Movie Project #30 and #31: Apollo 13 [1995] & Philadelphia [1993]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Apollo 13 [1995]
Apollo 13 [1995, dir. Ron Howard]
Ah yes, “Houston, we have a problem.” Ron Howard’s spin on the near-disastrous real-life Apollo 13 mission certainly has its place in pop culture history. It also serves as an intriguing history lesson, especially for someone (i.e. me) who somehow had not seen this over the last nineteen years.

Apollo 13 tells the story of what should have been America’s third Moon landing mission, one that ultimately put the crew’s lives in danger due to a mechanical defect. Even though I had known at the very least that the crew would survive, the film remains a mostly suspenseful ride. The three men aboard the spacecraft, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), frantically work together with Mission Control back in Houston (led by a flight director played by Ed Harris) in order to make it home alive. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of tension, and the moments where everyone is able to come up with possible solutions feel like genuine triumphs. By all accounts, the film is also technically accurate, and this really enhances its overall presentation.

The cast here is terrific, though I wish characters other than Hanks’s Lovell would have been fleshed out more. I felt bad for Bacon’s Swigert, as he gets little to no development after being selected as a last-minute replacement for an astronaut with possible impending measles (played by Gary Sinise). Paxton’s character is also lacking in depth, which is surprising since these three men are essentially considered equals on the same team, yet only Hanks is given proper attention. Still, regardless of these character flaws, Apollo 13 does remain an engaging account of a mission that could have been an awful tragedy. 7/10

Philadelphia [1993]
Philadelphia [1993, dir. Jonathan Demme]
Philadelphia has its place in history for being one of the first Hollywood films to tackle HIV/AIDS and homophobia, and for that, it certainly deserves some praise. It helps to have two powerhouse performances from two of the best actors in the business as well.

Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, an AIDS-stricken lawyer who is fired solely because of his condition. He enlists the help of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), the only willing attorney in Philadelphia to file this wrongful dismission suit. Miller is homophobic, and the film makes sure to remind us this over and over again. Some scenes meant to establish this are laughable (such as one where Miller is hit on at a pharmacy by a football-carrying man), but Washington is so good that he transcends the sometimes cringe-worthy dialogue. Hanks won an Oscar for his performance, and perhaps deservedly so — this is among his best work.

Philadelphia has its heart in the right place — the fact that it helped deconstruct so many myths about AIDS is fantastic — but it fails in other accounts. For a film in which its main character is a gay man in a loving relationship with another (played by Antonio Banderas), I can’t recall seeing two men kiss at all during its run time. Perhaps the world wasn’t ready for this at the time, but it seems like a glaring oversight. Philadelphia is still a captivating watch, as well as a solid courtroom drama, but its issues are more noticeable today. 7/10

Movie Project #18 and #19: Big (1988) and When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Big (1988)
Big [1988, dir. Penny Marshall]
Big is a movie that could have only happened in the ’80s. The idea of a young boy wishing to become a grown up — and succeeding — is so ridiculous that it simply shouldn’t work (or make for a good film, anyway). Never doubt Tom Hanks, though. His performance as a grown up child is magical.

Going into the film, all I knew of was the iconic scene where Hanks and Robert Loggia play a giant piano at FAO Schwarz. While that is certainly a great bit, what surprised me was how genuinely funny Big is through its entirety. The humor is generally light-hearted, even as it dabbles in areas that are hardly appropriate (i.e. Hanks, technically a 12-year-old, hooking up with an adult Elizabeth Perkins), and I found myself laughing quite a bit (especially during the first trip to New York). The film is also heartwarming, and it absolutely nails that feeling of what it’s like to be a kid. And let’s face it — anyone who is even remotely still a kid at heart would kill for Hanks’s toy-testing job. 8/10


When Harry Met Sally... [1988]
When Harry Met Sally… [1989, dir. Rob Reiner]
Why is it so difficult to make an intelligent romantic comedy these days? When Harry Met Sally… sure makes it look easy. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan play two acquaintances who meet periodically over the years before finally forming a friendship when both are fresh off of breakups with their significant others. Harry (Crystal) doesn’t believe men and women can be friends without sex getting in the way. Sally disagrees, and this debate constantly lingers over them.

Nora Ephron’s sharp script is the biggest highlight, but Crystal and Ryan also happen to have some terrific chemistry. Crystal’s deadpan wit and Ryan’s bubbly personality play off each other wonderfully, and their gradually progressing relationship is entirely convincing. The film doesn’t rely on contrived tropes to tell the story — it all happens naturally. It’s just a good all-around film that both men and women can enjoy. 8/10

Movie Project #6: Catch Me If You Can [2002]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

Catch Me If You Can [2002]
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay), Stan Redding (book), Frank Abagnale (book)
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams
Running Time: 141 minutes

I’m always a sucker for “truth is stranger than fiction” narratives, which is why I made Catch Me If You Can one of my first selections from this year’s project. An imposter movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, a possibly rejuvenated Steven Spielberg… it has all the ingredients for a fun, memorable adventure. For the most part it works, but it doesn’t quite reach the levels it could have.

