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Sully (2016)
Sully cements Tom Hanks as a high quality serious actor, while telling an important story, 1 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just saw Sully, the depiction of how Chesley Sullenberger landed a plane that lost both engines due to bird strikes on the Hudson on Jan. 15th, 2009. Hanks continues a path that led from Bossom Buddies to high quality serious acting, and those behind the writing and direction (Clint Eastwood's name is on it; I doubt he did that much actual work) did good work also. True stories in general are the most compelling, but one's first thought may be, "how could they make a whole movie out of a 200 second incident". But they did pull it off. It didn't show as much of Sully's backstory as I would have thought; only a few short scenes as a fighter pilot and such. The drama comes from the recreation of the flight itself, how Sully handled the emergency, and the NTSB confrontational hearing on the case.

"Birds" is the first CVR indication of emergency when 8 pound migrating Canada geese flew into both engines (that are built to withstand only up to 4 pound ones). Both lost function right away and Sully's 42 years of flight experience came to the fore. The NTSB hearing was whether he could have safely landed back at LGA or Teterboro or not. As he says at the end, Sully was not a hero, just someone who did his job and had many others helping, including the 1st officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), the emergency responders, the coast guard, etc. Part of the film's subject was how Sully was subjected to this media blitz he didn't want. Bottom line is he did the only thing he could do: land in the Hudson. And of course this was NOT the 1st time in history a plane made a water landing. Discounting sea planes there have been numerous time through history when pilots have made successful emergency water landings (the latest being US Air in 1989 and China in 1993). However this 2009 incident was the highest profile.

My favorite flight films are Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Spirit of St. Louis (1955) both with Jimmy Stewart as the pilot. The worst one I ever saw was Denzel Washington's ridiculous Flight (2012). This one ranks near the top.

The Pros and the Cons of Overdramatization, 4 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I finally got around to seeing this John Lennon Biopic. The beginning gave me hope this would be a high quality accurate film, however it soon lapsed into what I feared it would become: an overdramatized and over the top take on John's relationship with Aunt Mimi and mother Julia.

The film promoters promoted this as the ONLY film EVER to depict John's childhood and the formation of the Beatles...I beg to differ. As a Beatles' buff I've seen MANY other biopics, most of them hit and miss like this one. I think the first part of the film was well done, and accurate in depicting John's homelife, and how he got exposed to Elvis, rock, Paul and George.

My big qualm again is how they wrote in the fictional dialogue based only loosely on the facts of John's family life. The dialogue soon lapsed into overblown unbelievable high drama, when we know John was MUCH less confrontational than that. So all that garbage with him confronting Julia and Mimi is obviously total fiction (with a few true facts thrown in for good measure).

It's unfortunate that they took that low road, since this had the potential to be a quintessential John Biopic, and many aspects WERE authentic, including wardrobe, location, and music. But they chose to make it into a soap-opera-ish version that John himself would have scoffed at. Overall worth seeing, but only if you skip over the high drama segments.

Finally passing grades on the acting, however most of he characters don't really remind one of the actual people; i.e. if you didn't KNOW they were supposed to be who they were you wouldn't be able to easily guess.

A Classic and Spike Lee's Best!, 17 December 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Do the Right Thing is Spike Lee's breakout classic film set in Brooklyn. Over his career many of his films are hit and miss, but this is by far his best. Set in Brooklyn on "the hottest day of the year", it has an all-star cast including the director himself, John Turturro, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Rosie Perez, John Savage, and many others. The film takes place in the universe of a Brooklyn neighborhood where the theme of race is played out with some great satire as well as depth. It definitely captured the moment of 1980s New York. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn who passed away recently), was a great segue between scenes as he carries his 20 battery boom box through town. Fight the Power by Public Enemy was the apropos theme song (don't believe the hype; Elvis, contrary to the lyrics was NOT racist). But there is also some well orchestrated film background music to fill out the soundscape, as well as Samuel L. Jackson as Love Daddy, the local DJ. It's great how everyone in the neighborhood seems to know each other and it all comes together with the segue characters connecting Mookie (Lee) with his pizza delivery scenes.

