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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

sullyWhen I saw the trailer in this film I was surprised to see that there was some question as to how Captain Sullenberger cannot be viewed anything other than as a hero. So needless to say I was sure I wanted to see this film when it came out.  What I saw was a very good film by director Clint Eastwood and actor Tom Hanks who both somehow make a movie about an investigation into an airplane accident both compelling and interesting.

On January 15, 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 Captained by Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks (Inferno,) suffered a bird strike in both engines and suffered power failure.   Being unable to fly to any area airport, Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, played by Aaron Eckhart (Battle: Los Angeles,) both guide the passenger jet into a controlled water landing on the Hudson River in New York City.  Even though the though there were no deaths and the landing considered a success and miracle in the public eye, both pilots are having to fight for their professional careers as the initial investigation by the NTSB suggests that the pilots could have made it back to the airport and therefore were at fault for the landing the plane in the Hudson.

The story is really interesting on a couple of different levels.  Right away you discover that Sully is going through PTSD as the opening scene shows a different ending to the plane flight when you see Flight 1549 fly right into a few buildings in midtown Manhattan.  We then see Sully looking out a window and you can see the look of a realization that maybe that should have happened as opposed to him saving the plane.  Tom Hanks, as usual, does a magnificent job of showing the emotion in these scenes and there are more than a few.  To me it seemed to coincide with the NTSB investigation that was trying to tell him that he had enough time to fly the plane back to the airport and he needlessly put these people in harm’s way.  It was also surprising how combative the NTSB investigation turned out to be if the portrayal in the film is close to being spot on.  In the movie it showed that the NTSB was definitely trying to pin the accident on the pilot.  They constantly kept referring to how the computer simulation showed the plane could have made it back to the original airport, La Guardia.  At the beginning of the investigation all Sully had was his belief and his experience flying the plane.  As the investigation went on you can see how the constant questions being asked of Sully was starting to erode Sully’s belief that he did the right thing.  I thought there was a great and touching scene where Sully made a phone call to his wife, Lorraine, played by Laura Linney (Man of the Year,) where he seriously doubted himself and his wife tried to reassure him but was also scarred and worried about him.  All these things added up to a gripping story that was really good because when you know the outcome of an event it can be hard to pay attention when the bulk of the “actions” are hearings and interviews.

As I said earlier, Hanks was magnificent in his role as Sully.  He was great showing the pain he was going through as he was constantly replaying the flight in his head and watching his plane crash.  As a whole I thought the rest of the cast did a fine job.  I liked how Aaron Eckhart, who played the co-pilot, was the counter to Sully in that he was much more confident that Sully did the right thing landing in the Hudson. Laura Linney had a small part in the film but she was very good as the worried wife and did have a great scene when she was talking to Sully on the phone realizing that the accident could have been much worse and that he was on that plane.  Up to that point she had wanted to know when he was coming home and wanting the publicity to end as the camera crews were outside their house beind somewhat selfish acting as if she was going through more issues than he was now that he was safe.  The realization that she could have lost him was cathartic.  The other actor I would like to point out is Mike O’Malley (Concussion) who plays the lead NTSB investigator Charles Porter.  Porter was the most aggressive of all of the investigators in trying to pin the crash on Sully.  The final scene with the public hearing was great in that you could see the pride that Porter had in proving Sully was at fault when the human simulation showed that Sully had the time to land at the airport.  And his pride quickly went to shame when he allowed for a second human simulation but with a 35 second delay in the pilots reaction.  The 35 second delay was asked by Sully because he pointed out that after the bird strike the pilots didn’t immediately think to fly back to the airport but to try and fix the problem first.  When Porter conceded to that and added the seconds, and neither human simulation made it to either airport possible, O’Malley was great in showing the shame that Porter must have had by doubting Sully.  O’Malley seems to be good at playing jerks because he was a big one in the movie Concussion.  Overall the film was very well acted.

Although it’s brief, I would like to mention how great a job Clint Eastwood did directing the film even though that doesn’t come as a big surprise.  His pacing of the film made it surprisingly suspenseful even though the bulk of the story revolved around the interviews and hearings of the accident as well as Sully trying to deal with it.  He also did a great thing, maybe it was the screenwriter as well, but we never got to see the full incident take place until the final act of the movie.  We were given bits and pieces but he saved the entire accident for when it would be most effective.  What made it even better was that before that as we were watching the film we were given different scenarios that all ended up horribly bad.  I told a friend of mine that if you are afraid of flying this movie could mess with you a little bit because of all of the realistic crashes into the city.  It was a fine film and he deserves as much as the credit as the actors, and the screen writer as well.

