Friday, April 20, 2018

A Taste of Honey

Based on the play by Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey is the story of a 17-year old girl who tries to find herself in her dreary environment as she also deals with romantic entanglements and her indifferent mother. Directed by Tony Richardson and screenplay by Richardson and Delaney, the film is an exploration of a young girl in a working class world that offers little prospects as she also growing pains and the realism of her situation. Starring Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Paul Danquah, Murray Melvin, and Robert Stephens. A Taste of Honey is a riveting yet haunting film from Tony Richardson.

The film follows the journey of a young woman living in Manchester with her mother as she copes with the world she lives in as well as her need to be loved as the people she would meet would come and go throughout her journey. It’s a film that explores a 17-year old girl named Josephine “Jo” (Rita Tushingham) who arrives to Manchester with her 40-something mother Helen (Dora Bryan) after not paying their rent in another town. The film’s screenplay by Shelagh Delaney and Tony Richardson that is based on the play by the former follows Jo’s life as she is trying to juggle school as well as find work but also having to deal with her mother’s need to socialize and find a new husband. During this time, Jo would meet a young black sailor named Jimmy (Paul Danquah) who would be kind to her but their romance is brief as he had to leave for his job. With Helen’s love life going up as she meets a younger man named Peter Smith (Robert Stephens), Jo’s relationship with her mother becomes troubled as she later ventures on her own where she befriends a young textile design student named Geoffrey (Murray Melvin) who would help Jo in her own plight with life.

Richardson’s direction does provide a sense of theatricality into the dramatic elements of the film in the way characters talk to each other as well as the setting they’re in. Shot largely on location in Manchester with a scene set in Blackpool, the film does play into a world that is dreary yet also exciting in some respects as there is this uncertainty that looms throughout the film into what Jo wants. While Richardson makes no qualms into how dreary the city looked with its canals, bombed-out buildings, and other places that is in ruins with not much prospect. Even as someone like Jo would have a hard time finding a place of her own and a job but would eventually get both during the film’s second half as she adjust to the life of a working woman. While Richardson would use some wide shots to establish the locations as well as some key dramatic moments including scenes in Blackpool where Jo finds herself not liking Peter whom she feels is just wrong for her mother but is also cruel to Jo.

Richardson’s usage of the close-ups and medium shots help play into the interaction between the characters as it also showcase these intense moments in the drama as it help play into Jo’s anguish over her troubled relationship with her mother. There’s an innocence to the taboo relationship between Jo and Johnny during the film’s first act yet the revelations of that relationship would later haunt the former in its third act as she’s living with Geoffrey who is concerned about her well-being. Its sense of theatricality would heighten up in the third act where there’s a tug-of-war over Jo’s best interest between Geoffrey and Helen with the latter’s intention being unclear if she really cares about her daughter despite ignoring her feelings for much of the film’s first half. Even as Jo copes with the situation she’s in as well as the uncertainty of her future. Overall, Richardson crafts an engaging yet rapturous film about a 17-year old girl’s plight in Manchester.

Cinematographer Walter Lassally does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the dreary daytime exteriors of Manchester and the more playful world of Blackpool with some low-key lighting for some of the scenes at night. Editor Antony Gibbs does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some transitional dissolves to play into the drama. Art director Ralph W. Brinton does fantastic work with the look of the apartment homes that the Jo and Helen would live in as well as the more spacious apartment that Jo would share with Geoffrey. Sound editors Don Challis and Roy Hyde do superb work with the sound in capturing the air of realism for the scenes on location including the neighborhood children in the background. The film’s music by John Addison is terrific for its orchestral-based score that has some light-hearted moments in the strings while creating some somber themes for the dramatic moments in the film.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast include a couple of small roles from Margo Cunningham as a landlady early in the film who wants rent money from Helen and Michael Bilton as a landlord who would give Jo a place to live as long as she paid her rent. Robert Stephens is superb as Peter as Helen’s new boyfriend whom she would marry as he’s a man that is cruel to Jo and seems to care more about appearances and being needed for selfish reasons than be generous. Paul Danquah is fantastic as Jimmy as a black sailor for ship that is intrigued by Jo as he would care for her and love her until he had to leave to go back to his ship for work. Murray Melvin is excellent as Geoffrey as a textile designer student who befriends Jo at a shoe store she worked at where he later lives with her and help her deal with the situation she’s in during the film’s third act.

Dora Bryan is brilliant as Jo’s mother Helen as a woman that is trying to hold on to her youth as she ignores her responsibilities as a mother in favor of going out and meeting a man who doesn’t treat her well as she later becomes anguished in being needed or to help Jo. Finally, there’s Rita Tushingham in an incredible debut performance as Jo as a 17-year old woman who deals with her dreary environment and sense of uncertainty as it’s a performance that has a lot of charm and energy into how she tries to be upbeat no matter how bad things are while coping with the realities of the world as it is a true breakthrough performance from one of Britain’s great actresses.

A Taste of Honey is a tremendous film from Tony Richardson that features a phenomenal performance from Rita Tushingham. Along with its ensemble cast, evocative look, and a mixture of dramatic realism and theatricality, the film is compelling story that follows a young woman trying to find herself as well as the need to be loved and cared for in a world that can be unforgiving. In the end, A Taste of Honey is a spectacular film from Tony Richardson.

Tony Richardson Films: (Momma Don’t Allow) – (Look Back in Anger) – (The Entertainer) – (Sanctuary (1961 film)) – (The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner) – (Tom Jones (1963 film)) – (The Loved One) – (Mademoiselle (1966 film)) – (The Sailor from Gibraltar) – (The Charge of the Light Brigade) – (Laughter in the Dark) – (Hamlet (1969 film)) – (Ned Kelly (1970 film)) – (A Delicate Balance) – (Dead Cert) – (Joseph Andrew) – (The Border (1982 film)) – (The Hotel New Hampshire) – (Penalty Phase) – (The Phantom of the Opera (1990 film)) – (Women & Men: Stories of Seduction) – (Blue Sky)

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Meltdowns

For the 16th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. The theme is on meltdowns where it shows a character just completely losing it over something or has been building up into a sense of repressed rage that leads to complete and absolute chaos. Here are my three picks:

1. My Best Fiend

For anyone that’s aware about meltdowns in film production would think they’ve seen it all. Yet, none of them compare to the one Klaus Kinski had during the production of Fitzcarraldo which was filmed by documentary filmmaker Les Blank that never made it to the final version of his film Burden of Dreams. However, Werner Herzog would show this footage of Kinski going ape-shit on production manager Walter Saxer that is extremely scary. It was so intense that natives at the Amazon offered to take care of the situation to Herzog who politely declined as he would show this moment in his documentary about his love/hate collaboration with Kinski.

