Sunday, July 24, 2016

3 Godfathers

Based on the short novelette by Peter B. Kyne, 3 Godfathers is the story of three outlaws who find themselves taking care of a baby as they try to bring it to civilization in an act of goodwill. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings, the film is a dramatic tale in which three men find themselves in a situation as well as trying to do some good in a world that is often chaotic. Starring John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond, Mae Marsh, and Ben Johnson. 3 Godfathers is a riveting and compelling film from John Ford.

Following a robbery that left one of three criminals wounded and forced to hide in the desert with very little water, three criminals find a covered wagon in the middle of the desert where a dying woman is giving birth as they made a promise to take care of her baby. It’s a film with a simple story yet it bears a lot of spiritual elements while balancing with it elements of the western genre as it manages to be a lot more. The film’s screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings start off with these three men wanting to rob a bank as it would be successful except one of the men gets wounded and they also lose their water supply. It becomes cat-and-mouse game between these criminals and a sheriff who is accompanied by a posse of deputies where it is a game of wits. Once the three men find this woman and help her give birth, they realize that they need to get this baby to shelter as it’s no longer about them anymore. Even as they also struggle to do the right thing amidst their lack of water and trekking through the treacherous desert.

John Ford’s direction is definitely rapturous in terms of its visuals as a lot of the film would be shot in and around Death Valley, California as Arizona and parts of Utah. The locations would give Ford a canvas to work with as his usage of the wide shots would play into the beauty of the American West and the Rocky Mountains where he would create images that are just gorgeous to watch. Especially in the attention to detail in how he would frame his actors for a shot while he would also use medium shots to create some intimacy but also moments where it plays into some suspense and drama. The film is set during the Christmas holidays which does add to the air of spirituality in the journey the three criminals would take as it has biblical references while giving the men something more noble than what they were doing. All of which play into doing what is right for a child and bring him into a world where no matter how bad things can be. There is a sense of good that can come in and with people who will do the right thing. Overall, Ford creates a fascinating yet powerful film about three criminals trying to make a vow for a dying woman to take care of her baby.

Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch does amazing work with the film‘s gorgeous and colorful cinematography with the usage of the Technicolor film stock as it captures a lot of the beauty of the Death Valley desert as well as the Rocky Mountains along with some unique yet naturalistic lighting for the scenes set at night. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the action and a few dissolves for transitions. Art director Jack Basevi and set decorator Joseph Kish do amazing work with the look of the town that the criminals encounter early in the film as well as the water tank stops on the railroad. The sound work of Joseph I. Kane and Frank Moran is terrific as it plays into the sound of train whistles and gunfire as well as other naturalistic elements in the sound. The film’s music by Richard Hageman is fantastic for its orchestral-based music with its string arrangements that range from bombastic to somber as it plays into the many moods in the film as it would also include traditional songs of the times.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Charles Halton as the bank manager, Dorothy Ford as the bank manager’s niece, Guy Kibbee as the local judge, Jane Darwell as a train stop manager in Miss Florie, Ben Johnson as a member of the deputy posse, Hank Worden as a sheriff’s deputy in Curley, Mae Marsh as the sheriff’s wife, and Mildred Natwick as the dying mother the criminals find in the desert as they help deliver her baby. Ward Bond is fantastic as Sheriff Buck Sweet as a man who is going after the three criminals while admiring their strategy in how to evade capture. In the titular roles as the three criminals are its leads in Harry Carey Jr., Pedro Armendariz, and John Wayne in great performances. In the role of the youngest in William Kearney aka the Abilene Kid, Carey provides that sense of youth but also a spirituality as someone that is well-versed in the Bible while dealing with a gunshot wound on his shoulder.

Pedro Armendariz’s performance as Pete “Pedro” Fuerte is just fun to watch as someone that randomly speaks Spanish as he’s a Mexican bandit yet knows a lot about raising children while also being a man that knows a lot about the story of the three wise men where he sees it as a call to God. John Wayne’s performance as Robert Marmaduke Hightower is really Wayne in one of his best roles as this aging bandit that has seen a lot and knows what to do. Yet, he becomes this unlikely father for this baby while he is determined to do the right thing.

3 Godfathers is a phenomenal film from John Ford that features incredible performances from John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., and Ward Bond. It’s a film that isn’t just a western that breaks away from some of its conventions but also give it a sense of spirituality in what three men try to do for a baby. In the end, 3 Godfathers is a spectacular film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jem and the Holograms

Based on the Hasbro Animated Series created by Christy Marx, Jem and the Holograms is the story of a young teenage girl who sings a song on YouTube wearing a wig where she, her sister, and their two adoptive singers become pop stars while trying to solve some mystery relating to a robot called Synergy. Directed by Jon M. Chu and screenplay by Ryan Landels, the film is a story of stardom and how they get discovered in the world of the Internet and social media as it is really about a modern world gone horribly wrong. Starring Aubrey Peebles, Aurora Perrineau, Stefanie Scott, Hayley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, and Juliette Lewis. Jem and the Holograms is a blasphemous and atrocious film from Jon M. Chu.

