Sully

By: Kevin Jordan

Sweet dreams.

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If you are the type of person who gets nervous or anxious when flying, you probably hate me.  I’m the guy sitting next to you sleeping through take-off.  While I won’t apologize for that, I will apologize for any snoring that may occur.  Also, you should not watch Sully.  You may know the story of the Miracle on the Hudson, but you don’t want to see it happen in living color.  It’s bad enough that you probably already have nightmares involving airplanes; you don’t need to add to them by watching this movie.

Back in 2012, Denzel Washington starred in Flight, Sully’s spiritual predecessor.  They are basically the same movie – an airline pilot saves everyone on board a failed airplane, then that pilot faces investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  Sully is the movie Flight wanted to be, even to the point of coming out just three years after Captain Sullenberger successfully landed an airplane on a river.  The difference is that Sully is a very good movie and Flight is, at best, meh.

The biggest thing that makes Sully a much better movie than Flight is that you care about Captain Sullenberger (Tom Hanks).  Denzel’s pilot is a drunk cocaine user, including when he is piloting aircraft.  Sullenberger is our kindly, straight-laced grandfather.  So, when the NTSB investigators start digging into Sully’s actions, there is never a moment where we are actively rooting for the investigators.  The movie even helps us out by sharing Sully’s nightmares of crashing airplanes to induce more sympathy.  Incidentally, Sully’s nightmares are the other reason you folks with a fear of flying should not watch this movie.  You definitely do not want to see a jetliner trying to thread through skyscrapers.

He's calm now, but he doesn't know about the upcoming nightmares.

He’s calm now, but he doesn’t know about the upcoming nightmares.

The other thing that makes this movie great is the pacing.  It’s short (just 96 minutes), so it doesn’t waste time focusing on things of little importance, and it does a good job of building up the suspense.  No, not the suspense of if he saves everybody (you smartass), but how the investigation turns out.  As in Flight, the point of the NTSB investigation is to determine fault and the investigation skews heavily toward pilot error.  So, much of Sully is spent in meeting rooms where the investigators (Anna Gunn, Mike O’Malley, and Jamey Sheridan) keep telling Sully and first officer Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) that they could have landed safely on a runway at one of two nearby airports and Sully and Skiles insisting the investigators and computers (algorithms and simulations) are wrong.

The film (directed by Clint Eastwood) also does a good job of switching between the investigation and the crash over its duration.  The constant transitions keep the movie from becoming monotonous, which is exactly what turned Flight into a slog (not to mention Flight’s overly long 139-minute run time).  Eastwood also sprinkles in the nightmares and some short scenes with Sully’s wife (Laura Linney) to complete the humanization of Sully.  This is an absolute must because if you don’t know anything about Sully beyond his water landing, you come into this movie imagining him as an impervious hero.  In order for the film to work at a dramatic level, Sully has to come off as a regular human and one that might have made a mistake.  Serious kudos should go to Eastwood because, after watching him lecture an empty chair four years ago, I never would have thought he’d still be capable of putting together a coherent movie, much less a great movie with exceptional drama.

Clint's still got it.

Clint’s still got it.

After watching the film, there was one question it raised that I was very curious about – have there been other successful forced water landings by similar aircraft?  I’ve personally logged around a quarter of million air miles (as a passenger, not a pilot) and not once have I ever believed I would actually utilize my seat cushion as a floatation device.  The good news is that there have indeed been successful forced water landings besides Sully’s.  The bad news is you can count them on one hand.  I know that doesn’t help your flight anxiety, so I’ll just go back to sleep.  Wake me when we land.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back unless you paid for the in-flight snack.  What a ripoff.

London Has Fallen

By: Kevin Jordan

Quit it already, the ‘80’s are dead.

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One of my favorite movie sites, Ruthless Reviews, has an entire set of reviews under the heading 80s Action.  As every cinephile knows, the 1980’s were overflowing with action movies.  Ruthless came up with a format for reviewing those movies in which the following components were included: homoeroticsm, corpse count, how bad is it really, post-mortem one-liner, stupid political content, and novelty death.  Without fail, every 80’s action flick had more than enough content for each of those categories.  With the rise of the superhero movie, 80’s action style movies have all but vanished, but there are still a handful released every year (usually straight to DVD or starring Jason Statham) for those nearing-middle-aged people who love big, dumb action flicks, but want that damned CGI to get off their lawns.

(Like Olympus Has Fallen, I’m going to SPOIL a lot of this film because you should not waste your money on it, even if you love 80s action flicks).

London Has Fallen is very much an 80s action flick, as was its idiotic predecessor, Olympus Has Fallen.  I didn’t think Olympus Has Fallen did well enough to merit a sequel, but it somehow tricked $161 million dollars’ worth of moviegoers (on a $70 million budget) into seeing it.  Anyway, like Olympus, London asks you to believe things so insane and unbelievable that even most 80s action stars are shaking their heads.  This time around, a bunch of world leaders attend a funeral in London after the British Prime Minister unexpectedly dies.  Terrorists attack the leaders prior to the funeral because it’s much easier to kill a bunch of people in different locations than it is to wait until they are all in one spot.  Of course, the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart) – or POTUS, as Hollywood likes to say – and his super, special, secret service agent, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) survive the initial attack and the rest of the movie is standard action flick fare – bad guys chase good guys and lots of people die while things explode.  Why?  Because the mastermind terrorist (Alon Moni Aboutboul) isn’t satisfied with killing hundreds of people – including an untold number of world leaders >= 4 (seriously, they don’t tell us the number) – and destroying half of London, HE MUST HAVE THE POTUS!!

