Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Hot to Trot

Tom Hanks runs down another cryptic puzzle in ‘Inferno’

Tom Hanks;Felicity Jones

Inferno
Starring Tom Hanks & Felicity Jones
Directed by Ron Howard
PG-13
In theaters Oct. 28, 2016

“Dante—Dante again,” says Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) as he gazes into the “face” of the late, great Italian poet of the Middle Ages. “Why always Dante?”

Well, it’s not always Dante—but it is this time. And it’s always something involving cloaks, daggers, art, religion and old, cold Mediterranean white guys, as fans of Dan Brown know. Brown is the author who wrote the books Inferno and its two predecessors, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, both of which were also turned into movies with Hanks in the starring role. Brown created the lead character, Langdon, as sort of his own fictional alter ego, a globetrotting, puzzle-solving “symbologist” and professor of religious iconography who repeatedly uncovers conspiracies, solves murders and peels back the layers of other murky mysteries.

In Inferno, Langdon wakes up in hospital room in Florence, Italy, with amnesia and a bloody head wound. Soon he and his nurse, Sienna (Felicity Jones), are running for their lives from a Terminator-like policewoman (Ana Ularu) and connecting the dots from Renaissance-era painter Sandro Botticelli’s painting of hell, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, to a plot by billionaire scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), who just committed suicide. Zobrist’s radical idea of overpopulation control was “cleansing” the planet by wiping out most of the people on it with a viral-pathogen bomb, which he has timed to go off—tomorrow!

Langdon must find the bomb before it’s detonated, and before it’s located by anyone who might try to turn it into a weapon of war, ransom or terrorism.

Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna (Felicity Miller) study 'The Map of Hell'

Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sienna (Felicity Miller) study Botticelli’s painting of ‘The Map of Hell’

Director Ron Howard, who was also behind the camera for Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, keeps things moving, literally. As they put together the clues that will lead them to the bomb, Langdon and Sienna are constantly on the go—dashing through crowded streets, ducking in and out of cars, taxicabs, trains and planes, and across a gigantic attic, through a garden, over a wall, into side doors, back doors and hidden passageways.

Who can Langdon trust? What’s the deal with that dude from Slumdog Millionaire, Jurassic World and The Life of Pi (Irrfan Khan) and his drawer full of knives, and that mystery woman (Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen, currently starring in HBO’s Westworld) in Langdon’s unsettling flashbacks? Who knew there were so many unlocked doors in Italy?

 And the movie never stays put, either. It’s filled with beauty shots of recognizable tourist highlights from all the places Langdon’s search takes him. In Florence, he visits the Baptistry of Saint John and the palatial Palazzo Vecchio; he runs through Boboli Gardens and the Vascri Corridor. A side trip to Venice lets our characters linger on the steps of St. Mark’s Basilica, pontificating about the history of the four bronze horses standing guard there. In Istanbul, we’re treated to a lovely shot of the walls of Constantinople and the movie’s soggy, splashy climax, which takes place in the subterranean 6th century Basilica Cistern.

It all feels like a ridiculously expensive, high-stakes reality-show scavenger hunt, with a preposterously contrived plot twist. And like all of Robert Langdon’s adventures, it takes place in one tidy, 24-hour period.

Kids, if you want to grow up and see the world, by all means, see the world. If you want to solve puzzles, there are plenty of books of Sudoku and there’s always a daily crossword. I’m just afraid I can’t recommend becoming a symbologist—there’s far too much running involved, it’s very dangerous, and Robert Langdon seems to have the market cornered.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Coming In Hot

‘Sully’ signals start of serious fall movie season

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Sully
Starring Tom Hanks & Aaron Eckhart
Directed by Clint Eastwood
PG-13
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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Ahoy, Captain!

Tom Hanks stars in gripping true tale of modern-day piracy

Captain_Phillips

Captain Phillips

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Combo $40.99 / DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Tom Hanks stars in this gripping, critically lauded thriller about the hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates and its daring rescue by the U.S. Navy. Based on a real 2009 incident, it’s a knockout performance for Hanks, who adds yet another notch to his formidable acting belt—but it’s a propulsive breakout for Oscar-nominated newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who, as leader of the ragtag Somali hijackers, conveys an urgency and desperation essential to the movie’s emotional tug-of-war. Extras include a three-part, behind-the-scenes look at the production and the true events on which the story was based, and commentary by director Paul Greengrass.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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The Nanny & the Mouse

The story behind the story behind the story of ‘Mary Poppins’

SAVING MR. BANKS

Saving Mr. Banks

Starring Tom Hanks & Emma Thompson

Directed by John Lee Hancock

PG-13, 123 min.

A Walt Disney movie about Walt Disney making a Walt Disney movie, Saving Mr. Banks is a story behind a story behind a story that will strike a sentimental chord with anyone who remembers Disney’s 1964 hit about a certain singing, flying British nanny.

The true tale of how Uncle Walt convinced P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins, to sell him the rights to turn her storybook series into the now-classic movie musical is spun here into a witty, heart-tugging yarn about Disney’s unstoppable force confronting Travers’ immoveable object.