2. Me, Myself, and Irene

Probably the last great film the Farrelly Brothers ever did is from this 2000 comedy about a Rhode Island police officer whose life is shattered when he learned his wife cheated on him on their wedding day giving birth to three African-American children. Despite raising the boys himself and being a loving father to them, the man would be disrespected and mistreated by many leading him to finally snap and create another personality called Hank. The result would have Hank just finally do everything Charlie wouldn’t do as it’s one of Jim Carrey’s funniest performances.

3. Friends with Money

From Nicole Holofcener comes a comedy-drama about four women who are dealing with changes in their lives as well as the need to help one of them over her lack of finances. Yet, there’s a key scene as it relates to Frances McDormand’s character who is starting to become unhinged through not just aging but the idea that her husband might be gay. The moment that she snaps is where a couple cut in line in front of her and she fucking loses her shit. Who could blame her?

© thevoid99 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Cotton Club

Based on the historical picture book by James Haskins, The Cotton Club is the story of a musician who finds himself falling for a mobster’s girlfriend where he gets himself into trouble during the era of Prohibition. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and screenplay by Coppola and William Kennedy from a story by Coppola, Kennedy, and Mario Puzo, the film is a stylish gangster-musical film of sorts as it is set largely in this nightclub. Starring Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon, and Fred Gwynne. The Cotton Club is a lavish yet incoherent film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Told in the span of the final years of the famed gangster Dutch Schultz (James Remar), the film follows a coronet player who falls for Schultz’s teenaged girlfriend as he’s given a job to protect her after saving him from an assassination attempt where things eventually become complicated. The film doesn’t just explore the life of this cornet player who is love with this young woman but also a tap dancer who is trying to pursue a singer who sings at the titular club that feature a lot of African-American singers, musicians, and dancers yet they can’t be at the club as audience members. The film’s screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and William Kennedy want to showcase this world that is the center of the gangster world in New York City. Yet, there’s so many characters in the story including real-life gangsters as it eventually becomes messy to understand what is going on and what it wants to be.

There’s this love story where the cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere) pursuing Schultz’s girlfriend Vera (Diane Lane) as well as the story of his tap-dancing friend Sandman (Gregory Hines) trying to woo the mixed-race singer Lila Rose Oliver (Lonette McKee). The narrative would move back-and-forth into these storylines as well as Schultz’s activity in the world of crime as he would find himself becoming a rival of Owney Madden (Bob Hoskins) and his right-hand man Frenchy (Fred Gwynne). Madden owns the Cotton Club which would have Schultz later form a rival club yet they would use Harlem as the place of conflict with some of Schultz’s men including Dixie’s brother Vincent (Nicolas Cage) getting into trouble with some of the locals including Bumpy Rhodes (Laurence Fishburne) who decides to fight back. It all takes place in the span of a few years as the script wouldn’t just try to be this romantic-gangster drama with elements of musical performances. Its major drawback is that blend of genres as well as dialogue that isn’t strong and characters that aren’t engaging enough.

Coppola’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of its presentation of the film as it has elements of old Hollywood and these lavish musical numbers with intricate choreography by Henry LeTang. Shot largely in New York City with its interiors shot at the Astoria studio in the city, the film does play into this high-octane world of New York City gangster life during the days of Prohibition. Coppola would use wide shots to get a scope of the locations in its exteriors as well as the performances that include tap dance numbers, choirgirl dances, and all sorts of things that was prevalent during the days of Prohibition. Much of the direction that Coppola aims for is style in its usage of slanted camera angles, close-ups, and medium shots to capture the atmosphere of the clubs. Even as the moments of violence are intense such as this dramatic re-creation of Vincent leading an assassination on one of Schultz’s men where some children are killed. It’s among some of the key moments in the film where it manages to overcome many of the script’s shortcomings including an argument scene involving Madden and Frenchy as it’s presented in a very simple yet direct medium shot.

For all of the lavishness, stylish musical numbers, and homage to the gangster films of the time, Coppola unfortunately doesn’t find a center into the film as much of its centerpiece takes place in the titular club. Rarely, the characters of Dixie and Sandman would interact as the script never establishes more of their friendship in favor of their respective romantic pursuits. The direction is all over the place where it messes up much of the film’s tone as it would be one genre and then go into something else. Even the film’s ending which mixes fantasy and reality of what happens to the characters wants to be this traditional Hollywood ending but the result is extremely messy as Coppola tried to end it with a sense of style. Overall, Coppola creates an extravagantly rich but inconsistently tonal film about life at a club during the days of Prohibition.

Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish approach to lighting for some of the musical performances as well as the look of the exteriors set at night. Editors Barry Malkin and Robert Q. Lovett do excellent work with the editing as it is stylish with its usage of dissolves and transition wipes to play into the film’s frenetic style. Production designer Richard Sylbert, with set decorators Leslie Bloom and George Gaines plus art director Gregory Bolton and David Chapman, does amazing work with the look of the nightclubs in all of its lavish form as well as the backstage areas and the places the characters would go to.

Costume designer Milena Canonero does incredible work with the costumes as it is a highlight of the film in the lavish dresses and costumes the women wear including the colored suits of the male performances in the musical numbers. Sound editor Edward Beyer does superb work with the sound with the way music sounds on location as well as the sounds of gunfire and other violent moments in the film. The film’s music by John Barry is fantastic for its orchestral-jazz based score that play into the period of the time with elements of blues music while music consultant Jerry Wexler would provide a soundtrack that feature many of the standards of the time that are performed by the actors in the film including Richard Gere playing his own cornet solos.

