Ep. 128 – Toy Story 4

June 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod try to determine the worthiness of “Toy Story 4.”

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Ep. 103 – Top 5 movies of the year so far, home video reviews of The Circle, Unforgettable, and Kong: Skull Island, and a preview of Fathom Events this week

August 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod run down their top 5 movies of 2017 so far. They also preview a pair of Fathom Events, “Batman and Harley Quinn” and “Rifftrax Live – Doctor Who: The Five Doctors,” and Cody reviews home video releases for “The Circle,” “Unforgettable,” and “Kong: Skull Island.”

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Inferno

October 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Angels & Demons,” “The Da Vinci Code”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Angels & Demons,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdon of the Crystal Skull”)

Call me a philistine if you will, but I, like a lot of people in the mid-2000s, enjoyed the novels of Dan Brown. With titles like “Digital Fortress” and “Deception Point,” it should be abundantly clear what you’re putting your hands on: mindless distraction during your lunch hour that, maybe, you can talk about with someone else once you’ve finished. To further illustrate my point, I’ve also read a vast majority of James Patterson’s nursery rhyme-themed novels featuring Alex Cross for reasons I don’t fully understand, beside the fact that I’d been doing so for the better part of two decades. The works of either author are far from being considered high art—and their film adaptations aren’t really any better.

Which brings us to “Inferno,” the third movie in the series that includes “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” from director Ron Howard (based on the fourth book—sorry, “The Lost Symbol”) featuring Tom Hanks as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, a somewhat milquetoast professor who is a world-renowned expert in solving intricate puzzles based on or embedded in Renaissance works of art. This time out, Langdon wakes up in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, having apparently suffered a gunshot wound and retrograde amnesia. This is all according to his young doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who actually recognized Langdon from a lecture she attended when she was nine years old. The two must make a hasty escape, though, when moments after Langdon awakes, an Italian police officer comes in shooting. Langdon and Sienna retreat to her apartment, where Langdon discovers some gizmo in his jacket that projects an altered image of Dante’s 7 layers of hell, peppered with clues by bizarre billionaire Betrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), hinting at the end of the world. You see, Zobrist has created a supervirus that will wipe out half of humanity in a matter of days so as to save the earth from overpopulation, and it’s up to a 60-year-old professor and his young English doctor sidekick to stop Zobrist—once they shake the jack-booted thugs the World Health Organization (!!!) sends gunning for them, that is.

While bereft of fun and weighing heavy with a sense of “let’s just get through this” obligation, “Inferno” falls squarely into the same category as “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” before it: inoffensive and forgettable. Howard and Hanks, who I’ve never thought was right for the role, must be making a mint off of all of this, and they both seem like super nice guys, so what’s the problem, right? Plus, Irrfan Khan seems to be having a good time (and if the script had any eyes on a continuing the series, would have been less beholden to his character’s inconsequential fate in the book) and seeing Felicity Jones is a good reminder of how excited you’ll be to see “Rogue One” in a couple of months. Just pretend the movie is like one of the many museums the characters visit: you’ll buy the ticket and hope the experience goes by as quickly as possible, and maybe you’ll share a small conversation about it with someone at work on Monday. It really is the best case scenario.

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.

Bridge of Spies

October 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”)
Written by: Matt Charman (“Suite Francaise”), Ethan Coen (“True Grit”) and Joel Coen (“Inside Llewyn Davis”)

Bringing Oscar winners like director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Hanks and the screenwriting duo of Joel and Ethan Coen together feels like the producers of the Cold War drama/thriller “Bridge of Spies” are just showing off. While the combination of Spielberg and Hanks hasn’t always been a perfect pairing the last three times out (“The Terminal” is still one of Spielberg’s weakest films), odds will always be in their favor based on talent alone. With “Bridge of Spies,” Spielberg delivers some solid, mature storytelling that rarely wavers. It might be one of those second-tier Spielberg films that really won’t make or break any kind of legacy he has built throughout his career (think “War Horse” and “Amistad”), but even Spielberg on autopilot is pretty damn good.

As a history lesson on espionage during the Cold War, Spielberg and company keep the tension high and the story at a level that won’t go over too many heads (unlike other recent spy thrillers like “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “A Wanted Man,” which might take a couple of viewings to let all the nuances sink in). In “Bridge of Spies,” Hanks plays James Donovan, an American insurance lawyer who is called upon to defend British-born Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), who has just been captured by the CIA. James takes the case, although he knows there will be a lot of baggage that comes with it. How is he supposed to defend someone when the American judicial system and the court of public opinion have already condemned the man? James’ responsibilities become more complicated when an American pilot and an American student are taken prisoner in the Soviet Union and the CIA asks him to take the lead in a prisoner exchange with the enemy. These backroom dealings are straight to the point and make for some entertaining and thought-provoking scenes.