Ossie Davis plays the "Mayor" and is the town drunk, but also the wise elder who ominously and understatedly tells Mookie to "always do the right thing" (reminds one of how George Kennedy whispers "cool hand Luke" in that great film). Radio Raheem has a classic "love and hate" scene which revamps the Robert Mitchum Night of the Hunter concept (in this case he has gold knuckles). John Savage has a cameo (I thought it was Tim Robbins at first) who is the European American being unwelcomed into the neighborhood, even though he was born there.

The opening has Rosie Perez who plays Mookie's girlfriend dancing to the theme song. The film centers around Sal's Famous Pizzeria owned by Sal (Aiello) and his sons' the racist Pino (Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson from Stranger than Paradise). Another segue character is the stutterer who goes through town selling the photo of Malcolm X and MLK together (Spike would later go on to direct the great biopic Malcolm X with Denzel Washington). The racial tension builds throughout the day until it culminates in a confrontation with Radio Raheem and Sal. It ends up in a riot with the inevitable overreacting police (the more things change the more they stay the same). Spike Lee created a classic work of art here, but didn't rise to the challenge of becoming an "auteur", since none of his other films comes close to this (possible exception of "Malcolm X", but that was a much different genre).

I saw this in the theater in 1989 and it only grows on you with more viewings.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Steven is guilty as sin, but so is the county, 15 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Making a Murderer is the 10 hour Netflix documentary that takes the stance that Steven is innocent. The first episode goes over the original incident. In 1985 Avery was falsely arrested for a crime he didn't commit and spent 18 years in prison for it. That part is undisputed. But then while a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the county was pending he was arrested again for murder.

This documentary gives us an in-depth look at the Avery family, and it ain't pretty. In the dictionary under "white trash" the Avery family photo should be shown. Steven was a criminal in the making who had as a kid set his cat on fire. He was then arrested for a rape that he didn't commit. He was exonerated 18 years later based on DNA evidence. The question is was he "made a murderer" in prison? My best guess is that he already had the predilection, but 18 years in prison for something he didn't do didn't help.

He's then arrested for the murder of a photographer and there is rock solid DNA evidence this time, but now he says it's a frame up. This documentary also gives an in-depth look at the county prosecutors and a photo of them should be in the dictionary under ineptness. They interrogate Steven's retarded nephew Brandan and get an illegitimate confession (he's a minor alone and is prompted to give one word responses). The case is made for an indictment of the system, but it does leave out much of the solid evidence against Steven. I'm pretty much positive that he's guilty in spite of the one-sidedness of the depiction here. And then near the end we get a glimpse of his new "girlfriend", some pathetic unattractive lady he never even met, but says he loves and wants to marry.

The show is well done, but does not give a fair representation of the other side, in part because there is no one of any integrity ON the other side. It really ends as an indictment of BOTH sides. I have no doubt that Steven is where he belongs; Brandan is much more ambiguous. 1. he's retarded, 2. his confession may be false, 3. he was a minor.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Great ensemble acting; my kind of film!, 6 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I finally got to see the whole film, "American Hustle" (as opposed to the first 1/2 hour on a flight), and thought it was the best new film I've seen in a long time. Based on the true story of the ABSCAM FBI sting of the '70s, the couple Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams) tear up the screen with great chemistry, dialogue, and style. 1970s music encompasses the soundtrack and there is some great sophisticated humor to the script.

It was well done how the beginning which is about a con-artist quickly expands into a major FBI operation. Yes, it gets convoluted and some less sharp viewers will definitely be lost, but those who can follow the whole thing will be rewarded. It's such an absurd scenario setting up the fake sheikh, etc. that it's hard to believe it actually happened, but it did. I remember how ABSCAM was on the news all the time, but I as a kid had no idea what it was. This film explains it pretty well, with of course some dramatization. The names are changed, but the characters are real (Irving was Mel Weinberg).

