Thursday, September 29, 2016

STARVING THE BEAST: To Fund Or Not To Fund Higher Education

Opening Friday exclusively in the triangle area at the Rialto Theater in Raleigh:

STARVING THE BEAST (Dir. Steve Mims, 2016)

The full title of Austin,Texas-based filmmaker Steve Mims’ new documentary is STARVING THE BEAST: THE BATTLE TO DISRUPT AND REFORM AMERICA’S PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES, which is quite a mouthful.

But it’s perhaps an apt one because there’s a lot to take in info and opinion-wise with this doc about the arguments over funding or defunding in the U.S. higher education system.

For those who don’t know, the phrase “starving the beast” means a political strategy employed by American conservatives in order to limit government spending (thanks, Wikipedia!), so Mims’ film focuses on what narrator Brian Ramos describes as “one of the nation’s most important and least understood fights; a struggle between powerful forces that will shape every aspect of public higher education for generations to come.”

The film largely sets its eyes on the debate in Mims’ home state of Texas at the University of Texas and Texas A&M, but it also explores the conflicts that the University of Wisconsin (UW), University of Virginia (UV), University of North Carolina (UNC), and Louisiana State University (LSU) have had (and still have) with the issue.

Democratic guru James Carville sets the tone of the doc as it opens on his commencement address at his alma mater, LSU, in May of 2015, in which he heatedly denounces political advocate Grover Norquist and then Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for their attempts to commoditize education: “You can charge for it, you can raise tuition; it’s just another thing out there - it’s a barrel of oil, it’s an ounce of gold, it’s a stock, it’s anything.”

Carville appears throughout the film offering his matter-of-fact wisdom as one of the good guys in this debate – who the film is obviously on the side of, that is. Other folks on the good side providing insights include University of Georgia Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol, Peter Flawn, Ph.D. (President Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin), and former UT President Billy Powers.

The bad guys are led by teacher/author Jeff Sandefer, whose “Seven Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education” proposal involving a market-driven approach to reforming college education had a fan in Governor Rick Perry. Unlike many of his comrades on the side of eliminating tenure, cutting arts programs, and running colleges more like businesses, Sandefer allowed himself to be interviewed for the film.

Sandefer is joined on the dark side by Wallace Hall, Regent of the University of Texas, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the aforementional Norquist and Jindal, and the beyond evil Koch Brothers, who are, of course, pulling the strings behind the Republican party (there’s a great clip of Bernie Sanders eviscerating them at some hearing).

Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan maybe makes the clearest argument when he says “these reformers decided that universities were the problem, and so they got the problem exactly upside down. As a result they’ve started a pretty fervent political campaign to defund universities to shift the burden of the cost of universities to the students themselves, under this mistaken guise that students are consumers rather than students and future citizens, that the value of that student’s education belongs entirely to that student and to the society in general, not to the state, not to the nation, not to the world.”

This argument is compelling, but it gets a bit repetitive as variations of it keep coming. Producer Bill Banowsky said that the film is balanced and doesn’t show that it’s “the Jeff Sandefers and Wallace Halls are completely wrong and that James Carville is completely right,” but the sinister music that plays (courtesy of composer Graham Reynolds) when certain people are giving their views says different.

Not that I'm knocking that device here because it worked for me!

Now, the idea of seeing an doc about the subject of education funding full of wall-to-wall talk on top of statistics, TV news footage, newspaper headlines, scanned over internet articles, and even YouTube clips of interviews may sound boring, and may not be as appealing at some of your other movie choices out there, but STARVING THE BEAST packs a lot of info, viewpoints, and insights into its 95 minutes and for the most part sorts them out entertainingly.

It will help to have a modicum of interest in the subject of what’s wrong with the ideology behind higher education these days. Otherwise it’ll just be a smorgasbord of facts and theories to those who never paid attention in school to begin with.

* UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol will lead a Q & A after the Rialto Theater's 7pm screening of the new documentary STARVING THE BEAST on Friday, September 30th.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Not The Most Magnificent Remake But A Purty Good Time

Now playing at a multiplex near everyone:


(Dir. Antoine Fuqua, 2016)

How much of a remake exactly is Antoine Fuqua’s new familliarly titled western?

