REVIEW: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Starring

Casey Affleck (Interstellar)
Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird)
Michelle Williams (Venom)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Gretchen Mol (The Shape of Things)
C.J. Wilson (The Intern)
Tate Donovan (Argo)
Kara Hayward (Fan Girl)
Anna Baryshnikov (The Kindergarten Teacher)
Heather Burns (Bored To Death)
Erica McDermott (Joy)
Matthew Broderick (Election)

Casey Affleck and Stephen McKinley Henderson in Manchester by the Sea (2016)The story takes place in the present, while including flashbacks to relevant events. The protagonist is Lee Chandler, a janitor and handyman, who lives a solitary life in a basement apartment in Quincy, Massachusetts. The movie opens with scenes of him performing tasks for tenants of the apartment complex where he works. His interaction with them is minimal. After being reprimanded by his boss for swearing at an irritated tenant, he gets into a drunken bar fight with two businessmen, believing they were staring at him.Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler in Manchester by the Sea (2016)Lee receives word that his brother Joe has suffered a cardiac arrest, but he dies before Lee can get to the hospital. Lee insists on being the one to tell Joe’s teenage son, Patrick, about his father’s death. While making funeral arrangements, they learn that Joe’s body cannot be buried until spring when the ground thaws. Lee opts to remain in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts until the delayed burial.Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea (2016)Lee meets with his brother’s attorney and is shocked to discover that his brother named him Patrick’s legal guardian. During the scene, the viewer is shown — through flashbacks — that Lee once lived in Manchester with his then-wife Randi and their three small children. His negligence while intoxicated led to a house fire that killed the children. No criminal charges were filed against him. However, after being questioned at the police station, Lee grabbed a gun from an officer’s holster and attempted suicide. In light of these events, Lee is reluctant to commit to the guardianship and unwilling to move back to Manchester, where the locals treat him as an outcast. He begins planning for Patrick to move to Boston with him. Patrick is deeply rooted in the Manchester community and strongly objects to the idea. Lee commits to staying only until the end of the school year.Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea (2016)Over time, Patrick and Lee re-establish their bond, despite conflicts about Joe’s boat, Patrick’s girlfriends, and their future living arrangements. Through flashbacks, Patrick’s mother Elise is shown to have had substance abuse problems and abandoned the family, so Lee is opposed to Patrick reconnecting with her. Even so, Patrick emails Elise about Joe’s death, and she invites him to have lunch with her. She has committed to Christianity and sobriety with her fiancé, Jeffrey, but during an awkward meal with them, Patrick finds himself unable to connect with her. He is unsettled further when Jeffrey emails him, insisting on being an intermediary in any future communication between Patrick and his mother. Lee’s subsequent positive comments about Elise’s sobriety lead Patrick to believe his uncle is trying to get rid of him, assertions Lee denies. In response to this strain in their relationship, Lee takes steps to possibly extend his stay in Manchester, and begins to seek ways to spend more time with Patrick.Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams in Manchester by the Sea (2016)One day Lee runs into his ex-wife Randi, her newborn, Dylan, and her friend Rachel. After Rachel leaves to get the car, a sobbing Randi expresses remorse for her treatment of Lee during their divorce and asks him to have lunch. Lee deflects her apology, feeling that he does not deserve it. When she insists that they reconnect and pleads with him not to “just die,” he leaves before he can become emotional. Distraught, a drunk Lee picks a fight with strangers at a bar and is knocked out. He awakens in the living room of George (a family friend) and breaks down in tears. At home, Patrick shows his uncle deference after observing his battered state and seeing pictures of the deceased children in Lee’s bedroom.Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler in Manchester by the Sea (2016)Lee arranges for George and his wife to adopt Patrick, so the teen can remain in Manchester while Lee gets a job in Boston. When Patrick asks Lee why staying is not an option, Lee admits that he “can’t beat it.” At this, Patrick cries and Lee comforts him. During a walk after Joe’s burial service, Lee tells Patrick that he is searching for a residence in Boston with an extra room so that Patrick can visit whenever he wants. In the final scene, Lee and Patrick go fishing on Joe’s refurbished boat that Patrick has inherited.MV5BZTg4Njc5ZTUtNGY2MS00OTc0LTg2OTEtMmNlY2EwMDYwMmUzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzQ0NTgwMTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1553,1000_AL_Though Michelle Williams has a small role, she turns in one of her best performances. In a powerful confrontation with Lee, it is clear that she still loves him but has felt compelled to suppress it in order to bury the past and move on. Manchester by the Sea belongs to Casey Affleck, however, who turns in what is arguably the best performance of his career. The film does not have the sort of neat resolution that you may have come to expect but what it does have are real people whose lives you want to be a part of and you know that that world is not one that can only happen in the movies, but a real experience of life fully lived in all its pain and all its joy.

