Saturday, December 20, 2014

Little Buddha

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and screenplay by Rudy Wurlitzer and Mark Peploe from a story by Bertolucci, Little Buddha is the story of a young American boy who is believed to be the reincarnated version of a legendary Buddhist mystic as the boy goes on a journey to learn about the Buddhist whom he might have been in a previous life. The film is a mixture of spirituality with elements of fantasy all from the perspective of a child who learns about the man he is believed to be in another life. Starring Keanu Reeves, Chris Isaak, Bridget Fonda, Alex Wiesendanger, and Ruocheng Ying. Little Buddha is a visually-striking but uneven film from Bernardo Bertolucci.

The film revolves around a young American boy who is believed to be the reincarnation of a mystical Buddhist legend as he asked to go to Tibet with a monk as the boy’s father joins them. While the boy learns about the story of this mystic who was called Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves), he is intrigued by the idea of being connected to the world of Buddhism though his father isn’t so sure until the death of colleague forces him to accompany the boy to Nepal. It’s a film that has a unique premise with a narrative that parallel the journey of this boy named Jesse (Alex Wiesendanger) and Siddhartha. While it is an interesting idea, the result through the film’s script is unfortunately underwhelming as well as very uneven.

Notably as many of the supporting characters aren’t as fleshed out as aspects in the development of Jesse’s father Dean (Chris Isaak) feels abrupt when he goes from being dismissive and then goes on the journey due to a friend’s death. Things in the third act do become clunky when it is learned that two other children are considered candidates for the reincarnation of Siddhartha as one of the kids comes out as very smug. While there are elements in this story that are compelling in the way it plays into Siddhartha’s legend and his search for enlightenment. It tends to overshadow the story that involves Jesse as his story is too lightweight to really keep things engaging despite these themes on spirituality.

Bernardo Bertolucci’s direction definitely has a lot of entrancing moments in the way he films various locations in Nepal as well as Seattle as he creates something that has an air of beauty and mysticism. Bertolucci’s usage of wide shots definitely capture the wondrous world of Bhutan and some of the locations in Nepal as it has this very otherworldly feel. Even in the sequence involving Siddhartha as it has this air of mysticism where Bertolucci does inject a lot of strange images that play into Siddhartha’s development as a mythical figure and how he would become influential. Bertolucci’s approach to the scenes in Seattle and in Jesse’s story are intimate where there are some lively and fun moments. Yet, they don’t hold up to the story involving Siddhartha as the attempt for the two stories to collide in a strange sequence comes off as very silly. Though the story does end on a somewhat somber note, it does have a nice payoff though it isn’t able to live up to the messiness of the film. Overall, Bertolucci creates an interesting but very flat and underwhelming film about a boy discovering the world of Buddhism.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and stylish cinematography with its use of very sunny and exotic red-orange color schemes for the scenes set in Nepal while going for blue filters in the scenes set in Seattle with some unique lighting set-ups as it‘s a major highlight of the film. Editor Pierto Scalia does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts including a few montages to play into the Siddhartha story. Production/costume designer James Acheson, with supervising art director Andrew Sanders and set decorators Bruno Cesari and Manohar Shrestha, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Jesse lives in as well as the Buddhist temple in Seattle and temple in Bhutan while the costumes are casual with the exception of the robes the monks wear.

Computer effects supervisor Val Wardlaw does some decent work with the visual effects to play into some of the things that involve Siddhartha in his development as well as things in his search for enlightenment. Sound editor Eddy Joseph does nice work with the sound as it plays into some of the air of mysticism in Siddhartha‘s surroundings as well as the layers of sound for the scenes in Seattle. The film’s music by Ryuichi Sakamoto is amazing for its mixture of broad and lush orchestral arrangements that is mixed in with Eastern music from strings and Indian music to play into the sense of mysticism.

The casting by Howard Feuer, Priscilla John, and Fabrizio Sergenti Castellani is terrific as it features a well-rounded ensemble as it includes some notable small roles from Jo Champa as Jesse‘s nanny Maria, Sogyal Rinpoche as the young monk Kenpo, and Geshe Tsultim Gyelsen as the teacher of the old monk. Raju Lal is terrific as the Nepalese boy Raju who displays a sense of innocence and exuberance that appeals to Jesse while Greishma Makar Singh is OK but very un-likeable as the third candidate Gita as she is a character that is very arrogant as there aren’t many qualities about her that takes her character seriously. Alex Wiesendanger is fantastic as Jesse as this young boy who is believed to be a reincarnated Buddhist figure as he is a very lively child that is excited but also intrigued by the story of Siddhartha.

Ruocheng Ying is excellent as the monk Lama Norbu as a man who has been searching for the reincarnated figure of his mentor as he thinks it’s Jesse as he is this wise and calm individual that had seen a lot about the world. Chris Isaak is decent as Jesse’s father Dean as a man who is unsure about the news on Jesse until the death of a friend forces him to go into a journey where Isaak has some moments but the way his character is written is very messy. Bridget Fonda is wonderful as Jesse’s mother Lisa who is intrigued about the idea of Jesse being a reincarnated figure as she displays a warmth and charm to her performance yet ends up being underused as she is sorely missed in the film’s second half. Finally, there’s Keanu Reeves in a superb performance as Siddhartha as this figure that comes to term with his identity and his powers as Reeves manages to make his character quite engaging despite his issues with his accent and the ridiculous amount of makeup he had to wear.

Little Buddha is a captivating but very lackluster film from Bernardo Bertolucci. Despite some interesting ideas on the concept of Buddhism and reincarnation, it’s a film that has a lot to say but ends up being underwhelming as well as very uneven due to two different storylines that isn’t able to mesh as one. In the end, Little Buddha is a very disappointing and messy film from Bernardo Bertolucci.

