Movie Review: Deep Water Horizon

Most jobs people have are not the kind of jobs where if you screw up or are incompetent or just have a bad day that someone will die. What happens in cases like this is that the one bad day is forgotten or the mistake you made is bad enough to get you fired. If you’re a manager over other people, the mistake you make can not only screw up your job but the jobs of several others you are supervising. If you’re the CEO of a company like Enron, all the companies involved in the financial crisis and most recently Wells Fargo, your mistakes can bring down the whole company, or cause huge fines and your options are to resign yourself, wait to be fired and of course as all CEO’s in situations like these, deny you knew that anything illegal or stupid was going on to cause the crisis. Even in extreme cases like this, with huge responsibility and ramifications, nobody really dies. This is not true if you’re a doctor and in certain situations a nurse where if you make a mistake someone can die; for jobs like these there is no room for error. When human lives are on the line there has to be a higher standard, a higher level of responsibility, of safety and redundancy because if a mistake is made then people can die, and sometimes many of them.

On April 20, 2010, the worst oil spill in the history of the Petroleum Industry happened in the Gulf of Mexico on the Deep Water Horizon oil rig. We find out at the start of this movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson, that the crew on board the Deep Water Horizon was the crew responsible for the exploration for oil and not the actual extraction of oil, a task that would be taken care of by the crew that followed them.

As the movie starts, a crew from another oil company is dismissed by BP (British Petroleum) executives before they had a chance to check the cement surrounding the underlying pipe of the oil rig and the reason for this was to save money, approximately $125,000. Considering the enormous market capitalization of British Petroleum, 186 Billion in 2010, and the 126 lives at stake, this was the first major mistake the company made to save on the bottom line. We later find out that the oil rig had numerous problems with parts and equipment and once again because of the bottom line, very little of these problems were ever fixed, making the oil rig even more dangerous to the 126 people who were working on it. Most alarming were the two water and oil pressure tests that were ran right before the explosion due to the concerns of the two engineers played by Russell and Wahlberg. Despite the findings that one of the major pipes from the ocean floor, 5000 feet below to the rig was having major pressure problems, the rig was still declared usable to by the BP Executive on board the rig, played very well by John Malcovich. The BP executive looked for a reason to not believe the test by running a new test on a kill line. This one horrible decision is the main reason why 11 people were killed and billions of dollars of damage to the ecology and economy of the area then happened. Once again, as has happened so many times with companies forgetting that the lives and safety of their workers should be their number one concern, people died.

As far as the movie, there is not much of an involved story here, just some up front stories of the personal lives of some of the men who were lucky to survive this oil spill and the main part of this includes Kate Hudson who plays Wahlberg’s wife. What follows just demonstrated the incompetence and bad decisions of some of the executives responsible for this very preventable accident.

When you see the amazing technology and complexity of oil rigs like the Deep Water Horizon in this film, anyone would have to believe that there could be 1000 things that can go wrong. Considering this accident in 2010, the world is very lucky that there have not been many more accidents like this one or even worse over the many years since ocean oil exploration began. The statistics of the losses caused by this oil rig tragedy in 2010 are staggering. The spill took 87 days to stop. 11 people on board the rig when it exploded died and were never found. This was the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, an estimated 8% to 31% larger in volume than the previously largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill. According to the satellite images, the spill directly impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean; which is comparable to the size of Oklahoma. By early June 2010, oil had washed up on 125 miles of Louisiana’s coast and along the Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama coastlines. Oil sludge appeared in the Intracoastal Waterway and on Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. In October, weathered oil reached Texas. As of July 2011, about 491 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were contaminated by oil and a total of 1,074 miles had been oiled since the spill began. The cleanup cost BP 14 billion dollars. Some estimates are that the penalties and fines BP had to pay are as high as 90 billion dollars and another 6.2 billion from lawsuits. Considering all of this, it is hard to believe that BP still even exists.

Overall, I thought this movie was very well made with outstanding special effects and I do recommend it.