Well, it shares the same name with John Sturges’ 1960 American classic, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese classic SEVEN SAMURAI, and it has basically the same premise, but the names have been changed and one of the film’s principal leads, Chris Pratt, has said that “it’s probably a lot more ‘Wild Bunch’ than ‘Magnificent Seven.’

And there’s also that Washington, the film’s star in his third collaboration with the director, has said that he’s never seen the original.

So, after taking it in, I consider Fuqua’s film to be a re-imagining of an established title in the wake of more modernist takes on the western genre, like say Quentin Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT, but despite its black lead, it’s a pretty old fashioned affair without a single N-word in ear range.

In its prologue, we are introduced to the villain, industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, perfectly played by Peter Sarsgaard at his most sinister, as he crashes a small town meeting in the fictional Rose Creek which is supposed to be in the desert of Texas, but we know it’s Louisiana with a bit of Arizona mixed in because you’ve got to have Monument Valley in every Western. Bogue’s goons kill people, including the protesting husband (Matt Bomer) of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the film’s only female lead.

Seeking revenge, Emma rounds up a posse made up of Washington as bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, Pratt as gambler Josh Farraday, Ethan Hawke as the grizzled sharp sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, a delightfully drunk Vincent D'Onofrio as tracker Jack Horne, Byung-hun Lee as assassin Billy Rocks, Martin Sensmeier as Commanche warrior Red Harvest, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mexican outlaw Vasquez, to take down Bogue.

The crew outfits the town by digging trenches, rigging explosives, and equipping the townspeople with guns in a way that heavily recalls ¡THREE AMIGOS! more than its actual source material, for the movie’s massive shoot ‘em up climax.

That’s basically it plot-wise. It’s ultimately a Denzel Washington indestructible bad ass scenario crossed with a Chris Pratt action comedy under a commercial western banner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as there are plenty of laughs and quickfire thrills on screen.

Fuqua and Washington have done good work previously in the 2001 cop drama TRAINING DAY, which also featured Hawke and won Washington a long deserved Osccar, and in the 2014 action thriller THE EQUALIZER (another remake!), and the third time definitely has its charms here, but don’t expect any awards season activity this time.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN ’16 is a good not great update * of one of the principles study subjects of Westerns 101. It’s a solid piece of pop entertainment, but it doesn’t go very deep – don’t go looking for fully fleshed out characters or new takes on time worn plot devices - nor does it justify political interpretations (don’t give me any the villain symbolizes Trump tripe). “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse” Fuqua has been quoted as saying in more than one interview.

Maybe more than anything else, this film succeeds as a forum for that sure to become iconic image, but the rest of it is a purty good time as well.

“Good not great update” is a registered trademark of Film Babble Blog (see the GHOST BUSTERS 16 review for one of many examples).

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Babblin’ ‘Bout BLAIR WITCH, SNOWDEN, & The Beatles

Clint Eastwood’s SULLY, starring Tom Hanks as that airline captain that water landed his plane in the Hudson river back in ’09, was the #1 movie at the box office this last weekend, beating out two sequels that opened last week: BLAIR WITCH and BRIDGET JONES’S BABY. I found the third BRIDGET JONES film to be a fine, just funny enough follow-up, but the third in the BLAIR WITCH franchise struck me as a bogus retread. 

Actually horror filmmaker Adam Wingard’s (YOU’RE NEXT, V/H/S) BLAIR WITCH is supposed to be seen as a direct sequel to the 1996 smash hit THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (the original filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez executive produce), and we’re supposed to forget about or not count what happened in Joe Berlinger’s much maligned 2000 follow-up BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2, which is easy for me as I’ve never seen it.

So this new entry is yet another reboot that’s also a remake (see: THE THING, ROBOCOP, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, every other movie from the last five years), which deals with another group of 20-year olds getting lost deep in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland on a quest to solve the mystery of what happened to the three people from the first movie. One of the characters, played by James Allen McCune, is the brother of the missing Heather Donahue who you may remember from this iconic image:

See? I knew you'd know that image!

