Entries in Casey Affleck (6)

Sunday
Dec312017

A Ghost Story- review

 

“A Ghost Story” (2017)

Directed by David Lowery

Starring Casey Affleck,  Rooney Mara

Running Time 92 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“A Ghost Story” isn’t your typical popcorn view, patience is needed for this one, and rewarded for this viewer.  David Lowery comes off the big budget “Pete’s Dragon” with a micro budget film he did in secret with his previous co-stars from “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.  Affleck plays “C” and Mara plays “M”, a married couple who are struggling with communication and the fact that she is ready to leave their small suburban house while he isn’t.  He so much isn’t that when he unexpectedly dies he nixes taking the white light and instead dons a cliche ghost get-up donning a white sheet with pitch black eye holes bound to the house and his love for her.  

 

There is very little dialogue, and much contemplating of existence, “A Ghost Story” is greatly helped by Lowery’s editing and Daniel Hart’s composing.  C’s journey through time and reflection is grandiose but I wasn’t exactly moved to asked life’s bigger questions after the film was through but it was a well worth it journey, that and you get to Rooney Mara get to eat a whole pie in one uninterrupted take (which is kinda haunting).

Job 7:9-10

 

Sunday
Dec182016

Manchester by the Sea- review

 

“Manchester by the Sea” (2016)

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges

Running Time 137 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

People don’t always snap out of grief in a movie like climactic victory.  For many, grief is too much to overcome and over time eventually can become a facet of someone.  “You Can Count on Me” writer/director brings us his heartbreaking masterpiece with his latest, “Manchester by the Sea”.

Long have I been a Casey Affleck fan.  Intensely brooding to the point of sexy, but coming off unforced and unwanted the younger Affleck is one hell of an actor.  Truly, one of my favorite performances is Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Cowardly Robert Ford” (also, one of my favorite film titles).  His portrayal of Robert Ford as a sniveling young man with a childish hurt ego was truly mesmerizing.  Affleck has done one better as Lee Chandler in “Manchester by the Sea”.  Affleck takes on Lee’s grief in a non-showy way that has you aching with his ache.  This is a simple straight forward story that Lonergan’s brilliantly unfolding script and Affleck’s sadness helps to traverse an incredibly deep and profound story.

When we first meet Lee, we see him pass the time by working four Boston apartments as a handyman janitor.  One word answers and little to no eye contact, socially distant is an understatement for Lee.  His nights are spent at the bar where a female’s flirting is lost on him and he drinks himself into unearned physical altercations.  Sidenote; I guess in New England you can get into bar fight whenever you want and not go to jail (good to know for me).  Standoffish and obviously broken, we haven’t yet learned of the tragedy, but Affleck’s posture lets us know it’s there.

 

Then one day Lee gets a call that his brother is in the hospital again, and by the time it takes Lee to drive an hour and a half down to Manchester his brother (played by Kyle Chandler) has passed.  As a sick joke to Lee, his brother leaves his 16 year old son Patrick (excellent newcomer Lucas Hedges) in Lee’s guardianship.  This scene and many more are captured in Lonegan’s dark humor filled script and pitch perfect direction.

Eventually we learn of Lee’s Manchester past, one that was shared with a wife played by the exquisite Michelle Williams who not only nails her mouthy down to earth broad type role but also nails an impeccable New England accent.  Then we learn of the tragedy, and even though we know it’s coming sooner or later it’s still a drunk irish punch to the gut.  A scene later between Affleck and Williams addressing said tragedy is the most wrenching scene of the year.

Psalm 34:18

 

Tuesday
Feb162016

The Finest Hours- review

 

“The Finest Hours” (2016)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Studios eat up any rights they can to true life tales that can have the tagline, ‘the greatest (blank) in U.S. history”.  That blank usually refers to natural disaster in regards to tragedy and/or rescue.  When you hear that bold preface, your ears can’t help but perk up, I’m no different.  It could be the greatest clowns stuck in a car rescue in Ringling Brothers Circus history, and Disney couldn’t greenlight that fast enough.  I’m not trying to trivialize Disney’s “The Finest Hours”, the harrowing 1952 true life tale of the ‘greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard History’, as it is no doubt an inspiring recount of our country’s finest risking their very lives, but director Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”) lets the story get away from him by blowing it out of proportion, over compensating for Scott Silver’s cookie-cutter screenplay, and making it appear that this is right up there with the Nazi’s being defeated.