Past Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

It is very hard to believe that this great movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, arguably Will Smith’s best performance came out almost 10 years ago.  The best part about this film is the unbelievable story and the fact that all that happens in this movie is true.  Chris Gardner, who is played by Will Smith, was a man in his 30’s who was always just about go to under financially. He was married, with one young son and his latest and riskiest current method of making a living was buying and then selling portable x-ray machines.  There are several scenes in the beginning of this movie showing a large number of these x-ray machines in Gardner’s apartment which meant that now that he had invested in so many of them, he now had to sell all of them to make a profit.  The contrast between the extremely intelligent man we grow to know Gardner is, compared to the man he was at the beginning of the movie who is trying to sell portable x-ray machines is one of the most amazing parts of this story.

The terrifying message behind this film is that homelessness can come to any of us and all it might take are just a few bad decisions or stupid mistakes which very often are born out of desperation. I know this first hand because some years ago when I was 19 years old, I was homeless on a bus myself. The beginning of this great film shows Gardner trying and mostly failing at his attempts to sell portable x-ray machines to different doctors and hospitals in the area.  As Gardner’s desperation grows, his marriage goes from bad to worst and eventually his wife, played by Thandi Newton leaves him to raise their son, played by Will Smith’s own son Jaden Smith alone. What follows are horrible scenes of standing in the lines of homeless shelters and sleeping overnight in very depressing locations including the men’s room of a subway with his young son.  What is worse and more depressing about all this is that Gardners 7-year-old son is along for this horrible ride through the horrors of homelessness.  His cries of desperation and constant questions to his father as to what is going on is heartbreaking and at times impossible to watch.

The other part of this movie is the most triumphant part and what turns this from a story of tragic disaster into a story of survival . Through an intern program with a major financial institution, Gardner sees an opportunity to save his life and the life of his son. But when he enrolls he has no idea that the intern program, which hires only a small percentage of the interns in the program as full-time employees, pays no money.  This only leads to more homelessness and desperation for Gardner and his son and Gardner’s pursuit of this last-ditch effort to save his life and survive is one of the most inspiring I have ever seen in any movie.

The end of this movie, which I will not spoil, has one of the most emotional endings I have ever seen in any movie and because of this last scene, Will Smith should have won his first Academy Award, although he was nominated.

If you have never seen the Pursuit of Happyness you owe it to yourself to see it because it is a one of a kind great movie. The movie spells Happiness “Happyness” for reasons that are not really explained in the movie, but I can only figure that they wanted the word Happy fully spelled out somewhere in the title. Another message from this movie would be that to be happy, like everything else in life, there is a price to pay.

Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven

The original “The Magnificent Seven” came out in 1960, and is considered a classic movie western. So like the recent Ben Hur remake Hollywood has decided to remake another classic movie. However, unlike Ben Hur which came out a few weeks ago and was mostly a bad movie, this remake of the Magnificent Seven was very well done. The story like the first movie is very simple. A bad man tries to take over a town by killing and terrorizing its citizens and then steals not only their land but all their gold. The evil villain in this movie is played extremely well by Peter Sarsgaard and seemed to have an innate ability to completely embody evil during this entire film. Even his IMDB picture shows him making a rather evil looking face.

Denzel Washington is also very good in his role and I think this is the only Western he has ever made during his long career. The rest of the cast includes Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onfrio and Chris Pratt and they all do outstanding jobs in this movie. Haley Bennet is also very good in her role as one of the residents of the town that was destroyed by the evil businessman, losing her husband in the process.

Of course, any remake of the original Magnificent Seven would not be as good as the original, but this one does stand on its own as an excellent movie. The original story has changed somewhat in this remake, making it unique enough for any die-hard lover of the original movie be curious enough to want to see this remake. The story is one we have seen before about injustice, an evil villain businessman who steals the property of poor townspeople and eventually revenge as the townspeople hire these seven men to stand up to the evil businessman and his army to rightfully take back what is theirs. Stories like this appeal to almost everyone because in our own lives most all of us want the good guy to win and the bad guy to get what he deserves; ultimately for something that is massively wrong to become right. Unfortunately, very often in real life this is not way things work out but we all want them to, just so everything makes sense in the end like it does in the movies.