REVIEW: DROWNING MONA

  CAST

Danny Devito (Batman Returns)
Bette Midler (Beaches)
Neve Campbell (Scream)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)
Tracey Walter (Conan The Destroyer)
Will Ferrell (The Other Guys)
Mark Pellegrino (Chuck)
Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Brian Doyle-Murray (Waynes World)
Paul Ben-Victor (Tombstone)

Neve Campbell in Drowning Mona (2000)This typically barely seen dark, wonderfully tasteless, cynical and quirky comedy was one of the funniest movies of all in 2000. It’s a deliciously warped murder mystery, not without charm either, involving a roster of deliberately nitwit suspects so hilariously feeble-minded that they can’t help looking guilty…something expected when everyone learns just how hateful the much-loathed victim.Jamie Lee Curtis in Drowning Mona (2000)Great comedy players turn in gleefully wild performances when the situation call for it, but are intriguingly on edge in many scenes. So much for her death setting them free. To know Mona, as a nasty, bullying Bette Midler nails her so well, was to hate her, so naturally the question fast becomes not who would want to see her dead, but who wouldn’t?! It’s a shocking pleasure to see two slasher scream queens (Neve Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis) in one film together.Jamie Lee Curtis appears as RonaThere’s fun casting all the way through-Casey Affleck, William Fichtner, Mark Pellegrino, Kathleen Wilholte-who does a very funny song regarding the dead woman, proving no one had respect for her, and look for an early hialrious role by Will Ferrell, owner of a funeral home-his comment that “people have been more upset losing change in a slot machine, than over this woman” is one of many classic lines from people in this, and a number where ad-libbed, especially by Casey Affleck, a gifted comedian who puts his brother utterly to shade. It is strange that De Vito’s sheriff really can’t understand anyone’s problem with Mona, nevermind anyone who’d want to kill her, but while he tries to uncover the truth, it seems more likely the town just wants to know who to thank.Promo PosterNote worthy is the fact Melissa McCarthy appears in the film.

REVIEW: CHASING AMY

CAST
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl)
Joey Lauren Adams (Harvard Man)
Dwight Ewell (Dogma)
Scott Mosier (Clerks)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Ethan Suplee (Fanboys)
Brian O’Halloran (Vulgar)
Matt Damon (Elysium)
Jason Mewes (R.S.V.P.)
Kevin Smith (Scream 3)
Illeana Douglas (Ugly Betty)
Joey Lauren Adams stars as Alyssa JonesHolden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) are comic book artists and lifelong friends. Holden is the friendly, more mild-mannered half of the duo; Banky, meanwhile, is the loud and fiery half. Everything is going well for them until they meet fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) at a comic book convention in New York where they are promoting their comic Bluntman and Chronic. Holden is attracted to Alyssa, but soon learns that she is attracted to women. The two begin hanging out, and a deep friendship develops. Eventually, Holden is no longer able to contain his feelings, and confesses his love to Alyssa. She is initially angry with him, but that night, the two begin a romantic relationship.
This new development worsens the tension between Holden and Banky, who hates and mistrusts Alyssa and is disturbed by her and Holden’s relationship. Banky investigates and uncovers dirt on Alyssa’s past, and he reports to Holden that Alyssa participated in a threesome with two guys during high school, which gave her the nickname “Finger Cuffs”. Holden is deeply upset by this revelation, having previously believed that he is the first man Alyssa had ever slept with. He angrily confronts Alyssa while attending a hockey game, and clumsily attempts baiting her into confessing. During a tearful argument, she tells Holden about her “many” youthful sexual experimentations. She apologizes for letting him believe that he was the only man she had been with. However, she refuses to apologize for her past, and Holden leaves feeling disillusioned and furious.