Lamenting over her aunt’s financial troubles and overcomes her shyness to sing by wearing a wig and sing a song to a webcam where it would uploaded on YouTube. A young girl becomes a star as she’s joined by her sister and their two adoptive sisters to become a pop band, become big, break-up, the girl goes solo against her will, deal with evils of the music industry, falls for the boss’ son, gets back together, and go a scavenger hunt to find missing pieces for a robot called Synergy who is carrying a mysterious message. That is pretty much the film in a nutshell as it is told in a blandly reflective narrative by its protagonist Jerrica “Jem” Benton (Aubrey Peebles) who would tell her story through a webcam. Ryan Landels’ script doesn’t just feature a narrative that is so predictable but also doesn’t do anything new to the rags-to-riches scenario nor does it create characters that are engaging or interesting. With Jerrica being the only one with some development, it is handled poorly as she mopes and then gets happy, mopes, gets happy, mopes, gets happy, and etc.

Jon M. Chu’s direction isn’t just stylistically bad but it really doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It wants to be a rags-to-riches film about stardom but it also wants to be a scavenger hunt film and it wants to be a heist movie as well as all kinds of shit. What happens is that Chu never really finds a balance nor does he really try to create something that is genre-bending as it becomes nonsensical. Shot largely in Los Angeles with some of it set in Southern California, many of the compositions either look or feel like a music video or never really do anything to tell the story. Adding to the nonsensical tone of the film is the barrage of YouTube clips that would appear very often in the film as if it plays to the idea that if Jem could be a star, so can the average moron. It’s really an ad for YouTube while the usage of Google Earth and other social media devices make the film feel distracting where it plays into this overly-consumerist world of social media as if it’s the idea to succeed.

It’s not just that the usage of these devices make the film so jarring to watch but it’s also in the YouTube videos as they’re presented in very poor quality. The musical performances presented in the film doesn’t just look and feel like a music video but its attempt to be authentic only makes it more embarrassing as the music isn’t any good. Even the message of what the film wants to be feels very tacked on as if it will make anyone create some form of bullshit and be rich of it which is false. Another aspect of the film that is really an insult to fans of the show who posted videos for their love of the cartoon show is having them express their devotion to the Jem character in the film as it is just a major slap in the fucking face to those fans and the cartoon itself showing how obscene this film is. Overall, Chu creates a film that isn’t just idiotic but it’s really a film that explores the false notion of stardom and in the disguised of an ad for YouTube and other social media devices.

Cinematographer Alice Brooks does some very awful work with the film‘s photography as it‘s overly-stylized with its polished look along with the usage of hand-held phone cameras and low-quality SVHS video footage as it‘s just shit. Editors Jillian Twigger Moul and Michael Trent do horrible work with the editing as it‘s got a lot of fast-cuts, lots of montages, and doesn‘t try to slow things down. Production designer Kevin Bird, with set decorator Lori Mazeur and art director Jennifer Moller, does a bad job with the look of the sets as it‘s just looks expensive or use places to create something authentic which is the opposite. Costume designer Soyon An creates some shitty clothing that looks like bad 80s costumes with awful wigs and all sorts of ugly shit.

Visual effects supervisor James David Hattin does some idiotic work with the visual effects in the way some of the holograms that Synergy produces looks and feels cheesy as well as the big reveal which is just ugh…. Sound editor Kunal Rajan does a bad job as if the sound is meant to be something big such as a performance where the power goes off yet people can still hear Jem sing which is one of those unprofessional moments for a sound editor. The film’s music by Nathan Lanier is just a low-key score of electronics with bits of bad jazz that is just unmemorable yet it is the work of music supervisor Olivia Zaro that really shows why this film is an abomination as a lot of the music Jem and the Holograms sing are just bad pop music that sounds like everything else as it’s not authentic at all.

The casting by Terri Taylor is horrific where it has some talented people given nothing to do but look stupid as well as use some very unnecessary cameos from Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Pratt, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sing the praises of Jem while the cameo appearances of the show’s creator Christy Marx as a journalist, Jem’s original singing voice as Britta Phillips as a stage manager, and Jem’s original cartoon voice in Samantha Newmark as a hairstylist are just there for no reason. In the role of the Misfits who appear in the mid-credits sequence, Ke$ha, Hana Mae Lee, Katie Findlay, and Eiza Gonzalez are there as it should’ve been the highlight but being relegated in the mid-credits after the film is just an insult. The small roles of Nathan Moore as the bodyguard Zipper, Isabella Rice as the young Jerrica, and Barnaby Carpenter as Jerrica and Kimber’s father are just there for no real fucking reason with Carpenter being the one to give out a lame message that the film doesn’t represent at all.

Molly Ringwald is pretty wasted in the role of Aunt Bailey as a woman struggling with her finances to save her house as she tries to be a source of wisdom for Jem and the girls where she isn’t given anything substantial to do. Juliette Lewis as Erica Raymond is a performance that tries to be a strong antagonist but is never given any real depth as she’s just a bad villain. Ryan Guzman is bland as Erica’s son Rio as the guy who is there to watch the girls and become Jerrica’s boyfriend. Hayley Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau are dull in their respective roles as Aja and Shana where they’re the adopted sisters of Jerrica and Kimber as they’re just there to look cool and bitch about everything while Stefanie Scott as Jerrica’s younger sister is just this overly-excited and Internet-obsessed sister who is bad to watch. Finally, there’s Aubrey Peebles as Jerrica “Jem” Benton as this shy girl who becomes a star and deals with all of its trapping as she is someone that is never given any depth where the performance is just horrible to watch.