The action sequences in this movie are very impressive and I have always been amazed at the logistical problems directors of action movies like this must have to overcome so there are no injuries to any of the actors, extra’s or horses that are used in so many scenes. The director Antoine Fuqua did an excellent job with this movie which must have been a logistical nightmare with the hot desert heat, very complex shooting and action scenes involving horses and even explosives. This movie reminds us of the mid 1800’s and how dangerous it was to live in the West in those days as murder, lynching and the lack of any real laws made living in that time extremely difficult. Just about everybody had a gun and would use it it seems just about every day. I thought this movie was very well done and I do recommend it.

Past Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

One of the things you try and learn while writing a screenplay is how people really talk in real life. People often don’t say exactly what they mean, instead, they use something called subtext which is defined as: the underlying or implicit meaning, as of a literary work. Very often a look, or the rolling of the eyes says everything in a scene and you should not try and make anything too obvious or it just gets too boring. The boring form of dialogue in movies is known in the industry as “On the nose dialogue”.

There is nothing boring in “Silver Linings Playbook” that came out in 2012. You know within the first few minutes that this was a special movie and that most if not all of the actors in it would be recognized for a great performance, especially Jennifer Lawrence who won the academy award for her part as the manic and disturbed girlfriend of the main character played by Bradly Cooper and also the wife of a man who was tragically killed. Robert Deniro plays Cooper’s father in this movie and the movie begins as Cooper’s character returns home after some months in a mental hospital for beating up the man who had an affair with his wife. This movie gives a rare insight into the subject of mental illness not only with Cooper and his new girlfriend but also with Cooper’s father who is an obsessive gambler and actually believes that certain repeated events must happen in order for him to win his sports team bets, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles. The screenplay for this film was written by David O. Russell and it’s outstanding throughout. This film is one of the rare examples of a movie that has moments of extreme drama and comedy. You knew immediately when I saw the scene at the Diner with Lawrence and Cooper that Jennifer Lawrence would win the academy award because her performance in that one scene was so compelling. (see movie clip below). The scene towards the end of the movie with Lawrence “doing her homework” was also great. (last clip)

Silver Linings Playbook is a must see movie and it gets my highest recommendation.

Move Review: Mr. Church

Eddie Murphy has had probably one of the most successful and unusual show business careers of all time. He was as big as anyone ever has been in when he was only 18, having made the cast of Saturday Night Live in the early 80’s and arguably was the only reason why the show survived. Soon after this, he made big movie hits like “48 Hours”, “Trading Places” and his biggest hit, “Beverly Hills Cop” which came out in 1984. Then after 1984 he never reached the level of those movies again. Most of his following movies were either bad or at most average and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise was ruined by “Beverly Hills Cop 3”, which is considered by most a pretty bad movie. Beverly Hills Cop 2 looks like it was made entirely for the money and did not have the quality or great humor from the first film. In 2006 Murphy made “Dream Girls” and was nominated for an Academy Award for the best supporting actor, which I thought he should have won. The rumor was he was very angry that he didn’t win. Since then he has not made that many movies and the ones he did make were just small parts, perhaps because he was disgusted with the movie business or his attempt to be a serious actor met up with some very serious opposition in Hollywood. Perhaps because of the confusion of being a father to no less than 9 children with 5 different women.

The movie Mr. Church is the first 100% serious role Murphy has ever done in his entire career. It’s a very small film in limited release and I was impressed with the acting in this film given the subject matter which has a lot to do with cancer and dying. The story is highly unusual. Murphy is hired as a cook to work for a single mother and her 10-year-old​ daughter for 6 months and he is being paid by some benefactor who is never introduced in this film or fully explained. The mother is dying of breast cancer and due to some miracle is able to live longer than her original six-month​ diagnosis. Over the course of the film, we find out that Mr. Church has a very bad childhood involving a very abusive father, which causes him to be very secretive and an alcoholic​. There are several scenes​ where Murphy comes home very drunk and reenacts​ arguments with this father which are very well acted. Church is also a chain smoker and one serious flaw in this movie was the constant scenes where Murphy​ is smoking. Once again, I had to wonder if cigarette companies were involved producing in this movie in some way and I thought it was very unnecessary to show this much smoking in scene after scene. Hopefully one day all smoking in movies will be banned, but we are a long way from that day. At least in this movie, the end result of smoking and health are at some point revealed.

