Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
The Voice’s final battles aired last night. This is where I’d make an elaborate World War II reference if the public school system hadn’t failed me.
Team Christina opens the proceedings with Brooklyn-born Adriana Louise and Disney alum Jordan Pruitt, her eye on an ever-elusive post-pubescent career. Christina assigns them Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” — kind of an obvious choice? After all, in the blind auditions, Jordan covered “The One That Got Away” and Adriana performed “Domino.” (Yes, that’s by Jessie J, but I thought it was a Katy Perry song for at least six months.)
Visibly nervous, Adriana is encouraged not to hold back in rehearsals. She’s “just” a waitress, she worries aloud, whereas Jordan once toured with the Jonases. Hell, Jordan’s probably even touched a Jonas, or at least uncomfortably shuffled past one in a narrow backstage hallway.
Despite its surprisingly low-quality karaoke backing track, their live duet is heated; Cee Lo calls the battle “the Olympics” of The Voice. Denying her Mouseketeer-Disney-Illuminati roots, Christina sends Adriana on to the knockout round. The other coaches have used up all their steals — Jordan is out of luck.
Next, Team Blake matches up country sweetheart Kelly Crapa (girlfriend thinks she can convince us it’s pronounced cray-pa) and mohawked Michaela Paige. These young women are only 15 and 16, respectively, so brb while I chug a vial of Death Becomes Her potion.
Shelton chooses Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” for this battle. With a song like that, it’s hard to think that the deck isn’t stacked in favor of the punk rocker, but Blake nevertheless warns Michaela not to “oversing” and corrupt the melody. As they rehearse, Blake paces the studio with earbuds in; I have chosen to imagine that he’s actually blasting one of his own songs to drown out all this god-awful non-country.
For their final performance, Kelly has aggressively crimped her hair into some kind of window treatment, while Michaela’s ensemble looks like it was assembled after a Supermarket Sweep-style sprint through Hot Topic. Adam calls the performance “very sweet,” “a musical pillow fight.” To me, it feels like something out of Kidz Bop.
Kelly seems far more than a year younger than her competitor, and somehow frailer — despite the fact that she has at least six inches on Paige, not counting the mohawk. Unsurprisingly, Blake chooses Michaela.
The last battle of the season brings together Team Cee Lo’s dancer-turned-singer Avery Wilson and Chevonne, a former backing vocalist for Lady Gaga. Both killed in their blind auditions — particularly Avery, whose “Without You” earned a four-chair turnaround. (Remind me why he went with Cee Lo?) I have a soft spot for tiny, badass Chevonne, whose body mass is at least 60 percent hair. At first, Chevonne’s belting on “Titanium” gives baby-faced qtpie Avery the yips, but his voice quickly recovers its gorgeous body.
The live performance is one of the best we’ve seen, perhaps second to Trevin Hunte and Amanda Brown’s. Their energy is intoxicating — both are headliners in their own right. All of a sudden, Chevonne is bending over backwards doing some kind of crazy Little Monster gymnastics, and then Avery’s spinning and spinning more and I don’t understand what’s happening but it is excellent.
As much as I love Chevonne, Avery is next-level great. Cee Lo duly picks him. Christina instantly steals Chevonne, to her delight: This lady belongs on Team Xtina. And so the battles end on a high note (see what I did there?).
The Voice is back next Monday with a brand-new knockout round. Each team of ten will be reduced to only five — there are no more steals, and each artist will choose which song he or she performs. Pitch your best (and worst) cover suggestions to me on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC (2)]
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The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.