Live By Night film review

Spoilers aplenty below.

Live By Night is a gangster film set in early 20th century Boston and Florida. Ben Affleck, who also directs and wrote the screenplay by adapting a Dennis Lehane novel, stars as Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston-based Police Chief of Irish descent.

Coughlin returns from the Great War in Europe in 1918 disillusioned by the killing of so many of his compatriots, while the people higher up in society remained largely unscathed or even profited from the war. He vows never to let anyone tell him what to do again and becomes a small-time ‘outlaw’ in Boston. He and two accomplices commit bank robberies and other crimes. They do this outside of the major Irish and Italian crime organisations operating in Boston who are fighting each other for control. Inevitably he gets caught up in the Boston gangster scene. In no small part due to the fact he is having a relationship with Emma Gould, the Moll of the head of the Irish faction Albert White. After a bank raid goes wrong, Coughlin and Gould plan to go to California, but White and his accomplices capture him with the help of Emma who betrays him to save herself. Coughlin seems doomed, but the police arrive to arrest him for the bank job, and therefore stop his murder. He only gets three years in prison largely due to the influence of his father who has damaging information about the prosecutor of the case.

Coughlin’s father tells him that Emma was killed by White, and when he gets out of prison he goes to the head of the Italian faction, Maso Pescatore, so he can get a chance to kill Albert White for killing Emma. Pescatore tells him that in the three years he’s been in prison White and his gang have been driven out of Boston. He gives Coughlin the job of running the Italian prohibition busting rum smuggling operation from Florida to Boston.

Coughlin takes over and runs the rum smuggling operation very successfully for years in combination with the Cuban’s and other immigrants. He falls for and marries Graciela, the sister of the head of the Cuban smuggling business. Everything is operating fine until prohibition repeal starts to be discussed. Coughlin attempts to build a large casino to switch the business from smuggling to gambling, but his plans are derailed by a young girl preacher who turns the town against the idea. At the same time, the local KKK faction is trying to muscle in on the speakeasy and future casino businesses. They also don’t like the fact that Coughlin and others are living with Cuban’s and other non-white people. Coughlin sorts out the KKK, but he later gets double-crossed by Pescatore. Fortunately, he see’s this coming and has a plan in place…

The acting in Live By Night is great. Sienna Miller as fantastic as the Moll Emma Gould. Her Cork accent is fantastic. Elle Fanning isn’t in the film much, but her portrayal of the young preacher Loretta Figgis is fantastic. Fanning was in my favourite film from 2016 (The Neon Demon). She is turning into an excellent actor. The rest of the cast are good, but Miller and Fanning stand out. The script is good, the cinematography is first class, and the film looks gorgeous. The sets and costumes all fit into the 1920’s to 1940’s vibe. Perhaps a bit to clean and sharp for depression period America, but I wasn’t there so can’t say. It didn’t detract from the feel.

I liked Live By Night. It had all the tropes you would expect in a north-east American gangster film. And you need those tropes in a film of this type or you might feel short-changed. It is done well and has a few twists you might not expect. I rated it 8/10. Close to a 9, but not quite. I would recommend seeing it.

La La Land film review

La La Land has been winning all the plaudits recently. With almost everyone and their dog singing its praises. Pun intended. It also cleaned up at the Golden Globes, and will likely do the same at the Oscars, unless there is a backlash.

I’m going to take the contrary position and tell you that I don’t agree. I liked it as a film, but think it would have been better without the set piece bits that make it a musical. I’m not saying there shouldn’t have been any music in it. Quite the opposite. The music in the film that is performed in jazz clubs and concerts is excellent and fits into the story perfectly. There is even a version of City of Stars sung in the main characters apartment that advances the story. The City of Stars motif recurs throughout the film and is a fabulous piece of music. But there are about six sections in the film where the characters sing and dance rather than have a normal conversation. I think that these sections could be cut and it would make it a better film. Even if they are not replaced with anything.

Just my view. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of musicals. I rated it 7/10. It would probably have been a 9/10 if it wasn’t for those six or so musical sections.

2016 Freelance Writing Statistics

I wrote a post about my freelance writing output in 2015 a year ago. How did the 2016 writing output compare?

