Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Much Ado About Nothing (2012 film)

Based on the play by William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing is the story of a two people who tricked themselves into thinking they’re in love with each other while trying to get two other people to fall in love with each other. Written for the screen, scored, co-edited, and directed by Joss Whedon, the film is set in a modern-day setting at Whedon’s home in Santa Monica with some changes to the text to play into the basic elements of Shakespeare’s story. Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, and Jillian Morgese. Much Ado About Nothing is a whimsical and intoxicating film from Joss Whedon.

Set during a wedding ceremony that is to commence, the film revolves around two people who despise each other as they try to help two people get married as they also cope with their feelings for each other. During the course of the film, there’s a guest who wants to create ruin for the proceedings with a couple of his co-conspirators as it would later become chaotic. Joss Whedon’s screenplay definitely keeps a lot of the dialogue that William Shakespeare had written as well as the setting in the fictional town of Messina. Yet, Whedon would make some changes to the story as it is set in a modern world while expanding a few minor characters who play crucial roles to the story. There are also elements in the film that are comical as it relates to the character of Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) and his attempts to find the truth as he has to deal with the associates of the Don John (Sean Maher). Still, much of Whedon’s approach to the material remains faithful as well as infusing modern-day humor to play into the romance and comedy.

Whedon’s direction is definitely stylish not just for its black-and-white cinematography but also for its intimate setting as it is shot on location at the home of Whedon and his wife/producer Kai Cole as the house was built by the latter. While there are some wide shots of a few bits of the locations including the area around Whedon’s home, much of Whedon’s compositions are shot in and out of the house including the backyard with its swimming pool, garden court, and a view of the landscape around the house. Notably in the way Whedon would use the space to play into the way characters interact whether it’s in a close-up or in a medium shot that include scenes where Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Beatrice (Amy Acker) both would listen to other characters talk about the other person to play into this sense of attraction. The response from both Benedick and Beatrice is filled with a sense of slapstick comedy in the way they would try and hear what their friends are saying.

With Whedon also serving as a co-editor with Daniel Kaminsky and composing the music score as it’s a mixture of jazz, folk, and low-key orchestral music to play into the comedy. Much of the editing is straightforward with some jump-cuts and fade-to-white transitions to play into the humor and some of the drama. Even during the film’s second act as it relates to the wedding proceeding as it play into the love-hate relationship between Benedick and Beatrice where they become aware of what is happening. The comedy still looms as it relates to Dogberry and the way he’s been treated by the people he arrested. Whedon would also maintain that sense of imagery into the events of the third act as it relates to deceit and power control with Benedick and Beatrice trying to set things right. Overall, Whedon creates a lively and witty film about two people whose disdain towards one another leads to them falling in love and in helping a young couple get married.

Cinematographer Jay Hunter does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it has this natural yet gorgeous look to the film for its scenes in the day and night including scenes in the latter that includes a dinner party. Production designers Cindy Chao and Michele Yu do fantastic work with the look of some of the exteriors for the wedding as well as a few set decoration for the police base and some of the rooms at the house. Costume designer Shawna Trpcic does excellent work with the costumes from the casual look of the characters to some of the costumes and masks worn at the dinner party. Sound editor Victor Ray Ennis does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations as well as music is presented in the film. Music supervisor Clint Bennett provides a wonderful soundtrack that feature a couple of songs written by William Shakespeare that are performed by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.

The film’s incredible cast feature appearances from Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney as watchmen, Romy Rosemont as the sexton who watches over Dogberry’s interrogation of Don John’s attendants, Paul M. Meston as Friar Francis, Tom Lenk as Dogberry’s partner Verges, Emma Bates as a maid/attendant to Hero, and Ashley Johnson as another young maid/attendant to Hero in Margaret who unknowingly becomes a victim of Don John’s scheme. Spencer Treat Clark and Riki Lindhome are superb in their respective roles as Don John’s attendants in Borachio and Conrade as two people who help Don John in his scheme with the latter being Don John’s lover. Nathan Fillion is fantastic as Dogberry as a police investigator who is watching over the proceedings as he is trying to figure out what is happening when the wedding plans is being ruined as it’s Fillion being very funny and offbeat. Reed Diamond is excellent as Don Pedro as the Prince of Aragon who is the best man that is trying to deal with the chaos of the wedding while not knowing who is creating all of this trouble.

Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz are brilliant in their respective roles as Hero and Claudio as two young lovers who are about to be married only to be unaware of the forces that is trying to break them up. Sean Maher is amazing as Don John as the bastard prince brother of Don Pedro who despises the young lovers as he wants to ruin them in his own pursuit of power. Clark Gregg is marvelous as Hero’s father Leonato who is Messina’s governor that is dealing with the chaos of what happens as he wants justice for the people that ruined his daughter’s wedding. Finally, there’s the duo of Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Benedick and Beatrice with the former being a charmer that isn’t willing to be with Beatrice yet as feelings for him while the latter is an energetic figure who despises Benedick but is protective of her cousin Hero where she turns to Benedick for help in setting things right.

Much Ado About Nothing is a sensational film from Joss Whedon. Featuring a great ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, a simple yet effective setting, and some witty interpretation of William Shakespeare’s words. The film is definitely a lively and inspired take on Shakespeare’s comedy as well as setting it in a modern world that proves that Shakespeare can fit in towards any environment. In the end, Much Ado About Nothing is a spectacular film from Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon Films: Serenity - The Avengers (2012 film) - The Avengers: Age of Ultron

© thevoid99 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stories We Tell

Written and directed by Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell is a film about Polley’s family and the revelations about her life as it’s told in a documentary style with some dramatic recreations. The film is a look into Polley in her own life as she talks to her own siblings about their parents as well as things in their life with Rebecca Jenkins playing Polley’s mother in dramatic recreated scenes. The result is an astonishing and evocative film from Sarah Polley.

In 2007, Sarah Polley learned a major revelation about her life as well as about her late mother who died when Polley was only 11. The news of this shocking news about who she is forces her to piece things not just about her whole family life that included four half-siblings but also people who knew her mother. During the course of the film, Polley would learn about her mother’s life that included two marriages with her second and final marriage to David Polley who would narrate the film as he’s seen in a recording booth with Sarah watching in a different room in seeing her father read bits of his memoir. Even as she would film her father, her siblings, and others in the filming as she knew she had to create some idea of what her mother’s life was like since she only had pictures and recollections from others about that time in her life before she was even born.

With the aid of cinematographer Iris Ng, production designer Lea Carlson, set decorator David Gruer, costume designer Sarah Armstrong, and casting directors John Buchan and Jason Knight, Polley would use Super 8 camera footage to create these fictionalized home movies with actors such as Rebecca Jenkins playing her mother while other actors such as Peter Evans playing David Polley and Alex Hatz playing the role of Harry Gulkin who is crucial to the story as he is also interviewed as it relates to the big reveal. Much of the Super 8 footage is presented as a silent film of sorts to capture an idea of what life was like with Diane Polley who had been through a lot including a terrible first marriage as her divorce was considered scandalous for a time in Canada.

Even as she lost custody of her two kids in John and Susy though meeting David Polley proved to be fulfilling as she would get Mark and Joanna before this bump in 1978 when she and David hit a rough patch. When Diane took an acting gig for a theater show in Montreal is where things start to occur though she eventually stayed with David till her death in 1990 on the week of Sarah’s eleventh birthday. The stories about Diane’s time in Montreal would raise a lot of questions as it relates to Harry Gulkin as well as another man she met during that time though she still loved David. These revelations weren’t just devastating to Sarah but also her siblings who had a sense that something was going on yet Sarah was more concerned about her father and what he would think. Even when news was to emerge as Sarah had to beg on the phone during the production of Mr. Nobody to not have this story go public.

Editor Mike Munn would collect some of the photos and footage that Sarah would recreate to play into the story as some of it include elements of montages and such. Sound editor David Rose would capture a lot of the audio to help play into the dramatization and the narration of David Polley. The film’s music by Jonathan Goldsmith is largely low-key in its plaintive and somber piano-based score as it play into the drama while much of the music is a mixture of folk, classical, and traditional music with a cut by Bon Iver that play into drama and sense of loss.

Stories We Tell is a tremendous film from Sarah Polley. It’s a film that explores the idea of family and identity as well as the many versions of the truth about someone that is no longer around. Even as it forces people to see that there’s still so much to tell while learning more about themselves and the people around them. In the end, Stories We Tell is a magnificent film from Sarah Polley.

