Ep. 88 – Sully, Transpecos, and the various delights of cable TV programming

September 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Sully, Transpecos, talk about watching movies they own on TV, what cable networks can get away with saying, and brainstorm an idea for a podcast covering some as-yet-undetermined terrible new Netflix sitcom.

[00:00-30:11] Intro/cable TV talk

[30:11-50:51] Review – Sully

[50:51-1:00:03] Transpecos

[1:00:03-1:08:11] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Sully

September 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”)
Written by: Todd Komarnicki (“Perfect Stranger”)

With the proliferation of 24-hour news cycles, few amazing stories in the modern era go “untold.” Most people know, at minimum, the basic details of what has come to be known as “The Miracle on the Hudson.” After hitting birds and encountering dual engine failure, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) pulled off an astonishing forced water landing in the Hudson River in New York in early 2009. It dominated headlines for weeks, and Sully became somewhat of a national hero. Since many details are known, a movie this soon after an event could easily seem superfluous and unnecessary. Given that, director Clint Eastwood (“Mystic River”) tries to provide more insight into the man, the event, and the investigation, with varying results.

National treasure Hanks is, as always, solid, if not very, very understated in the lead role. Sully seems like a mechanical guy without a whole lot of personality. There’s still an art to playing a very quiet, monotone presence and Hanks, unsuprirsingly nails it. There’s not a whole lot for him to do, but when it calls for chops, he delivers. Aaron Eckhart also gives a solid performance as the first officer of the flight, Jeffrey Skiles.

One of the biggest faults of the film is its decision to vilify the National Transportation Safety Board, and specifically it’s leader Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley). There’s a lot of evil stares and mean mugging, as Eastwood heavy handedly tries to insinuate that the NTSB are out to get Sully. It’s a shame because the investigative part of the film is what keeps it interesting. There’s a legitimate chance that Sully may have made an unnessecarily dangerous and risky move which makes all of the scenes involving the investigation seem like something the general public may not know a lot about. Instead, Eastwood threatens to derail all of this good by making the NTSB be almost comically evil.

Eastwood makes the decision to show bits and pieces of the crash several times throughout the film. It’s a move that really takes away from what could have been a really hard hitting piece of filmmaking when he shows the entire recreation of Flight 1549 in real time. Instead, it ends up being a retread of a scene we’ve seen played over a half dozen times by that point. There’s no question that it’s harrowing and gripping, but it really starts to lose its luster.

There’s a very blatant overuse of post 9/11 imagery by Eastwood. It’s hard to know exactly what he was trying to evoke here, but there’s no question it was meant to be stirred in people’s minds. There’s a little too much hero-worship going on, and any look into Sully’s personal life, specifically scenes involving his wife played by Laura Linney are far too maudlin, complete with sappy piano music. Still, Sully just barely squeaks by as a well-performed, acceptable tale of American heroism, despite Eastwood’s complete lack of subtlety and questionable directorial choices.

Aaron Eckhart – My All-American

November 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the true-life sports drama “My All-American,” actor Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) plays late UT football coach Darrell Royal, who won national championships with the Longhorns in 1963, 1969, and 1970. Part of the film covers the time when Royal recruited safety Freddie Steinmark, who, after playing in the 1969 “Game of the Century” against the Arkansas Razorbacks, found out he had a malignant bone tumor above his knee and had to get his leg amputated. Steinmark lost his battle with cancer in 1971 at the age of 22, but not before inspiring the U.S. Congress and President Richard Nixon to write the National Cancer Act of 1971 into law.

During an interview with me, Eckhart, 47, talked about what he learned playing the iconic UT coach, his thoughts on the passion of college football, and even chimed in on the excellence of the San Antonio Spurs, specifically future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.

Describe what it was like to take on such an iconic sports figure as UT Coach Darrell Royal?

I knew nothing of the story of Coach Royal or Freddie Steinmark. I came into this completely clean. I got to know what he meant to the community and his players and what he meant to UT and to college football. He is the one that basically pioneered the triple option and the wishbone [formation]. I talked to everybody from [former UT coach] Mack Brown to [former pro cyclist] Lance Armstrong. Everybody came out of the woodwork to tell me a story about [Coach Royal]. I went out to dinner with [his wife] Edith. I did everything I could do to know who he was.

What impressed you the most about him?

He was a hard-nosed, tough-ass coach that wanted to get it right. He was meticulous. He had a work ethic. He was well mannered and expected his players to be well mannered and disciplined. He loved to win. At the same time, he was best friends with [musician] Willie Nelson and could be found on the weekends or during the week out at Willie’s place just listening to music. If you dig deep enough into any human being, you’ll find out that people can surprise you and are very interesting.