This is a wonderful film and is easily in my top ten films of 2016.  I can’t really find any fault with the film and it exceeding many of my lofty expectations for a film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood.  If the movie is still playing in a theater near you I highly suggest you go and watch it because it belongs in the conversation of best films of 2016.

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eddietheeagleWow, what a great movie. Since I am an old man I remember the stories about Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards in the Olympics back in 1988.  I remember him even being compared to other lovable losers like the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Cubs.  But I didn’t know a lot about him.  This movie gives us a wonderful story and a great performance by the actor portraying Eddie Edwards, Taron Edgerton.

Eddie the Eagle is a biopic about Eddie Edwards, played by Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service,) who was the only member of Great Britain’s Ski Jumping Olympic Team in the 1988 Calgary Olympics.  The amazing part of his story is that he is was unwanted by his county’s Olympic organization because they were afraid that he would embarrass himself and his county and possibly hurt himself because he was so poor at the sport.  Despite his being unwanted and being told repeatedly that he is not an athlete Eddie never gave up and achieved his goal of being an Olympian for his country.

As I said Taron Egerton was the star of the film.  He did an amazing job of playing this character with a very delicate balance between physical and emotional acting.  Trying to describe the character of Eddie Edwards is a difficult job because while he is not mentally disabled in any way and he is not dumb.  But it is almost like he is a very smart Forest Gump but nowhere near as athletic as Gump.    Egerton does a great job with physicality and the small details.  He wears a pair of glasses and there isn’t a scene where he isn’t fidgeting with them depending on the situation at hand.  Edgerton’s vocal work is also amazing in that he made Eddie sound almost like an idiot savant.  I almost feel bad because I am making it sound like Eddie is this mentally and physically disabled person but he really isn’t and I think its credit to what Edgerton has done with this character.  All I know is that I love what he did with it and as of now if I had a vote for Best Actor Oscar it would go to him.

The writer of the film did a great job of showing the ineptitude of Eddie and his athletic ability.  The opening montage of the film just had me rolling on the floor laughing at how unskilled Eddie in almost all sports.  However it wasn’t as if they just showed it for laughs.  The writer did take the time to show that as a youth Eddie did have a serious leg issue that needed to be fixed by wearing a brace for quite some time.  The writer also did a great job of allowing Egerton to show the determination and shear character and will power that Eddie had in ignoring all of the critics and achieve his dream of making the Olympic team.  One scene that I loved that again shows the awkwardness of Eddie, in this case socially awkward, is when the female owner of the German bar Eddie sneaks into and sleeps in his first night after the day of training and the bar owner offered Eddie a job so he can stay in the bar to sleep so he can train.  The wonderful awkward part is when Petra, played by Iris Berben, offered to give Eddie her body every now and then and it was wonderful to watch Eddie squirm and act like a 16 year old getting hit on by an older woman.  The acting and writing in that scene were wonderful.

I did not like the fictional character of Bronson Peary, played by Hugh Jackman (X-Men III: The Last Stand.)  Peary is the maintenance man for the ski jump training park in Germany and former USA Olympic ski jump competitor who was kicked off the team.  This is a fictional character added to give us an emotional subplot of a coach seeking redemption but it didn’t really work.  As well as the writers developed Eddie’s character, the writer really did not do much to develop the other characters in the film.  This lack of development led to some awkward scenes.  One in particular started off as a great scene and then kind of went sideways.  The scene is that Eddie is forced to qualify after the British Olympic committee changed the rules on his qualifications and he was at the last event he could qualify for and during the practice jump he reached the 61 feet goal that was required.  However the next day during the jump in the competition he fell and was disqualified.  He begged the German officials to let him jump again but the German judges wouldn’t let him.  This created a great but sadly emotional scene in that Eddie was dejected and forced him to accept defeat.  He was then given a letter in the mail that showed that either by accident or on purpose the German judges put his practice jump in as an official jump so he qualified for the Olympics.  He went to Bronson to share the good news and Bronson told him to wait and train for another four years and try to qualify for the next Olympics.  Eddie said he didn’t want to wait and he was going to go to Calgary and Peary said that if he goes he will go alone because he will be a joke at the Olympics and no one will take him seriously.  The entire scene just kind of through off the feel good moment at the time which kind of went the grain of the film up to that point there was no sense that Peary was going to go in that direction.