“Bridge of Spies” asks important, timely questions about how the U.S. has handled war criminals throughout history, but never preaches to the audience with political statements or underlying messages. It plays out like a theatrical production would in the Situation Room. The dialogue is palpable and it’s easy to hang onto every word James and Rudolph speak. It’s this relationship between these two characters that, while spending only a few scenes together, feels like there’s actually something important everyone is fighting for.

Captain Phillips

October 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Bakhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman
Directed by: Paul Greengrass (“United 93”)
Written by: Billy Ray (“State of Play”)

Not so much “Bourne” as it is a real-world drama like his restrained albeit powerful 2006 masterpiece “United 93,” director Paul Greengrass takes the same kind of reflective approach to “Captain Phillips,” the true story of a merchant mariner who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in April 2009. With Greengrass at the helm and two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks on board as Phillips, “Captain” is one of this year’s most well-crafted and convincing films and one that chronicles the bravery of the men who were able to end an epic standoff in a very impressive way.

Based on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Phillips and Stephan Talty, “Captain Phillips” introduces us to its title character Richard Phillips, a veteran cargo ship captain whose life out at sea has become one that he and his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) have grown accustom to. When Capt. Phillips arrives to the port for his next trip to Kenya and tells Andrea that he will “call [her] when [he] gets there,” it’s reminiscent of the words he tells Helen Hunt in “Cast Away” (“I’ll be right back!”) right before boarding a FedEx plane that crashes in the South Pacific. Things don’t turn out very well in either case.

When four money-hungry Somali pirates (led by first-time actor Barkhad Abdi as pirate leader Muse) find a way to take over the ship, Capt. Phillips is put in a situation no amount of pirate emergency drills could prepare him for. With most of his crew hiding in the lower decks, he is able to handle the aggressive Somalians who are adamant about making millions off their hijack. When the pirates’ plans don’t pan out, Capt. Phillips finds himself negotiating with the men to take the $30,000 inside the safe and leave peacefully on the ship’s lifeboat. But when the captain is forced onto the vessel himself and plans are made to use him as ransom, it’s up to the Navy SEALS to step in and take command of an extremely dangerous and seemingly unmanageable situation.

No stranger to being trapped or deserted in some regard (see the aforementioned “Cast Away,” his role as astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13” and to a more fantastical effect his role in “Big”), Hanks is simply masterful as Capt. Phillips. It’s easily his best lead performance since his last Oscar nomination in 2001’s “Cast Away” and one that should garner him the sixth nomination of his career. On deck with his crew and later with the pirates, Hanks emits a dominant demeanor despite knowing he could die at any second. His acting only gets better as the film continues onto the lifeboat where Hanks and Abdi both attempt to make the best case out of a worst-case scenario. They’re interaction is beyond intense as the lifeboat speeds through the choppy waters of the Somalian Gulf with U.S. military surrounding them.

While the film could’ve used a bit more emotional heft in portraying the captain as a family man, Greengrass keeps the blood boiling at such high levels. It’s no surprise he can do this well, especially with the work he has done with his more action-packed films like the “Bourne” films. Transferring that kind of gripping narrative into something with far fewer guns and hand-to-hand combat is a challenge, but he succeeds impressively. And if you think the final mission in last year’s “Zero Dark Thirty” was something to ooh and aah about, the last half hour of “Captain Phillips” rivals it shot for shot. It might even make you want to get to the nearest Navy recruit station as soon as possible. Hooyah!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

January 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock
Directed by: Stephen Daldry (“The Reader”)
Written by: Eric Roth (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)

With 9/11 brooding at the center of its emotionally manipulative core, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” displays about as much modesty regarding the 2001 tragedy as Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Simply put: it’s an exploitative sham.

While the self-important drama would like to do for September 11 what a film like 1997’s “Life is Beautiful” (“La vita è bella”) did for the Holocaust by telling a whimsical and heartfelt story within the framework of an unimaginably painful time in history, it doesn’t have nearly enough charm to pull it off. Its lack of quality storytelling and characterization begins and ends with acting newcomer Thomas Horn as the film’s main character Oskar Schell. Metaphorically and pretentiously speaking, the boy’s last name could refer to the hard outer covering of the personality he must break through to let others in. Sigh.

