The Films of 2020: 7500 (dir by Patrick Vollrath)


7500 is about one man, sitting in a locked room and trying to prevent a disaster.

Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an American pilot who lives in Berlin.  From the minute we first see him entering the cockpit of the plane that he’s going to co-pilot from Berlin to Paris, he seems to be someone who has his life together.  He moves with the confidence of someone who knows how to do his job and who doesn’t have a single worry that anything could go wrong.  His girlfriend and the mother of his son, Gokce (Aylin Tezel), is a flight attendant on the plane but they both go out of their way to keep things strictly professional whenever they’re working.  In many ways, they seem like the perfect couple.  I’ve flown a lot and I would feel totally confident if I saw Tobias and Gokce working on my flight.

However, shortly after the plane takes off, things go terribly wrong.  Terrorists attempt to break into the cockpit.  Though Tobias is able to force them out and lock the cockpit door, he’s stabbed in the arm while doing so.  His co-pilot is also injured and quickly loses consciousness.  Now, while suffering from blood loss, Tobias has to fly the plane with one arm and negotiate with the terrorists, who are threatening to kill passengers and flight attendants (including Gokce) unless Tobias unlocks the door and allow them to enter the cockpit.

It’s an intense film.  With the exception of some airport security footage at the start of the film, all of the action takes place in that cockpit.  For the most part, we know only what Tobias knows.  We don’t know how many terrorists there are on the other side of the cockpit door.  We don’t know how serious they are when they threaten to start randomly killing passengers.  We also don’t know if Tobias is going to be able to safely land the airplane.  We certainly hope that he’ll be able to land it and the rules of Hollywood have conditioned us to expect a happy ending but, from the beginning, it’s established that 7500 is not a typical Hollywood action film.  Just because Tobias and Gokce are a likable couple and both are doing their best under the worst circumstances imaginable, there’s never any guarantee that they’re going to survive.

A lot of how you react to this film is going to depend on how much you like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He’s on-screen for the entire 92-minute running time.  We see all of the action through his eyes and we watch as he goes from being soft-spoken and confident to being increasingly desperate and emotional.  Gordon-Levitt gives a bravura performance, perfectly capturing not only Tobais’s fear but also his innate professionalism.  No matter how bad things get (and they do get pretty bad as the film progresses), he never forgets that everyone on the plane is depending on him to get them safely to the ground.

The film takes an interesting turn when Tobias shares a few moments when a younger terrorist who seems to be ambivalent about what he’s doing.  I wasn’t quite expecting that but it was a nice touch and Omid Memar did a good job of playing the character.  Ultimately, though, 7500 works best as a showcase for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and he delivers.

Stranger On My Land (1988, directed by Larry Elikann)


The Air Force wants to build a new air base in Utah but the Whitman family refuses to sell their ranch.  Bud Whitman (Tommy Lee Jones) served in Vietnam and he disapproved just as much of forcing Vietnamese villagers to move as he now disapproves of the idea of allowing the government to force American citizens to move.  When a judge rules that the Air Force can force the Whitmans to vacate their property under the rule of eminent domain, Bud announces that he still will not be moving.  With several of Bud’s old combat buddies showing up to support Bud, the villainous county surveyor, Connie Priest (Terry O’Quinn), prepares to take matters in his own hands.

Tommy Lee Jones vs. Terry O’Quinn?  That sounds like it should have the makings of a classic but Stranger On My Land is a largely forgettable made-for-TV movie.  A huge part of the problem is that O’Quinn’s character doesn’t have any real motivation beyond just being a prick and that seems like a waste when you consider the number of interesting villains that Terry O’Quinn has played over the years.  This is the actor who, in The Stepfather, actually made a multiple murderer seem a little bit likable.  Connie Priest seems like a villain that O’Quinn could have done a lot with if only the film’s script hadn’t been so simplistic.  Tommy Lee Jones is always well-cast as a modern day western hero but again, the script doesn’t do much with his character.  He’s just Tommy Lee Jones yelling at people to get off his property.  You could probably go to Tommy Lee Jones’s own ranch and have the exact same experience without having to sit through the rest of this movie.  Even Bud’s ethical objections to the Vietnam War feel like something that was just tossed in to assure the people watching at home that he’s not meant to be some sort of gun-toting militiaman.  The best performance in the movie comes from Ben Johnson, who is plays Tommy Lee Jones’s father.  That’s prefect casting.  If Ben Johnson wasn’t actually Tommy Lee Jones’s father, he probably should have been.