Bernardo Bertolucci Films: (La Commare Secca) - (Before the Revolution) - (Partners) - (The Spider’s Stratagem) - The Conformist - Last Tango in Paris - 1900 - (La Luna) - (Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man) - (The Last Emperor) - The Sheltering Sky - Stealing Beauty - (Besieged) - The Dreamers - (Me & You)

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Two Days, One Night

Written and directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night) is the story of a woman who is trying to keep her job as she spends the weekend trying to convince various co-workers to forgo their bonuses so she can keep her job following a period of absence due to depression. The film is another tale of the Dardenne Brothers and their outlook into the world of the working class as a woman is trying to get back to work as she learns she could be out of the job because of her absence. Starring Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, and Olivier Gourmet. Deux jours, une nuit is a mesmerizing yet powerful film from the Dardenne Brothers.

After being absent from her work due to depression, a woman learns she has to convince 16 of her co-workers at a factory to forgo their bonuses so she can keep her job. Yet, she faces an uphill battle as she is aware that not everyone can give up their bonuses as she struggles with the idea of losing her job that she needs to support her family. It’s a film that plays into a sense of struggle where this woman, who is a mother of two and a husband who is already working, as she wants to get back to work. For Sandra (Marion Cotillard), she is already teetering on the edge as she is constantly crying as she’s trying not to gain pity for what has happened to her as she meets with her co-workers in convincing them to forgo their bonuses.

While many are sympathetic, some aren’t able to let go of the bonuses as they needed it. The film’s screenplay is aware of the sense of conflict that looms in Sandra as she doesn’t want to gain the ire of her co-workers. Plus, she would question into whether she’s well enough to work due to her struggle with depression. Though she has the full support of her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) who would drive her to the houses during the weekend when he’s not working. She would raise question about their marriage as she starts to unravel as the story progresses yet for those who say yes to her do give her a bit of hope but others are reluctant which she does understand as she admits to doing the same if she was in their shoes.

The direction of the Dardenne Brothers does have an air of simplicity, which is typical of their work, yet is very vibrant in the way it plays into the struggles of a woman during a weekend. Notably as it’s shot entirely on location in the industrial section of Seraing in Liege in Belgium where it is a character in the film. While much of the film is shot with hand-held cameras, there is a smoothness to the way the camera moves in scenes set inside a car as well as in the way the camera moves around in locations in the streets. Even as it is constantly following Sandra as she is trekking from one home to another to talk to co-workers in convincing them to let her keep her job. The sense of intimacy in the Dardenne Brothers’ approach to close-ups and medium shots play into Sandra’s struggle as there’s scenes of her crying as they often keep the camera afar to not get too close.

The direction also plays into how restrained the drama is as there’s very little moments of outbursts and intensity as those moments add to the weight of guilt that looms into Sandra’s already troubled state of mind. Even as she faces rejection where the Dardennes aren’t interested in creating people who are heroes and villains but just people who mean well but have needs. Time also plays an impact to the story as much it is set on two days and one night before the weekend ends where all of Sandra’s co-workers have to vote about keeping their bonuses or have Sandra keep their job as that Monday is the film’s climax. Yet, it’s aftermath is more about what will happen to Sandra and what will happen to her on the next day as it is clear that that the outcome of the vote wouldn’t make anything easier nor happier but it does indicate that Sandra at least did put up a fight to save her livelihood. Overall, the Dardenne Brothers create a rapturous film about a woman struggling to regain her job in the course of a weekend.

Cinematographer Alain Marcoen does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as he maintains a very sunny and colorful look of the locations while keeping things low-key in some of the interiors in Sandra’s home with its natural lighting. Editor Marie-Helene Dozo does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into the intensity of Sandra‘s struggle. Production designer Igor Gabriel does fantastic work with a few of the set pieces such as the home that Sandra, Manu, and their children live in as it is a very simple home. Costume designer Maira Ramedhan Levi does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual while the pink shirt that Sandra wears is a standout as it plays to its look. Sound editor Benoit De Clerck does terrific work with the sound as it’s very low-key but also very natural for the way things sound on location including the music that is played on the car radio such as Petula Clark and Them.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Batiste Sornin as Sandra’s boss, Simon Caudry and Pili Groyne as Sandra and Manu’s children, Catherine Salee as Sandra’s co-worker and friend Juliette, Christelle Cornill as another co-worker of Sandra in Anne who helps her in the film’s third act, Serge Koto as an immigrant co-worker who is worried about the impact of the vote, and Olivier Gourmet as the factory foreman who is the one that created the decision into whether giving Sandra her job back. Fabrizio Rongione is amazing as Sandra’s husband Manu who tries to help her every way he can as he is aware of her very depressed state and knows that his job isn’t enough to help them financially.

Finally, there’s Marion Cotillard in an absolutely phenomenal performance as Sandra as it’s Cotillard at her most raw where she isn’t being glamorous. Instead, she brings that sense of realism of a woman struggling to keep her job and her sanity as she is also dealing with depression as it’s just mesmerizing to watch as Cotillard brings that weight of despair into one her best performance so far.

Deux jours, une nuit is a tremendously rich and captivating film from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne that features a radiantly powerful performance from Marion Cotillard. Not only is the film one of their most accessible but also a very universal film that plays into a woman’s struggle to get her job back. Even as she is coping with her own depression as she knows that not everyone is on board to give her job back with very understandable reasons. In the end, Deux jours, une nuit is a truly outstanding film from the Dardenne Brothers.

Dardenne Brothers Films: (Falsch) - (I Think of You) - La Promesse - Rosetta - Le Fils - L'Enfant - Lorna's Silence - The Kid with a Bike

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Saving Private Ryan

Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, Saving Private Ryan is the story of an Army captain and his squad who trek through World War II-era France to find a lost paratrooper as he is the last-surviving brother of a group of servicemen. The film is a World War II story where a man and his team trek through treacherous battlefields and events to get a young man back home during a very tense moment during the war. Starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Vin Diesel, Jeremy Davies, Giovanni Ribisi, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, and Matt Damon as Private James Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is a thrilling yet visceral film from Steven Spielberg.

