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Lion (2016)

Lion a 2016 drama film directed by Garth Davis (in his feature debut) and written by Luke Davies, based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose. The film stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. It received six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Patel), Best Supporting Actress (Kidman) and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also received five nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor (Patel) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Saroo is a 5 years old boy living in a poor village called Khandwa in India along with his elder brother Guddu, his mother and younger sister. His mother is a labourer who collects rocks for construction. Guddu and Saroo steal coal from freight trains to afford milk and food. One day Saroo follows his brother to a job and they arrive at a nearby train station, where Saroo decides to stay back and take a nap. Guddu tries to wake him up, but Saroo is too tired. When Guddu does not return, Saroo searches for him and boards a train presuming Guddu is aboard. The train, an empty passenger, takes off in the night as Saroo sleeps and he is unable to leave the train for 2 days. At Calcutta he tries to take a ticket home but no one recognizes his village of “Ganestalay” and he is forced to sleep on cardboard provided by a group of homeless kids. At night the kids are forcefully taken away by some adults but Saroo manages to escape.

He is taken in by Noor, a lady who who brings him back to her apartment and feeds and bathes him. She tells Saroo that a man, Rama, will help him find his way home but the attentions of the man, who works in the sex slave market, scared the boy and he runs away. A young man who sees Saroo from a cafe takes him to the police station but as no one can find his village on the map they take him to an orphanage. The orphanage is run more like a jail for kids but three months later, Saroo is introduced to Mrs. Sood, who tells him she has placed an advertisement about him, in a widely read local newspaper, but no one has responded. She then tells him that an Australian couple is interested to adopt him. She begins to teach Saroo English and he moves to Hobart, Tasmania, in the year 1987, under the care of Sue and John Brierley, where he slowly starts to settle in. A year later, they adopt another boy, Mantosh, from the same orphanage who has trouble adjusting to his new home and suffers from rage and self-harm.

20 years later Mantosh is living estranged from the family and Saroo is leaving for Melbourne to study hotel management. He meets and starts a relationship with an American student named Lucy. At an Indian friend’s home for lunch, Saroo is drawn towards a plate of jalabi which reminds him of Guddu and how they talked about eating the sweet which was a rare thing for them. He confides that he is adopted, and his friends suggest he use Google Earth to search for his hometown in India. Saroo begins his search but over time, disconnects from Lucy, overwhelmed by the thought of emotions his family must have gone through when he was missing. He eventually goes to see Sue after learning from John that she isn’t doing too well with both her sons being distant from her. He apologizes to her and  learns that she is not infertile, but chose to help others in need through adoption, believing that there were already too many people on Earth. Saroo also makes up with Lucy but still spends a long time searching fruitlessly for his hometown.

One evening, while scanning Google Earth, he notices the rock formations where his mother worked, and then finds the area where he lived: the district called Khandwa, and the locality, Ganesh Talai. He finally tells his adoptive mother about his search, and she fully supports his efforts. He travels to India and finds the village and has a tearful reunion with his mother and younger sister but is devastated to learn that Guddu was killed when he was hit by a train the same night that they went to the station as children. Their mother never gave up hope and believed that one day her missing son would return, and never moved away from the village. As the movie ends we see footage of the real Saroo bring Sue to meet his mother. Saroo, later learned that he had been mispronouncing his own name, which was actually Sheru, a diminutive for sher, the Hindi word for “lion”.

A touching film, spurred on by the awesome performance of the child actor Sunny Pawar who will win a lot of hearts. It’s a good story in a slow paced film that picks up only at the beginning and towards the end. I give it a 8.5 outta 10!

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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about female African-American mathematicians at NASA. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, and Mahershala Ali in supporting roles.

Although there are some changes for “film and creative purposes” this is a really good movie for all to watch. The film is set in 1961, and focuses on mathematician Katherine Johnson works as a “computer” in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, alongside her colleagues, aspiring engineer Mary Jackson and unofficial supervisor Dorothy Vaughan. The movie gives us an idea of what segregation in the US was like in those days and how Black-Americans had to struggle to get by and be treated as human being. The segregated bathroom for “coloured” women scenes were, if a little funny, terrible to think of what the women had to go through. Katherine running to and fro several buildings just to relieve herself is something no one should have to go through. White people not drinking from the same coffee pot, black having different public water fountains and not allowed to borrow a book from the regular section of the library – these are things that should shame society when we look back upon them.

What shone through were the strong scenes, the humorous side of things, the fact that these brilliant women never gave up (and never once lost their dignity or composure) and the strength of character. With some awesome acting and casting, this happens to be one of my favourite films that I have seen in recent years. I will give it a 9 outta 10! Kudos to the cast and crew and I hope a lot of people go and see this film. Surprisingly I had only heard about it a couple of days ago when I checked out what running in the theatres and found out more about the film.

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Goodbye Apollo

It’s difficult to put in words the sorrow I feel on learning about Richard Hatch’s death due to cancer. Hatch played Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica, a show that aired on Kuwaiti television during my childhood. I was about 4 or so back in 1980 when I first watched the show and it’s spinoff Galactica 1980 for the first time and would watch the show on many reruns. It was the first show I can remember getting into and all excited about as a kid and it was certainly the first scifi show (my fav genre of tv/movie) that I can ever remember watching. Since 2008 I have rewatched BSG a few more times and I just love the show and the characters. Richard Hatch was a big part of that and I will also be grateful for what he means to us fans. He returned to the 2003 reboot as Tom Zarek. Plus he was also a formidable Kharn in Prelude to Axanar.

