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
October 22nd, 2015 — 10:18pm
Bridge of Spies -rm
With Steven Spielberg directing, Tom Hanks staring, the Coen brothers being part of the writing team in this story of the spies in the cold war, this movie would seem to be bound for success. If you were around in the 1950’s, the story of Colonel Rudolf Abel, the Russian spy caught spying in Brooklyn and Francis Gary Powers, the American pilot shot down taking pictures over Russia should be quite familiar to you. That may take some of the suspense away from you as you know how the movie is going to end. On the other hand, if you were close to the millennial generation, the film might generate enough tension to put you on the edge of your seat.
The film did show very interesting depictions of two persons who became well known to the American public as the central events unfolded. There is the captured Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who was very devoted to his cause and not really a bad person although clearly hated by most Americans. On the other hand, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) the American pilot on the secret spy mission taking pictures over Russia is shown as an all American-type handsome guy who is the center of attention because he didn’t do the expected, deadly self-destruct thing with the poison pin, before he was captured.
The main protagonist was James Donovan (Tom Hanks). It’s hard to say if we like him so much because he was Tom Hanks or was it because he was this idealistic attorney standing up for American principle’s of giving everyone a fair trial, even if his client were a despicable man of the times being a Russian spy.
Spielberg appeared to put his $40 million budget to good use as the scenes were all quite realistic. Especially dramatic was the building of the Berlin wall and the views of some attempted escapes from East Berlin and of course there was the bridge where the exchange was to take place. The shoot down of Powers’ plane seemed quite realistic (we hope no one was hurt in the escape from the plane – it seemed that good). There was a little too much repetition in this two-hour and fifteen-minute movie with much more talking than action. For those who didn’t live through this period, this film may very well become the mental representation of this period although we didn’t think it quite captured the fear and apprehension that existed in the country at that time. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, History
December 21st, 2013 — 8:46pm
Saving Mr. Banks -rm In order to fully appreciate and analyze this movie, you should have read the book Mary Poppins and also have seen the 1964 movie with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Not having immediate recall of either one we had to pay close attention to the story and sometimes felt that we were missing something. The outline of the plot for this film is clearly shown in the publicity for the movie. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who actually died two years after the Mary Poppins movie was released was determined to keep a 20 year-old promise to his two daughters and bring this famous book to the screen. To make his movie he needed the permission of the British author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) who was fearful that “disneyfying” her story would take away something very dear to her. What that something was, is the essence of this movie. After much reflection and discussion we concluded that it was her image of her father as a creative, caring and fun loving man who gave her the ability to develop a wonderful fantasy life, which is reflected in her writings. While she may have been able to paint this picture in her books, she herself was an inhibited, desiccated, uptight woman in her personal life who identified more with the father who never delivered for his family and actually died when she was a small girl. The movie directed by John Leo Hancock uses flashbacks to the author’s early childhood in Australia as we learn the full extent of the father’s life. Would an upbeat Disney musical keep alive forever the image that Travers might like to achieve? While this storyline by itself is no great shakes and most of it is obvious from the beginning, we were surprised by the emotional impact that it achieved on us. From the first breakthrough that P.L. Travers shows as she responds to a musical number by the Sherman brothers (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) who were the song writing team for the proposed Poppins movie, to the emotional response that Travers has to the movie premier which she attended, although not invited, we realized that we were identifying with her desire to preserve her loving image of her dad, Mr. Banks. Hanks and Thompson are suburb as are the rest of the cast, including Colin Farrell as the father and Paul Giamatti who plays the sympathetic limo driver who takes Travers around. Bradley Whitford does a good job as the screenwriter who is constantly arguing with Travers. There are 39 hours of audiotape of these actual heated discussions. Since the real Travers insisted that they be tape- recorded we get a sample of them as the credits roll at the end of the movie. Kudos though have to be given to the delicate screen play by Kelly Marcel along with Hancock’s direction which extracted some of the universal emotions towards beloved parents which we all can understand. The net result is a film not to be missed. (2013)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History
November 17th, 2013 — 3:00am
Dallas Buyers Club- rm– In order to join the Dallas Buyers Club, you had to pay $400 per month. In return you get all the medicines that can be obtained by the Club available from all over the world to treat your condition of HIV/AIDS. Needless to say, most of these medications were not yet approved by the FDA. Also it should be recognized that the gathering process is mostly illegal but the medications seem to be working and prolonging the lives of the participants in the Club. The man who is the chief person in charge of obtaining the merchandise is Ronald Woodroff (Mathew McConaughey), an electrician and sometimes rodeo bull rider. We meet him as a tough guy, who snorts cocaine and has lots of causal sex. He certainly knows how to deal in drugs. McConaughey carries the film with his riveting performance of this character. It appears that he must have lost about 50 pounds to prepare for this role as he comes across as quite thin and emaciated (although in a shirtless scene he did seem to show a little too much muscles for a man dying of AIDS no matter how thin) There is also a great acting by Jared Leto who plays Rayon, a thin young man with AIDS who is trying to be an attractive woman . There is also a fine performance by beautiful Jenifer Garner who we see as a conflicted doctor torn between wanting to conduct AIDS research the FDA way but seeing that there might be a better approach to help people. . The film was set in the 1980s at the time that this deadly disease was killing so many people without an effective treatment in sight. It is based on a true story and captures the desperation of so many people and their families with AIDS at this time . It also highlights the dilemma of the FDA to fund pharmaceutical company double blind careful research which takes time and mandates that some patients in studies must get placebo even though that means they will stand no chance of improvement. It reflected the reality that effective forms of treatment sometimes surfaced in Mexico and other countries throughout the world that were not approved for treatment in the US . This all added up to an absorbing enlightening film with a screen play by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack which was directed by Jean-Marc Valiee. Twenty years ago Tom Hanks won an Academy Award for Best actor for his role in the motion picture Philadelphia which was one of the first mainstream Hollywood pictures to deal with HIV/AIDS. McConaughey has a chance to be similarly recognized for this role and this film certainly will live on as an important piece of history of the AIDS epidemic.(2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History