The film is a simple story set in World War II in France in the aftermath of D-Day where an Army captain is assigned to retrieve a young private whose brothers had already been killed as he is to return home. Joined by his squad, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) treks through war-torn France to find Private James Ryan as they travel by foot. During this treacherous journey, the men endure many chilling events as well as false discoveries where they would eventually find Private Ryan who is bewildered into why he has to go home and not everyone else. Robert Rodat’s screenplay definitely plays into the scary themes of war and the sacrifices men make as Captain Miller and his men are just normal men that also want to go home but know they have a duty to their country. Even as not everyone is on board to sacrifice their lives to bring one man home as does Captain Miller but knows he has a duty to get Private Ryan home.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t start off with the actual story but opens with a present-day scene of an old man (Harrison Young) in modern-day France as he looks into the Normandy American Cemetery Memorial as it would then shift to the actual battle that Captain Miller and his squad were fighting in. The main story comes in when Captain Miller is asked by his superior in Lt. Col. Anderson (Dennis Farina) to retrieve Pvt. Ryan after three of his older brothers had been killed in different parts of the war as the orders are from General George C. Marshall (Harve Presnell). Though it’s a big deal, Captain Miller takes the mission with his small squad as it would include a newcomer in Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies) who is an accomplished interpreter but lacks combat experience as he is treated with some disdain by the squad he joins in because of his inexperience. Still, they all have to work together as they would encounter some horrible moments in battle as they would fight Germans through dark parts of France where not everyone is able to cope with.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is definitely intense in terms of his depiction of the battles and war scenes. Though it does start off in a somber manner, it then shifts into what is truly one of the most visceral sequences ever that is the battle at Omaha Beach in Normandy where Captain Miller and various soldiers go into battle. It’s 23 minutes that is definitely uneasy to watch as it is war at its most horrific as Spielberg definitely makes no qualms into how gruesome it is in terms of the impact of its violence. One of the aspects of the film that is interesting is how he is able to shift tones into one sequence into another yet maintain a balance as he does shoot many scenes in very different ways. The scenes of war and engagement are shot with hand-held cameras and frenetic cuts to play into its sense of terror and uncertainty. Spielberg’s usage of close-ups and wide shots into that sequence and other moments of battles with some slanted camera angles definitely add something that feels real where it does imply that war is indeed hell. While much of the film is shot partially in Normandy, much of the battle scenes including the Omaha Beach sequence were shot in Ireland yet Spielberg does manage to make it feel like it’s the actual battle.

While it is a war film, Spielberg does balance that aspect of war’s horror with elements of sentimentality as it plays to what is at stake in Captain Miller’s mission. Notably as Spielberg isn’t afraid to create something intimate whether it’s scenes set in the U.S. involving Private Ryan and his family to the moments where Captain Miller and his squad are walking through France. Spielberg’s approach to close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots definitely add to this feeling that it’s a film about brothers but men who are willing to put their lives for one another. Even as that bond becomes intense in its third act where the men eventually find Private Ryan who is also trying to do his own duty in this band of brothers as he and Captain Miller would have to work together to fight against the German in a climatic battle. Overall, Spielberg creates a very exhilarating yet rapturous film about war and a man trying to fight for his life to bring a young man back home.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography as Kaminski brings a desaturated look to its colors from its very harrowing Omaha Beach sequence to some striking lighting for some nighttime interior scenes where the men rest during their journey to find Private Ryan. Editor Michael Kahn does phenomenal work with the film‘s editing with its frenetic approach to cutting for some of the battle scenes including the Omaha sequence as well as some more methodical and straightforward cuts for the dramatic moments including a montage which plays into the decision to bring Private Ryan home. Production designer Thomas E. Sanders, with set decorator Lisa Dean and supervising art director Daniel Dorrance, does brilliant work with the look of destroyed buildings in France as well as the battle trenches for the Omaha Beach sequence. Costume designer Joanna Johnston does excellent work with the costumes from the design of the uniforms as well as the officer uniforms for the scenes in the U.S.

Makeup work by Lois Burwell, Conor O’Sullivan, and Daniel C. Striepeke do amazing work with the look of war in terms of its chaos where soldiers would lose limbs or have major wounds to play into its horror. Visual effects supervisors Stefen Fangmeier and Roger Guyett do fantastic work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects in terms of the battle sequences including the very gruesome look of the Omaha Beach sequence. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom and sound editor Richard Hymns do spectacular work with the film‘s sound to create that horrific atmosphere of war from the sound of gunfire, cannons, and grenades to play into its chaos while going for more low-key sound effects in the non-battle scenes. The film’s music by John Williams is superb for its triumphant yet melancholic score as it features some lush string arrangements as well as drum cadences to play into the sense of war and duty as it’s one of his finest scores.

The casting by Denise Chamain is wonderful as it features notable small roles from Amanda Boxer as Pvt. Ryan’s mother, Dale Dye and Bryan Cranston as two officers from the war department, Harve Presnell as General George C. Marshall, Joerg Stadler as a German soldier the men would capture whom Cpl. Upham would converse with, Leland Orser as a glider pilot Miller meets during his journey, and Nathan Fillion as a young soldier who also has the same surname in Ryan. Other noteworthy small roles include Dennis Farina as Captain Miller’s superior in Lt. Col. Anderson and Ted Danson as a captain whom Captain Miller meets during a battle as two men who understands the severity of what Captain Miller has to endure, Max Martini is terrific as a corporal in Ramelle that Pvt. Ryan fights with while Paul Giamatti in a funny performance as a staff sergeant who also fights in a battle as he complains about his feet. Harrison Young is excellent as the old man in the beginning of the film and Kathleen Byron is radiant as that old man’s wife.