The casting by Lois Blanco and Gretchen Rennell is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Mario Van Peebles as a dancer at the Cotton Club, Mark Margolis as an assassin late in the film, Sofia Coppola as a young girl trying to sell Vince an apple, Giancarlo Esposito as one of Bumby’s hoods, Bill Cobbs as a veteran gangster in Big Joe Ison, Woody Strode as a Harlem veteran who advises Bumpy, Larry Marshall as the famed performer Cab Calloway, Rosalind Harris as the famed actress Fanny Brice, Jennifer Grey as Vince’s girlfriend Patsy, Tom Waits as the Cotton Club manager Irving Starck, Diane Venora as the actress Gloria Swanson who sees Dixie as a future film star, Lisa Jane Persky as Schultz’s girlfriend Frances Flegenheimer, Maurice Hines as Sandman’s brother Clay who would perform with Sandman as part of a tap duo, Julian Beck as Schultz’s advisor Sol Weinstein, Allen Garfield as Schultz’s accountant Otto Biederman, Joe Dalessandro as Lucky Luciano, and Gwen Verdon as Dixie and Vince’s mother Tish Dwyer who knew Madden who always liked her.

Fred Gwynne is terrific as Frenchy as Madden’s right-hand man who looks menacing yet is also calm unless he gets really angry while Bob Hoskins is superb as Owney Madden as the revered gangster that knows what to do and get things done but is also a man that has some morals where he tries to help out whoever he can. Nicolas Cage is fantastic as Vince Dwyer as Dixie’s brother who is trying to be a gangster working for Schultz only to get carried away to the point that he becomes trouble for everyone. Laurence Fishburne is brilliant as Bumpy Rhodes as a Harlem gangster who has had it with Vince and Schultz’s antics as he decides to fight back and get some rights for his people. James Remar’s performance as Dutch Schultz definitely has the ferocity and anger of Schultz but it also borders into parody at times where it’s a mixed bag overall as Remar isn’t given more to do but be angry and jealous for most of the film and rarely display any kind of sensitivity.

Lonette McKee is good as Lila Rose Oliver as a singer who is fascinated by Sandman but is keen on wanting to do other things as she is able to get opportunities that other women couldn’t get as she’s half-black, half-white as McKee’s performance is wonderful but very underwritten. Gregory Hines is excellent as Sandman as a tap dancer that is eager to perform at the Cotton Club and win over Lila as it’s definitely the best performance of the film where Hines is someone that is just trying to make it as he later copes with the chaos that is happening in Harlem as well as the prejudice he endures. Diane Lane is alright as Vera as Schultz’s teenaged mistress who wants to run a club as it’s a performance that has charm but not a lot of substance as her character doesn’t really do much but be pretty and be the object of affection. Finally, there’s Richard Gere in a decent performance as Dixie Dwyer as he does display a sense of charm while being a capable musician. It’s just that his character is also messy where he can be the nice and smooth talker one minute and then be an asshole the next minute as it’s just a messy performance from Gere.

The Cotton Club is an entertaining but extremely messy film from Francis Ford Coppola. Despite its gorgeous visuals, lavish production values, terrific supporting performances, and an enjoyable music score/soundtrack, it’s a film that had all of the right ideas on paper but doesn’t mesh well in terms of its execution. Notably as it tried to be so many things in one entire film only to have a lot of tonal issues as well as being more style over substance. In the end, The Cotton Club is a worthwhile but incoherent film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Francis Ford Coppola Films: (Tonight for Sure) – (The Bellboy and the Playgirls) – Dementia 13 - (You’re a Big Boy Now) – (Finian’s Rainbow) – (The Rain People) – The Godfather - The Conversation - The Godfather Pt. II - Apocalypse Now/Apocalyse Now Redux - One from the Heart - (The Outsiders) – Rumble Fish - (Peggy Sue Got Married) – (Garden of Stone) – (Tucker: The Man & His Dreams) – New York Stories-Life Without Zoe - The Godfather Pt. III - Bram Stoker's Dracula - (Jack) – (The Rainmaker) – (Youth Without Youth) – Tetro - (Twixt)

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, April 16, 2018

New Wave: Dare to Be Different

Directed by Ellen Goldfarb and written by Jay Reiss, New Wave: Dare to be Different is the story of a small radio station in Long Island, New York that would introduce listeners to new music that would introduce Americans to new wave, punk, and alternative music for much of the 1980s. The film chronicles the station’s beginnings and how it would support this new wave of music from Britain as well as underground American music to a mass audience only to fall prey to the FCC. The result is a fascinating and enjoyable film about a little radio station that managed to make a difference.

WLIR (92.7 FM) on Long Island, New York was a radio station that was small as it only came across a range smaller than more well-established radio stations in New York City and around the U.S. While it started in the late 1950s as the first radio station in Long Island, it largely played middle-of-the-road music before going into the rock format in the 1970s where it was playing the kind of music that everyone else was playing. It started to change in the late 1970s/early 1980s where the station began to move away from playing rock as program director Denis McNamara was getting records from Britain before they arrived in the U.S. as well as the new wave music that was emerging in America. In 1982, they officially changed their format to just playing punk, new wave, post-punk, reggae, ska, and what would later become alternative music as well as be the first to introduce acts such as Duran Duran, Madonna, Prince, U2, and many others to Long Island and parts of New York City and New Jersey.

The documentary which feature interviews with many acts and artists whose music was played on WLIR including the Alarm, Billy Idol, A Flock of Seagull, Joan Jett, Blondie, Talking Heads, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, and many others talked about the impact that the station had where they had their music played before every other radio station played their music. One noted song that made an impact just six months before it was to be released in America was Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax where a week after it had been released in its native country in Britain. WLIR got a copy of the single via import and played it much to the dismay of the record companies yet it became very popular among its listeners and gave the group a lot of buzz.

