Film Review: LIGHT OF MY LIFE (USA 2019)

Light of My Life Poster
Trailer

Parent and child journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. As a father struggles to protect his child, their bond, and the character of humanity, is tested.

Director:

Casey Affleck

Writer:

Casey Affleck

LIGHT OF MY LIFE is the love a father (Casey Affleck) has for his daughter, Rag (Anna Pniowsky).  When the film opens, the father (with no name) tells the story of Noah’s Ark, his version with foxes who are cunning enough to save the world.  The story takes close to 15 minutes to be told, the camera all the while on the two figures lying down, about to sleep.  The story is sort of appropriate as it is soon revealed that the world has for some reason never explained cursed with a plague that has removed most of the female population.  For again reasons unexplained, Rag survives.  It is he father’s duty to protect the daughter’s virginity in as early as in films lie Ingmar Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING.  So, the father is living with his daughter in isolation away from possible predators and the rest of the world.  In the mean time, the daughter is growing up.  Mother (Elisabeth Moss in a largely wasted role) is only shown in flashbacks and with a comical rash not he side of her body signifying ‘disease’.

The premise is nothing new as seen in films like last year’s Debra Granik’s LEAVE NO TRACE where A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland and in John Hillcoat’s 2009 THE ROAD where an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world.  LIGHT OF MY LIFE fails to reach any of those heights.

It does not help that the script puts in any silly premise without any explanation to propel the father/daughter relationship. Not only is credibility thrown to the wind but it is difficult to care for characters inserted in an unbelievable made-up situation.  In the case of LIGHT OF MY LIFE, anything can happen.  Strangers can appear out of the blue, as a house that no one dwells in or other probabilities.

LIGHT OF MY LIFE walks the tightrope between intense drama and dystopian sci-fi thriller.  The one film that blended the two genres successfully was the Alfonso Cuaraon’s 2006 CHILDREN OF MEN.  LIGHT OF MY LIFE misses.  One wonders what the purpose is of his effort.

There could be two reasons actor/writer/director Casey Affleck might have made this film about a father protecting his young daughter against male predators in a world largely without females.  One is to redeem himself as a female protector after sexual harassment allegations arose against him.  The other is that most film producers will not touch actors with such a reputation (prime example Oscar Winner Kevin Spacey) which means that his only chance is to make a movie (Woody Allen has a new movie out, Roman Polanski has continued to make movies).  Regardless the reason, LIGHT OF MY LIFE is a terribly boring film that leads nowhere.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoHADU7Oe-g

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Film Review: THE OLD MAN & THE GUN (USA 2018) ***1/2 Review:

The Old Man & the Gun Poster
Trailer

Based on the true story of Forrest Tucker and his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public.

Director:

David Lowery

Writers:

David LoweryDavid Grann (based on the article by)

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is a seniors film for sure from its subject, setting, protagonists and even in pacing.  One will definitely notice the film’s slow pacing but don’t let the slowness fool you.  The script, based on David Grann’s 2003 article in The New Yorker titled “The Old Man and the Gun” contains a lot of details that could easily be overlooked.  The film is in many ways a clever one with more insight uncovered if (the film) discussed later.  Director Lowery’s excuse for his film being slow is echoed by the words of Robert Redford in the film’s opening cafe scene; “It is my style.”

The film is based on the true story (or mostly true as the opening credits boast) of career criminal, prison-escape artist, and amicable bank robber Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford).   The film opens with one of his successful bank hold-ups.

Having first been put away at age 15, Forrest had spent much of his life in jail and much of his energy breaking out – he successfully escaped incarceration 18 times. Forrest is, in the film in his seventies, free, and living in a retirement community, yet he cannot resist the lure of another bank heist.  He assembles a gang (the cops nickname ‘the over-the-hillers’) who, though armed, rely mainly on creativity and charisma to claim their loot.  They are pursued by Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), whose official duty is galvanized by the purity of his love for the chase.  The film’s setting is 1981 with Forrest still robbing banks.

For reason of not revealing any of the film’s spoilers which will certainly  diminish the film’s entertainment, the key plot points will not be mentioned in this review and so naturally, a lot of the script’s brilliance cannot be detailed.  So, take it with some faith that there are a few bouts of brilliant in the script.

It is one thing to make a film politically correct but to have Detective John’s wife as a black played by Tika Sumpter is going a bit overboard.  I doubt that this was the case in real life.