Giovanni Ribisi is fantastic as the medic Wade who is trying to make sure all of his band of brothers stay alive as he has a great scene involving a mother he meets in a church. Vin Diesel is superb as Pvt. FC Carpazo as an Italian-American rifleman who looks tough and is quite funny but also display some sensitivity as he is someone that is loyal to his squad. Adam Goldberg is amazing as Jewish rifleman Private Mellish who takes Corporal Upham under his wing to show him what to do in battle as he also has some very big reasons to keep on fighting. Barry Pepper is brilliant as the sharpshooter Private Jackson who is a man of faith as he always prays before he shoots as he’s a skilled marksman that does whatever it takes to protect his band of brothers. Edward Burns is great as the cynical Pvt FC Reiben as he is a BAR gunner that isn’t happy about taking on the mission as he definitely gets the ire of Captain Miller yet does have some valid reasons into why they shouldn’t do the mission.

Tom Sizemore is incredible as Sergeant Horvath as Captain Miller’s second-in-command as someone who had been through all sorts of battle with a massive collection of dirt as he is seen by the squad as the older brother. Jeremy Davies is phenomenal as Cpl. Upham as an interpreter/cartographer who may outrank most of the squad but his inexperience in combat showcases someone who is scared of fighting as he copes with the horrors of being in the battlefield as it’s a really chilling performance of someone who displays the sense of fear in war. Matt Damon is marvelous as Private James Ryan as the young man Captain Miller and his squad had to retrieve as Damon displays some charm as well as a stubbornness as someone that wants to keep on fighting and do his duty as a soldier. Finally, there’s Tom Hanks in an outstanding performance as Captain Miller as this man who is tasked to bring a young private home as he copes with the severity of his mission and wonders if he will get to go home. Hanks also displays a sense of leadership in his role where he manages to be the big guy but also one that carries respect and cares for those in his squad as it’s one of his most iconic performances.

Saving Private Ryan is a magnificent film from Steven Spielberg. Armed with a great ensemble cast as well as some amazing technical achievements, the film is undoubtedly one of the finest war films ever created in terms of displaying its sense of duty and the fear of being in a war. It’s also a film that displays the concept of brotherhood as soldiers do whatever to fight for each other in a war. In the end, Saving Private Ryan is a triumphantly powerful and riveting film from Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg Films: (Duel (1971 film)) - (The Sugarland Express) - (Jaws) - (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) - (1941) - (Raiders of the Lost Ark) - (E.T. the Extraterrestrial) - (Twilight Zone: the Movie-Kick the Can) - (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) - (The Color Purple) - (Empire of the Sun) - (Always) - (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) - (Hook) - (Jurassic Park) - (Schindler’s List) - (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) - (Amistad) - (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) - (Minority Report) - (Catch Me If You Can) - (The Terminal) - (War of the Worlds (2005 film)) - (Munich) - (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) - (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) - (War Horse) - (Lincoln) - (The BFG)

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sexy Beast

Directed by Jonathan Glazer and screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto from a story by Andrew Michael Jolley, Sexy Beast is the story of a retired and reformed safe cracker who is asked to take on a job as a crime boss sends a sociopath who is willing to do whatever to get this man on board. The film is an exploration of a criminal trying to do good in his life until elements from his past returns including this man who uses words as weapons who tries to coax this safe cracker into doing the job. Starring Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, and Ben Kingsley as Don Logan. Sexy Beast is a stylish yet extremely dark film from Jonathan Glazer.

What happens when a former safe cracker is being coaxed out of his idyllic retirement by a man whose choice of weapons is his words as he scares the shit out of everyone by his presence alone? That is pretty much the premise of the film where a man named Gal Dove (Ray Winstone) is living an idyllic life in the middle of the deserts in Spain with his wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman) and some friends as it’s interrupted when he’s being asked to do a job for a crime boss in Teddy Bass (Ray Winstone) in breaking into a safe from a bank that is claimed to be impenetrable. Gal has no intentions in doing the job as Bass’ organizer Don Logan arrives to Spain to convince Gal in doing the job. Yet, Don Logan is a character that doesn’t take no for an answer as he spouts insults and all sorts of things to make those around him grovel and feel awful about themselves.

The film’s screenplay does contain a traditional narrative structure where its first 20 minute explore Gal’s idyllic life with his wife and their friends Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Jackie (Julianne White) as Gal has definitely put his past behind. That all changes where elements of surrealism start to appear to haunt Gal in his dreams as it would set the tone for Don Logan to arrive as the words that come out of his mouth are beyond obscene. The things Logan says about various people such as Jackie and DeeDee definitely can be described as misogynistic but that is just understating it. Racial slurs and all sorts of offensive things that are said are just small potatoes for Don Logan as he really goes into the core of a person and makes it small. As much as Gal refuses to do the job, he is continuously pushed by Don Logan who will get violent if he has to and he brings fear to everyone.

Jonathan Glazer’s direction is definitely filled with style in terms of not just his compositions but also the air of surrealism and images that he creates in the film. The film opens with a sense of style into the idyllic life of Gal as he’s sunbathing nearby his pool as a boulder nearly kills him and lands on the pool. It’s among these bits of eccentricities that Glazer would infuse as he is aware that he is making a film that is largely style over substance. Yet, it is presented with such care and coolness until news that Don Logan is coming to Spain as the tone of the film changes. Glazer’s compositions are quite striking in the way he puts Don Logan into a frame where he is at the center of attention while everyone else is at the edge of the frame during this tense and first meeting in Gal’s living room. Even a scene where a drink with Don Logan as he’s all by himself and everyone else is in the kitchen just goes to show the sense of discomfort everyone has. One wrong word on Don Logan is likely to get someone killed as Glazer’s direction also uses wide shots to play into that sense of fear and tension.

