Film Review: LUCKY (USA 2017) ***1/2

Lucky Poster


John Carroll Lynch


Logan Sparks (screenplay), Drago Sumonja (screenplay)


Harry Dean StantonDavid LynchRon Livingston

Harry Dean Stanton plays the character of LUCKY of the film title in a film that audiences recognize could be the real Harry Dean Stanton.  LUCKY is the nickname the ex-navy man earned after being designated the cook in the Navy while others were sent to fight and die during the War.  Lucky is 90, bitter, alone (but not lonely as he has a routine of chores to do each day), cynical, sickness free, and smokes a lot.

The audience sees Lucky doing the same things daily – visiting the grocery store with the Mexican cashier to get his cigarettes; having some drinks at the bar; having coffee at his dual diner; and watching his favourite quiz show – but with different reactions.  The soundtrack replays the tune of “Old River Valley’ on a harmonica.

The film contains a lot of musings like what realism (as explained by Lucky as real for one person but not necessarily in another occurs to another) is or even the friendship between man an animal as the latter discussion (it is apparently essential to the soul) starts.  Lucky’s friend, Howard (David Lynch) at the bar walk in to sadly announce the loss of President Roosevelt, his pet tortoise. (Lucky does not believe this….. not the statement but the existence of a soul.)  Though the latter statement seems inconsequential dialogue in the script, it is important in the way Lucky looks at life if he does not believe in the existence of a soul.

The film is directed by actor John Carroll base on the script by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja.  The film pays more attention to the character than to plotting.  The film is also wonderfully acted by Stanton.  Director David Lynch delivers a surprisingly moving speech defending his case of leaving his inheritance to his tortoise that has apparently escaped as does James Darren how a nothing person like him transformed to one who now has everything.

LUCKY the film can be best described as a cynical coming-of age movie of a 90-year old man who has almost given up on life.  It is quite an idea for a film which is likely the story got made.  It is a film about an old fart that is not the typical Hollywood old fart film like the fantasies of old people reminiscing on their youth or having sex one more time.  Lucky confesses in one scene that he can hardly get it up any more.  Here, Lucky says in the film’s most intimate scene where he reveals his deep secret to his friend, Loretta (Yvonne Huff): “I’m scared.”  It all happens when he falls down out of feeling faint, though doctor (Ed Begley Jr.) tells him that nothing major is wrong with him.

Harry Dean Stanton passed away this year (2017).  LUCKY is a worthy swan song of an actor that has surprised audiences many a time with his wide range of performances.



Film Word Of The Week: Cheater-cut

Cheater-cut.jpgby Kierston Drier

If you have ever tuned in to your favorite serialized show airing on Prime-Time, you have seen a cheater cut. You may not have heard the term, but the chances are high you’ve relied on it if you’ve ever missed an episode, in the era before you could download it.


A Cheater-cut is the small series of shots that break down the basic plot points in the previous episode, and often air just before the episode about to come up. It is, metaphorically, an information booster-shot, so that you’ll be able to generally keep up with what is going on in the current episode, if you missed last weeks’.


Orphan Black, is one of many shows that employs Cheater’s Cuts, the introductory footage that will recap the previous episode. Cheater Cuts can also serve other purposes- they can shine a spotlight on essential plot points, or even create red-herrings. In serialized dramas boasting multiple plots, Cheater Cuts’ are helpful, simply in helping jog the memory of a viewer, who is watching the episodes a week apart. Think of a Cheater Cut as reading the chapter summary at the back of a textbook, right before you have to take the test- except the test is your favorite TV show- and the summary is master editing.


Cheater Cuts’ are far more common in serialized drama. In serialized drama, the narrative carries over all season long, and more times than not, the entire series. As such, what happened in the previous episode will directly effect what will be happening in the current episode. However, we do see Cheater Cut’s in comedy. Far more rare, they usually occur in a special circumstance, like a season finale, where the comic story fails to wrap up at the end of the episode, and ends of a nail-biting cliff hanger…only to return next week for a sweet and heartwarming resolution. In this cases, cheater cuts’ often make a noticeable appearance, usually opening with something like “Last time on…”  whereas the opening of a serialized cheater cut would likely be more subtle.


Cheater Cuts are very effective and often crucial to the story. They allow the audience to get a refresher on the arch and be ready to jump directly into the action from frame one. The eliminate the need for expositional dialogue and allow the piece to continue its’ flow with an unbroken fluidity. So the next time you miss your favorite episode of a Sunday night drama, thank an editor- a Cheater Cut may save you next week.


Inside The Chaos: Networking: Keeping in Contact – Part 3

Jesus that was exhausting, wasn’t it? But YOU MADE IT.

It’s not as easy as it sounds!

  • You went to the Event/ Party/ Industry Night
  • You talked to People
  • You grabbed contact information

But now what? How do you bridge the gap between casual meeting and business contact? The last part can be the most tenuous, but also the most rewarding!