McCune is joined by Callie Hernandez as his girlfriend, and another couple, Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid who all are equipped with headset cameras, GPS devices, walkie talkies, and an aerial camera drone on their hike inspired by an image on a videotape that was found in the forest by a couple of sketchy locals, played by Wes Robinson and Valore Curry.

Robinson and Curry invite themselves along on much to the annoyance of the others, but after they awaken the next morning to find those classic stick figures twined together hanging from the trees surrounding their camp, the four friends suspect the couple to be pranking them and they kick them out of their group.

If you’ve seen the first you can guess the rest – the gang tries to head back to civilization but they get even more lost and circle back to their same campsite again (just like the river in the first one), one of them disappears, and the remaining kids wind up at the same spooky house from the original, and despite more action involving tunnels and the freaky naked witch that you can only see in quick flases of light, it ends pretty much the same way.

It’s a pretty tedious exercise full of jump scares and the shakiest of shaky camerawork in the entire found footage genre. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the first movie, and I only saw it once at the theatre (a multiplex in Greensboro if I remember correctly) but its imagery is burned into my brain as it was a fresh approach at the time. Despite all the new tech, BLAIR WITCH ‘16 doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of story or ideas, nor does it do anything to flesh out the series’ mythology.

We just get that there’s this supernatural, evil force that can uproot trees, change time and space, and can screw with your leg injuries (Reid sprains her ankle early on and the witch does what she can to make the wound worse just so there’s some gore) and these kids are stupid to think that they can solve any mystery about it, what happened to the previous party, and give us anything more than a bunch of jump scares. A found footage fail for sure.

I was also disappointed by Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic SNOWDEN, about the former CIA employee who in 2013 leaked tons of sensitive data about the scary extent of the United State’s mass surveillance, 
currently #4 at the box office. 

I’ve been a big fan of Stone’s work in the past (still think JFK is a masterpiece), and I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but their film falls way short of greatness. Pop culture critic extroadinaire Nathan Rabin once wrote that “there comes a moment in every cinephile’s intellectual and creative development when he or she comes to realize that Oliver Stone is full of shit.” And I laugh because, yeah, I remember when that happened for me (U-TURN).

But I wouldn’t say that SNOWDEN is full of shit, but just that it’s a by-the-numbers biopic that adds up to a preachy bore.

I’ll start with how takes too many liberties with its subject’s background. Stone dramatizes Snowden going through basic training as a candidate for Special Forces until he breaks his leg, but in real life he was only in the military briefly and had not undergone any training. Also Snowden’s role as a NSA security contractor is exaggerated, and the man most surely did not smuggle tons of classified CIA files on a SD card hidden inside one of the squares of his Rubik’s Cube. Actually that’s one of the better scenes in the movie but I still wasn’t buying it.

I also hear that Snowden’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills played by Shailene Woodley, isn’t represented truthfully, but I was amused at how he becomes obsessed with the government spying on him, and everyone, through laptop webcams – one thing Stone does well is paranoia – but Woodley’s Lindsay doesn’t care and says things to him like “so what? I’ve got nothing to hide.”

By the time Gordon-Levitt morphs into the real Snowden (biopic rule #13: show the real person at the end) we’ve basically gone through all the ripped from the headlines motions and true story tropes Stone could squeeze out of the story. It does help that Stone has assembled a great cast – Gordon-Levitt is joined by the likes of Melissa Leo as filmmaker Laura Poitras, who made the Oscar-winning Snowden doc CITIZENFOUR, Zachary Quinto as journalist Glenn Greenwald, Tom Wilkinson as The Guardian writer Ewen MacAskill, and a bunch of fabricated characters or amalgams portrayed by Scott Eastwood, Logan Marshall-Green, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage.

Stone’s SNOWDEN has noble intentions – to make a hero out of a man that exposed a great injustice – but it’s an underwhelming experience bereft of the epic angriness that gave his early work its “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” fire.

Lastly, I’m happy to report that Ron Howard’s THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS has been such a success that its run has been extended for another week at my local indie film venue, the Rialto Theater in Raleigh (it’ll run through September 29th). 

