The Finest Hours

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by Ian M. Woodington

The Finest Hours tells the story of four men who, in February of 1952, undertook one of the most daring rescue attempts in the history of the Unites States Coast Guard. A tanker, the SS Pendleton, is caught in a storm off the coast of New England and is ripped in half, leaving more than 30 sailors adrift and sinking. While Bernard Webber (Chris Pine) leads an impossible rescue in a lifeboat designed to hold only 12, his fiancée, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), struggles to come to terms with what it means to be the wife of a man who has to willingly risk his life for others.

Year after year, it proves out. January is just not a good month for cinema. With one hand, the studios campaign for award season glory and with the other, dump their trash. That’s not to say The Finest Hours is total garbage. Even I’m not that cynical to unconditionally condemn something that shines a light on the triumph of the human spirit when faced with insurmountable odds. It’s just that there is only about one-third of a good film here. Anytime the crew of the Pendelton was onscreen, I was captivated. Their struggle for survival and their feats of engineering under incredible pressure make for riveting entertainment and should have been a film unto itself. These scenes unfortunately are interspaced with and, more often than not, forced to take a back seat to paint-by-numbers dialogue, two-dimensional caricatures (both disappointing when you consider the three writers on this film were behind The Fighter) and a shockingly abrasive score during the main U.S. Coast Guard narrative. And yes, it may be called The Finest Hours, but if that’s the title they’re going with a little more effort should have been put into the rescuers, as opposed to those being rescued. Overall, we’re deprived of a sense of urgency, in what is supposed to be a race against time, and an intimacy with any character performed well enough to be worth caring about.

At least this isn’t a complete waste of an all-star cast. I’ll ease off on Chris Pine, tempted as I might be to pick on him. After having fumbled his way through both Captain Kirk and Jack Ryan, doing so now in a flick produced by Disney would feel rather like a cheap shot. Instead it’s fairer to write off the other, usually more dependable leads and praise Casey Affleck, who alone makes The Finest Hours watchable. Ironically, he plays the man who has to keep not only half a ship afloat, but an entire crew together. Between Eric Bana’s overstatement, Ben Foster’s understatement, and a questionable casting choice in Holliday Grainger, Affleck is heads above the rest when it comes to making courage and sentiment ring true.

A regrettable execution notwithstanding, better can and should have been done to honor these distinguished service members and viewers looking for a storytelling standard above the level of your average Hallmark original are advised to look elsewhere. Try, for instance, Oliver Stone’s (not as controversial as we all thought it was going to be) World Trade Center for a better example of how these tales of perseverance and survival are supposed to be done.

 

2 out of 5

 

Second Review by Ryan Guerra

 

Based on a true story, The Finest Hours tells the story about the greatest United States Coast Guard rescue of all time. From the 1950s, the film tells how as small boat of cost guardsmen risked their lives to save 30+ men aboard a sinking oil tanker during one of the worst storms to hit the east coast.

Chris Pine plays Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber. Bernie is an unassuming, quite man who plays things by the book and does what is expected of him because it is the right thing to do. This role is the opposite of anything we have seen Pine in thus far. Normally, he is out front, showing off his good looks and charming personality. However this film gives Pine an opportunity to show some range that we have not seen from him thus far in his career. And he does not disappoint. Pine shows that he can present the quiet reserve of an emotional moment.

Those moments are best shared across from Holliday Grainger who plays Bernie’s fiancé Miriam. Where Bernie is quiet snowfall, Miriam is sizzling fire. Grainger embodies a 1950’s female who can only live up to social norms for a woman before she burst opens and acts on impulse and speaks her mind. The two make a nice pair on film.

Meanwhile, on the sinking oil tanker, Casey Affleck plays engine room head Ray Sybert. Sybert knows the ship and when the crew find themselves in a bind, they all look towards Sybert who keeps his cool in the time of peril. Affleck also plays a role in a quiet reserve that seems thoughtful as much as it is cool under pressure.