It wasn’t just the artists that really felt grateful for the station but also towards the deejays and people who worked at the station as they were open to new things as the deejays also connected with the listeners. The fanbase in Long Island were die-hard loyalists who really loved what the music was playing as the station would do business with local clubs in Long Island that played the same music as it became its own thing. Then there were little things such as a period devoted to reggae or reggae-based music as well as a weekly contest to choose a song that would be the popular song of the week as Sire Records founder Seymour Stein often went to that contest to make the decision of what the next single should be. Radio personalities such as Matt Pinfield, Gary Dell’Abate, and Lori Mjewski talked about the radio’s impact as Dell’Abate had interned for them before working with Howard Stern as he saw how they did things and what made them unique.

Director Ellen Goldfarb would interview the artists, radio personnel, and the fans themselves with the help of cinematographer Greg Daniels in shooting the interviews including a scene where McNamara and another key figure in WLIR would go into the building where it used to be. McNamara and the people in the station revealed how the station fell in 1987 due to some licensing issues with the FCC as it never came back on air despite winning an award for Alternative Station of the Year. Editor Allan Holzman would compile some of the rare footage of the station including the music videos and performances of the songs that defined the station. Sound editor Frederick Helm would compile station call backs and such of those times including a rare audio clip of a performance from U2 in 1985 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York where they thanked the station for being the first American station to play them on the radio.

New Wave: Dare to Be Different is a marvelous film from Ellen Goldfarb. Featuring an array of appearances and interviews from those who benefited from the radio station as well as the people who listened to the station. It’s a documentary film that showcases the impact of a small radio station in Long Island did to the world of music and what it meant to so many people in an age where radio is now owned by corporations. In the end, New Wave: Dare to be Different is a remarkable film from Ellen Goldfarb.

© thevoid99 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Marvel Cinematic Universe: 10 Reasons Why It Rules the World

On April 30, 2008 just three days before its American release, a film about a playboy billionaire weapons manufacturer who later became a superhero by creating his own suit in order to stop his weapons be used for harm was unveiled to the world. Budgeted at $140 million and with a lot of skepticism into the idea that a gifted but troubled film star like Robert Downey Jr. would play the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man. The film would end up being the start of something much bigger than anyone would ever realize. Ten years later with billions and billions of dollars accumulated and counting with 17 films released and more to come with two films set to come out in 2018. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has re-written the rules of what a franchise could be as well as how to bring characters from different stories to come together and be heroes.

While it can be stated that films about superheroes aren’t for everyone and in an age where there’s so many big movies about superheroes to the point that people can be burned out. There is no question that Marvel Studios has created something that is special in not just making films about superheroes but giving audiences heroes whether they’re humans, aliens, gods from other universes, or beings made by man with a conscious that they can connect with. It’s easy to say that the films that Marvel has made are escapist, popcorn entertainment with big special effects and bombastic action sequences. Yet, they’re so much more than that as many of these films get their ideas from not just the original source materials in comic books but also draw ideas from the cinema of the past. So why has the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become a big deal and matter to the world of cinema? Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Heroic Characters with Human Struggles

Part of what make superhero films work is giving audiences heroes to root for in saving the world as Marvel had succeed that in the early 2000s with the first X-Men and Spider-Man films. There is something about a band of mutants and a teenage kid with superpowers that do connect with audiences as they’re all flawed and struggle with themselves. This is something the MCU has followed as the character of Tony Stark/Iron Man starts off as a douchebag who creates and sells weapons, drinks a lot, have too much fun, and sleeps around with women. Yet, when he’s attacked by terrorists and see his creation be used to kill innocent people. He would fight back as well as use his gift in inventing things including an arc reactor to protect his heart from the shrapnel that is near it as he would have a change of heart and spend much of his character arc through three solo films as well as other films in the MCU trying to bring world peace and ensure the world’s safety despite some bumps.

It’s also in the character arcs that is important to the MCU as Thor is this Norse God who wields a mighty hammer as his journey has him being banished to Earth in an act of humility to then realize what he needs to do in being king as he would later cope with loss and questioning his worth. Steve Rogers/Captain America also goes through an arc of his own from an idealistic scrawny kid from Brooklyn who is given a serum to be taller and stronger in order to help the Americans in World War II to dealing with the complications of the modern world as he struggles with his ideas only to see that not everything is black and white. Others such as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Doctor Steven Strange, Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and T’Challa/Black Panther all display characteristics that make audience relate to them as human (even though some are aliens) who know what they have to do to make the universe a safer place.

2. Unconventional Villains with Strong Motivations

Every superhero in any story needs a villain to fight against. That is often the scenario in every movie about a superhero needs though the MCU has struggled with creating compelling villains. Yet, recent films in the MCU have provided audiences with antagonists that don’t exactly play by ideas that seem very typical of what to expect from villains. While the character of Loki might be considered a villain in his role in trying to rule Earth in The Avengers, he’s really more an anti-hero as someone that is just trying to prove to his adopted father Odin that he can be king and step away from Thor’s shadow. Even as he would eventually help Thor in becoming king while having to face the fact that he is his own worst enemy for his love of mischief. Villains like Red Skull, Malekith, Ultron, and Kaecilius play into the typical tropes of characters that want to rule the world and have a thirst for power yet someone like Hela from Thor: Ragnarok isn’t just about wanting to conquer the world but also someone that has a legit grudge towards her father and brother with the former putting her in exile and the latter for just being in the way of her claim to Asgard’s throne.

The MCU admittedly has suffered from villains that don’t live up to expectations like Malekith, Kaecilius, Emil Blonsky/Abomination, and Aldrich Killian but recent films in the MCU have managed to find way to create antagonists that are more compelling like Hela and Ego from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 who have ambitions but also want something more. The character of Helmut Zemo from Captain America: Civil War would do something other villains hadn’t done which was to hurt the Avengers through secrecy all for the act of vengeance while Adrian Toomes/the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming is just selling illegal weapons just to provide for his family. Then there’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens from Black Panther who has a legitimate claim to the throne of Wakanda as he is someone that doesn’t play by the typical tropes of the villain. Instead, he is someone that is willing to challenge a lot of ideas his reasons into wanting become Wakanda’s king is a reaction to African-Americans’ own oppression as well as the dark history of colonization in Africa. So far, Killmonger is the MCU’s best villain though the upcoming arrival of Thanos for the next two Avengers films might top Killmonger.