The main problem with Stranger On My Land is that it was made for television and it had to operate within the limits of what was acceptable for television in 1988.  The entire movie seems to be building up to a fierce battle between Bud and law enforcement but instead, it settles for a personal fight between Bud and Connie.  The film’s sudden ending doesn’t feel authentic but it does feel like what you’d expect to find on ABC in the late 80s.

Here Are The Satellite Nominations!


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The International Press Academy — a.k.a. the Oscar precursor that nobody cares about — announced their nominees for the best of 2016 earlier today and it was a very good day for a film that I cannot wait to see, La La Land!

Here are the Satellite nominations!

Special Achievement Award Recipients

Mary Pickford Award- Edward James Olmos
Tesla Award- John Toll
Auteur Award- Tom Ford
Humanitarian Award- Patrick Stewart
Best First Feature- Russudan Glurjidze “House of Others”
Best Ensemble: Motion Picture- “Hidden Figures”
Best Ensemble: Television- “Outlander”

Actress in a Motion Picture

Annette Bening, “20th Century Woman”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Taraji P. Henson, “Hidden Figures”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”
Amy Adams, “Nocturnal Animals”

Actor in a Motion Picture

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Snowden”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Joel Edgerton, “Loving”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Tom Hanks, “Sully
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Helen Mirren, “Eye in the Sky”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Naomi Harris, “Moonlight”
Viola Davis, “Fences”
 Actor in a Supporting Role

Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Eddie Murphy, “Mr. Church”
Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Motion Picture

“La La Land”
“Moonlight”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Lion”
“Jackie”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Loving”
“Hell or High Water”
“Nocturnal Animals”
“Captain Fantastic”
“Hidden Figures”
“Fences”

 Motion Picture, International Film

“The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki”- Finland
“Toni Erdmann”- Germany
“Julieta”- Spain
“A Man Called Ove”- Sweden
“The Salesman”- Iran
“The Ardennes”- Belgium
“Ma’ Rosa”- Philippines
“The Handmaiden”- South Korea
“Elle”- France
“Paradise”- Russia

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media 
Title of Film
“Zootopia”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Moana”
Finding Dory”
“My Life As a Zucchini”
“The Jungle Book”
“The Red Turtle”
“Miss Hokusai”
“Trolls”
“Your Name”

Motion Picture, Documentary

“Gleason”
“Life Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“13th”
“The Ivory Game”
“The Eagle Huntress”
“Tower”
“Fire at Sea”
“Zero Days”
“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week”

Director

Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Tom Ford, “Nocturnal Animals”
Pablo Larrain, “Jackie”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Screenplay, Original

Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water”
Matt Ross, “Captain Fantastic”
Yorgos Lanthimos/Efthymis Filippou, “The Lobster”

Screenplay, Adapted

Andrew Knight/Robert Schenkkan, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Luke Davis, “Lion”
Kieran Fitzgerald/Oliver Stone, “Snowden”
Justin Marks, “The Jungle Book”
Allison Schroeder, “Hidden Figures”
Todd Komarnicki, “Sully”

Original Score

Rupert Gregson Williams, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”
Lesley Barber, “Manchester by the Sea”
John Williams, “The BFG”
John Debney, “The Jungle Book”
Hans Zimmer, “Hidden Figures”

Original Song

“Audition”- ‘La La Land’
“City of Stars”- ‘La La Land’
“Dancing with Your Shadow”- ‘Po’
“Can’t Stop the Feeling”- ‘Trolls’
“I’m Still Here”- ‘Miss Sharon Jones’
“Running”- ‘Hidden Figures’

Cinematography

John Toll, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
Linus Sandgren, “La La Land
James Laxton, “Moonlight”
Simon Duggan, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Jani-Petteri Passi, “The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki”
Bill Pope, “The Jungle Book”

Visual Effects

“The Jungle Book”
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
“Doctor Strange”
“The BFG”
“Sully”
“Deadpool”

Film Editing

Tom Cross, “La La Land
Joi McMillon/Nat Sanders, “Moonlight”
Tim Squyres, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
Alexandre de Francheschi, “Lion”
John Gilbert, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Steven Rosenblum, “The Birth of a Nation”