Sarah Polley Films: Away from Her - Take This Waltz

© thevoid99 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sugar (2008 film)

Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Sugar is the story of a young pitcher from the Dominican Republic who dreams of making it to the big leagues where he deals with the reality of chasing that dream when he arrives to America in the minor leagues. The film is an exploration of a young man who wants to give himself and his family a chance at a better life away from poverty while coping with the gift he has when he has to endure culture shock and the demands of the game. Starring Algenis Perez Soto, Andrew Holland, Rayniel Rufino, and Michael Gaston. Sugar is a rapturous and intoxicating film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

The film is a simple story of a young baseball pitcher who is given the chance to travel to America to play in the minor leagues as he hopes that he can make it and give his mother and siblings a good life back at the Dominican Republic. What happens instead is that he would face challenges upon arriving into a new environment where there’s so much to be expected not just from himself but also others who would come and go. The film’s screenplay by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is largely a study of ambition and its fallacies as well as what it takes to make in the majors despite the fact the protagonist in Miguel “Sugar” Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) doesn’t speak much English and doesn’t know very much about American culture. The first act partially takes place in the Dominican Republic where Sugar is like every other player dreaming of making it to the Major Leagues like many before him where he is at an academy to learn about the game while learning to speak English. Upon learning that he and another player are going to Arizona for spring training with a minor-league rookie team, Sugar is excited as he hopes to do good things for his family.

Though he experiences culture shock and confusion during his time in Arizona, he was able to bond with players from the Dominican Republic along with players from other Spanish-speaking countries. When Sugar is sent to the A level in Iowa, the culture shock becomes greater where he would live with an old couple in the Higgins as he has trouble adjusting to his new environment while the only person he could really talk to is a Dominican player in Jorge (Rayniel Rufino) who has been in the minors for years as he helps Sugar out. While Sugar takes a liking towards the old couple’s granddaughter Anne (Ellary Porterfield), he does cope with some of the prejudice of being an outsider as it leads to this air of isolation that is prominent for much of the second and third act. Even as Sugar would endure an injury that would sideline him as he’s unable to get back on track prompting him to question a lot of things around him including himself.

The film’s direction of Boden and Fleck is definitely evocative in the way it captures not just this air of realism about the struggle in trying to make it to the major leagues but also in the study of isolation and culture shock. Shot largely in Iowa with additional locations shot in New York City, the state of Arizona, and the Dominican Republic, the film does play into idea of a man caught between two different worlds where one is a place that he’s familiar with as it’s his home and the other is just completely different. Boden and Fleck’s usage of the wide shots would capture the many cultural and social differences that Sugar would encounter as it adds to the sense of culture shock upon arriving somewhere like Iowa with its farmland, cornfields, and areas that doesn’t have much to offer like the small town he was in Arizona nor in the Dominican Republic. Yet, much of their direction involve intimate shots such as close-ups and medium shots to play into Sugar’s struggle with being on the pitcher’s mound and outside of the baseball field.

With Boden also serving as editor, she and Fleck would maintain something straightforward in the editing with a few jump-cuts such as a scene of Sugar meeting his many relatives wishing him luck that just adds to the pressure he’s in to succeed. Still, it just adds to this sense of isolation such as this amazing tracking shot sequence of Sugar walking out of his hotel room and into the bar, the arcade, and later the bowling alley as it shows him really lost he’s in. The third act is about this sense of continuation and awareness that Sugar has to endure when another player from the Dominican Republic emerges as someone who has the same gift that Sugar had. It’s a reality that is quite common where Boden and Fleck don’t sugarcoat it yet it would have an aftermath about what happen to those who don’t make it but still have a love for the game. Overall, Boden and Fleck craft a riveting and sobering film about a young man chasing his dream to become a major league baseball player only to deal with the realities and expectations of that dream.

Cinematographer Andrij Parekh does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography from the usage of natural lights for many of the daytime scenes as well as some lighting for some of the scenes at night including many of its interiors. Production designer Beth Mickle, with set decorator Richard Bailey and art director Michael Ahern, does fantastic work with the look of the baseball camps and places that Sugar goes to including the home of the Higgins family and the locker room for the team he plays for. Costume designer Erin Benach does nice work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward including the uniforms that Sugar wears during his time playing.

Sound editor Tom Efinger and sound designer Abigail Savage do excellent work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the baseball games as well as some of the places that Sugar and the people he’s with go to. The film’s music by Michael Brook is wonderful as it’s mainly low-key in its folk-based score while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein creates a soundtrack that mixes all sorts of music from merengue, bachata, salsa, hip-hop, rock, and indie music from acts like Aventura, TV on the Radio, Cassie Ventura, Celia Cruz, Moby, Leonard Cohen, and Juan Luis Guerra with Ruben Blades and Robi Rosa.