But THE OLD MAN & THE GUN is not really about cops and robbers, bank robberies or prison escapes.  It is about life and and what one does with ones life.  The film’s message is to ” Keep on and keep keeping on…” which in the case of Forrest is to keep robbing banks.  It is a universal message that results in this seniors film also having a universal appeal.  Robbing banks is in Forrest’s blood and he cannot change it.  When he is imprisoned, Forrest’s newest love interest Jewel (Sissy Spacek) convinces him finally to say put and not plan an escape.  This he does but to completely change his nature of robbing banks is an impossibility with him.  As the song goes in the 80’s hit tune that is played in the film – The Kink’s “Lola”, Well that’s the way that I want it to stay and I always want it to be that way – for my Lola.

This film has been reported to be Robert Redford’s last acting role and the film is a slow but well-thought out and executed entertainer!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7rlUe-Thvk

Film Review: A GHOST STORY (USA 2017) **

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

A GHOST STORYIn this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife.

Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Stars: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, McColm Cephas Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
If a film is weird enough, it makes matters worse if the filmmaker makes the film even weirder. This is the case with David Lowery’s ghost story drama – an extremely difficult to follow, confusing yet the simple storied film.

Lowery is well known for having directed Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON, now doing his minimalist project, something I guess he always wanted to do.

The story follows a couple who is referred to in the film’s notes simply as C and M. C is the male (Casey Effleck) and M is the female (Rooney Mara). When the film begins, the couple are are in a suburban home about to sell their house. They are quiet, indicating perhaps though director Lowery never makes it certain, that they need more communication. They talk about a piano with M shown dragging it out to the front of the house for garbage collection.

The next scene has C in a morgue. He is next shown in a sheet with two cut out holes as eyes. C is apparently a ghost though no reason is offered. Another ghost in a sheet with two cut out holes appear later on in the. Film. Again, it makes no sense whatsoever.

The film goes on. Moving on at slower than a snail’s space, Lowery tests the audience’s patience to no end. The music is eerie, dialogue kept at a minimum. People move in and out of the house as C occasionally scares people in the house by throwing cutlery.

As if matters cannot get worse, the film shifts back and then forwards in time towards the last third of the film. There is also a scene where a bulldozer suddenly demolishes the walls of the house.

The ghost can disappear, as is assumed when the sheet crumples to the ground. It can therefore move on to heaven or better things? No one is sure.

The film contains lots of long takes – especially long takes of close ups, something not too often seen in films. An example is the re-visited poignant scene in bed where C and M face each other in bed, kiss and fall asleep. The first time the scene is performed, it lasts a full 5 minutes. There are again other scenes this slow moving.

Performance-wise, nothing much is required from Mara nor Effleck. This is a director’s piece not the actors. All the actors are required to do is brood and brood, and maybe put a sheet over themselves. Needless to say, there are no special effects required in this ghost story.

A GHOST STORY is not badly made. It is well executed, well performed and a nice mystery from start to finish, challenging the audience. It is a haunting ghost story, but not a scary one, though the art house concept will scare commercial audiences away. Many critics at the screening loved A GHOST STORY but I am not a fan.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_3NMtxeyfk

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

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Happy Birthday: Casey Affleck

caseyaffleck.jpgCasey Affleck

Born: August 12, 1975 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA

Married to: Summer Phoenix (3 June 2006 – present) (separated) (2 children)

Younger brother of actor Ben Affleck.
Attended Columbia University, majoring in Physics. During this time he lived with his grandma in Manhattan.

TOWER HEIST
dir. Brett Ratner
Stars:
Eddie Murphy
Ben Stiller
Ocean's ElevenOcean’s Eleven
2001
dir. Soderbergh
starring
George Clooney
Pitt
Matt Damon
Ocean’s Thirteen
2007
dir. Soderbergh
starring
George Clooney
Pitt
Matt Damon
Gone Baby GoneGone Baby Gone
2008
Directed by Affleck
Starring
Casey Affleck
Morgan Freeman
SydneyWhiteThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Starring Pitt
Casey Afleck
GoodwillGood Will Hunting
1997
dir. by Gus Van Sant
starring
Matt Damon
Robin Williams
MOVIE POSTERPARANORMAN
dir. Chris Butler
Sam Fell
Stars:
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Anna Kendrick
MOVIE POSTERAIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS
2013
dir. David Lowery
Stars:
Rooney Mara
Casey Affleck
MOVIE POSTEROUT OF THE FURNACE
2013
dir. Scott Cooper
Stars:
Christian Bale
Casey Affleck

 

Movie Review: TRIPLE 9 (2016) ****

triple_9.jpgTRIPLE 9 (USA/UK 2015) ****
Directed by John Hillocoat

Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Godot, Kate Winset, Aaron Paul, Teresa Palmer, Michael Kenneth Williams

Review by Gilbert Seah

No stranger to violent films, director John Hillcoat’s (LAWLESS, THE ROAD and his best film THE PROPOSITION) latest entry into gangster genre proves himself apt at serious comic book sensibility. TRIPLE 9, the code for ‘officer down’, plays like a ‘real’ serious adult comic book version of DEADPOOL.