 

It’s too bad, because there is some definite good here that almost keeps this film afloat.  Chris Pine continues to show he deserves to be with the big boys, showing great range contrasting from the cocky Captain Kirk to a very meek and rule-following Coast Guard Captain, Bernie Webber.  Webber and a few mates including the usually effective Ben Foster (but not so much here) are sent to depart off Chatham, Massachusetts on a suicide mission to take a small boat that is regulated to only have a capacity of 12 and ride off into a wicked nor’easter and find the giant SS Pendleton that has split right down the middle with 30 men left aboard needing rescue.  One of the SS shipmates is played by Casey Affleck who gets bumped to being in charge when the tragedy strikes.  Affleck does a wonderful thing by bringing his top-notch New England accent down a notch while the other actors try to have a silent R pissing contest.  Besides Pine and Affleck standing out, Gillespie does fine work with the money shot big scene effects, it’s just the middling story that sinks this movie.  

Trying to puff up screen time and give some heroics to the female persuasion, “The Finest Hours” actually achieves the opposite for women everywhere.  Webber’s soon-to-be fiance Miriam (Holliday Grainger) is strong willed, and that no doubt is great for women, but she’s written with not a lot of smarts and doesn’t do much to make to make us wanna take the torch for her.  In one scene Miriam busts into Bernie’s commanding officer’s, played by Eric Bana, whose storyline is all but dropped 30 minutes into the film, office and demands he call him back from the dangers of his duties.  She accomplishes nothing then takes off into a blizzard without her coat and quickly drives her car into a snowbank where she just sits there until rescued herself (at least she was picked up by a female driver).

In essence, “The Finest Hours”, just crashes into a film bank of mediocrity, and we just have to wait it out until the end credits rescue us.

until the end credits rescue “this”.

Genesis 1:9

 

Friday
Nov212014

Interstellar- review

 

“Interstellar” (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Running Time 169 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Christopher Nolan is a truly fantastic director.  Nolan is keeping the torch burning that Spielberg, Lucas, and Kubrick lit back in the 70’s/80’s.  His scope for big picture imagination is unmatched in today’s cinema and frankly, we should be grateful to have him. I am grateful, really I am, and this may not be fair, but director Christopher Nolan is graded on a much, much higher scale than let’s say, Brett Ratner.  If I came out of “Interstellar” knowing that Brett Ratner directed this film, I’d be like, “holy crap, I guess Brett Ratner isn’t such a crappy movie director after all, and this movie was way better than anything that I thought he was humanly capable of, and I should spread this newly found admiration”.  But Brett Ratner isn’t Christopher Nolan, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is no “The Dark Knight”, and therefore, Nolan must be graded to his previous high efforts and what his present grand intentions are.  Sadly, “Interstellar” came across as ‘meh’.   

Christopher and his brother Jonathan, who both co-wrote the script, really go for that 2001: Space Odyssey grandiose ‘this is humanity beyond humanity’ feel, but I was bogged down by the murkiness of realistic would-be future science fact.  As much as the story tried to ground itself in the human emotion, I was, but for a few tremendously acted (‘McConaissance’) scenes, weirdly unattached.  There are no doubt beautiful things to look at and beautiful people dressed down to care for, but those grand intentions that the Nolan boys so obviously sought after came up way short.  “Interstellar” is not a transcendent experience and sadly, I wanted it to be.

In the not-too-distant future, mankind’s population is greatly reduced as it has outreached its ecosystem. Farming is now the profession of choice, more of necessity really. The last crop of okra is about to be produced. Corn is king.  Mankind is on the verge of being eliminated to the great dust bowl armageddon.  One of the future’s converted farmers is Matthew McConaughey’s ‘Coop’, a former NASA pilot, who spouts from his soap box “We used to look up at the sky and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down at our place in the dirt.”  Coop, a family man first, has two children (one of whom his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who takes on his scientific strengths and betters him with her faith) and doesn’t want to just wait for the human race and his family to die just off as he see’s it will.    

