaut creates a very exciting and funny film about cinema and a man trying to make something cinematic.

Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its unique approach to lighting as well as displaying some tricks into how some of the film‘s interiors are lit for the film-within-a-film sequences. Editors Martine Barraque and Yann Dedet do fantastic work with the editing as it includes some montages and jump-cuts as it plays to the film‘s humor and some of its melancholia. Production designer Damien LanFranchi does brilliant work with the set pieces as well as the way sets are displayed as well some of the offices and hotel rooms the crew and actors stay in.

Costume designer Monique Dury does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish clothes that Julie and Severine wear to the some of the costumes the actors wear for the film-within-a-film. The sound work of Rene Levert and Harrik Maury is terrific for its sound from the way sound is created on set to the recording of the characters in the film-within-a-film. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is amazing for its very soaring and upbeat score that plays into the humor along with some somber pieces that includes a cut that he did in Two English Girls.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable appearances from author Graham Greene as an English insurer, Christophe Vesque as the boy in Ferrand’s dream, Xavier Saint-Macary as Alexander’s companion, David Markham as Julie’s much-older husband, Zenaide Rossi as crewmember’s wife who is always on set, Nike Arrighi as the makeup girl Odile, and Bernard Menez as the prop man who is frustrated by some of the film’s troubles. Nathalie Baye is wonderful as Ferrand’s assistant director Joelle who tries to keep things organized while Jean Champion is terrific as the film’s producer who tries to get everything intact while being the one to accompany Julie when she arrives. Dani is terrific as Alphonse’s girlfriend Liliane who enjoys being on set while flirting with other men. Alexandra Stewart is excellent as the secondary actress Stacey who arrives to the set where Ferrand and his crew make a major discovery that would cause more trouble for the production.

Francois Truffaut is amazing in playing Ferrand where he’s sort of playing himself as a filmmaker trying to get the production going while dealing with all of the troubles that happens. Jean-Pierre Aumont is great as the aging actor Alexander who tries to ensure that things go well while being the most professional despite his frequent trips to the airport. Jacqueline Bissett is radiant as the troubled English actress Julie Baker who tries to cope with her depression while doing her job in playing the ingenue. Jean-Pierre Leaud is fantastic as the young actor Alphonse as he deals with his relationship issues while asking numerous questions about women as it relates to his own aloofness. Finally, there’s Valentina Cortese in a remarkable performance as the diva Severine as this woman trying to cope with aging as well as a fading career as Cortese brings a lot of life and exuberance to her performance that hides the sense of insecurities that she carries in her character.

La nuit americaine is an incredible film from Francois Truffaut. Armed with a great cast and many tributes and allusions to the world of cinema, the film is definitely one of Truffaut’s most accessible and compelling films of his career. Particularly as Truffaut makes fun of himself as well as show some realism into the world of filmmaking. In the end, La nuit americaine is a sensational film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - (Fahrenheit 451) - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - (The Story of Adele H.) - (Small Change) - (The Man Who Loved Women) - (The Green Room) - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - (The Woman Next Door) - (Confidentially Yours)

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Batman (1989 film)

Based on the DC Comics by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman is the story about a mysterious vigilante who battles corruption in Gotham City as he deals with a former mob enforcer who would become the Joker who is set to wreak havoc on the city. Directed by Tim Burton and screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren from a story by Hamm, the film is an origin-story of sorts of how Bruce Wayne deals with the loss of his parents in the hands of the man who would become the Joker while falling for a photojournalist. In the role of Wayne/Batman is Michael Keaton while playing the role of the Joker is Jack Nicholson. Also starring Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Tracey Walter, Billy Dee Williams, Jerry Hall, and Jack Palance. Batman is an adventurous yet stylish film from Tim Burton.

The film is about Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego in Batman as he tries to save Gotham from chaos as its bicentennial is approaching. In this role of a vigilante who isn’t accepted by the police, Batman would spread fears into the criminals as he would fight the mob where an encounter with the enforcer Jack Napier at a chemical plant would have some repercussions where Napier falls into a chemical waste as he would survive and become a more psychotic killer in the Joker. The Joker would wreak havoc on Gotham forcing Batman to try and stop him while Wayne would deal with the trauma over his parents death as he falls for the photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) who is helping a reporter in covering a story on Batman. It’s a film that isn’t a traditional origin-story but rather an interpretation into what drives Bruce Wayne into becoming Batman as well as coming to terms with his loss and the man who killed his parents when he was a kid.

The film’s screenplay does subvert a lot of the ideas of the origin story in order to make it a film in not just Jack Napier’s transformation as the Joker but also in how he would get Batman to emerge out of the shadows and save Gotham. When Wayne isn’t Batman, he acts as this reclusive and eccentric billionaire who is sort of aloof to the public including Vicki Vale and her journalist friend Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) as it’s just a cover for the fact that he is trying to stop corruption in the hands of mob boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Yet, Grissom would try to kill Napier who had been having an affair with Grissom’s mistress as it would force Napier as the Joker to kill Grissom and take over all of the operations. Yet, the Joker just wants to create chaos and destroy the Batman so he can rule Gotham. This would force Wayne to not only step up against the Joker but also deal with the wounds and trauma so he can gain some peace.

