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.
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Starting this Friday, Julianne Hough can be seen opposite Kenny Wormald in the Footloose remake. You can also find her on billboards, on iTunes, in commercials for ProActive, and on the arm of Ryan Seacrest. But the world hasn’t always been this full of Julianne Hough -- in fact, there was once a time (long before ago) when Hough was just another girl in a suburb of Salt Lake City who liked to dance.
Hough was born in July of 1988 to Mari Ann Heaton and Bruce Hough, the chairman of the Utah Republican Party (who, incidentally, met when they were both on their Idaho college’s ballroom dancing team). She was the fifth and final child of the family, and she officially began entering in dance competitions when she was 9. But then when she was 10, Hough's parents realized they wanted to divorce so they sent her and her older brother Derek (also a dancer from Dancing with the Stars) to London so they could continue studying with their coaches (Corky and Shirley Ballas) without witnessing the unpleasantries of their parents' separation. Once there, the Houghs (along with the Ballas’ son Mark, who also is a pro on Dancing with the Stars) enrolled in school at the Italia Conti Academy, where they learned about singing, theatre, gymnastics, and of course, dance. When she was 13, Julianne and Derek and Mark took the skills they’d acquired at school and formed the pop music group 2B1G (which adorably stood for “2 boys, 1 girl”) and went on to perform at several dance competitions in both the U.S. and the U.K. By the time she was 15, she was the youngest person ever to be named both the Junior Latin World Champion and the International Latin Youth Champion at the Blackpool Dance Festival (which is the world’s first and most famous ballroom dance competition that has been held in Blackpool, England since 1920). Upon returning to the states when she was 15 and after she finished high school in both Las Vegas and Utah, Hough then moved to Los Angeles to jumpstart her career in entertainment.
But she wasn’t immediately cast on Dancing with the Stars. It was only after starring in some television commercials that she was cast to be a dancer on Show Me The Money, which was a William Shatner-hosted game show featuring 13 dancers holding scrolls (it was not very much different than today’s Deal Or No Deal). And while Show Me The Money was a rather short-lived program, Julianne took the credential and used it to get a spot as a company dancer on the Dancing with the Stars tour. She was eventually promoted and joined the show’s main cast in time for its fourth season, which premiered on March 19th, 2007. She was partnered with Olympic Gold Medalist Apolo Anton Ohno and the two of them went on to beat Laila Ali and Joe Fatone and receive the famed Mirror Ball Trophy. In the premiere of the show’s fifth season on September 24th, 2007 Hough was partnered with Indy racecar driver Helio Castroneves, and together they earned Hough her second Mirror Ball Trophy of the year. After the show’s seventh season ended in November of 2008, Hough stated on Ryan Seacrest's radio show she was planning to leave Dancing with the Stars so she could pursue a career in country music, although she ultimately continued dancing through the show's eighth season. But Hough’s participation on DWTS led to much more than just some mantle decor – in 2008 and in 2009 she was nominated for Emmys in the Outstanding Choreography category.
Even though Hough was only known for her dancing for the majority of 2007, she was privately planning to switch into the music industry all along. In May of that year she recorded a song called “Will You Dance With Me” and released it on iTunes to help benefit the American Red Cross. After signing with Universal Music Group Nashville, Hough began collaborating with producer David Malloy to create a self-titled album, which went on to debut in the #1 spot on the Top Country Albums chart on May 28th, 2008. On October 12th, Hough released a Christmas themed EP through Target called Sounds of the Season: The Julianne Hough Holiday Collection, which sold around 250,000 copies. In April of 2009, she won the Top New Artist award at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards and she recently completed her second studio album with Mercury Nashville, and it is slated to hit stores next year.
Hough’s success both on television and in music meant she was the perfect addition to the cast of 2010’s Burlesque, which starred Christina Aguilera as Ali, the girl from Iowa who became a dancer at a Los Angeles burlesque club owned by a former entertainer named Tess (played by Cher). The movie threaded song and dance into the plot in ways we haven’t really seen since 2006’s Dreamgirls and even though the film failed to turn a profit, Hough’s performance as one of the club’s dancers proved to producers that making movies was not outside her realm of capabilities. Hough was rewarded for Burlesque when she was cast as the female lead in Craig Brewer’s remake of the 1984 hit, Footloose. And while the public remains torn on whether or not the original Footloose even deserved a remake, they all seem to agree that Hough’s interpretation of Ariel is endearing and even earned her comparisons to a younger Jennifer Aniston.
Next up for Hough is Adam Shankman’s highly anticipated film adaptation of the Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, which stars Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Russell Brand and Catherine Zeta-Jones. If successful, her participation in the flick has the capacity to launch her into whichever entertainment stratosphere she wishes to primarily inhabit (that is, of course, if she can ever decide).
Sources: Julianne Hough, Wikipedia, IMDB, CMT, ACM Country, THR
Bosses at Nottingham's Castle Rock Brewery have made only 40 barrels of the beer and it won't go on sale to the public until the end of next month (Mar11) - a month before Kate Middleton exchanges vows with heir to the throne Prince William.
Brewer Adrian Redgrove says, "We're sure it'll be the ideal way to toast the couple's future happiness."