Only issue for me is that they had to do the usual casting cliché, i.e. Robert Deniro as the mobster. Also it's too bad they made Bale actually gain all that weight. Would have been better for him and the film had they not. And there was an issue with the women actors being mistreated and getting lower pay than the men. But that's Hollywood for ya. This didn't win any Academy Awards; I'm not sure who did that year, but don't really care.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Important final season opener, 3 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Just saw this final season opener where DA McCoy tries to prosecute the Bush Administration torturers. The case is put together based on the conspiracy created by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and company. Cutter isn't quite on-board, however does a good job in going after an administration Justice Dept. legal lowlife who happened to commit murder. Now that even the New York Times is called for Cheney's prosecution for war crimes related to torture, this episode stands out as one of the most significant, on the level of the Chilean one which is actually referenced by McCoy in this episode. The case is made that torture not only does not yield accurate information, but is a great recruiting tool for terrorists, and the other side argues the legalese loopholes. I couldn't take watching that smug killer with glasses leaving the courtroom without handcuffs.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Final Adam Schiff episode is also most important one!, 1 November 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen most of the original Law and Order episodes and just saw this one. I would say it's the most significant episode of the series, and also marks Steven Hill's (Adam Schiff's) final episode.

This seems to be based on the subject of the film, "Missing", which was based on the true story of how an American was killed in the CIA backed 1973 Chilean coup. Not sure if this was based on that or a similar story, or a synthesis thereof. Anyway, it takes on the most important subject there is: human life and when and if to draw a line in pursuit of justice for murder.

It begins with the usual discovery of a body, that turns out to be a man seeking the ones who killed his son in the coup. It leads to a Colonel who ends up on trial and goes all the way to the Supreme court, where McCoy (Waterston) gives the most important argument of his Law and Order run. Namely should murder be protected by diplomatic immunity, juridiction, etc. The court decision is wisely withheld from the viewer.

Marks the last episode containing all 3 of the best actors of the series: Waterston, Hill, and Orbach.

Note: only inaccuracy is when it mentions that Allende was killed by the Chilean military, but there is pretty solid evidence that he commit suicide.

Flight (2012/I)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Perfect Landing!, 4 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let's face it; this film has very little to do with being a pilot, flying, a plane crash, etc. It's mostly about a drunk and coke head who befriends a heroin addict.

This film has been done many times before of course, even the drunk pilot concept with Cliff Robertson in "The Pilot". The script writer was able to cram enough elements into this film to have something for everyone...that is except for those of us interested in well done original film-making. It's got a plane crash, sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, John Goodman as a coke dealer, a cancer victim, a heroine addict/hooker, a father-son thing, an all-star cast.

But the worst aspect of this aside from its trying to squeeze money out of a weak script by over-blowing it, is the unbelievability of the scenario. This is extremely unlikely to occur in a US commercial flight: a drunk coked-up pilot mixed with a catastrophic failure of the aircraft all at once. My final comment is that the actor playing the copilot's wife gave the the most ridiculous performance I've seen in a long time.

On one level though they came in for a perfect landing. The destination was the twin airports of BBD (big bucks made by dumbing it down) and ILD (injecting a lethal dose of Stupid into film junkies). They had a slight diversion to the city of BSC (big stars act like cartoon characters), but after connecting through the airport of OHC (overhype and crass), came in smoothly and landed on the tarmac of OPA (overpaid actors) and the final destination of OCM (overcharged moviegoers).

I recommend instead 1964's "Fate is the Hunter" starring Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor or my favorite flight film: "Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) with Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Hardy Kruger.

7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
You know how the real Taken was kind of ridiculous...well..., 22 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just saw this film on Lifetime. Not only is the title, but practically every single element of the original script of Taken is used in this one. I'm not saying it's without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's supposed to be set in Moscow, however the filming location is Sofia, Bulgaria, so if you're not familiar with that part of the world (I am) you probably won't notice the difference.

