Rating: 8.5 out of 10
One of the most widely quoted movies, not to mention one of the most famous. Who knew that one man could manage to pop up in pretty much all of the momentous occasions in the second half of the 20th Century, seemingly without aging a day. At the same time, he manages to win a clutch of awards, including 6 Oscars, 3 Golden Globes and 1 BAFTA.
Forrest Gump, played marvellously by Tom Hanks, is named after a civil war hero and grows up in Greenbow, Alabama, where his mother runs a boarding house. Although Forrest is a little "slow", with an IQ 3 points below normal, this doesn't seem to bother him, his mother, or his best friend, Jenny Curran. Forrest constantly reminds us, for no particular reasons, that “stupid is as stupid does”. His naïve nature that comes from his intelligence, or lack of, gifts Forrest a uniquely positive perspective on life.
Across the span of the next thirty years, Forrest stumbles into becoming a star football player, a war hero, a successful businessman, and a pop icon, as well as meeting 3 presidents and teaching Elvis how to dance. Forrest doesn’t really care for any of this though, he is more concerned with his lifelong sweetheart Jenny, always wondering where she is and what she is doing.
A trio of assets lifts Forrest Gump above the average "life story": its optimism, freshness, and emotional honesty. Though the movie does not seek to reduce every member of the audience to tears, it has moments whose power comes from their simplicity. Equally as important is laughter, and Forrest Gump has moments of humour strewn throughout.
During the 60s and 70s, no topic more inflamed the turbulent national consciousness than that of Vietnam and those who were sent overseas to fight. Forrest, as might be expected, has a singular viewpoint on his time spent there: "We took long walks and were always looking for this guy named Charlie." This observation emphasizes the essence of the title character's nature.
Through the miracle of visual effects, Forrest meets his fair share of famous people - George Wallace, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and John Lennon. While mixing the real footage of these notables with new images featuring Hanks is not a seamless process, the result is nevertheless effective.
Forrest Gump has several messages, few of which require much digging into the subtext to unearth. The most frequently recurring theme is an admonition not to give up on life. Why surrender when you don't know what lies ahead? By contrasting Forrest's life with the lives of those around him, and by showing how the passage of time brings solace to even the most embittered hearts, the movie underlines this point.
Tom Hanks won 1994's Academy Award for Philadelphia, but his performance here is more nuanced. [With Forrest Gump, he would become only the second man to win back-to-back Lead Actor Oscars, joining Spencer Tracy.] The Alabama accent may seem a little awkward at first, but it doesn't take long for the acting to dwarf the twang. Hanks fashions a human character free of guile and deceit, and barely able to comprehend a concept like evil. Robin Wright gives the best performance of her career, surpassing what she accomplished in The Playboys. Looking and seeming like a younger Jessica Lange, she is believable as the object of Forrest's undying affection. The scene-stealer, however, is Gary Sinise. A renowned stage director and actor, Sinise is probably best known to film-goers (to the extent that he is known at all) for his portrayal of George in 1992's Of Mice and Men (which he also directed). In this movie, his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor is riveting. The passion and pain he brings to the middle portions of Forrest Gump hold together some of the film's weaker moments.
Ultimately, however, any such gripes about Forrest Gump are minor. This is a marvellous motion picture -- a mint julep on a hot summer's afternoon.
Credit to James Berardinelli
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
If you haven’t heard of this movie, what exactly have you been doing!? It’s one of the all-time classics, that has stood the test of time while other pretenders have fallen by the wayside. The Shawshank Redemption doesn't just crop in up in a few people’s must watch lists; it’s in nearly everybody’s, despite failing to pick up many awards.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, the movie opens in 1947 with banker Andy Dufresne being convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover, in spite of his continual protests of innocence. He is sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences in Shawshank State Penitentiary, a place where spending two consecutive minutes would break most people.
Andy survives his first night in the brutal prison, but not without suffering assault from a prison gang and watching the captain of the guards, Byron Hadley, savagely beat another inmate. Andy does manage to quickly become firm friends with Ellis Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, who smuggles contraband into the prison for fellow inmates. For Andy, Ellis, nicknamed Red, secures a tiny rock hammer and a large poster of Rita Hayworth.
Two years after arriving at Shawshank, Andy overhears the captain of the guards complaining about being heavily taxed on a recent inheritance. Risking becoming a victim of Hadley’s brutal attacks, Andy offers to legally protect the money from taxation, to which Hadley agrees. But in Shawshank, there is always someone looking to hurt you and Andy is nearly killed by a prison gang attack on him. Hadley then steps in, retaliating by beating the ringleader of the gang, who is then sent to another prison. In contrast, Andy is sent to help out in the prison library and is never attacked again.
While working in the library, Andy becomes close friends with the quirky Brooks Hatlen, who has been the prison librarian for as long as anyone can remember. Andy’s new job is not as straightforward as organising books though; it is a front for him to begin managing the finances of prison employees, including Warden Norton himself.