Despite this issue and I feel like I am nitpicking here, I am a big fan of this film.  I will cross my fingers and hope that Taron Edgerton is not forgotten come award season but since this movie came out in January rarely do movies released then get remembered during award season.  None the less you should watch this film because it is a great feel good underdog sports story with some humor and a lot of heart.

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wtfWell this is a first for me and I don’t quite know how to feel about it, I am all conflicted. I can now say that there is a movie starring Tina Fey that I like because of Tina Fey.  I know it’s pretty amazing to think that.  Now this movie does have its faults but it really has nothing to do with Fey at all.  In fact I think that if this movie was directed by Spielberg and maybe written by Randall Wallace and this cast it could be an Academy Award worthy film.   But they didn’t so the movie is what it is which is a decent film.

Kim Baker, played by Tina Fey (Sisters,) is a low end network journalist who volunteers to head to Afghanistan in 2003 to cover the war there because all of the talented journalists are headed to Iraq to cover that war.  Once there Kim meets fellow journalist Tanya Vanderpoel, played by Margot Robbie (The Big Short,) and Iain MacKelpie, played by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey,) who try to show her the ropes as well as show her all the places to party in Kabul. As she learns the ropes Baker realizes that she must take risks if her news stories are going to make it to the TV and she also learns that the Taliban and other insurgents aren’t the only dangers to her life and career.

As I stated above I really liked the cast in this film.  I was surprised by how well Tina Fey was doing in what really was a dramatic roll.  She was able to convey emotions and I saw her show happiness, sadness, betrayal, etc. all the things you are supposed to be able to do in a dramatic roll.  Her comedy was understated but surprisingly funny for me and maybe because there was an underlying tone of smartass to it but by no means was it over the top which has been her forte in past films that I haven’t liked.  Tina Fey did a great job in this film but she was not the only one.  As I said above the entire cast was great.  Both Robbie and Freeman were great as conflict journalists who seem to not only accept what was going on in Afghanistan but almost enjoy the chaos and the belief that no risk is too great to get on TV.  Freeman was great not only as the love interest but the calming influence of Fey’s character to kind of remind to stay grounded.  Also I wonder if Margot Robbie only plays gorgeous kick ass characters.  I haven’t seen her in Wolf of Wall Street but from the pictures I have seen she looks like her character is a party animal and she is cast as Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad film and unless they mess up the character a lot, I know that character is kickass.  I’m not sure how good of an actress she is yet, but she is hot and I’m not sure I want to be stuck in an alley with her on the other side.   I loved how this movie showed a good view of the military, which surprises me, in the character of General Hollanek, played by Billy Bob Thornton (The Judge.)  He was probably the funniest character in the film and was fun to watch.  Also humorous was the character Ali Massoud Sadiq, played by Alfred Molina (Pete’s Meteor.)  He plays a character that is constantly hitting on Kay Baker and ends up getting in trouble time and time again and was quite funny, and believable as a Middle Eastern man. Overall the cast was a strong point of the movie.

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If the cast was a strong point then the story and direction were a little weak.  My biggest problem, and this probably isn’t on them but the producers, is that this film was marketed as a comedy and I get that when Tina Fey is the star.  But this movie is not a comedy.  This movie is much more dramatic then comedic with a little bit of action thrown in to the film.  This is a film that looks at the life of a war correspondent and what they have to do to get a story that is good enough to get on TV.  One of the good things this story showed was the constant frustration that Kim Baker was having in that she was risking her life to come up with stories that would get killed at the network and never see the light of day.  This of course would cause the journalists to take bigger and bigger risks in order to get a story and enhance their career without caring about the potential consequence.    One thing I wish the writers of the story did a better job of was showing how the near death experiences were like a drug for the journalists which lead them to go on more and more dangerous missions.  This idea was conveyed by Baker’s translator Fahim Ahmadzai, played by Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year.)  While I thought Abbot did a good job I wish he didn’t have to give the exposition about comparing the drug addicts to the journalists.   I would have enjoyed that journey.

