FlixChatter Review: The 15:17 To Paris (2018)

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Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Dorothy Blyskal
Running Time: 1h 34min

Review by: Vitali Gueron

Clint Eastwood‘s latest movie The 15:17 to Paris takes us back to August 21, 2015, what was a warm late afternoon/evening ride aboard a high speed train to Paris, France. Three young American friends decided to meet each other in Europe and visit some of the marvelous cities in Italy, Holland and France. While on the train to Paris, they encountered a real life emergency situation when a gun-carrying terrorist starts walking the aisles of the train with the intent to indiscriminately start shooting the unsuspecting train passengers, in an attempt to create a mass casualty event.

One of the three Americans, U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who plays himself in the film, jumps to his feet and springs into action in an attempt to subdue the terrorist. His friends Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler (who also play themselves here) are there to assist Spencer before other passengers jump to aide the three Americans. I think the real life heroes were great at portraying their real life story and hope they have successful careers, in acting or otherwise. It was a unique thing for them to play themselves in the movie and I think it added to the experience.

For their efforts to subdue the terrorist and save the lives of the passengers on board the train, Spencer, Alek and Anthony were recognized as heroes of the French Republic for their gallantry and bravery. They were awarded the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his act of courage, by French president Francois Holland and the award ceremony is the final scene in the movie.

About two thirds of the movie focuses on Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler growing up in in the same town, attending the same school and how they’re often sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary action. They are shown to bond over their interest in guns, and make plans to serve in the military when they grow up. Later, they are shown to work part-time at a local smoothie shop, playing video games and making plans to lose weight. Unfortunately these scenes are not very interesting and I believe that director Clint Eastwood does a disservice to his viewers by showing them to us, as they are mostly-irrelevant portion of the American heroes’ lives.

By the time the events of what is now known as the ‘2015 Thalys train attack’ roll around, the viewers have been subjected to around an hour’s worth of pointless and dare-I-say-boring parts of the three protagonists’ lives. For me, this was precious waste of time that could have been used to shed light on what was happening on a larger scale in the world, and how this one event played into an overall image of bravery, resilience and heart. For this reason, I cannot recommend this movie and think its a big stumble for the usually reliable director.


Have you seen ‘The 15:17 To Paris’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Patriots Day (2017)

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Directed By: Peter Berg
Written By: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

Watching Patriots Day is a stressful experience, but not for the reasons I expected. I expected it to be hard to watch because it is a retelling of a violent moment in recent American history, but instead I was just horrified to find that the story of the Boston bombing had been turned into a thinly disguised propaganda piece.

Patriots Day targets two very specific groups of Americans and manipulates them from the beginning of the film to its end. These two groups are Bostonians and conservative white folks. In an effort to cater to Bostonians, the film has an early callout to Dunkin Donuts and there is a scene that features a delightfully brash police officer who verbally spars with the National Guard. There is also a running joke between a young husband and wife about how to pronounce words with a Boston accent. The film’s pandering to conservative white Americans is even more obvious, with moments like the one where Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) implies that Fox News might be more transparent than the US government and overlong scene at Sean Collier’s house when he drinks a beer, rough-houses with his roommates, and then sings a country song in the middle of his living room.

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Of course, just because a movie has a target audience, that doesn’t make it propaganda. What does make it propaganda is 1) it is historically inaccurate, 2) it has a clear agenda, and 3) it manipulates its audience.

Normally I am the first person to claim artists the right to creative license, but a historical piece that systematically populates its universe with real people is different. In Patriots Day, every bombing victim with a speaking part represents a real person and that person is interviewed in a sentimental mini-documentary at the end of the film. The filmmakers want the audience of Patriots Day to be impacted by the realness of the story they tell, even though there is misinformation littered throughout. One of the most notable instances of this is in Katherine Russell Tsarnaev (Melissa Benoist). The movie not only implies that she was aware and supportive of the bombing, but goes so far as to claim that she continues to be under investigation by the FBI, which, based on my research, is untrue.