The story, set in the 1960s, is certainly interesting enough. DiCaprio plays a fresh-faced teen named Frank Abagnale, a con man who manages to pose as a pilot, doctor and lawyer all while earning himself millions of dollars by the age of 19. Tom Hanks is Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent who catches onto Frank’s scheme and pursues him endlessly throughout the decade. Both are broken, lonely men who have pushed themselves beyond the point of exhaustion with their cat-and-mouse game. No matter what Hanratty does, Abagnale seems to be one step ahead of him.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

It’s doubtful that Frank envisioned life as a con man, but his first taste of success pushes him farther and farther down the rabbit hole. If he could impersonate an airline pilot, gain access to their payroll system and even get invited into the cockpit on several flights — with minimal effort, mind you — why stop there? When Hanratty gets hot on his tail, Frank just shifts gears and becomes a doctor, somehow getting himself a supervisor gig at a hospital. At one point, Frank even pulls a fast one over Hanratty, escaping arrest by claiming to be a member of the Secret Service.

Watching Abagnale finagle his way out of tricky situations is always entertaining, though there are several moments that raise questions about just how true his claims really are. In particular, there is a scene near the end of the film in which he somehow manages to escape an airplane as it is landing — it’s as dubious as it sounds. As the film is based mostly on Abagnale’s own stories, it’s reasonable to assume he took some liberties in telling them. Perhaps in the end, he is still conning all of us watching his tale unfold on film.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

And yet as wild and crazy as this story is, Spielberg never quite lets it reach the next level. The film overall feels safe and never really finds its footing. At times, it comes across as a comical, light-hearted adventure, while other times it gets bogged down by the drama surrounding the two leads. It’s still a fun watch, to be sure, but I can’t help but imagine how this would play out with an edgier filmmaker.

At the very least, the film does have a stellar cast to fall back on. DiCaprio and Hanks, though neither are at their best, are both effortlessly compelling, and they make for a memorable duo. Amy Adams, in one of her earliest roles, is a real highlight, playing the sweet and naive love interest of Abagnale. Christopher Walken is also terrific as Frank’s father who has issues of his own with the IRS.

Even with its flaws, Catch Me If You Can is a likable film that manages to make its extended running time feel shorter than it truly is. It’s not the best film from anyone involved, but it’s fine for what it is.

7/10

Movie Project #6: Catch Me If You Can [2002]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

Catch Me If You Can [2002]
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay), Stan Redding (book), Frank Abagnale (book)
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams
Running Time: 141 minutes

I’m always a sucker for “truth is stranger than fiction” narratives, which is why I made Catch Me If You Can one of my first selections from this year’s project. An imposter movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, a possibly rejuvenated Steven Spielberg… it has all the ingredients for a fun, memorable adventure. For the most part it works, but it doesn’t quite reach the levels it could have.

The story, set in the 1960s, is certainly interesting enough. DiCaprio plays a fresh-faced teen named Frank Abagnale, a con man who manages to pose as a pilot, doctor and lawyer all while earning himself millions of dollars by the age of 19. Tom Hanks is Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent who catches onto Frank’s scheme and pursues him endlessly throughout the decade. Both are broken, lonely men who have pushed themselves beyond the point of exhaustion with their cat-and-mouse game. No matter what Hanratty does, Abagnale seems to be one step ahead of him.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

It’s doubtful that Frank envisioned life as a con man, but his first taste of success pushes him farther and farther down the rabbit hole. If he could impersonate an airline pilot, gain access to their payroll system and even get invited into the cockpit on several flights — with minimal effort, mind you — why stop there? When Hanratty gets hot on his tail, Frank just shifts gears and becomes a doctor, somehow getting himself a supervisor gig at a hospital. At one point, Frank even pulls a fast one over Hanratty, escaping arrest by claiming to be a member of the Secret Service.

Watching Abagnale finagle his way out of tricky situations is always entertaining, though there are several moments that raise questions about just how true his claims really are. In particular, there is a scene near the end of the film in which he somehow manages to escape an airplane as it is landing — it’s as dubious as it sounds. As the film is based mostly on Abagnale’s own stories, it’s reasonable to assume he took some liberties in telling them. Perhaps in the end, he is still conning all of us watching his tale unfold on film.

Catch Me If You Can [2002]

And yet as wild and crazy as this story is, Spielberg never quite lets it reach the next level. The film overall feels safe and never really finds its footing. At times, it comes across as a comical, light-hearted adventure, while other times it gets bogged down by the drama surrounding the two leads. It’s still a fun watch, to be sure, but I can’t help but imagine how this would play out with an edgier filmmaker.

At the very least, the film does have a stellar cast to fall back on. DiCaprio and Hanks, though neither are at their best, are both effortlessly compelling, and they make for a memorable duo. Amy Adams, in one of her earliest roles, is a real highlight, playing the sweet and naive love interest of Abagnale. Christopher Walken is also terrific as Frank’s father who has issues of his own with the IRS.