What does “My All-American” say about a player like Freddie Steinmark and what he endured in his short life?

Well, he was inspirational and optimistic and had a great spirit. He influenced everyone around him. He was an undersized kid that became the first out-of-state recruit for UT. He was never expected to play. I don’t even think Coach Royal expected him to play. Yet he fights his way onto the first team and becomes the inspiration of the defense. He did it with a smile on his face. He had his faith and did it in his own way. I think that’s to be respected.

What kind of athlete are you? Did you grow up admiring any of your coaches?

I grew up playing sports. I can remember my coaches from my earliest days. They always impressed me and always tried to teach me hard work and discipline. I think, if anything, it would be my dad who I’d say taught me work ethic and taught me how to do things right and to the best of my ability. Directors that I’ve worked with or producers or other actors are always instilling into me what it means to be a professional, which, in my opinion, is the highest compliment.

Could you feel during the making of this movie how big Texas football is?

You can see how big Texas football is if you go into the UT weight room. They have the most impressive weight room. It’s enormous with state-of-the-art equipment, locker rooms, and stadium. Just walking down the hall with [former UT football All-American] Jordan Shipley and listening to him explain to me about all the All-Americans and talking to former players and them telling me what the “Game of the Century” was like (Texas vs. Arkansas in 1969). I understand Texas football is king and that there are expectations with being the coach of a program at Texas. The same thing can be said of Louisiana and LSU. Plus, there’s all the money that’s involved in Texas football and the boosters and the faculty and the university. I found out there is a lot of pressure that comes with being a coach.

But if they’re good at it, coaches can become icons. What do you think when coaches are placed on such high pedestals for their success in the sport?

I think as soon as we put them on a pedestal, we find out they’re still human beings. I think football is important, but I think the life lessons learned in football are more important. I think, ultimately, they’re just coaches. They coach something we love. Now, I do think [athletes] are special people. There are only five quarterbacks in the world that can throw a football competently out of six billion people on Earth. Those are special people and they should be rewarded. I don’t think, however, we should idolize them to the point of deity.

Do you think winning is everything in sports?

If you’re paid to win football games than you should do whatever you can to win football games. Now, I don’t think winning trumps cheating. I think winning needs to be done honestly and fairly. I think there is still honor in defeat depending on how you played. But I do expect to win, yes. I think winning is the name of the game. I think everyone involved in the program should expect to win and should work to win. That’s where I think things get a little confused because people say, “Oh, you’re hurting the kids by playing them too hard or practicing them too hard.” I think anybody who signs up for it should know what they’re getting into and should expect to do the work to win. I do not think they should be criminalized if they don’t win.

What do you think about the fact that college football players are going to start getting paid?

Well, I understand that if someone is going to make money off of someone’s name, that they deserve a cut of that. I mean, heck I’m in the entertainment business. It’s something I know very well. However, I’d hate to see amateur sports go pro. I think there is way too much money in the game. That’s just life, but I think when you put money into the equation things change. I’m an old-school guy. I like hard-hitting football. I like giving the ball back to the ref after you score a touchdown and getting back to the game. But things have changed. I think people now are protecting a brand sometimes more so than actually playing football. But the results are there. All I have to do is not turn on the TV. Sometimes I don’t.

Do you think college football is a more passionate sport than pro-football?

I do. I think the players are still aspiring to get somewhere. They still want to get into the pros. They’re more willing to play a freer kind of football. They have more passion because there is more at stake. I think when you give pro football players a big contract they know they have to protect that contract and protect their bodies. So, I think overall the experience for me is better when I’m watching college than pro.

Who do you root for these days?

I’m an issues-based guy. I liked to watch the best. If I see Alabama going up against Florida State, I just like to see the top guys play. I went to Brigham Young, so I watch them. I watch the [Oakland] Raiders. I also like to watch Denver [Broncos] for [quarterback] Peyton [Manning] or New England for Tom Brady. I just like to watch excellence.

San Antonio knows a little about excellence in sports with the Spurs.

Well, yeah, the Spurs are what I’m talking about in terms of guys out there getting the job done. There’s not a lot of fanfare, but they are superb players. I think [Tim] Duncan epitomizes what I’m talking about. He’s a guy who is a Hall of Famer, Top Ten guy of all time, perhaps, who just gets it done. There’s not a lot of fanfare or talk. He inspires his teammates. He has respect for his coach. He listens to his coach and his coach listens to him. He’s got a big heart. I’m a big Duncan fan.

Some people might say “not a lot of fanfare” equals “boring.”