Later, during lunch with Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), Silent Bob reveals that he was once in a relationship similar to Holden’s. Despite the fact that he was in love with his girlfriend, Amy, his neurosis about her adventurous sexual past caused him to sabotage the relationship and leave her. Angry at himself for letting her go, he has “spent every day since then chasing Amy, so to speak.” Moved by Silent Bob’s story, Holden devises a plan to fix both his relationship with Alyssa and his estranged friendship with Banky. He invites them both over and tells Alyssa that he would like to get over her past and remain her boyfriend. He also tells Banky that he realizes that Banky is in love with him—kissing him passionately to prove the point. Holden suggests a threesome. Though initially shocked, Banky agrees to participate, whereas Alyssa explains to Holden that it will not save their relationship. Before leaving, she states that she loves him, but she will not be his “whore.” Banky also leaves the apartment, instantly ending their friendship.Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy (1997)One year later, both Banky and Holden are busy promoting their own respective comics at a convention in New York. It is revealed that Holden has dissolved their partnership over Bluntman and Chronic, leaving the viewer with the assumption that he sold the publishing and creative rights over to Banky (which is corroborated in the beginning of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Banky smiles sadly at seeing his old friend, who silently congratulates him for his success on his own comic. Banky gestures over to a booth hosted by Alyssa, and provides wordless encouragement to Holden to go talk to her. He has a brief, quietly emotional conversation with Alyssa, and gives her a copy of Chasing Amy, his new comic based on their failed relationship. After Holden leaves, Alyssa’s new girlfriend (Virginia Smith) arrives and asks who she was talking to. A shaken, misty-eyed Alyssa feigns indifference and replies, “Oh, just some guy I knew.”

Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy (1997)Seldom do you see a movie that mixes humour and love in such a way that it both makes you wet yourself laughing and feel a strong connection with the plot.  The plot is pretty straight forward but the quality of the writing is the thing that sets it a part from the rest of the films of its ink. Affleck and Adams pull off terrific performances as the lovers, Affleck in particular performs one of the best roles he has ever done on  film. But Jason Lee steals the show once again (much like Jeff Anderson in Clerks) as the jealous best friend.

 

REVIEW: INTERSTELLAR

CAST
Matthew McConaughey (Two For The Money)
Ellen Burstyn  (Mom)
Jessica Chastain (The Huntsman: Winter’s War)
Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring)
John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Timothée Chalamet (Homeland)
David Oyelowo (Rise of The Planet of Rhe Apes)
Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
William Devane (Stargate: Continuum)
Michael Caine (Inception)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Josh Stewart (The Punisher)
Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity
Bill Irwin (Legion)
Elyes Gabel (Game of Thrones)
A catastrophic crop blight has made farming increasingly difficult and threatens humanity’s survival. Joe Cooper, a widowed former NASA pilot, runs a farm with his father-in-law, son, and daughter Murphy, who believes her bedroom is haunted by a poltergeist. When the “ghost” creates a pattern in the dust, Cooper realizes someone is using gravity to communicate, and interprets the pattern as geographic coordinates, which Cooper and Murphy follow to a secret NASA facility.
There, they meet Dr. Brand, Cooper’s former professor. Brand reveals that a wormhole, apparently created by an alien intelligence, appeared near Saturn 48 years before and leads to a distant galaxy, with numerous potentially habitable planets. Twelve volunteers have gone through it, knowing only a few can be retrieved, each to assess a planet’s suitability as humanity’s new home. Miller, Edmunds and Mann have sent encouraging data from planets near Gargantua, a supermassive black hole. Brand recruits Cooper to pilot the spaceship Endurance to evaluate as many of the planets as possible, while he works on “Plan A”, a theory to harness gravity for propulsion, which would allow humanity to leave Earth. The Endurance also carries 5,000 frozen embryos as “Plan B”, to provide for humanity’s survival. Cooper agrees to go, alienating Murphy.
Cooper’s crew consists of scientists Romilly, Doyle, and Brand’s daughter Amelia and robots TARS and CASE. Traversing the wormhole, they head to Miller’s planet, an ocean world where time is severely dilated due to its proximity to Gargantua; for each hour there, seven years pass on Earth. While Romilly and TARS remain aboard, the rest descend to the surface, where they find only wreckage. Amelia retrieves Miller’s data, before a gigantic tidal wave kills Doyle. Cooper, Amelia, and CASE manage to return to Endurance, but 23 years have elapsed on Earth.
Murphy, now an adult, has been assisting Dr. Brand with his research. On his deathbed, he admits to her that he solved the gravity equation long before and deemed Plan A impossible, and that he lied to everyone, pinning his hopes on Plan B. Murphy notifies Amelia of her father’s death, then accuses her and Cooper of abandoning Earth. She continues working, believing Plan A might work if she could somehow get more data about singularities.
With limited fuel, Cooper decides to go to Mann’s planet, rather than Edmunds’, over Amelia’s opposition; both have sent promising data, but Mann is closer and Amelia admits to being in love with Edmunds. After being revived from cryosleep, Mann assures the crew that while the frozen planet has an ammonia-laden atmosphere, the surface is livable. However, when they are alone, Mann attempts to kill Cooper, revealing that he falsified the data so he would be rescued. Mann then heads for Endurance. Meanwhile, Romilly is killed by a booby trap. After Amelia rescues Cooper, they race to Endurance, where Mann is attempting to dock despite being locked out of the autodocking system. Mann ignores Cooper’s plea not to open the airlock, which fails catastrophically. Mann is killed and the severely damaged Endurance begins falling out of orbit. Cooper uses the landing craft to stabilize the ship.
Using Gargantua’s gravity as a slingshot, they head to Edmunds’ planet, but their nearness to the black hole means 51 years will elapse on Earth. To shed weight, Cooper jettisons himself and TARS towards the black hole, so that Amelia and CASE can complete the journey. Cooper and TARS pass the event horizon, but emerge in a tesseract, which appears as a stream of bookshelves that look into Murphy’s bedroom at different times. Cooper surmises that the tesseract and wormhole were created by five-dimensional beings to enable him to communicate with Murphy and that he is her “ghost”. He relays in Morse code quantum data that TARS collected from the black hole by manipulating the second hand of a watch he gave to Murphy before he left. Murphy is able to solve the remaining gravitational equation.
Cooper is ejected into normal space and awakens in a space habitat orbiting Saturn. He reunites with an aged Murphy, now near death. At Murphy’s urging, Cooper leaves to rejoin Amelia on Edmunds’ habitable planet, the future home of humanity.
Interstellar is a terrific film, and may come to be regarded as one of the best ever from this genre.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: GONE BABY GONE