3. Kevin Feige and Stan Lee

Anyone who has paid attention to cinema’s history is aware that there’s been film franchises as the longest-running franchise so far has been the James Bond film series. There’s a reason Bond has been around for more than fifty years and remaining strong as it goes to the people behind the scenes as it started off with Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman from Dr. No to The Man with the Golden Gun and then Broccoli by himself afterwards before handing the reins of the franchise to his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson who have ensure the franchise’s longevity since Broccoli’s death in 1996. It shows the importance of the role of the film producer as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been overseen by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

Since working as an associate producer for the 1998 film Blade and working under the tutelage of Richard Donner and others involved with the films from Marvel Studios. Feige’s role under the MCU isn’t just being the producer but to plan everything and make sure the films are released accordingly and planning for the future. Like Bond and its author in Ian Fleming, the MCU also rely on the comic books of Marvel as their resource while they’re also fortunate to have a good luck charm in Stan Lee. Lee’s role in the comics as the co-creator of the many comic characters has been a source of fun for the film. Though his role in Marvel has dwindled as more of a celebrated figurehead, he does remain a source of inspiration while his cameos in the many films of Marvel as well as the MCU have been a treat to watch.

4. Exposing Audiences to New Actors and New Heroes

For anyone that don’t read comics or are just casual fans surely have an idea who Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man are before the MCU emerged. A decade later, not only are audiences given the chance to know more superheroes including the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy but also others who are strong supporting players who actually matter. Characters such as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, and the artificial intelligence program J.A.R.V.I.S. who later became Vision have managed to stand out and make an impact on their own in aiding the bigger stars like Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. The MCU would carefully prepare those characters that include Pierto Maximoff/Quicksilver into the foray as well as create solo films for Ant-Man and Doctor Strange as a way to introduce these two characters. Yet, the most successful introduction the MCU has done is with the Guardians of the Galaxy as this group of misfits who come together to save the galaxy as it include a half-human with a love for 70s/80s music, an alien assassin, an alien warrior, a genetically-engineer raccoon, and a tree-like humanoid named Groot as it would later expand the assassin’s half-cyborg sister, an alien empath, and a ravager who is Quill’s father-figure.

These heroes would come to life and into the popular consciousness if it wasn’t for the casting directors in finding the right people. Before he would play Thor, Chris Hemsworth was just a TV star in Australia and played Captain Kirk’s father in the 2009 film version of Star Trek by J.J. Abrams while Tom Hiddleston was also doing TV and theater in Britain before playing Loki. Their roles in the MCU would make them big stars while Dave Batista was a popular pro wrestler in the WWE in the 2000s and had been in a few movies before being cast as Drax the Destroyer in the same year he would make an uninspired and uneventful return to the WWE due to bad booking. This inspired casting has also brought in a wide variety of people to be in the MCU whether it’s emerging indie film actors like Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Brie Larson, and Lupita Nyong’o to veterans like Michael Douglas, Forest Whitaker, Michael Keaton, Angela Bassett, and Samuel L. Jackson playing key parts along with established actors like Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, and Cate Blanchett. Without the right people, these films wouldn’t matter.

5. Creating a World/Universe that is Diverse and with a Sense of Equality

It is obvious that a lot of film franchises over the years have often featured protagonists who are essentially white. Batman, Superman, and James Bond are portrayed by white men and the world they live in is predominately white though it would change to reflect the world that would become more diverse. The one film franchise that managed to break away from those ideas to be part of a world that is diverse as well as cater to wider demographic has been the Fast and Furious franchise. Since 2001, the franchise started off with a unique cast that included a half-black/half-white lead, a white lead, and two Hispanic actresses that eventually grew to include African-Americans, a half-Samoan/half-black Canadian, an Israeli actress, Asians, and many others as it had become this very popular franchise that takes place in various parts of the world which would contribute to the film’s financial success as well as being embraced by the critics who dismissed the films as just car-chase films. This is something Marvel had noticed though they were slow in embracing the idea of diversity and gender equality during the Phase One portion of the MCU. There was controversy over the idea of having Idris Elba play the role of Heimdall in the Thor films yet Elba would end up being embraced for his performance as the famed Asgardian.

This eventually lead to the emergence of characters of diverse ethnicities and races to emerge as Scott Lang’s friends are a mixture of people who help him out while many of Peter Parker’s classmates in Spider-Man: Homecoming are kids from different racial backgrounds who actually look like real kids as it has this reflection of a world that mirrors the positive aspects of reality. The portrayal of women in the MCU is unique though slow to catch on as characters like Pepper Potts started off as Tony Stark’s assistant to then running his company and later becoming his fiancĂ©e while the character of Peggy Carter is seen as a total badass whom Steve Rogers becomes attached for. Eventually, characters such as Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Nebula, Valkyrie, Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye with the Dora Milaje would prove that women don’t have to be damsels in distress but rather women who can’t be messed with. Even as the spotlight will be given towards more women and characters of diverse racial backgrounds as Hope Van Dyne/the Wasp and Captain Marvel are about to play their roles for the MCU.

6. Bringing in Filmmakers with Ideas that are Unique

The films of the MCU wouldn’t come to life without the filmmakers who are hired to make those films happen. While not everything worked in their favor as attempts to get Patty Jenkins to helm Thor: The Dark World and Edgar Wright for Ant-Man were unsuccessful. They have managed to get reliable studio filmmakers such as Joe Johnston, Peyton Reed, and Shane Black to create strong entries for the MCU in the first two phases of the series as well as Jon Faverau who would kick things off for the first two films about Iron Man. Then there’s Joss Whedon whose work in TV as well as having made a film of his own in Serenity before the MCU as he would helm the two films on the Avengers as well as help chart the course for the first two phases. It’s in that 2nd phase where Kevin Feige’s work in finding new talent would come into play as the MVPs of the MCU in terms of filmmaking have been Joe and Anthony Russos in not just helming two films in Captain America’s arc trilogy but will also be helming the next two films on the Avengers as they both brought their own spin on the story based on their work in comedies.