The scenes set in London also has a sense of style such a montage of Don Logan explaining the job to Gal. Notably in the way it explores the gritty tone of the British crime world as it is a total contrast to the idyllic life that Gal has in Spain. Glazer’s compositions are tighter to play into that grimy world as it includes this orgy scene that Teddy Bass is in as he meets the person who owns the bank he’s going to break into. It adds to the sense of drama that would loom over Gal as he is contemplating whether to do the job or not though he’s leaning more towards the latter due to the fact that he has no desire to return to the criminal world. Even as he has to contend with a force as nihilistic and as intimidating as Don Logan who is the judge, jury, and executioner for Gal whether he likes it or not. Overall, Glazer creates a very intoxicating yet terrifying film about a man who is pushed to the edge into doing another job by one of the scariest men walking on the face of the Earth.

Cinematographer Ivan Bird does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the sunny look of the daytime scenes in Spain to the array of stylish lights for the scenes set in night as well as a more low-key yet stylish look for the scenes in London. Editors John Scott and Sam Sneade, with additional work from Louis Melllis and David Scinto, do amazing work in the editing for it sense of style from its usage of jump-cuts, montages, and slow-motion cuts to play into some of the terror that lurks in the film as well as sense of peace Gal has before Don Logan‘s arrival. Production designer Jan Houllevigue and set decorator Jane Cooke does excellent work with the look of Gal‘s Spanish villa with its swimming pool as well as some of the places in London that is the exact opposite of the serenity of Gal‘s world.

Costume designer Louise Stjernsward does wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish dresses that DeeDee and Jackie wear to the very straight-laced clothes of Don Logan who looks like he means business. Visual effects supervisor Mark Nelmes does fantastic work with the visual effects from some of the elements of fantasy that plays into Gal‘s life as well as some of the darker moments that involve Don Logan. Sound editor Jeremy Price does terrific work with the sound to play into a sense of atmosphere in how voices are heard as well as in creating the sense of unease whenever Don Logan is in the room. The film’s music by Roque Banos is superb for its low-key yet Spanish-based score while most of the music score is driven by the electronic outfit UNKLE and the British group South with its bass-driven score as the soundtrack also includes music from Wayne Marshall, the Stranglers, Dean Martin, and Henry Mancini to convey that world of British crime.

The casting by Lucy Boulting is incredible as it features a few notable small roles from Darkie Smith as Bass’ associate Stan who tells Don Logan about the assignment, Alvaro Monje as the Spanish boy Enrique who often helps Gal out in his home, Julianne White as Aitch’s wife Jackie who once had a fling with Don Logan that she regrets having as she is uneasy around him, and James Fox as the bank manager Harry who shows Teddy Bass the vault through some very devious means. Cavan Kendall is excellent as Gal’s friend Aitch who is afraid of Don Logan as he knows about his wife’s past with the man as he tries to make him comfortable only to be chewed out by Don Logan. Amanda Redman is fantastic as Gal’s wife DeeDee as a former porn actress who has also reinvented herself as she is the one person that isn’t afraid of Don Logan as everyone else as she does manage to say a few things to him and get away with it.

Ian McShane is brilliant as Teddy Bass as a crime boss who has a job to break into a bank as he asks Don Logan to recruit the best as he is just as ruthless as his recruiter. Ray Winstone is amazing as Gal Dove as a former safecracker who just wants to live a decent life with no trouble as he politely tries to decline Don Logan’s offer only to be pushed to the edge into whether he should do the job or not. Finally, there’s Ben Kingsley in a performance for the ages as Don Logan as Kingsley’s performance is without question one of the scariest ever captured on film. Kingsley toes the line between aspects of dark humor and some of the most profane and vile usage of words as well as carry a presence that will make anyone uneasy as it’s a performance that is described as the anti-Gandhi which Kingsley was famous for nearly 20 years earlier.

Sexy Beast is a phenomenal film from Jonathan Glazer that features a truly unsettling and scary performance from Ben Kingsley. Along with great performances from Ian McShane and Ray Winstone as well as a cool soundtrack and awesome technical work. It’s a film that is infused with some style as well as a sense of terror brought by a man who refuses to take no for an answer as he’s like a dog that will get very dangerous if he bites. In the end, Sexy Beast is a spectacular film from Jonathan Glazer.

Jonathan Glazer Films: (Birth) - Under the Skin

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Frank (2014 film)

Based on the newspaper article Oh Blimey! by Jon Ronson, Frank is the story of a young wannabe musician who joins an avant-garde band whose singer who wears a big fake head. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and screenplay by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughn, the film is a fictionalized story about the cult artist Frank Sidebottom who was a persona of the late comedian Chris Sievey as the explores a young man joining this band as he is eager to succeed much to the ire of his bandmates as the titular character is played by Michael Fassbender. Also starring Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Carla Azar, Francois Civil, and Scoot McNairy. Frank is an offbeat but truly whimsical film from Lenny Abrahamson.

The film revolves a young wannabe musician who aspires to make musician where he joins this strange avant-garde band as its singer is a guy who wears a paper-mache head. For Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), he sees a chance to unleash his ideas as the vocalist Frank is inspired much to the chagrin of their bandmates including its theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Once Jon exposes their attempts to make music to the public which leads to a big gig at the South by Southwest festival, things would eventually unravel despite Frank’s enthusiasm to be seen by everyone. It’s a film that plays into the world of music and how some are just willing to play music for fun and not really care about fame and riches. Then there’s others like Jon who believes that people would want to hear the music and is willing to make it thinking he would succeed.

