Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Tonight I saw Airplane! starring Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty.

Ted (Hays) is heartbroken because Elaine (Hagerty) is leaving him. She's a stewardess (that's what they called flight attendants in 1980) and he's a former soldier turned cab driver. Distraught at the thought of losing her, he spontaneously purchases a ticket on one of her flights and soon exhausts his fellow passengers retelling their love story.

Meanwhile, everyone on board (including the captain and co-pilot) who had fish for dinner is getting violently ill, and they need medical attention, fast. In a matter of minutes, when the crew passes out, they also need someone to land the plane. Ted is the only one on board qualified to do it.

If you've never seen this 80s classic, you may think all of the above sounds like an intense thriller, but really it's one of the most ridiculously wonderful, hilariously quotable films in existence.

Growing up watching this, I understood about 1/3 of the jokes; as an adult I realized how filthy it really is and that makes it 75 times more genius.

I can't begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to write this screenplay, but my hat is off to the clever trio who did.

33 years later the jokes are still funny, the characters still fresh and the ending still satisfying.

I'm so glad I finally got to experience it in the theater.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Tonight I saw the 9/11 documentary, Out of the Clear Blue Sky.

In the twelve years since the tragic terrorist attacks there have been countless news magazines, documentaries and even a few feature films about that horrific day. And just when you think there couldn't possibly be a new story to tell about it, one emerges. That was the case with this film.

There were over 900 Canton Fitzgerald employees who reported to work at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; 658 didn't survive.

But CEO Howard Lutnick did, and after a tearful interview with Connie Chung, became a sympathetic figurehead in the midst of the chaos.

But so quickly they turn.

Because most of their departments were completely wiped out that day (except for I.T.; they were on a fishing trip), Canton Fitzgerald couldn't turn out the amount of work needed to pay the salaries of the missing. Lutnick pledged to donate 25% of the company profits to the victims' families, as well as 10 years of covered healthcare instead. But that message—which was considerably generous considering what the company was facing—got lost in the shuffle and Lutnick (who lost his own brother in the tragedy) was vilified, soon getting death threats.

This film chronicles the rise and fall (and rise again) of Lutnick's image in the years up to now through survivor interviews, commentary from victims' families and news footage.

It's understood that he had a ruthless reputation on Wall Street before the terrorist attack and one wonders if some just held a grudge after the fact, as if it were some sort of karmic payback. In another sense, his raw grief in the weeks and months following the attacks seemed painfully real. And how can you be angry with someone who has to save an international company while mourning two thirds of his employees and his own sibling?

Though those wounds will never heal, the film does imply that a sense of community has emerged in the Canton Fitzgerald family as a result of Lutnick's efforts to help victims' families, and maybe, just maybe, the ordeal made him a better man.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Drinking Buddies

Today I saw Drinking Buddies, starring Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde.

Kate (Wilde) works at a brewery with Luke (Johnson). They're both in seemingly long-term relationships with Chris (Ron Livingston) and Jill (Anna Kendrick), respectively.

When a double-date camping trip leaves them wondering if they're with the right partner, Chris and Kate decide to take a break, while Luke and Jill remain together.

As with any mumblecore flick, all of the dialogue feels like improv, and the actors feel like people we know.

Johnson especially, known for his endearing character on New Girl, fits the bill as a brewmaster who lacks ambition. A reference Jill makes to their "marriage" discussion hints at his procrastination to propose; the older, wiser Chris would probably not cause such a delay.

When Jill takes a trip for work, Luke is left behind to help Kate move residences. A "will they or won't they" tension ensues, and the film turns from a lighthearted rom com to a more serious indie drama.

But that's okay, because this group is refreshingly real without being pretentious. Their struggles are familiar and their behaviors are typical, if not ideal.

Each character, though flawed, also has redeeming qualities that cause us to root for them, which makes this a good bunch to watch.

If only mumblecore had sequels.


Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Spectacular Now

Today I saw The Spectacular Now, starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley.

Sutter (Teller) is a popular guy at his high school. He makes everyone laugh, wins over his teachers with charm and has a hot blonde girlfriend named Cassidy (Brie Larson).

He also has a drinking problem.

To every party, in every class, on every car ride, he carries a flask full of whiskey. It's with him at all times like a sad security blanket.

After Cassidy has enough of his nonsense and breaks up with him, he begins hanging out with Aimee (Woodley). She's a classmate he's ignored for years, but she agrees to tutor him since he's struggling through his math course.

They have a genuinely sweet chemistry, and soon develop feelings for one another. At first, it appears that they make each other better, but later in the story we have to wonder if she's too good for him.

As we're watching this all unfold, we do feel like we're falling in love right along with them. Their scenes are tender and realistic; their magnetism completely believable though neither of them is conventionally attractive.

Teller and Woodley do a beautiful job of conveying young love and the ease of trusting the wrong people. Jennifer Jason Leigh's brief scenes as Sutter's mother are also powerful.

Though the story doesn't say much, it speaks volumes about the painful reality of addiction. If you're in the mood for something simple, but smart, with a satisfying ending, you should make a point of getting to this spectacular indie.


Monday, September 02, 2013


Today I saw Austenland, starring Keri Russell and Bret McKenzie.

Jane (Russell) is a single American girl, obsessed with the world of Jane Austen books. She has a cardboard cutout of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy next to her couch, boasts an Austen-themed bedroom and "takes tea" a lot more than normal Americans would.

Her boyfriends scoff at her distraction; her friends just want it to come to an end. She can't get enough of the culture, so she spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, a theme park dedicated to immersing oneself into the world the author so famously created.

Upon arrival, Jane isn't as dazzled as she thought she'd be—because she only booked the basic experience, she sleeps in the servants quarters and wears gowns that aren't as extravagant as those of higher paying guests.

Becoming claustrophobic to the clutches of the dominant owner of the place, she soon seeks solace in her moments away with Martin (McKenzie), the "hired help" that becomes as enamored with her as she does with him. Or does he?

Because the actors on the land are supposed to offer a romantic experience to each attendee, Jane soon becomes confused about what is real and what isn't. The glamour of behaving like someone in a novel becomes less and less appealing as true feelings fight their way to the surface.

Sure, there are several cheesy moments throughout the film with flamboyant supporting characters and cleavage jokes, but at the end of it all, we're all there to see an Austen-esque ending, and that's exactly what we get.

Russell's charms carry the film without effort and if you're willing to hang on for the whole ride, you'll probably leave smiling.


The World's End

Earlier this week I saw The World's End, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

It will be the topic of Cinebanter #125, so tune in later this month for our review.