Then there’s filmmakers who aren’t part of the studio system such as James Gunn, Jon Watts, Taika Waititi, and Ryan Coogler whose recent entries into the MCU would prove to be beneficial. Gunn’s work as a writer/producer for Troma Entertainment in the late 90s as well as creating offbeat film projects made him the ideal choice to helm Guardians of the Galaxy while Jon Watts came from an independent film background that made him the unlikely person to direct Spider-Man: Homecoming. Then there’s Taika Waititi whose offbeat work in happy-sad comedies would make Thor: Ragnarok not just a standout film in the MCU but also make something allowed audiences to be engaged with Thor’s encounter with tragedy as well as loosen him up. Finally, there’s Ryan Coogler who had only made two films prior to Black Panther but would provide something themes of political and social commentary into the film as it would stand out from other films in the MCU. With the duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck helming Captain Marvel, it is clear that the MCU has become a place where filmmakers with original ideas can bring something to the table.

7. Thinking Outside of the Box and Infuse Other Genres into Superhero Films

The idea of a superhero film often have this traditional narrative of a hero overcoming adversity and challenges in the hopes of making the world safe. That’s a story that is told very often as the MCU knows that it’s a formula that’s been done yet it doesn’t mean that they can get ideas from other films and other genres. The first film about Captain America was essentially inspired by World War II films in terms of its look and setting as the story was set during those times. The next two films under the helm of the Russo Brothers would draw its inspiration from 1970s political thrillers while Spider-Man: Homecoming was obviously inspired by the films of John Hughes with a visual reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a clip of that film being shown. Of course, there would be criticism over the fact that filmmakers had to get ideas from other films to stand out. Yet, the revered independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch says it best about getting ideas from other films based on this quote.

It’s not just the comics that the filmmakers have to get ideas from but also from other films as Thor: Ragnarok is partially a buddy-comedy where Thor has to go back to Asgard to save his people with the Hulk. The scenes of Thor and Hulk are in the tradition of the screwball buddy comedies which include those moments with Bruce Banner dealing with the fact that he’s been the Hulk for two years. Doctor Strange is largely inspired by 1960s psychedelia and martial arts films of the 1970s/1980s in its visual approach as well as in some of the training scenes involving the titular character. Ant-Man is partially a heist film with some offbeat character that include Scott Lang’s friend Luis whose monologues provide a sense of comedy as it’s a play on the heist genre. Then there’s Black Panther which is obviously inspired by ideas of Afro-futurism and politically-based films to create something that is different where it does harken to ideas of Blaxploitation cinema but also the cinema of Africa as it relates to the years of colonialism and exploitation the continent would suffer through for much of its time.

8. Reinventing the Concept of Shared Universe for Cinema

The idea of the shared universe in cinema sort of began in 1943 in Roy William Neil’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in which two famed horror characters from Universal Studios meet for the first time. Though it would be the start of the monsters from the studio to meet and interact, they weren’t exactly great films. In 1954, Japan’s Toho Studios created the first Godzilla movie as it would lead to a franchise involving the titular character as well as the creation of more kaiju monsters that became a cinematic universe of its own. Attempts by Hollywood in creating shared universes with films like Alien vs. Predator and Freddy vs. Jason were presented with mixed results while independent filmmaker Kevin Smith created his own universe with his own creation that is set in a small town in New Jersey in the View Askewniverse. What Marvel Studios did upon creating Iron Man was to make audiences unaware of what they were doing while taking the time to develop films for other characters and introduce characters before finally unveiling something big that was to be The Avengers in 2012.

Rather than let audiences know right away of what they’re doing, the MCU’s method of making audiences aware of what is going where through post-credit sequences while subtly hint in what might happen next. Each character that Marvel is using and have the film rights to allows Kevin Feige and many others in the creative department to map things out as if it was a TV show for each episode. It allows a film to be developed carefully and be given the time to make sure things go right. It wasn’t until the third Iron Man film in 2013 where the shared universe concept was coming into play as audiences would be introduced to new characters without making people aware of what is to come through elements of subtlety. When it came to getting Spider-Man in the MCU after Sony Pictures’ attempt in creating a cinematic universe for Spider-Man and other characters related to the character with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and its ill-fated sequel in 2014. Marvel Studios would make a deal with Sony in getting Spider-Man in the MCU as it would be a successful partnership where Spider-Man would interact with other characters giving audiences the chance to see all of their heroes together in one film.

9. Its Importance in Popular and Social Culture.

The world of the comic film culture can be described in before and after as it relates to the release of The Avengers. Before The Avengers, comic book conventions and other types of fandom were on the verge of the mainstream by the 21st Century yet remained sort of exclusive to the hardcore fans of comics, wizard trading cards, and such as it would become bigger by 2006 where the San Diego Comic Con would reach more than 100,000 attendees. After The Avengers, the culture itself became the mainstream for better or worse as it became the place where filmmakers would make announcement for new projects or the launch of something big. It didn’t just become comic book readers, nerds, and outsiders that were dressing up like superheroes but it also became mainstream. There is a downside to it as the culture can get overwhelming as studios would try and create cinematic universes of their own without any real understanding of how to reach a wide audience. Marvel understands that creating a universe isn’t easy as the fact that The Avengers and its 2015 sequel in Age of Ultron were major financial successes as they strive to ensure that all of their films become successful.