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Patriots Day has a clear agenda: it aims to inspire fear. And, gosh darn it, it does that. It preys on ignorance about other cultures. One of the most dramatic examples of this was two scenes, played back to back. In the first, DesLauriers and Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), both white men and heroes of our story, deliver loving monologues to their wives. Immediately afterwards the film cuts to the Tsarnaev household, where Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Katherine get into a giant argument because Tamerlan purchased the wrong kind of milk for their child and does not want to fix his mistake. Patriots Day preys on very basic stereotypes about minorities in America as well. Whenever Dhokar’s friends are on screen, they are surrounded by drug paraphernalia and reciting a script that is over-inundated with swear words.

Finally, Patriots Day constantly manipulates its audience. Although there were many moments during the narrative film itself, the primary moment of manipulation was at the end. A mini-documentary featuring every victim portrayed in the film decries the violence of the day and describes Boston’s recovery as one that embraced the American ability to come together in solidarity and love. The speeches were beautiful, but the movie set them up in a way that felt too manipulative to be impactful. I left the theater feeling gross instead of inspired.

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The obvious propaganda of Patriots Day is made all the worse because, from a technical stand point, this is a good movie. The special effects are great. The editing choices are marvelous. The writing – when it’s not moralizing or blatantly catering to its target demographic – is laugh out loud funny, emotionally charged, and keeps the story running at a good pace. Most of the performances were great, with my personal highlights being Kevin Bacon as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers, Jake Pickling as Officer Sean Collier, and Jimmy Yang as Dun Meng. However, a lot of the artistic choices that contribute to this movie being “good” also make it downright offensive. Sometimes it almost felt okay, but ultimately I don’t think I want to laugh at an anti-smoking joke at the tail-end of a real shootout that ended in a gruesome death. It’s distasteful to ask an audience to laugh at action movie one-liners when the story is real and fresh.

As an aside, Dhokar Tsarnaev’s character doesn’t make sense. Because Dhokar was notoriously very “American”, they couldn’t pigeon-hole him like they had Tamerlan (and I have a whole rant about the latent xenophobia that went into the creation of that character). The resulting mess was a character that swung dramatically between a prejudiced caricature of a Muslim terrorist and a second prejudiced caricature of a troubled, urban teenager. Neither stereotype fit, and they were completely contradictory. The lack of cohesion in Dhokar’s character led to completely baffling moments like when Dhokar makes fun of Dun’s accent – even though half his school friends are foreign students.

I can give the movie one star, because it is a fun action movie, but I want that admission couched solidly in my horror that anyone thought that it would be a good idea to make a “fun action movie” about the Boston Marathon bombing. I don’t think anyone should watch Patriots Day. It dishonors the victims, trivializes the serious, and despite its insistence to the contrary is, ultimately, un-American.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘Patriots Day’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: Bleed For This (2016)

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I was a little nervous to write this review. My first two posts for FlixChatter (Ouija and The Eyes Of My Mother) were for horror movies-a genre I enjoy and feel comfortable writing about- so being assigned a movie outside of my wheelhouse was a little daunting, especially considering this one is a boxing movie. I am not remotely a sports person. When I voiced my concerns to my sister, she pointed out that regardless of the subject, a good movie should make me empathize with the main character. I should be able to relate to their struggle and their eagerness to achieve their goals. Was I able to do that in Bleed for This? No. Not really. And for a movie like this, that is really a problem.

Bleed for This tells the true story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), a world champion boxer who suffers a near-fatal car crash, breaking his neck and being told he may never walk again, let alone fight. Despite this major injury, concern from his parents (Katey Sagal and Ciaran Hinds), and lack of support from his manager (Ted Levine), he works relentlessly to not only heal, but return to his former strength and fight again.

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A story like this should be tense and emotional, but it was surprisingly underwhelming. This mostly has to do with poor pacing. A substantial amount of the first half of the movie was dedicated to introducing Vinny and establishing his identity as a boxer, but the events following his car crash-specifically, his journey to recovery- were rushed, showing very little of his physical challenges or his emotional turmoil over potentially never boxing again. We see him struggle to lift a barbell in his parents’ basement which created a moment of suspense (would he be able to even move it? Would he injure himself further?), but the subsequent training montage with trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is brief and shows virtually no extreme effort, so when he finally enters the ring again, it doesn’t feel like as enormous of an achievement as it should.

