Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sully *** (2016)

Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks teamed up to make a fitting ode to Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger, the airline pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 after a flock of birds took out both engines.  The script tells a fractured narrative of what happened before, during, and after incident.  Hanks plays the reluctant hero as only he can do, never hiting a false note.  Aaron Eckhart co-stars as his co-pilot and Laura Linney as his who only appears during telephone conversations.  A wintry New York City is another major character, I suspect Eastwood's tribute to the city with memories of 9/11 still fresh in its mind.  The recreation of the actual landing and the frantic aftermath to get everyone off the plane are well filmed, never flashy or over the top, much like its hero.  At 95 minutes, Sully is a hour and a half of escapism with gratifying moments of dignity and pride.  An all around solid effort.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Cable Guy (1996) ***1/2

One of the most underrated comedy of the 1990s, The Cable Guy dared to gaze into the dark psyche of Generation X.  A commercial disappointment in the summer of 1996, Carrey's fans felt jilted by his dark turn. The movie also introduced a whole range of comedic stars in early roles including Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Leslie Mann, and Andy Dick.

Matthew Broderick plays nice guy Steven Kovacs.  When getting cable installed for his new apartment the eccentric cable guy makes awkward attempts to bond with him.  He offers Steven some free cable but there are strings attached - they must hang out once in a while.  At first Chip seems like a kindred spirit until his behavior grows increasingly strange and intrusive, in the vein of Play Misty for Me or Single White Female.

The Cable Guy came out just as the "information superhighway" entered the language as the internet was about to conquer the world.  No one talks about TV rotting people's brain anymore, internet addictions get more attention, adding another layer of odd nostalgia.

Did Generation X watch so much TV it distorted view of reality? That's the sardonic question The Cable Guy poses. The notion recalls the scene in the 1976 film Network: old TV veteran William Holden scolds the younger TV executive played by Faye Dunaway, accusing her of seeing real life as identical to episodic television. An accusation not just at her, but all TV maniacs.

Ben Stiller's direction emphasized pop culture references.  His 1994 film Reality Bites revived interest in The Knack's "My Sharona" and Schoolhouse Rock. The Cable Guy took a more obscure approach with nods to the Star Trek episode "Amok Time" and other ephemera from 1970s pop culture, including a hilarious send up of the 90s culture of celebrity trials with a parody of Court TV obsessives.  Also, don't miss the cinematic references to The Poseidon Adventure and Rosemary's Baby!

One of the last true "Gen X" films until the late 20th century kids reached apotheosis with Fight Club, The Cable Guy throws a wicked gut punch at television's abstract influence on everything it touches, even more so than the overrated Carrey film The Truman Show.

Jason Bourne * 1/2 (2016)

Leaving the theater for Jason Bourne I was thinking, I'm not sure what that was supposed to be. After a trilogy of first rate action films that redefined the genre in the 2000s, Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass decision to revisit the material added some legitimacy to the project. But instead of building upon the character's mythology, the script recycles the past three films.  Long chase sequences are punctuated by climatic smashing of fast machines, including a high speed pursuit in Las Vegas that conjures odd visions of the Blues Brothers cruising through a shopping mall. Twisted metal everywhere.  Damon's co-star Alicia Vikander has little to do except stare intensely at computer screens, her AI character in Ex Machina had way more personality.  And Tommy Lee Jones as the CIA head looks like a figure in a wax museum, not helped by Greengrass's penchant for rapid fire cuts and extreme close ups. A humorless and cold genre film.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hell or High Water *** (2016)

Watching Hell or High Water it's hard not to think of other great films set in Texas like No Country For Old Men or Blood Simple.  The landscape makes for the perfect backdrop for a neo-noir grappling history, family, and crime drama into an entertaining film.  Two brothers the soft spoken Toby (Chris Pine) and tough guy Tanner (Ben Foster) go on a bank robbing spree to pay off some debts.  Aging Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) is on their trail in his last case (a cliche situation but it works), while spending most of the time sparring with his Native American partner Gil (Alberto Parker). Many reviews have alluded to the sub theme of a fading white working class left with little options in rural America.  As Toby and Tanner drive through the desolate landscape all the businesses are closed and billboards promise debt relief.  The rise of casinos is like the last gasp of civilization. One cannot think of Bonnie and Clyde as well, the idea of existentialists set on exacting revenge on the banks. Pine, known for playing for Captain Kirk in the Star Trek films, delivers a star making performance as a reluctant criminal.  Bridges could probably plan an old law man in his sleep, chewing up the scenery like an old pro.  A somber film with a beating heart, Hell and High Water takes its rightful place within an excellent tradition Texas movies. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Don't Breathe *** (2016)

Exuberant reviews aside, Don't Breathe is an exceptional horror film with some pointed social commentary.  Set in economically depressed Detroit, the film follows three teenage thieves who survive by robbing the rich.  These working class kids make for a somewhat unorthodox team: the hothead "Money", safe cracker Rocky, and the intelligent Alex.  

After discovering a news story about an Iraq war vet (Stephen Lang) who won a huge legal settlement in a wrongful death suit the trio decide to rob him and get out of town.

What the band of thieves fail to consider is the man they are ripping off is a demented psychopath. So what they thought would be an easy job turns into a nightmare.  It's a reverse of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, the blind "victim" turns the table on the thieves.

When the horror begins the movie turns into a cat and mouse game, and a violent one at that.  Of course the house is full of crawl spaces, spacious basements, and lots of glass. Stephen Lang steals the film as "The Blind Man" in a menacing performance, a seemingly indestructible force of nature reminiscent of the original Michael Myers from Halloween.

Don't Breathe supposes a town of hungry thieves and psychotic war vets breeds horror upon horror.  With everyone disenfranchised and democratic institutions losing their relevance - only the brutal and amoral will survive. This ain't the Ocean's Eleven ending with "Clair de Lune" playing in the background.