Tagged: Tom Hanks

Box Office Democracy: “Sully”

Maybe every significant historical event doesn’t need to be a feature film.

It’s clear from the glut of remakes and sequels that Hollywood is running out of ideas, and while we’ve mined World War II as thoroughly as I think is possible, some things still don’t qualify as feature films. Sully has an amazing story to tell but it doesn’t have 90 minutes of story to tell. You could get all of the essential bits of narrative into an hour of TV with commercials and it might still feel padded. There’s an extreme amount of flat out useless content in here; some of it is trying to create conflict, some of it is trying to link the landing on the Hudson to 9/11 in some appallingly exploitative filmmaking, and some of it is just there to pad the anemic running time.

Clint Eastwood is a fantastic director and the in-air scenes are masterfully done. Everyone who sees this movie contemporarily is going to know exactly what happens, that the plane is going to land safely in the Hudson River and that everyone on board is going to live, but those scenes in the air are amazingly intense. The way Eastwood tells the story from, the inside of the cockpit, to the passenger cabin, to the air traffic controller, to the first responders, and even the incidental New Yorkers is masterful. The sequence, the way they run it the first time through, is worth the price of admission by itself.

I say “the first time they run through it” because at the end of the film they run the whole sequence back again, this time with the contrivance of everyone listening to the flight data recorder. This time we get just Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart doing the least interesting parts of their performances going through a sequence we’ve already seen in a more interesting way earlier in this 90-minute film. There simply isn’t enough stuff in this movie once we move away from the thing we all came here to see, so they have to keep filling.

There’s a frame story about a National Transit Safety Board investigation trying to put fault at the feet of Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles that felt inauthentic in the theater, remembering the universal adulation these men got— and upon research, was inaccurate enough that the real-life Sullenberger asked for the names of the investigators to be changed. There’s a family plot that feels like it’s missing a key detail or some additional context to explain why the scenes are all so stilted, it’s like they filed for divorce the day before and no one decided to mention it. There are also two flashbacks: one showing Sully at flight school for the briefest moment and one showing a tricky landing from his Air Force days, and while they’re effective in what they do and mercifully brief it’s very strange to have this gesture towards being a biopic before backing away.

I didn’t appreciate all of the gestures to 9/11 imagery they used in Sully. I don’t know if they put them in and then decided it was perfect to release on the weekend of the 15th anniversary, or if they saw they had that opportunity and added them in, but I hated them. The movie opens with Sully having a nightmare about turning back towards LaGuardia and crashing in to a building in Manhattan, and then later in the movie he’s standing by a window looking over Times Square and sees a plane crash into a building. These scenes did not feel to me like they were the ideal way to show the trauma of living through the experience (although for all I know it’s what really happened) but seemed, to me, to be an attempt to get some 9/11-style imagery in the movie to get some jingoism in. As a honest-to-goodness 9/11 victim, I hated it. It’s shot very realistically, brought me back to some times I would prefer to keep in my past, and I didn’t care for it at all.

I don’t know who has the authority to tell Clint Eastwood he can’t make a movie these days, but they should have sat him down with this one. Not every significant American moment needs to be a movie, even if at the end we can have a feel good moment about first responders. Sully is a movie with one fantastic sequence and a bunch of filler because no one would pay $15 to see a 45-minute movie in a theater. Sully is a bunch of talented people doing good work, in the service of a movie that feels empty at best and exploitative at worst. I want better from all involved.

Martha Thomases: Saving Mr. Disney

Thomases Art 140103Like so many kids of my generation, Walt Disney was my baby-sitter when I was a kid. “Uncle” Walt sometimes showed up on The Mickey Mouse Club. He was the genial host of The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. He was the bestower of Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Goofy and all those amazing cartoons.

Alas, I grew up, as kids tend to do. I learned more about Disney, the man and the business. The business was well-known for its penny-pinching, and Walt, personally, was a right-wing, union-busting anti-Semite. These are not the kind of institutions I tend to support.

And yet ….

The reason for these musings is that I just saw Saving Mr. Banks, a lovely movie about the making of Mary Poppins.  And it is a lovely movie, even though it is almost surely inaccurate. It stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks as P. L. Travers, the writer of the Poppins books, and Uncle Walt. The biggest problem most people seem to have with the movie is that it whitewashes Disney.

