Posts Tagged ‘basedonatruestory’

poster_finesthoursThe Finest Hours did not make for the finest two hours of a movie. It took too long to get going with anything interesting after 20 minutes of what was shaping up to be a Nicholas Sparks movie.

Fitting into the theme of Disaster Movies from my self and movie writing cohort Brian G. Felts, The Finest Hours tells Disney’s version of the true life happening now known as the most dangerous and daring rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history. Just after being engaged, guardsman Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine (Into the Woods), is ordered to take the last remaining boat off the coast of Cape Cod after an oil tanker split in two during a 1952 blizzard. With only three others on his team, the small vessel loses its compass and radio communications along the way, making finding the surviving half of the oil tanker a miracle, let alone saving its remaining crew members. Meanwhile, on the split tanker, engineer Ray Sybert, played by Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), desperately attempts to save himself and his crewmates from having their half tanker sink into the deadly waters of the storm before they have a chance to be rescued.

This movie was terribly annoying to me. The first 20 minutes focused on Webber meeting and courting his future fiancee, played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella). Like I mentioned, it was as slow and boring as the first 20 minutes of a Nicholas Sparks’ movie. It focused on their romance which was very dry and not interesting.

Things got interesting finally when the tanker split in two. There was action finally and the way the crew discovers the tanker was split was very effective. Once Webber and his crew gets out on the waters, their journey was basically the viewer watching one adversity after another, their portion of the movie–as action sequences go–was interesting but not very exciting. For me at least, it wasn’t as exciting as the sequences involving the broken oil tanker and its crew. After a while, I found myself impatiently waiting for more tanker scenes when following the guardsmen and Webber’s fiancée.

The sequences following Webber’s fiancée on land while the guardmen are on their mission were painful. I so didn’t care for this girl or what she was learning, finding or dealing with on land. It’s simply not her story and screen time devoted to her perspective was a waste in my opinion.

The story itself is hard to believe but that’s why it’s a great true story. The end credits show several archived photographs and newspaper headlines to show the true aspects of the movie’s plot. It’s impressive to say the least, but like I said, given its hard to believe, it hurts the movie a bit. How the hell did the rescue team find that tanker with no radio guidance or compass? And once they were loaded up with 32 guys on a boat only regulated for 12, how the hell did Webber find their way back to the same place they left or even the cape at all without navigation? How didn’t they end up on the coast of Greenland? That would make the same amount of sense. It was a tough story to swallow.

In lieu of performances, Pine did fine. Affleck started to get on my nerves. He was so tired and depressed all the damn time. It was like having Eeore in the engine room. But at least he was consistent.

The best part of the movie was some of the shot selections, with credit to director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm, Lars and the Real Girl). A handful of the visuals took the action from above water, cresting below and back up top with editing. The visual effects complimented Gillespie’s vision quite well. Visually, nothing took me out of the story. It’s the material with which I had issues.

Overall, this movie was far too boring to call it interesting or even worth seeing. I appreciate it documenting an interesting story of U.S. Coast Guard history, but as a movie it was this side of suck.


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poster_unbrokenI didn’t care for this film. The sequences on the rafts were pretty great, but other than that the thing got ridiculously monotone.

Unbroken tells the tale of former U.S. Olympian Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire), who survives a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean during WWII and who survives 47 days on a raft with two other crewman. Eventually, he is picked up by the Japanese Navy and spends the rest of the war abused in an internment camp.

Like I said, the 47 days on a raft at sea was the best sequences of the movie. We got to know our protagonist quite well, at least what we needed to know of him heading into the next set of sequences after he becomes a Japanese POW. It was shot well. The visual FX were effective. The makeup was spot on, as far as I could tell from a physiological standpoint. And the weight loss for the actors through this sequence and the rest of the film really sold the material.

When the sharks showed up to hunting down the crash survivors, that became the highlight of the film for me. When the Japanese scout plane flew over and took a couple runs at the survivors attempting to shoot them, the film couldn’t have gotten more intense and skillfully directed; huge credit to Angelina Jolie-Pitt at the helm of this true-life story of Zamperini. Good for her.

Unfortunately that was about it for the film. The rest of the movie snails it’s way through the material from one intense and harrowing beating after another. It got to be too much. Eventually, I think I emotionally shut down 45 minutes before the climax, just to protect myself from seeing all the terrible things Zamperini had to endure.

