The Post: Movie Man Jackson

Whether in a relationship, a job, or in matters of politics and America, power should never go unchecked. The Washington Post is in a little bit of a transitional period, led by publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major newspaper. Graham—as does lead editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks)—wants “The Post” to be more than a local newspaper. She doesn’t command much faith in her visions, mainly because she’s a woman in a man’s world.

Opportunity does knock, however, when secrets regarding the US Government’s stance on the Vietnam War are leaked initially via the New York Times by way of the “Pentagon Papers.” Government is none too happy about it, and chooses to shut down the story before it gets too in-depth. They’re threatening criminal action if anyone else decides to run with it, but this is something that the American populace needs to know. Commence the battle between free press and the government.

Officially ending the unofficial real-life heroic figure(s) trilogy that director Steven Spielberg has lent his talents to in recent years starting with 2012’s Lincoln and 2015’s Bridge of Spies is his latest in The Post. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: It is impossible to discuss or think about The Post without thinking about our current everyday bizarre political world, but it is the truth. Spielberg has made something that honors the past, but is more so focused on preventing the future.

A fast production schedule rarely benefits a movie, but with Spielberg overseeing just about everything, it’s not likely we’d be getting a better cut with additional prep time. But, it is still impressive at just how well The Post comes out, showing no signs of a rushed timeline. The standard of excellence we’ve become accustomed to from Steven is still present, displaying a tight and historically accurate-looking presentation that rarely feels stagy or fake. Longtime legendary collaborators in cinematographer Janusz Kamiński and composer John Williams assist to make The Post one of the year’s best, technically.

Hard to find any egregious faults with The Post, if any. It’s a good movie that fits right into the season, with a solid script that seems to be very rooted into reality penned by debut feature writer Liz Hannah. One can feel the passion she has for this story and the character that is Katharine Graham. But, watching The Post is more akin to viewing an important, yet dry, history lesson more so than a compelling silver screen feature, even with the obvious allusions to what’s going on now. One that is respected for the overall craftsmanship and message rather than possessing the ability to become enamored with what is on screen.

Having Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks pretty much makes a film good by default, and no surprise, they’re excellent here. The first ever on-screen pairing between two of the greatest to ever do it proves fruitful, with the duo occasionally sharing scenes in the same location. Streep sells the fear, yet determination of trying to brave a male-dominated workforce, and Hanks sells the brazen determination of an editor trying to get to the bottom of a story the world needs, sleep be damned. Going past the big named twosome, The Post is planted with maybe not big, but well-respected, cast members in Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Matthew Rhys, Tracy Letts, Alison Brie, and Bruce Greenfield who all blend in and chew scenery when needed.

Hot off the presses and fast-tracked ever since the results of that November 8th, 2016 day crystallized, The Post doubles as a timely historical piece and an obvious Oscar contender.

B

Photo credits go to IMDB.com, thefilmstage.com, esquire.com, and vogue.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Sully: Movie Man Jackson

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Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time. On January 15th, 2009, flight Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) have the unprecedented arrive mid-flight in the skies. Their plane completely fails electrically after a flock of birds comes into contact with the engines. This isn’t going to end well.

Miraculously, Sully, the pilot vet with over 40 years of experience, thinks on his feet and manages to land right in the middle of the Hudson river, with no casualties whatsoever. Despite his humility and claim to just be doing his job, he’s a hero and should be treated as such. Yet, everyone doesn’t see it that way. The National Transportation Safety Board maintains through diagnostics that there was enough power to return back to the airport, and aim to show that Sully was more reckless than heroic in those 208 seconds from system failure to water landing.

Sully - MovieholicHub.com - Watch Movie Trailers

Death, taxes, and Tom Hanks delivering in an adult biographical drama. These are the only certainties in our world. It is of little surprise that Sully is solid. But to yours truly, it is a surprise that Sully is very good. Just maybe not for the reasons one might not expect, at least for yours truly.

Instead of working with longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks links up for the first time with director Clint Eastwood to tell the tale of one man’s duty to those around him. In Sully’s mind, he isn’t doing the heroic thing, he’s simply doing the dutiful thing and the right thing. It would have been really easy for the movie to come off as overly committed to romanticizing a man and painting him in an unbelievable soft and perfect light (a criticism many had with Eastwood’s last feature in American Sniper), but Eastwood commits to simplicity and a streamlined approach. Some may consider the flashbacks to the harrowing event a bit much; I found the piecewise flashbacks handled well with clarity (could have done without the military one, possibly). In a genre that can sometimes contain bloated screenplays and overlong runtimes, Sully is brisk and refreshing, clocking in at a tick over 90 minutes.