Tom Hanks plays the avuncular Disney, atop his Magic Kingdom empire in 1961 and trying to finally come through on a 20-year promise to his young daughters to take their favorite childhood character, Mary Poppins, from the storybook to the screen. The prickly Travers (Emma Thompson), the British author of the series of books featuring the English nanny with magical powers, has consistently, persistently tuned down Disney’s offers.

But now, in a financial bind, Travers finally agrees to come to Los Angeles and proceed with a film treatment as long as she’s given script approval and made part of the process. She tells Walt to his face, however, that she won’t have her fiercely guarded Mary “turned into one of your silly cartoons.”

SAVING MR. BANKSThe movie toggles between Travers’ comically difficult work with Disney and his staff, and flashbacks to her golden-glow childhood in Australia with her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell), building connections between the author, her past and her literary creation that don’t become evident until much later in the movie.

Travers hates everything, at least initially—everything about Los Angeles, Hollywood, Disney and the movie his company is trying to make. She hates Dick Van Dyke, the actor hired as the star.  She hates the songs, written by the crack Disney tunesmith siblings Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman). She hates the idea of dancing penguins.

SAVING MR. BANKSPaul Giamiatti has a recurring role as the friendly chauffeur hired by Disney to squire Travers around, becoming the only American she meets to really break through her icy shell. (It’s enough to make you wonder how the same actor could be playing a heartless slave broker just a few multiplex doors down in 12 Years A Slave.)

We all know how things turned out: Walt compromised just enough to win the tug of war, and the movie got made the way he envisioned it. Disney’s Mary Poppins was a smash. Critics praised it, fans adored it and it helped segue Disney from cartoons into live-action features. It won five Academy Awards.

As he did in The Blind Side, director John Lee Hancock pours on the emotion, so much so that it sugarcoats the shortcomings in the script, which fails to neatly, completely wrap up the rather dense details of Travers’ daddy issues and why exactly Mr. Banks, the father of the children in “Mary Poppins,” was in need of being saved.

But Thompson does a fine job, and so does Hanks, especially in a late scene together where their two characters warm to each other when he shares a story about his own hardscrapple youth, and about his own daddy issues—one that helps seal his deal.

And by golly, if you don’t get a bit of a lump in your throat during the “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” scene, well, you’ve got more ice that needs melting than even Ms. Travers.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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O Captain, My Captain

Tom Hanks is riveting in real-life high-seas drama

Tom Hanks

Captain Phillips

Starring Tom Hanks

Directed by Paul Greengrass

PG-13, 134 min., released Oct. 11, 2013

First of all, finally—a movie about pirates that doesn’t have anything to do with Johnny Depp.

The rascally, comically rakish Capt. Jack Sparrow in five Disney Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, Depp is nowhere to be found in this pulse-pounding drama based on the real-life 2009 pirate hijacking of an American cargo ship off the coast of Africa.

And these pirates are a world away from Disneyland, in every way. A desperate bunch of gun-toting coastal villagers from chaotic, war-torn Somalia who attack the massive Maersk Alabama in their small fishing boat, they light the fuse on an international drama that ultimately draws the explosive deadly force of the U.S. Navy and its elite special ops SEALs.930353 - Captain Phillips

Director Paul Greengrass, who previously steered two Bourne spy thrillers and the nail-biting, real-time United 93, starts the story as the commercial captain of the title (Tom Hanks) departs his Vermont home for Africa, where he’ll meet his ship, his crew and his fate.

In the first scene, we eavesdrop on the conversation between Phillips and his wife (Catherine Keener) on the way to the airport about how their kids should study harder in school to keep up with the big, changing world in which they’ll soon become adults—a foreshadowing of the grueling tutorial on the imbalance of global economics Phillips will soon get first-hand on the other side of the globe.

Working from a taut screenplay by Billy Ray (based on Richard Phillips’ book, A Captain’s Duty, about the incident), Greengrass shifts his cinematic canvas from the vastness of the open ocean to the stifling confines of a claustrophobic closed lifeboat in which the final high-wire act plays out.

In the title role, Hanks reminds us why he’s one of the most versatile actors in all of modern movies, capable of just about anything. As Capt. Phillips’ situation moves from bad to worse, his performance intensifies to a rawness that will leave a lot of viewers gasping—if not weeping—along with him at the end.

Tom HanksA movie “based on real events” can often be at a bit of a dramatic disadvantage in that audiences know everything that happened—or at least they think they do. But even if that’s the case here, it doesn’t matter: Greengrass draws out the tension, the suspense, and the sense that anything can happen into the very final moments.

(A new chapter emerged recently, however, as some of the real crew members involved in the incident brought a $50 million lawsuit against their employers, claiming that Phillips and the Maersk shipping line put their lives in danger by taking unnecessary risks—and that the real-life Capt. Phillips wasn’t quite the hero the movie makes him out to be.)

But if the story unfolded anywhere close to the way it’s depicted on the screen, it’s impossible not to come away from it somewhat moved, if not shaken, after watching this high-seas, high-stakes saga that didn’t spring from someone’s imagination, from a comic book, or from an amusement park ride—but rather from the real world in which we live, and one that really happened, to real people, not so long ago.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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