Sound (Editing and Mixing)

La La Land
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“The Jungle Book”
“Allied”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Art Direction and Production Design

David Wasco, “La La Land
Barry Robinson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Jean Rabasse, “Jackie”
Christophe Glass, “The Jungle Book”
Gary Freeman, “Allied”
Dan Hennah, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”

Costume Design

Colleen Atwood, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”
Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh, “Love & Friendship”
Courtney Hoffman, “Captain Fantastic”
Madeline Fontaine, “Jackie”
Mary Zophres, “La La Land
Alexandra Byrne, “Doctor Strange”

Film Review: The Walk (dir by Robert Zemeckis)


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If you didn’t get a chance to see Robert Zemeckis’s latest film, The Walk, in a theater and, at the very least, in 3D, you really missed out.

In fact, I’m actually a bit surprised that The Walk hasn’t gotten more attention than it has.  Over the past year, whenever I would see the trailer play before another movie, it always seemed like a palpable sense of excitement descended over the theater.  Then, The Walk was released, it got wonderful reviews, and …. nothing.  Down here in Dallas, it played in theaters for three weeks and then it went away.  Since I was on vacation for two of those weeks, I nearly missed it!

But I’m glad that I didn’t miss it.  I say this despite the fact that I’m beyond terrified of heights and The Walk is all about creating the experience of balancing on a wire that’s been suspended between two of the tallest buildings in the world.  As I watched the film, there were many times when I struggled to catch my breath.  I had to put my hands over my mismatched eyes a few times.  But I’m still glad that I saw the film.

The Walk is based on a true story.  In 1974, French street performer Philippe Patet (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is even more adorable here than usual if that’s possible) and a group of accomplices manage to suspend a high wire between the twin towers of the just constructed World Trade Center. High above New York City, Philippe walked across the wire a total of six times.  In the film, Philippe narrates the story while standing on top of the Statue of Liberty.  From the minute that we see Gordon-Levitt and he starts to speak in a theatrical (but never implausible) French accent, we immediately like and relate to Philippe.  By the end of the film, his triumph is our triumph.

At the same time, we also feel his sadness.  Up until the film’s final line, when Philippe makes a subtle reference to it, 9-11 is never explicitly mentioned in The Walk but the shadow of that monstrous attack still looms over frame of the film.  By recreating both Philippe’s act of daring and the Twin Towers themselves, Zemeckis attempts to reclaim the legacy of the World Trade Center from the asshole terrorists who destroyed it.

And The Walk really does put you right there on that wire.  If ever there’s been a film that you must simply see in 3D, it’s The Walk.  Just be prepared to watch some of the movie through your fingers.

Here’s a Really Scary Trailer For The Walk!


So right now, we’re in the middle of Oscar season and everyone’s wondering what will be nominated for best film of 2014?

What better time, then, to take a look at a trailer for a film that might be promoted for best film of 2015?  The Walk is directed by Robert Zemeckis and it features Joseph Gordon-Levitt up way high in the sky.

I’m terrified of heights so I have to admit that this trailer totally freaks me out.  However, I’ll still probably see the movie because it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt after all.

It’s scheduled to come out in October of 2015, shortly before the start of Oscar season.

Back to School #56: 10 Things I Hate About You (dir by Gil Junger)


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A few nights ago, my sister Erin and I watched the 1999 high school-set romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You for like the hundredth time.  Seriously, we love this movie so much and, in fact, just about everyone that we know seems to love it as well.  10 Things I Hate About You is one of those films that brings people together.  If you like this movie, I’ll probably like you.

(Want to see true displays of spontaneous sisterhood?  Go to Girlie Night at the Alamo Drafthouse when they’re showing 10 Things I Hate About You.  You will walk out of the movie with a hundred new best friends.)

