Category Archives: Podcast

How to Watch: ‘Sully’

 

Clint Eastwood has never been one of my most favorite directors, although I give props where props are due with films such as Unforgiven and Mystic River. He picks films that are definitely in his wheelhouse, subjects he can relate to, and is thrifty in his direction, almost to a fault. Eastwood makes lean, no-nonsense movies; he also lacks any vision or imagination and that has hurt many of his films in the past.

Sully falls a bit into this trap, but it is a true story about heroism that clearly speaks to Eastwood. Those moments when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger must make some tough decisions as his airplane is failing him, and then making a near perfect landing on the Hudson River, saving everyone onboard — well, you’d be made of stone if it doesn’t get to you.

Tom Hanks is pretty amazing in the role, and every emotion imaginable plays on his face. Without his performance, Sully would sink because really, there isn’t a lot about what happened that lends itself to a whole movie. Besides the crash landing, there’s not much more. What the film tries to trump up is the aftermath, in which the National Transportation Safety Board questions Sully’s actions, on how he might have been able to land at nearby airports instead of risking a water landing. This is where Hanks saves it, as he plays this courageous man doubting what he did.

Overall, the conflict is minimal — there’s no substance abuse (like in Flight which handles the same topic far more compellingly), no family crisis, no secret agendas.  Sully — and his experienced, highly trained flight crew (including his co-pilot played by Aaron Eckhart) — just did their jobs. Calmly and as efficiently as humanly possible. Plus, we know how it all turns out: Sully remained the hero he should be. So, a whole movie? Probably not necessary, but Sully still manages to eke out some tears when it counts.

Listen to more of my thoughts on Sully along with When the Bough Breaks, in the ScreenPicks podcast below.

How to Podcast: “Hardcore Henry” Is Definitely Hardcore

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It was only a matter of time before they made an entire movie with a Go-Pro type camera — and boy, what a wild ride Hardcore Henry is. Told from the first-person perspective, we meet Henry, a possible former special ops guy who wakes up to discover most of his body has been reconstructed with hi-tech machinery, including his heart being run on battery. Henry also doesn’t remember anything at all. When he opens his eyes, he sees a beautiful woman, a scientist (Haley Bennett), who tells him about his condition — and also that she’s his wife.

Then it all goes to hell in fairly quick fashion. The bad guys break into the facility, take Henry’s “wife,” but Henry escapes and then spends the rest of the movie killing as many men as he possibly can, all with the help of Jimmy (Sharlto Copely), a chameleon of sorts with seemingly endless resources.

Hardcore Henry runs you ragged as one of the most visceral and violent movies to come along in awhile, but it’s just entertaining as hell. I discuss in the ScreenPicks.com movie review podcast below… check it out!

How to Podcast: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2”

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Well, it’s all over. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has drawn back her last arrow and let it fly in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, thus concluding her long, arduous journey to find peace and happiness in Panem.

Is it a satisfying ending to a successful film franchise? I would say so. It follows the last half of the book almost to the tee, so if you were a fan (like me), seeing all the harrowing parts come to life is pretty spectacular. I understand some of the criticism that the last two Hunger Games movies didn’t hold the same punch as the first two, especially since there technically were no games to survive, and how being dark just for darkness sake only drags the whole thing down. But the Mockingjay, Part 2 is still very compelling, made even more so by Lawrence’s performance, who has always made the series better.

We at ScreenPicks talk at length about the Hunger Games finale, along with The Night Before, Secret in Their Eyes and Oscar bait Carol and Legend. 

How to Podcast: “Spectre” and More

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Spectre has the unenviable task of following one of the best James Bond movies ever.

Skyfall was so brilliant in so many ways, taking the James Bond myth into a very real and dark place, and highlighting why Daniel Craig’s grittier 007 has made him the second best person to play the character (first is still Sean Connery, because, let’s face it, he created the persona). Skyfall also had the one of the best villains in its history, Silva, played with relish by Javier Bardem.

While Spectre is a serviceable Bond movie, it just doesn’t quite measure up. It falls more into the run-of-the-mill Bond flick, with expected rather than spectacular action and a lackluster villain (Sorry, Christophe Waltz, your evilness is starting to wear thin). And the love interest/Bond girl, Lea Seydoux, has almost zero chemistry with Craig, which is really a shame. Spectre, however, does not fall into the worst Bond movie category (like Moonraker or Die Another Day) and still has many merits, including the always good Craig.

I discuss Spectre with my ScreenPicks pals, while also talking the truly superb SpotlightTrumbo, Brooklyn and more.

How to Podcast: “Our Brand Is Crisis”

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Now that we’re knee-deep in fall movies and Oscar contenders, with stellar indie flicks like Steve JobsRoomSuffragette and bigger movies like Bridge of Spies, The Martian and Goosebumps doing well at the box office, I’m surprised there have been just as many flops, especially in the past few weeks. This is supposed to be a time when studios laser-point their efforts to release quality movies with big-name director/actors.

But Joe Wright’s Pan was panned (and rightly so — they just can’t get a live-action Peter Pan movie right), while Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak failed to peak the interest of moviegoers with its lack of scares (although I appreciated the Gothic romance of it all). Then there was the completely dismal week of openers, including Jem and the Holograms, The Last Witch Hunter and Rock the Kasbah (so sad since I really wanted to laugh with Bill Murray again).

