Sully

This movie is like Tom Hanks himself – a celebration of the everyman, in this case, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks), the US Airways pilot who was thrust into the limelight by a confluence of gut instinct and really good luck that culminated in the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” on January 15, 2009. Sully and first officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) were justifiably hailed as heroes in the aftermath of that incident for their ability to remain incredibly calm and composed as they “landed” their Airbus A320 in the middle of the Hudson River after a bird strike took out both engines shortly after take-off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Miraculously, all 155 souls on board the plane that day survived. We all saw it, either live or on constant televised replay… dramatic images of commuter boats and first-responders in helicopters plucking scores of passengers from the wings of the aircraft. And therein lies the problem with Sully. It’s hard to get overly-invested in the drama when you know everything works out in the end. So while director Clint Eastwood makes an admirable attempt to tell an interesting, lesser-known story about the subsequent investigation by FAA and NTSB desk jockeys and computer-simulated recreations devoid of the “human factor”, all that really matters is the 208 seconds that had passengers and crew heeding the Captain’s call to “brace for impact!” and flight controllers on the ground fearing the worst when the plane drops off their radar. It’s dramatic stuff for sure. But you can only replay 208 seconds so many times in a movie that stretches to hit a 95-minute running time.

The Light Between Oceans

Some people (particularly those who hate melodrama) may scoff at the manipulative nature of The Light Between Oceans, with its sweeping score and dramatic pans of crashing waves and remote landscape; but for fans of a solid romantic drama with a two-kleenex tearjerker quotient, The Light Between Oceans is worth the view.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes on Two Indies: A Tale of Love and Darkness; Morris from America

A Tale of Love and Darkness is obviously a passion project for Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman. She not only stars in the film, which is primarily in Hebrew with English subtitles, but she also wrote the screenplay, and directed. Unfortunately, she may have bitten off more than she could chew with her directorial debut. I can’t imagine anyone rushing out to see this film unless they are already familiar with Israeli writer and journalist Amos Oz and are curious to see how his memoirs have been translated to the big screen. Even they may be surprised and disappointed to discover the film focuses primarily on the mental illness and depression that plagued Amos’s mother Fania (Portman) as he was growing up in Jerusalem in the 1940s.

Mia Madre

This is not a film you will enjoy, but you may relate. The main character Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a film director whose life is falling apart around her. Her relationship with her significant other is over, the film she is directing is being ruined by an actor (John Turturro) who can’t remember his lines, and to top it off her mother is in the hospital dying. Apparently, the film is autobiographical as Nanni Moretti, the writer/director and actor playing the director’s brother Giovanni, lost his mother while shooting his last film. Mia Madre balances the quiet drama of watching the mother go downhill with the silly comedy of Turturro’s Barry Huggins, who has a rich fantasy life including having worked for Kubrick and dreaming that Kevin Spacey is trying to kill him. Unfortunately, the wacky actor from America really steals the show.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur revisited is the best movie for the faith-based crowd since Gods of Egypt, and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek. Both are really weak. Like the 1959 original starring Charlton Heston, the 2016 remake tells the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, Messala Severus, an officer in the Roman army. After years enslaved in the galley of a ship, Judah returns to Jerusalem seeking revenge (and a reunion with his wife), but after an epic 3D chariot race against Messala, Judah finds redemption instead.

War Dogs

War Dogs joins the ranks of ‘good but ultimately forgettable’ movies of the summer. Based on a true story, the film stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as Ephraim Divoroli and David Packouz, a pair of twenty-something Miami dudes who exploited a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on federal contracts. The initiative was meant to restore some balance to the fundamentally flawed defense-contractor universe after the Cheney-Halliburton debacle, but instead it opened the door for chumps like Packouz and Divoroli to exploit the system and rake in millions of your tax dollars during the Iraq War.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE Werner Herzog fan. So when we went to AFI DOCS and could only get one ticket to the Guggenheim Symposium, where Werner would be interviewed and show his new documentary, I was thrilled to be the one to go. The interview was wonderful, and Herr Herzog did not disappoint in his storytelling laced with wry jokes. But the film? Sadly, I was not blown away. The film is essentially a primer on the Internet, its history, its promise, its dangers, its future. It is told in chapters, some interesting, some no so much, with titles like, “The Glory of the Net” and “The Internet of Me.” As the title suggests, it is Herzog’s musings and we are along for the ride.

Into the Forest

What would happen if the electricity and all the things it powers were to disappear? No Internet. No radio. No cell phones! No way of knowing what caused it and when or if it would come back. And what if you were living in some remote locale where just getting into a town that might have some information was nearly impossible since there’s no gas for the car? That is the premise of Into the Forest, starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood as sisters, left alone way out in the woods in a semi-finished house to fend for themselves as their isolation puts enormous strains on their relationship. It’s a quiet post-apocalyptic film with flashes of violence that force them into life-changing choices about their future.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Pete’s Dragon; Florence Foster Jenkins; Hell or High Water

Good news, mainstream movie fans: There really is something for just about everyone at the Box Office this weekend. First, however, I must confess that I missed the screening of Sausage Party and doubt I’ll get around to watching it anytime soon, unless someone wants to send me a Sausage link. Regardless, I suspect the movie is filled with enough raunchy adult animation and humor to entertain a certain demographic. I’ll just leave it at that (for now), and move on to Pete’s Dragon, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Hell or High Water

The best new family film option is Pete’s Dragon, a live-action reimagining of a 1977 Disney flick that I don’t recall watching as a kid, even though it featured music and singing (i.e. how did I miss that one!?) I’m not exactly the target demo anymore for this type of movie, so I borrowed 12-year-old Aaron, 8-year-old Marisa, and their parents for an honest, independent evaluation of this Tarzan-esque meets dragon story. The general consensus: They liked it!

Little Men

Little Men is a small film with a simple story. Two adolescent boys Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) become best buds when Jake’s grandfather dies and his family moves into his Brooklyn apartment. Tony’s mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia, Gloria) runs a shop downstairs in the building, but when Jake’s father Brian (Greg Kinnear) and his sister Audrey decide to raise her rent, the ensuing arguments between the parents threaten the boys’ relationship.