20170219: Drama Review--Sully

Name: Sully (2016)
IMDb: link to the Sully page

Genres: Drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger, Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles, Valerie Mahaffey as Diane Higgins, Laura Linney as Lorraine Sullenberger, Anna Gunn as Elizabeth Davis, Autumn Reeser as Tess Soza, Holt McCallany as Mike Cleary.

Directed by: Clint Eastwood.  Written by: Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley Sullenberger (book).
Just after the crash

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
On January 15, 2009, Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger piloted flight US Airways 1549 out of Laguardia Airport in NYC.  Under 4 minutes later, the airplane encounters a flock of birds.  The collision disables both engines.  Sully makes a command decision to ditch in the Hudson River, rather than attempting a return to La Guardia.

Delineation of conflicts:
After the landing in the Hudson, Sully faces multiple investigations.  He'd like to get his normal life back.  Agencies and people want his time and his attention.

The airline would like to attribute the damage to the airplane to pilot error.  The NTSB is cooperative with the airline's case, knowing that the airline can recoup insurance money if the pilot is tagged with responsibility.

The squeeze on Sully is pretty intense and long lasting.  Meanwhile, Sully and Jeff Skiles are feted in the media.  It's the carrot and the stick at the same time.

Resolution: Sully convinces the NTSB that their simulation protocols are flawed.  The standard cover-up was turned into a cause for corrections.  The stupid blind trust in possibly false data received a kick in the pants.

One line summary:
Tough aftermath of a safe emergency landing.
Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart


Cinematography: 10/10 Professionally done, realistic, and smooth.

Sound: 10/10 Same description as for the cinematography.

Acting: 10/10 Director Clint Eastwood can get good performances out of just about any actor.  This film was no exception, and he had some good people to start with.

Screenplay: 7/10 I suppose it's hard to avoid all flashbacks, but I would have much preferred a narrative that was much more linear in time.  Showing the same (in time) activity from different human and geographical perspectives was great.  It was the intermix of present events with Sully flashing back in time (to his childhood, to his prime, and so on) that made me want to puke.

Final rating: 9/10


20170217: Drama Review--The Ghost Writer

Name: The Ghost Writer (2010)
IMDb: link to The Ghost Writer

Genres: Action.   Country of origin: USA.

Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang, Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang, Ewan McGregor as The Ghost, Tom Wilkinson as Paul Emmitt, Eli Wallach as Old Man, Cattrall as Amelia Bly, Jon Bernthal as Rik Ricardelli, Jim Belushi as John Maddox, Robert Pugh as Richard Rycart.

Directed by: Roman Polanski.  Written by: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski.
Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Adam Lang, the former Prime Minister of the UK, had a biography commissioned.  The writer was quite far into the project when he died suddenly.

2. The Ghost is a ghostwriter but not a star writer.  He is interviewed to take up completing the manuscript.  His interview shows his moxie, his cleverness, and his unwillingness to give up looking for truth.  It's a fine Roman Polanski beginning.

3. Adam Lang is at one of his retreats, an island off the east coast of the United States, during his time with The Ghost.  Security is rather tight, and restrictions abound.

Delineation of conflicts:
The Ghost wants to finish the book and show the truth about Lang's career.  To do this, he investigates how his predecessor died.  However, Lang's camp is secretive which slows things down.  To make things even more interesting, legal proceedings start in the UK against Lang for consequences of wartime decisions.  The press descend on the island, as does the father of a soldier killed as a result of Lang's policies.  As the chaos rises, The Ghost finds more and more material about Lang's history.  Not everybody is happy about his efforts.

Resolution: Harsh, definitive.  The Ghost's pursuit of truth is his undoing.
Pierce Brosnan as Adam Lang; Ewan McGregor as The Ghost

One line summary:
1. A reluctant writer contracts to ghost the autobiography of a slimy politician.
2. Ghostwriter finds more truth than is good for him.
Decisions, decisions.


Cinematography: 10/10 Amazing, gorgeous.

Sound: 10/10 Excellent, whether catching the mood of the sea, or the sense of danger that situations bring.

Acting: 10/10 The direction and performances made this film.  I don't always like Ewan McGregor, but when he is good, he's really good.  This was one of Pierce Brosnan's better performances.  Olivia Williams was wonderful, as were Tom Wilkinson and Robert Pugh in limited roles.

Screenplay: 10/10 Good writing well executed under Polanski's direction.

Final rating: 10/10 This is a new entry in my list of favourite movies.


20170216: comedy review--florence foster jenkins

Name: Florence Foster Jeknkins (2016)
IMDb: link to Florence Foster Jenkins page

Genres: Comedy, drama.   Country of origin: USA.