 

The story shifts quickly from Coop being earthbound to jumping spaceship and trying to save the planet.  Coop and Murph stumble with a coincidental like fate (if that makes any sense, because Nolan wants it to) onto what is the now secret location of NASA which now is located is some underground bunker.  NASA has a mission to save the species, and it turns out that when Coop was their employee he was unknowingly trained for this mission and is more than adequate.  

This move allows for there to be no training montage for Coop to don, he just jumps in and is ready within days. Yes, montages can be massively cliche, but I’ve never seen a film skip those steps so flippantly as to assume that we the audience are better than such a trite device.  Everybody, lead by what seems to be the smartest man in this dying world Dr. Brand (Michael Caine), just seem to count their lucky stars to have Coop, and he’s in. Questions are begged: Was it just going to be the three astronauts before Coop showed up?  Did someone get booted in exchange for Coop?  How did that change survival calculations with food, oxygen, and other miscellaneous consumption.   

The visual effects were being sold as something that could only be properly enjoyed by watching it in the theaters.  I’m not saying you should wait till it’s on TBS to see the film, but when the pre-movie featurettes promised no green screens used and giant full 360 degree sets, my senses were greatly perked; however, for the most part, I was never really in awe or stimulated to such great heights.  I’m no connoisseur on film score, but to me this is one of Hans Zimmer’s better outings and is one of the real highlights of the film.  Nolan, curiously, has Zimmer’s more thunderous moments placed over more generic space visuals, like a simple docking scene, as to show us that in space nothing is simple and we need to be wowed at all minutia.  I didn’t concur.  Other moments do create awe and imagination, but this is also frustrating as scenes lightly explore the new found worlds before quickly pulling out the space rug.        

Nolan and his brother’s script tries to tackle the biggest of themes.  It dares to ask: What are the scientific principles of love? How to apply them?  How can we measure the act and what can love achieve for us as a species?  What it doesn’t do is answer it or more importantly spark the conversation with others to try to figure it out for myself.    

Psalm 147:4

 

Monday
Dec162013

Out of the Furnace- review

 

“Out of the Furnace” (2013)

Directed by Scott Cooper

Starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated R.

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Out of the Furnace” is the 2013 winner for best film trailer to let me down actually watching the film.

It’s one of those trailers that makes bumps goose, and even though the film’s early word wasn’t too promising for the “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper’s gritty follow up, my belly told me this would still be a special film.  My belly also told me that the low cut “V” neck shirt I bought myself was a good purchase.  That’s when I need to remind myself that my belly is for holding chicken wings.

You want superb acting?  This films got it.  Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, among others make you feel like you’re sitting through one of those fancy shmancy critics Top 10 lists (I’m working on it).  The performances are very strong, almost strong enough to recommend the film, but there’s no overlooking a strongly dull script and direction that confuses itself with that of the likes of “Deer Hunter”.

Less than 15 miles from Pittsburgh, a small town called North Braddock is paraded as the American symbol for the working man’s oppression from Obama’s “would-be” hope.  We know this because after a hard day of working at the mill that his dying father worked at, Christian Bale’s Russell Braze barely blinks an eye as Obama comes on the local dive bars tv proclaiming a better future.  His brother Rodney (ferociously played by the always strong Casey Affleck) keeps returning from Iraq defending the U.S. of A and he’s got the PTSD to prove it.  

The two actors make this as real a brotherhood as there can be as Rodney does his tours while Russell takes a very unfortunate life detour serving a sentence in prison for the worst of consequences while drinking and driving.  During his incarcerated stretch he loses the girl (a Zoe Saldana that is still waiting for that breakout dramatic role) that was already on the brink of getting away.  If it wasn’t for Rodney, Russell might never have made it through prison.  Note: the scene of the brilliant Bale’s acting leaving prison would be worth the price of admission for me but that still sadly doesn’t make for a good film.

