Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The sixties delivered to us something that was fresh and new at the time, the rise of the anti-hero. This would be someone of lesser moral compulsion who usually took the wrong way to do the right thing. While it was fresh and new at the time in more recent years it’s become the norm rather than the exception. So when a movie offers good old fashioned heroes it’s nice to see. When those characters are based on real life people it becomes inspiring.
Based on the true story of the 1952 rescue of the crew of the SS Pendleton, the movie doesn’t just cover the rescue itself but the men involved as well. Chris Pine stars as Bernie Webber, a Coast Guard crewman in Chatham, Massachusetts who’s shy, quiet and dealing with a tragedy that happened a year ago under his watch. Meeting with Miriam (Holliday Grainger), a phone operator he’s been talking to for some time now, the two begin dating and reach a point where they make plans to get married. All Bernie thinks he needs to do is get permission from his commanding officer.
But before that can happen a terrible storm sets in and two different oil tankers split in half. The crew of the SS Pendleton watch in fear as the front half of their ship plunges beneath the surface with all who were aboard that half of the ship. Still in control of the engines but dealing with a crack in the ship that’s allowing water to build up, head engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) directs them to rig a way to steer by hooking girders into the rudder. It’s slow but gives them enough control that they head for the nearest shoal with the hope of grounding the ship until help can arrive.
Back on shore at the Coast Guard station one boat sets out to help with the rescue of the first ship. As the only one left behind to command a second ship towards the Pendleton, Bernie takes on three other crew members and heads for the ship. With winds blowing and waves reaching over 70 feet in height, Bernie and his crew also have to deal with what is known as the bar, a series of shoals that are treacherous to go through even under the best of circumstances and the cause of his defeat the previous year. As the small boat and crew make their way through this deadly option viewers will sit in awe and fear gripping the arms of your seat waiting to see the outcome.
These two tales intertwine to make an incredibly suspenseful film. A third plotline of Miriam attempting to deal with the fact that the man she just agreed to marry is in harm’s way and may not make it back to shore. She deals with his commanding officer, the folks on shore she is now getting to know and the family of members who were lost the previous year under similar circumstances. All three stories combine to move the film forward and to intensify the action on screen.
Not knowing the outcome of the movie or having read about this event I was sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. The severed boat could go down with all on board or at least a large percentage of them wouldn’t survive. The small vessel captained by Webber could find itself in even more disastrous circumstances and no one onboard that ship might make it back. And Miriam could find herself a widow before the marriage even took place. All of these concepts are tossed around much like the ships in the high rising swells of waves on screen but by the end of the film all are resolved.
The most refreshing thing about this movie was that it played out like a classic heroic movie of the past, where black and white good guys and bad were easily identifiable. What these men went through is truly heroic and depicts the Coast Guard in a way that will make you never consider them a low level branch of the military ever again. This is a film that young people should be sat down to watch, giving them a chance to see an example of that old school greatest generation of our time at work. And the fact is that other than the amount of suspense found on screen here it’s a movie that kids could watch as well with no foul language or exposed body parts as well. Who would think that in today’s age that was even possible any longer!
Pine does an amazing job here displaying acting talents that for me haven’t been seen before, at least not in the depth that he offers here. Affleck turns in another great performance as well as the man doing his best to save his crew while dealing with those who are willing to look for shortcuts towards survival that he knows will only result in death. The movie is an inspiration and one that, as I stated, needs to be seen. It didn’t do as expected at the box office and that’s sad as good a movie as it is. Perhaps that will change with the release of the film on DVD. I can only hope so. Take the plunge and watch this one today.
I can’t seem to pinpoint when it exactly began but comedy took a turn for the worse within the last decade. Then again perhaps it was PORKY’S that changed comedies from movies with well thought out dialogue to simple jokes about body parts and how they are used. Whenever it began the truth is most of these movies have moments where you laugh at some of the most obscene things occasionally but for the most part just wonder how they keep being made.
The latest in this long line of off-color comedies is DIRTY GRANDPA starring Zach Efron and Robert DeNiro. Yes THAT Robert DeNiro. I know, it’s stunning to think of what many considered to be the actor of his generation now in a film where he’s trying to bed a hot college co-ed. And yet here we are.
Efron stars as Jason Kelly, an up and coming attorney about to get married to the boss’s daughter Meredith (Julianne Hough). As the film opens he’s at the funeral of his grandmother where his cousin Nick (Adam Pally) acts inappropriate between sexual comments, conspiracy theories, drinking and smoking a grass filled ecig. After the funeral Jason’s grandfather Dick (DeNiro) guilts him into driving him across from Georgia to Boca Raton, Florida.
What should be a bonding between grandparent and grandchild begins with Jason finding his grandfather masturbating followed by what most would be considered an over usage of the F bomb as he tries to get Jason to help him find someone young to have sex with. The best chance of this is a coincidental meeting in a restaurant with a young woman Jason went to school with, Shadia (Zoey Deutch), and her two friends Lenore (Aubrey Plaza) and Tyrone (Brandon Mychal Smith). This trio is headed for Daytona and Dick convinces Jason to head there as well.
What follows is the usual debauchery one expects with spring break in Daytona, a drug and alcohol fueled exploration of beaches, bars and hotel rooms with nothing but attractive men and women in the tiniest of swimwear. During a drinking contest with two addle minded lacrosse jocks Dick considers competition for his chance with Lenore he slips several crushed capsule he has with him in a drink to slow them down. Unfortunately Jason ends up drinking this cup, the result of which is him disappearing only to resurface drunk out of his mind and wearing only a stuffed animal over his most sensitive area.