Now we have the openers for Halloween week, with the highly anticipated political drama Our Brand Is Crisis taking the lead (there’s also the chef drama Burnt with Bradley Cooper). Sandra Bullock once again turns in a great performance as a former political strategist, hanging by a thread of sanity, whose dragged back into it and the lunacy when she agrees to help a presidential candidate win an election in Bolivia. It’s based on a true story, and while it had its moments, it still failed to leave any lasting impact. Rather, it fell into some typical scenarios, including the one in which politicians are inherently all liars and sneaky and so the puppet master who puts him charge has to wrestle with some moral dilemmas. Yeah, yeah.

Anyway, I discuss with two of my fellow ScreenPicks guys, who were more into it because of their love for political machinations (they both studied the subject in college). Take a listen!

Good thing this month looks WAY more promising, with big movies like SpectreHunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 and more Oscar bait like TrumboSpotlightBy the Sea. Stay tuned…

How to Podcast: “The Martian,” “The Walk”

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It was a good week for opening movies, particularly with the excellent space search and rescue mission The Martian. Matt Damon stars as botanist Mark Watney, who is on Mars with a crew to study the planet but is left for dead when he is swept away by a freak storm that forces the others to flee for their lives. When Watney wakes up and realizes he’s alone, his survival journey is about as compelling as it gets, as the folks on Earth try to find a way to rescue him before its too late.

I discuss the Ridley Scott film (a real return for the director clearly in his element) with my ScreenPicks pals, along with the harrowing visual treat The Walk.

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How to Podcast: “American Ultra” Kicks Ass

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American Ultra is just good old violent fun, showcasing Jesse Eisenberg as a stoner living in a nowhere town who doesn’t know he is actually a super spy, aka Jason Bourne. When “activated,” it turns out he is an efficient soldier, who can kill people with spoons and the like. Eisenberg is paired again with his Adventureland  co-star Kristen Stewart, who plays his GF, and the two just have a blast ripping through the movie.

I discuss American Ultra with my ScreenPicks gang, along with other openers including She’s Funny That Way and Learning to Drive.

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How to Analyze: Why Can’t ‘Fantastic Four’ Be Fantastic?

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To be perfectly honest, this Fantastic Four  reboot does not measure up, and frankly, I’m not sure why they can’t get this story right. Like Spider-Man, 20th Cent. Fox had to quickly do a reboot of FF,  so soon after the original 2005 film and its sequel, because they were in danger of losing the rights to the Marvel comic. Fox might still lose them to Marvel if this FF tanks… and unfortunately, I think it’s going to.

The 2005 version — which starred Ioan Gruffudd (as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (as Sue Storm/Invisible Girl), Chris Evans (as Johnny Storm/Human Torch) and Michael Chiklis (as Ben Grimm/Thing) — was moderately enjoyable, mostly due to Evans’ hilarious performance as Torch and Chiklis’ wry sense of humor as Thing. But it had a lot of problems, too, and certainly couldn’t compare to The Avengers brilliant ensemble or other successful comic-book adaptations. 

This current Fantastic Four is even worse. They tried to capture a younger audience by casting leads Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Micheal B. Jordan and Jamie Bell, but the cast is wasted. It starts off intriguingly enough, with a kids-in-space-camp mentality, masterminding this machine that takes them to an alternate universe. But once things go awry, Bell literally just grunts most of the time as Thing, while Mara mostly sits at the computer, without any emotions or expressions at all. If they had let Teller play Reed a little more cocksure, more to the type Teller plays best, then it would have worked. Jordan is simply not the right Torch, and poor Toby Kebbell. His Victor Doom has a lot of potential at the beginning of the film, a misunderstood genius with a chip on his shoulder who also has an unrequited crush on Sue. But when he becomes the villain Dr. Doom, all of that is gone and we’re left with a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac who seeks world dominance. Yawn.

On top of all that, ALL the humor is lost. This FF wants to be dark and brooding but why? The tongue-in-cheek is what makes the comic so great — the back and forth squabbling between Torch and Thing, the brother-sister camaraderie between Sue and Johnny, the lighthearted love story between Reed and Sue, and so forth. And don’t get me started on the CGI in this version. The alternate universe looks like one of those bad alien planets from Star Trek, and the climactic battle at the end completely fails. Come on, folks, the bar keeps rising on this stuff; you can’t go backwards.

So, if Marvel does take the rights back and brings the Fantastic Four into the Disney fold, would they be able to successfully translate the story to the big screen? I think the first order of business is to find the right cast. A group of actors that gel together and who fit the roles more succinctly. Also, just stop with the origin premise. If you do another one, start with the Fantastic Four already in full swing, ribbing each other as they try to save the world from another Dr. Doom attempt to take over.

Anyway, I discuss Fantastic Four in the ScreenPicks podcast, along with other openers this weekend, including Ricki and the Flash and Dark Places.

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How to Podcast: ‘Minions’ Mania

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This week on the Joel and Kit Save the Movies podcast, Joel Amos and I discuss Minions, the stand-alone animated film centering on those little yellow dudes from the Despicable Me series. The movie is good fun for the kiddies, who will no doubt want to rush out and buy Minions sheets and birthday cakes, but are these side characters worthy of a whole film?

Plus, we talk about the sci-fi thriller Self/Less, in which Ben Kingsley brain is put into Ryan Reynolds body (not a bad deal). In all seriousness, it’s one of Reynolds’ better performances and a decent thrill-fest. We still could have used more Kingsley.

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How to Podcast: “Ted 2” and More

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In the first episode of my new podcast — Joel & Kit Save the Movies (and we do) — Joel Amos, Editor-in-Chief of MovieMensch.com, and I talk about Ted 2, comedy sequels, Jurassic World smashing the box office and much more!

Listen!