Oskar, who just might be one of the most posturing characters in cinematic history, is unlike any other brainy 9-year-old kid usually seen in the locker room with his underwear pulled over his head. Not only is he an amateur entomologist, Francophile, pacifist, and undiagnosed autistic — his idea of fun is going on fact-finding expeditions through the New York City his father (Tom Hanks) creates for him. When his father dies in the World Trade Center attacks, Oskar is convinced a mysterious key he discovers is a clue left behind for his next journey.

Ignore the fact that Oskar’s mother (Sandra Bullock) allows him to walk around NYC unsupervised or that actually coming across a lock the key will fit is highly improbable; what is most problematic about the screenplay is the rambunctious and grating nature of Oskar himself and the phony relationships he creates along the way, including one with his estranged mute grandfather (Max von Sydow).

Despite the exaggerated melodrama, what works best in the film are the few moments director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) allows a child’s perspective to be the window through which the audience watches the events of September 11 unfold. Hanks, too, is memorable when he’s not on screen. The voice messages he leaves on an answering machine on what Oskar calls “the worst day” are chilling, to say the least.

Beyond that, however, “Extremely Loud” is meaningless. As much as it wants to affect, connect, and heal, there’s only so much fiction you can attach to 9/11 before it feels like just another sob story. If the Academy made a glaring gaffe with this year’s nominations, it was in calling this sentimental drivel one of the best films of the year. In fact, this is a forced tearjerker that can’t wrap up soon enough.

Wilmer Valderrama – Handy Manny (TV)

October 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

While actor Wilmer Valderrama might be best known for his role as Fez in “That ’70s Show,” children might recognize him more as the voice of the animated title character on Disney Channel’s “Handy Manny.” Since 2006, Valderrama, 30, has played the bilingual Hispanic handyman who goes on adventures with his talking tools.

During an interview with me, Valderrama talked about how “Handy Manny” inspires kids and what he thinks every Latino man should know how to do.

What’s been the most enjoyable part about working on an animated series like “Handy Manny?

To be honest, it’s been one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve ever been on in my career. You never really understand how powerful this age demographic is and more importantly how influential a show like “Handy Manny” can be to their upbringing. I really believe this show is investing in a younger generation and can inspire them. I’m very proud of what the show has become

After three seasons, are you used to hearing your voice come out of this little cartoon character?

It’s been really weird. I mean, I grew up with cartoons, but I never really understood that there were people behind microphones. But, yeah, you eventually get used to it and it becomes fun. It’s quite magical. When you put a voice to a character and that allows kids to smile and learn it’s really neat. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to see what you can do with your own voice.

What kind of handyman are you in real life?

It all depends on the job. I wouldn’t get crazy and try to fix my own refrigerator, but I definitely know how to change a tire and a battery. I definitely know how to handle my cars. I think if you’re a Latin man you have to be able to fix something and salsa dance.

Which tool on the show reminds you of yourself the most?

I would have to say Flicker (an animated flashlight) because he is new to the English language. I can relate to his language struggles. When I first came to America I didn’t know how to count to three in English. As we embark on his own journey on the show we get to appreciate a second language and other cultures. I do have to say that “Handy Manny” has really made my English better.

You’re coming up on your 10-year anniversary in the film industry. What have you learned about yourself as an actor over the last decade?

One of the things I have learned is not to compromise with what you know you can do and not sell yourself short. I always want to stay consistent with who I am as an actor and never just settle for the flavor-of-the-month kind of projects. One of the things I have been blessed with is that I don’t have to take jobs for the sake of taking jobs. I’ve been able to do the roles that I want to do. Every movie and every TV show I can truly say that I am a fan. I think that’s probably the moral of the story in the last 10 years. You have to appreciate your opportunities. Once you have them in front of you, take them and execute them to the fullest.

It’s been 15 years since Tom Hanks has written and directed a feature film (“That Thing You Do”). What was the experience like working with him on the upcoming film “Larry Crowe?”

Talk about a privilege! It was an honor. He is someone that has redefined our generation with his work. With him, you really learn how to appreciate a human being who truly enjoys what he does and has used his platform for good. If there is anyone to look up to I think he is the one. When you look at America and what we have today he really is one of the pioneers. He’s an all-American hero. From all the TV shows he’s produced like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” and all the movies he’s starred in, I’m just really blessed I was directed by him. He trusted me with his film. It’s an exciting time. The movie is going to be amazing. He’s incredible in this. He’s created another memorable character. You’ve never seen Julia [Roberts] act like this either. Tom has never forgotten where he’s come from and he treats people with the same kindness that everyone shows him. That’s the classiest act we have in the U.S.