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RIP Richard Hatch

Richard Hatch, American actor, writer, and producer best known for his role as Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica television series, and also as Tom Zarek in the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica died Tuesday. He was 71. The actor had been in hospice care after a battle with pancreatic cancer, his rep told the Daily News. His son, Paul,was by his side in his Santa Clarita home.

Hatch began working in television in 1970 when he starred as Philip Brent in the daytime soap opera All My Children, a role he played for two years. For some years, he then made guest appearances in primetime series such as Cannon, Nakia, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, and The Waltons, as well as appearing in several made-for-TV movies such as The Hatfields and McCoys with Jack Palance, Addie and the King of Hearts with Jason Robards, Last of the Belles with Susan Sarandon, and the 1978 TV movie Deadman’s Curve in which he portrayed Jan Berry of the musical duo Jan and Dean. In 1976, Hatch gained his first major television role as Inspector Dan Robbins on the detective series The Streets of San Francisco, a replacement for Michael Douglas (who played Insp. Steve Keller) who had left the series that year. Though the role was only for one season, Hatch won Germany’s Bravo Youth Magazine Award for the role.

Following this, he had a recurring role on the series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, also for one season. By this time, Hatch had become something of a pin-up and regularly appeared in teen-oriented magazines such as Teen Beat, 16 Magazine, and Tiger Beat. Hatch then gained a starring role in Glen A. Larson’s sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica (197, which aired for a single season before cancellation. Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the role. Throughout the 1980s, Hatch made guest appearances on such series as Hotel; Murder, She Wrote; The Love Boat; and Fantasy Island. In 1984, he appeared in several episodes of Dynasty, which was at the top of the ratings at the time. In 1990, Hatch returned to daytime soap operas and appeared on Santa Barbara, originating the character Steven Slade. He continued to make guest appearances on prime time series such as Jake and the Fatman and Baywatch, but roles were becoming few and far between. His next prominent role would be as Tom Zarek in the reimagined version of Battlestar Galactica, in which he made semi-regular appearances from 2004-09.

Hatch has made several low-key theatrical film releases, including Best Friends (1975), Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981), and Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983). An abridged version of the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica was released in cinemas, initially overseas and then for a limited run in the U.S., as was a sequel film, Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack, which was also made from episodes of the series. He starred with Leif Garrett in Party Line (198. Hatch also appeared in InAlienable, a 2008 science fiction film written and produced by Walter Koenig. In 2014, he played the Klingon Commander Kharn in the Star Trek fan film Prelude To Axanar and was to appear in the subsequent fan production Star Trek: Axanar in 2015.

Richard Lawrence Hatch (May 21, 1945 – February 7, 2017)

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The Great Wall

The Great Wall is a 2016 epic historical fiction action-adventure monster film directed by Zhang Yimou and written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. The film stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. The film is based on one of the legends about what it is that the empire was trying to keep out and in this case it’s these monstrous creatures who maybe alien in origin. Called the Taoties, these monsters originate from a green meteor that crash-landed onto Gouwu Mountain two thousand years from the time set in the movie. The Chinese believe the Taotie were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and the people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.

A mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder is attacked by bandits and only two, William and Tovar, survive. While seeking refuge in a cave they are attacked by a monster and William cuts off it’s hand with his sword and it goes away. The next day they stumble upon the Great Wall are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). Initially ordered to be killed the two are spared because they fought and killed a Taotie, one of the monsters that plague northern China every 60 years. William & Tovar joins the battle when the monsters attack and their skills arn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin. Losses are sustained on both sides before the Queen recalls her drones. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), an European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder. Like them, Ballard was also taken prisoner and now has been serving as an English and Latin teacher. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied by battle.

At night two taoties climb the wall and trick the soldiers killing a few including the Shao who then passes on the general’s mantel and leaving Lin to take the command. They also discover that a magnet stuns the monsters into sleeping and they capture one and put their theory to the test. The Taotie is taken to the capital by the envoy. A short while later, a hole is discovered in the base of the Great Wall, which the Taotie Queen has used to lead her hordes to the capital. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard try to escape and knock William unconscious for resisting. William is then arrested by the Chinese soldiers, and despite being saved by a statement from Peng Yong, William eventually locked up in the Wall. Some distance away, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but is himself captured by the Khitans, who inadvertently destroy themselves and Ballard after igniting the powder. Tovar reclaims the horses but is recaptured by the Deer Troop. Lin uses the hot air baloons to get to Bianliang, the capital, Lin passes word to set William free, with Wang telling him to tell the outside world about the danger about to come, but William decides to stay and boards the last balloon.

They reach the capital to see swarms of the monsters destroying property and attacking people. They landed safely into the Emperor’s palace, where Wang proposes an idea to kill the Queen by tying explosives to the captured Taotie from earlier and giving the Taotie meat to be delivered to the Queen. While transporting, a horde of Taotie breach the sewers. Peng Yong sacrifices himself to save the others. With the Taotie released, Lin, William and Wang climb a tower to shoot a black powder rocket to detonate the explosives. Wang is killed while moving to the upper floors. Two of William’s arrows are deflected by the Taoties, but Lin’s spear breach through the defenses after William throws the magnet into the horde before the spear hits a nearby Taotie within the defenses. The queen is destroyed, and the rest of the horde is frozen solid, killing them. With the horde destroyed, William is given an offer, during which he forgoes the powder and instead frees Tovar, much to Tovar’s annoyance. The two, guided by a cavalry, begin their journey back to Europe as Lin, now the General, watch over them from the wall.