In 1954, Brook’s parole appeal is successful and he is released back into the world. However, it is a world that has changed beyond recognition in the fifty years that he has spent locked up inside Shawshank. The ageing ex-librarian finds himself unable to cope with this new world. After scratching his name into the roof of his halfway house room, he unfastens his belt, climbs onto a stool, ties his belt to the ceiling, wraps it round his neck, and ends his life.
Ten years after the tragic departure of Brooks Hatlen, Warden Norton begins exploiting prison labour for public work schemes, profiting and receiving hefty kickbacks for his troubles. Andy duly launders the money for him under the name Randall Stephens. Soon afterwards, a new prisoner, Tommy Williams is thrown into Shawshank as a serial offender of burglary, before making his way into Andy and Red’s circle of friends. He then reveals that an inmate in another prison had claimed responsibility for murdering Andy’s wife and lover – the crimes that Andy was convicted for.
Andy rushes to the Warden with this new information, hoping that he can finally be free from the horrors of Shawshank. The Warden refuses to listen and even sends Andy to solitary confinement after he threatens to stop laundering his money. Whilst Andy rots in solitary, the Warden arranges for Tommy to be killed by Captain Hadley, who makes it appear as if he was attempting to escape.
After two months in the hell of solitary confinement, Andy still refuses to launder money from the Warden’s corrupt work schemes. The Warden breaks him though, threatening to burn down Andy’s beloved library and throw Andy to the prison gangs who would doubtless kill him. Red then becomes worried about Andy after he learns that Andy has procured six feet of rope from another inmate. At roll call the next morning, the guards are shocked by what they see in Andy’s cell.
And that’s where this plot synopsis ends. It is not the end of the movie; there are still a fair few twists and turns before the eventual conclusion, but it really is worth watching the movie to find out what they are, rather than simply reading a brief summary that cannot possibly cover all the exquisite details.
The Shawshank Redemption is a classic movie, and rightly so. It tugs at a myriad of different emotions throughout, from hope to despair and everything between. It might not be an all action thriller, but it doesn’t need the incessant explosions and shootouts that some movies rely so heavily upon. What action there is is excellently played out by a small cast who excel in all departments.
As always, Morgan Freeman, whose iconic voice provides a narration to the film, is terrific, as is Tim Robbins, who plays Andy. Frank Darabont, the director must also be recognised as having played a major role in creating one of the finest films of all time. Currently, The Shawshank Redemption sits top of the IMDB list of the best movies of all time. Not too bad for a movie whose poster was able to tout only “Two thumbs up”.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Theory of Everything, for which lead actor Eddie Redmayne and writer Kiwi Anthony McCarten have recieved Oscar nominations is the story of world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, an extraordinary life and the love between Hawking and his wife Jane (the also Oscar-nominated Felicity Jones).
Beginning with Hawking's time at Cambridge University, the story weaves in love with Hawking's attraction to, a devout Christian, where Hawking does not believe in God, before threatening to derail this love story with the crippling diagnosis of the terrible neurological problem of Motor Neurone Disease.
It's easy to see why the film has had so many Oscar nominations; the prestige biopic has an unbelievable lead who transcends and transforms into the role of Stephen Hawking so easily that you barely notice any more that it's Redmayne.
From Redmayne's initial appearance as the Cambridge boy through to the chair- bound Hawking, he's a commanding presence, pulling in some of the more mischievous elements of the physicist, such as his sly wit and obsession with Penthouse and giving more than he ever could with just a few facial twitches or movements. There's no denying the commitment to the role here and no taking away from the fact that Redmayne's performance will be hard to beat this year.
Equally, Felicity Jones brings a subtlety as Hawking's wife Jane. Hers is a role of quiet compassion, growing frustration and aching sympathy as Jane deals with every blow that comes her way during the difficult relationship. In fact, it's really a film of two halves with the first half being Hawking's story and the second being all about Jane as she fights an attraction to a helper and a growing chasm in her marriage with Hawking.
But curiously, the performances are perhaps the only two elements that shine out in what really is a well-polished but incredibly ordinary movie; it has a warmth but doesn't have the emotional pull that you'd expect or hope for when studying such an inspirational life. For me personally, I have a keen interest in Physics and was expecting a little more of Hawking's work to feature in the movie
The beats of the story follow the well-worn and predictable road of telemovie fodder (there's good news and then the next shot sees something bad threaten to derail it all) as it treads the path of convention. This is not necessarily a bad thing given how beautifully shot and framed it all is, but in among all the loveliness and transcendant performances, the slavish mawkish elements of the script and storyline (replete with piano music here and there) unfortunately conspire to try and ground two stellar performances in tropes that you've seen all too often.
While not packing quite the emotional pull you might expect, The Theory of Everything is buoyed by two simply terrific performances that help elevate the flick from the predictably sentimental story.
Rating: 8 out of 10
A return to the glorious world of Middle Earth, a land full of Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Wizards, Dwarfs and, of course, Hobbits. Middle Earth was the setting for JRR Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings trilogy, to which the stand alone book The Hobbit, was a prequel.
The Hobbit begins with the introvert Bilbo Baggins of Bag End hearing a knock on his door, from the eccentric wizard Gandalf, who he swiftly sends away. But that night, much to the surprise of Bilbo, he plays host to a party of 13 rowdy dwarfs, who promptly raid his food stocks.