Another problem I had was that the sound was jack up in the film.  I know I am losing my hearing but I couldn’t hear the dialogue so I would raise the volume on my TV and then the action would happen and my ears would bleed.  So I had to turn the TV down and turn on the subtitles. Maybe its because I have bad hearing but I think the movie could have had better sound for sure.

This is a good movie but could have been much better.  When you watch this film think of it as a drama first and you will enjoy the film a lot.  I like a Tina Fey film…never thought I would say that.

My movie review partner’s review of this movie can be seen by clicking here.

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sergeantyorkWhen I picked this movie to watch I was hoping to see some scenes that would show some of the trench warfare that was defined warfare in the western front of World War I. I knew a little bit about Sergeant York just from doing some basic reading about the American Army in World War I.  I knew he won the Congressional Medal of Honor for almost single handedly capturing 100 or so German soldiers.  When I finally watched this film I ended up finding out more about York’s past leading up to the war and very little about the actual war itself.

Alvin York, played by Gary Cooper (High Noon,) is a county farmer in the south along the border between Tennessee and Kentucky.  Alvin struggles with alcoholism and while he is a God fearing man, like almost all of the people in his area, he hasn’t come to terms with his faith.  He meets a woman named Gracie, played by Joan Leslie (High Sierra,) and realizes he is going to have to change his ways if he wants to earn her love.  He quits drinking and dives into his farm with the hope of buying the field next to his which is much more suitable for farming.  When he is shot just a few dollars, he challenges local hunters to a shooting contest and wins only to find out the farmer had sold the field already.  Alvin gets drunk and looks to take revenge on the farmer who sold the land but in a huge thunderstorm Alvin is stuck by lightning and instead of killing him it destroys his rifle.  He believes it’s a message from God and he embraces his faith all the way.  As he begins his life with God and looks to start it with Gracie he is informed by town Pastor Pile, played by Walter Brennan (To Have and Have Not,) that he is drafted into the Army.  Despite his attempts to get exempt as a consciousness objector to violence based on his religious beliefs, he is drafted and forced to go.  Once in the Army he comes to grips with his job as a soldier and with God and goes on to great glory in the Army.

I was hoping that we were going to get a lot about York in the military.  Obviously by my ridiculously long story description the story concentrates more on his life leading up to the military.  I suppose that is important but for me the movie was an odd combination of really slow and borderline boring to unknowingly entertaining.  I found the story slowly dragging and with it being produced in pre-World War II America still in the Great Depression, the movie had that look of a theatrical production put to screen.  I will say that I was impressed with how the production design looked authentic even though it was clearly inside a studio.  The scenes with York and the minister while he is plowing look clearly like they are in a studio yet York is talking to the minister while he is plowing a rocky field.  The field was real with actual dirt and heavy looking rocks.  Now some scenes where shot outside and almost all of the military were shot outside so that helped but when they did shoot inside I thought the production was as good as could be.

The only real combat shown in the move was the battle at which he won the Medal of Honor.  As much as I was looking forward to seeing it was a very 1940’s sterile version of combat with lots of men spinning and falling as they get shot.  Plus it looked like many of the edits were of the same scene but from different camera angles.  That being said the battle itself isn’t as horrible as I make it sound and I hate to make it an excuse but this is the 1940’s so I shouldn’t expect a lot.  Plus since I do not believe anyone has tried to remake or tell this story in the last 50 + years this is all we got.  I included a link that shows the 10 minute battle in the film.

Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor in this film and I can completely understand why he got it.  I haven’t seen a lot of other movies from 1941.  OK, actually I have seen only one other, but Cooper really had his part nailed down.  He played the role of the borderline uneducated hillbilly from Tennessee honestly and respectfully, especially for the time.  In today’s Hollywood hillbillies from the South are usually played way over the top.  Cooper pretty much dominated every scene he was in with the other actors, not to take anything away from them.  I will say that Walter Brennan also did an excellent job and both he and Cooper seemed to play off of each other very well.

If you are a historian like me who likes military history in particular this should be a movie on your bucket list.  I don’t think you need to add it to your collection or spend any money on renting it.  Just wait until it comes out on Turner Classic Movie channel or some other classic channel and you will eventually find it.  Or wait until it’s free on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Sergeant York is a moderately entertaining yet incredibly dated movie.

