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.
In the last seven years Denzel Washington has paired with director Tony Scott on four hyperkinetic ultra-saturated feature films: Man on Fire Deja Vu The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. When he strays from the time-honored action collaboration you'd think the man would take a break from the format. Not so—as Washington's new film Safe House clearly demonstrates.
Daniel Espinosa director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash shoots his espionage thriller with Scott-ian flair complete with rapid camera movement a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colors and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle—but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He's a safe housekeeper tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington) an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston's safe house for a routine waterboarding but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell's head. To keep the captor alive Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds two fully capable action stars to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds' Weston is a man drowning in circumstance built to kick ass but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House contending with the script's meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys' desire is never identified. It's a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical "there's no time Mr. ______!" exclamatory statements. Caking it is Espinosa's direction which lacks any sense of coherent geography. The action is never intense because you have no idea who is going where and when and why.
Safe House is a competently made movie with enough talent to keep it afloat but without any definable hook or dramatic emphasis it plays out like an undercooked version of the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott formula. Which is unfortunate as four solid ones already exist.
Snoop Dogg's wife has been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.
Shante Broadus was pulled over in the early hours of Saturday morning while driving in Fullerton, California.
Broadus--who was alone in the car--was detained and booked on charges of driving under the influence. She was released later that day, pending a court appearance, according to TMZ.com.
Broadus married in the rapper--real name Calvin Broadus--in 1997 and they have three children together.
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November 16, 2005 6:24am EST
Trimspa defends Anna Nicole Smith
The American Music Awards may be over, but the buzz over Anna Nicole Smith's odd behavior at the Sunday night event isn't.
The hubbub began when the newly svelte Smith stepped on to the stage to introduce hip-hop artist Kanye West. "Like my body?" the former Playboy model turned Trimspa spokesperson slurred while attempting to strike a pose. West's band, meanwhile, was cued to start playing before Smith was able to finish stumbling through her preamble, which host Jimmy Kimmel dubbed the "performance of the night." Smith's eccentric conduct snowballed during yesterday's post-show coverage, leaving many speculating on the entertainer's condition and her continued association with Trimspa, the diet plan that helped her shed close to 70 pounds. The star of the reality series The Anna Nicole Show told Entertainment Tonight reporter Kevin Frazier she takes two pills a day to maintain her weight. "Clearly, last night's award ceremony has become more about Anna's introduction of Kanye West than about who won the prized awards, which is unfortunate," Alex Goen, founder and CEO of Trimspa, said in a statement Monday, adding: "Like all our customers, we stand by Anna. More important, we stand with her as our friend." Smith's weight loss garnered media attention with Trimspa's TV ad campaign, in which she tells paparazzi on a red carpet how she lost all that weight: "Trimspa, baby!"
David Lee Roth training as paramedic
Former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth is reportedly training to become a paramedic. The AP reports Roth, 50, has been riding along with ambulance crews in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn several nights a week. "I have been on over 200 individual rides now," Roth told the New York Post Tuesday. "Not once has anyone recognized me, which is perfect for me." Roth, who said he did not want the neighborhoods he was working in named so that he would not draw attention to himself or co-workers, even saved the life of a heart attack victim several weeks ago in the Bronx by using a defibrillator. "You would never know you were dealing with a rock-'n'-roll guy," Roth's EMS consultant and tutor Linda Reissman said. "His commitment really is touching. He wants to help people."
Polanski wants to sue Vanity Fair from abroad
Lawyers for Roman Polanski, who lives in France, will ask England's highest court Wednesday to overturn previous court rulings barring the director from suing Vanity Fair via video link from Paris, Reuters reports. Polanski wants to sue the magazine over an article that claimed he propositioned a woman in a New York restaurant on his way to the funeral of his wife, actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969. But Polanski is scared to come to Britain for fear of being extradited to the United States as a fugitive from justice. In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty in a California court to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, but fled the country before sentencing. The Court of Appeal ruled last year Polanski should not be allowed to testify from Paris because it would be allowing him to use judicial process when it suits him, but avoid it when it does not.
Garrett absent from Raymond honoree bash
The cast and crew of Everybody Loves Raymond were honored at the Museum of Television and Radio's annual fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hotel Monday night--minus co-star Brad Garrett, The Associated Press reports. Garrett's conspicuous absence was a reminder of last year's bitter salary dispute between CBS and the cast, who secured generous increases for the show's 10th and final season. CBS chief Leslie Moonves joked: "Negotiating with Doris (Roberts) is like negotiating with your mother ... You can't win. Negotiating with Brad (Garrett) is like negotiating with John Gotti." Star Ray Romano, one of TV's highest-paid performers with a per-episode salary of more than $2 million, said of Moonves: "Like my father, I go to him when I need money."
UPN brings back TLC
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, the remaining members of the hip-hop trio TLC, have teamed up with UPN for a reality series titled, R U the Girl With T-Boz & Chilli. Reuters reports the series will focus on resurrecting the '90s group--who tragically lost their third member, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, in 2002 after she died in a car crash--and will go through the rigorous challenges of finding a replacement who will join them for a concert and recording session. "We want to find someone with the right chemistry and magic to work with us," Watkins and Thomas said. "We have been blessed with great success, and this is a chance for our fans to join us as we give someone a once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfill their dream."
More on reality television...
Former supermodel Rachel Hunter is set to join TBS' reality series The Real Gilligan's Island as pampered movie star Ginger, the AP reports. Hunter, who is also Rod Stewart's ex-wife, "shares the flightiness and aloofness of Ginger," a statement on the TBS Web site said. The series features several stranded castaways, including a skipper, first mate, professor, movie star, millionaire and his wife, who must pool their resources to get themselves off of a deserted island--including challenges modeled after episodes from the original 1960s series Gilligan's Island. The show also stars Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, the pretty but unworldly young woman from Kansas.
Peter Fonda files suit against clothing company
Actor Peter Fonda has sued Dragonfly Clothing Inc. for more than $123,000, claiming the clothing company violated a licensing agreement that allows it to market apparel bearing his image, the AP reports. According to an amendment agreement attached to the lawsuit, the Fullerton, Calif.-based Dragonfly failed to pay Fonda guaranteed minimum royalties. Dragonfly markets clothing bearing the logos or likenesses of a number of famous personalities, including Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, James Dean and others.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.