Jem and the Holograms is a horrific film from Jon M. Chu. Not only is it a bad and bland film that exploits many of the awful aspects of modern pop music as well as the world of social media at its worst. It’s a film that is essentially a veiled ad for social media outlets including YouTube, Twitter, and Google Earth. A lot of it that goes overboard while it insults fans of the cartoon series as well as the source material where it takes itself way too seriously. In the end, Jem and the Holograms is just a fucking horrible film from Jon M. Chu that is just a fucking insult to Christy Marx and the cartoon series that she created.

© thevoid99 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Rio Grande

Based on the short story Mission with No Record for the Saturday Evening Post magazine by James Warner Bellah, Rio Grande is the story of a cavalry unit who are trying to control an Indian uprising near the Mexican border. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by James Kevin McGuinness, the film is the third and final film of a trilogy of films devoted to the cavalry as it would revolve around a cavalry officer torn between his duty and the family he‘s become estranged with. Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Claude Jarman Jr., Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills, Victor McLaglen, and Grant Withers. Rio Grande is a compelling yet exciting film from John Ford.

Set in 1879, the film revolves an officer who is trying to run a fort and protect his settlers from the Apache who are trying to create chaos near the Mexican border in Texas. Even as he finds himself dealing with the arrival of his estranged wife and their son who had just enlisted in the cavalry after failing at West Point where he struggles to be a soldier as well as a good man. It’s a film that plays into a man trying to keep everything together as he is aware that the Apache are nearby the border where he hopes to stop them yet is uneasy by issues he has in his past relating to his family. James Kevin McGuinness’ script is structured to play into Lt. Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) as he tries to balance between family and duty as the first act is him dealing with his son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.) being enlisted as he doesn’t give him any special treatment as well as the arrival of his estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O’Hara) whom he’s still in love with.

The second act revolves around Lt. Colonel Yorke’s attempt to balance duty and family while going on a small mission to the Rio Grande to meet with Mexican officers as Kathleen gets some unneeded reminders of her old home in the form of Major Sgt. Quincannon (Victor McLaglen) who is a friend of Lt. Col. Yorke. There’s a subplot involving a recruit named Tyree (Ben Johnson) who is rumored to be a fugitive as he tries to hide from a marshal as he would help Jeff go through training. The film’s third act revolves around a mission about getting the settlers to a fort where a lot happens but it also shows what kind of man Lt. Col. Yorke does as well as how his son is willing to prove himself to his father.

John Ford’s direction is definitely evocative for its usage of the wide and medium shots to capture much of the film’s location set in Monument Valley in Utah for many of the scenes set in the deserts along with some locations set in the town of Moab, Utah and areas near the Colorado River. Many of it play into the expansion of the West but also the unrest that is looming where Lt. Col. Yorke has to try and keep things civilized. The direction also has Ford creating a lot of these gorgeous images with the mountains and such as beautiful backdrops while he would create some intimate moments in the scenes at the fort involving Lt. Col. Yorke and his wife with some medium shots but also some close-ups. There are also moments where there are musical performances including a scene where musicians play for Kathleen as well as a general visiting the fort as well as a few comedic moments provided by Major Sgt. Quincannon. The climatic raid in the third act is definitely thrilling not just for Ford’s usage of dolly and tracking shots to capture the chase but also in creating a sense of urgency into the action. There is some suspense as it relates to what is needed to do but also a sense of what is happening where Ford knows how to shoot the action and make it mean something. Overall, Ford creates a fascinating and gripping film about a cavalry officer’s attempt to find balance in his role as a soldier and as a man.

Cinematographer Bert Glennon does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from its usage of low-key lights and shadows for some of the film‘s nighttime interior/exterior scenes to the gorgeous look of the daytime exteriors to capture some of the film‘s locations. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the action. Art director Frank Hotaling, with set decorators John McCarthy Jr. and Charles S. Thompson, does fantastic work with the look of the fort as well as the tents and wagons used in the film.

Costume designer Adele Palmer does nice work with the look of some of the uniforms as well as the dresses that Kathleen wears. The sound work of Earl Crain Sr. and Howard Wilson is superb for its naturalistic approach to the sound in the locations as well as in the music as well as some sound effects for the gunfire and arrows. The film’s music by Victor Young is wonderful for its orchestral score that can be serene for the dramatic moments to bombastic with its action scenes as the music also includes traditional songs performed by Sons of the Pioneers who appear in the film as regimental singers.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Karolyn Grimes as a young girl Major Sgt. Quincannon is fond of, Peter Ortiz and Steve Pendleton as a couple of captains aiding Lt. Col. Yorke, and Grant Withers as a marshal trying to find Tyree. J. Carrol Naish is terrific as General Philip Sheridan who makes a visit in the film’s second half as he would give Lt. Col. Yorke a major assignment while Chill Wills is fantastic as Dr. Wilkins who is the regiment’s surgeon that often provides some wise ideas. Victor McLaglen is excellent as Major Sgt. Quincannon as the film’s comic relief of sorts who likes to drink but also try to deal with what he did years ago that has gained him the ire of Kathleen Yorke.