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Vinny’s feelings about his boxing career possibly ending could have been addressed better as well. Before the accident, his manager suggests he consider retiring, infuriating Vinny; he can’t imagine ever not being a boxer, but when he’s presented with that very real possibility after the car crash, we don’t really see him explore his feelings about it, which seems strange after making such a big deal about his commitment to boxing in the first act.

That’s not to say the movie didn’t have its good points. It had a strong cast, and the chemistry between Teller and Eckhart was especially impressive. There were a few moments of genuine tension toward the end of the film- but not enough to save it from being boring overall.

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I’m sure the real Vinny Pazienza’s recovery was incredibly difficult. I’m sure the training was exhausting and painful and required unbelievable self-discipline, and the idea that he might not reach his goal was probably terrifying. But if none of that is conveyed, what’s the point of making a movie about it at all?


laurasLaura Schaubschlager is a Winona State University graduate with a B.A. in English, which is seldom put to use in my health insurance career (outside of cringing at the grammatical errors my superiors make in their emails). I’m an avid horror fan (movies, novels, video games- anything that makes me hesitate when I go to turn off the light at night), and I’m always looking for writing opportunities, although my current portfolio is made up of partially-completed short stories and an occasionally-updated blog: schaublahblah.wordpress.com.


Have you seen ‘Bleed For This’? Well, what did you think? 

Conspicuous Trailer & Poster of the Week: Made in Dagenham

I’ve been watching quite a few movies set in retro UK lately—Nowhere Boy, An Education—it’s an interesting period of time and this one is no different. Made in Dagenham is based on a real life event in 1968 where a group of female workers at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant went on strike for equal pay and against sexual discrimination. It’s a serious subject matter but delivered with humor to entertain as well as inspire.

It so happened that yesterday was Bob Hoskins’ 68th birthday when I came across this movie. He plays a sympathetic union representative in this comedy drama, along with a strong female cast led by Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, and Rosamund Pike. Hawkins and Pike are actually both in An Education but they didn’t share a screen together. Hawkins won a Golden Globe last year for Happy Go Lucky, which I still hope to see one of these days. The movie I did see her in was BBC’s latest adaptation of Persuasion which was decent but not nearly as good as the 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds. I haven’t seen Nigel Cole’s previous movie Calendar Girls either, which I heard was a hoot. He also did the off-kilter comedy Saving Grace starring Craig Ferguson which was pretty hilarious, judging from the trailer, looks like this one captures the same whimsical spirit.

The poster is cheerful yet defiant. She may be feminine and dainty, but her pose suggests her no-nonsense attitude and of course, red is a bold, valiant color. I love the vignettes behind the main focal point, it balances things nicely and the vibrant color scheme looks so fresh and playful. This is one to watch for the fun 60s costumes, too!

Looks like fun. I might check it out with one of my girlfriends when it’s out on limited release on November 19. How about you?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Mao’s Last Dancer

Happy Friday folks! Time for a new trailer since I skipped last week.

From Oscar nominated Aussie director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy), it’s a drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.

While I was browsing the Apple trailer site, the poster caught my attention because the color scheme reminded me of Gone with the Wind with its fiery red and yellow combination. I love how graceful and melancholic it looks. For a second I thought the male dancer was played by this hunky Korean actor Daniel Henney, but it’s actually Chinese ballet dancer Chi Cao in his debut film. It’s always tricky when you have a story about dancing, as the believability factor hinges on how the dance sequences are executed. Do you get an actor and train him to dance, or get a dancer and train him to act? Since they go with the latter, I hope he pulls off the emotional scenes.

Joan Chen as Li’s mother, Bruce Greenwood as the British dance instructor, and Kyle MacLachlan as Li’s attorney round up the cast. Stories of forbidden love always appeal to me, and Li’s story is certainly worth telling. Alas, most likely it’ll be a dvd viewing for me, as it’s only going to be out in limited release in the US starting August 20.