This secondary phase contact depends greatly on several factors

  • The context in which you met
  • The context in which you exchanged information
  • The difference in your professional status’s
  • Contextual Needs

Context in which you met:

  • Did you meet at a Party? A wrap party? A swanky professional conference?
  • Did you talk professionally or about only topics directly related to your work or the field in general, or, was your meeting more relaxed and talked about a variety of topics?

Context of exchanging your information:

  • Did you exchange your information because that was what was happening all around you (everyone passing out lots of cards)? Or did you exchange based on mutual interest?
  • Who offered to exchange first?

Professional status:

  • Is this person at the same level as you? Or do they have considerably more or less experience?
  • Are you in directly related fields, or peripherally related?

Contextual needs:
–  Do the two of you have positions that can mutually benefit each other.

What to do:
– Wait for 18-48 hours before writing.
-If they offered a preferred form of contact, use that  (Facebook, email, etc)

-Personalize your contact with thoughtful details (Ex:
(Ex: Hello (Name) is was so nice to meet you last (weekday/weekend) at (Event Name). I really enjoyed our conversation about (Topic) and (Insert comment on topic). It would be great to  (Bump into you again/ grab a coffee sometime to talk more about (insert topic) I‘d be happy to buy you a coffee sometime and hear more about (Industry Item)/ etc).
– If you have the ability to talk about something other than the industry, include that too!
-Spell check.

-Directly ask for a job, favor or professional courtesy (UNLESS they specifically told you they were looking to hire/asked you to send in your resume/offered to do favor for you in person)
-Use more than one mode of contact (email them AND text them AND add them to facebook. Do this gradually)
-Make off color humor (even if you were raunchy-humored in person, it may translate poorly through text)
-Panic if you don’t hear back. Deep breath. They may honestly be busy, they may remember you next time you bump into each other!

Film Review: BEING SEEN, Documentary

Played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Festival

Directed by Paul Zehrer

A combination of funny, acerbic, and heart-wrenching, these people’s candid and articulate self-awareness quickly shatter preconceptions of the disabled.

Review by Kierston Drier:

An American film from director Paul Zehrer, BEING SEEN follows the spirited occupants of an adult group home for the developmentally challenged.

At times gut wrenching painful, and other times embarrassingly honest and frequently disarmingly funny, this film does something magical: it opens your eyes.

Candid and articulate, our subjects recount their understanding and acceptance of who they are, while others describe the loneliness that plagues them since losing loved ones.

There are couples, like Jared and his girlfriend, who decide to get married although they know the difficulties that come with that decision, since they both wheelchair bound. And there are Randall and Katie, a steady couple whose banter will strike many as hilariously familiar.

Self aware, self accepting, beautifully shot and well composed, this is a film that is worth seeing. Above all else, Being Seen will show you that all people are more alike than they are different.



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john_wick_chapter_2Director: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Derek Kolstad, Derek Kolstad (based on characters created by)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane

Review by Gilbert Seah

The second in the series of John Wick films is in fact a continuation of the first JOHN WICK film, with the same director and star Keanu Reeves as the hit-man John Wick.

When the first film was left, Wick’s prized Mustang got stolen and his dog killed by the son of a Russian mobster. In an extended car chase and fight sequence when CHAPTER 2 begins, the audience sees the mobster grunt in disbelief to see his shop and all his men, one after another, demolished by Wick as he comes hunting for his car. The comedy is black and funny enough with sufficient violent action fight choreography to satisfy the action fans. Director Chad Stahelski knows how to stage fights, him being Reeves’ stunt double in THE MATRIX films.

CHAPTER TWO runs at full-throttle for over two hours with a minimum plot The premise involves legendary hit-man John Wick forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome, where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers. Though the story obviously is inconsequential, one would have expected the filmmakers to put in a bit more effort into the story.

Keanu Reeves makes the perfect anti-hero John Wick, shown with face bruises more than half the time. It is worthy of his character in BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE that brought him to fame. CHAPTER TWO sees more well-known actors lending a hand to make the film more exciting. COMMON plays Cassian, the head of security of a female crime boss who gives Wick a good fight for his money. Laurence Fishburne plays The Bowery King, a ruthless crime boss and Italian star Riccardo Scamarcio plays Santino, an assassin while Ian McShane reposes his role as the head of hotel, where no killings re tolerated.

The first JOHN WICK film had lots of fresh ideas whereas CHAPTER TWO rides on the first success, adding no new inventive surprises. In the first the hotel where truce must be obeyed is again reprised with Wick and the security played by Common forced to have a drink there. In the first film, there is a very sexy fight between a lady assassin in black and Wick. In CHAPTER TWO, there is a fight between Wick and a girl, this time in white, Ares (Ruby Ros) but the fight scene can nowhere be even described as sexy. Rose looks incredibly unsexy, when she dies with her huge eyes bulging. CHAPTER TWO also contains lots of repetitions. The joke of Wick and the security head fighting and rolling down the steps is repeated not once, but twice in the same sequence. Wick’s affinity to his dog, a black pitbull is also repeatedly drummed into the audience’s heads.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 has lost its spark. Running at a length of over 2 hours does not help matters either. The case of more and louder in this sequel leads to boredom and a headache.