 

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concussionI did not really care to see this film on DVD let alone at the movie theater. I would say I am not sure why I am not interested but that’s really not true.  I know why I had no interest in this movie and that’s because that no matter how good the movie is two things that I will come away with is that this film will highlight that the NFL is evil and nothing it can say will not change how much I love the NFL. But I still wanted to watch this film because of my love of the NFL has been so long I wanted to see what this movie had to say.  It’s really a good film and it should have been nominated for an Academy Award for movie, best actor, supporting actor even, maybe screenplay, but it wasn’t and while I don’t know why I’ll take an educated guess later.

Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith (I, Robot,) is a Nigerian born Doctor of pathology and neurosciences who was working at the City of Pittsburgh morgue as a forensic pathologist as well as being a student working on a MBA.   Because of his school work he is in charge of the department on the weekends and is given the responsibility of finding the cause of death of Mike Webster, played by David Morse (The Hurt Locker,) who was an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their Championship days of the 1970’s.  Dr. Omalu is trying to figure out why a healthy 51 year old former NFL player appeared to go insane even though there were no signs of it in the CAT scan and initial autopsy.  As he digs deeper into Webster’s brain he discovers the damage that happens to the professional football player after repeated trauma to the head.  As he starts to bring attention to the issue he faces the full force of a multi-billion dollar organization that is trying to keep what it knew quiet.

I continue to be amazed that the one time Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an amazing actor.  In this movie he was completely believable as a Nigerian immigrant doctor.  Not only with the right sounding accent but with the mannerism of a man who is constantly doubted for what he says and where he comes from.  He should have been nominated for the Best Actor award but he is beginning to get to be like Tom Hanks for me, whenever he shows up on screen there will be an amazing performance.  I take him for granted as an actor and I shouldn’t.  He was clearly the star of this film.

There were other performances that were also very good.  Dr. Cyril Wecht, played by Albert Brooks (Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World,) was very good as the Chief pathologist of the city of Pittsburgh.  Although he had a small roll, watching Morse as Webster was painful but not in his acting but in his portrayal of Webster.  The other actor of note that was enjoyable to watch was Alec Baldwin (The Hunt For Red October,) who portrayed the former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor, Dr. Julian Bailes.

The story was very compelling for me for obvious reasons.  I loved how this screenplay was based on an article in a magazine.  It was somewhat unnerving seeing all of these gladiators coming up fragile as they were going crazy.  Webster wasn’t the only player the movie touched on which is the same as the research.  But this film also showed what happened to Dr. Omalu as he was trying to bring the information forward.  While he was never discredited he was forced to leave Pittsburgh in order to live a normal life.  It wasn’t until the suicide of Dave Duerson, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World,) who was a former player and NFL executive officer and denier of the doctors work, who in his suicide note asked for his brain to be examined .  It was his death that marked the change of events that brought the concussion problem front and center.  This story does a good job of explaining the events and again, all from an article.  One part of the story that was a little annoying was the relationship development between the doctor and his future wife Prema Mutison, played admirably by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Jupiter Ascending.)  The only reason why I didn’t like it is because it took me away from the story about the research.  Mind you it was important to set up what would happen to the family when he took on the NFL, but still it was mostly fast forwarded by me.

Oh, and I don’t think Will Smith didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award because he is African American.  He didn’t get nominated because he is in a movie that talks about a sport that most of Hollywood detests.   So they could care less about the sport and that’s why, in my opinion.

I played organized football for 7 years in some capacity.  I played from the 8th grade and all the way through high school and two years of college, although I never made it out of two-a-days in college.  I was 2nd team all-city for my high school when I played Center my Junior year and Offensive Tackle my Senior year.  My senior year I was the long snapper on the punt team and after I snapped the ball I ran down the field, very slowly may I add, but none the less, I was in position to make the tackle.  As I put my arms around the ball carrier, a fellow teammate came from the other side and we hit the ball carrier but slammed into each other helmet to helmet.  I know this because I watched the film of the game the following Monday.  I was knocked unconscious on the play.  It was a Thursday night game and I don’t remember waking up on the field, or being taken to the locker room, or my math test the next day.  I vaguely remember going out with my girlfriend that weekend.  Every time I get an eye examination with a new eye doctor they ask me if I have had some kind of head injury.  When I tell them I played football they give me a knowing shake of the head.  I’m guessing that in those 7 years I had one serious concussion but a few smaller ones.