The daughter in this film is played very well by Britt Robinson, who​ has been in several quality movies lately, including in 2015 “The Longest Ride”, which is also reviewed in this blog. Her mother is played by
Natascha McElhone and her role is the most depressing part of the movie as she slowly dies over a period of 7 years of breast cancer. This is not a movie for anyone who recently lost someone to cancer or who has cancer themselves​ and the majority of this movie is depressing, but the acting and the story is good overall.

There are some rumors of Eddie Murphy being considered for an Academy Award for this movie and I am in agreement that he should at least receive a nomination. Murphy has finally proved that his career in movies should include more than just comedy roles and he should be considered for dramatic movies as well. I recommend this film, but be prepared for depressing moments.

Movie Review: Snowden

The 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When the Edward Snowden story came out in 2013, my first thought was, why is this such a big deal? Of course, the CIA and the NSA are spying on everyone in the entire world. We had a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and because of this, the world had changed. After September 2001 the world now included a group of people who want to do nothing more than murder all Americans and other free people around the world. They are willing to do this in any way possible, including blowing themselves up to kill themselves and many other innocent people.  In fact, these terrorists not only do not fear death, they want to die because they believe that they will go to paradise if they kill people for their cause. Our only real defense against this level of evil is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place. The only way to prevent terrorism is to spend massive amounts of money on surveillance counterterrorism and spying. At the time all of this made sense to me, but what didn’t make sense was why was Edward Snowden was such a big story and now being called a traitor? To me, all Snowden did was point out what we already must have known was happening; that there were massive levels of spying and surveillance going on for all cell phones, emails social media and all other forms of communication between all people in the entire world. The reason for this was simple; we had to stop large numbers of people from being killed by terrorists. One line that really stood out for me in this movie is that with the connections of people around the world if you go three people deep into a series of links, that this can be a total number of people as high as 2.5 million.

What the new Oliver Stone movie “Snowden” points out is that this story is not simple at all and is fundamentally very complicated because when does massive spying to save lives go too far? Is it possible to save lives and at the same time not infringe on the basic constitutional rights of all Americans? Is it even feasible to regulate what the NSA and CIA are allowed to see, or hear and at the same time still be able to do their jobs of protecting American lives? If someone finds out that major Government Agencies are blatantly violating the 4th Amendment, is it a crime to report them as breaking the law? Clearly, the United States thought that what Snowden did was a crime, and because of this if he ever returns to this country he will be put in jail, possibly for life. To escape this, both he and his girlfriend will be living in Moscow for the rest of their lives and as Americans, this must be rather unbearable for them.

The story of Edward Snowden, played very well by Joseph Gorden Levitt is a highly unusual one. He was a poor young man, born in 1983 who had to drop out of high school to make money to help his parents who divorced and then found himself in Army Bootcamp and then managed to break both of this legs. Despite his lack of education, he was a self-taught genius of software development and because of his impressive skills he was recruited by the NSA and very soon was found to be a programming superstar. One wonders how many great and very gifted geniuses in this country are working for the NSA and CIA doing nothing more that creating complex software to spy on the entire world or building weapons.