The wonderful rock doc, which I raved about in my review last week, is also currently available on Hulu, but I highly recommend making the pilgrimage to see it at an art house near you because the scores of great archival footage deserves to be seen on the big screen, and the 30-minute bonus film “The Beatles Live at Shea Stadium,” which looks and sounds amazing owing to its recent digital restoration, is an in-theaters-only exclusive.

More later…

Friday, September 16, 2016

Opie Cunningham’s EIGHT DAYS A WEEK Brings Beatlemania Back To The Big Screen


With hope, Ron Howard’s new documentary, which serves up a greater inside look into the worldwide sensation The Beatles at their live performance peak than has ever been explored before, will help dispel the idiotic notion that the Fab Four sucked live.

Anyone who’s ever given the two volumes of The Beatles Live at the BBC, or the newly remastered release of Live at the Hollywood Bowl (released on CD for the first time last week), or many of the band’s bootlegs (this guy makes a great case for their 1963 Swedish Radio Show being one of the best performances by anyone) a good listen should know that the idea is bogus, but for those who believe the oft told tales that the teenage girls screamed so loud that the Beatles didn’t even try to play their instruments or sing at their best, this doc is essential viewing that should right that wrong.

From the opening footage of the quartet at Manchester's ABC Cinema in 1963 (among the earliest color films of the group) to their historical TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to their equally historic Shea Stadium show (the first rock concert ever staged in a stadium) in 1965 to their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966 we see the Beatles play and sing their asses off despite the roaring audience. I won’t trust anyone who watches this material, much of it never officially released before now, and says that they were a bad band live. 

Howard, who despite his big league movie directing career will always be Opie Cunningham * to me, and editor Paul Crowder (no stranger to rock docs as he co-directed and edited “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who”) supplement the wealth of rare footage with new interview segments with surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with archival interview clips of John Lennon and George Harrison.

Paul and Ringo don’t really have any insights that they haven’t shared in countless other docs or interviews, but I’m always happy to see them reminiscence about the time that they were the biggest music act the world has ever known, and it’s touching to hear McCartney admit that “We were all pretty scared.”

There are also tasty testimonials from the likes of Sigourney Weaver (love the clip of her as a teenager being just another emotional, screaming fan at one of their shows), Whoopi Goldberg (her mother took her to the Shea Stadium show), Elvis Costello, Eddie Izzard, and broadcast journalist Larry Kane, who accompanied the Beatles on every date of their first two US tours.

Although I understand that he doesn’t fit into the “four guys against the world” narrative, it doesn’t seem right that original drummer Pete Best isn’t mentioned at all. The Beatles’ early years are glossed over pretty quickly to get to when they broke big – I get that – but Best deserves at least a quick shout out. 

There are some other subjects that are perhaps too tidied up as well, like the bit about Lennon’s famous quote about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus that led to album burnings and threats from the KKK, and it would’ve been nice to note the time that Ringo was replaced for a leg of their 1964 tour by a temporarily lucky bloke named Jimmy Nichol, but if Howard included every great anecdote, clip, or song from the band’s touring years it would be a mini-series half a day long.

Credit must be given to how much history Howard crams into this project; the Beatles’ own big screen offerings during the period, A HARD DAYS NIGHT and HELP (cash-ins on Beatlemania that became classics in their own right) are even covered properly. 

As a big Beatles fan since birth (it at least feels that way), I adored EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, and know that the bulk of Fab Four fans will completely groove on it too. I can’t speak for the non fans, but I bet they wouldn’t have read this far.

The film, which premiered last evening in my area at the Rialto Theater in Raleigh, and is now showing at many indie theaters across the country (it also premieres on Hulu on Saturday, September 17th), is augmented by a 30 minute bonus film of the complete Beatles “Live at Shea Stadium” concert. It looks and sounds great owing to its 4K restoration, and it wonderfully keeps the joyous Beatles live vibe going if the one hour and forty minutes of Howard’s doc isn’t enough for you.

As one could easily deduce from this review, EIGHT DAYS A WEEK only scratched the surface for me, but I’ll take it as it’s undeniably a powerful primer.