Great film to watch in 3D at the theatres. It was awesome to watch. Is the story original? No. Is it very entertaining? I’d say for the most part it was that. Because some of the characters, including a main character played by Matt Damon, are white in a movie set in medieval China, the film has been accused of whitewashing and using the white savior narrative. There are some cliches and non of the actors are taxed in their acting skills. I still enjoyed the film. As a movie going experience I’d give it a…..7.5 outta 10!

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Morgan (2016)

Morgan is a 2016 British-American slasher science fiction film directed by Luke Scott in his directorial debut and written by Seth Owen. The film features an ensemble cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy, Kate Mara, Toby Jones, Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Morgan is an artificial human grown in a secret lab out in a remote secluded area. A small group of scientists have raised her for the past 5 years (she is however around 16-18 in appearance as she has accelerated growth) and she seems to be making good strides until two incidents – one she kills an impaled deer out in the woods seemingly with some compassion but with brutal strength and in a fit of rage after throwing a tantrum she attacks and stabs the eye of one of her handler, Dr. Kathy Grieff. The company that sponsored the scientists work sends out Lee Weathers a risk-assessment specialist. She meets with the scientists Grieff, Dr. Lui Cheng, Dr. Simon Ziegler, Dr. Amy Menser, Dr. Darren Finch & Dr. Brenda Finch. Along with the group is the cook and caretaker Skip Vronsky. Lee meets Morgan and to assess her further she brings a psychologist, Dr. Alan Shapiro to assess her.

After he taunts and goads her Morgans kills Shapiro during the interview and Lee concludes that she must be terminated, given her enhanced intelligence and strength and unpredictable nature. However the scientists who have raised her for 5 years have grown attached to her and cannot bear to kill her so they drug Lee and leave her in the locked lab and try to escape with Morgan. Instead an enraged Morgan kills them and kidnaps her favorite handler, Dr. Amy Menser. In the scientists’ house, Cheng is recording an apology for the failure of the experiment, in which she hints that they were attempting to develop a creation with more human emotions, only to find that the result was harder to control. It is also revealed that Morgan had “weaponized design parameters”. After she has finished, Morgan enters the room and suffocates her. Lee escaped and confronts Morgan but as they struggle they two fall from the top floor to the ground. Morgan leaves with Amy in a car, chased by Lee. Lee crashes into a tree after Morgan pushes her off the road and is picked up by Skip.

Deep in the woods Morgan goes to the lake that Amy had told her about and is moved by the beauty. Lee locates the vehicle they were using and instructs Skip to wait for her by their car, continuing alone. Morgan and Lee have a final showdown, seemingly matched in strength and speed. Finally, Morgan overpowers Lee and impales her on the branch of a fallen tree, seriously injuring her. Morgan leaves her to bleed out, only for Lee to miraculously survive, catch up to Morgan, and drown her in a nearby lake. Lee shoots the surviving handlers, Menser and Vronsky, getting rid of any witnesses to what happened. The final scene shows the businessmen at the company’s headquarters discussing what happened. It’s then revealed that Lee is actually an earlier prototype of the human hybrid, and has been the “perfect” artificial human all this time. Lee is shown making the same gesture with her hands, the same way that Morgan had when Dr. Shapiro asked her how she felt about injuring Dr. Grieff.

Slowly building and plodding along at times, the last 30 minutes is a lot more intense. However the film, despite an excellent cast, fails to ignite any real excitement. It’s a theme done before many times. I give it a 6.5 outta 10!

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RIP John Hurt

Hollywood legend John Hurt has passed away aged 77 after battling cancer and suffering intestinal complaint. The two-time Oscar nominee had a career that spanned more than six decades. He beat pancreatic cancer in 2015, but continued to suffer from health problems. Hurt is survived by wife Anwen Rees-Myers and his two sons Sasha and Nick. He was two-time Oscar nominee; he won a Golden Globe and four Bafta awards. He was known for his portrayals of the famously misunderstood and roles ranged from a mad Roman emperor to a pimp on the road to stardom. Hurt was infamous for his wild lifestyle in earlier years and married four times.

The English actor was born in Derbyshire and became a critical and commercial success in films like Midnight Express, Alien and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Hurt first rose to fame in A Man For All Seasons in 1966 and later clinched a BAFTA for best supporting actor, along with an Oscar nomination, for playing a drug addict in Midnight Express. Hurt picked up yet another BAFTA just two years later in 1980 – this time as a leading actor in David Lynch’s Elephant Man. He also received his second Oscar nomination for his performance, which many extolled as Hurt’s best. The actor also enjoyed immense commercial success, playing Kane in the 1979 blockbuster Alien. The iconic scene in which an alien bursts from his chest won the actor a place in film history. He later reprised the role in Mel Brooks’ parody Spaceballs.

The star later found a new generation of fans by taking on the role of Garrick Ollivander in the Harry Potter franchise. Hurt was also known for his work as a voice actor and took his talents to the small screen, where he played a prominent role in Doctor Who, The Naked Civil Servant, and I, Claudius. Hurt most recently starred in the Oscar-nominated biopic of President John F. Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, which is currently showing in cinemas. He was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama.

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The Purge: Election Year

The Purge: Election Year is a 2016 American dystopian action horror film written and directed by James DeMonaco and starring Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell and Mykelti Williamson. A sequel to the 2014 film The Purge: Anarchy, it is the third installment of the The Purge series.

In 2022, we see a young family tied up by a man in a mask who then tells them they are going to play one final Purge game, called “Mommy’s Choice.” When the mother, Charlie Roan, refuses the man moves slowly towards the family as they struggle. We then flash forward to 18 years and two days before the purge riots have broken out in Washington DC claiming that the New Founding Fathers are using the Purge to help their economic agenda. Charlie, a Senator, is now a contended for President and is standing the election gaining ground over the NFFA’s candidate, Minister Edwidge Owens.