More sequences like this happen and in the middle of them we learn that Jason wanted to be a photographer at one time, Shadia is an environmental activist and that the pair have a mutual attraction. Tell me you can see where this is leading. The weakest part of this movie is the feeling that you’ve seen this before, the same exact story, but with slightly altered settings and moderately modified characters. I know every time I saw cousin Nick in this film I kept expecting to discover he was now being played by Zach Galifianakis. Perhaps that’s the worst thing about this film, the extreme predictability of it all from the plotline to the characters involved. If you’ve guessed which is the shrewish female in the bunch then you know what I’m talking about.
I was reading a book the other day discussing film comedies and how they’ve changed, how in recent years most comedies have become guy films: crude, rude, loud and drug fueled. The few exceptions to the rule, comedies with female leads, have still found the need to have the same characteristics. To me that’s sad. Perhaps it’s just because I’m older. If I were a teenager maybe these movies would all seem like soon to be classics to me. Somehow I don’t see these as being movies kids will look back fondly on when they grow older. Or mature.
The production value of the film is top of the line. The performances are well done. Yes there are a few laughs to be found here, even among the crudest moments. But the film relies on those and the more shocking the funnier some will think they are. A shock laugh is the easiest laugh you can get. It’s why the greatest comedies written don’t resort to that.
As the movie began I really hated it. The overly used formula was written all over its face. I knew the ending of this movie 10 minutes in and I wasn’t surprised when it happened. But as it went on I found myself laugh now and then, more than I’d care to admit. By the end I felt that I could say it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t anything I’d remember down the road. If you’re easily offended then by all means steer clear of this one. If this type of film makes you laugh you may even want to add it to your collection. For most of us in the middle of that road, we’ll watch it once, laugh occasionally and then forget it a month from now when the next film like this comes out.
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Monday, May 9, 2016
One thing can be said about Hollywood. When they discover a money making concept they’ll milk it as dry as a bone. This doesn’t mean those movies made about a topic are bad but after a while they all sort of get mixed in together and it becomes hard to differentiate one from another, especially when they’re being released fast and furious (no, not that franchise here). Lately it seems that the only reason for adults in films is to give birth and then stand back and idly watch while teens do things like save the world. That premise is a big part of THE 5TH WAVE.
Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) is your typical teen girl (as far as movie makers are concerned). She goes to school, pines over the good looking boy Ben (Nick Robinson) and loves her parents. Her life gets turned upside down within short order here as the Earth is invaded by aliens in attacks termed waves. The first wave is an EMP that knocks out all electrical systems, the second a combination of earthquake/tsunami that wipes out the coasts, the third is a form of disease spread by birds and the fourth are termed “silencers”, invaders who look human.
As Cassie and her family deal with each successive wave until most of the world is ended, they make a last ditch effort with others to band together in a camp. When the army shows up commanded by Col. Vosch (Liev Schreiber) everyone is overjoyed. With buses only big enough to handle so many at a time they’re filled with the youngest members of the camp first to take them to Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Cassie is on board with her brother Sam who forgets his teddy bear. As she runs to get it, the buses leave her behind.
The joy is short lived as the adults in the group argue about letting their children go unaccompanied, a fight breaks out and in an attempt to regain order the troops open up on the parents. Cassie hides during this but returns to find her father now dead joining her mother who died in the disease wave. Determined to find her brother, she packs up the essentials and heads out on foot to be rejoined with him. Along the way she’ll face the dangers of alien drones that watch from the sky as well as “silencers” all around.
As all of this goes on the Army takes the young people left on the world and begins training them to be the next armed forces to protect the planet. Visors are developed to allow the wearer to see the aliens beneath the surface of the humans infested by them. Ben has made it to the base as well and Sam is a part of his group. While Cassie tries to find her way to them the youth groups train, preparing for a special mission. In the end a few twists and turns (that some will see early on) occur and people the characters may have trusted once are not what they seem. In the end will the Earth by saved or not?
The movie offers a decent science fiction tale here, another in a long line of alien invasion films that dates back to 1953’s WAR OF THE WORLDS. This time around the concept of teen heroes has been added, a genre that has been around but seems to have found more traction lately as well as become a huge franchise generating machine for Hollywood with the success of both THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT. The odds are that the same was intended for this movie but the box office figures haven’t done as well as expected so odds are this one ends here. I won’t say that’s a good or bad thing when it comes to the actual movies themselves but the non-stop offerings of teen’s saving everything, being smarter than adults or taking over every screen on multiplexes across the country has made for some truly lackluster movies.
Box office sales are up but only because the price of the tickets has risen as well. As corporations control the movies we see the more pre-packaged product and less real movies we get at the theater. Certainly there is a way to balance that but as long as the number crunchers are in control the odds aren’t favorable in that happening. Once those numbers begin to drop perhaps but that may take a while.
So for the time being let’s enjoy movies like this even if they have become predictable. The acting in this one is better than most and the production values are quite well done. While there are no standout performances and every teen looks fresh from the pages of a fashion magazine, all in all each does a solid job here. The effects are well done, a definite requirement for a movie like this, but at the same time don’t offer a lot that’s new.
While typing this I realized my final view on this film. It’s not bad for a night’s entertainment but it won’t be one that you remember a year from now, a movie that will be talked about in 30 years or that will increase the star power of anyone involved. It’s a vanilla movie, one that taste good but offers no substantial flavor. You can do worse with a movie to watch at home than this, but don’t expect it to change the world either.
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