Hugh Grant as St. Martin Bayfield, Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon.

Directed by: Stephen Frears.  Written by: Nicholas Martin.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. It's World War II in NYC, USA.

2. Florence Foster Jenkins is an heiress who thinks she is a fine coloratura singer.  Her second husband, St. Martin Bayfield, does his best to keep her fragile ego from imploding.  He hires Cosme Bayfield to accompany her on piano for singing lessons.  Together they keep up the charade.

Delineation of conflicts:
Jenkins think she can sing quite well.  Cosme knows she cannot.  Bayfield knows this as well.  Cosme thinks the truth should be evident, and the fiction dispelled. Bayfield convinces, at least temporarily, Cosme and others to go along with the outrageous lie, often by bribery and other types of coercion.

Resolution: Bayfield keeps the fiction going far too long, but Jenkins makes a huge and disastrous public appearance.

One line summary: Lying leads to disaster.


Cinematography: 9/10 The film is pretty enough.  The shooting was evidently done by professionals.  I am no expert about how World War II upper crust New York City looked, but I did not see too many obvious foul-ups.

Sound: 5/10 Very unfortunately, the recording quality was rather good.  Streep's voice (as Jenkins, not as Streep) is sooooooooo horrible that I wished to be anywhere but watching this damned film.  So, this was a decision from the director (to the actress) to torture the audience.

Acting: 5/10 Hugh Grant was wonderful, but then he's one of my favourites.  I was glad to see Simon Helberg doing well in something other than The Big Bang Theory.   I liked the players in the lesser roles. A good lead actress would have meant a positive reversal of my view of the film.

Screenplay: 4/10 The script was meant to spotlight the Jenkins character, but the casting doomed the film.  The writing for Grant and Helberg was witty enough.

Final rating: 5/10 Film ruined by directorial contempt.


20170207: Thriller Review--The Accountant

Name: The Accountant (2016)
IMDb: link to The Accountant page

Genres: Thriller.   Country of origin: USA.

Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff, Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings, J. K. Simmons as Ray King, Jon Bernthal as Braxton Wolff, Jeffrey Tambor as Francis Silverberg, Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Marybeth Medina, Jean Smart as Rita Blackburn, John Lithgow as Lamar Blackburn.

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor.   Written by: Bill Dubuque.
Ben Affleck as Christian Wolff

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Christian is strongly autistic, needs to concentrate on single tasks, and finish them or else.  For instance, missing one puzzle piece spurs him to violent rage, not to finding the God-damned piece.  His childhood is troubled, to say the least.  On the other hand, his raw intelligence is immense, and his ability to concentrate (when not distracted) is staggering.  Clearly, he is bound for prison.

2. Christian has a huge stroke of luck.  His cellmate Francis is a genius who is well-versed in money flows among criminal organisations.  Christian learns sophisticated and highly detailed transactional rules.

3. Christian sets himself up as an accountant as his outward facing work.  He assassinates criminals for other criminals as his darkside employment.

4. Ray King wants to retire in seven months with the capture of Christian as his crowning achievement.  He blackmails the talented but flawed Marybeth Medina to ferret out Christian. (She does the capture, or she loses her career for a well-covered over childhood felony.)

5. Brax, Chris' brother, has similar talents and training, but not the autism.  He takes up the same line of work.

Delineation of conflicts:
Ray wants to go out a winner.  Christian wants to handle his stress and keep both jobs.  Marybeth wants to keep her good name and fine job.  All three of these cannot go on forever.  Just to add to the mix, Christian's younger brotherhood Braxton, who has similar skills, is an enforcer in the same game.  Will Brax and Chris cross paths again?

Resolution: Marybeth does her job; Ray looks for a successor.  Christian needs to finish, and Braxton is the consummate professional.

One line summary: Talented autistic assassin faces brother.
Anna Kendrick, Ben Affleck


Cinematography: 8/10 Good camera work throughout, save for a few intervals of pure shaky cam horseshit.

Sound: 8/10 I could hear the dialog, and the musical accompaniment was fine.

Acting: 6/10 Ben Affleck, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and veterans Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, and John Lithgow were just fine.  I do not recall seeing Jon Bernthal (Braxton) before, but I thought his performance was excellent.

On the downside, Anna Kendrick is in the film.  Probably no director can get a good performance out of her.  All scenes that included her performances were compromised, rather like rotting fish in a green salad.  JK Simmons played his usual ho-hum asocial monster, to which I say, who cares?  Why is this man accorded sacred cow status?

Screenplay: 9/10 Surprisingly good.  Moves right along, and is engaging throughout.  Well, except when Anna Kendrick was permitted to speak.

Final rating: 8/10