If you asked me if I would go through it again I would tell you that not only would I go through it again I would work harder so I would have had a better college career and hopefully just made a practice squad in the NFL.  Many of the past and present NFL players would say the same thing.

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the big shortWhen I got done watching this movie I went to the website for my credit cards and started reading the fine print on all of the contracts. I also decided that on my next day off I am going to go Barnes & Noble and look up personal finance books.  Probably start off in the …For Dummies section.  The Big Short is one of those movies that make you want to reexamine whatever aspect that these kinds of movies are dealing with in your life.  On a side note, if you are a bid Bernie Sanders for President fan then this movie validates your beliefs of Wall Street and capitalism as a whole.

In early 2006 stock investor Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kinds,) discovers that the housing market is about to collapse because of the way the big banks are selling too many bad mortgage loans called Sub-Prime mortgages.  He takes his money to the banks and buys short on these mortgages, basically he is buying insurance on these mortgage funds that when they fail he gets paid on them, he does it this because the banks are giving great odds on the insurance because mortgage funds have never failed. Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March,) gets wind of Burry’s plan and after investigating on his own, he looks for people to invest with in the same fashion and finds Mark Baum, played by Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty,) who investigates what Vennett has to say and when he confirms what he has said, invests money with him.  Another group of investors also do the same with help from Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt (Fury.)

Adam McKay, who was the director and co-writer on the film, did a great job of slowing down the movie to explain these complicated ideas to the movie going office.  The one I knew of before I even saw the movie was when he put the actress Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall street,) in a bubble bath explaining the basic concepts of the mortgage bonds and sub-prime mortgages.  Oh if you don’t know who Margot Robbie is, she is portraying Harley Quinn in the new Suicide Squad movie.  Anyway, here is her bit in The Big Short.

They also used Chef Anthony Bourdain in another scene and some economist and Selena Gomez in another. Not only did these people break the fourth wall but Gosling’s character would sometimes break the fourth wall to explain something as his character.  He also was the voice over for parts of the movie serving the same purpose.  It seems like that is a lot of explanation but in reality it isn’t.  I’m no genius but I’m not a dummy either but when I was watching it on DVD I had a hard time following what they were saying when describing the concepts of everything so I had to turn on the subtitles so I can read what they were saying to understand what was going on.  My deafness didn’t help the problem either but reading the film helped.  This leads into the last thing I will say along these lines and that is you can’t be distracted and watch this movie, if you get up and deal with kids or bathroom breaks or drinks or whatever, you can easily lose track of the film and get lost.  If you want to enjoy this film you must not have any distractions, this is a thinking person’s movie.  Oh and this movie won the Academy Award for writing in 2015.

I like the performances of both Steve Carrel as Mark Baum and Christopher Nolan as Michael Burry.  In an interview Burry, who is the only actual person in this movie that is a non-fictional character as all the others are combinations of the actual people, had said that is son has Asperger’s Syndrome and Burry believed that his son got it from him and he believes he has it as well.  Nolan I would have assumed picked up on this as he does a wonderful job of portraying this genius with numbers who show the traits of someone who has the syndrome.  His performance is not as good as say Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man as an Autistic, but it’s up there.  Carrell’s performance is exciting because I have never seen him do a performance like this, even though he has been doing more of these rolls recently.  It was nice to see him with the inner conflict that his character had who was trying to save the world but in some degree he was saving it from people like himself.

The only thing I didn’t like about the film, and its nit picking here, is that it was a little too heavy handed with the showing of the effect of the common man by these evil Wall Street Bankers.   The scene that involved Mark Baum’s associates Danny, played by Rafe Spall (A Good Year,) and Porter, played by Hamish Linklater (42,) were looking at a newly developed neighborhood in Florida and Danny visits a house to find the owner who is 90+ past due on the mortgage and ends up talking to a renter who is shocked to hear that the home owner is behind even though the renter is making all the payments.  The guy, who is the picture of the blue collar working, starts acting all scared and asking Danny if he is in trouble and what should he do.   I don’t think we need to see this because the housing bubble crash happened less than 8 years ago and we all those who would watch this film know what happened and whom it affected the most.  But, like I said, this is nitpicking.