* For those who dont get it, Opie comes from Opie Taylor, Howard's role as a kid on ‘60s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show (where he was when Beatlemania went down), and Cunningham is from Richie Cunningham, his role on the ‘70s sitcom Happy Days (which took place in the ‘50s). Sigh, wish I didn't feel like I had to explain these things.

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BRIDGET JONES Bounces Back With A Baby-Daddy Mystery

Opening today at a multiplex near you:


(Dir. Sharon Maguire, 2016)

Bridget Jones is back! And I’m glad to see she looks like herself.

Two years ago, RenĂ©e Zellweger made tabloid headlines by appearing at a charity event looking unrecognizable - click on her IMDb profile page to see for yourself as it oddly hasn’t been updated.

Many speculated that Zellweger had gone under the knife, but I'm not going to go for gossipy speculation. I
m just reporting that whatever the case she somehow looks like her signature British singleton character again now, only in her 40s, and she beautifully bounces back into the third chapter of the series which comes 12 years after the disappointing second installment, BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON.

Here, Zellweger, whose first film this is in six years, is re-united with Sharon Maquire, who directed the first one in the series, BRIDGET JONES DIARY back in ’01, and armed with a screenplay full of zingers written by 
Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, long-time Sacha Baron Cohen-collaborator Dan Mazer, and Emma Thompson, who also appears as Bridget’s gynecologist, Dr. Rawlings, stealing every scene she’s in.

These days, Ms. Jones is a top TV news producer, who now keeps her diary on her iPad, and, most importantly, is still single.

Her new BFF Miranda (a very cheeky Sarah Solemani), who hosts the program “Hard News” that Bridget produces, drags her friend to the Glastonbury music festival in hopes of getting her laid and indeed she does as she beds Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy I'm told he's called) as the dashing Jack Qwanta billionaire who she meets at a music festival after falling “ass over tit” (her words) into the mud.

Not long after this one-night stand, Bridget runs into her old flame, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth reprising his role of the stiff barrister) at the funeral of another old flame, Daniel Cleaver, (that’s right, they killed off Hugh Grant’s character), who died in a plane crash, “going down in the bush,” which, of course, is joked about.

Bridget runs into Mark again at a christening, where he tells her that he’s getting a divorce and one thing leads to another. Bridget later discovers that's she pregnant, and doesn't know whether Jack or Mark is the father. Don’t worry I won’t spoil who it is.

Of course, this leads to one farcical scene after another in which Bridget strings the poor guys along until she finally tells them the she can only be 50% sure of the identity of her baby’s father until the birth. The two fellows try to be civil about it, but the strains of competition for Bridget’s love can be felt as Mark investigates Jack’s hugely successful dating website and is pissed when he finds that his match-making algorithm determines him to be a bad match for Bridget, while Jack scores as a nearly perfect one.

The BRIDGET JONES series is something of an anomaly. I mean, it’s the only female-centric rom com series I know of, so I welcome this latest entry as an actually decent follow-up from a genre that normally doesn’t do follow-ups.

Zellweger and Co. bring back the charm and the wit from the original for the most part, but at just over 2 hours the movie is overstuffed. It dwells too much on its sitcom-ish middle section in which Bridget schemes to find out who the father when it probably should of fast-forwarded to telling them. The subplot dealing with Bridget’s job, in which she has to deal with new management made up of millennials with “ironic beards,” and a weird, pretentious younger boss played to the comic hilt by Kate O'Flynn, is fine but just stops short of being really funny. You have to wait for the mad dash to the hospital scene for that.

But overall, the film amuses greatly, has a wonderful plucky performance by Zellweger, good work by her would-be suitors Firth, and Dempsey, 
and it’s nice to see Bridget’s parents, again portrayed by Jim Broadbent and Gemma Jones, who also have a subplot (too many subplots!) involving Bridget’s mum running for her church parish council. Sally Phillips, Celia Imrie, and Shirley Henderson also nicely return to the roles they played in the previous films.

I bet BRIDGET JONES’S BABY will please long-time Bridget Jones fans but be brushed away by most everyone else who’ll just see it as a throwaway threequel rom com (as if those come along every day).