Adding to the dramatic elements of the story is the presence of Vicki Vale as she helps Knox try to find the identity of Batman as she gets close to Bruce Wayne where she and Knox eventually learn about Wayne’s past and his parents death. She would eventually become an object of desire for the Joker who would try to woo her in the most insane ways as it adds to some of the film’s dark humor.

Tim Burton’s direction is very extravagant in some of the set pieces he creates from the Axis chemical plant to the city of Gotham itself as it becomes a playpen of sorts for him. With its emphasis on miniatures and other special effects, Burton creates a film that does have a look that is quite dark but also very offbeat. Much of the staging of the fights and action sequences that is shot at Pinewood Studios in England has Burton going for a world that definitely seems to have a bit of a comic-book look but also a bit of realism. The compositions that Burton creates for those scenes are vast and powerful as it includes the climatic showdown between Batman and the Joker as well as an earlier confrontation at a museum.

The dramatic and humorous scenes are also interesting in the way Burton maintains a certain intimacy in his direction. Especially in the latter as the humor is very dark yet somehow manages to be very funny. There’s an energy to those scenes while the dramatic moments including a flashback scene of the death of Wayne’s parents are quite eerie but also somber in how Wayne tries to cope with that loss. That balance of humor, adventure, drama and suspense somehow manages to create a film that doesn’t have all of the attributes of a great blockbuster film but also something more. Overall, Burton creates a film that does more than what it needed to be while also being a whole lot of fun to watch.

Cinematographer Roger Pratt does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of shadows and such for some of the film‘s interior scenes at night as well as the elaborate lighting schemes for the parade and some of the exterior settings in Gotham. Editor Ray Lovejoy does brilliant work with the editing with its approach to rhythms that allows each moment to shown while slowing things down in the more dramatic portions of the film. Production designer Anton Furst, with set decorator Peter Young and supervising art director Leslie Tomkins, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of Gotham City as well as the places such as Wayne Manor, the Axis Chemicals factory, and other places in Gotham while Keith Short does superb work in the design of the Batmobile.

Costume designers Bob Ringwood and Tony Dunsterville do terrific work with the design of the costumes from the suits of the Joker as well as the costume that Batman wears. Makeup designer Nick Dudman does wonderful work with the design of the makeup that the Joker wears. Visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings does nice work with some of the visual effects that includes some animation and miniatures in some of the designs of the places in Gotham. Sound editor Don Sharpe does some fine work with the sound to create some of the film’s sound effects as well as the chaos that goes on in Gotham. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is great for its bombastic orchestral theme to play into some of the adventure and drama that occurs in the film while the soundtrack features an album of original songs by Prince that plays into the film‘s humor as it‘s mixture of funk and soul music with a bit of rock adds a unique flavor to the film.

The casting by Marion Dougherty is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from William Hootkins as the corrupt Lt. Eckhardt, Lee Wallace as Gotham’s Mayor Borg, Tracey Walter as Jack’s right-hand man, David Baxt and Sharon Holm as Bruce’s parents in the flashback scene, Charles Roskilly as the young Bruce Wayne, Hugo E. Blick as the young Jack Napier, and Jerry Hall as Carl Grissom’s mistress Alicia. Jack Palance is excellent as Jack’s boss Carl Grissom who tries to have Jack whacked only to deal with the more psychotic Joker. Billy Dee Williams is terrific as the new district attorney Harvey Dent while Pat Hingle is superb as Commissioner James Gordon. Alfred Gough is wonderful as the very resourceful Alfred Pennyworth who helps Bruce in all sorts of things. Robert Wuhl is brilliant as the reporter Alexander Knox as he says some funny things while being the guy trying to get Vale not to get too close.

Kim Basinger is pretty good as Vicki Vale as this determined photojournalist who falls for Bruce Wayne while becoming the unwilling object of affection of the Joker. Jack Nicholson is magnificent as Jack Napier/the Joker as a mob guy who likes to take care of business only to become this very strange psychotic who always has some funny things to say while being a complete psychopath as it’s definitely one of Nicholson’s best roles. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a marvelous performance as the titular character/Bruce Wayne as Keaton brings this very restrained performance that has this brooding quality to both personas as well as a bit of aloofness in his approach to Wayne while being the badass as Batman.

Batman is a remarkable film from Tim Burton that features outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Along with a strong supporting cast and great set designs, it’s a film that definitely serves as a standard-bearer for many superhero blockbuster films while it’s also a film that is very fun to watch. In the end, Batman is an incredible film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - (Beetlejuice) - (Edward Scissorhands) - Batman Returns - (Ed Wood) - (Mars Attacks!) - (Sleepy Hollow) - (Planet of the Apes (2001 film)) - (Big Fish) - (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) - (Corpse Bride) - (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) - (Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)) - (Dark Shadows) - (Frankenweenie) - (Big Eyes)

Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) - (Batman Forever) - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises

© thevoid99 2014