This is a perfect 9/11 movie anchored by the best child actor we’ve ever seen. That’s lie #1. And lie #2*. The story is fine and has its high points, but the kid was anywhere from just OK to awful depending on if you’re asking me or Caitlin**. The movie is an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel about a boy with Aspergers struggling to make sense of life after his father (Hanks) died on 9/11 in the twin towers. I’d read the novel and remembered the child’s precociousness feeling more believable and less … obnoxious than in the movie. I barely remembered the movie and knew our enjoyment would rest on if we liked the kid or not. I thought he was fine and Caitlin openly detested him, so we were out on a lot of the big emotional moments that probably would have worked if we liked him. I still found the movie to be fine, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not even much of a showcase for our guy Tom, though he gets a few good scenes and leaves some devastating voicemails. Still, we were so out on the kid not even Hanks dying on 9/11 could squeeze any tears out of us***.
*This is one of the little tropes of the movie — for the kid’s thoughts to narrate and for him to tell us what number lie he’s on as he goes on his mission. It’s also one of the best leads we’ve ever had on the blog. Nice work, Z.
**SERIOUSLY. Like, I really, really wanted to care about this movie. The story itself was clearly well-crafted and moving, and I could see that the bones of it were good. Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer’s other novel-turned-movie, is one of my favorite movie adaptations of all time. The kid KILLS IT for me.
***And I do want to take a moment to point out here, I don’t mean that I didn’t like the character of the boy. I think that’s what hurt me even more — a child afraid to even go on the swings because he fears for his safety? A boy struggling with anxiety, and that in turn making it harder for him to interact with those around him? Be still my heart! The actor, Thomas Horn, is a TERRIBLE actor. I feel like he was chosen only because he has some super-blue eyes which are somehow supposed to blind us to all of his over-acting. His only other IMDB credits are winning Kid’s Jeopardy and a movie called Space Warriors, so draw your own conclusions. Continue reading
Another pleasant surprise in Hanks’ catalogue*. Somehow I’d never seen this gem, and didn’t even realize it was Spielberg, coming back for a third collaboration with Tom. Going in I knew that Tom was stuck in an airport and he had an odd accent, but didn’t know much else. In some ways there isn’t much more to it than that but, since it’s Hanks, you get a unique slice of humanity and it somehow makes the airport a fun, charming place to spend a couple hours**. Or in Viktor Navorski’s case, nine months.
*I had actually seen this one when it came out and loved it at the time, but I was worried that I’d given it too much credit, so I was very happy to be reminded that this is actually a really great movie.
**I wouldn’t go this far, but I will say that it humanizes all of the people who work at the airport, which I think is an incredible thing to remind us all of as we race back and forth. Continue reading
As a kid, one of my first real memories of Tom Hanks was not really of Tom Hanks at all. It was of Woody, the flawed but ultimately loyal and totally lovable toy cowboy from Pixar’s Toy Story. “There’s a snake in my boots!” was the cry of multiple afternoons with my younger brother, who I think was probably even more obsessed than I was with the magical story of toys come to life*. My dad read me a ton of books about magical toys, so I bought in to the idea pretty easily. Hanks truly becomes Woody in this movie, so much so that it was odd to think of Woody in the framework of, “Let’s rank the next Hanks film.” Woody is his own standalone personality, reminding me much of Kermit** who came before him.
*Toy story came at an awkward time in my animated movie watching history. As much as Toy Story was universally loved when it came out, 1995 me was more interested in seeing “Braveheart” on my friends Laser Disc player than a “kids movie.” At 29, I’ll watch Toy Story for days and only want to see “Braveheart” with Master Pancake mocking it.
**Woody is great and all, but I can’t put him in the same sentence as Kermit. I sat next to Caitlin on the couch last night as she started this review and I finished the Henson bio. I completely broke down in tears it when I got to the part where the Disney Imagineers drew a card for Henson’s family that depicted Mickey putting his arm around a despondent Kermit with his head in his hands after Jim died. No one’s crying any tears for Woody or Buzz. I know I’m not at least.
11 years after Ron Howard helped launch Tom Hank’s career in “Splash,” they leave the shores of 1980’s NYC and go to the moon via Houston in 1970. There’s no denying “Apollo 13” is an exceptionally well made film. It looks beautiful, especially in the Blu-Ray version we watched, and has numerous great performances. I was surprised to see that Hanks didn’t get an Academy award nomination, while Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan did in their roles as the head guy at NASA and Hank’s wife*. The movie itself won best sound and editing Oscars and also scored nominations for everything from best picture to screenplay, effects, and set direction. Hard to argue with any of those, even if we didn’t think Quinlan and Hanks had much chemistry. As strong as the movie may be, we didn’t connect with it, at least on this viewing. We got caught up in the story, but it felt more clinical and methodical than other Hanks movies we’d seen several times before. And it doesn’t score all that well on our metrics.
*WHAT?! Quinlan got a nod??? Pshshsh. She was fine, but the romance was NOT there at all. We’ll get to that. Continue reading
This movie is as close to perfect as it’s gonna get. I remember a time in the mid-90s when it was so over-quoted that it was easy to get burnt out on it. And there are plenty of film fans who think it was a dopey, lightweight movie that stole all the Oscars that should have gone to “Pulp Fiction” or “Shawshank Redemption.” I don’t buy it. Even though I knew every beat of the movie after dozens of VHS viewings in my childhood*, I was amazed at how it could still affect me and how much I loved every minute of re-watching it with Caitlin for the first time. Spoiler alert: I’m throwing out 10’s for the first time. A bunch of them.
*I only saw this classic once all the way through, so I’d forgotten a lot, which was almost a happier surprise for me — I got to see it with fresh eyes and be delighted all over again. Continue reading
Let me explain this to you like you’re a six year-old*. Philadelphia is a tough watch. You’re going to feel all the feels watching Tom slowly die from AIDS. You’re probably going to cry**. You’re probably going to shake your head at the homophobia. Especially coming from Denzel. You may get a bit of a happy ending, but not really. Emotional weight aside, this is a damn good movie and Tom rightfully earns his first Oscar for it. We’d been dreading this viewing for quite some time***, but a great sad movie doesn’t make me as sad as a terrible funny movie. I felt better after this than I did after “Volunteers.”
*UNGH! Brilliant film reference opener. I just have to call this out because UNGH!!
**Check your pulse. Is it there? OK, you’re going to cry.
***Hence the late posting here. We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch this over the weekend. Continue reading
You know those movies that seem so classic, whose endings you can reference so easily, that you think you know front to back…and then you turn it on and realize you remember hardly any of it*? That was our experience with “Sleepless in Seattle.” Sort of like dusting off a fossil until the whole picture starts to really emerge for you, such was the experience of watching this sweet film. The best of Meg & Tom**? Not quite. The best movie featuring Meg & Tom***? Bingo. It was like magic.
*We literally only remembered the final scene on top of the Empire State Building and enjoyed the rest like it was our first time watching.
**Sam and Annie could be a better couple than Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly, but we don’t see them together until the very end, so hard to know.
***I guess we won’t know for sure until we rank both, but I found myself loving “Sleepless” more then Mail as we watched. Joe is a distant third.