The casting by Cindy Tolan is superb as it feature some notable small roles from Jose Rijo as a player named Alvarez, Kelvin Leonardo Garcia as the young pitcher Salvador who becomes a threat to Sugar’s spot in the third act, Alina Vargas as Sugar’s girlfriend in the Dominican Republic, Ann Whitney and Richard Bull as the old couple in the Higgins who would take Sugar in during his time in Iowa to make sure he does well, Ellary Porterfield as the Higgins’ granddaughter Anne whom Sugar takes a liking to, and Jaime Tirelli as a man named Osvaldo that Sugar meets late in the film. Michael Gaston is terrific as Sugar’s Iowa coach Stu Sutton who sees talent and potential in Sugar while is trying to understand where his control is once his performance suffers.

Andre Holland is fantastic as Brad Johnson as a player that Sugar befriends as he tries to help him with his performance and understand American culture. Rayniel Rufino is excellent as Jorge as a player from the Dominican Republic in Iowa who is the closest friend that Sugar has where he is someone that has seen a lot as he knows what will happen to him but would accept his fate. Finally, there’s Algenis Perez Soto in an incredible performance as the titular character as a young pitcher who has a gift for his pitching while hoping to succeed so he can get his family out of poverty but the demands of the game, the culture shock, and isolation would get to him as it’s an understated and mesmerizing performance from Soto.

Sugar is a phenomenal film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous images, an intoxicating soundtrack, and themes of isolation and culture shock, the film is a unique study of ambition and its fallacies as it relates to the idea of the American Dream. In the end, Sugar is a sensational film from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck Films: Half Nelson - (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) – (Mississippi Grind) – (Captain Marvel)

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, January 14, 2018

XTC: This is Pop

Directed by Roger Penny and Charlie Thomas, XTC: This is Pop is a documentary film about one of the great British bands to come out of late 70s new wave boom who went from this oddball post-punk group to becoming one of the darlings of the British music scene despite their limited commercial success. The film follows the band from their early years to the period in the mid-80s where they became a studio-only band until the early 2000s when they disbanded as vocalist/guitarist Andy Partridge, bassist/vocalist Colin Moulding, guitarist Dave Gregory, and drummer Terry Chambers tell their story as well as comments from several admirers including Stewart Copeland of the Police, Clem Burke of Blondie, Harry Shearer, music producers John Leckie and Hugh Paghdam, and Steven Wilson. The result is a whimsical and offbeat film from Roger Penny and Charlie Thompson.

From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, XTC was a band that were signed during the wave of punk where anyone that was punk or new wave were in as they had some songs that were unique and eventually became more sophisticated and elaborately arranged into pop songs that were inventive and catchy. Though they didn’t have a lot of commercial success in their time, many felt that XTC were very influential for a lot of bands including the Britpop music scene of the 1990s. The film isn’t just a straightforward documentary about the band but also a spoof of sorts of rock-based documentaries where band leader Andy Partridge takes shot at many of these conventions in his interviews as well as talking about many of the clichés that would include a hilarious cameo from the legendary progressive rock keyboardist Rick Wakeman making a snide comment toward the band.

Though the documentary doesn’t make much mention of their hiatus for much of the 1990s due to a legal dispute with their record label nor the mention of the band’s eventual break-up in 2006. The film does follow their evolution dating back to the early 70s in a line-up that included Partridge, Moulding, Chambers, and keyboardist Barry Andrews who would be part of the band until 1979 due to tension between him and Partridge where the latter thought the former’s songs weren’t any good. Dave Gregory would join the band shortly after Andrews’ departure as he was an old friend of Partridge where the band evolved from these complex and abstract post-punk songs into something more pop-based through the songs written by Partridge or others by Moulding who would be a revered songwriter in his own right.

Things changed in 1982 during a tour with the Police where Partridge had a breakdown that lead to the band no longer becoming a touring act which was something Chambers couldn’t accept as he later admitted that he could’ve been more sympathetic towards Partridge’s health issues as it related to a valium addiction that he had when he was a teenager due to his own relationship with his mentally-ill mother. Following Chambers’ departure and legal issues relating to lost finances, the band would continue as a trio as a studio band that some felt hurt their commercial fortunes despite their early success in the late 70s/early 80s. It was during those studio years in the mid-80s the band formed a side project with Gregory’s brother Ian called the Dukes of Stratospher as a psychedelic pop band that released two albums in 1985 and 1987 to great acclaim and some success. In 1986, the band made what some consider to be their best album in Skylarking with producer Todd Rundgren that featured the controversial song Dear God.