The film’s screenplay definitely plays into this conflict between the concept of fame and art as the script definitely display allusions into how some musical geniuses aren’t able to cope with being famous. Though Jon is a person with good intentions who joins the band by accident when their previous keyboard player tries to drown himself on a beach. He is a person that really wants to make it in the world of music as he has lots of ideas but Clara and other bandmates think it’s mediocre. Frank sees promise in Jon’s ideas as does the band’s manager Don (Scoot McNairy) though he warns Jon about using Frank’s genius to get himself ahead. It plays into this idea about these musical geniuses who are very gifted but extremely trouble as Frank is someone who never takes off his mask as it relates to ideas of mental illness. Even as the script features references to the real Chris Sievey as well as other eccentric but troubled geniuses as Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, and Syd Barrett.

Lenny Abrahamson’s direction has this strange mix of being very offbeat and whimsical but also has a sense of charm in its approach to humor and drama. Much of it plays into the idea of this band known as Soronprfbs as they’re very strange in not just their music but also in the fact that they have this singer and personalities who really can’t keep it together. Abrahamson’s presentation to the scenes set in England, Ireland, and parts of New Mexico and Austin, Texas are simple yet there is this energy that is just engaging to watch. Especially in a scene where Frank and the band are trying to create songs as Abrahamson maintains an intimacy in those scenes. Even in the close-ups to showcase some of the sense of passion in the music as well as the tension between Clara and Jon over Frank. The musical performances are quite lively as Abrahamson captures something that feels real but also chaotic as the film’s third act in the U.S. plays into that chaos. Especially in that sense of realism where playing a place like South by Southwest might not be for everyone as Frank’s enthusiasm might actually hide something far more drastic that Jon doesn’t seem to understand. Overall, Abrahamson creates a very captivating yet very witty film about a young musician who finds himself under the wing of an eccentric yet troubled musical genius.

Cinematographer James Mathers does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the low-key lighting for some of the nighttime scenes in Ireland to the sunny look of the scenes in the U.S. Editor Nathan Nugent does fantastic work with the editing as it has a sense of style with some jump-cuts and a few montage sequences to showcase the band in creative mode. Production designer Richard Bullock, along with set decorators Marcia Calosio and Jenny Oman and art directors Tamara Conboy and Kevin Pierce, does brilliant work with the look of the home in Ireland they would live in to record and create as well as the tour van and the places in America.

Costume designer Suzie Harman does terrific work with the costumes from some of the offbeat clothing that Clara wears as well as some of her bandmates while the look of Frank and Jon are much more straightforward. Frank head model Robert Allsop does amazing work with the design of the head and some of the things that the character needed. Visual effects supervisor Ed Bruce does nice work with the minimal visual effects that often involve crowd scenes at South by Southwest. Sound designer Steve Fanagan does superb work with the sound to capture the way some instruments are recorded as well as the level of noise in the music. The film’s music by Stephen Rennicks is incredible for its very light-hearted and offbeat score that features a lot of xylophones and keyboards while the original music of Soronprfbs is exhilarating and wild.

The casting by Fiona Weir is remarkable as it features some notable small roles from Hayley Derryberry and Lauren Poole as two fans of the group from South by Southwest, Rosalind Adler as a German mother that Frank charms in Ireland, and Shane O’Brien as the keyboard player that Jon would replace. Francois Civil is terrific as the band’s French bassist/guitarist Baraque who barely speaks a word of English while Carla Azar, of the experimental rock band Autolux, is superb as the very quiet drummer Nana. Scoot McNairy is excellent as the band’s manager Don as this man who is in awe of Frank but is also just as troubled as he represents the conflict of getting Frank exposure but also protecting him.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic as the band’s very fiery theremin/keyboard player Clara who is a real firecracker that is very protective of Frank as she despises Jon for putting Frank in danger. Domhnall Gleeson is brilliant as Jon as this well-meaning aspiring musician/songwriter that wants to create good music as he befriends Frank only to realize that his ambitions might be too much for Frank. Finally, there’s Michael Fassbender in a tremendous performance as the titular character as he spends the film wearing this big paper-mache mask as Fassbender’s voice and body language is really the heart of the performance as well as displaying the sense of torment and insecurities as someone that is gifted but very troubled.

Frank is a phenomenal film from Lenny Abrahamson that features an incredible performance from Michael Fassbender as the titular role plus strong supporting performances from Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It’s a strange yet endearing film that isn’t afraid to be weird but also display some of the most compelling aspects of mental illness as it relates to gifted but troubled geniuses. In the end, Frank is a sensational film from Lenny Abrahamson.

Lenny Abrahamson Films: (Adam & Paul) - (Garage (2007 film)) - (What Richard Did) - (Room (2015 film))

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Big (1988 film)

Directed by Penny Marshall and written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg, Big is the story of a 12-year old boy who wishes he would be big only to grow up into a 30-year old man as he copes with being an adult working for a toy company as well as having a girlfriend. The film is a magical tale where a boy grows up to be a man through a wish from a fortune teller machine as he would endure the idea of growing up too fast. Starring Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, John Heard, Jared Rushton, Mercedes Ruehl, David Moscow, Jon Lovitz, and Robert Loggia. Big is a charming and sensational film from Penny Marshall.

What happens when a young boy asks a fortune teller machine to be big where it comes true as he ends up being a 30-year old man? That is pretty much the premise of the film as it explores a boy coping with the idea of growing up and having to do things that adults are supposed to do. For Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks), he would get a job working for a toy company where his love for toys would have him rise up the corporate ladder and gain a girlfriend where he would eventually lose sight of who he really is. While it is a coming-of-age film of sorts, the screenplay by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg mixes it up with elements of humor into how someone like Josh who may have the body of a 30-year old man but the spirit and mind of a 12-year old would interact with the adult world.

