2017 Summer Movie Review: A Ghost Story

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C (Casey Affleck) wakes up as a ghost in David Lowery’s magnum opus, A Ghost Story. (Source: Rolling Stone)

How can something so simple go somewhere so deep?

After Disney’s surprisingly wonderful remake of Pete’s Dragon, director David Lowery returns to his indie roots with the Sundance hit A Ghost Story. It reteams the duo of the sluggish yet decent Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. It might turn people off who expect it to be a straight-up horror film. With a budget of $100,000 and shown in the 1.37.1 aspect ratio, Lowery explores the afterlife through the eyes of a person wearing the cheapest Halloween costume in the world. This is a strange yet devastating roller-coaster ride through the afterlife.

C (Casey Affleck) is a musician living in a house in rural Texas with his wife M (Rooney Mara). They both keep hearing bumps in the night; trying to find the source of the sounds. As C dies from a car crash, he wakes up in the hospital in a white sheet with two black holes for eyes. As a ghost, he walks back to his house to reconnect with M. No one seems to notice he still exists. C’s ghost goes on a journey through the past, present, and future.

In his first Sundance feature-length hit Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Lowery pays homage to Terrence Malick with films, such as Badlands and Days of Heaven. It comes as no surprise for A Ghost Story that it has ties with Malick among other directors. Ranging from faraway shots and long takes, Lowery and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo put it to good use with every shot, accompanied by Daniel Hart’s haunting score. They are nothing short of breathtaking!

A Ghost Story features very minimal dialogue. The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words”, is rather appropriate here. In one particular scene, the ghost watches his wife grief in silence while eating a whole pie. During the long take, we see her get more upset after each bite until she rushes to the bathroom to throw it up. As devastating as the scene is, it’s quite impressive to see it done in one take. It proves how talented Rooney Mara is.

Affleck’s performance is one of the most subtle yet ambitious performances to date. Fresh from winning an Oscar for Manchester by the Sea, he spends most of the movie in the bedsheet without delivering a single line (with the exception of a few in the beginning and the end of the film). With the theme involving the endurance and perception of time, Affleck’s ghost spends time observing his wife move out of his house as other people start to move in; including a Hispanic family and one of the partygoers (Will Oldham) talking about the end of the universe. “We do what we can to endure…you do what you can to make sure you’re still around after you’re gone,” he says, summing up the film’s main idea.

A Ghost Story may not be for everyone. It doesn’t move at a fast pace. However, for those who are patient and willing to give it a shot, be my guest. You might love it or hate it. For me, one of the main reasons why I think this one of the best films of the year is that it’s full of originality, which is rare for movies nowadays. This definitely requires repeated viewings.

4/4

2017 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down, two months to go.

Sometimes, I forget to talk about movies that came out this past month. Case in point, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott. This is the role that he was born to play! An aging Western icon with a stellar voice who comes to terms with his life once he is diagnosed with cancer. Starring alongside Laura Prepon (That ‘70s Show, Orange is the New Black) and Nick Offerman, it might sound clichéd, but I have a feeling this is going to be delightful.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what has yet to come this July.

July 7

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Source: IMP Awards

Spider-Man Homecoming – Spider-Man made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He might have been added in at the last minute, but he certainly deserved to be in it. It was a joy to watch an actual teenager—given Tom Holland was 19 at the time—tackle the web-slinging superhero that everyone knew and loved. Holland gave a much better performance than both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Fresh from giving a powerful performance in The Lost City of Z, Holland returns to play the title character in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s surprising to see Michael Keaton play the villain this time. I guess it takes a hero to become the villain. I’m pretty certain we’ll keep seeing different interpretations of Spider-Man for years to come. Bring it on!

