Sully

When the real-life Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed that jet in the Hudson River in January 2009, it was an amazing “feel good” story. He became a hero. Not only was he a capable pilot, he was also a nice guy.

He’s portrayed in Sully by Tom Hanks, a capable actor who also seems to be a nice guy.

Yes, there was drama in the actual incident, but apparently not quite enough for director Clint Eastwood to build a movie around. The story needs… conflict! An essential ingredient for many narratives, the conflict in Sully seems contrived.

While America was enjoying the happy outcome of the emergency landing and Sully was becoming a media darling, that nasty ol’ NTSB had its doubts that the river landing was necessary. The three members of the National Transportation Safety Board played by Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn and Jamey Sheridan question Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) about their decision-making.

In informal meetings and in an official hearing, the NTSB team suggests that Sully could’ve made it back to LaGuardia or to Teterboro airport in New Jersey. They even produce flight simulations showing that they could have safely touched down at either airport. Sully cites the human element as the key factor in his choice.

The depictions of the river landing are realistic and provide the meat of the movie. Because of the incident’s happy ending, the film provides a reminder of the tension of the evacuation and rescue effort.

Sully’s concern is for his passengers as they make it safely from the plane and after all have been taken from the river to various locations. In a sweet segment during the closing credits, the real-life Sully and his wife visit with passengers from the flight. Laura Linney plays Mrs. Sullenberger in the film. Her role is small but effective.

Are Sully, its star and its director Oscar-nomination-worthy? Those, I think, will be borderline calls, based on the competitive field. Because Sully was a reserved, medium-key individual, Tom Hanks gives a medium-key performance. Even last year’s role in Bridge of Spies offered more opportunities for Hanks to display his acting chops.

Sully relives the events of that day in 2009 without major stylistic flourishes. This solid film should give American audiences a moment to be proud of and should rekindle the nation’s appreciation for this hero pilot.

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Wreck-It Ralph

“Wreck-It Ralph” is big fun for gamers of all ages. Gen-Xers, Gen-Y, boomers & little kids will find much to love in this Pixar-like animated feature.

Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is the guy who wrecks things in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix. After 30 years, he’s tired of being the bad guy. Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer, is the one who gets all the love and, at the end of each successful play of the game, a medal.

Ralph wants a medal and seeks one in a neighboring game in the arcade called Hero’s Duty where he encounters Calhoun, a violent babe with a killer bod, voiced by Jane Lynch. Once he gets the medal he escapes to another game called Sugar Rush, where he meets up with an extremely cute kid, Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman. This is where the film’s plot really takes off.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is inspired by and has references to most of the great video games of the last three decades. Some of the film’s elements call to mind “Monsters, Inc.” Ralph is similar to Sully from that 2001 Pixar classic. Vanellope is not unlike any the three “Powerpuff Girls,” a Cartoon Network hit series from a decade or so ago.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is almost a Pixar film. It looks like a Pixar film. Executive producer is Pixar’s John Lasseter. There’s a memorable short cartoon before the movie. The credits mention help from the “Pixar brain trust.” And, as with Pixar films, the credits contain a list of “production babies.” Really, the only thing that keeps it from being a Pixar film is the absence of the bouncing desk lamp.

As with most Pixar films, the performances of the voice actors are uniformly excellent. The four mentioned previously, along with Alan Tudyk as King Candy, form one of the best voice ensembles in recent memory.

Among my favorite visual jokes in the film: the cops in Sugar Rush (a world populated by sweet treats) are doughnuts.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is both nostalgic and fresh, at the same time. It gets the high score for this weekend.