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Review: “The 15:17 to Paris” Stops More Often Then Starts



The story of three Americans who stopped a terrorist on a train in 2015 is a heroic one. But is it noble enough to be worthy of a film? While director Clint Eastwood indeed finds enough character in the three heroes and plenty of high drama in the violent encounter they faced, there’s undeniable padding to fluff this story up to hit that 90-minute running time.

EastwoodBefore we get to the shooting on the 15:17, teased throughout the picture, we get to know our three brave men. Alek Skarlatos of the Oregon National Guard is a big guy that strove through many hardships of weight and time management to become a soldier. Spencer Stone of the US Air Force served his country in Afghanistan. Anthony Sadler is a college student that has been best friends with the other two since Catholic school. Oh, also on the train was British businessman Chris Norman who helped on the train as well, but we don’t learn his story. Not in Eastwood’s patriotism guzzling version of the story.

has created a nearly ironclad defense for the actors playing the three Americans since they’re all played by themselves. You can’t call them bad actors because they’re not actors. You can’t say they’re wrong for the roles because they’re playing themselves. That being said, Eastwood still could have used Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler in a more professional manner where they’re not awkwardly stumbling through most scenes.

Where the three work best is when they are in their element. When Skarlatos attends military training, he takes it seriously, and with a real determination and knowingness, you can see in his eyes. But when he’s just hanging out with his friends to have a beer and have a laugh, the off-acting becomes far more noticeable when they need to dominate the screen. This leads to many situations that I’m sure were hilarious between the trio, but don’t translate very well to the screen. I would have overlooked these issues if only the film didn’t have us spend so much time with these characters goofing off and having fun. It also doesn’t help when you have the stronger comedic talents of Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale, and Jaleel White in supporting roles to act as comparisons.

The story becomes far too analytical with detailing these three lives. The movie begins with them in the Catholic school where they all first meet. Their school days are nothing groundbreaking; just a regular suburban life, even when one of them moves away. They grow up to attend college where Skarlatos sets his sights on the military, inspired by a serviceman that ambles into a Jamba Juice. He goes through heavy weight training to become worthy of the service, but we don’t see much of it past a quickly-edited montage with motivating narration and music, perfectly assembled for a Nike commercial. Spencer Stone was in the field in Afghanistan, but his scenes of working with his unit during operations are so dull that even Stone himself admits to the monotony of it all.

Oh, but you don’t know monotony until you’ve seen the film slam on the brakes for the extended showcase of the boys on their European vacation. Watching this section of the film has all the allure of watching your not-so-interesting friend put on a slideshow of their trip. We see everything these three do to an absurd degree. We watch them check in to their hotel, go sightseeing, take selfies, go on boat rides, take more selfies, eat gelato, go to a museum, more selfies, and go to a nightclub where they drink too much. Nothing all that funny or exciting happens during these scenes unless Eastwood is trying too hard to weave the ennui of these heroes into the narrative. But, to be fair to the actors, they did seem natural; I believed their subtle level of interest in the pivotal scene where they enter a gelato shop, buy some gelato, and then leave without saying too much.

Thankfully, after a crawl through the desert of unnecessary vacation footage, the film finally picks up steam when we arrive at the moment on the train everyone has been waiting for. Eastwood’s direction is at its best in these moments that treats the attack with real energy and grit, but low on theatrics. The music is kept to a minimum, and the camera is held close. Eastwood’s almost clinical approach to the events work, keeping perspective on the situation rather than draw out more drama. On its own, this is a profound short film that does well with both paying tributes to the heroes and letting them naturally shine on the screen.

As surprising as it is to watch Eastwood take a Richard Linklater approach to examining the lives of American heroes, there’s an underwhelming lack of flow, coherence, and complexity to this story. Just look at his previous film, Sully, which let us understand the mindset of Chesley Sullenberger and the specifics of what went down on that flight. Not much is divulged about the situation on the train, including the attacker which is portrayed as a faceless bad guy. Not much is worth knowing about Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler, all of which seemed to be relatively easy-going young men.

But I’m sure the relatively inert scenes of the three guys, in addition to them being in the right place at the right time, will inspire any American to know that they can be a hero as well. And while I do like these three men and find their heroism commendable, their film treatment comes off with a certain hollowness of giving a passing a grade to the high school quarterback failing English. The real story of Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler is a great example of American heroism; their movie counterpart is just not as inspiring or entertaining.

Box Office

“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office



It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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Box Office

“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back



With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Movie News

Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure



Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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