The screenplay showcases a young Josh (David Moscow) asking this fortune teller machine his wish to be big all because he wants to ride a roller coaster with a school crush. Though it does have this idea of be careful what you wish for, Josh would learn that the hard way as he realizes that his wish did come true as the only person he can turn to for help is his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) who knows a bit more on Josh about the realities of the world. Due to his knowledge in computers, Josh would get a job working for this toy company as he catches the eye of its boss MacMillan (Robert Loggia) who realizes that Josh knows a lot about toys can sell and what toys don’t work in which he would promote Josh much to the ire of executive Paul Davenport (John Heard). Yet, Josh’s ideas and enthusiasm would impress another executive in Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins) who thinks Josh is a really nice guy and far more mature than the men she had been with.

Penny Marshall’s direction is definitely wondrous in the way she is able to tell a story of a kid who grows up to be an adult. Instead of relying on certain gimmicks and gags about how a kid would act as an adult, Marshall keep things more naturalistic where it’s more about the sense of fear and anxiety that children might face if they do grow up all of a sudden as adults. While many of the compositions are simple, Marshall does manage to keep things engaging in the way she would shoot scenes set in New Jersey and in New York City where the latter is this world that is quite crazy but also very exciting. While there are elements of drama as well as moments that play into Josh’s fear of being by himself and deal with the trappings of adult. There are these moments of humor that are very funny as well as lively scenes that include a very memorable scene of Josh and MacMillan playing a large, foot-operated piano.

The direction also has these moments that are quite intimate in the way Josh and Susan’s relationship develops where it does toe the line between something tender but also creepy considering that Josh is really a kid. Yet, there’s aspects in the direction where Josh presents himself very maturely as its third act play into his desire to return to childhood. Still, there are elements that play into elements of fantasy as it relates to the fortune telling machine that Josh had discovered early in the film as it has this air of mysticism. Even as it reinforces the theme of the idea of wishes as well as what kids want where they would get a glimpse of the idea of adulthood. Overall, Marshall creates a very sensational and heartwarming film about a boy who wishes to be big as he mysteriously grows up to be a man.

Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld does excellent work with the cinematography from the usage of lights for some of the nighttime interior/exterior scenes including the company party scene as well as some low-key lights for the daytime scenes. Editor Barry Malkin does superb work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with an inspiring montage scene where Josh moves into an apartment and gets all sorts of stuff. Production designer Santo Loquasto, with set decorators Susan Bode and George DeTitta Jr. and art directors Speed Hopkins and Tom Warren, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the apartment loft that Josh would live in as well as some of the sets created at the FAO Schwartz toy store.

Costume designer Judianna Makovsky does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the white tuxedo Josh would wear at the company party. Sound editor Jerry Ross and sound designer Brian Eddolls do nice work with the sound from some of the things Josh hears in his hotel room when he first arrives to New York City as well as some of the sound effects of the toys he would play. The film’s music by Howard Shore is wonderful for its playful piano-based score along with some somber orchestral pieces to play into the drama while the soundtrack features an array of music from classical, standards, and contemporary music from Billy Idol and Huey Lewis & the News.

The casting by Paula Herold and Juliet Taylor is phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Debra Jo Rupp as Josh’s secretary Miss Patterson, Kimberlee M. Davis as a school crush of Josh early in the film, Josh Clark as Josh’s dad, and Jon Lovitz in a very funny performance as an early co-worker of Josh who says some of the funniest things in the film. David Moscow is excellent as the young Josh who copes with being a kid as well as some of the things he wants to do if he was taller. Mercedes Ruehl is wonderful as Josh’s mother who thinks the adult Josh is her son’s kidnapper as she copes with not having Josh in her home. Jared Rushton is fantastic as Josh’s best friend Billy who helps him deal with being an adult as well as reminding him that he’s really just a kid.

John Heard is brilliant as Paul Davenport as an executive who is not happy with Josh’s rise up the corporate ladder as he is also annoyed by a presentation where Josh says “I don’t get it”. Robert Loggia is great as MacMillan as a toy company boss who tries to figure out how to save his business as he sees Josh as someone that he needs and likes for bringing the kid in him. Elizabeth Perkins is amazing as Susan as this executive who takes a liking to Josh as she would fall for him while seeing that he is very mature as well as quite jovial as he brings the kid in her. Finally, there’s Tom Hanks in one of his most iconic performances as Josh Baskin as this boy who is trapped in a man’s body as he copes with the wish he creates as well as being an adult as Hanks has a lot of energy, charm, and tenderness to his role as it’s so fun to watch.

Big is an absolutely incredible film from Penny Marshall that features an exhilarating and joyful performance from Tom Hanks. Along with a great supporting cast, a fantastic score, and a witty screenplay, it’s a film that manages to capture the heart of a child as well as showing the fears of growing up. It’s also a film that is very accessible for all ages as it is very funny as well as heartwarming. In the end, Big is an outstanding film from Penny Marshall.

Penny Marshall Films: (Jumpin’ Jack Flash) - (Awakenings) - (A League of Their Own) - (Renaissance Man) - (The Preacher’s Wife) - (Riding in Cars with Boys)

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

In a World...

Written, directed, and starring Lake Bell, In a World… is the story of a vocal coach who struggles to make it in the world of the voiceover game as she contends wither very famous father and other men in an industry often dominated by men. The film is an exploration into an industry where men often runs things as a woman is trying to make it on her own terms as she copes with having to compete with her father. Also starring Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Tig Notaro, and Nick Offerman. In a World… is a rich and engaging film from Lake Bell.