I wrote 50 new articles in 2016. As compared to 48 in 2015.

I edited, and rewrote, 16 articles by others. As compared to 24 in 2015.

I haven’t counted the words this year. It’s a meaningless metric. Articles are as long or as short as they need to be to get the ideas and information across.

I didn’t hit the 25% target for income from writing that I wanted to. It delivered 18.8% before Tax. I didn’t do as much writing as I’d hoped for a few months from May to July due to some very early starts. Getting up at 03:30 four days a week turns your brain to mush! Want to hit 25% at least in 2017.

Thanks again to those who asked me to do writing for them. Let’s create all the content in 2017 🙂

Favourite films from 2016

I saw 55 films in the cinema this year. Here are my top 6 from this years selection:

Room film posterRoom – This is not the film you would think it is from the description. It is not a horror film. It is not a explicitly sexual or violent film, although there is some of that. It is about a 5 year old boy, and his mother, discovering the world after she was held captive for 7 years. So the boy has always been a captive. He only knows about Room where they live. Until he turns 5 and his mother starts to tell him about the outside world. I cried, laughed, and at one point my heart rate must have been up about 140 bpm. The performances by Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the boy are remarkable. I was fully invested in the characters. Hence the heart rate thing. The supporting cast are also good. It was easy to rate this 9/10. Came very close to being a 10. Once again, it’s not the film you think it is.

 

The Big Short film posterThe Big Short – Can a film make you root for the financial traders and market analysts who foresaw the 2008 housing crash in the USA, and who bet that it would happen in order to short the market and make money? Turns out you can. Bankers don’t rate too well in opinion polls about professions. But at the end of the day they are just people. And if they are interesting people then their story will be interesting. The characters in this film are interesting. I really liked it. It breaks the fourth wall quite a lot and this usually makes me twitchy. But it works in this. I thought Steve Carell’s character and performance was great, although the whole cast is good. Vinnie Daniel politely asking the auditors to leave Mark Baum’s office is brilliant.

 

Maggie's Plan film posterMaggie’s Plan – If you showed this film to someone without credits and told them it was a Woody Allen film they would believe you. It’s actually a Rebecca Miller film and its better than the film Woody Allen released in 2016. I loved it. Have watched it several times since seeing it in the cinema. As good every time. The whole cast are brilliant. Julianne Moore especially so.

 

 

 

The Neon Demon film PosterThe Neon Demon – What to say about The Neon Demon. It is sharp edged, stylish, colourful, beautifully shot, has a great score, and a set of background songs. It tells the story of a teenager who moves to Los Angeles to pursue a modelling career. She very quickly gets booked by some big photographers and fashion designers. Much to the chagrin of a group of existing models and fashion industry insiders. Who then take some extreme measures. It’s a wonderful film covering ego, jealousy, shallowness of people, and obsession. One of the best films I’ve ever seen.

 

The Meddler film posterThe Meddler – Another film with a Woody Allen vibe. Which is a lazy description. It’s much more. Susan Sarandon plays a widow who moves from New York to be near her daughter who is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. She can’t help getting involved in her daughters life, and when rebuked, her friends lives. Great script and performances from Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne as the daughter, and J. K. Simmons as a retired cop.

 

 

 

Me Before You film posterMe Before You – There was a lot of negative flak about this film before it was released. People said it promoted the idea of euthanasia for people with disabilities. Turns out the film isn’t pushing that agenda. If anything most arguments in the film are against doing that. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones so hadn’t seen Emilia Clarke in that, but I had liked her in the latest Terminator reboot. I liked Sam Claflin in The Hunger Games. Both are brilliant in this film. Emilia Clarke has one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen. Her eyebrows seem to have a live of their own. She is awesome in this. Sam Claflin is also great, and he is only using his head to act as he’s playing a character paralysed from the neck down. This film raises several important issues, and deals with them responsibly. At the same time it is a funny and poignant story in its own right.

Favourite books from 2016

I only managed to get through 16 books in 2016. I had to do some very early starts (03:30 four days a week) in day job for a few months and it turned my brain to mush. That’s all sorted now, so hopefully I’ll get more reading done in 2017. From the books I did read here are my top five. These would have been up there even if I read 50 books this year.