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Film Review: JACKIE (USA/Chile/France 2016)

jackie_movie_posterDirector: Pablo Larraín
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig

Review by Gilbert Seah

Chilean director Pablo Larrain has made a name for himself with critical hit films like NO and TONY MANERO. But he is an odd choice for the English speaking film biography of the true American icon JACKIE, based on the life of Jackie Kennedy just after her husband, John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

The story follows the events immediately following the assassination. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman) is being interviewed by a reporter, Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) for Life Magazine. The film plunges the audience into the devastation using a series of finely crafted flashbacks that cover the fateful day in Dallas, Jackie’s return to the White House, arrangements for the President’s funeral, and her time spent accompanying her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.

The film is a slow count of what happens. It is the coping of a violent death of a loved one. The film is very American despite being directed by a non-American. The sequences complete a moving portrait of a grieving woman — a widow and mother struggling with overwhelming tragedy and attention. Yet the core of the film is formed by quiet, profoundly intimate moments: Jackie’s conversations with her children, her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard, also at the Festival in The Magnificent Seven), one of her aides (Greta Gerwig), journalist White (Billy Crudup), and a Catholic priest (John Hurt). Larrain loves the close-ups of Jackie. The scenes between Jackie and the priest are done in a flashback within a flashback.

Portman does a fine job as Jackie Kennedy. She often looks aloof though she says that she is not and concerned about the children and the funeral procession. I don’t recall how the real Jackie spoke, but Portman always speaks with her mouth wide open, which I gather is the way the real Kennedy spoke.

For a non-American, the tasks offered to the former First Lady of restoring the artefacts of the White House may seem trivial. Jackie often moves around the different rooms drowning vodka or popping one of her colourful pills, always with a cigarette in one hand. She might not seem convincing when she says she cares so much for the children, but that is the way she was in real life during those times. Non-Americans might either find everything totally boring for incidents portrayed that do not concern them or be totally in awe of anyone being so involved in Americana.

One of the tasks Jackie was in charge of was looking after the White House. In the film’s best segment, an inspired one no doubt, Jackie is seen moving about the house, cigarette in one hand, popping pols, pouring drinks or arranging letters to the tune and lyrics of the song CAMELOT. Camelot, the perfect place to be is Jackie’s White House.

JACKIE emerges as a rare film about America as seen through the eyes of a foreigner. It is a queer piece which alternates between looking really artificial and surreal, but that might be Larrain’s intention.



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the_infiltrator.jpgTHE INFILTRATOR (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Brad Furman

Starring: Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE INFILTRATOR is a true-life crime thriller based on true events outlined in federal agent Robert “Bob” Mazur’s 2009 memoir The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel. Directed by Brad Furman who also made the similar THE LINCOLN LAWYER, THE INFILTRATOR shares the identical gritty, ethereal style.

The film is set in the mid-1980s. Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar’s cartel is flooding Florida with drugs and all the crime that comes with them. Mazur ( Bryan Cranston) is a mild family man working in U.S. Customs with a wife and two kids. But he begins leading a double life, going undercover as Bob Musella, a slick money-launderer with ties to legitimate business.

Furman takes his audience into a world of penthouses, private planes, stripper clubs, bespoke suits and dining so that a feel of the high life can be ‘appreciated’. Two fellow agents (John Leguizamo and Diane Kruger, the latter playing Musella’s fiancée) help Mazur while he as Musella deals with a variety of sordid characters including Escobar’s right-hand man (Benjamin Bratt).

In real life, Mazur’s sting operation led to the indictment of over 100 drug lords and the bankers who cleaned their money, and to the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, one of the world’s largest money-laundering banks.

The main flaw of the film is Furman’s failure to provide the motive for Mazur’s dedication in the undercover operation. In the film, Mazur promises his wife that this will be his last operation. His unrelenting boss (Amy Ryan) expects a lot from her staff and from Mazur, demanding more and more, saying that her staff has not proven their worth. Why would Mazur or anyone for that matter risk their own lives or family for a job that provides no reward or a boss that shows no gratitude?

Despite good actors that Cranston (displaying another acting aspect from BREAKING BAD) and Leguizamo (proving he can play comedy and drama) are, the uneasiness and desperation of the story comes from Furman’s direction. The film is evenly spaced with edge-of-the-seat suspenseful segments. One such example is Musella’s briefcase bursting open to reveal a tape recorder during a key meeting with the bad guys and another has him and his wife suddenly met with a crime associate in a restaurant during their wedding anniversary. As the camera reveals details in other parts of the film like a clock ticking, Furman keeps the suspense strong. The action sequences like the bike/car shoot out are also excitingly executed.

Furman’s film is noticeably short on humour. A bit of relief is however, provided by Olympia Dukakis as Musella’s aunt who helps him along the way.
True to life as THE INFILTRATOR is, Furman’s film is a brutal watch, in fact too brutal to be classified as entertainment. Furman gets his point across in terms of the gruel drama that Musella had to go through.



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