Especially as they’re aware to not underestimate its audience and have them prepared for something new to come. The recent success of Black Panther is a key example as it’s clear that Marvel didn’t think the film as of 4/15/18 would become this massive as it grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide and has made it into the top 10 highest-grossing films of all-time. Yet, it’s not just the financial success that is monumental but also in its reach to a demographic in African-American audiences and African audiences where it’s not just celebrities, athletes, political figures, journalists, and others that are doing the Wakandan salute. It’s the fact that this demographic have been waiting for a film like this and it couldn’t come at an appropriate time of racial turmoil and uncertainty where even rich African-Americans offered to rent theaters so that people who couldn’t afford or have the chance to see the film can be able to and more.

10. Developing Ideas for the Future

Following the release of Avengers: Infinity War, there will be three more films to come to complete the third phase of the MCU with Ant-Man & the Wasp coming in the summer while 2019 will mark the introduction of Captain Marvel in her titular film and the fourth Avengers film. The post-phase three period will be tricky as sequels for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy are in development for its respective summer 2019 and 2020 releases. Along with developing sequels for Doctor Strange and Black Panther plus a possible solo film for Black Widow, there is so much that Marvel wants to do as they’re also aware that they can’t go overboard as audiences can get burned out over so many film franchises. Even as Disney recently purchased 21st Century Fox which could mean that characters of the X-Men series and the Fantastic Four could finally be part of the MCU. Then there’s that question of then what? There’s so much the MCU could do but this isn’t some studio that will immediately rush and make something happen as they know that things like that could hurt a film. The people who run Marvel Studios are fortunately a patient bunch who will go to the comics for guidance as well as bring in anyone who has an idea and make something special.

It’s a future that is very bright for Marvel as they’re also involved with an upcoming animated feature for Spider-Man later in 2018 that isn’t part of the MCU but it might open the door for more Marvel-based films to be presented in a different light. Even as they’ve managed to find success on TV with shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jessica Jones, and the animated shows on Disney XD. Marvel has pretty much managed to find a formula for success with the MCU now becoming the new blueprint in not just creating a universe but also keep it fresh as long as there’s an audience that wants to see stories about heroes they can relate to. So to Marvel and the MCU, thank you for making films that matter to everyone including some of us snobs who love cinema.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers

Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man

Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - (Avengers: Infinity War) - (Ant-Man & the Wasp) - (Captain Marvel) - (The Avengers: Infinity Wars Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2018

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Maggie's Plan

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller from a story by Karen Rinaldi, Maggie’s Plan is the story of a woman who falls in love with a married man only for things go wrong years later as she schemes to get him back to his ex-wife. The film is a romantic comedy of sorts as it plays into a woman who put herself into a situation only to find herself in serious trouble as she becomes part of a messy love triangle. Starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Wallace Shawn, and Julianne Moore. Maggie’s Plan is a witty and whimsical film from Rebecca Miller.

The film follows a young woman who meets a writer as they fall in love despite the fact that he’s married to a college professor as they would later marry and have a child only for the marriage to lose its luster where the woman believes her husband is hung up on his ex-wife. It’s a film that explores a woman’s desire to wanting to become a mother only for her plans to just have a child without any emotional attachments to the father only for things to not exactly go her way. Rebecca Miller’s screenplay follows the titular protagonist (Greta Gerwig) who works at the New School in New York City where she’s the director of business development and outreach for the art and design students as she would meet another person at the school in John Harding (Ethan Hawke) over a bill where they have somewhat similar last names as Maggie’s surname is Hardin. Learning that Harding is working on a novelist and married to the famed writer Georgette Norgaard (Julianne Moore) who tenures at Columbia University.

Maggie and Harding befriend one another due to the former’s interest towards the latter’s novel as they suddenly begin an affair where the story moves three years later where they have a daughter named Lily (Ida Rohatyn). Yet, things become complicated as their relationship has hit a funk where Harding would help his ex-wife over business deals with Maggie watching over her teenage stepdaughter Justine (Mina Sundwall) and stepson Paul (Jackson Frazer). Maggie is convinced her relationship with Harding is going to end in divorce where she meets Norgaard about the idea of her getting back with Harding. It all play into Maggie’s need to control the situations as well as reclaim some idea of individuality as she often had to cancel meetings in her job and do all of the things that a mother does with Harding often too consumed with his own work and such. Norgaard is reluctant at first about Maggie’s plan as she’s still got issues with Maggie over her affair with Harding but also realizes that she still has feelings for her ex-husband.

Miller’s direction is straightforward in terms of the compositions and setting as it is shot largely in New York City during the winter as well as locations at upstate New York as Quebec. While there are some wide shots in some scenes, much of Miller’s direction rely on close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the characters interacting with one another. Even in scenes that are lightly comical as it relates to Maggie being with her friends including a man named Guy (Travis Fimmel) whom she originally wanted to impregnate her by donating his sperm. It’s among the lightly-comical moments that include the night Maggie tries to use Guy’s sperm to impregnate herself where Harding has rung the intercom to meet her as it would play into some silliness. 

The scenes that showcases Harding’s marriage to Norgaard display that air of inequality where Norgaard is presented as someone that might seem pretentious yet she is revealed to be someone that is an intellectual but with a chip on her shoulder. In the film’s third act, it does become dramatic as it relates to Maggie and Harding yet would have an air of humor in the growing friendship between Maggie and Norgaard as Miller would show the two having common ground as well as create something together that would benefit everyone. Overall, Miller crafts a charming and enjoyable film about a woman’s scheme to get her husband back with his ex-wife that would eventually cause chaos in her own life.

Cinematographer Sam Levy does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for its exterior look including the scenes set in Quebec that includes its low-key lighting for the interior scenes at night. Editor Sabine Hoffman does terrific work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few jump-cuts and montages with the latter playing into Maggie’s relationship with Harding early in the film. Production designer Alexandra Schiller, with set decorator Kendall Anderson and art director Brian Goodwin, does fantastic work with the look of the apartments the characters live in from the posh-look of Norgaard to the more Bohemian look of Maggie when she lives with Harding.

Costume designer Malgosia Turzanska does nice work with the costumes as it has a sense of style from the colorful look of Maggie to the more posh look of Norgaard. Sound editor Marlena Grzaslewicz does superb work with the sound in capturing the atmosphere of the hotel in Quebec to the exteriors of New York City. The film’s music by Michael Rohatyn is wonderful for its low-key score that mixes folk and indie music to play into the world of New York City while music supervisor Adam Horowitz provide a mix of music from reggae to rock.