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Source: IMP Awards

A Ghost Story – Believe it or not, this is perhaps my most anticipated movie of the entire summer. A Ghost Story is far from a horror movie. This is a drama about a man’s ghost (in a white sheet with two holes for eyes) exploring the afterlife after dying in a car crash. Director David Lowery—of the sluggish yet decent tribute to Terrence Malick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and the surprisingly exceptional Pete’s Dragon—reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints to make another hit at this year’s Sundance. I’m hoping A Ghost Story will find an audience. Every shot is like a painting in motion. Totally looking forward to it!

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Source: The Film Stage

City of Ghosts – This is a documentary following a group of Syrian journalists risking their lives to stand up against ISIS. Documentaries and journalism are two of my biggest interests. Seeing a preview of City of Ghosts opened my eyes. Hearing about journalists and soldiers getting killed in the Middle East (particularly by ISIS) is downright devastating. It’s fascinating to hear about the lives of people living across the ocean.

July 14

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Source: IMP Awards

War for the Planet of the Apes – Hell yeah! The new Planet of the Apes trilogy is about to come to an end. While the 1968 film is a timeless sci-fi classic with one of the most iconic twists in film history (so iconic that it’s on the DVD cover), I actually prefer the new films. Rise was a marvelous build-up. And Matt Reeves brought the franchise to another level with Dawn, which is my personal favorite in the franchise. In War, the apes begin their civil war with a group of soldiers led by a vicious Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The reason why I prefer the new films over the original is not just because of the gorgeous visuals and motion capture being brought. But—rather the emotional appeal. The sequels of the original films are often dry and downright silly. It’s time for Reeves to end the trilogy on a high note.

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Source: IMP Awards

Wish Upon – *sigh* Another horror movie with a dumb premise? Next!

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Source: IMP Awards

Lady Macbeth – Whenever you see Lady Macbeth as the title of your movie, you might expect a prequel, of a sort, to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This is anything but. One review described Lady Macbeth as: “Wuthering Heights, as if it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock” (not the exact quote, but you get the idea). Seeing the preview before Manchester by the Sea (twice), I saw something that might be tense.

July 21

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Source: IMP Awards

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan has directed some of the best films in existence—from The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. His last film, Interstellar, had the potential of being a wonderful space film, but faltered from a manipulative script and a syrupy final act. This time, Nolan goes back to the past to depict the Battle of Dunkirk, where 400,000 allied forces from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France are evacuated from the battle and are surrounded by the Germans. This movie doesn’t seem to follow the “war is hell” structure compared to most WWII films, which is a good thing. With a brilliant cast including Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and One Direction’s Harry Styles (quite unususal, but hopefully, he’ll give a surprisingly good performance) This seems to be more of an intense war thriller than anything.  Please don’t disappoint me again, Christopher Nolan.

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Source: IMP Awards

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (try saying the title three times fast) – Known for directing Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Lucy, Luc Besson adapts a graphic novel, originally published in France (his home country). While I’m not familiar with comics, it doesn’t change my mind that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks horrible although visually stunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it flops.

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Source: IMP Awards

Girls Trip – Yay…another black comedy. Moving on.

July 28

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Source: IMP Awards

The Emoji Movie – Another corporate sellout appealing to kids rather than adults? No, thank you.

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Source: IMP Awards

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron continues her repertoire starring in action movies in which she plays a badass. Atomic Blonde is no exception. Teaming up with James McAvoy, this seems to be some brutal fun.

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Source: IMP Awards

Menashe – In the orthodox Jewish community of New York City, a widow is struggling to live his life after the passing of his wife. Mostly told in Yiddish, Menashe seems to be fascinating sociological outlook of a least-known culture. While this is the first PG-rated film by A24, this movie seems to be more for adults than children (I guarantee they will be bored to death). I don’t know if I’ll see it, but it might be pretty good.

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Source: IMP Awards

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – The 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth brought forth some deep discussion about the climate change in our world. Al Gore is back to talk about how the Earth’s climate change has evolved since then. It might be okay, but I’m not entirely interested.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Atomic Blonde, City of Ghosts, Dunkirk, A Ghost Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

Least Anticipated: The Emoji Movie, Girls Trip, Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, Wish Upon,

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.