During his early years in the NSA Snowden met two mentors played by Nicholas Cage and Rhys Ifans, both of whom guide this gifted employee towards the top of the NSA. It was unusual to see Nicholas Cage in a very small part in a major motion picture but I thought he did a very effective job in his role. Edward meets a woman played very well by Shailene Woodley who very quickly becomes his girlfriend.  Over time, Snowden realizes that the NSA is not only spying on terrorists and other countries like Iran and Russia but pretty much everyone in the United States, including even his girlfriend.  Once Snowden finds out how pervasive the spying in the NSA was, both his anger and conscience gets the better of him and eventually he seeks out members of the press, one of them played by Zachary Quinto. What is important at this point is that you realize that Snowden knew that going to the press would doom his life as a United States citizen for life and despite all of this, he did it anyway. Right after going to the press, Snowden’s life was never the same and he had to take asylum in Russia and was eventually joined by his girlfriend. At the end of the movie, Edward Snowden himself makes an appearance at the end of this movie and he makes no apologies for as he put it, “doing the right thing”, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans. As far as the question as to whether Snowden is in fact, a criminal and a traitor to the Unites States, each person has to reach his own decision about this. For me, my honest answer is that I think he was wrong to actually steal data evidence from the NSA, but he was not wrong in reporting that our fourth Amendment rights were being violated. Perhaps the only solution was to not come forward himself, but instead, he should have sent the evidence to the press anonymously​ but not steal data from the NSA. In the end, Snowden could not resolve this conflict without resolving to spend the rest of his life in asylum​.

It’s was unusual to see an Oliver Stone movie like this one, given that his last major release was as far back as the year 2010 with the release of the Wall Street sequel “Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps”, which probably proves how hard it is to get a movie produced in Hollywood, even for someone with the clout of Oliver Stone. I highly recommend this movie which does a great job documenting an important event in American history.

Movie Review: When the Bough Breaks

There is a movie formula that most of us know about and it involves a series of the same black actors and an idea that goes about like this. A character comes off as very normal and nice in the beginning and then slowly over the course of the film the audience finds out that they are both evil and insane. So there are a series of conflicts during the movie that both create and increase tension which eventually results in some kind of a violent battle inside someone’s house, where the evil person is killed in some over the top kind of way. The movie “When the Bough Breaks” is exactly the same kind of movie once again, the only difference here is that the producers tried to throw in some stupid and strange and convoluted twists in this ridiculous movie to make it seem like its a new idea when it’s not.

This movie is stupid and another rehash of the same old formula, mainly because we have already seen this same story about 20 times already.  This movie also steals an idea from the original formula movie that started this entire idea in 1987, Fatal Attraction with the horrific killing of a family pet. You would think that someone in some conference room during a production meeting would recognize the idiotic rip off this movie is of so many other movies and suggested a new and original idea. That sure did not happen with this mess of two hours.

This movie is too dumb to recommend, and it should be avoided.

Movie Review: Sully

There are certain professions in life that we all know you have to have a calling for. Jobs like Doctor, Nurse, Dentist, Grief Counselor and I also think that Airline Pilot should be included in this list. When you think about the profession of Airline Pilot you realize that their life is about almost never living in your own house, living for months a year out of a hotel room, sitting for many long hours in a cockpit that over the years has to become very boring and through all of this, in the back of your mind the possibility of a horrible life-ending tragedy is always there, and always something that you have to be prepared for. Then add the awesome responsibility of the hundreds of lives that you are responsible for that has to cause long term stress and worry. Then add the precarious financial life of an Airline Pilot and the Airline Industry, which for decades has been considered one of the worst businesses in the world. Stories of Airline Pilots losing their pensions, getting huge pay cuts and in some cases not even getting paid have been stories about the profession of Airline Pilot for years now. Only recently, due to the reduction of oil prices, the consolidation of Airline companies and creating more revenue from luggage and other sources somewhat improved the industry. Fundamentally, if you want to spend your life being an Airline Pilot, your love of flying has to be greater than the many downsides that come with this very difficult profession. I for one have no idea why anyone would want to work in this industry either as a pilot or a stewardess. However, all of the people in this profession are vitally important to the entire economy of the world.