And here is where they film hits the preverbal seawall. Pine and Affleck are the main characters who which we experience this extremely dangerous and daring rescue. However their quiet reserve is constantly contrasting the dangerous and powerful waves and storm that is shown through solid cinema effect. The storm reminds us how small we can be as humans to the forces of nature. But that danger is diminished by both Pine and Affleck’s quiet performance. At no point did they lose that demeanor or make us feel they were actually scared. That isn’t to say that they don’t express their fear, but as a result, the danger never seemed real from the actors. So when the big rescue is happening, you know that nothing bad is going to happen to them. While the real life Bernie and Ray may in fact be reserved, this is an area where Hollywood would have been wise to take some liberties in order to create a better and more memorable story. At least one that audiences will connect with and root for.

Ultimately, The Finest Hours isn’t a bad film, it is just an average film. It is acted well from all parties and it is nice to see Pine in a role that is opposite of what we have seen from him so far. However the quiet reserve of the main characters diminish the danger of the storm and thus the film feels very paint by numbers.

3 ½ stars out of 5

The Sky Is Not Falling For E3 Over EA Play

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Recently it has been reported that EA has opted not to have their large space at the upcoming 2016 E3 Expo in Los Angeles. This is surprising news as the company is the first thing attendees see as they enter one of the main halls and the company has been very active in promoting their upcoming products at the show. As somebody is cover the Expo for several years and is are ready looking forward to this year show, I find this to be a bit of a disappointment as I enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping by having my meetings all in one building. We cover several shows throughout the year, and I can tell you it can be a bit daunting scheduling your meetings when they require you to move between hotels, the Expo Hall, and other locations while maintaining a schedule.

EA will reportedly do their own series of events during the week of E3 as well as other special events and streaming events directed to the fans under the EA Play brand that they have established.
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For many this news came out of nowhere and of course this started up the cries of the demise of E3 being imminent as other companies are likely to follow suit. It seems that every handful of years there someone who wants to claim that the end of E3 is near, only to see the show rebound and have unprecedented success. As such, here are some of the reasons why I think that this dire prediction may be far too premature.

E3 attracts a large assortment of journalists, buyers, and industry professionals from all over the world. I can tell you that when I check into the press room upon arrival, I hear a multitude of languages that span the United States, Europe, Asia, and the numerous countries that make up the world being spoken. I only have to travel from one state away but it still requires a bit of planning as things like transportation, hotels, entertainment, and other factors need to be considered as the Los Angeles area certainly has an abundance of things to do.

With the fact that E3 has an abundance of hardware and software companies all in one location, many who will be making major announcements at the show, you can see how this attracts people from all corners of the world. One of the greatest things for us about the show is that it is often our best chance to meet directly with the reps that we interact with throughout the year. At other shows we often get assistance, PR firms, or people hired to work the show. While this is very good and were very happy to meet with them and hear what they have to say and see what they have to show us, it is nice to be able to have many of your top contacts in one place where you can catch up with them all seeing the latest and greatest from their companies.

While no one will doubt the size and scope of EA as publishing giant, I still see Activision, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, 2K, Square Enix, Capcom, and others at E3 to say nothing of the multitude of hardware companies and other publishers that are on hand. As such, it would appear to me that the show is still doing fine and that it will endure this latest development. The fear is that companies will go off and start doing their own showcases and bypass E3 in the process. I would note that Sony is had their own Expo for two years now and are still going to be at E3. While some think that the cost of the show may be prohibitive to many publishers, the fact is that it attracts a very large contingent that otherwise might not travel to see the offerings of a simple publisher. Smaller but growing publications love E3 as it truly allows them to see and meet with many different publishers as well is taking in the numerous activities available in the Southern California area. I am not so sure that people would be willing to travel from Eastern Europe, Asia, and other locations in the numbers that they do for E3 for a single publisher event.

In an industry filled with moves and counter moves, this is simply an opening move with others to follow. While I do understand this is a fundamental change in the dynamics of E3, I do think the show will adapt, adjust, and continue to offer a top-notch gaming event for this foreseeable future.
I can’t wait for June to get here and see what amazing stuff they have in store for us.

You can read The Nerdist’s Take At
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Join Jessica Chobot for Nerdist’s take on the pros and cons of direct-to-fan gaming announcements and what they mean for the future of E3, on today’s Nerdist News!

