Friday, October 6, 2017



by Dwight Casimere

 Dwight Casimere at the NYFF Opening Night
 Laurence Fishburne waves to the enthusiastic opening night crowd
 Director Richard Linklater and the cast of Last Flag Flaying on Openin Night (below) stars Steve Carrell and Laurence Fishburne on the Red Carpet

The New York Film Festival opened with Oscar nominated director Richard Linklater's latest searing drama Last Flag Flying starring the stellar talents of the ever-superb Steve Carrell as the film's central character Larry 'Doc' Shepherd, a former Navy doctor in the throes of grief after losing his only son in the Iraqi war. Already suffering the unhealed wound of his wife's death, Doc is an abyss of grief. He seeks out his old military buddies Sal, the cynical and unrepentant alcoholic Bryan Cranston and Richard 'The Mauler' Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) an ex-Marine bad mouth who has since reformed to become a self-righteous, color-wearing man of the cloth. Both the Fishburne and Cranston characters are sterling examples of the adage 'once a Marine, always a Marine.' Linklater and co-scriptwriter Darryl Poniscanb, who also wrote the book of the same title upon ewhich the film is based, do a terrific job of letting the characters speak for themselves, with an abundance of attitude and expletives in abundance. Doc is an endless black whole of grief who hijacks his old buddies into a seeminlgly wrong-heade scheme to give his son what he thinks is a proper send-off.  The book and the film are a sequel to Ponicsan's 1973 film The Last Detail, directed by Hal Ashby. Linnklater successfully injects the film with his own deft style of character development and story-telling using the characters own words and the interplay of their personalities to move the story along. Particularly telling is a scene in which the three spend a light-hearted mooment spining a dirty penis joke to its absurd limit. The scene is a window into the life of former combat buddies who no doubt passed some perilous times together, distracting their attention away from imminent danger with mindless humor. 

Part buddie film, part road-trip movie, the film mixes in a heavy dose of humanity that will have you choking back tears at the end. Cecily Tyson makes an all-too-brief appearance as the mother of one of the men in their unit who didn't survive. The facts reveal that the circumstances of his death were less than heroic, and Cranston leads the charge to unveil the truth. Confronted with the still grieving mother,  the three decide to swallow their pride and allow the grieving mother to cling to her glorious fantasy.

Last Flag Flying is a protest film of sorts against war, but it doesn't hit you over the head with it. Instead, it allows the flawed humanity in the characters and that desire to do at least one thing right in the sea of mistakes we humans all make, to shine through. With all their faults, Linklater's characters just dry out for love and we, the audience, willingly give it to them.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

by Dwight Casimere

Human sex trafficking is a hundred billion dollar industry, with profits exceeding those of Intel, Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks and Google, combined. Up to a hundred thousand sex slaves like in the U.S. alone with millions enslaved worldwide. From Epic Pictures comes the film Trafficked, which had its world premiere at the United Nations, which charts the harrowing saga of three young girls, fStarring Arom Califonia, Nigeria and India who are trafficked through an elaborate global network to a brothel in Texas where they are exploited, tortured, and eventually escape. 

Starring Academy Award nominee Anne Archer and featuring Golden Globe nominee Ashley Judd, Elisabeth Rohm,  Sean Patrick Flanery, Madison Wolfe and Patrick Duffy, the film is the culmination of the work of Harvard professor and sex trafficking expert  Siddharth Kara and is based on her book Sex Trafficking.. The film is not only a depiction of a harrowing adventure in which the human spirit rises to conquer a social evil, but a call to action for strong initiatives on a global level to end sex slavery and child labor.  

In addition to serving  as screenwriter to Trafficking, Siddarth Kara is a tireless soldier in the fight against slavery, having researched and advocated against trrafficking for the past two decades. In additoon to serving as a senior fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, he is a senior fellow at Harvard Schol of Public Health and is the author of numerous books and articles on modern slavery, including Sex Trafficking: Inside the Busiiness of Modern Slavery, and Bonded Lbour; Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia. This is a film that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Its intent is to spark action. Few will remain unmoved after entering the stunningly visual world created by Director Will Wallace and Director of Photography Thomas L. Callway.