After Roan gets a standing ovation after she declares the Purge only serves to eliminate the poor and benefit the rich and powerful, the FFAA decided to kill her on the day of the Purge to make it look like a purge event but enlist a Neo-Nazi paramilitary solider unit. On March 20, the day before the Purge, the NFFA revokes the Purge rule that protects ranking 10 government officials, appearing to attempt to regain public favor, but is actually a front to kill Roan. On the night of the Purge the unit kills of the secret service and snipers protecting Roan and enter her house. Her head of security, former police sergeant Leo Barnes brings her out and they travel the city looking for a place to hide the night out. A convenience store, owner and proprietor Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), assistant Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), and their friend, EMT Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel), help them out as they fight out purge crowds, a group of South African tourists and the NFAA as well as teenagers looking to attack Joe’s store.

Later they are rescued by a group of anti-purge rebels who are well armed and have supplies and medicine to treat any wounded. Roan discovers the rebels are planning to assassinate the NFAA candidate and tries to dissuade them, as she wants to win the election fairly. As the facility is attacked everyone has to leave and Roan is captured by the soldiers. At a midnite mass in a cathedral Roan is to be killed by the NFAA but the rebels along with Leo, Joe, Marcos and Laney infiltrate the event and kill off most of the NFAA goons while Leo kills the lead soldier. Joe is however killed when a priest who shoots at Roan and he steps in the way. Before succumbing to his injuries, Joe urges Roan to win the election and tells Marcos and Laney to take care of his store. On May 26, two months after the Purge, Roan defeats Owens in the presidency by a landslide while Barnes is promoted to her head of Secret Service while continuing his service as her chief of security. Marcos and Laney renovate the store and continue to run it in Joe’s honor while they watch the news of Roan’s victory and another report indicating that outlawing the Purge has become Roan’s top priority. Further reports state that many NFFA supporters have reacted to the election results with violent protests in the streets as the film ends with Marcos looking at an American flag hanging outside his store.

Hmmm, very interesting that this movie came out in the year of the American election in which Trump won. It’s an improvement on the last two films but not horror in anyway. More like an action film. The film was released on July 1, 2016 and grossed over $118 million, becoming the highest-grossing film of the series. I give it a 7 outta 10!

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The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut is a 2009 American psychological horror film produced by Gold Circle Films and directed by Peter Cornwell. It is supposedly based on Carmen Snedeker and her family, who were the subject of the book In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting (1992). The movie stars Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, Martin Donovan & Amanda Crew.

In 1987 Sara Campbell moves with her cancer-stricken son Matthew to a rural house in Connecticut. The long drives from their home to the hospital for his treatments being the main reason, Sara decides to take the large old house from a man renting it. The following day, Peter arrives with Matt’s brother Billy and cousins Wendy and Mary, and they choose rooms. Matt chooses the basement, where there is a mysterious door. After moving in, Matt suffers a series of visions involving an old, bearded man and corpses with symbols carved into their skin. The next day, Peter learns that the house was supposedly a funeral home; the room behind the mysterious door is a mortuary.

Matt tells another patient, Reverend Nicholas Popescu (Elias Koteas), about the visions. Nicholas advises him to find out what the spirit wants. Later, Matt finds a burned figure in his room who begins to move toward him. When the family comes home, they find a shirtless Matt with his fingers blood-covered from scratching at the wall. As the family starts to strain under the stress of Matt’s illness and his behaviour, the children find a box of photographs, which show Jonah, a young man from Matt’s visions, at a séance, emitting ectoplasm. Wendy and Matt find out that the funeral home was run by a man named Ramsey Aickman. Aickman also conducted psychic research and would host séances with Jonah as the medium. At one séance, all those attending, including Aickman, were found dead and Jonah disappeared. Nicholas theorizes that Aickman was practicing necromancy in an attempt to control the dead and bind them to the house.

That night, Nicholas finds human remains in the house and removes them. Matt awakens to find Aickman’s symbols carved into his flesh. He is taken to the hospital, where he encounters Jonah. Nicholas and Matt begin to have simultaneous visions. Everyone in the séance is burnt, after a flash of bright light. The barely alive Aickman told Jonah to get out of the house, concerned that the demonic presence will get him next. The spirit traps Jonah in the crematory, and cremates him alive. Peter and Sara learn that Matt’s cancer treatments have had no effect. They then discover that Matt has escaped the hospital. Back at the house, Nicholas leaves a message telling the family to get out of the house immediately – Jonah’s spirit was actually protecting them from the spirits. Sara goes in despite the efforts of the firemen and cradles Matt. They are brought out by the fire crew and they try to resuscitate a dying Matt. As Matt slips away, he has a vision of himself standing in the graveyard where he sees Jonah, no longer appearing burnt. He seems about to follow Jonah when he hears his mother’s voice.

He returns to his body and Jonah’s spirit leaves him. Matt’s cancer disappears, and the house was rebuilt and resold with no further reported incidents of haunting. Ofcourse! Well it isn’t a great movie just about average but then I’d watch anything with my eternal crush Virginia Madsen in it. She was quite good in the film too. So is Koteas. I’d give the film a 6.5 outta 10!

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Angry Birds

Angry Birds is a 2016 Finnish-American 3D computer-animated action-adventure comedy film based on the video game series of the same name. It was directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly (in their directorial debuts) and written by Jon Vitti. The film was animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks, and stars Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader and Peter Dinklage.