Why do people love 10 Things I Hate About You?  There’s a lot of reasons.  I love Heath Ledger singing Can’t Take My Eyes Out Of You.  I love watching Joseph Gordon Levitt at his most adorable.  I love that it’s a film about two sisters, largely because I have three older sisters and there is so much about the scenes between Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) to which I could relate.  I love the film’s quirky sense of humor and its unapologetically big heart.  I love the way the film’s script expertly balances cynicism with sentimentality and humor with warmth.  I love the fact that movie takes in place in beautiful houses and features beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes.  What Erin and I especially love about this film is that, as played by Julia Stiles, Kat is just a kickass chick.

flawless-queen-kat-stratford-16681703

Of course, there’s a reason for that.  Much as how the superficially similar Clueless was adapted from Jane Austen’s Emma, 10 Things I Hate About You is adapted from Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew.  Oddly enough, Shakespeare’s plays seem to translate well into stories about high school.  Maybe it’s because his characters are so often motivated by jealousy, romance, and — it must be said about some — by pure stupidity.  10 Things I Hate About You is definitely one of the best of the teen Shakespeare films.

Taking place at an upper class high school, 10 Things I Hate About You opens with Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) arriving for his first day at Padau High School and quickly befriending the only slightly less adorable Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz).  Cameron wants to ask out the beautiful and innocent Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) but Bianca’s overprotective father (played by Larry Miller) has decreed that Bianca can only date if her older sister Kat (Julie Stiles) is also dating.  The problem is that all of the boys at school are scared of the outspoken Kat.

So, Cameron convinces the hilariously vapid male model Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) to pay the school rebel, Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger, so handsome and charismatic and sexy), to ask Kat out on a date.  Joey, you see, wants to date Bianca as well but Cameron is sure that he can win Bianca away from Joey…

Yes, it’s all a little bit complicated but then again, Shakespeare often is.  For that matter, so is high school.

10 Things

What matters is that all of this leads to a collection of classic scenes and classic dialogue.  What’s my favorite scene from 10 Things I Hate About You?  There’s so many that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one.  There’s the huge party where Joey continually strikes a pose and a drunk Kat ends up dancing on a table.  There’s the wonderful scene where Patrick serenades Kat.  Or how about when Kat reads the poem that gives the film its title.  But for me, my favorite scene is that one where, after spending nearly the entire film as rivals, Kat and Bianca finally talk to each other as sisters.  Bianca demands to know why Kat won’t go to the prom.  Kat tells Bianaca about her own previous history with Joey.  It’s a low-key and heartfelt scene, wonderfully played by both Larisa Oleynik and Julia Stiles, and I love it just because I’ve had similar conversations with all of my sisters.

planet-loser

I suppose this is where I should make some clever comment about having “10 things I love about 10 Things I Hate About You” but actually, there’s more like a 100 things I love about 10 Things I Hate About You.

This movie makes me happy every time I see it.

And, really, what else can you ask a film to do?

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Trailer: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Official Teaser)


Sin City A Dame to Kill For

Hard to imagine it’s been 9 years since the original Sin City hit the big screen. It was a comic book adaptation that many thought wouldn’t work, especially how Rodriguez envisioned it to be slavishly loyal to not just Miller’s dialogue but also his unique art style.

The original film’s success quickly ramped up rumors that a sequel was already being planned using the second graphic novel in the Sin City series. Rodriguez himself stated he wanted Angelina Jolie for the role of Ava Lord, the titular “Dame to Kill For”, but after years and years of delay the role finally landed on Eva Green‘s lap (not a bad choice and one I fully support).

So, we’re now going back to Basin City for more tales of booze, broads and bullets in this hyper-noir film that should be loved or hated in equal measures by those who have followed Frank Miller’s career. Once again the directing duties have been split between Rodriguez and Miller. Here’s to hoping that Miller has learned how to be a much better directer after his last film, The Spirit, tanked.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is set for an August 22, 2014 release date.

Trailer: Don John


PCAS

I am as shocked as anyone to admit that I’m really looking forward to seeing a movie about a man who is addicted to online pornography.  However, in the case of Don John, it helps that the addict is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who also makes his directorial debut with this film).  Add to that, how can you not be excited about seeing Robin and the Black Widow fall in love on the big screen?

Film Review: Lincoln (dir. by Steven Spielberg)


I am a history nerd.

If you’ve read my previous reviews here on the Shattered Lens, that’s not necessarily a major revelation.  Still, before I talk about Steven Spielberg’s latest film, the sure-to-be Oscar nominated Lincoln, you should know where I’m coming from as a reviewer.  Cinema may be my number one love but history, and especially political history, runs a close second.  To me, there is nothing more fascinating than learning how those in the past both viewed and dealt with the issues that we still face in the present.  Whereas some people take pride in being able to name every player that’s ever played for the Dallas Cowboys, I take pride in the fact that I can not only name every President and Vice President in order but I can also tell you exactly who they had to defeat in order to serve in those offices.