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Charles Barkley would love Sully. Why is he mentioned here? It was in February of 2015 that the “Sir Charles” went on a rant about how analytics were the result of people who had never played basketball using numbers to tell people how the game should be played and coached. Eastwood uses Sully to show the craziness of an overnight celebrity in the 21st century, but it ultimately is a story about man versus machine. No matter what the numbers or statistics may say or dictate, there is nothing like the human element which has to process a multitude of scenarios in real-time while actually being a human.

The finest aspects of Sully may be the technical ones, however. While at least half of the movie doesn’t “pop” in IMAX, the other half is pretty immersive, and as harrowing as one could imagine in that situation for all involved. But it is the little things that add to the immersion, like the establishing shots of the Hudson, or the interior of the aircraft. In particular, the sound is impeccable. A musical score is present, but nonexistent for the sequences in the plane. It’s a great artistic choice; hearing the malfunctions in the cockpit and the chant of “Brace brace brace! Heads down, stay down!” do more than any piece of music could do. This film’s sound design isn’t the type of feature that gets nominated in the respective award categories, but it should be.

What more is there to be said about Hanks at this point? His work is so effortless that it appears like he’s hardly trying. I think it is just the heightened quality level Hanks operates at. He forms one of the best, if not the best, bromances of 2016 sharing the skies with Aaron Eckhart, who provides a nice level of humor that does not undercut anything. Laura Linney adds a little to Sully’s character as his stressed-out wife. If there were somewhat of a substantial flaw with Sully, it would have to be its antagonists in the form of the NTSB officials. Their refusal to see anything past the data and what the flight simulations show (hard not to chuckle a bit at how much screentime those sims get during the end investigation) becomes sort of comical and eye-rolling by the film’s end.

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To call Sully extraordinary may be a reach, but seeing a hero’s tale handled so deftly and with such precision is great stuff. Eastwood flies pretty high with this one.

B+

Photo credits go to startribune.com, movieholichub.com, and directconversations.com.

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Bridge of Spies: Movie Man Jackson

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“Aren’t you worried” 

“Would it help?”

If yours truly ever gets in big trouble, I want Tom Hanks defending me. The year is 1957, which means the Cold War has just really started to escalate. Spies are deployed by both warring sides, and one KGB spy, Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), is captured and brought to America for justice. Justice is used in the most loosest of terms; it is of the belief of everyone that no resistance will be sought by his assigned defense.

The man tasked with defending Abel is James Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer from Brooklyn who hasn’t practiced courtroom law since basically undergrad. Though everyone expects Donovan to play along, he’s a honest man. Which means doing his job and giving his defendant a honest chance. While this scenario is an unlikely one that Donovan finds himself in, it is nothing compared to what he is asked to do later: Extract a fellow American pilot being held in enemy Soviet Union territory by swapping one of theirs for ours.

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Historical/biographical movies, especially those that release around Oscar season, can be hit or miss sometimes. At least for yours truly, that is. Part of it could simply be that I am not a history buff; I find it interesting here and there but do not know (or honestly care to know), of every single minutiae of every historical event. Another part could just be that so many of them seem to lack spirit, soul, and the like. Bridge of Spies, at a few times, feels like such. But, it also has the benefit of legends Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, two established commodities who know what they’re doing.

Throw those two in with a script helmed by the Coen Brothers, and BoS absolutely affixes itself in the middle of award season hopefuls. But, as Tom states on his blog over at Digital Shortbread, the multiple superstars create an expectation that is really impossible to reach, even for the most optimistic of viewers. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not necessarily. To the credit of Spielberg and the Coens, Bridge of Spies never feels like separate visions, but it just lacks in the interest factor in spots.

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This film may not be a riveting watch, but it is far from a complete chore to get through, and does shed light on a man I knew nothing of. Trailers give the idea that the bulk of the runtime is mostly in court, which probably would have made for a slower watch for a film already clocking in at 141 minutes. But, the courtroom drama only makes up a piece of the story, and it is actually a piece of the story that is intriguing. There’s wonder in how morally righteous lawyers are able to defend people who deserve no such defending, and while Bridge of Spies‘ particular character in question actually does prove to be a guy worth defending, Spielberg and the Coens still show the internal struggle of how it would be the easy thing to succumb to what the public believes, it may not be the right thing. It is more about ideals and justice than anticipated.

Mr. Tom Hanks has never been one of my absolute favorite thespians to watch, but the man is absolutely a professional, workmanlike and consistent in just about everything he’s done, and that is no different in Bridge of Spies. And, though it can get a little repetitive always seeing him as a good guy, he’s so damn good at being likable. His Donovan is an upstanding, idealistic individual in a profession that is often crooked and shady. He’s really an embodiment of America and her truest values and tenets, a man that believes that everyone is of equal value no matter their status. While he is a guy driven by value, he’s not oblivious like, say, Emily Blunt’s character in Sicario. Donovan is almost always kept in the dark, but he’s not shocked nor blind to it. He uses his wit, and sometimes humor, to get out of the most dire of situations.