Claude Jarman Jr. is superb as Lt. Col. Yorke’s son Jeff as a young recruit who tries to find his role in the military as well as trying to be himself without the need to impress his father whom he never saw for 15 years. Harry Carey Jr. is brilliant as Daniel “Sandy” Boone as a trooper who helps Jeff in learning the ropes while being a bit comical himself while Ben Johnson is amazing as the trooper Tyree as someone that is good with horses yet is hiding a secret as he is pursued by a marshal. Maureen O’Hara is great as Kathleen Yorke as Lt. Col. Yorke’s estranged wife who arrives to the fort to pull Jeff out only to find herself falling for her husband all over again but struggle with his duty as a soldier as it’s one of O’Hara’s finest performances. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a phenomenal performance as Lt. Colonel Kirby Yorke as this cavalry officer trying to do his job while becoming uneasy about having his son enlist as a cavalry trooper and becoming more uneasy with the presence of his wife where finds himself trying to balance being a soldier and be a good man as it’s Wayne in one of his defining roles.

Rio Grande is a remarkable film from John Ford that features amazing performances from John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. The film isn’t just a unique look into the world of the cavalry but also a look into a man trying to find balance in his role as a soldier and as a man. In the end, Rio Grande is a sublimely rich film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Based on the stories The Big Hunt and War Party for the Saturday Evening Post magazines by James Warner Bellah, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is the story of a cavalry officer trying to prevent a war with the Indians just days away from his impending retirement. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Frank S. Nugent and Laurence Stallings, the film is the second part of Ford’s trilogy of films devoted to the cavalry where a man tries to deal with another war with the Indians as well as aging. Starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. and narration by Irving Pichel. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a dazzling and exhilarating film from John Ford.

Set in 1876 in the desert just days after the Battle of Little Big Horn where General George A. Custer and more than 200 men were killed by Sioux and Cheyenne Indian tribes. The film revolves around a cavalry officer who is a week away from retirement as he has a final mission to do while getting his officers ready to lead. It’s a film that plays into a man dealing with these last days in service as he also has to watch out for a young woman joining the mission to go into this fort to aid another regiment in breaking up a squadron of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and send them back to their reservations. The film’s screenplay doesn’t just play with Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) dealing with retirement but also wanting to have a final moment of glory in his final days of service. It is also about the mission in hand as Cpt. Brittle is reluctant to accompany his superior’s wife Abby Alshard (Mildred Natwick) and their niece Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru).

The script also have a few subplots as it relates to a couple of lieutenants vying for Olivia’s affections while it adds some punch to the story where Cpt. Brittle is trying to smooth things but also watch Olivia closely as if she was his daughter. While Cpt. Brittle is a man of duty, he also knows what to do and how to keep everyone from harm. The script also play into this world that is changing as tribes the cavalry are dealing with are young men that really have a disdain for the rule of the cavalry and the white man. It’s something Cpt. Brittle and a few of his officers understand yet they know they have to deal with it anyway they can as there is a key moment in the film’s second half that play into that world that Cpt. Brittle is facing. Even as it shows that he has to accept the way things are and that he might not be part of this new world.

John Ford’s direction is definitely intoxicating not just for the usage of wide shots to play into many of the film’s locations at Monument Valley in Utah but also in creating something that play into the grandness of the American West. The usage of the wide and medium shots for its depth of field as well as play into some of the scenery and the largeness of the cavalry regiment says a lot of what Ford wanted to do visually. There is also an intimacy in the direction with its medium shots as it plays into some of the relationships that are happening with Cpt. Brittle trying to make sense of everything as well as do whatever he can to do his duty and get everyone in check. There aren’t a lot of close-ups but Ford does know how to create something simple while also adding some humor as it relates to Cpt. Brittle’s friendship with Sgt. Quincannon (Victor McLaglen). The action sequences are thrilling in the way Ford would know how to film the action as well as create a lot of shots to get the scope of what is happening. Even as it play into the climax where Cpt. Brittle and his men would do something drastic to chase away the Indians. Overall, Ford creates a riveting yet witty film about a cavalry officer embarking on one last mission before his retirement.

Cinematographer Winton Hoch does brilliant work with the film‘s gorgeous cinematography with its usage of the Technicolor film stock to capture the beauty of the locations for many of the scenes set in the day to some usage of low-key lighting for scenes set at night as well as some of its interior scenes. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as a lot of it is straightforward with some stylish usage of dissolves and rhythmic cuts for the action scenes. Art director James Basevi and set decorator Joseph Kish do fantastic work with the look of the fort that many of the character live in as well as a reservation that Cpt. Brittle goes to late in the film. The sound work of Clem Portman and Frank Webster is terrific for some of the naturalistic sounds that happen in the location as well as some sound effects for some of the action. The film’s music by Richard Hageman is superb for its bombastic score with its Indian-inspired percussions as well as the usage of bugles and broad string arrangements along with a traditional song that is the inspiration for the film’s title.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Noble Johnson as a famous warrior known as Red Shirt, Chief John Big Tree as an old Indian friend of Cpt. Brittle in Pony-That-Walks, Francis Ford as a barman, Chief White Eagle as a tribe leader in Chief Sky Eagle, Michael Dugan as Sgt. Hochenbauer, and Arthur Shields as the regiment’s surgeon Dr. O’Laughlin. George O’Brien is terrific in his role as Cpt. Brittle’s superior/friend Major Allshard as a man who tries to give Cpt. Brittle a fitting and final assignment while Mildred Natwick is wonderful as Allshard’s wife Abbey who goes to the mission to see some friends as she would eventually help out as a nurse tending to the wounded. Victor McLaglen is fantastic as Sgt. Quincannon as a longtime friend of Cpt. Brittle who had fought with him for years as he is also due to retire where he provides some comedic dialogue as well as be given a very funny sequence.