Look, I knew going in that this movie was going to be loud and dumb, so all I was hoping for was a plausible execution of the attack (you know, like Olympus didn’t have) and I would happily enjoy the remainder of the film.  Yeah…no.  The writers of this “movie” went out of their way to make several characters say variations of “this is the most secured event in the history of the world” and even showed us scene after scene of security forces checking IDs, walking police dogs around, and using those mirrors-on-wheels to look for car bombs.  So, with all of that security, how do the terrorists wreak such havoc?  By posing as cops.  That may sound plausible until you watch dozens of terrorists (out of hundreds) start murdering people in various ways.  Remember, this is the most secure event in the Milky Way, so of course no legitimate cop wonders who all the new middle-eastern-looking cops are that just happened to show up for THE MOST SECURE EVENT EVER!!!!!.  I know, and that’s not all.  Just before all the attacks we are shown the Japanese leader stuck in traffic on a random bridge, the French leader chilling in a boat on the Thames, and the Italian leader and his wife getting ready to bone on the roof of Westminster Abbey.  Not only were dozens of terrorists able to infiltrate police ranks, but they also just happened to know precisely where these leaders would accidentally be prior to those leaders accidentally being there so they could blow them up with bombs.  Now, you should be asking yourself if their psychic abilities were that awesome, why didn’t they get the POTUS?  Because POTUS got there earlier and didn’t tell anyone.  Take THAT, stupid other world leaders who also didn’t tell anyone where they would be.

I know what you are really wondering now so, in honor of Ruthless Reviews, let’s finish this up with their 80s action flick components.

Homoeroticism

In the actual 1980s, you could always count on some female nudity to soften the male homoeroticism, but there is nary a female breast or ass to be found in 2016 London.  The two biggest female characters are Banning’s pregnant wife (Radha Mitchell) and his boss (Angela Bassett), who is impaled by helicopter shrapnel early in the film, so any chance of convincing us these dudes aren’t thinking about some together time in the Lincoln Bedroom is quickly dashed.  And, let’s not forget that the President is widowed because Mike chose to save him first rather than his wife (this happened in Olympus).  Plus, the film opens with Mike struggling to decide on resigning his posting to the President’s detail so he can be with his wife and soon-to-be-born child.  What can I say – the heart wants what the heart wants.  Also, these bits of dialogue happen:

Banning (to the President): “I was wondering when you were going to come out of the closet.”

British SAS soldier to Banning: “Take care of your balls.”

Corpse count

I didn’t actually keep count, but we’re told hundreds…and I’d guess that we visibly saw at least fifty.  Banning himself is responsible for no less than thirty and even POTUS tallies several.  But don’t worry too much because the vast majority of the dead are either British citizens or terrorists.  Let’s be honest, Earth – if they aren’t American, nobody really gives a shit, am I right?

Novelty death

There are so many to choose from – from Banning crushing a guy’s throat with a well-aimed two-by-four to Bassett’s death by shrapnel to Banning jamming a broken piece of metal into a terrorist’s lungs.  But, I’m going with Banning sideswiping his car against a concrete overpass pillar to remove a dangling terrorist from his window.  Does the terrorist’s head stay in Banning’s hands?  You bet it does.  Does Banning toss it through the passenger side window, inches from a horrified Bassett?  You’d be disappointed if he didn’t.

Post-mortem one-liner

When Banning shoves the broken metal into the terrorist’s lungs, he’s also taunting the terrorist’s brother via walkie-talkie, ala John McClane.  After tossing away the walkie, the President asks “Did you really have to do that?”  Banning’s response: “Nope.”  And, yes, Banning is grinning a little.

Stupid political content

Terrorists have infiltrated emergency response services, they are hiding under your bed, they’re in your closet, and Obama still hasn’t called Jack Bauer to save us all from a fiery, bullet-riddled death.  The FBI, NSA, and CIA must have access to all of your communications or some guy with an al- in his name is going to blow up a Banana Republic.  They say the terrorists hate us because of our freedom, not because we shot a missile at that brightly covered wedding pavilion in the desert and accidentally killed 40 or so party guests in order to kill that one really, really, bad guy who, luckily, left the party early (this happened in the movie).  At some point, the rest of us are going to accept the fact that war works both ways and demand that our government either stops invading countries or stops doing it half-assed.

How bad is it really?

Well, it’s not worse than Olympus, but it’s not better.  Between Butler struggling to deliver an American accent while surrounded by his British countrymen and a pointless Pentagon crisis room filled with Academy Award nominated/winning actors occasionally clapping or barking into a phone, you have a movie that doesn’t want to say anything more than (sing it with me): “America – Fuck Yeah”.  That and “the 80s will never die.”

Rating: If you didn’t learn from Olympus Has Fallen, nothing I say here will stop from you from pissing away ten more dollars.

P.S. – Thank you, Ruthless Reviews.