Much of the film’s direction is straightforward as Roger Penny and Charlie Thomas would film with the interviews with cinematographer Den Pollitt with editor Roger Penny would use footage from music videos and rare footages to tell the story. The sound work of Rhys Adams, Matt Clark, Michael O’Donoghue, and Oliver Rotchell would play into the different mixes of the music to help tell the story yet what makes Penny and Thomas’ direction unique is the usage of model trains and its surroundings modeled after the band’s home town of Swindon which is a typical British suburban town that is still enchanting while it also include miniature models of the band designed by Ian Kay and Paul Marshall-Porter. The film also include some animation and drawings by Partridge as it played into his own whimsical personality.

XTC: This is Pop is an incredible film from Roger Penny and Charlie Thomas about one of Britain’s greatest pop bands. It’s a film that doesn’t just show why they’re one of the most beloved groups in the world of pop music but also a band that doesn’t get enough accolades for their contributions though there’s fans that want them to remain a cult band of sorts. In the end, XTC: This is Pop is a remarkable film from Roger Penny and Charlie Thomas.

© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lion (2016 film)

Based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, Lion is the true story of a man who was separated by his family as a young boy where he was adopted by an Australian couple as he would later go on a search to find his original family. Directed by Garth Davis and screenplay by Luke Davies, the film follows the path of a man who trying to find his family with the help of those who cared about him including his adoptive family. Starring Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, David Wenham, Rooney Mara, Divian Ladwa, and Nicole Kidman. Lion is a rich and evocative film from Garth Davis.

Told largely in the span of more than 25 years, the film follows a young boy who is separated from his older brother where he accidentally boards a train and is suddenly lost where he’s later adopted by an Australian couple who would raise him. It’s a film that follows the journey of a boy searching for his family only to restart the search many years later as a man where he begins to raise questions about himself and what happened to his mother, his older brother, and younger sister. Luke Davies’ script doesn’t waste time early in the film where the young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) follows his older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) who is trying to find work while Saroo naps at a bench on a train where he accidentally enters a train that leaves where he arrives in Calcutta several days later. Much of the first act has Saroo lost in Calcutta trying to find his way back home but has no idea where he’s at nor does he speak Bengali since he speaks a more rural Hindu-based language.

He would encounter people that might seem good but he immediately realizes that it’s not what it seems until he’s taken into an orphanage where he is later aided by a woman in the orphanage in finding his family but has gotten no response. Yet, she would tell him that an Australian couple in John Brierley (David Wenham) and his wife Sue (Nicole Kidman) are interested in adopting him. The second act largely takes place in Tasmania, Australia where Saroo finds a home and a family that loves him where they adopt another Indian child in Mantosh (Keshav Jadhav) who has a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. 20 years later as the older Saroo (Dev Patel) is training to manage hotels while he dates an American student in Lucy (Rooney Mara), Saroo gets a reminder of his old home forcing him to go into a search to find his family through the usage of Google Earth. Though he is reluctant to tell his adopted parents on what he’s doing, it would become an obsession that nearly drives him apart from those who care about him.

Garth Davis’ direction is definitely mesmerizing for not just the way he captures a man caught between two different worlds but wanting to hold on to them as well as make peace with the world he was lost in when he was a child. Shot on various locations in India such as Kolkata and Melbourne, Australia along with Tasmania, the film does play into this journey that a boy would take as he would travel from Khandwa to Calcutta as Davis would use a lot of wide shots to establish the locations as well as the sense of wonderment that the young Saroo would endure. Much of Davis’ direction is intimate with its usage of hand-held cameras for the close-ups as well as the medium shots to capture Saroo’s family life with John and Sue. Though a lot of Davis’ compositions are straightforward, there are elements of style late in the second act where the older Saroo would see his older brother at a certain location as well as paralleling images to play into a location in Australia and matched with India. The usage of Google Earth is crucial to the story as it play into Saroo’s search and what he can remember about certain locations which leads to the film’s climax where he returns home to see if his family is still there. Overall, Davis crafts a riveting and touching film about a man’s journey to find his family with the support from the people who raised and cared for him.

Cinematographer Greig Fraser does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lights for many of the exterior scenes with some low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editors Alexandre de Franceschi does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts, stylish match cuts, and other rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Chris Kennedy, with set decorators Nicki Gardner and Seema Kashyap plus art directors Janie Parker and Ravi Srivastava, does fantastic work with the look of the home that John and Sue live in as well as Saroo’s home in Melbourne plus some of the places in India. Costume designer Cappi Ireland does nice work with the costumes from the ragged clothes of the young Saroo walking around in India to the more casual look of the older Saroo and the people in his life.

Visual effects supervisors Julian Dimsey and Sid Jayakar do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects that relate to Google Earth and a few moments of set dressing. Sound designer Robert Mackenzie does superb work with the sound as it play into the many locations as well as the array of sounds that Saroo remembers from his time as a child. The film’s music by Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran is wonderful for its mixture of Indian string music with some ambient textures to play into the sense of wonderment that Saroo endures while music supervisor Jemma Burns provide a mixture of music ranging from Indian-pop to electronic music and pop from acts like Hercules and Love Affair, Sia, Enigma, and Mondo Rock.

The casting by Kirsty McGregor is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Riddi Sehn as a man in a café who would find the young Saroo and take him to the authorities in the hope his family would find him, Tannishtha Chatterjee as a young woman in Calcutta who finds Saroo and gives him shelter for a while, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a friend of that woman who has ideas for Saroo that makes the boy uncomfortable, Keshev Jadhav as the young Mantosh, Abhishek Bharate as Saroo’s older brother Guddu, Divian Ladwa as the older Mantosh who remains a troubled soul, Priyanka Bose as Saroo’s biological mother, and Deepti Naval as Saroj Sood who is an outsider of the Indian orphanage system as she would be the one to make sure Saroo finds a good home and would get him adopted by the Brierleys. David Wenham is superb as Saroo’s adoptive father John Brierley as a kind man that is very patient with Saroo and Mantosh as he is also someone that is becoming concerned with the former’s growing distance from everyone. Rooney Mara is fantastic as Lucy as an American student who becomes Saroo’s girlfriend as she is concerned about his distance as she wants to help him find his family.

Sunny Pawar is excellent as the young Saroo as this young boy who is trying to find his way back home as he endures poverty, different language and cultural barriers while eventually finding a home and a family that loves him. Dev Patel is brilliant as the older Saroo as a man who finds himself dealing with his identity as well as the need to find his family where his obsession nearly drives him away from those who care about him. Finally, there’s Nicole Kidman in a truly radiant and intoxicating supporting performance as Saroo’s adoptive mother Sue as she provides this air of warmth and gracefulness from the first scene she’s in as a woman that is full of love where it’s Kidman at her most restrained as well as one of her finest performances.

Lion is an incredible film from Garth Davis that features great performances from Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, and Nicole Kidman. Along with its supporting cast, gorgeous locations, and a touching story of loss and the need to return home. It’s a film that captures the journey of a boy who becomes a man in his need to find his original family as well as bring together those who raised and cared for him. In the end, Lion is a sensational film from Garth Davis.

© thevoid99 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Queen of Versailles

Directed by Lauren Greenfield, The Queen of Versailles is a film about a rich family whose attempt to build a big estate gets into trouble due to the 2008 financial crisis. The film is a look into the life of David and Jackie Siegel who are the owners of the Westgate Resorts timeshare company in Florida as they struggle with a reality that they couldn’t foresee. The result is a fascinating and engaging film about the life of a rich couple and their family whose super-posh lifestyle goes up in flames.

Filmed in the span of three years from 2008-2011, the film follows the life of David A. Siegel and his wife Jackie as the former is the head of a timeshare company known as Westgate Resorts as it just had a huge skyscraper open in Las Vegas in the PH Towers. Then the 2008 financial crisis emerged as all of Siegel’s plans for the tower as well as construction a $100 million home in Orlando called Versailles starts to unravel leaving Siegel and his family that include seven children plus Jackie’s niece and a personal staff of people in danger. The film showcases this family that was once one of the richest that lived in a house filled with lots of people and a staff of 19 that suddenly dwindled to four including two nannies and a maid while they have to go places like Wal-Mart to shop for certain things.