Harry Carey Jr. is excellent as 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell as Olivia’s boyfriend who finds himself sparing against his superior Lt. Cohill for her affections. Ben Johnson is brilliant as Sgt. Tyree who is Cpt. Brittle’s right-hand man who helps look into the areas that is happening as well as help lead the cavalry into battle. John Agar is terrific as Lt. Flint Cohill as a young lieutenant that is groomed to be Cpt. Brittle’s replacement as he tries to deal with his ahead as well as his affections for Olivia. Joanne Dru is amazing as Olivia Dandridge as Major Allshard’s niece who joins the mission to go to another fort as she deals with the chaos of what Cpt. Brittle has to do but also the affections of two lieutenants. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a remarkable performance as Captain Nathan Brittle as this cavalry officer dealing with his retirement as he tries to embark on a final mission where it is Wayne not only displaying a larger-than-life presence but also a humility and sentimentality to a man dealing with not being what he’s meant to do as it is one of Wayne’s great performances.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a phenomenal film from John Ford that features an incredible performance from John Wayne. Featuring a fascinating script, beautiful locations, and a strong supporting cast, the film is definitely one of the finest collaborations between Ford and Wayne in its exploration of the American West and the world of the cavalry. In the end, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a sensational film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016 Blind Spot Series: Fort Apache

Based on the short story Massacre by James Warner Bellah, Fort Apache is the story of a cavalry officer who is asked to help his commander from preventing a war between the cavalry and the Native Americans during the Indian Wars. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, the film is the first of a trilogy of films devoted to the cavalry in the American West during the late 1800s where it explores two men with different views and tactics trying to work together to avoid conflict with the Native Americans. Starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Victor McLagen, Ward Bond, Pedro Armendariz, and John Agar. Fort Apache is a riveting and thrilling film from John Ford.

Set in the late 1800s after the American Civil War and during the Indian Wars between various Native American tribes and the American Cavalry. The film revolves around a lieutenant-colonel who arrives to Fort Apache to command a cavalry as he deals with his role as well as trying not to mess with a treaty involving the Apaches. Still, he finds himself having to deal with the way the fort is run as well as those trying to adhere to his rules where a captain finds himself at odds with his commanding officer but doesn’t want to stir trouble. It’s a film that isn’t just about two men who have different ideas of how to run things but also what to do from preventing a war. Especially as it relates to dealing with the Apache where Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) knows very little about while Captain Kirby York (John Wayne) is someone that sees the Apache as just people wanting to live in peace.

Frank S. Nugent’s screenplay doesn’t play into the conflict of ideologies in Lt. Col. Thursday and Cpt. York but also how would affect the way the fort is run as the latter is trying to play nice and not question the former. Among those living in the fort is Lt. Col. Thursday’s daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple) who takes a liking to the young Lieutenant Mickey O’Rourke (John Agar) whose father Sgt. Major Michael O’Rourke (Ward Bond) is a leader of the regiment that also includes men he fought with in the Civil War as part of the Irish Brigade. Lt. O’Rourke’s attraction towards Philadelphia makes her father uneasy not because he’s protective but also due to class prejudice that would eventually upset Sgt. Major O’Rourke at one point as he had tried to do what his superior officer had said much to the chagrin of some of his men. There is also some unique complexities to the characters where Lt. Col. Thursday is seen as egocentric and arrogant but is also a man that is aware of what he has to do despite his reluctance to lead this regiment.

The script also shows complexities in Captain York where despite being an officer that is often friendly with his fellow soldiers while sometimes having dinner with the O’Rourke family. He is still a man of duty and does what is asked without question where he does have to take the criticism of the men who revere him. When it comes to dealing with the Apache following an incident that left two soldiers killed as it relates to the actions of a corrupt agent in Meacham (Grant Withers). The ideologies of Captain York and Lt. Col. Thursday start to go at odds where the latter sees the Apache as savages while the former sees them as real people who don’t want conflict. The film’s third act is about this conflict between the cavalry and Apache where there is an air of respect when they meet before battle but it also show the flaws of Lt. Col. Thursday in dealing with someone like Cochise (Miguel Inclan) as Cpt. York made a deal with him as it also leads to the concept of honor which is something that starts to be questioned during the film’s climatic battle.