CAST

Casey Affleck (The Killer Inside me)
Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Ed Harris (The Abyss)
John Ashton (Midnight Run)
Amy Ryan (Birdman)
Titus Welliver (Agents of Shield)
Amy Madigan (Uncle Buck)
Michael Kenneth Williams (The Road)
Edi Gathegi (Beauty and The Beast
Mark Margolis (Breaking Bad)

“Gone Baby Gone” is the first film I’ve seen in some time to confront the veracity of consequences, that unbearable burden of conscience, with fearless authenticity. There are no happy endings here, just life walking despondently down a dark path, making this picture glow with heavy dramatic nuance that’s impossible to flush out of your system. It’s the directorial debut of actor Ben Affleck, and it announces a mighty talent behind the camera to come.

When a little girl is abducted from her Boston home, relatives (including Amy Madigan) hire private investigators Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) to help augment the search. Hitting the local dives to rustle up clues to the girl’s whereabouts, Kenzie starts to share information with two cops (Ed Harris and John Ashton) who are working the case. With the coked-up mother (Amy Ryan, in an incredible performance) deceptive and the police captain (Morgan Freeman) seemingly unaware of the details, Kenzie finds his eyes opened by the depth of betrayal, lies, and death that accompany this otherwise straightforward missing child case. What makes “Gone” such a remarkable foray into neighborhood crime is the source material. Adapted by Affleck and Aaron Stockard from Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name.

Right from the starter pistol, “Gone” drips with the kind of beer-splattered cultural meticulousness that  sucks the viewer into the setting. We are there with Kenzie as he makes his rounds in the seedy bars, grungy drug hovels, and unlit street corners to collect his information. Affleck treats the locations as hallowed ground, retaining the uneasy neighborhood pride that defends even the most derelict of shelters. “Gone” is a place where despair meets fatigued dignity, and Affleck emphasizes every last beat of Beantown bravado with his amazing attention to community detail.

“Gone” is an idiosyncratic tale of crime, told from the perspective of Kenzie and his weary ways, but twisting through a myriad of subplots covering corruption, abuse, and pedophile horrors. Couple that with the screenplay’s machine-gun-like unloading of plot points and character names, and the effect can be dizzying; to counter the weight of the story, Affleck offers rich streams of bruiser dialogue, which rolls off the actors’ tongues with roller-coaster malice. This is sold exceptionally well by Casey Affleck, who defies his beanpole frame to become Lee Marvin Jr., keeping to a strident Boston code of ethics as he pushes himself up into the faces of his enemies and informants. “Gone” contains a rich tapestry of performances that deepen the psychological well of the moment, but Affleck is the anchor, and under his big brother’s watch, he gives a career-best turn as an innocent sent on a mission that will curse his life forever.“Gone Baby Gone” pushes through an incredible amount of left turns in the final act, sorting out the subplots and positioning itself in a manner that explores the shrapnel left behind when steadfast morality is detonated. Throughout the film Affleck cushions the central nightmare with reoccurring images of religious icons and law enforcement camaraderie, leading to a conclusion that places the idea of right and wrong on trial, with Affleck putting Kenzie’s final judgment call into the hands of the audience.