As a guy who doesn’t consider himself a big rom com guy, I still find the character appealing and relatable, and I was happy to have one more go around with her. This really ought to be the conclusion to the trilogy though. Here’s hoping that they leave it alone after this and let the gal go off over the “happily ever after” horizon with whoever it is that’s her kid’s dad. See? I told you I wouldn’t spoil who it is, but I bet you can guess.

More later…

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

SULLY: Bracing For An Impact That Never Comes

Now playing at a multiplex near you:

SULLY (Dir. Clint Eastwood, 2016)

The question that Clint Eastwood’s 35th film as director asks is whether Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made the right decision when landed his airplane, US Airways Flight 1549, in the Hudson River instead of trying to take it back to LaGuardia Airport like he was instructed by air traffic control on January 15th, 2009.

That a distinguished grey haired and mustached Tom Hanks, who topped the Reader’s Digest poll of the Most Trusted People in America a few years ago, is playing Sully, makes it hard to think the guy didn’t do the right thing, but there’s an effective darkness in the film’s first third in which the celebrated pilot has visions of his plane crashing into Manhattan skyscrapers.

Sully and his co-pilot, First Officer Jeffery Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) face off with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigators portrayed by Mike O'Malley, Jamey Sheridan and Anna Gunn, who are very skeptical about the Captain’s actions as the flight computers show that the left engine was still operational.

To backtrack a bit, like the film does as we see the event dubbed by the media “The Miracle on the Hudson” in flashbacks from multiple angles, shortly after takeoff, the plane hit a flock of geese causing both jet engines to lose power. In the next 208 seconds (just under 4 minutes), Sully and Skiles are put to the extremely stressful test on how to safely land the plane. After determining that they can’t make it to any nearby runways, Sully tells the controllers “we’re going into the Husdon,” and tells the passengers to “brace for impact.”

Eastwood’s film is workmanlike as is his norm. It’s a solid, straight forward narrative that takes us through several perspectives, but even at its tidy 96 minute running time, it feels a bit padded as there’s only really a half hour, at the most, of story to work from.

This is largely because despite being based on the autobiography “Highest Duty” by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, in real life Sully and Skiles weren’t really put through the ringer by the NTSB. Todd Komarnicki’s screenplay makes the NTSB the villains of the piece which is transparent in that the antagonistic characters played by O’Malley, Sheridan, and Gunn don’t have any real life counterparts.

This element feels as forced as the river landing Sully is forced to make.

And as Sully’s spouse, Laura Linney is given the thankless concerned wife on the phone role in probably the most blatant use of the trope since Laila Robins in PLANE, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES.

So the fabricated conflict over whether Sully is a hero or a fraud (as Katie Couric puts it in a cameo) doesn’t serve up the tension it’s working for. It’s American treasure Tom Hanks! He saved Private Ryan! He helped get Apollo 13 down from space! He fought the forces of evil in those dang DA VINCI CODE movies. And, as my friend William Fonvielle, of Filmville, pointed out, he played the nicest record executive in history, so of course the guy is a hero who made the right decision which saved the lives of all of the airplane flight’s 155 crew and passengers! 

How could he not be? I mean, there's only been a few characters he's played that were untrustable (the guy in THE LADYKILLERS and the mobster in THE ROAD TO PERDITION are the ones that come to my mind at the moment).

So we just wait for the board hearing climax in which we watch several computer flight simulations, with the “human factor” the Sully fights to be accounted for, to get the inevitable feel good ending – complete with a quip by our hero taking us to the obligatory end credits accompanied by footage of the real Captain Sully.

Somehow Eastwood has made an entire film that’s anticlimactic. I kept waiting for him to build something on top of what really happened that fateful day 7 years ago, but beyond the basic facts of the event, he just artificially tries to tease extra drama out of the aftermath.

It’s a fine looking film with flawless visual effects and sturdy performances by its leads - Hanks is uniformly terrific, while Eckhart, though not given much of a persona apart from being a strong member of Team Sully, does a good job of holding up that massive mustache. 

It's unfortunate that it feels like an A-list version of a TV movie. Hanks, Eckhart, and Eastwood cue into a kind of cornball gravitas that makes it mildly likable, but its flimsy attempt to give the plot more pushback made me brace for an impact that never came.

More later...