September 18th, 2016 — 8:24pm
It is always a challenge to tell an exciting story when everyone knows how it really ended. Certainly most people know the true tale of the “Miracle on the Hudson” which took place on January 15, 2009 when a U.S. Airlines pilot landed his plane on the Hudson River after a flock of birds damaged both engines of his airliner. That pilot was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and he is very well captured by one of the great American actors, Tom Hanks, in a film directed by another great actor/director, Clint Eastwood.
This screenplay by Todd Komarnicki is based on the book titled Highest Duty by the actual pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. It not only provides all the facts and details but it recreates the tension and anxiety that everyone on board including the pilots and crew felt when it was clear that things had gone wrong. The audience could not help but identify with the passengers as they thought this was going to be a routine flight going through the usual boarding procedure as we have done hundreds of times in our life times with barely a thought that this could end up being a catastrophe that might be our last flight. We squirmed in our seats as everyone settled into their airplane seats not knowing what we knew what was in store for them.
The film also raised questions about the value of human experience in making decisions as compared to what computer simulations might tell us. In the next few years, driverless cars may very well be a choice for everyone and will take the place of human judgment in piloting our automobiles. While this is not exactly the theme of this film, these ideas reverberated in our minds as we left the theater discussing it.
Kudos deserve to be given to Mr. Eastwood and his staff for an excellent job in capturing the story, doing realistic depictions with superb editing. We had an extra bonus by watching this movie in IMAX. The supporting cast which included Aaron Eckhart who played Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot and Laura Linney as Sully’s wife were right on target. However, the standout as usual in the case when he stars in a movie, was Tom Hanks. Not only was he made up to have a very good resemblance to the real pilot and also appeared to have captured the mannerisms of his character as we saw in film clips of the real guy, but also his expressions and demeanor gave the wonderful pilot a persona that seemed to be true to life and made the story and movie quite memorable. (2016)
1 comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History
January 31st, 2015 — 10:57pm
American Sniper –rm After being shut out at the box office last week because it was sold out we finally got in to see this film. It has already grossed over 217 million dollars (so they really didn’t need our money) on a budget of 59 million dollars to make it. The film has been nominated for an Oscar as best picture and Bradley Cooper as best actor as well as receiving nominations for sound, sound editing and best adapted screenplay by Jason Hall. (It was adapted from the book by the sniper himself Chris Kyle) It is directed by Clint Eastwood. We tend to side with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who decided that this film didn’t make the grade for any Golden Globe Awards. In our opinion we just didn’t make any emotional connection with the character as depicted in the movie. Yes, we were genuinely touched at the end of the film when there were actual movie clips of the funeral tributes to this war hero who died as a civilian in 2013. (Sorry about the spoiler but you probably knew this already and it won’t take away from the movie). He had an unusual skill with a long range rifle and he cared about his buddies. Chris Kyle had more than 160 “kills” which is the most by far in the history of the United States military. He volunteered for extra tours of duty (actually having 4 tours and he had over 1000 days in a combat zone) despite the pleading of his wife (played by Sienna Miller) that she and their children needed him. He could have spent more time at home training other soldiers. Perhaps the writers and filmmakers try too hard to stick to the exact story presented to them and don’t use the poetic license that a good fictional drama can explore when they develop a character. It was interesting to us that we felt the same way about the movie Unbroken (see our review) which was another recent movie about a real life war hero which stayed close to the facts without very much depth.. It also didn’t move us although our admiration for the man especially as shown in the book was tremendous. Compare this to what we think is one of the greatest war films to come out in a long time, The Hurt Locker (see our review). This was fictional drama perhaps based on real events, but the main character is a composite. In our opinion this allowed the writers and director to explore subtle themes and find ways of bringing about an emotional attachment with the audience. In the the American Sniper, as in most war movies today, the combat scenes were very realistic. The sound was fantastic (does deserve the potential Oscar acclaim ) and the music with a lot of drums and included one composition credited to “the man of all seasons,” the director Clint Eastwood, was quite effective. There were the requisite expensive special effects, which likely made it just like it would really be if we were there. Sometimes all the smoke made it hard to see who was shooting who and we couldn’t tell the bad guys from the good guys but maybe that is the way it is in some combat situations. But without a strong connection to the main character we can’t put this film near the top of our list. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Thriller, War
June 29th, 2014 — 6:31am
Jersey Boys- rm– If you are of a certain age and when you hear the high pitched voice of Frankie Valli singing “Sherry” in full harmony with the rest of the Four Seasons, you want move around and do some dancing, then this film will be a most enjoyable experience for you. We suspect many other generations will also enjoy the musical re-creation of this 50s group. Director and Producer Clint Eastwood has chosen to take this story and the music to the silver screen after a version of it was a successful Broadway Show. This is certainly more of a musical accomplishment than dramatic achievement. Each member of the group was quite distinctive in their personality and story. Frankie Castellucio alias Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) was shown to evolve from a naïve young man to the star he became. Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) was originally the brains behind the group and the one who first recognized Valli’s star potential but didn’t have the know how or the integrity to financially help them thrive and survive as a group. Nick Mass (Michael Lomenda) by dropping out prematurely allowed Valli to complete his career without the intact Four Season. Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) was the last to join the group and was the talented songwriter who probably provided the key ingredient, which allowed Valli and the group to shine so bright. Not only is the music captivating but also there is excellent choreography. There is also some very well done subtle aging of these guys as they grow into mature men. Gangsters and the mob were an important part of the scene in the upbringing of these young men and in their rise to the top. The leading gangster kingpin is well played by Christopher Walken. This is a story about boys growing into men and ultimately loyalty among men is a theme which Director and Producer Eastwood knows well and has brought to the screen many times. The women in their lives are downplayed and almost presented as incidental characters. However there is some attempt to show the meaning of a lost family life. But what will not be lost will be the history of this legendary early rock and roll band and a most enjoyable musical experience.(2014)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Musical