Where to begin. At the beginning of Sophie's trip to Moscow her mother Stevie asked if she has her passport. Actually for an American to go to Moscow you need more than a passport, you need a visa.

We get the relationship thingy between Stevie (Julie Benz), an FBI agent scared of commitment after her husband died (sound familiar?) and Devlin. Anyway, Sophie and her friend Janie, daughter of the US Ambassador to Russia, arrive and are restricted to the US Embassy, so sneak out for one night on the town, and...wait for it....they are taken. From there the script follows the original Taken pretty much verbatim, except it's Russia, not France, and it's Chechen Mafia (writers obviously threw in that due to the Boston bombing), not Albanian one.

So two women, Stevie, and fellow leather jacket wearing CIA agent find the spotter, Bobby, use cell phones to trace the two abductees, and zero dark thirty their way out of that hellhole. Sound familiar?

At the end it says 46,000 people have been victims of sex trafficking this year. I can guarantee you none of them were the daughter of the US Ambassador to Russia...or any other country for that matter. As with the original, and better but still ridiculous film Taken, abducting American girls on vacation in European countries is not just uncommon, but extremely unlikely, at least for daughters of FBI agents and US Ambassadors.

Finally I'd like to address the marketing strategy "Inspired by a true story". What has been pointed out already is this most likely refers to the fact that somewhere in the world as some time, someone was abducted by sex traffickers....unless they're referring to the Cleveland thing, but Julie Benz isn't quite Charles Ramsey, and definitely not Liam Neeson.

Anyway, it's not a total throw away, as it's worth watching on some level, if only to see a little bit of Sofia, Bulgaria (even though it's supposed to be Moscow). The only thing that would've made this good is if at the end Stevie would end with this line: "I feel like Liam Neeson in Taken".

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
George's choice between Shelly Winters and Elizabeth Taylor, 3 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


I think many people miss the whole point of this film, or at least the intent of the central character. Was George (Monty) an evil murderer? The answer is no; he was a normal male. He was faced with a choice--marry a pregnant Shelly Winters or marry a 19-year-old Elizabeth Taylor...hmmmm. We know that just before the accident (yes accident!) he reluctantly accepts the former.

Now as far as being a murderer, did he commit murder? NO, he didn't! He was convicted because the jury believed the prosecution's (Raymond Burr's) conjecture that he slammed Alice (Shelly) on the head with the paddle. However we see exactly what happened; it was an accident a la Chappaquiddick--an accident--one he tried to cover up yes-but 1st degree murder?

The main issue I have with this film is how he could have been attracted to Alice (Shelly) in the first place? I mean it's believable to be attracted to Liz, but Shirley? We know now Monty's orientation, but even so his scenes with Liz I think were believable, and with Shirley, not.

And at he end his acceptance of his fate and "guilt", which the priest prompts him to do, was a cop out ending I believe, because it was like he deserved the chair, when it's obvious to me he didn't--- jail time for trying to cover up the accident, maybe. SPOILERS AHEAD---

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "you're overlooking the fact that George plotted the murder at least in his mind and began to act on it". Yes, true to a certain extent. It's not, or at least should not, be illegal to contemplate anything. But exactly what did he do to act on it? He pretended to run out of gas, rented a boat (it's not his fault they didn't have life vests--the boat renter is responsible for that), and then after realizing he could NOT act on this half-baked notion, the accident occurred. That is the most half-hearted half-baked, half-a--ed murder plot in history. Yes, he gave a fake name to the renter...however he showed his face...unless he wanted to get caught and IDed, is that a murder plot? So to me he's guilty of covering up after the fact...nothing more.

And the question at the end is the ultimate copout. It's not against the law to fail to save someone, however the Priest used that as justification of capital punishment.

Overall a great film, though very widely misinterpreted.

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