During the course of the film, David, Jackie, David’s eldest son from his first marriage Richard, a few of David and Jackie’s children, the two nannies, a maid, and a driver are among those interviewed during the course of three years. Not only do they cope with the changes in their lives with the dwindling staff having to do more with Jackie helping out as she struggles to maintain a lifestyle that is becoming harder to afford. Especially as she has seven kids with the oldest at twelve while her niece is two years older than her as she had been adopted by her aunt and uncle since her father has no interest in taking care of her. For a family that is rich and wanting to make this house modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France, they would seem like the family that would flaunt their riches but they don’t really act rich.

Among some of the things that are shown that make the family be more like regular people is when David and Jackie attend a little league game one of their sons is playing at while Jackie takes the children to her home town in upstate New York where she reconnects with an old friend and tries to help her in saving her home. At the same time, the family don’t dress like rich people as they eat at McDonald’s and do all sorts of things even though David is around much of the time as the film goes on due to his attempts to try to save his business and the home that he’s trying to build. Even as he is forced to lay off employees which he hates doing where Jackie would meet one of her husband’s former employees at one of the buildings for the business as she wants to help him. Even Jackie’s chauffer would reveal the struggle that he would go to as he gets laid off and tries to do other things as he would be invited to one of their Christmas parties as he knows how much they mean to him and vice versa.

Much of Lauren Greenfield’s direction is straightforward as she would get to know them and try to show them in a light that makes them sympathetic despite the fact that they’re part of a small percentage of people that live an incredibly rich life. With the help of cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, Greenfield would capture a typical home life before the financial crisis which was crazy but lively to life after the crisis where it was more chaotic but everyone is trying to remain upbeat despite the fact that there’s a lot of uncertainty into what will happen. With editor Victor Livingston compiling three years of footage in capturing the rise and fall of this family who weren’t even rich to begin with.

Sound designer Peter Albrechtsen would capture the sounds that occur in the different hotels and places involving the Siegel family and their businesses that include a sequence of employees selling timeshares to regular people in the chance that a common person can live a life of luxury for a few days and not worry about anything. The film’s music by Jeff Beal is wonderful for its low-key setting with its elements of orchestral bombast to play into the lavish lifestyle the family is known for while it also show moments that are somber where Jackie is willing to stand by her husband richer or poorer.

The Queen of Versailles is a marvelous film from Lauren Greenfield. It’s a film that explores the fall of a rich family destroyed by the misfortunes of the 2008 financial crisis and how they try to save what they have as well as maintain a sense of morale for the family despite some tragic postscripts that would occur years after the film’s release. In the end, The Queen of Versailles is a remarkable film from Lauren Greenfield.

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Once Was Enough (Movies You Don't Want to Watch Again)

For the second week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The subject is on movies that have been seen once and never want to be seen again. Whether it’s something horrible or something too intense that one doesn’t want to experience it ever again. Here are my three picks:

1. Audition

From Takashi Miike comes a horror film that I hope to never see again because it scared the fuck out of me. The film is about a man who tries to find a new wife following the death of his wife as the woman he picks turns out to be a complete psychopath who had killed previous suitors. Yet, it’s the ending that is just absolutely fucked up as I still get chills whenever I hear it.

2. Irreversible

Gaspar Noe is a filmmaker that anyone either loves or hates depending on one’s taste as his second full-length feature film is a mind-numbing experience that is a true one-timer. It’s about a couple who goes out with a friend on a night on the town that eventually turns tragic as it’s mainly told in reverse. Notably as it includes a long-standing, nearly-one take rape sequence in which Monica Bellucci is raped by a sadistic man that is just too brutal to watch as it had an extremely notorious reaction in its premiere at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival that involved walk-outs, fainting, screams, and all sorts of shit.

3. Aloha

Unlike the previous picks on this list as they were polarizing films that are extremely controversial made men who are artists in their own right. This is a film made by someone who not only plays it too safe in his comfort zone but also made a film that is really one of the worst films ever made. It’s about a man working for a military contractor who goes to Hawaii where he meets an old flame while falling for an air force pilot as it’s got no real characters, contrite storylines, Bill Murray phoning it in, and some very racist elements in which native Hawaiians live in trailer parkers while everyone else live in comfortable homes or hotel rooms. Oh, there is also the fact that almost the entire film is accompanied by music to the point that Alec Baldwin asks the DJ to play Tears for Fears. That’s how bad it is. Fuck you Cameron Crowe.

© thevoid99 2018