Reclusive Red (so named because he is a red bird) who lives just outside of the village is sentenced to anger management class after his temper causes a “premature hatching” of a customer’s egg (and where he also threw a cake at the father’s face for trying to bust him) Resentful, Red avoids getting to know his classmates Chuck, Bomb, Terence and the instructor Matilda. One day, a boat docks at the island’s shore. It carries green-colored pigs, who claim to be peaceful explorers bringing offerings of friendship, and are accepted on the island. They introduce the birds to innovative technologies such as slingshots and helium balloons. Red is the only one initially suspicious of them, probably because their ship destroyed part of his home.

He sneaks into the ship and discovers a whole lot of pigs (initially there were only supposed to be two) yet everyone else seems to adore the pigs. As more pigs arrive and seemingly adjust to bird society, with the help of Chuck and Bomb Red seeks out Mighty Eagle, a giant bald eagle said to be the protector of the island, and the only bird that can fly, but who has not been seen for many years. They find him on top of Bird Mountain, but Mighty Eagle is now overweight, self-absorbed, and largely in retirement. Looking through the Mighty Eagle’s binoculars, Red’s group sees the pigs planting explosives around the island while the birds are at a rave party. They realize the party was a ruse to steal the birds’ eggs. Red, Bomb and Chuck attempt to warn the other birds and stop the pigs, but the pigs escape and their explosives destroy the village. When the birds realize what happened, Red rallies them to let loose their anger and take back their eggs.

The birds construct a boat and sail to Piggy Island, where they find the pigs living in a walled city. Deducing the eggs are most likely in the central castle of the city, the birds attack and defeat the pigs by firing themselves over the walls using their gifted giant slingshot. Red, Chuck, and Bomb make it to the castle and find the eggs in a boiler room, where the pigs plan to cook and eat them. Mighty Eagle arrives, having watched these events through his binoculars and had a change of heart, and carries the eggs out. As the birds escape, one egg falls out and rolls back into the castle. Red battles the pigs’ king Leonard and retrieves the egg, escaping as the pigs’ reserve of explosives blow up and destroy Piggy Island. Red reunites with the other birds as the rescued egg hatches, revealing three little blue birds (The Blues), and is declared a hero. He, Chuck, and Bomb are approached by Mighty Eagle, who claims that he wasn’t lazy but instead deliberately made the birds lose faith in him so they could find faith in themselves.

Back on Bird Island, the birds rebuild Red’s house, which had been moved by Red near the edge of the island and was eventually destroyed whenever a boat full of pigs had arrived, all the birds that have hatched sing a song to Red to thank him, and Red reluctantly lets Chuck and Bomb move in with him. During the credits, it is revealed that some of the pigs survived Piggy Island’s destruction and have begun to hatch a new plan to steal the eggs, while a mid-credits scene reveals that the three blue birds that Red rescued use a rebuilt slingshot to launch themselves out to sea.

Though funny in places, I can see why it failed to be a big hit with audiences. It doesn’t really hit you in the heart as most of these animated movies that succeed seem to do. Even some of the jokes seem to fall flat. It was released in the United States on May 20, 2016, received mixed reviews from critics and grossed over $349 million. I give it a 7 outta 10!

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The Forest

The Forest is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed by Jason Zada and written by Ben Ketai, Nick Antosca, and Sarah Cornwell. It stars Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney. Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt, Yukiyoshi Ozawa & Rina Takasaki have supporting roles.

Sara Price, recieves a call from the Japanese police stating that her twin Jess, who was working as an English teacher in Japan is missing and presumed dead. The reason they presume she is dead is that Jess was last seen into the Aokigahara forest, a forest at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan known as a popular destination for the suicidal. Jess has always been a troubled woman from childhood, having seen their parents’ death in a drunk driving accident, which Sara did not witness. Hence Sara has always picked up after her sister and defended her.

Against the wishes of her fiance Rob, Sara goes to Japan and stays at the hotel her sister first had and then visits the school. Sara meets a reporter named Ayden at her hotel bar and as they drink she tells him about her sister. Aiden, who speaks Japanese having lived in Tokyo for many years invites her to go into the forest with him and a park guide, Michi, so she can look for her sister. As they enter the forest Michi tells Sara that Jess probably killed herself, which refuses to believe this, explaining how, being a twin, she can “feel” that Jess is still alive. Deep in the woods, the group discovers a yellow tent that Sara recognizes as Jess’s. With nightfall approaching, Michi suggests they leave a note for Jess and leave. Sara refuses, and Aiden volunteers to stay with her through the night. That night, Sara hears rustling in the bushes and, believing it may be Jess, rushes into the woods after her. Sara finds a Japanese girl, Hoshiko, who claims to know Jess. The girl warns Sara not to trust Aiden and flees at the sound of his voice. Sara attempts to chase after her but falls and loses her.

On their own Aiden and Sara walk around and lose their way. As they walk, Sara’s suspicions are raised and she demands Aiden to give her his phone and finds a picture of Jess on it. Aiden denies any involvement with Jess, but Sara runs into the forest alone. While running she begins to hear voices telling her to turn around. She appears to be unfazed by this until she hears the voice directly behind her. She turns around to see a hanging body and continues to run away. She then falls into an underground cave and goes unconscious, later she wakes up and discovers that she is in the cave with Hoshiko, who turns out to be a y?rei. Hoshiko then turns into what appears to be a “demonic figure”. Sara then runs the opposite way towards what appears to be Aiden. Aiden finds her and helps her out of the cave and, with some convincing, they continue to walk together. They find their way to a ranger station that Aiden had seen.