So when Rodney can’t assimilate into the working force, his pony racing earns debts with local bookie (Willem Dafoe) that eventually paves underground street fighting paths with the Appalachian psychopath Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).  Harrelson’s drug lord mountain man gives you the villain propelled by pure hatred.  We don’t need Harlan’s backstory, but every time he’s on screen there will be knots in your stomach.  It’s uncomfortable, and I only wish there was a “No Country For Old Men” worthy script for Harrelson’s angst (yes I know Harrelson played the cooler in that film),

Unforeseen after watching the very effective “Crazy Heart”, even though very actor driven, Scott Cooper is obvious with his juxtapositions.  Casey Affleck’s Rodney taking a beating while a hunted deer (arg! “Deer Hunter”) is being skinned is almost laughable with it’s obviousness.  Worse, is that Sam Shepard (who embarrassingly I’m just appreciating) is massively underused and criminally underwritten. Shepard plays Russell’s manly uncle who serves as a symbol of the working man’s testosterone.

Eventually, we end up in a slow build up that results in a way too fast food ending.  Cooper definitely captures many gorgeous shots that definitely are worth the on location shooting, but he doesn’t know what to do with them.  

It’s too bad.  That very awesome trailer could have made for a very awesome movie.

That very awesome “this” could have made for a very awesome movie.

1 Peter 2:17

 

Monday
Nov072011

Tower Heist- review

“Tower Heist” (2011)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck
Running Time 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13
2.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

“Tower Heist” could have gone for the jackpot but instead it settled for the quick-buck.  

In these trying financial times the common man and woman, with displays such as “Occupy Wall Street”, have begun to show the cultural movement against the way things have been running.   “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore”, perfectly captured the confusion and angst of similar times with the 1976 classic “Network”.  Now you don’t need to be a groundbreaking Oscar winning film to be today’s vessel for such, that’s asking too much from studio’s nowadays, but the timing is perfect for a film where a hard working, unemployed, and down on his luck David rose up for his fellow brethren and conquered the high and mighty swindler and overall jerk billionaire Goliath.  While Brett Ratner’s caper-romp will give you moments of enjoyable escapism it wasn’t enough for the payoff.

In a luxurious Manhattan high-rise tower, Wall Street juggernaut Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) sits atop but claims to be rooted as a man of the people.  People like the multi-cultural working-stiff staff at the tower who take care for his every need.  Turns out (and  Alda plays with such a sinister smile), Shaw is a Madoff-like Ponzi-scheming thief.  Of the many people he’s defrauded are the Tower's employer's pensions.   When life-long doorman Lester attempts suicide after losing his life savings that he invested under Shaw, building manager Josh Kovak (Ben Stiller) says he can stand it no more and decides to rob Shaw’s hidden apartment stash of $20 million dollars.

Josh brings in a very un-elite team for the heist that includes the talents of Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, and the latest comeback from Eddie Murphy as Slide, a petty thief that Josh believes has been there and done that.  Of course none of these schmucks have been there or done that, and a lot of good laughs play out but at the same time its scary how the hard working Josh is able to switch gears committing to such a risky endeavor where not only he could lose everything but for everyone else he has enlisted who have such things as families to take care of.  Interesting plot developments spice up the ante, and the Robin Hood theme has you cheering along but at no point did I think this “team” had what it took to pull this caper off.  When the heist sneaks up on us the fun escapism escapes with nothing left but my eyes rolling in the back of my head.   

What Ratner and scribes Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson get right is starting off the movie not by developing subplots for later but by developing characters.  With the films talented cast, we’re given more than just cartoon images with gags to play out.  For the most part Murphy showed us that faint memory of when we knew him as the funniest man on the planet.  As a Stiller fan myself, I would have like to seen more Tropic Thunder Stiller than Night at the Museum Stiller but I’ll take it and thank the Lord he hasn’t gone the Sandler route yet.  Téa Leoni plays and FBI agent on Shaw’s case and besides one hilarious drunken scene with Stiller (re-teaming from the great “Flirting With Disaster”) she is muted.  Shame on “Tower Heist” for not utilizing the raspy actress who happens to be one of Hollywood’s funnier women.

Of course Ratner’s faults play stronger as there’s enough plot holes to fill a bakers dozen.  Ratner can use a big budget to plate up a turd with gold all he wants but at the end of the day with “Tower Heist”, you’re still just watching golden poo.       

But with “this”, you’re still just watching golden poo.