It doesn’t. I think that’s just something someone created. I think maybe the networks created it. I don’t equate that with boring at all. I think it’s just the opposite. I mean, I’m a big Kobe [Bryant] fan. The reason I’m a big Kobe fan is because he wants to win. He does everything to win. People call him a ball hog or whatever, but I just like guys who will push themselves beyond their limits to win the game. Duncan is one of those guys. Kobe. Dirk [Nowitzki]. I just like watching guys like that.

It’s going to be a tough final couple of years for Kobe on that current Lakers team if all he wants to do is win.

Well, Kobe can’t win it by himself. He’s hurt. I think the big knock on Kobe is his contract. If he were getting $5 million for coming back [instead of $48.5 million over two years], nobody would care. I have no doubt in my mind that Kobe wants to win and thinks he can win. I’ll tune in for that. I’d rather watch a hurt Kobe play or a hurt Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant than a guy that has it all, but he’s not willing to put it all out there and not running as hard as he can.

You don’t have to name any names, but have you run across actors in the industry that do their job half-assed like that?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) Yeah. Look, there’s no difference between two.

Even when their paychecks are that huge?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) Much more than I’m getting.

If you went out to play a game of pick-up football today and played wide receiver, what route would you run?

I would just go deep. (Laughs) I would run straight down the middle of the field to the goal post and then put up my arms.

Would you catch it?

Uh, yeah, I would. I’ve had a lot of quarterbacks throw me the ball. It’s not as easy as it looks, I’ll just say that.

Aaron Eckhart – I, Frankenstein

January 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

As the most recent cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel “Frankenstein,” the new CGI-heavy action movie “I, Frankenstein,” according to the film’s star Aaron Eckhart, isn’t easily comparable to any previous version of the narrative. In the film, Eckhart, best known as Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face in 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” plays Adam, the newest take on Frankenstein’s monster, which was made most famous by actor Boris Karloff in the 1931 film “Frankenstein.” In “I, Frankenstein,” Eckhart’s Adam is placed at the center of an all-out war between computer-generated gargoyles and demons 200 years after his maker, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, jolts him to life during an unearthly experiment.

During a phone interview last week, Eckhart, 45, spoke to me about his role as Frankenstein’s monster and where he falls in the long history of the literary character.

What do you think makes a good monster in a monster movie these days? Is it interesting enough to have something smash things up like Godzilla or do you need a creature that actually has some sort of conscience and understanding of its relationship to the world?

I think a conscience is the best because you’re not only being entertained, but you’re learning something. I think using universal themes is best because we can more easily relate it to ourselves. That is important. Theater and cinema is all about telling stories and passing lessons on to folks. If I was to do anything, I would hope there was a message in that movie to make it better.

Since there is such a long literary history behind the Frankenstein story – and because it’s been adapted into films so many times before – does that put added pressure on you as an actor to live up to the spirit of that story or would you rather “I, Frankenstein” stand alone?

Well, only if you go on Twitter. If you go on Twitter it’s tough. Everybody has their opinions. Our movie moves so far away from any cinematic version of “Frankenstein.” It wasn’t a big question in my mind. People love their literary and historic characters. They have a right to. They don’t want them to be messed with. I’m sure people are going to have a lot to say about this one.

Adam is technically the first monster you’ve ever played in a film, but he’s not the first monstrous character. Who would you say from your past roles is even scarier than Adam? Would it be someone like Chad from “In the Company of Men?”

Yeah, definitely. The monster in “Frankenstein” is looking for love. He wants to be accepted and to fit in. Chad from “In the Company of Men” has no intentions of fitting in. He’s basically a sociopath, so I think he’s definitely more dangerous.

Olympus Has Fallen

March 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”)
Written by: Creighton Rothenberger (debut) and Katrin Benedikt (debut)

Yes! Yes, Gerard Butler, “Olympus Has Fallen” is exactly the kind of film you should be making nonstop! Enough with the horrible romantic comedies. They absolutely do not work with you in the lead, and society is general is worse off for having to experience them. Stick to action and we’ll all be golden, okay? Even if the screenplay is utter crap. We can deal with that as long as there are some cool explosions and fistfights and such.

In “Olympus Has Fallen,” Butler stars as Mike Banning, a dedicated Secret Service agent tasked with protecting President Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd), and their young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). After a terrible accident leaves Banning disgraced, he is moved from the President’s detail and reassigned to a desk job at the U.S. Treasury. Eighteen months later, when a rogue C-130 gunship soars over Washington, DC, mowing down citizens and law enforcement alike in a hail of bullets, Banning springs into action. The target is the White House (code named Olympus). When the building is taken by foreign terrorists, Banning slips inside and becomes the last hope for saving President Asher–and the nation itself.