The story the movie tells concerns the tensions between Travers and Disney over the kind of movie to make, based on the books. I didn’t read the books as a child, but I did read them aloud to my son when he was a boy, and they are both lovely and quite different from the film. I don’t care, I enjoy them both. Similarly, I like both the Disney Peter Pan and the book, which, again, is quite different. In both cases, one is entertained and uplifted by the various stories in the various media.

My favorite part about the movie (besides B.J. Novak is that it is about a relationship between a man and a woman that is not even slightly romantic nor sexual, but still emotional and involving and affecting. Hanks is not the least bit like the Walt Disney I remember, and I don’t really care. The character works in the story, which is what I want from my cinematic experience.

It made me think about my feelings for Disney. On the one hand, his politics were, reportedly, terrible, and his business policies hurtful to a lot of hardworking creative people. On the other hand, he made some of my favorite films. On the third hand, he was a human being with a family he loved who loved him, and the same kinds of human insecurities and failings as the rest of us. These contradictions are what make each of us interesting, each of us a worthy star of our own life story.

None of this is to say that, Constant Reader, will necessarily like this movie. I’m not even sure I can say it’s great art. It made me think about art and commerce and families and the love and respect we owe each other despite (sometimes because of) our sins.

Together with my senior discount, it was well worth the afternoon.


SUNDAY MORNING: John Ostrander



REVIEW: Big 25th Anniversary Edition

Big 25Heart and soul.

It’s what Josh Baskin and MacMillan play during the memorable dance scene in 1988’s Big but it’s also what the film is infused with, making it stand up to the test of time. Yeah, its look is dated thanks to bad hair and big shoulder pads, but the story of a 13 year old’s wish to become an adult endures.

20th Century Home Entertainment has released Big 25th Anniversary Edition this week, in time for last minute stocking stuffers. It belongs under every tree because it’s just so well crafted, explaining how Tom Hanks earned an Oscar nomination for his performance. His work stems from the Academy Award nominated script by Gary Ross and Annie Spielberg.


Frustrated at being small for his age and unable to achieve his modest goals, Josh (David Moscow) makes a wish at the local carnival. The unplugged Zoltar fortune telling machine grants his wish in a nice touch of magical realism and then we’re off. Josh (Hanks) wakes up as a 30 year old complete with stubble. He panics after discovering the carnival has packed up and left, and goes on to terrify his mother (Mercedes Ruehl), who believes the man an intruder. Thankfully, his best friend Billy (Jared Rushton) accepts his crazy explanation and uses his savvy to help him navigate an adult world.

When the two learn it’ll take six weeks to receive details on carnivals in the state, it’s clear Josh needs a job so he can survive on his own. Fortune leads him to a computer job at MacMillan Toys where his unique perspective rockets him up the corporate ladder, much to the consternation of Paul Davenport (John Heard), confusion of Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins), and fascination of MacMillan (Robert Loggia). Of particular interest is Josh’s pitch for an interactive comic book way before graphic novels and digital comics were tangible parts of our world.
Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-20282275-1024-576Director Penny Marshall brought a light touch to the film, encouraging improvisation from her cast, and a keen eye on treading the line between drama, comedy, and slapstick. She unleashes Hanks, who excels in several set pieces beyond the immortal dance bit such as the office party where he demolishes the appetizer table or gently caresses a woman for the first time. Her casting was pitch perfect, allowing the film to be alternatively sharp and warm.

The film comes nicely packaged with a Blu-ray and DVD, along with sound chip playing “Heart & Soul” and Zoltar cards for personal wishes. The Blu-ray offers you the 1988 theatrical release (104 minutes) along with the extended cut (130 minutes) which was first released in 2007. The deleted scenes are reinserted for the longer version and it’s not appreciably better. If you prefer the original, the ten deleted scenes are included as an extra, with five intros by Marshall.

Tom-in-Big-tom-hanks-9828233-1024-576Ported over from the 2007 release are several features including the audio documentary by Ross and Spielberg and the Carnival Party Newswrap. New is the Big Beginnings where Marshall, producer James L. Brooks, Ross, Spielberg, Perkins, Loggia, Perkins, and Rushton discuss the film’s origins. Interesting to note is that even though they had the body switching notion first, mounting the production took so long that other stories, now easily forgotten, hit the screens first making everyone nervous about its reception. Chemistry of a Classic further breaks down elements of the film, including behind the scenes footage of key scenes. The Work of Play is a nice companion feature looking at the real world of toy manufacturers and how closely Big captured the goings on. Finally, the syndicated Hollywood Backstory episode on Big is included.