The film explores the world of the voiceover industry as it revolves around a revered veteran, a popular voiceover actor, and the veteran’s vocal coach daughter all vying for this job to do voiceover work for a trailer for an upcoming film franchise following the death of a great voiceover artist. Yet, it’s really more about this woman who has her father’s gift for doing great voices as she struggles to make it on her own as she works as a freelance voice coach as well as do small gigs. Even as she is kicked out of her dad’s home as she lives with her sister where she copes with having to be in her father’s shadow. When opportunity knocks as she had gained two voiceover gigs that was supposed to be for someone else. It then lead to all sorts of things as she finds out she would have to compete with her father and the man whose gigs she accidentally took.

Lake Bell’s screenplay definitely explores the struggle for women to make it in an industry where men are often the driving force as it sort of plays as an allegory of the way the film industry is where it would favor men instead of women. Even as her character Carol Solomon is someone who is very good at creating voices and helping other actors with their voices. Unfortunately, it hasn’t done enough to get her own career in gear despite the help of some people including sound engineer Louis (Demetri Martin) who has a crush on her. Her father Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed) is even less supportive as he is more concerned in grooming the already popular voiceover actor Gustav Warner (Ken Marino) to be the man who will say the words “in a world…” that the late Don LaFontaine has been famous for.

While there’s a subplot involving Carol’s sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) who is struggling with her marriage to Moe (Rob Corddry), it does play into Carol using her voice to help them. Even as it reveals the sisters’ shared frustration towards their father who is often dismissive about Carol’s work as doesn’t think women have a place in the voiceover industry. Carol’s encounter with Gustav at his party would only complicate things due to Sam being more supportive towards Gustav as he is unaware of the fact that Carol was the one that took Gustav’s gigs due to Gustav being sick. It would definitely lead to this competition where Carol knows she has to compete with her dad and Gustav for this gig but she doesn’t have their egos as she knows that she will at least she put some effort if she loses the gig.

Bell’s direction is very simple as she aims for something that feels very intimate as well as provide some insight into a woman trying to break into a male-dominated industry. Especially as it has something that is a low-budget film but doesn’t have the look nor the feel of a low-budget film where Bell definitely creates some unique compositions such as close-ups and medium shots. Notably in the former as it plays to the power of the voice such as this climatic montage of Sam, Carol, and Gustav recording their voices for this trailer. The direction also has some effective use in its approach to humor that is very light-hearted as Bell prefers to create something that feels natural while not being afraid of displaying some quirks. Overall, Bell creates a very fascinating and entertaining film about a woman trying to get her break in the art of voice-overs.

Cinematographer Seamus Tierney does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it is vibrant and colorful for some of the film‘s daytime scenes while using some unique lights and shades for some of its nighttime interior scenes. Editor Tom McArdle does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while its climatic montage is very inventive to showcase how Sam, Carol, and Gustav each prepare themselves for this gig. Production designer Megan Fenton, with set decorator Elizabeth Garner and art director Ashley Fenton, does nice work with the look of the homes that Sam and Gustav live in as well as the small apartment that Dani and Moe live at.

Costume designer Lindy McMichael does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the party dress that Carol wears to Gustav‘s party. Sound editor Fredrick Helm does fantastic work with the sound editing to provide the usage of voice-over and how they‘re created as well as in the climatic montage where Carol, Sam, and Gustav are recording their narrations. The film’s music by Ryan Miller is wonderful as it‘s mostly a keyboard-driven score that is low-key to play into its humor while music supervisor Chris Douridas creates a very fun soundtrack that features a diverse array of music from Mulatu Astatke, Warren G and Nate Dogg, Ice Cube, Squeeze, Salt-N-Pepa, Rick James, the Commodores, Slick Rick, Eddie Money, the Police, Gerry Rafferty, and Tears for Fears.

The casting by John Papsidera is amazing as the film features cameos from Jeff Garlin, Eva Longoria, and a couple of noted voice-over actors in Joe Cipriano and Mark Elliott. Other notable small roles include Talulah Riley as a British neighbor of Moe who helps Carol out in finding a dress, Stephanie Allynne as the sound studio receptionist Nancy whom Louis goes on a bad date with, Corsica Wilson as a woman with a sexy baby voice that Carol meets, Jason O’Mara as an attractive Irishman that Dani meets in her work as a hotel concierge, Tig Notaro as the sound engineer Cher, and Geena Davis in a wonderful appearance as a film executive who would present the trailer that Carol, Sam, and Gustav have been competing for. Nick Offerman is excellent as the sound studio manager Heners who is trying to make sure things are going well as he reveals to despise Gustav for personality reasons. Alexandra Holden is terrific as Sam’s much-younger girlfriend Jamie who tries to smooth things between Sam and his daughters as well as be his supporter. Rob Corddry is fantastic as Carol’s brother-in-law Moe as a small-time chef who is trying to get some time with his wife as he copes with her frequent absences as he would help Carol out with her things.

Ken Marino is superb as the voiceover actor Gustav Warner as he is a guy with a sense of charm but also a bit of smugness which Marino manages to flesh out so well. Demetri Martin is brilliant as Louis as Carol’s sound engineer who has a thing for her as he copes with being single and Carol’s encounter with Gustav. Michaela Watkins is great as Carol’s sister Dani who copes with her work as well as an encounter with an attractive Irishman whom she met at work. Fred Melamed is incredible as Dani and Carol’s father Sam Sotto as this famous voiceover actor who has everything but is often distracted by his own ego and what he wants to do which often leads to a troubled relationship with his daughters. Finally, there’s Lake Bell in a remarkable performance as Carol as this vocal coach who is trying to get her break as she copes with competing with her father as well as the sexism she is facing in the industry as it’s a performance full of charm and naturalistic humor.

In a World… is an extraordinary film from Lake Bell that features a fantastic ensemble cast and a compelling premise that is very engaging. It’s a film that manages to be quite witty as well as have something to say about women trying to make it in an industry that is often dominated by men. In the end, In a World… is a marvelous film from Lake Bell.

© thevoid99 2014