I blame the screenplay, based on a Zamperini biography from Laura Hillenbrand, for this. It’s sad for me to say this since Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Bridge of Spies) wrote the majority of the adaptation. I was surprised it was shy of basic cinematic writing disciplines which would have made the film far more bareable.

Since this is the biggest fail of the film, let me ellaborate a bit. In screenwriting, especially through the second act (the middle 1/2 of the film’s run time), our protagonist(s) are supposed to have a series of obstacles keeping them from their goal. Each obstacle ends up being even more difficult than the one before it until the third act when the LAST obstacle is presented and the result is either success or failure. I know this is conventional screenwriting, but it has become a convention for a reason…it’s proven to keep people interested.

In Unbroken, there is a constant mount of obstacles but absolutely NO achievement against them, especially after the raft sequences. The entire film from then on is beating upon beating upon beating, and outside of winning some races and setting world records as a track athlete, Zamperini NEVER overcomes a single obstacle. He takes a ridiculous amount of abuse until the war finally ends and he and other prisoners are rescued from the camp.

Honestly, the whole film could have been the 47 days on the raft and then the post-script where on-screen text tells key moments of Zamperini’s life after the movie, especially his forgiveness of the Japanese people. That was far more interesting than the actual material which forced me to shut down emotionally and simply wait for the film to end.

In lieu of performances, the cast was marvelous, especially the physical demands on portraying prisoners of war and survivalists. That aspect of the film was very effective and extremely impressive.

Overall, I don’t care for this film. I don’t think it gave Zamperini’s story the cinematic portrayal it could have to knock it out of the park. Instead, it barely legged out a grounder for a single.

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poster_juliejuliaThis was an utter surprise for me for two reasons; one, I usually don’t get into Nora Ephron movies and two, it definitely seemed like the material was designed to appeal more to women.

Maybe having two daughters since this movie was released–and having kids make you soft, let me tell ya–that I am more open to material of the feminine persuasion. OR I’m completely wrong and the material is actually universal. The movie is about two women at different times chasing down a dream. Who can’t relate to that?

Julie & Julia tells two stories. The main story is of a woman Julie, played by Amy Adams (Doubt), who dreams of being a writer and hears of blogging being a way to gain recognition. So she decides to blog about how she can’t cook but as a challenge to herself she decides to take a year to replicate over 500 recipes found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the world renowned first book by super celebrity chef Julia Child.

The second story in tandem with the first is the story of how Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep didn’t know how to cook when she ended up in France when her husband was relocated their for work. She attends Le Cordon Bleu and with two friends decides to write a book in the English language on how to create all the French cuisine she’s learning to make. Your dream is also to become a writer, and we watched her struggle to strike a book deal for what became the Bible of French cooking.

Both stories are based on a true story. The movie itself is based on the book deal Julie received from her blog.

Meryl Streep… Holy crap she is truly a master of the craft. She had mailed the persona of Julia Child so perfectly it resembled her work in The Iron Lady as Margaret Thatcher. She is one of the big reasons this movie is so enjoyable.

The other reason to enjoy this movie is Amy Adams. Her quirky character who stresses herself out on her self-imposed deadline is just adorable. She truly captured the kind of internal struggle someone can have when they have a passion for something and trying to achieve what seems like an impossible dream.

The movie itself is very smart. It’s two tandem stories about people learning to cook. There is a lot of adversity for both writers which keeps us interested in their stories, and there is a lot of humor which helps to find this movie as a dramedy, which is my favorite genre.

Nora Ephron as a writer is also very good at writing male characters that are believable and good people. This is the case with Stanley Tucci (The Terminal) who played Julia Child’s husband and Chris Mussina (Devil) who played Julie’s husband.

Another key sign of good writing was every time we stepped away from Julia’s story and went back to Julie’s I wanted to go back to Julia to see what was going to happen to her next. The same happened when Julie’s story edited it over to Julia’s. I wanted to go back for more of Julie. Ephron made me love both their stories so much I didn’t want to leave at any time to go to the other.

Overall, especially being a newborn foodie myself, I thought this picture was a delight with a lot to say. I also learned quite a bit about Julia Child which I didn’t know. You may too.

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