SNL Review October 22, 2016: Tom Hanks/Lady GaGa

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Tom Hanks" Episode 1708 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson, Beck Bennett, Tom Hanks as David Pumpkins, and Kate McKinnon during the "Haunted Elevator" sketch on October 22, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Tom Hanks” Episode 1708 — Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson, Beck Bennett, Tom Hanks as David Pumpkins, and Kate McKinnon during the “Haunted Elevator” sketch on October 22, 2016 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2016.

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Black Jeopardy – If memory serves me correctly, Tom Hanks is the first guest to appear on both Celebrity Jeopardy and Black Jeopardy. I thought this concept had been played out, as it has already explored well-meaning white people who don’t mean to be offensive, and black people who defy easy categorization. But I had not considered a possible appearance from the “Make America Great Again” crowd, which at first seems like an easy target for meanness, but instead there is a pivot towards common ground like conspiracy theories, that one guy who fixes everything, and Tyler Perry. Race and class are both big factors in this country.

100 Floors of FrightsSNL enters a late, compelling entry for the most popular Halloween costume of 2016: David S. Pumpkins. Any questions? At first, Hanks’ Mr. Pumpkins gives off a Paul and Phil vibe of “goofy ruining spooky.” He and his skeleton pals are certainly delightfully out-there, but there is a lingering sense that this sketch may have blown its load too early with a too-soon reveal of the main attraction, but then it takes it to another level by doubling (or 73-ing) down on Pumpkins and saying, “We knew just how to scare you the whole time.”

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This Is a Movie Review: Sully

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The main conflict driving Sully is the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into US Airways Flight 1549. The implicit question seems to be: Was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger really a hero? To which presumably every viewer would respond, “Of course!” I suppose the NTSB must do their due diligence to determine if an emergency runway landing was possible, but at a certain point (i.e., right away), you can’t help but ask, “These people do realize that both engines failed and yet everyone survived, don’t they?”

The easy criticism would be to say that Sully should have just focused on the actual Hudson River landing (by far its strongest feature in both technical and dramatic heft). The trouble, though, is that wouldn’t make for a very long movie. The birds fly into the engines almost immediately, there are then only a few minutes to decide what to do, and rescue crews are right on the scene. If this were all shown in real time, it would last about 30 minutes. The entire flight is basically presented twice over, and that is mostly a good decision.

Eventually, everyone decides that indeed this was heroism of the highest order (and not just from Sully, but from everybody involved), and somehow, instead of saying, “Took you long enough,” I instead was roused (and relieved by a zinger of a final line). That is due mostly to high-class acting – of course Tom Hanks as Sully, with Aaron Eckhart right by his side, and also Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan too awesome to hate as the NTSB crew. (Laura Linney does what she can with the cliché role of “hero’s wife on phone,” which is to say: she’s Laura Linney.) The ultimate results of the investigation declare: this rescue was even more amazing than we could have ever imagined. We were already pretty sure about that, but now we’re sure enough to last two lifetimes.

I give Sully 8 Happy Endings out of 10 Frantic Phone Calls, but I must take away 2 Canadian Geese for the Probably Unfair Treatment of the NTSB.

This Is a (Quickie) Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

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Bridge-of-Spies

Bridge of Spies sneaks up on you. The 20th century conflict between the Americans and the Soviets was not just cold, it was also dry. Accordingly, Bridge of Spies is mostly procedural. Discussions of due process are elucidated, and negotiations are often portrayed as merely functional. This approach is boosted with impassioned integrity and deadpan existentialism (the best running gag is Mark Rylance as Soviet spy Rudolf Abel asking “Would it help?” when told he never worries). Then, the movie brings out its finishing move, throwing down with the scale of all that negotiator James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) achieves, through the power of patience and keeping the faith.

Watch And/Or Listen to This: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”

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Yep, the buzz is deserved.

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