If you aren’t the kind of moviegoer who can sit back and let the testosterone and jingoism of a political action film just wash over you, then “Olympus Has Fallen” makes an easy target for scorn. The script from first-timers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt is overflowing with action movie cliches and is unashamedly aping “Die Hard.” Butler delivers another meathead performance, complete with an American accent as shoddy as the special effects on display. And Morgan Freeman (as the Speaker of the House pushed into action when both the President and Vice-President are held captive) is clearly phoning it in after having played roles like this seemingly dozens of times. Throw in unstoppable super-weapons, genius computer hackers, and a sneering foreign villain along with everything else and you’ve got the recipe for Generic Action Movie #876, right?

Well, yeah. But in spite of it all, it still works. The “what if?” scenario of the White House succumbing to a terrorist assault is juicy stuff, and it’s hard to get tired of Butler tossing out curse-laden one liners while stabbing bad guys in the brain. And as the Secretary of Defense, Melissa Leo is having a blast as she gets to spit foul-mouthed venom in the face of her captors. When she’s dragged down a hallway screaming the Pledge of Allegiance (as corny as it may be), it’s hard to not be on the edge of your seat waiting for Butler to come to her rescue and put a bullet in someone’s face.

Rabbit Hole

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”)
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire (“Inkheart”)

Delivering her best performance since her Oscar-winning role as renowned author Virginia Woolf in 2002’s “The Hours,” Nicole Kidman doesn’t take her part as a grieving mother and turn it into a typical heartrending exercise.

As Becca, Kidman captures a mother’s anguish after she loses her 4-year-old son in a car accident, but she also fleshes out sensitivity, bitterness and humor in a role that could have easily come off as tedious as the mourning parents Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg play in “Lovely Bones.”

The difference here is that director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) is working from a script written by David Lindsay-Abaire based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. A “rabbit hole,” most notably from the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” is exactly where Becca and her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are trying to crawl out from. After their son dies, nothing makes sense. It’s like they’re trapped in a world they no longer recognize.

Eight months after the tragic accident, Becca is ready to move on. She no longer wants to attend support group meetings and starts to get rid of anything in the house that may remind her of her son. Howie is more comfortable about expressing his feelings about his loss. He watches home movies and keeps pictures around. He also tries desperately to save his marriage from caving in. In one compelling scene, Howie attempts to seduce Becca into having sex with him. The innocent foreplay quickly turns into an argument as Becca makes it clear that life will never been the same again.

“Rabbit Hole” takes the more-is-less approach in storytelling, but unloads the emotional tension through well-written dialogue and some surprising twists in the narrative that keep it distressingly genuine. It’s impossible to even fathom what Becca and Howie are going through unless you have experienced the same pain, but “Rabbit Hole” will have you sympathize with this broken couple. You can feel them slipping away from each other with every straining moment.

The Dark Knight

July 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Memento”), Jonathan Nolan (“The Prestige”)

Is it possible for a film so saturated in hype to be blinding even to the most objective of viewers? With “The Dark Knight” sure to break a few box office records this weekend, it’s no surprise that a visionary director like Christopher Nolan can create such an immensely dim and entertaining crime drama masked as a superhero movie. It’s easily the best comic-book movie of the summer, but to call it more than that is the overstatement of the year.

The accolades, of course, start with the late Heath Ledger’s fiendish and amazing performance at Batman’s nemesis the Joker. Ledger is right on cue as the soulless clown who robs banks alongside his gang of criminals. It’s a completely different portrayal than that of Jack Nicholson from the 1989 version. It’s not better or worse, but it is distinctive and memorable.

Christian Bale returns to form as the most ruthless Batman of any that came before him. Torn between his responsibility as a vigilante crime fighter in Gotham City and settling down with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is now more interested the newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, who is later burned to become Two-Face) than billionaire businessman Bruce Wayne.

As in “Batman Begins,” Nolan has recreated the denseness of a city on the brink of chaos in “The Dark Knight” and it permeates through the entire film. It’s a real-world story with comic-book tendencies and Nolan is the one that is able to mold the two genres together to produce a sort of hybrid crime thriller.

There are moments in “The Dark Knight” where the screenplay has some opportunities to really sideswipe the audience, but chooses some easy way outs of a few intense situations. Where the film could have ended up becoming macabre and transformed the Joker into an incarnate of evil, it bows out and leaves him on a level of likability.

Overall, “The Dark Knight” wowed, but didn’t have a lasting effect despite it’s full-package delivery. That’s usually what happens with summer blockbusters, even when there as impressive as this.