John Ford’s direction is truly mesmerizing for the way he captures the American West where he shoots the film largely at Monument Valley in Utah with some of the locations set in California. The locations definitely have a grand look to it as Ford takes advantage of the locations to play into its beauty as there’s a lot of depth of field in the wide and medium shots as well as creating compositions that are just gorgeous. The attention to detail in the wide shots from the way the clouds look above the desert to a wide shot of the entire regiment ready for battle with the wives looking on the balcony in the background. It’s all part of the world that Ford creates as it says a lot to what was happening in those times where it was this uneasy conflict where the American government tried to instill their own rules towards the natives as Lt. Col. Thursday is a representation of that ideology. There are these moments that are intimate as the first scene involving Cpt. York has him in a dance with the officers and soldiers along with their wives as it shows him as someone who is very open and friendly to the soldiers.

It’s a very interesting way in how Ford introduces a major character as opposed to Lt. Col. Thursday and his daughter as they’re introduced when they’re riding on a stagecoach on their way to Fort Apache. It’s among some of the intriguing moments in the film while Ford isn’t afraid to put some humor as it relates to some of the soldiers and how they found some whiskey that they’re supposed to get rid of. The film’s climatic moments involving the cavalry and the Apache are quite intense with its sprawling usage of the dolly tracking shots to capture the chases as well as the wide shots to play into the scope of these battle scenes. The way Ford was able to present the climax is nothing short of astonishing as it has a lot of what is happening but also destroy some of the mythical aspects that is the American West. Overall, Ford crafts an exhilarating and compelling film about two cavalry officers dealing with their different ideas of conflict while dealing with the Apache.

Cinematographer Archie Stout, with un-credited work from William H. Clothier, does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the beauty of the daytime exterior scenes as well as some unique lighting for some of the interiors set at night. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing with its usage of dissolves and fade-outs for structural reasons along with some rhythmic cutting for the action. Art director James Basevi does amazing work with the design of the fort as well as some of the houses and such in the desert to play into the look of the West. The sound work of Joseph I. Kane and Frank Webster is superb for some of the natural elements in the locations along with the way the bugles sound and some of the more broad elements in the action involving gunfire. The film’s music by Richard Hageman is fantastic for its bombastic orchestral score with its usage of string arrangements and brass section to play into some of the moments of action along with the usage of traditional music for some of the more intimate moments.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Irene Rich as Major Sgt. O’Rourke’s wife, Anna Lee as Captain Collinwood’s wife who knew Lt. Col. Thursday’s wife, Movita as Lt. Col. Thursday’s cook Guadalupe, Guy Kibbee as the surgeon Captain Wilkens, and Miguel Incan as the famed Apache warrior Cochise. Victor McLagen is terrific as Lt. O’Rourke’s godfather Sgt. Mulcahy who likes to drink and have fun as he doesn’t like Lt. Col. Thursday while Pedro Armendariz is superb as Sgt. Beaufort as a former Confederate who aids Captain York in talking with the Apache. Grant Withers is wonderful as the scheming agent Silas Meacham who had caused trouble with the Apache as he’s disliked by many though is protected by the government much to Cpt. York’s dismay.

George O’Brien is fantastic as Cpt. Sam Collinwood as an old friend of Lt. Col. Thursday who tries to deal with what his superior wants as well as making the move to transfer to another company. John Agar is pretty good as Lt. Mickey O’Rourke as a young lieutenant, who like Lt. Col. Thursday is a West Point graduate, who is trying to find his footing while falling for Philadelphia much to her father’s dismay. Ward Bond is excellent as Major Sgt. O’Rourke as Lt. O’Rourke’s father who was part of the revered Irish brigade during the Civil War as a man who is proud of his duty as a soldier only to find himself at odds with Lt. Col. Thursday over class. Shirley Temple is brilliant as Philadelphia Thursday as Lt. Col. Thursday’s daughter who falls for Lt. O’Rourke while trying to understand the ideas of duty as she is just fun to watch.

Henry Fonda is great as Lt. Col. Owen Thursday as this officer who is trying to do his duty and do everything he is asked where he is also arrogant in his ways as it’s a very chilling role from Fonda who intentionally plays a man that looks stiff in the way he looks and does things but it is one of his finest performances. Finally, there’s John Wayne in a phenomenal performance as Captain Kirby York as this man that has encountered and knows a lot about the Apache as he tries to help Lt. Col. Thursday every way he can while swallowing some of his pride to do his duty unless he knows something isn’t right as it’s Wayne at his best.

Fort Apache is a sensational film from John Ford that features top-notch performances from John Wayne and Henry Fonda. With a great script, a superb supporting cast, and gorgeous visuals, the film isn’t just one of Ford’s great westerns but also a study of ideologies and myths surrounding the American West. In the end, Fort Apache is a tremendous film from John Ford.

© thevoid99 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wild (2014 film)

Based on the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, Wild is the story of a troubled woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to cope with loss, her divorce, and other issues as a way to reflect on her life. Directed and co-edited by Jean-Marc Vallee and screenplay by Nick Hornby, the film is a look into a woman trying to find redemption as she takes on a major challenge as it’s a dramatic take on Strayed’s real-life story with Reese Witherspoon playing the role of Cheryl Strayed. Also starring Thomas Sadoski, Michael Huisman, Gaby Hoffman, and Laura Dern. Wild is an entrancing and riveting film from Jean-Marc Vallee.