October 4th, 2013 — 2:11am
Captain Phillips sp- This movie has all the ingredients of a successful award wining, exciting and enjoyable movie experience. It starts with a true story about Captain Richard Phillips, the American commercial sea Captain whose ship is hijacked in international waters by Somali terrorists He ends up being held hostage while the US Navy and the Navy Seals try to rescue him. You add to this that Captain Phillips is played by Tom Hanks who gives one of his best performances especially in the moving closing moments of the film. On top of all this Paul Greengrass (known for The action packed Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne Supremacy and United 93) as director rolls out this exciting drama as if you are seeing a documentary unfold before your eyes. Greengrass knows how to bring out sizzling tension mixed with pulse throbbing suspense. He also knows how to get great performances from first time actors such as the team that plays the hijackers and even from a real life young female navy corpsman who interacts with a distraught Captain Phillips. The Navy Seals appeared very authentic since they also were the real guys. An added touch was the story line which gave some sympathetic insight into the plight of the hijackers. There was very little CGI on this movie most of which took place at sea. It was a big budget film at it’s best. The clincher here is that even though you probably know how this movie ends, you will still be on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film (2013)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, Thriller
February 10th, 2012 — 7:31pm
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close– rm It is very fitting that on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 a major movie should emerge that captures the personal emotion that so many New Yorkers experienced as over 3000 lives were evaporated in just a few hours with probably close to 10,000 children losing a parent. The screenplay by Eric Roth (who also wrote Forest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, achieved this feat by not only recreating the pieces of horror that so many people went through that day but it went several steps further and deeper. The movie exposed the idealized bond between father and son which when it is there, is the most extreme tragedy to lose. We also come to appreciate how sad it is when it was never there and what could have been. Just as you think that this is just about the father-son attachments, we are shown the love and attachment that a surviving mother might have to her grieving child. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are excellent as the parents as is Thomas Horn as a quirky pre-teen (possibly with Asbergers Syndrome) who finds a way to speak or show what he is thinking and feeling. John Goodman, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright turned in great performances in smaller but key roles in the film. Stephen Daldry should get kudos if not some tangible award for pulling all this together as the director. However it is Max Von Sydow the veteran 83 year old actor, who plays the old man with a special connection to the others, who never utters one word in the movie but may have turned in the standout performance of this film. The storyline may be considered by some to be a little contrived but we understood it to be an allegory where a a young boy’s trip through the five boroughs of Manhattan is a search for growth in himself. We found this movie to be a tear jerker in no uncertain terms. All Americans identified and connected to those fateful events. But if you were in New York during 9/11 and even if you were fortunate enough not to have lost a loved one, you had to have been affected by what was going on around you. We recalled the cars in our suburban parking lot that were not picked up that evening by the commuters who never came home. We remember the thousands of homemade posters that were put up all over Manhattan describing their loved ones who were listed “as missing” when it was clear that they really had perished. We know all our lives will never be same again. Having lived through this, makes this film all the more meaningful. It will be interesting to see if people are ready to see this movie or if the painful hype that invariably will accompany it will keep it from being a big box office success. If New Yorkers were the only ones voting it might emerge as the Oscar winner but in any case this movie will be part of the history which will define this past decade. (2011)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama
September 8th, 2010 — 7:19am
* * *
Toy Story 3 – rm – Since we had missed the opportunity to take our grandkids to this animated movie we were going to pass on it. However several of our friends went out of the way to tell us that this was a good adult movie even without youngsters – so we decided to see it in our local theater. The master of the toys is about to go away to college so he has to pack them up for the attic, donate them or send them to the trash and maybe take one to school with him. The toys themselves are divided on what to do and the story goes from there. Needless to say the story is quite touching . It was also suspenseful and at times more scary and violent than we expected – the kind that where toy characters get bopped around or are just a hair away from being pulverized by some big machine. The youngsters in the theater seem to handle these emotions quite well and reacted very positively about the whole movie. There is the requisite moral of the story and that is if you work together and are loyal that is a good thing and you will get rewarded. As expected the animation was superb and, of course, the voices of the characters who were mostly familiar actors and actresses who were at their best. Tom Hanks was the voice of Woody the leading character. A partial list of the outstanding other voices include Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Michael Keaton, John Razenberg , with Don Rickles and Estelle Harris playing Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. The movie was directed by Lee Unkrick who also directed Toy Story 2. It met our expectation but we still think we would have enjoyed it more with our youngsters. On the other hand we didn’t see the 3D version although we doubt that would have made us up our rating. We would imagine it is a don’t miss movie for any kid over 4 or 5 or anyone really young at heart 2010
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Family / Kids
September 6th, 2010 — 3:08am
* * *
The Great Buck Howard – sp – We don’t think this is for everyone. It is a charming movie loosely based “ Kreskin” a mind reader/magician of sorts who made many appearances on the Johnny Carson Show as well as other well TV shows in the past. The movie makes the point that people should do what they really enjoy doing and do well even if it isn’t what you are expected to do. It stars Colin Hanks and John Malkovich who demonstrates his somewhat comedic ability as he fills the shoes of the protagonist of the film. Tom Hanks does have a small role as father of the character played by his real life son and was also one of the producers of the film. It is quite enjoyable but we are not sure how long it will stay with you. 2008
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama