Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Coming In Hot

‘Sully’ signals start of serious fall movie season


Starring Tom Hanks & Aaron Eckhart
Directed by Clint Eastwood
In theaters Sept. 9, 2016

“Brace for impact.”

Those three words are at the heart of this inspiring big-screen salute to Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, whose successful emergency landing of crippled US Airways Flight 1549 became known around the world in 2009 as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Sully makes the “impact” announcement when he realizes there’s no way for his plane—with two failed engines, both destroyed by a massive flock of Canadian geese—to make a conventional landing. The line is later brought up, for much more lighthearted effect, when Sullenberger and his flight crew make a TV appearance alongside late-night host David Letterman.

usp-07014rv2But “Brace for impact” also means for you, the viewer, to hang on and get ready to dig in: Summer is over and a more serious movie season has begun. Based on Sullenberger’s 2009 best-selling memoir Highest Duty, directed by Clint Eastwood and with Tom Hanks in the starring role, Sully gives off somber Oscar signals with its theme of an ordinary, matter-of-fact man simply doing his job—until something extraordinary comes along requiring him to rise up to meet its unprecedented challenge.

“Everything is unprecedented,” Sully notes later, “until it happens for the first time.”

US Airways 1549 was in the sky less than four minutes, and Eastwood’s film toggles back and forth between the incident itself, Sully’s nightmarish flashbacks, and the wrenching post-event investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which drilled and grilled Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (an excellent Aaron Eckhart) on every detail. Was the plane really too damaged to to fly? Did Sully do everything he could to get back to the airport—any airport—instead of risking lives unnecessarily by landing on water? Pilots in computerized flight simulators, fed with data of the incident, indicate that it would have been possible to bring the plane back to LaGuardia, or into nearby Newark, or Teterboro…

“They’re playing Pac-Man!” an exasperated Skiles counters. “[We were] flying a plane full of human beings.”

Laura Linney plays Sullenberger's wife.

Laura Linney plays Sullenberger’s wife.

As the investigation drags on and Sully is hauled before the “court” for days and days, with his career and reputation on the line, the media feasts on his amazing feat—a water “crash” landing from which all 155 passengers and crew members were safely evacuated. And the Big Apple, in the financial dumps of the Great Recession and still reeling from the aftershocks of 9/11, anoints him a hero. A bar names a drink—a shot of Grey Goose with a splash of water—in his honor. Strangers give him hugs and kisses.

“It’s been a while since New York had news this good,” one character tells him, “especially with an airplane in it.”

“I don’t feel like a hero,” Sully says. “I’m just a man who was doing his job.”

usp-fp-0155-for-web-72-cropHanks, his hair dyed white, looks very much like the real-life pilot he’s portraying, a career aviator whose lifelong love of flight—as we see—dates back to boyhood and crop-dusting biplanes. “Never forget,” his first flight teacher tells young Sully in a lesson that certainly reverberated through the years, “no matter what happens, fly the airplane.”

Just a man doing his job, a guy flying a plane, a pilot controlling the stick. Brace for impact—Sully shows us just how important that one “ordinary” person can be, when ordinary circumstances sudden, unprecedentedly, become extraordinary.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine





















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A Lotta Bull

Latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation really piles it on


The Longest Ride

Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin & Alan Alda

Directed by George Tillman Jr.


Maybe The Notebook didn’t make you sigh, sob or swoon enough. Perhaps you really liked Channing Tatum in Dear John, but wondered…hmmm, how would he look on top of a big, bucking bovine? Or maybe, even with fireworks, a huge explosion and a character that turned out to be a ghost (!), there still wasn’t quite enough going on for you in Safe Haven.

If, somehow, none of the other nine movies made from romance novelist Nicholas Sparks’ popular, heart-tugging tearjerkers had enough whatever-it-is that you go to Nicholas Sparks movies for, well, the tenth might just be the charm.

THE LONGEST RIDEFirst of all, The Longest Ride doesn’t just give you one love story, but two—a pair of parallel passion tales stretching across more than two hours of screen time and four-fifths of a century. And it’s positively loaded—with sorority girls, hunky cowboys, country music, horses, bulls, modern art, love letters, World War II battlefield heroics, playful beach frolics and a sex scene so hot and steamy it seems to smoke up the whole Smoky Mountains.

It also has massive amounts of hoke, contrivance and manipulation. The plot, driven by a series of outrageously ramped-up coincidences, sets up a tale so implausibly fluffy, you wonder if the characters would be able to set foot on anything solid if they happened to come across it. A slow-mo shot of snortin’ bull snot is about as close as things gets to a sense of gritty reality.

Britt Robinson (who played Angie McAlister on TV’s Under the Dome) is Sophia, a Wake Forest University student who falls for professional bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint), which threatens to put a wrinkle in her plans for a post-graduate internship at a prestigious New York artTHE LONGEST RIDE institute. One dark, rainy night after their first date, they come across a wrecked car and its badly injured driver, Ira (Alan Alda), whose own story then begins to unspool in flashbacks as the rapt Sophia visits him in the hospital, reading aloud to him from the box of letters he’s saved over the years from the love of his life, his late wife, Ruth.


Oona Chaplin & Jack Huston

Like the big bowl of mac and cheese Luke says is his favorite dish, it’s all mostly a bunch of squishy, deep-dish goo—but hey, it does look pretty good. The on-location photography, in and around Wilmington, N.C., is picture-perfect, which adds to the feel of dreamy romantic fantasy. Scott Eastwood—who bears an uncanny resemblance to his famous father in his early acting days—is a bona fide hunk, and time seems to slow down every time the camera pans across his sculpted, shirtless torso (which is often). Pay attention to the actors who play the younger versions of Ira and Ruth, Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin, not only because they make Ira and Ruth’s story so much more interesting and compelling than Luke and Sophia’s, but because you’re watching the progeny of Hollywood royalty: He’s the grandson of legendary actor-director John Huston, and her granddaddy was silent-movie icon Charlie Chaplin.

The Longest Ride likely won’t convert any newcomers to the Nicholas Sparks fold. But if you’re already a fan, hey, saddle up: This bull’s for you.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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‘American Sniper’ aims for entertainment & something deeper


American Sniper

Starring Bradley Cooper & Sienna Miller

Directed by Clint Eastwood


If you were one of the millions of people who read Chris Kyle 2012 bestseller American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, you might have thought, “That’d make a great movie!”

Steven Spielberg, thought so, too, and wanted to direct it. Bradley Cooper, who’d already ventured into executive roles with his Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, agreed, and wanted to produce it—and wanted Chris (Guardians of the Galaxy) Pratt to star in it.

But in Hollywood, things don’t always end up the way they start out. Spielberg decided to take a pass, and Clint Eastwood stepped in. And Cooper decided not only to produce, but also to play the leading role of the highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL, who killed more than 160 “hostiles” during four tours of duty in the Iraq War—before his life took its own ironically tragic turn.

TA3A6997.dngIt would have no doubt been different, with a different director and a different leading man, but it’s hard to imagine it being much more successful, dramatically stronger or more emotionally visceral. Eastwood and Cooper both bring their A games for this taut, tense, terse drama that depicts Kyle’s trajectory from Texas good ol’ boy to one of the military’s most effective killing machines, as it also bites down hard on the psychological effects of war, violence and combat that linger long after the fighting is over.

Cooper is an undeniably versatile actor; he’s done serious drama as well broad comedy. But this role is unlike anything he’s ever undertaken, requiring him to bulk up with 30 pounds of muscle and take on a vowel-stretching Lone Star drawl to play Kyle, who knocked around as a rodeo cowboy before enlisting in the SEALs after watching TV coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Sienna Miller

Sienna Miller plays his frustrated wife, Taya, who watches helplessly as her husband wrestles with emotional demons she can’t fathom each time he returns home from a tour.

Eastwood, 84, is a Hollywood icon best known as for his portrayal of a “hall of fame” of iconic cowboys, cops and other classic characters—but he’s also directed more than 30 movies, beginning back in the early 1970s, for which he’s won two Oscars.

Working with his longtime cinematographer Tom Stern, he sets up every shot with solid, no-nonsense precision. Every detail feels right: the paint on the scope of Kyle’s rifle, worn away by thousands of minute focusing adjustments; the makeshift U.S. outposts on the outskirts of Fallujah or Sadr City, where the plywood on the barracks for the troops looks so fresh you can almost smell it; the quick red splatters of blood, which splash across the bleached-out, blanched background tones like crimson punctuation marks, whenever Kyle’s aim is true.

Kyle’s reputation as a deadly marksman makes him feared among the Iraqi opposition—and highly valued as a trophy. Other snipers, including one known as Mustafa, have their sights trained on him. And then there’s a shadowy terrorist henchman, the Butcher, whose torture instrument of choice is a power drill. Be warned: There’s one particularly harrowing scene, involving an hysterical Iraqi family, whizzing bullets, dueling snipers, Kyle’s wife on a cell phone, a growling dog, and the Butcher and his drill. Eastwood doesn’t rub your nose in it for any longer than necessary, but it’s a terrifying reminder of atrocities of war.

“It’s a heck of a thing to stop a beating heart,” Kyle tells his young son, taking him on his first hunting trip, making him understand that killing anything is not to be taken lightly. Is American Sniper pro-war or antiwar? Is a sniper a hero, or just a soldier doing his lethal job? Where’s the line between civilization and savagery during wartime, and what’s the price of walking it? Can there ever be enough good to overcome evil? Eastwood wants viewers to watch, think and decide. American Sniper aims for entertainment as well as something even deeper, and hits its mark.

 —Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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The Jersey Way

Clint Eastwood brings Frankie Valli & Four Seasons to the screen


Jersey Boys

Starring John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen & Christopher Walken

Directed by Clint Eastwood

R, 134 min.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons provided a snappy pop soundtrack to the 1960s and early ’70s, then rode a wave of massive nostalgic resurgence as the subjects of a smash, song-filled 2005 Broadway production, Jersey Boys, based on their story.

Now director Clint Eastwood dramatizes the saga of Valli and his three original singing partners in a movie—one that takes a lot of its cues from the Tony Award-winning musical. Using several of the Broadway cast members and two of the show’s writers, Eastwood shows how the young musicians came together in the early 1950s and rose to fame, walking a line between petty crime and dreams of stardom.


John Lloyd Young plays Frankie Valli.

“I’m going to be as big as Sinatra,” boasts Valli (John Lloyd Young) to the sexy young Italian spitfire who’ll eventually become his wife (Renée Marino). His mom worries he’ll end up “dead or in jail.”

Young, who portrayed Valli on Broadway, is outstanding, especially when summoning up Valli’s uncanny, almost otherworldly falsetto. “A voice like yours, it’s a gift from God,” says Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), the local mob wise guy, whose eyes well with tears when Frankie sings.

Erich Bergen plays Bob Gaudio, the Four Seasons’ songwriting guru, introduced to the group by Joe Pesci (yes, the actor, here played “pre-stardom” by Joseph Russo). Michael Lomenda is baritone singer Nick Massi, who never has much to say—until he explodes in a quasi-comical rant about having to room with dictatorial group founder Tommy DiVito (Vincent Piazza, the only performer who didn’t play a Four Season on Broadway).

By using a cast of newcomers, Eastwood focuses the attention on the story, not the stars. Having the main actors occasionally look directly into the camera and address the audience, however, is hit and miss. A holdover from the musical, it’s meant to allow each band member to provide his “side” of the story, but the voices fail to create a much of a framing device, or add any traction to the tale.


And what a tale: Dizzying heights (100 million records, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), crashing lows (gangsters, embezzlement, fractured families). But for such an epic yarn, things often feel underdeveloped, too quick to move on. Nothing’s given time to sink in, register, resonate. Eastwood’s a solid, meat-and-potatoes director, but this fascinating, multi-textured story could have perhaps benefited from a bit more fine-tuning and finesse.

The music and the musical scenes, however, are toe-tapping terrific. And the story, a real-life combination of Goodfellas meets That Thing You Do!,follows a gritty, all-American arc of talent, pluck and luck, punctuated by songs—“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Ragdoll,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “My Eyes Adored You”—that have stood the test of time.

The end-credits curtain call has the entire cast spilling into the streets for a choreographed hoof-it to “September 1963 (Oh What a Night),” the Four Seasons’ last big hit, from 1975. Another nod to the movie’s Broadway roots, it should help a lot of music lovers—especially those “of a certain age”—stroll out of the theater a bit looser, livelier and lighter than they walked in.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Squint Like Clint

Iconic 1973 Western made name for writer-director Clint Eastwood

HighPlainsDrifterHigh Plains Drifter: 40th Anniversary Edition

Blu-ray, $19.98 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The main character didn’t have a name in his 1973 Western, but he certainly made one for Clint Eastwood. The “man with no name,” as he came to be called, became a pop icon of rugged, silent, vengeful Old West justice and helped establish Eastwood as an actor-director force in Hollywood. This new hi-res edition doesn’t have any special features (bummer!), but its charms are in its re-mastered clarity, which brings every dusty, squinty, sun-baked, sweat-soaked detail to vibrantly renewed life in the tale of a mysterious stranger of few words who helps a small, sin-ridden town rid itself of a violent band of outlaws.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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