At the station Sara hallucinates that she hears Jess’s voice from behind a door and finds a note which implies that Aiden is holding Jess captive in the basement. Convinced that he is a threat, Sara attacks and kills Aiden with a small kitchen knife. However she soon realizes that Aiden was telling her the truth and it was all her hallucinations. and finds a note which implies that Aiden is holding Jess captive in the basement. Convinced that he is a threat, Sara attacks and kills Aiden with a small kitchen knife. When she cut at her father’s fingers she was actually cutting deep into her own wrists, and is now dying from blood loss in the basement. As she succumbs to her wounds, a y?rei pulls Sara into the forest floor. Her very much alive sister is rescued by the search party and explains that the “feeling” of her sister is gone and it is assumed that Jess knows Sara is dead. As the search party leaves, Michi is seen staring at a figure and realizes that it’s Sara’s spirit.

Predictable and slightly boring and even tedious in places as the actors struggle over an uninspiring script, the movie saw a negative critical reception but was a box office success, grossing $37.6 million against a reported budget of $10 million. I’ll give it a 5.5 outta 10!

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Passengers

Passengers is a 2016 American science fiction adventure film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and Andy García.

Set sometime in the future, the Avalon is a commerical starship on a long voyage from the Earth to the conly planet Homestead II, a journey that takes 120 years. There are 5000 travelers on board and a sizable crew sleeping in hibernation pods. Unfortunately a malfunction occurs when the starship goes through some space debris and a single passenger, mechanic James Preston, is woken up and comes out of his pod. Jim soon realizes that he is alone, except for the android bartender Arthur and though initially he lives it up and moves up to the more expensive suites, he becomes desperate and lonely. He tried fixing the pod and attempts to wake the crew but is unable to get access to their pods.

After a year of living alone he almost ends his life by nearly jumping out of an airlock. He then notices a beautiful woman named Aurora hibernating in one of the pods. Her video profile reveals a humorous personality and that she is a writer. Jim struggles over the morality of manually reviving Aurora for companionship, but eventually does. He leds her to believe that her pod also malfunctioned like his and shows her around. Aurora, devastated that she may grow old and die before the ship reaches Homestead II, attempts a fruitless effort at re-entering hibernation, just as Jim once tried and failed to do. She comes to accept her situation and begins writing a book about her experiences. Jim and Aurora grow closer, becoming lovers. One evening, exactly a year later, Arthur lets her in on the secret that Jim told him and she is furious! She is distraught, alternately berating, shunning, and physically attacking Jim. Soon after, however, another pod failure awakens Gus, a Chief Deck Officer. The three discover multiple failures in the ship’s systems due to a failed component overloading other components. Gus attempts repairs with Jim and Aurora’s help, while Aurora still blames Jim for stealing her life, claiming it is tantamount to murder.

Gus’s body starts failing and his organs start shutting down caused by the malfunction his pod. Medical tests in the Autodoc, an automated medical diagnostics and treatment pod, show that he has but hours to live. Before his death, Gus gives Jim and Aurora his ID badge to access crew areas and repair the ship, which is experiencing more severe failures each day. The two of them trace an asteroid’s path through parts of the ship’s hull, caused 2 years ago which led to the malfunctions, that damaged the computer administering the reactor. Jim realizes he must vent a fusion reactor by opening an outer vent hatch. Aurora assists Jim while admitting she is terrified of losing him and living on the ship alone. Aurora, from inside the ship, and Jim, outside it, successfully vent the reactor. However, Jim’s tether breaks loose and his damaged spacesuit loses its oxygen supply. Aurora retrieves the seemingly deceased Jim and resuscitates him using the Autodoc.

Jim learns that using the autodoc he can hibernate one person to survive the trip till the ship reaches Homestead II. He offers Aurora the choice of going back to sleep, and she realises this choice would mean that she would never see him again. After 88 years, the ship’s passengers and crew awaken shortly before arrival on Homestead II. They discover vegetation and domestic animals in the ship’s concourse area. Aurora’s completed book is found, and it is revealed that she chose to stay awake with Jim and finish writing her story.

Stunning visually and the special effects are awesome. It is a beautiful movie to watch and well acted. It’s more like a love story set in a starship in space rather than a real science fiction film. I liked it a lot and give it an 8.5 outta 10!

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RIP Om Puri

Veteran actor Om Prakesh Puri OBE, 66, has passed away after a massive heart attack early on Friday morning. He was an Indian actor who appeared in mainstream commercial Indian, British, Pakistani and Hollywood, independent films and art films. His credits also include appearances in American films. He was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India. Om Puri’s friends and colleagues from Bollywood reached his Andheri residence to pay their last respects to the actor. Puri’s body was taken to Cooper hospital for postmortem, following which the funeral will take place. His close associates confirmed that he had a massive heart attack.

Puri was born in Ambala, Haryana, to a Punjabi family. Puri graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. He was also an alumnus of the 1973 class of National School of Drama where Naseeruddin Shah was a co-student. Puri was on the forefront of what was called art films movement in the 70s. He has worked in acclaimed films such as Bhavni Bhavai (1980), Sadgati (1981), Ardh Satya (1982), Mirch Masala (1986) and Dharavi (1992). Among his other roles are Maachis, Wolf, Chachi 420, City of Joy, The Reluctant Fundamentalist etc.

Puri married Nandita Puri in the year 1993. The couple had a son named Ishaan. They separated in 2013.