The film revolves around Cheryl Strayed’s 94-day journey in hiking the Pacific Coast Trail as she deals with the death of her mother, a divorce, and her descent into drug addiction where she tries to find herself again. It’s a film that has a simple plot yet it is more about a woman trying to take this challenge after hitting bottom in her life as she reflects not just the passing of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) but also the events that lead to her own troubles as she nearly killed herself through addiction. Nick Hornby’s script has a back-and-forth reflective narrative where Strayed looks back in her life as she thinks about the life she had with her mother whom she adores but also how it fell apart when she died. During the course of her journey on the trail, Strayed deal with her inexperience as well as getting some of the wrong equipment and other challenges as it seemed like she wouldn’t succeed. Still, she finds a way while also thinking about her own faults as she does get packages from her ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski) during her stops on the trail.

Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction is mesmerizing not just for the fact that it was shot on location in the many spots of the Pacific Crest Trail but also create something that feels natural. Also shot in locations around California and Oregon, Vallee creates many of the flashback scenes with a sense of intimacy with its usage of close-ups and medium shots from Strayed’s time of happiness with her mother and the early years of her marriage to Paul as well as her descent into heroin addiction and promiscuous sex. The scenes set on the trail has Vallee using more wide shots to establish the locations while going for something that feels real as if the audience is along for the journey.

The usage of hand-held cameras, high and low angles as well as compositions that play into something real definitely adds some weight to what Strayed is encountering. Even as there are these moments that play into her own grief where she would see her mother or something that is symbolic. All of which play into a journey that a woman has to take in the need to move on in the next phase of her life. Overall, Vallee creates a fascinating yet evocative film about a woman taking on a personal journey to find herself again.

Cinematographer Yves Berlanger does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic and colorful look of the exterior locations in the trail along with some lighting for some scenes in the cities as well as some lights for some scenes at night including naturalistic lights on the trail. Editors Jean-Marc Vallee, in his John Mac McMurphy pseudonym, and Martin Pensa do excellent work with the editing with its stylish montages for some of Strayed‘s flashbacks as well as some jump-cuts and other cuts to play into the drama. Production designer John Paino, with set decorator Robert Covelman and art director Javiera Varas, does nice work with the look of the motels and places Strayed has been in as well as her family home with her mother and some of the places on the trail.

Costume designer Melissa Bruning does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with a lot of the look play into the period of the mid-90s which the film is set in. Visual effects supervisors Marc Cote and Jean-Francois Ferland does some fine work with the visual effects as it‘s mainly set dressing along with the design of a few animals that Strayed would encounter. Sound editors Mildred Iatrou and Ai-Ling Lee do superb work with the sound as it play into the natural elements of the locations as well as some of the textures of things that Strayed hears in the flashbacks. Music supervisor Susan Jacobs creates a fantastic soundtrack that features an array of music from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Paul McCartney & Wings, Leonard Cohen, the Shangri-Las, Free, Portishead, Billy Shaw, Lucinda Williams, the Hollies, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Methany Group, Elvis Presley, and Simon & Garfunkel.

The casting of David Rubin is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Art Alexakis of Everclear as a tattoo artist, Mo McRae as a reporter who mistakes Cheryl as a hobo, Cliff DeYoung as a man at a trail stop who helps Cheryl find the right equipment, Cathryn de Prume as a hiker who is also walking the trail that Cheryl befriends, Bobbi Lindstrom Strayed as the young Cheryl, Jason Newell as Cheryl’s alcoholic father in the flashbacks, W. Earl Brown as a construction worker who gives Cheryl a place to crash for a day, Jan Hoag as the construction worker’s wife, Ray Buckley as Cheryl’s junkie lover, and the real Cheryl Strayed as the woman who would drop Cheryl off at the beginning of the film. Other noteworthy small roles include Brian Van Holt as a park ranger who lets Cheryl get her package late in the film, Michael Huisman as a man Cheryl meets and sleeps with in Oregon during a stop late in the trail, and Kevin Rankin as a fellow hiker who is also on the trail that helps Cheryl find her way.

Gaby Hoffmann is superb as Cheryl’s friend Aimee who would be one of the few that Cheryl would contact during her trail as well as be the one to call her out in the flashbacks on her self-destructive behavior. Keene McRae is terrific as Cheryl’s younger brother Leif who is seen in flashbacks as someone who has a hard time losing his mother as he often couldn’t face it while having to do something that would add more pain to him and Cheryl. Thomas Sadoski is excellent as Cheryl’s ex-husband Paul who is seen as a bitter man that was mistreated in the flashbacks only to become someone reluctant to help Cheryl out in sending packages. Laura Dern is incredible as Cheryl’s mother Bobbi as a free-spirited woman who is the one person that Cheryl treasures more than anyone until she becomes ill as she would be a spirit to help her daughter. Finally, there’s Reese Witherspoon in a phenomenal performance as Cheryl Strayed as a troubled woman whose descent into addiction and self-destruction would force her to make a change by taking the challenge of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon’s performance is definitely a marvel to watch in the way she struggles with her inexperience in camping but also present a physicality and drive that is key to the performance as it is one of Witherspoon’s finest achievements.