Fallout 4

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When Fallout 4 was first announced last June at E3, I like many gamers was thrilled for the latest chapter in this ongoing and enduring series. The fact that Bethesda was able to deliver successfully on the November release date was even more amazing as was the incredible stability, complexity, and fun of the game.

While we featured the game extensively on our holiday gift guides and radio segments, I opted to wait to do the full review until I had spent more time with the game. The story the game is very compelling and that you’re a father looking to recover his son in a post-apocalyptic world. The interactions that NPC characters are extremely enjoyable, as is the open world and highly customizable nature of the game. There are countless options for weapon and clothing customization, side quests, weapons, your armor, and even your companion. All of this helps make the game ending incredibly complex, diverse, and deeply rewarding experience.

I have to admit that I do have some frustration with the menu system as for me; I’m not a big fan of micromanagement and I have to admit that I found crafting a bit frustrating at times. I remember an early mission where I had to construct a transmitter to be very frustrating as I could not seem to get all of the completed parts together.

The beauty of the game though was that I was able to go off on other quests, combat enemies, trade, craft, customize, explore, and more so that I was able to be more than entertained when I got caught up in a segment. I really enjoyed being able to do things like raid an enemy base and take down numerous bad guys as well is combat mutated creatures. The longer I spend with the game, the more I began to appreciate the complexity of it in that there are multiple ways to play it, when it, and enjoy it. I’ve heard of players who achieve great things without even leaving the vault area at the start of the game. There are players spend a considerable amount of time crafting their community, appearance, and weaponry to find the best overall gaming experience.
I and the other hand like it sleek and simple, and prefer to get right down to the action. Now this course cause me to learn some patience as I would often overload my character was salvage and had to learn quickly what is useful to keep, sell, and discard. Combat was extremely satisfying although I did get a little hung up at times having to change weapons in my Pip Boy. I would’ve liked a little more streamlined approach where I could have several weapons stage as well as grenades without having to access a menu during heated moments. Naturally I understand this is a frustration from a PC gamer’s perspective and those playing the game on a console don’t have the luxury of multiple hotkeys to assign.

From the solid voice acting, enjoyable story, numerous customizations, an abundance of fun and action filled moments; Fallout 4 is the rare game that delivers on what fans expect as well as brings an abundance of options and enjoyment to the game will be on the first play through. Not only is the game one of the better releases of 2015, but one can argue that it is one of the better game releases ever not just of the series which is high praise indeed. I cannot wait to see what comes next for the series as this is been a trip well worth taking.

5 stars out of 5.

The 5th Wave

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Films about invaders from space have been a staple of film and television since the golden age of cinema. Playing on many Cold War fears in the aftermath of W.W.II, aliens bent on destruction has been an enduring staple of cinematic culture.

In the new film “The 5th Wave” which is based on the book of the same name, Chloe Grace Moretz plays Cassie, a teen who has her entire life turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious craft. A few days after the arrival of “the Others” as they are known, a pulse wipes out all electronics on the planet. This is soon followed by tsunamis and earthquakes as well as disease and death.

Cassie along with her father and brother find shelter but their community is soon disrupted by the arrival of the military who say that the invaders are now amongst them and posing as humans.

The military under the leadership of Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) has a plan to train the children to spot and defeat the alien invaders thus setting in motion the main conflict of the film. The secondary story consists of Cassie attempting to reunite with her family and her relationship with a mysterious stranger named Evan (Alex Roe).

The film is clearly aimed at a young adult market and as such I was able to spot the big twist in the film a long ways off as the clues were blatantly obvious to me.  That being said, the film is better than you might expect and being the first chapter in a trilogy of books does set up the possibilities of sequels.

The dialogue and acting is pretty groan inducing at times, but again, remember the target audience, the film should entertain and it is nice to see Moretz deliver a solid performance in what in many ways could have been a limited role.

While it is not going to make you forget “The Hunger Games” anytime soon, the film is still a decent escape for those willing to overlook the flaws.

3 stars out of 5.