I love history and therefore, it was hard for me not to feel as if Lincoln was a film that was made specifically for me.  Covering the final four months of the life of the 16th president, this film tells the story of Lincoln’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment and to bring an end to the U.S. Civil War.  The film also documents Lincoln’s troubled marriage to the unstable Mary and his son’s decision to enlist in the Union Army.  Even though Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner don’t include any vampires*, there’s still a lot going on in Lincoln and it is to their credit that the film remains compelling despite the fact that everyone already knows how the story is going to end.

Daniel Day-Lewis is getting a lot of critical acclaim for his performance in the title role and, for once, I actually have to agree with the critics.  Abraham Lincoln is one of the most iconic figures in American history.  He is such an icon that, at times, it’s hard to believe that this larger-than-life figure, with his stove-pipe hat and his homely face, was an actual human being who lived and breathed and died like any other human being.  It’s easier to think of him in the same way that Jesus Christ used to be represented in films like Ben-Hur, as an inspiring character who is always standing just a little bit off-camera.  The brilliance of Day-Lewis’s performance is that he makes us believe that this legendary figure could actually exist with all the rest of history’s mortals.  For lack of a better term, Day-Lewis humanizes Lincoln.  His performance contains all the bits of the Lincoln legend: the fatalistic melancholy, the steely resolve, the quick humor, and occasional flashes of self-doubt.  The genius of the performance is the way that it takes all the legendary pieces and arranges them to create a portrait of a very believable man.

Though the film is dominated by Day-Lewis’s lead performance, the film’s supporting cast does a good job at bringing to life the people around Lincoln.  Whenever one film can manage to find roles for Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn, Jared Harris, James Spader, John Hawkes, and Jackie Earle Haley, you’ve got good reason to be optimistic about what you’re about to see.  Probably the film’s showiest supporting role goes to Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the firebrand abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.  Admittedly, Tommy Lee Jones gives a standard Tommy Lee Jones performance here but, especially when paired with Day-Lewis’s more internal acting style, the end result is still fun to watch.  Also giving a good performance is Sally Field, who plays Lincoln’s mentally unstable wife.  Historians have rarely been kind (or fair) to Mary Lincoln but Field makes her into a difficult but sympathetic figure.  Finally, even though the role of Lincoln’s son is not a challenging one, I’m always happy whenever Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows up onscreen.

Ultimately, however, Lincoln is a Steven Spielberg film.  Spielberg is a very good director but he’s also a very safe one.  The same can be said of Lincoln as a film.  The film’s cinematography, art design, and costume design are all brilliantly done and award-worthy but it’s still hard not to occasionally wish that Spielberg would have enough faith in his audience that he wouldn’t feel the need to have John Williams provide constant musical cues to let us know what we are supposed to be feeling about what we’re experiencing.  If you’re looking for hints of moral ambiguity, an unflinching examination of the rivers of blood that flowed on the Civil War battlefield, or for an in-depth portrait of Lincoln’s personal demons (and most historians agree that he had a few), you might want to look elsewhere.  This is not Martin Scorsese’s Lincoln.  This is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  This is a film that is meant to be inspiring (as opposed to thought-provoking) and, for the most part, it succeeds.

I have to admit that I went into Lincoln expecting to be disappointed.  Ever since the film first went into production in 2011, websites like Awards Daily have been hyping this film to death.  Before many of them had even seen the completed film, online critics were announcing that both the film and Daniel Day-Lewis were the clear front-runners for the Oscars in 2013.  As anyone who has read my previous reviews on this site knows, nothing turns me off more than the bandwagon mentality of the critical establishment.  Often times, when a film is embraced as vehemently and as early as Lincoln has been, I feel almost honor-bound to be a hundred times more critical of it than I would be of a film like Step Up Revolution.

However, Lincoln is a rarity.  It’s a film that, for the most part, actually lives up to all the hype.

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*I imagine that little joke will cause a lot of confusion to anyone who, ten years in the future, happens to stumble across this review.  To you, future reader who has forgotten all about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I can only apologize.