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

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

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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

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Film Review: PETE’S DRAGON (USA 2016)

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petes_dragon.jpgPETE’S DRAGON (USA 2016) **
Directed by David Lowery

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley

Review by Gilbert Seah

Like Disney’s last flop THE BFG directed by Steven Spielberg, this reboot of the live action Helen Reddy PETE’S DRAGON is a strong on special effects blockbuster fantasy lost in its special effects.
From the very start of the film, the audience sees young Pete (Oakes Fegley) in a car with his parents on his first camping adventure. “What does ‘adventure’ mean”? Pete questions innocently – the perfect question in a family film. Then, there is the overdone dialogue like the boy being told that he is he bravest person his mother knows. Pete is an orphan who meets his protective dragon. Disney’s version of death is a hazy slow-motion flying of things in the car as it crashes and kills Pete’s parents.

Pete lives 6 years in the woods with Elliot the dragon till he is discovered by ranger Grace Meecham (Bryce Dallas Howard). Robert Redford plays Grace’s father who claims he has seen a dragon in the woods when he was young. The film is set in the 80’s for no reason except that the original film was made in 1977.

The 1977 version and this version is largely different. The fishing community that adopts Pete is replaced by a hostile timber community. While the original was playful with songs and oddities which is a good sign for Disney’s formulaic label, this reboot is sentimental brown stuff.

More unbearable cutesy bits follow. If the dragon doesn’t fall from the sky to make funny faces, Elliot the dragon has this amazing cute look upon seeing a butterfly for the first time. Actors Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard have to constantly don astonished looks on their faces.

PETE’S DRAGON is fantasy given a realistic treatment. But the story is unimaginatively predictable and formulaic. From the very point Elliot, the dragon is captured, the audience can tell what is to happen next. Add in silly songs at all the inappropriate moments, unbearable cute bits and you have the perfect formulaic Disney movie – the sentimental feel-good film I always try to avoid.

PETE’S DARGON is director’s Lowery’s first big budget movie. Disney is good for recruiting talents like Lowery who will deliver their big beget formulaic and unimaginative films. Another example is Asian American Justin Lin who broke into the film scene with his breakthrough BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. Disney got him to make his biggest dud, ANNAPOLIS followed by the unimaginative FAST AND FURIOUS franchise.

But PETE’S DRAGON has its charm. That is if you are around the age of 6, the age of the kid and enamoured by fairy tales like befriending a giant dragon. Like the BFG where the girl has a big giant as her friend, the stories lead nowhere except to predictability land. At best, PETE’S DRAGON looks like a poor man’s version of E.T. At other times, it is cutesy Disney material aimed at the family and kids and ends up nothing more than a bore. There was a screening clash with this film. I should have gone to see SAUSAGE PARTY. At least that lewd film would have had more imagination.

 

 

 

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

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