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Posts Tagged ‘casey affleck’

“A GHOST STORY”  My rating: B+

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Your typical ghost movie is about humans terrorized by the supernatural.

But “A Ghost Story” turns that tradition inside out by taking the point of view of a silent, mournful spirit that clings to its earthly home hoping for, well, who knows what?

David Lowery’s film will be hailed as profound and damned as pretentious — sometimes in the same breath. Love it or loathe it, we’ve not seen anything quite like it.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara (they also starred in Lowery’s 2013 rural noir ballad “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) play a couple living in a rather shabby tract home on a sparsely populated street that’s not quite rural and not quite suburban.

We never learn their names, though the film’s credits identify the characters as “C” and “M.”

The scruffy C is a musician who spends his days at a piano recording complex songs with various layers of sound. The two seem content enough right up to the point where he is killed in a traffic collision at the end of their driveway.

In the hospital morgue M identifies his body, which is then covered with a sheet. The camera lingers on the lifeless form for a full minute — at which point the corpse sits upright, still shrouded, and shuffles through the hospital.

Some audience members may break out in laughter. The ghost looks exactly like that cheapest of Halloween costumes, a white sheet with eye holes cut out. (Though looking into those holes we see nothing but black.)

Returning to his former home, the voiceless spirit observes M as she puts her life back together. We lose all sense of time — days, weeks or months pass in a series of silent scenes. When M begins dating, the ghost shows its displeasure by making a few books fly off the shelf.

It should be noted at this point that while we see Affleck at the beginning and end of the film, for the most part he’s covered from head to toe. In fact, there’s no way of knowing if he’s actually the performer under the sheet. That said, the body language astoundingly evokes the ghost’s thoughts and emotions. It may be one of the great physical performances ever captured on film. (more…)

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Casey Affleck

Casey Affleck

“MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” My rating: A-

137 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Doesn’t life provide us with enough grief? Do we have to buy movie tickets to experience more of it on the big screen?

It’s an understandable sentiment … and completely wrong in the case of “Manchester by the Sea.”

Brilliantly written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) and featuring a major-league lead performance from the ever-surprising Casey Affleck, this riveting, soul-wrenching feature is about how we deal — or don’t — with grief.

Yeah, it’s heavy. It’s also unexpectedly funny, deeply moving and almost unbearably wise when it comes to the labyrinthine workings of the human heart.

We first encounter Lee Chandler (Affleck) on the job at a Boston-area apartment complex. In return for handyman chores — hauling trash, blowing out drains — he’s allowed to live in a monkish cellar room. Lee is a prickly sort who often rubs tenants the wrong way. At night he drinks until it’s time to instigate a barroom brawl.

Clearly, something’s eating at this guy.

When word arrives that Lee’s older brother, Joe, has died of a heart attack, he reluctantly returns to the Massachusetts fishing village of his youth to settle affairs. There Lee discovers that he has been named as the guardian of Joe’s 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

He’s totally unprepared.

Lonergan’s screenplay is a sort of psychological mystery that alternates scenes of Lee in the present — struggling with the horny teen for whom he is now responsible, encountering faces from his youth — with his troubled past, depicted in flashbacks that drift in and out without warning.

In these scenes from Lee’s earlier life we see him working a fishing boat with his brother (Kyle Chandler) and get glimpses of his home life with wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and three small kids.

He’s friendly, even borderline jolly.

Clearly something traumatic occurred between then and now. (more…)

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triple-9-dom-195_192_T9_KA_R34_RV_3_W10_SL_rgb-e1444670190309“TRIPLE 9” My rating: C+

115 minutes |MPAA rating: R

John Hillcoat’s new crime thriller “Triple 9” is only slightly less apocalyptic than his film of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” And “The Road,” of course, was about the literal end of the world.

With a big cast of fine actors (few of whom, oddly, get to do much acting) and a sprawling urban canvas reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat,” this is the story of one-time good guys who are now bad guys.

Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus) are former military special forces types now earning a living planning big capers on behalf of the Russian mob.  As the film begins they’re pulling off a daring bank robbery that almost goes south (and leaves them covered in red dye) thanks to Russell’s loser brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul).

Chietol Ejiwifor

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Terrell and Russell are so effective at what they do because they have inside help. Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge (CliftonCollins Jr.) are police detectives gone rogue. They not only help in planning these crimes, they suit up to participate. And then they help the thieves cover their tracks.

To say that these guys lack a moral compass is an understatement. Matt Cook’s screenplay never asks why or how our protagonists were corrupted; certainly the characters aren’t into soul searching.

But the result is a taut film that feels weirdly uninhabited…as a viewer I’d be at least as interested in how these guys came to this low ethical state as I am in the mechanics of their heists.

Their saving grace is that as bad as they are, they aren’t as bad as the Russian crime tsarina Irina (Kate Winslet), who’s about as hard a lady as you could ever meet.  For this tough cookie pulling the teeth of a couple of miscreants, locking them  in a car trunk and setting the whole thing on fire is all in a day’s work.

(more…)

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Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

“AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS” My rating: C+ (Opening August 30 at the Tivoli and the Rio)

96 minutes| MPAA rating: R

Like its title, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” tries too damn hard.

The difference between effectiveness and affectation is often a matter of degree, and for my money David Lowery’s Sundance hit  always lays things on just a little too thick.

Or perhaps not thick enough.

In this norish crime drama/romance Lowery apparently is trying to channel Terernce Malick, particularly the early Malick of “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” both of which took the form of dreamlike folk ballads. 

Like virtually all Malick movies, “Ain’t Them Bodies…” relies on voiceover narration by one of the characters (in this case a prison escapee played by Casey Affleck).  And the film unfolds in a classic small American town so frozen in time (old trucks, flower print dresses, denim work shirts, cowboy boots) that I was taken aback late in the story when one character produced a cell phone. Like a Malick effort, the movie has been photographed (by Bradford Young) so as to discover the beauty in human faces,  brown Texas landscapes, and even old buildings losing their peeling paint. (more…)

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