The stirrers of the drink are no doubt Hanks and Spielberg’s directorial style. Most of the rest of the cast is relegated to the background with little to do. But, if there is a garnish to the drink, it is easily Rudolph Abel, played by Mark Rylance. Honestly, it wouldn’t be crazy to consider the stage actor the standout star. His screentime fades as the plot moves along, but his presence remains, thanks to some superb early scenes that open the movie and ultimately get it to the real second half drama. Abel isn’t bold or even all that layered as a character, but he’s sympathetic and just as likable as Donovan.

Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) meets with his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent arrested in the U.S. in DreamWorks Pictures/Fox 2000 PIctures' dramatic thriller BRIDGE OF SPIES, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The tandem of Spielberg and Hanks delivers, and should be reason enough for most to take a walk across the Bridge of Spies. Sure, the rewatchability is on the lower end of the spectrum, but as a one-time view, it is a surprisingly interesting and fairly resonant story about what makes America America without being totally preachy.

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to huffingtonpost.com, comongsoon.net, and pop.enquirer.net.

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Captain Phillips: Movie Man Jackson

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I’m the captain now. 

Survival at sea is the name of the game in “Captain Phillips,” based on the true story of the 2009 ship hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, obviously captained by Richard Phillips. The captain is tasked with getting the ship to Kenya, but in order to do so, he must make his way around the Horn of Africa, which, in recent days/weeks, has been inundated with pirate activity. These pirates are real menacing, and ready to seize a fortune.

I was not able to see Captain Phillips in theaters, as I unfortunately missed the second run. However, I am not sure if it would have made a difference, as far as actual feel goes. Some movies are enhanced when watched in the theater, while others can serve the same experience from the comfort of your home. After finishing this film, I am under the belief that it is a good, solid film, but definitely not a great or stellar one, like some of its 2014 Best Picture competition.

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Tom Hanks does give a pretty good performance as the title character. At times, his plight was moving and engaging. But, aside from the last 15 minutes (which is amazing acting, and everyone I talked to/seen on message boards seems to agree), I wasn’t particularly impressed. His accent did seem to be hit or miss, and aside from the aforementioned 15 minutes, nothing stood out. There are quite a few people who seem to be up in arms that Hanks did not get nominated for Best Actor. Me? I have not seen Nebraska or Dallas Buyers Club, but Hanks’ captain role does pale severely when compared to DiCaprio, Ejiofor, and Bale’s nominated performances.

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Much ado has been made of Barkhad Abdi’s job as Muse, the ringleader of the crew that infiltrates the carrier and the man that matches wits with Hanks. Count me as impressed, but not amazed. For his debut performance, he definitely never felt out of place, but again, solid if unspectacular. He did receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and while it is hard to dispute his inclusion, the performance is kind of one-note. With that said, I am excited to see where he goes from here, as all things considered it was a damn good way to announce your arrival. Hanks and Abdi are the only real “memorable” performances; everyone else for the most part is just there, but I would be amiss if I failed to mention one of Muse’s henchman, portrayed by Faysal Ahmed. Like Abdi and the rest of the intrusive pirates, this is his first role. He is just so unpredictable and, at times, frightening. He brought a physicality to the role that the rest of the crew did not possess, and while this film is a vehicle for Barkhad, I could easily see Ahmed having the more lucrative career down the line.

This movie is marketed as a drama with thrilling moments, but if I am being perfectly honest with you guys, I was bored out of my mind for half of this movie. Most of the dramatic moments did not hit home for yours truly, and while one or two of the thrilling sequences left me in a “WOW” stupor, the rest resonated in more of the “Ho-hum” variety. I’m not really sure if this story translates well to the silver screen. However, what struck the biggest nerve from my vantage point was easily the directing which can be summed up in two words: Shaky Cam. Director Paul Greengrass is noted for employing this technique often, namely in a few of the Bourne movies. I have never had a huge issue with it, as most of the films I have seen use it, such as Elysium and Cloverfied, for example, use it effectively in a way that makes sense. But, some movies overuse it, and this is one of them. I suppose you could argue that the director was going for a uneasy feel at sea, with all of the motion. All I’m saying is that it just felt unneeded, and a steady hand would have done the trick in my view. I guess this explains why something felt “off” when I saw the trailer repeatedly.

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A good chunk of this review is negative, but this is not a bad movie. It is just solid, which is probably a word that you have heard me say or allude too much to in this review, but I stand by it. This is just one reviewer’s opinion, and it is entirely possible you could find this film one of the decade’s best, and well deserving of a Best Picture win. Opinions are opinions however, and I will remain in mine. Underwhelming.

Grade: C+

@Markjacksonisms