Speak – Louisa Hall. View on iBooksAmazonAudible

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley. View on iBooksAmazonAudible

Join – Steve Toutonghi. View on iBooksAmazonAudible

The Big Picture – Sean Carroll. View on iBooksAmazon

Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson. View on iBooksAmazon

Favourite tracks from 2016

Here are my favourite new tracks released in 2016.

Mr David – Laura Doggett. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Scars – Tove Lo. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Interlude: I was Never Here – The Glass Child. Listen on Apple Music or Soundcloud.

Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Growing Pains – Birdie. Listen on Apple Music or YouTube.

Here is an Apple Music Playlist with the 5 tracks.

Sully film review

 

I liked Sully: Miracle on the Hudson a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a dramatisation of the events that happened in January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 had to land on the Hudson River in New York after a bird strike damaged both engines shortly after takeoff. The actual flight time for Flight 1549 was only 208 seconds (3 minutes and 28 seconds), and the film is 96 minutes long. The flight scenes are repeated several times, but even so, there is a lot of additional time to fill.

The bulk of the film is taken up by the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, flashbacks to when Captain Chesley Sullenberger was learning to fly (including a similar incident in a Navy Phantom jet), and the reaction of Sully and the crew on being thrust into the national spotlight. I thought the flashbacks and the scenes were Sully was thinking about what might have happened if he hadn’t decided to ditch in the Hudson River were great. All the flight scenes in the film are excellent. Including those showing crashes that Sully imagines. I want a flight simulator that’s as good as that! The only disappointing part was the CGI of the water splash on one shot of the plane skidding on the water.

The NTSB investigators are depicted as very aggressive and as if they are looking to blame the pilots for the loss of the aircraft. I don’t know if the original investigators were that aggressive. I doubt it. But it probably had to be done to inject drama into the film for the non-flight scenes. Sully is worth seeing. See it in iMAX or MAXX if you can. Just for the flight scenes over New York alone. I rated it 8/10.

We need to fight for the future

It’s been a weird year from a politics point of view. The Brexit vote was a disaster for the UK and the world in general in my opinion. That was followed up by Trump winning the USA Presidential election. Both results allegedly due to people feeling left out of the way the modern world is changing. So they voted for campaigns led by two groups of mostly rich white men who couldn’t be more removed from the people affected by globalisation. The blue collar jobs that have moved from the UK and USA to Asia are not coming back. They will be taken by machines. Irrespective of where they happen to be situated.

It’s striking that many of the hangers-on and fellow travellers of the Brexit and Trump camps are anti science, anti women’s rights, evidence deniers, who promise the Earth then deliver little. They must be resisted.

I’m an internationalist. The Brexit supporters may get the UK out of the EU, but they’ll never get the European ideals out of me. The values of the European project and the Enlightenment are worth fighting for and will triumph in the end. But we must do it by educating people for the 22nd century and the change that ubiquitous smart manufacturing and machine learning will bring in. People will need to do other jobs that the machines will not do better. We should start by giving everyone a good basic income that they can live comfortably on. Then they can work on things that make them happy. Including looking after the planet and other people.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children film review

misperegrinsLoads of spoilers below.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is pretty standard stuff. All competently done if familiar to films that have gone before. The most interesting aspect was how existing in the 1 day time loops where the children live for protection means that they never get to grow up and experience life. I’d wonder if it was worth it. Samual L. Jackson does a lot of monologuing and I couldn’t help thinking about Frozone talking about that topic in The Incredibles. There is also a nice Jason and The Argonauts fighting skeleton section done with modern techniques. I rated it 6/10.

It’s worth getting an AppleTV just to run Magic Fireplace

Magic Fireplace icon

You can’t beat a good fire as the nights draw in. Unfortunately I don’t have a good fire. I do however have an AppleTV, an HD television, and a good sound system. So I can have a digital fire. Using the fabulous Magic Fireplace App from Jetson Creative. It displays one of 20 different HD videos of fireplaces. With a pleasing wood burning sounds. Perfect for dark evenings on the sofa with a book and a big mug of tea. Video below.

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