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Star Trek Movies Rewatching Done

It took me a while, longer than I thought I would take but I did finish my rewatching of the entire collection of Star Trek movies which is something I do every 2 years. This year with Star Trek Beyond being released (I have watched it once in the theatre and once at home on dvd) I knew I just had to. So a few weeks ago I sat back and watched Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness and Beyond for the second time. Then I made up my mind to watch the 10 movies from the original timeline / prime timeline back to back in order.

It took me a long time as initially I planned to only watch them on the weekends. I started on December 8th with The Motion Picture and slowly worked my way through and infact I only watched Star Trek Nemesis, the last movie in the list after midnight on New Year’s Eve but I am counting that as a win. So I guess I am good till 2018. Well actually I might watch them again, perhaps not all of them in order back to back, but some of them sometime this year.

Why? Because it’s Star Trek and I love it.

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Blair Witch (2016)

To be honest I wasn’t that impressed with The Blair Witch Project which is a 1999 found footage horror film that was a trendsetter and heavily influential. I also watched it many years later after I knew the story and the film had been talked out over and over again. Well, we get a second sequel to the film in Blair Witch. Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett the movie stars James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry.

Set 20 years after the events of the first film, Heather’s younger brother James is obsessed with finding what happened to his sister and her crew. He finds an uploaded video from a camera found in the woods and it shows a brief reflection off a mirror of a woman running into a house. James is sure that the woman is his sister. He heads into the woods, accompanied by friends Peter Jones, Ashley Bennett, and film student Lisa Arlington, who wants to film the search for a documentary and hence ofcourse a bunch of cameras and a drone. They meet the Youtubers, Lane & Talia, who found the film and uploaded it and they agree to show them into the woods to the place where they found the film, provided they can join for the rest of the trip. James agrees and the 6 of them head into the woods.

What happens next is stuff pretty much from the first film. Noises in the night, waking up from their tents to find strange stick figures hanging from the trees and even accusation of Lane of setting it up when they find twine in his bag. The group walk in circles coming back to the same spot though they left hours ago. Lane and Talia come back after being banished for a day but they claim that it has been 5 days for them wandering through the woods and that the sun has not been seen for those 5 days! Is it possible that the witch is manipulating the woods? Ashley becomes sick due to a wound on her foot, forcing the group to camp again. Peter is chased by an unknown entity, gets wounded, and disappears. Believing that he is hallucinating, Lane runs off. The next morning, James and Lisa are stunned to find that it is still dark outside and discover larger stick figures. Talia sees clumps of her hair tied to one of the figures. Ashley accuses Talia of crafting them and snaps the figure in half; Talia’s body is then snapped in half.

They are chased by an unseen force that lifts up their tent Ashley finds the drone and climbs a tree to recover it but falls and is pulled off-screen by the force. James and Lisa run and find the cabin from the first film and are separated when James feels he sees his sister and he runs into the house. Lisa sees a humanoid creature and runs from it into the house and finds a disheveled and older looking Lane who traps her in an underground tunnel. Lisa is again attacked by Lane, whom she fatally stabs. She finds James and they are chased by the force. As per the legend, James makes Lisa stare at the wall and tells her not to look at the entity. He however is tricked into turning around, believing that he hears Heather’s voice, is attacked and dragged out of sight. Lisa uses Lane’s camcorder to indirectly view what is behind her and begins walking backwards. However, hearing James’ apology again, she turns too, and is attacked.

Most of the film is a bit similar to the first film and it’s only towards the end when things pick up. I liked the sequence from when Peter is attacked till the end so I’m going to give the film a 6.5 outta 10!

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RIP Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds, a leading lady in Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1950s and 1960s including “Singin’ in the Rain,” died on Wednesday shortly after saying she wanted to be with her daughter Carrie Fisher. The 84-year-old Oscar-nominated singer-actress passed away hours after being rushed to the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke, her son, Todd Fisher said. Her death came just one day after her daughter Carrie, the 60-year-old actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, died of a heart attack. He said the stress of his sister’s death “was too much” for Reynolds. “She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie’,” Mr Fisher added. “And then she was gone.” Reynolds had fallen ill at her son’s home in Beverly Hills, according to celebrity website TMZ. They were reportedly discussing funeral plans for Fisher. Joely Fisher, Carrie’s half sister and also an actress, had taken to Twitter to wish Reynolds well before the death was announced.

Reynolds was a superstar early in life. After two minor roles at Warner Bros. and three supporting roles at MGM, studio boss Louis B. Mayer cast her in “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1952, despite Gene Kelly’s objections. She was 19 with little dance experience, and she would be appearing with two of the screen’s greatest dancers, Donald O’Connor and Kelly, who also co-directed. She was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in the 1964 musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, which was based on the life of a Colorado woman who rose from poverty to riches and triumphed over tragedy, including the sinking of the Titanic. Reynolds received an honorary Oscar in 2015, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, but was too ill to attend the ceremony. Her granddaughter, actress Billie Lourd, accepted the statuette in her honour. She also received a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild that year.

Reynolds also has several hit records to her name, and topped the charts with the 1957 song “Tammy” from the film “Tammy and the Bachelor”. She was married to Eddie Fisher, the singer and actor, from 1955 to 1959, and together they had two children- Carrie and Todd Fisher. Fisher left Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor, the actress, and Reynolds was married and divorced twice afterward. In 1973 Reynolds starred in a Broadway revival of the musical Irene and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical. In 1969 she starred in her own television show The Debbie Reynolds Show, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in A Gift of Love (1999) and an Emmy Award for playing Grace’s mother Bobbi on Will & Grace. Reynolds was a noted businesswoman, having operated her own hotel in Las Vegas. She was also a collector of film memorabilia, beginning with the landmark 1970 MGM auction. She was the former president of The Thalians, an organization dedicated to mental health causes. Reynolds continued to perform successfully on stage, television, and film into her eighties. In January 2015, Reynolds received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In August 2015, it was announced Reynolds would be the recipient of the 2016 Academy Awards Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

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RIP Carrie Fisher

American actress, writer, producer, and humorist Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016, after going into cardiac arrest during a transatlantic flight four days earlier. Fisher was known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series. Her other film roles included Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The ‘Burbs (1989), and When Harry Met Sally… (1989). Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show. In later years, she earned praise for speaking publicly about her experiences with mental health and drug addiction.