Even with its flaws, Catch Me If You Can is a likable film that manages to make its extended running time feel shorter than it truly is. It’s not the best film from anyone involved, but it’s fine for what it is.

7/10

Poll Results: Best Tom Hanks Film

forrest-gump

THE RESULTS:
– Forrest Gump: 11 votes
– Saving Private Ryan: 8 votes
– Toy Story: 6 votes
– Big: 4 votes
– A League of Their Own: 3 votes
– Cast Away: 3 votes
– Road to Perdition: 2 votes
– Apollo 13: 1 vote
– Captain Phillips: 1 vote
– Philadelphia: 1 vote
– Splash: 1 vote
– Toy Story 2: 1 vote
– Toy Story 3: 1 vote

Very interesting results! I haven’t seen Forrest Gump in years, but I am a little surprised to see it win since it seems to have a bit of a bad rep these days. It has probably been, oh, 15 years or so since I last saw it, so I’m more than due for a rewatch. Nice to see so many other films receive votes as well, including all entries in the Toy Story trilogy.

This Week’s Poll: This is our biggest poll yet, one that encompasses over 30 years of entertainment. For the first time ever, I am asking you to PICK FOUR: Who is your favorite SNL alumni? I tried my best to include most of the major names from the show’s eclectic cast, but if I happened to miss one or two big names, please let me know. A full list can be found at Wikipedia.

So, who are YOUR favorites?

Poll Result: Best Horror Film of the 2010s

The Cabin in the Woods

THE RESULTS:
– The Cabin in the Woods: 10 votes
– The Conjuring: 7 votes
– Warm Bodies: 2 votes
– The Awakening: 1 vote
– The Bay: 1 vote
– Berberian Sound Studio: 1 vote
– Byzantium: 1 vote
– Evil Dead: 1 vote
– Insidious: 1 vote
– I Saw the Devil: 1 vote
– John Dies at the End: 1 vote
– Paranormal Activity 2: 1 vote
– Red State: 1 vote

In a bit of a surprise, this was basically a two-horse race from beginning to end. A lot of films received votes, but in the end this was The Cabin in the Woods‘ poll to lose. Nice to see The Conjuring, one of this year’s biggest surprises, finish strong as well.

This Week’s Poll: Until this past weekend’s takeover by Bad Grandpa, the box office had been dominated lately by two films: Gravity and Captain Phillips. We already had a Gravity-related poll this month, so let’s take a look at the latter. What are the TWO best Tom Hanks films? The man has had an amazing career, so this one should be interesting.

Have a great week, folks!

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas [2012]

Cloud Atlas [2012]

Cloud Atlas [2012]
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Genre: Drama/Mystery/Sci-Fi
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae
Running Time: 172 minutes

Cloud Atlas is a mess, a huge, sprawling epic that jumps through different time periods at will. It’s also one of the most interesting films I have seen all year.

Based on the “unfilmable” novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas tells six different stories from six time periods — from 1849 to present day and far beyond. Each story uses different characters, but they all appear to be connected in some way. The film is here to show us how the lives of others impact those in the future, and that we as humans are connected regardless of our race and gender.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

With a running time of nearly three hours, there’s a lot to digest. The film itself is visually stunning and begs to be seen on the big screen, and it has an especially impressive score (composed by the trio of Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek). On aesthetics alone, Cloud Atlas is a treat. However, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I watched.

It’s no secret that a film of this magnitude will welcome a second viewing (at least). I spent a great deal of time trying to piece together just how each story was connected, and I kept an eye out for subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that put the different eras together. With so many stories and characters to keep track of, it’s impossible to pull it altogether after one viewing.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

This will infuriate some viewers, no doubt, and I’m not sure the payoff is as exceptional as it could be. Regardless, it can be a challenge to keep us entertained for a full three hours, and I was genuinely enthralled for the vast majority of the feature. With so much going on, you really do need to give this your full attention.

It helps to have an absolute star-studded cast at the disposal of the film, and it’s a lot of fun to look out for the same actors in each time period. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant appear in every single story, always playing different characters (some major, some not). Hanks, in particular, is greatly entertaining, especially as the 2012 writer, Dermot Higgins, who is responsible for one of the film’s most shocking moments.

Cloud Atlas [2012]

Much controversy has been raised about the use of white actors playing Asians in this film. Normally I am against this so-called “yellowface” tactic, but there is no underlying racism here. This film is meant to show how we are all connected, regardless of race, and it’s not just white people playing minorities here. Both Halle Berry and Doona Bae (the popular South Korean actress) play white women at one point. Although sometimes the heavy makeup used by these characters becomes distracting, I thought that using this same group of stars for multiple roles was a brave choice, and the correct one at that.

Cloud Atlas has received wildly mixed reviews, which should be a surprise to no one. The buzz word going around is that the film is “ambitious” and for some this is a good thing, while for others it is not. I like a lot of what the film tries to do, and it is an entertaining “mess” as I mentioned earlier. Some plot threads could have been tightened up, and a few scenes felt unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, but for the most part the film succeeds. Love it or hate it, there hasn’t been another film like Cloud Atlas this year.

7/10