Toy Story 3

June 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles
Directed by: Lee Unkrich (“Finding Nemo”)
Written by: Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), John Lasseter (“Toy Story 2”), Andrew Stanton (“WALL-E”), Lee Unkrich (debut)

It’s difficult enough for some live-action films to express human emotion through human characters without sometimes crossing the line into melodramatic territory. Who knew 15 years ago it would be Pixar Animation Studios that would create a trilogy of films that would clearly defined the term “unconditional love” and convey it through a computer-generated boy and his plush, pull-string toy?

While the original classic “Toy Story” from 1995 was an exciting, nonstop adventure featuring a cast of uniquely-imagined characters, it was “Toy Story 2” that truly illustrated the intrinsic connection children and toys share with one another. In “Toy Story 3,” the significance of these relationships has come full circle in a sentimental and clever, but also dark and profound narrative undoubtedly worthy of being a part of Pixar’s growing distinction as the best animation house ever built.

With screenwriting duties going to Academy Award winner Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), it’s evident Pixar – while a majority of its fan base are kids and families – isn’t simply playing for empty laughs. There is some seriousness in “Toy Story 3” from the very beginning.

It would have been easy enough to pick up from the same happy-go-lucky tone the last movie ended on, but instead Arndt and director Lee Unkrich take a realistic approach to the time passed. Andy (John Morris) is no longer the little boy who would play in his room for hours with the assortment of toys we’ve all grown to love. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and most of the original toys are still present (others have met their fate by way of yard sales and spring cleaning), but at the age of 17, Andy hasn’t played with them in years.

Now, the toys long for the attention they used to receive when Andy was an imaginative grade-schooler. They also worry about what will become of them once Andy leaves for college. What will life in the attic be like once they’re placed in storage? Will any of them be given away or worse, tossed into the garbage?

When Andy’s toys are accidentally placed onto the curb for trash pick-up and subsequently donated to a local day care center, Buzz and the gang try to make the best of it although Woody is insistent about finding their way back home. But when a group of second-hand toys led by the a strawberry-scented teddy bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) welcome them with open, fluffy arms and explain that “no owners means no heartbreak” the daycare’s newest residents are sold on the idea.

Playtime, however, doesn’t turn out to be what was expected. Lotso and his crew, including Ken (Michael Keaton), an octopus toy named Stretch (Whoopie Goldberg), and a lazy-eyed baby doll, run the daycare like a prison. While Woody is able to escape, he ends up in a whole new situation when he is found outside the day care center and taken home by Molly (Beatrice Miller), a shy little girl with her own collection of huggable toys, including Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), a thespian hedgehog.

Created with any number of prison-break movies in mind, Pixar takes “Toy Story 3” and gives it enough visual flash and flat-out hilarious moments that rival anything the animation studio has ever done. The film’s success, however, doesn’t end at the flawless character rendering and production value. There is an innovative spirit to it that is rare for any animated film to generate. From moments of pure delight and chilling anxiety to one of the most heartbreaking goodbyes in recent memory, “Toy Story 3” wraps up the franchise in masterful fashion and once again proves Pixar is on a level all its own.

Angels & Demons

May 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Angels & Demons
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer
Directed by: Ron Howard (“Frost/Nixon”)
Written by: David Koepp (“War of the Worlds”) and Akiva Goldsman (“I Am Legend”)

It might not ruffle as many miters as Bill Maher’s 2008 God-is-the-equivalent-of-an-imaginary-friend documentary Religulous, or even The Da Vinci Code, the first film based on author Dan Brown’s bestselling novels. When two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks dismisses faith in favor of science in Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons, however, you know there’ll be a few extra Hail Marys uttered for the souls of the entire production.

Nevertheless, when it comes to all things religious, not even a talented director like Howard can enlighten everyone. Nor can he and screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman manage to compress Brown’s text into an insightful narrative. Their version really should be renamed CSI: Vatican City.

In A&D, Hanks reprises his role as Harvard University symbologist Robert Langdon, the protagonist pitted against an angry albino and a secret sect of the Catholic Church in 2006’s Da Vinci conspiracy. Here, the professor teams up with more God-fearing men to discover who is responsible for the disappearance of four Vatican cardinals and the theft of a top-secret science experiment that could annihilate Rome if it’s not found in time.

Clues point to the Illuminati, a centuries-old underground society made up of Catholic free thinkers for whom the fine line between religion and scientific truth is always smudged. Needless to say, this idea doesn’t jibe with the traditional Church’s contention that “ancient traditions [are] threatened by a modern world.” (Prayer chain emails, by extension, must be the root of all evil.) There is, however, never an authentic sense of conflict between these concepts beyond the film’s conspicuous amped-up tempo after the much-maligned sluggish pace of its predecessor. Science and technology may very well lead to the death of theology, but A&D’s preaching lacks any real conviction.