Fisher was born in Beverly Hills, California, the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants. Fisher made her film debut in the Columbia Pictures comedy Shampoo (1975) starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn, with Lee Grant and Jack Warden as her character’s parents. “Star Wars,” released in 1977, turned her overnight into an international movie star. The film, written and directed by George Lucas, traveled around the world, breaking box-office records. In April 1978, she appeared as the love interest in Ringo Starr’s 1978 TV special Ringo. Fisher appeared with Laurence Olivier and Joanne Woodward in the anthology series Laurence Olivier Presents in a television version of the William Inge play Come Back, Little Sheba.

Fisher appeared in The Blues Brothers film as Jake’s vengeful ex-lover; she is listed in the credits as “Mystery Woman”. While in Chicago filming the movie, her life was saved by Dan Aykroyd when she was choking on a Brussels sprout and he performed the Heimlich maneuver on her. She appeared on Broadway in Censored Scenes from King Kong in 1980. The same year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and appeared with her Star Wars costars on the cover of the July 12, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. She also appeared in the Broadway production of Agnes of God in 1982. In 1983, Fisher returned to the role of Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi, and posed in the Princess Leia metal bikini on the cover of the Summer 1983 issue of Rolling Stone to promote the film. In 1987, Fisher published her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. The book was semi-autobiographical in the sense that she fictionalized and satirized real-life events such as her drug addiction of the late 1970s and her relationship with her mother. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Also during 1987, she was in the Australian film The Time Guardian. In 1989, Fisher played a major supporting role in When Harry Met Sally…, and in the same year, she appeared with Tom Hanks as his wife in The ‘Burbs.

Fisher appeared in the fantasy comedy film Drop Dead Fred in 1991, and played a therapist in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). During the 1990s, Fisher also published the novels Surrender the Pink (1990) and Delusions of Grandma (1993). In the 2000 film Scream 3 Fisher played a former actress, and in 2001 she played a nun in the Kevin Smith comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. She also co-wrote the TV comedy film These Old Broads (2001), of which she was also co-executive producer. It starred her mother, Debbie Reynolds, as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, and Shirley MacLaine. Besides acting and writing original works, Fisher was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood, working on the screenplays of other writers. She also appeared as General Leia Organa Star Wars: The Force Awakens and had completed filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII before her death. Fisher was survived by her daughter, her mother Debbie Reynolds, her brother Todd Fisher and her half-sisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.

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Sully

Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan, and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles. The film follows Sullenberger’s January 2009 emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, in which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries, and the subsequent publicity and investigation.

The film follows the investigation into the events of January 15, 2009, when three minutes into a domestic flight from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport at an approximate altitude of 2,800 feet (approx. 850 m), the Airbus A320 strikes a flock of birds, disabling both engines.  As US Airways pilots Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles check and see that without engine power and judging themselves unable to reach nearby airports, Sully decides to ditch the aircraft on the Hudson River. He manages to land in the Hudson and the crew evacuates all passengers without casualty. He calls his wife and lets her know what has happened. The press and public hail Sullenburger as a hero, but the incident leaves Sullenburger with symptoms of PTSD shortly afterwards, and he repeatedly imagines the plane crashing into a building.

Afterwards, Sully learns that preliminary data from ACARS suggest that the port engine was still running at idle power. Theoretically, this would have left him with enough power to return to LaGuardia or land at Teterboro. Furthermore, the board of inquiry claims that several confidential computerized simulations of the flight have concluded that the plane could have been landed safely at either airport with no power from either engine. Sully, however, insists that he lost both engines, which left him without sufficient time, speed, or altitude to land safely at any airport. He realizes that the NTSB is leaning towards considering the cause of the accident as “pilot error” and that would mean the end of his career. To save his reputation he arranges to have the simulations rerun with live pilots, and the results are relayed to the public hearing. Both simulations result in successful landings, one at each airport. At the hearing Sully tells that the simulations are unrealistic because the pilots knew in advance of the situation they would face and of the suggested emergency action, and had also been able to practice the scenario several times. The board accepts that in real life the pilots would have taken some time to react, and run their emergency checks, before deciding to divert the plane.

The two simulations are re-run and relayed to the hearing, this time allowing a 35-second pause before the plane is diverted. The simulated diversion to LaGuardia ends with the plane landing onto the lead-in lights short of the runway, and to Teterboro with a crash into buildings before the airport. The board also announces that analysis of the port engine, now recovered from the river, confirms Sully’s account that it had been put out of action by the bird strikes. They therefore conclude that Sully acted correctly in selecting the best of the options available to him, which in the event had saved the lives of everyone aboard. At the end of the hearing First Officer Skiles is asked whether he would have done anything differently, and he replies: “Yes, I would have done it in July.” to much laughter.

Exceptional well done and directed and ofcourse well acted by the cast with Hanks at the helm. He does it with the least amount of drama and brings a rich sincerity to the role. It’s a sedate yet very interesting and involving film. I give it 8.5 outta 10!