December 18th, 2011 — 8:25am
J Edgar rm- There are very few Americans who can be recognized without their last name. J. Edgar Hoover is one of them. Clint (Eastwood) is another such name who directed this biopic about the man who served nine US Presidents and is the person most responsible for the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as we know it today. Enter Leonardo , not DaVinci but DiCaprio who certainly deserves consideration for an Oscar nomination for his magnificent depiction of J. Edgar from his early days in law enforcement until his death as the revered, feared and even despised leader of the FBI. Hoover is shown initially to be a patriot and a sincere crime fighter but his passion and his hate of those he felt were enemies led him ultimately to gather power, overstep his authority, attempt to glorify himself and use his position to blackmail and intimidate anyone who was in his way. Perhaps the most revealing part of this character study was the demonstration of this man to have a stunted emotional growth. He is shown to be completely under the sway of his mother (Judi Dench ) and at least in this version to have an inability to have an adult relationship with women. His comfort and attachment to Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer ) whom he hired, befriended, made him his Associate Director of the FBI and ultimately lived with, is a major part of this film. Hammer should be up for a supporting actor award winning performance as he ages from dapper young FBI agent to sickly old man during the course of the film. It is suggested but never fully clarified wither they had an overt sexual relationship but nevertheless the irony is in your face that J. Edgar sought out other peoples’ secrets which he used against them while he had a very big one himself. This character’s ambivalence and underdeveloped personality makes it hard for us hate him , love him or identify with his persona. If anything we feel sorry for him. Despite the fact that there was nothing in the film to keep us on the edge of our seats, the 2hours and 17 minutes of the film did not seem boring with credit to Clint’s ability to keep things moving and his skill in telling his story. (2011)
1 comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama
January 16th, 2010 — 2:41am
* * * * *
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
This is the last verse of poem titled Invictus that Susan’s dad frequently recited to inspire her and her brother. The poet William Henley wrote it in 1867 most probably reflecting his battle with tuberculosis which caused him the loss of a leg and a life with an artificial limb This is also the title and a recurrent theme of the latest movie directed and produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It is small slice of the great accomplishments of a man who spent 27 years in a small prison cell before emerging to be Prime Minister of South Africa and lead his country after the fall of apartheid The story shows how Mandela was determined to bring together the country despite the anger of the blacks after years of oppression and the resentment of the whites after the loss of their power and their majority rule. The vehicle for demonstrating Mandela’s role in unifying South Africa was the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa. Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar the captain of the South African team originally not up to the task of winning. He becomes inspired by Mandela and helps his team master their fate and perhaps the fate of their nation. The real Nelson Mandela reportedly met Morgan Freeman and hoped that he would play him in a movie . Freeman very much wanted this opportunity and finally found the script where he could do it. He did it so well that when Clint Eastwood met Mandela he said that he thought that the great leader was “imitating Freeman”. It was more than the acting that make this an outstanding film. The breaking down of barriers between people is reflected in subtle nuances of the relationships between the white and black bodyguards of the Prime Minister, in the contrast of team captain Pienaar’s parents and even in the interplay between a youngster and a police officer listening to the big game on the radio. The powerful struggle that his country had to go through seemed to be echoed in the struggle of the Rugby scrum. The final game was shown in some detail and we were told was recreated from the study of tapes of the contest. The television scenes and commentary of the actual game was woven into the movie. Only three of the many rugby players seen in the dramatic battles on the field were actors. One of these with a very small part but with a distinctive face was Scott Eastwood son of Clint. (2009)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Drama, Sport
November 7th, 2009 — 1:25am
* * * * *
Gran Torino – rm – Clint Eastwood directs and stars as the crusty widower who is the last relic of a changing neighborhood. Not surprisingly, the character is perfectly played and created a full range of emotional experiences in your reviewers. While the story is somewhat predictable it holds your full attention. We almost didn’t choose to see this movie but are very glad that we did and will not forget it. 2008
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama
November 7th, 2009 — 12:31am
* * * *
Changeling – sp – The amazing thing about this movie as told to us by long time TV writer, first time screen writer Michael Straczynski is that all the details in this movie are true as is much of the dialog which was taken from court transcripts. The time is 1928 Los Angeles with period clothes and automobiles setting the atmosphere while the story with very fine acting provides the drama and emotion. Director Clint Eastwood stays true to the story and script and once again shows how he has evolved into one of our finest contemporary movie directors. The Los Angeles Police Department is the villain of this movie and a young mother who doggedly wants her missing child returned to her, magnificently played by Angelina Jolie, is the heroine. John Malkovitch also turns in a sterling performer as the anti-police crusading reverend. A totally unsympathetic depiction of psychiatric treatment disturbed Michael but probably was mostly true at the time. 2008
Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Thriller