Wild is a remarkable film from Jean-Marc Vallee that features great performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. It’s a film that isn’t just about a woman taking on a major challenge but it’s also a film that explores a woman dealing with grief and disappointment as she tries to find redemption in her journey. In the end, Wild is a sensational film from Jean-Marc Vallee.

Jean-Marc Vallee Films: (Black List) - (Los Locos) - (Loser Love) - (C.R.A.Z.Y.) - (The Young Victoria) - (Café de Flore) - Dallas Buyers Club - (Demolition (2015 film))

© thevoid99 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Smokey and the Bandit Part 3

Directed by Dick Lowry and written by Stuart Birnbaum and David Dashey, Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 is the third and final film of the Smokey and the Bandit series in which Buford T. Justice is asked to transport a large shipment for the Burdettes for a large sum of money where he finds himself having to compete with the Snowman who has become the new Bandit. The film is another rehash of the previous films but this time has Smokey sort of becoming the Bandit as Jackie Gleason reprises his role as Justice with Jerry Reed playing the Snowman who becomes the new Bandit. Also starring Paul Williams, Paul McCormick, Colleen Camp, and Mike Henry as Junior Justice. Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 is a messy and uninspired film from Dick Lowry.

The film revolves around Buford T. Justice being asked to carry a plastic shark on his car by the Burdettes for $250,000 to drive from Florida to Texas to promote their new fish-and-chips eatery. It’s a task Justice will do as he becomes unsatisfied with retirement as he brings along his dim-witted son Junior for the ride yet they’re unaware that the Burdettes are doing whatever they can to make sure Justice doesn’t succeed as they bring in the Snowman to play the Bandit who is later joined by a bookkeeper at a used car shop named Dusty (Colleen Camp) who also goes for the ride. It’s a film that is essentially a rehash of its predecessors where there’s a lot of chases and hilarity yet the screenwriters never bring anything new as the jokes aren’t funny and some of the situations are just downright silly. Though Justice remains the most interesting character in the story, everyone else is just the same while the Snowman as the Bandit is just lazy as he never brings anything new to the story either.

Dick Lowry’s direction does start off nicely with this parody of sorts of Patton where Justice is announcing his retirement in a ceremony as is quite lavish but also funny as it would lead to a montage of Justice’s attempt at retirement. After that, the film goes downhill where it does become this very long chase film with very little breaks in the action as there’s a lot of silliness involving Big and Little Enos Burdette (Pat McCormick and Paul Williams, respectively) in their attempts to foil Justice so that he loses the best and Little Enos gets Justice’s badge as a belt buckle. While it is largely shot in Florida, the film never does enough to establish a sense of location while many of the shots never do anything visually as Lowry is more about action and more action and how silly can some of the destruction can get. Even as the chases become ponderous and almost nonsensical while some of the shenanigans get more ridiculous. Overall, Lowry just creates a film that never does anything new as well as remind audiences of the glory of its predecessors.

Cinematographer James Pergola does nice work with the cinematography as it is colorful to play into the locations though it is clear that there is a different look in the way Snowman is presented as well as Justice which does show that there were some re-shoots. Editors David E. Blewitt, Byron “Buzz” Brandt, and Christopher Greenbury do OK work with the editing as it has a few inspiring moments but relies too much on fast-cuts for much of the chase and action where it becomes nonsensical. Art director Ron Hobbs and set decorator Don K. Levy do some fine work with the look of motel that many of the characters would go to along with the Burdettes‘ home. Costume designer Linda Benedict-Pierce does terrific work with the costumes from the stylish clothes of the Burdettes to the look of the Bandit. Sound editor John Stacy does superb work with the sound in the way the cars sound and all of that stuff. The film’s music by Larry Cansler is just bland as it is largely a country-inspired soundtrack with songs from Lee Greenwood, Ed Bruce, John Stewart, and Bill Summers as it is just exposition and rehashes of other songs.

The film’s cast feature a few notable appearances from Sharon Anderson as a policewoman trying to bust Justice, Raymond Bouchard as an eager sheriff trying to catch the Bandit, and Faith Minton as a nymphomaniac who falls for Justice as they’re just small but silly performances. Pat McCormick and Paul Williams in their respective roles as the father-son duo Big and Little Enos Burdette were good in small doses but their appearances become grating in the film while Mike Henry’s performance as Junior Justice is just more idiotic as it’s just unbearable to watch. Colleen Camp is alright as Dusty as a woman who joins Cledus for the ride where she’s not given much to do as she’s just a passenger.

Jerry Reed is terrific as Cledus aka the Snowman who becomes the Bandit as it has his moments but Reed is never given the chance to do a lot but pretend to be the Bandit. Finally, there’s Jackie Gleason in an excellent performance as Buford T. Justice aka Smokey as the sheriff who is given a chance to go on a final ride and keep his badge while coping with the downside of retirement as Gleason is the best thing in the film knowing how to be funny.

Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 is a terrible film from Dick Lowry. Despite Jackie Gleason’s enjoyable performance, the film is just a lazy rehash of its predecessors where nothing new is brought to the table while characters who were good in small doses become bigger for no good reason. In the end, Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 is just a horrible film from Dick Lowry.

Related: Smokey and the Bandit - Smokey and the Bandit II

© thevoid99 2016