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.
Top Story: Sandler Ties Knot
As Adam Sandler's Web site states, "Sandler got married: Woopity Doo!" The Associated Press reports the comedian wed his girlfriend, actress Jackie Titone, on Sunday in an outdoor ceremony in Malibu, Calif. Photographs of the nuptials showed Sandler in a black tuxedo and white yarmulke, and Titone in a white gown with spaghetti straps, standing among hanging pale rose bouquets and chairs draped with pink satin, AP reports. Even Sandler's dog, Meatball, got in the action, dressed up in a black tuxedo jacket. It is the first marriage for Sandler 36, and Titone, 28.
Lil' Kim's Jewelry Swiped at JFK Airport
Lil' Kim claimed she was robbed of $250,000 worth of jewelry when one of her bags was tampered with at the John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport Friday. AP reports the hip-hop artist's Louis Vuitton bag, which carried as much as $500,000 in jewelry, was mistakenly mixed with her regular luggage before boarding a morning flight to Los Angeles. When the bag was retrieved, it was found to have some jewelry missing, including her signature "Queen Bee" necklace. A spokesman for the Port Authority said Lil' Kim "filed a report for lost jewelry, and the incident is under investigation by the Port Authority police."
Harry Potter Book Flies Off Shelves
And the phenomenon continues. The release of the fifth Harry Potter installment Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Saturday set publishing records all over the world, including in the U.S., where on the first day alone an estimated five million copies were sold, AP reports. "We expected to sell 1 million copies in the first week and we sold that many within the first 48 hours," Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio told AP Sunday. Amazon.com shipped out more than a million copies of the new book, making Saturday the largest distribution day of a single item in e-commerce history, AP reports.
2003 Idols Gear Up for Tour
Ticket sales for the upcoming American Idol tour--which features the second season singers, including winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken--are already surpassing the sales from the first Idol tour, Billboard magazine reports. Expanding to 41 dates from 30 in 2002, the tour starts July 8 at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and wraps Aug. 31 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. Tickets range from $25-$45 apiece, the same as last year, Billboard reports.
Nelly Sets Up Bone Marrow Search for Sister
Nelly has formed a bone marrow campaign in search of a donor for his sister, Jackie Donahue, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. AP reports the Grammy-winning rapper was on hand for a drive in St. Louis, Missouri over the weekend. "It's not just a one-day event and you'll never hear from us again," Nelly told AP. "It could be a match for somebody else's brother or somebody else's sister."
Playwright George Axelrod Dies
Writer George Axelrod, best known for writing The Seven Year Itch, Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Manchurian Candidate, died Saturday of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Cedric Show Yanked for Now
Fox Television has stopped production on the variety and sketch comedy show Cedric, starring Cedric the Entertainer but plan on running the remaining unseen episodes in the fall, Reuters reports. Despite Cedric's mediocre ratings, Reuters reports Fox originally wanted the show to return for a second season in the fall in hopes to keep the comedian in its fold until the network could develop a more suitable scripted comedy for him.
TV Movie About Fugitive Rapist Changes Ending
Producers of the Lifetime television movie A Date With Darkness: The Trial of Andrew Luster, about real-life fugitive rapist Andrew Luster, are having to rewrite the ending six days before wrapping due to Luster's capture Wednesday in Mexico. Reuters reports Luster, who was confined to house arrest during his trial on charges of drugging and raping three women, escaped five months ago but was apprehended by an American bounty hunter in the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta. The heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune had been sentenced to 120 years in prison.
Role Call: Portrait of Dali To Hit Screens
Director Simon West (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) has signed on to helm Dali, a biopic on famed artist Salvador Dali. Variety reports the film will focus on the artist who captivated the American art scene with sex, sin and surrealism only to fall eventually into scandal and misfortune.