This is a great movie, and a somber movie, and if you have the focus and ability to sit for 2 hours and pay attention, you will understand this movie and enjoy it, and be a little more sad or angry depending on your politics.  Like I said at the top, if you love Bernie then this movie will reinforce your desire to tear down the system and embrace socialism.  If you are like me, you will not believe the system is broken but believes that the people who break the law should be punished, harshly, and therefore keep people from wanting to do this again.

If you want to see by movie review partners take on this movie click here.

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bridgeofspiesSometimes I forget how awesome Stephen Spielberg is as a director. Maybe I just take it for granted that whatever he does will just be great and I lose track of what he is doing and miss the latest film he brings to the screen.  Now after watching Bridge of Spies on DVD I am kicking myself for not watching it in the movie theater.  I love this film and easily the best one I have seen that came out in 2015.

James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan,) is an insurance attorney in New York whose law firm that he works at has been asked by the United States government to represent Rudolf Abel, played by Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl,) who is accused of being a spy during the early 1950’s at the beginning of the cold war.  Against the wishes of his wife, James accepts the case to prove that the spy could get a fair trial.  Despite his best efforts he loses the case and the spy goes to jail.  While this is going on the CIA have started their secret U2 spy plane program of flights over the Soviet Union and during a mission one of the pilots, Francis Gary Powers, played by Austin Stowell (Whiplash,) gets shot down over the Soviet Union and captured.  Powers is convicted of spying and sent to prison at which point Donovan and the CIA or contacted to attempt a prisoner exchange.  Donovan is sent to East Berlin to try and negotiate a deal to get Powers back without himself getting stuck behind the recently built Berlin Wall.

Bridge of Spies is almost like two outstanding mini-movies put together to make one great film.  The first part is a legal battle on whether or not a man who is a spy should receive the full benefits of our legal system.  The second part deals with the complications of a US spy plane getting shot down and the lawyer is part of a back door deal to swap the spy for the U.S. Pilot.  In one movie we go from a story about a lawyer suffering for doing the right thing by defending someone hated to a cold war tale of spies and politics.  I loved it.

The basis of the first part of the film is how much should a man fight for the rights of a non-American citizen who commits treason.   At no time in the movie was it argued that the spy shouldn’t have a fair trial, Donovan is constantly asked, harassed, and bullied by his co-workers, strangers, the judge of the trial, and even his family, as to why was he was fighting so hard for the spy.  His answer to the question is given when talking to a CIA agent asking Donovan to give up any and all information the spy is giving him.

The second part is all about the politics of the cold war and the swapping of citizens. The intrigue in this part of the film isn’t necessarily the swap of the spy for the pilot but Donovan’s insistence of including a young American college student who got stuck on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall as it was being built by the East Germans.  It would appear that Donovan is playing both the Russians and the East Germans as he is promising them both the delivery of the spy for the each of the Americans without the others knowing.

The performance by Hanks from beginning to end is just terrific and I would argue one of his best ones ever.  His portrayal of a lawyer is so convincing I believed him to actually be a lawyer in his early life.  His opening scene where he is talking to another lawyer about it case just grabs you right away and its all Hanks doing.  He makes lawyers talking about a car crash fascinating.  Scene after scene that he is in he is just hitting home run after home run.

Spielberg has done an excellent job of making the movie exciting, at least for me it is exciting. Plus the movie looks absolutely lovely as everything looks straight out of the 1950’s.  He seemed to differentiate the first half and second half of the films by making it look of the trial and everything in the US look open and bright but when he switches to Berlin and East Germany it becomes dark and bleak and closed off.  Even when it was day time in Berlin it looked and felt cold and unwelcoming.  This open and closed feeling was driven home when Spielberg had Donovan witness two different events comparing Germans trying to escape East Berlin by jumping the wall and getting gunned down and at the very end of the movie when he sees a bunch of kids jumping a fence from one yard to the other running and having fun.  A symbolism of the difference between freedom and captivity and filmed wonderfully.

I feel like I missed something by not seeing this on the big screen.  It was great to watch this movie and I should really stop taking Spielberg for granted.  I would say this is easily one of the best movies I have seen in the last 6 years and maybe even the last 15.  I promise that next time Hanks and Spielberg are together, and I hope there is a next time, I will be there opening night.

If you would like to see my movie review comrade Benn Farrell’s review please click on the link.

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