It takes a while for the film to settle on its bearings. The script by first time writer, Matt Cook is clever enough not to reveal all the plot points, but keeps the audience always one step behind what is happening. An example is the bank heist. Who are the robbers working for? What is their aim? One point is a bank officer removing a safety deposit box from the vault. As far as I now, it requires two keys, one from the officer and the other from the customer to open a box. It is a good tactic. For example, the audience is aware that one officer is going down, but never sure which one or for what reason. The characters are also individually distinct and eccentric all aided by superlative performances from a eclectic cast.

The key performance comes from Casey Effleck (brother of Ben) who has proven his acting mettle in previous films like THE TOWN. His character is the only uncorrupt one, and the key one that puts the whole story into prospective. The good must always prevail. The script contains a few too many close calls for his character. As for the ambiguous baddies, there are too many too count. Interesting enough, many do good for the wrong reasons. The true baddie appears to be the Russian moll, Irina played by Kate Winslet , complete with Russian accent and is barely recognizable in her makeup.. She is also doing bad for a good reason, to aid her crooked husband escape.

Hillcoat keeps the action and fury fast and furious and nonstop. Be prepared to be glued to your seats! The film alternates between highly charged action and drama sequences. For the action segments, the bank heist at the film’s start is hard to beat. The robbers show no mercy and show they mean business. They do not shout warnings. They fire and beat up the victims, and talk later. All this makes the heist even more gripping. Hillcoat also realizes that the devil is in the details. On the highway, a robber points his rifle at a car, only to have it rammed from behind and the robber moving backwards to avoid being hit. The camerawork is excellent, the best example being the one where the camera pulls back during a car chase showing where each in on the maze of highways in the city.

Hillcoat does not skimp on the violence as evident by showing a bag of bloodied teeth at another point in the film. The characters are always angry, screaming at each other but not without reason. Every character is desperate. Every character is ready to kill.

Stay for the end credits. The 1980’s song ‘Pigs” (called so for obvious reasons) by Cypress Hill is inventive, catchy, hilarious and totally appropriate. The song can also be played on YouTube.

Movie Review: THE FINEST HOURS (2016)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

the_finest_hoursTHE FINEST HOURS (USA 2016) **
Directed by Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck

Review by Gilbert Seah

Following hot on the heels (or rather on the keel) of Ron Howard’s recently released sea adventure, the critically and box-office flop IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, THE FINEST HOURS follows a crew of men fighting the elements, which is just as intense though without a Moby Dick-type monster. The plus of the two films is the authentic claustrophobic atmosphere in the vessel when the men are sailing, something that will surely discourage those intending to take a cruise some time soon.
The title ‘based on a true story’ immediately flashes on the screen at the film’s start and the film is clear to remind its audience of this fact throughout the film.

The film is a Hollywood account of the daring 1950s rescue mission by the American Coast Guard. An oil tanker, the Pendleton is split in half by a perfect storm. The surviving sailors are left adrift with no means of communication exempt to blast the horn. A member of the nearby community hears the call and a coast guard boat led by the hero, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) with his crew then risk their lives to find and rescue the sailors. On the tanker’s side, the hero is the chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck).

Director Gillespie spends too much screen time at the start with the romance between Webber and Miriam (Holliday Grainger). All this is to emphasize the heroism and sacrifice of both the men and the women by their side. Gillespie directed LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and therefore uses his past experience in putting in relationships into this film. As in most Disney films, the money making formula is kept to a ’t’.
Romance, action, a happy ending with good heroic dialogue like: “We are all going home.” The problem resulting is a too predictable film.

There is one segment in which all power is lost in the town as a result of the storm and the rescue boat, without a compass needs to find land. I could predict all the cars turning on the headlamps to signal the boat way before that scene occurred.

Once the storm occurs, Gillespie crosscuts between the action in the oil tanker and the action in the Coast Guard boat. It is a 50-50 division. What occurs inn the tanker turns out the more interesting, aided by the fact that the script emphasizes problems between Ray and a disagreeable mate (Michael Raymond McTavish) who has his own ideas on survival. The introduction of a singing cook (Abraham Benrubi) lifts the spirit of an otherwise too serious film.

But one can only endure special effects (not bad ones though) for only so long.

Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS ends up one of the most boring tales of an incredible true mission despite all the enormous effort put in. THE FINEST HOURS is a tad better than IN THE HEART OF THE SEA but that is not saying much.

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com