The casting by Cindy Tolan is great as it feature some notable small roles from Wallace Shawn as a Q&A interviewer for Norgaard and Harding early in the film, Kathleen Hanna as a singer at an inn in Quebec, Ida Rohatyn as John and Maggie’s daughter Lily, Jackson Frazer as John and Georgette’s son Paul, and Mina Sundwall as John and Georgette’s teenage daughter Justine who is wondering why her dad is eating with her mom. Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph are superb in their respective roles as Tony and Felicia as friends of Maggie who have a family of their own as they’re concerned about her scheme with Tony being uncomfortable with the situation. Travis Fimmel is terrific as Guy as a friend of Maggie who makes and sells pickles as she wants him to donate his sperm to her only for things to not happen. Ethan Hawke is excellent as John Harding as a college professor for the New School that is trying to create a novel yet often neglects his parental duties and still has feelings for Georgette unaware of what he’s doing to Maggie.

Julianne Moore is incredible as Georgette Norgaard as a Danish intellectual/writer who is also a professor at Columbia University as she has some resentment and anger towards her ex-husband yet still has feelings for him where she would go along with Maggie’s plan only to befriend Maggie as it’s a charming performance from Moore. Finally, there’s Greta Gerwig in a remarkable performance as Maggie Hardin as a director for the New School who is eager to have a child where things don’t go as planned as she tries to take control of the situation in getting her husband back with his ex-wife only to realize her faults and accept about the way things are.

Maggie’s Plan is a marvelous film from Rebecca Miller that features great performances from Greta Gerwig and Julianne Moore. Along with its supporting cast and a witty story of a complicated love triangle, it’s a film that manages to bring something new to the romantic-comedy genre while being a woman’s film in its exploration for them to find their place in the world. In the end, Maggie’s Plan is a brilliant film from Rebecca Miller.

Rebecca Miller Films: (Angela (1995 film)) – Personal Velocity: Three Portraits - The Ballad of Jack and Rose - The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Arthur Miller: Writer

© thevoid99 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies About Movies

For the 15th week of 2018 as part of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer. We forge into the subject about films about films. Films about the art filmmaker whether it’s fictional or something that is happening behind the scenes. Here are six picks for this subject. One list involving narrative-based films about making films and the second list about real-life stories of making films.

1. Day for Night

From the legendary Francois Truffaut comes one of his greatest triumphs as it explores the ups and downs of making a film. It’s a film that explores what it takes to make a film as a filmmaker, played by Truffaut, is dealing with a depressed English actress and all sorts of things. It’s a film told with a lot of humor but also play into Truffaut’s fascination with love as characters sleep around with each other as well as it all plays into the turbulent relationship for a filmmaker and cinema.

2. Burden of Dreams

From director Les Blank comes one of the greatest making-of films ever as it explores the intense production of Werner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo. A production that was intensely troubled when it began in 1980 with Jason Robards in the titular role and Mick Jagger as his loyal assistant. Things unfortunately go wrong when Robards was ill and had to go home while Jagger went on tour with the Stones forcing Herzog to create a new film with longtime collaborator Klaus Kinski replacing Robards while Jagger’s role was scrapped entirely. It also shows Herzog’s supposed disdain for nature as he tries to do the impossible by dragging a two-ton steamship on top of a fucking mountain.

3. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

It’s no question that Apocalypse Now is one of the finest films ever made yet the story about the making of the film is just as compelling. Featuring footage that was shot by Francis Ford Coppola’s wife Eleanor, the film showcases the chaos that occurred during production where Coppola had to endure horrible weather, rising production costs, Marlon Brando arriving to the set overweight and not reading his lines, Martin Sheen having a heart attack, and all sorts of shit. It’s a film that showcases the air of insanity that occurs during a big production that would nearly kill any filmmaker as Coppola himself almost went insane during the production. It’s a compelling documentary that shows what goes on in big-budget filmmaking and how things can go wrong and the balls that it takes to create something that many people wouldn’t forget.

4. CQ

From Francis’ son Roman is a film about a film editor working a sci-fi film called Codename: Dragonfly while borrowing equipment and film for his own project as he deals with the chaos of finishing up the film he’s hired to work on. Starring Jeremy Davies as a young filmmaker working as an editor for this sci-fi film, it showcases a moment in time where things are to change as this young man finds himself falling for the film’s star just like the film’s original director. With a cast that includes Gerard Depardieu, Giancarlo Giannini, Elodie Bouchez, Jason Schwartzman, Billy Zane, Angela Lindvall, Dean Stockwell, and Roman’s sister Sofia in a cameo appearance. It’s a fun debut film from Roman.

5. Lost in La Mancha

With the film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote finally getting ready to come out after nearly 20 years of work, the 2001 documentary about Terry Gilliam’s first attempt in making the film is truly an astonishing experience that shows the audience what can go wrong. Among them is location issues, a poor soundstage, acts of God, and the wonderment over whether the production is cursed. It’s a mind-blowing documentary that showcases the many things that can go wrong as it would mirror many of the tribulations that even Don Quixote would endure in his story.

6. Tropic Thunder

From Ben Stiller comes a comedy about the making of a war movie where everything goes wrong with the biggest problem being the egos among its three main stars. With Stiller playing a fading action film star, the cast includes Robert Downey Jr. as an Australian method actor who takes on roles to great extremes as he plays an African-American platoon sergeant, Jack Black as a comedy actor with a serious drug problem, Brandon T. Jackson as a rapper trying to sell his endorsements, and Jay Baruchel as a newcomer. Add Matthew McConaughey as Stiller’s agent, Nick Nolte as the film’s author, Danny McBride as the special effects man, and Tom Cruise in one of the best performances of his career as a fat, balding, profanity-spewing film producer as it is a crazy-comedy about what happens when actors find themselves in a situation that becomes real life.

© thevoid99 2018