The movie Sully, is about the Miracle on the Hudson – Flight 1549 when a US Airways Airbus landed in the Hudson River after a bird strike where a flock of geese completely destroyed both engines. What happened after this is a miracle of pilot instinct and correct decisions under the incredible stress and pressure where the Captain, Chesley Sullenberger saved the lives of 155 people by landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. At first, Sullenberger was considered a National Hero and was even honored by President George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, but what is great about this movie is that it tells the complete story of the Miracle on The Hudson and not the story that we all hear on the news that slowly fades from public attention. As with every incident involving any aircraft the Government Agency NTSB (National Transportation Saftey Board) steps in and investigates what happened in the hopes of preventing such an incident from happening again. All of this makes sense, but what didn’t make sense in this case is the way the NTSB turned the investigation of flight 1549 into a witch hunt almost as if they wanted to find that Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles were guilty of making the wrong decision even though they saved 155 lives after a massive bird strike. I found the condescending attitude of many of the NTSB members during their questioning infuriating as all of them were probably never pilots themselves and none of them were on the plane experiencing the impossible events that Sullenberger and his co-pilot had to deal with. I found the attitude of these agents trying desperately to trap both men and prove that Sullenberger made the wrong decisions despite the miracle they pulled off saving 155 lives an outrage. During the NTSB investigations which took over 1 year, Sullenberger was not able to fly again which jeopardized his financial future mainly because the investigation was poorly handled by the NTSB and after a certain point largely unnecessary. Considering both men needed to work again, you would think that the NTSB would have at least increased the speed of the investigation so they could work again, but this did not happen.

This movie shows the 209 seconds of the flight several times during the film from different perspectives and angles and the computer graphics that show the airplane hitting the water and being hit by the geese is outstanding. One scene I thought was in very poor taste was the daydream-nightmares that Sullenberger had after the incident where he imagined another possible scenario that included the Jet flying into a building. Considering that this movie is coming out during the 15 year anniversary of 911 I thought that this scene, which was shown more than once during this film should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Tom Hanks plays Sullenberger in this role, along with Aaron Eckhart as his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and both are very well cast and outstanding in their roles. Clint Eastwood also does a great job directing this film which was told in unusual ways using different points of time and previous incidents throughout the film.  This movie is outstanding and a long overdue story about one of the most heroic events in aviation history. I highly recommend this film.

Sully: My Search for What Really Matters

Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life

Past Movie Review: Shawshank Redemption

If a survey was ever conducted and people were asked whether they would rather die than spend the rest of their lives in jail for a murder they did not commit, my guess is that many people would choose death over a future like this. This is the main story of the Shawshank Redemption, which came out in 1994.

The movie Shawshank Redemption” with a score of 9.3 has the highest ranking on IMDB of any movie ever made. Why is this movie so great? In my opinion, its because it has the perfect story of revenge and triumph over pure evil and injustice. It would be a perfect world if real life worked out the way it does in great movies like the Shawshank Redemption and that is another​ reason why we go the movies, because we want life to work out so good always triumphs over evil, right over wrong. We want life to make sense, but too often it’s​ horribly unfair and evil seems to triumph over good way too often.

Shawshank is yet another example of an acting performance and an opportunity for greatness that happens only once in an entire career, in this case, Tim Robbins. It is a shame that Robbins never got a great leading role like this again and for this great performance, he was not even nominated for any best actor awards, but it seems that this is the life of an actor in Hollywood. You have the very fortunate few and then everybody else who try their whole careers for that one great role. Morgan Freeman is also in this movie in arguably one of his best roles as Tim Robbin’s friend and Freeman was nominated for best actor in a leading role for Shawshank.

Shawshank Redemption came out in 1994 and most people have​ seen it by now, but if you haven’t you owe it to yourself to see one of the greatest movies ever produced.

Movie Review: Sausage Party

I am once again, embarrassed to admit that I saw this movie and I saw it mainly because of the positive recommendation of Richard Roper (see video below). This movie tries to combine foul language, raunchy jokes and humor, sexual innuendo, religion, the belief in God and a cartoon all in one movie. Any person seeing this bad movie would recognize that this combination of things has probably never happened before in a 2-hour​ film along with the fact that it’s just not funny. Nobody in the audience laughed and I sure didn’t laugh either. So for this reason alone, a comedy cartoon movie that is supposed to be funny and isn’t, I cannot recommend this film. I thought that the graphics were good, but for so much computer graphics for a movie that was not good, I thought was a waste of a great deal of hard work. Miss this film and wait for a cartoon movie that is actually funny because this one is not.