Take a Look at Saving Mr. Banks

Take a Look at Saving Mr. Banks

Walt Disney, the studio not the epoymous founder or Tom Hanks, has released several featurettes spotlighting Saving Mr. Banks, which opens today.

Genre:                   Drama
Rating:                  PG-13
Release Date:     December 13, 2013, limited; December 20, 2013, wide
Running Time:   120 min

Cast:                      Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker and Colin Farrell

Director:             John Lee Hancock
Producers:         Alison Owen, Ian Collie, Philip Steuer
Executive Producers:  Paul Trijbits, Christine Langan, Andrew Mason, Troy Lum
Written by:                       Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith

Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.

When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.

For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.

It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.

Inspired by true events, Saving Mr. Banks is the extraordinary, untold story of how Disney’s classic Mary Poppins made it to the screen—and the testy relationship that the legendary Walt Disney had with author P.L. Travers that almost derailed it.


  • Saving Mr. Banks is the first feature-length, theatrical drama to depict the iconic entrepreneur Walt Disney.
  • Richard and Robert Sherman’s original score and song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) would go on to win Oscars® at the 1965 ceremonies.
  • Mary Poppins won five awards of its 13 Academy Award® nominations: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Original Score and Original Song. Among the nominations were Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • P.L. Travers’ father was a banker and is the basis for the Mary Poppins story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks—the character in the book whom the famous fictional nanny comes to aid.


The Point Radio: ARROW’s Aim Is Still True

As ARROW  hits the halfway mark of the TV season, fans and critics alike say it keeps getting better. We go backstage with the creators and cast to find out how they got this far, and what lies ahead for new characters including one played by fan favorite John Barrowman. Plus How about Captain Kirk, Ron Burgundy or Spock doing your voice mail message? It can happen if you hurry.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Howie Mandel’s Got Holiday Game

It’s a Christmas tradition at a lot of holiday parties. You might call it “Secret Santa” or “White Elephant” but now it’s getting super-sized and coming to NBC for five consecutive nights. Howie Mandel joins us to talk about what TAKE IT ALL will mean to the landscape of primetime television, plus Neil Gaiman hits radio and WALKING DEAD fans can keep the fear going with a new iOS game.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Kurt Sutter On SONS Bloody End

SONS OF ANARCHY will be wrapping this season on a particularly bloody note, which has been the tone for the last few months. We talked with series creator Kurt Sutter about his plans to keep the tension and betrayal coming. Plus everyone is waiting for the 2nd part of the direct-to-DVD DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Bruce Timm & Andrea Romano join us to talk about what we will and won’t be seeing in the next part set to hit stores in 2013.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: GO ON Pushes NBC To The Top

The November TV Ratings Sweeps are over and for the first time in a while, NBC climbed to the top. Critics are saying that the win was due to several of the network’s new shows, including the comedy GO ON. We talk to the creators and cast about just how a show about death became so funny, plus Chevy Chase finally bolts from COMMUNITY and David Tennant back on DOCTOR WHO??

The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: GRIMM & PERSON OF INTEREST – Shows To Be Thankful For

The second season of NBC’s GRIMM has turned the characters upside down, especially “Juliette” played by Bitsi Tulloch. She fills us in on how it all happened – and what’s coming up on the show when it returns in 2013. Plus CBS’ PERSON OF INTEREST is a Top 5 rated show which has been a surprise to a lot of folks including stars Michael Emerson & Jim Caviezel who talk about putting the show together. Meanwhile, STAR WARS gets two more writers and WOLVERINE gets a Marvel NOW launch.

The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Marvel Recaptures The Comic Stores

DC’s dominance of sales in comic stores melted a bit in October as Marvel retook the top sales spots, plus a certain pesky Image comic had another good mo0nth as well. We analyze the numbers including revealing the WORST selling comic of the month. Plus we continue our look at BATTLESTAR:GALACTICA – BLOOD & CHROME including a visit with the new William Adama.

The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.