The dwarfs are there for a reason; they are going on an adventure to reclaim their ancestral homeland of the Lone Mountain, which was taken by the last of the great dragons, Smaug. They are looking for a burglar to share in their adventure, and Gandalf has recommended Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit.
After the party is over, the group set out for a series of battles, narrow escapes and the final confrontation with Smaug in the climax of the third movie of the trilogy.
As with The Lord of The Rings, this movie is not particularly about the characters, but concentrates mainly on a strong plot line and string of dramatic, special effect laden, battle scenes. In terms of plot line, The Hobbit is reasonably strong, with enough twists and turns along the way to keep you in suspense. For lots of intense, lengthy battle scenes, The Hobbit is a stand out. However, at times, some of the sequences are a little too outlandish, a little too much of a fantasy, which detracts from the excellent special effects.
Obviously, The Hobbit is adapted from a book, which always means that there are some people who are unhappy with the resulting movie. Personally, having read the book before I saw the movie, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Peter Jackson's work. There are enough similarities with the book to ensure that the film is accurate, but, pleasingly, there are also enough differences that people who have read the books don't know exactly what is going to happen next.
On the whole, The Hobbit is a top quality fantasy movie, full of all the grand battles and mystic events that you would expect. Certainly, if you happen to be a fan of The Lord Of the Rings, then The Hobbit movies are for you.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
First, an admission from me: I only decided to watch this movie because I watched the trailer, nothing unusual in that, but the trailer featured the actor Bryan Cranston, who I simply love and I think is superlative in every role he undertakes. In fact, he was featured so much that I thought, probably along with many others, that he would play the main character in the movie. On this assumption, I decided to watch Godzilla.
Spoiler Alert! He died. Again, nothing unusual in that, the main character of a movie often does not live to see the very end, or at least dies in the epic final scenes in one last dramatic twist. With Bryan Cranston's character in Godzilla, the latter of those two options is certainly not true. He dies 15 or so minutes into the movie. There is no resurrection, no flashback, no dramatic twist revealing that he never really died at all. He is simply dead, and there is hardly even a tear shed by his characters son, who, as it turns out, is the main character. This annoyed me extremely, as I was only watching the film to enjoy Bryan Cranston's fantastic acting, so perhaps I have been a little too harsh on the movie as a whole, but maybe this is justifiable.
Godzilla himself is somewhat sidelined in the movie, in favor of creatures called MUTOs, who feed off radiation. It is revealed that one of a pair of MUTOs caused the collapse of a nuclear power station that killed the wife of Bryan Cranston's character fifteen years ago. Upon returning to the site of the collapse, in the centre of a quarantine zone, supposedly due to the radiation released by the destruction of the nuclear reactor, Cranston's character and his son, Ford discover the MUTO in hibernation, surrounded by scientists studying the creature. The giant winged creature escapes, killing Cranston in the process. At the same time, another MUTO awakes in America, devastating the city of Las Vegas.
It appears that Godzilla hunts these creatures for food, and arises from the ocean to hunt. The MUTOs do take up a large proportion of the movie, but it is clear that the movie is heading toward a final epic showdown in San Francisco. In my opinion, the general lighting is too dim; it becomes increasingly hard to figure out what exactly is going on and who looks in the better position.
Overall, I was not massively enthralled by this film, but I may have been effected by the early departure of one of my favorite actors, however, the total effect of the dark lighting, the fact that the title character barely appears in most of the movie and the quite poor character development make this Godzilla reboot a very average movie.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Bourne series of movies, beginning with The Bourne Identity, are the story of Jason Bourne and his search for his identity after suffering amnesia, based on the series of books by Robert Ludlums.
In a ferocious storm in the Mediterranean, a man is found by a fishing trawler floating in the water, with two bullet holes in his back and bank account details embedded in his skin. He wakes, only to find that he has no idea who he is, what he was doing when he was shot, where he lives. He recalls nothing about his life. This man is Jason Bourne.
Upon reaching land and travelling to the bank account in Switzerland, he discovers piles of money of all currencies, a collection of his fake passports and a gun. It turns out that Bourne is a CIA operative and highly trained assassin, who failed his last mission and is now being hunted down by his former employees.
The movies are fast paced from the very start and keep up the blistering pace throughout the entire series, meaning that there is always tension, always a sense of danger surrounding Bourne as he seeks to discover who he is and who he used to work for, despite the best efforts of the American intelligence community.
Matt Damon is, as always, convincing and generally excellent in the lead role of Jason Bourne, in fact, the third movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, is the highest grossing movie in which he stars. In the most recent movie, Damon is replaced, as Bourne is no longer the main character in The Bourne Legacy, by Jeremy Renner, who does a good job as Aaron Cross. However, the final movie is the worst of the Bourne series, although it is still a reasonably good film.
The engaging plot as Bourne searches for his identity and purpose, combined with the constant white knuckle action make the movies absorbing watches, that I certainly recommend if you're looking for a thrill ride from start to finish.
Looking forward, it has been confirmed that a Bourne 5 is being planned, again starring Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, which is expected to be released in summer 2016.