Tag Archives: Ben Affleck

If You Liked… Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Who doesn’t like Shawshank Redemption? This is always my go to answer when someone asks me for my favorite movie. I love it because it blends a gritty realism with an ethereal storytelling and a epic twist ending. If you have not seen it, shame on you. It used to be on TBS at least twice a week, but you need to buy it because once you watch it, you will have a new favorite as well. Just in case you haven’t seen it, I will try not to spoil the ending, but here is a quick summary. Click here if you’ve already seen the film and just want to see my recommendations.

shawshank1

The Shawshank Redemption (directed by Frank Darabont of The Walking Dead fame) is one of those movies whose estimation has only grown with time. It wasn’t a box office hit in 1994, but it was a critical success and received 7 Academy Award nominations but LOST in every category, being beat out for best picture by Forrest Gump. However, in 2008 (14 years after its original release) it took over the #1 slot as greatest film on the IMDb’s Top 250 from The Godfather and it still holds that place to this day.

Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) is our co-pilot and narrator for our long stay in Shawshank State Penitentiary. He admits that he belongs there for murder, calling himself the only guilty man in Shawshank. The year is 1947 and our central character is banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who has been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. We see him entering Shawshank to begin serving his two consecutive life sentences. The movie is based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Through the story, we experience a 20 year friendship between these two men.

Shawshank2

You’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine ode to male bonding than this drama spanning two decades from 1946 to 1967. When Andy arrives, he is subject to beatings, humiliation and all manner of horrors within the prison system. He endures the harassment seemingly unfazed. Slowly he learns to adapt, utilizing his talents as an auditor to garner favor from the powers that be. In time he inspires his fellow inmates, making friends with them, in particular Red who originally bet that Andy would be the first new inmate to crack.

The film is highlighted by several amazing performances. Morgan Freeman embodies his character with reverence, heart, and warmth. Tim Robbins is every bit his equal in a role that is more difficult to warm up to. If the actor appears a bit of an enigma, that is only because the character is meant to be that way. There is a quiet way about him that makes the other inmates uneasy and tells us and them that he does not belong there. Actor Bob Gunton is a villain for the ages as Warden Samuel Norton. A stern man that exploits the prison for his own gain as low-cost labor. He presents himself as a god-fearing man, although his true nature is gradually disclosed. The depth of his evil seems to know no bounds.

Shawshank4

Like a flower growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, the narrative is uplifting even though we are presented with the most oppressive of surroundings. My personal favorite scene features Andy locking himself in the warden’s office and using the central microphone to blast an opera record through the grounds. As Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro echoes through the penitentiary, Roger Deakins cinematography captures the emotion as the inmates look upwards, embracing the audible gift. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the scene always brings me to tears. Shawshank is brimming with moments like this where the hope of the human soul triumphs over adversity in the most inspiring way.

So, assuming you love Shawshank like I do then you may be struggling to find movies that give you a similar sense of awe and inspiration. I hope to help with that by giving you a handful of recommendations based upon different aspects of Shawshank Redemption.

The Green Mile

Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.
Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.

Good Will Hunting

Perhaps you don't care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn't miss.
Perhaps you don’t care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn’t miss.

The Shining

Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.
Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.

Se7en

Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman's filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directoral touch of David Fincher.
Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman’s filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directorial touch of David Fincher.

I.Q.

Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.
Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.

I hope this gave you some ideas for your next movie night. Please let me know your thoughts below on Shawshank Redemption as well as any of my recommendations. This is a place for sharing.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

This movie should have been great. So, what happened? In a word, Marvel happened.

I don’t get why it took so long for this to become a phenomenon. Comic books have been mixing and blending story arcs and character development for more than 60 years. In the many different comics iterations and timelines, these two Justice League teammates have battled at least a dozen times or more. So why has it taken so long for movie studios to grasp the idea that while stand alone superhero movies are great, comic book characters joining forces or engaging in battle is a golden ticket?

BATMAN V SUPERMANI can understand why and I’m personally glad that 60s filmmakers didn’t attempt to create epic superhero battles. The effects were not ready for it. Unless a talented director like Cecil B. DeMille got involved, the film would have likely never been made or would have been terrible. But since the 80s, we have been primed for some epic showdown. Imagine, instead of Batman Returns, we got Michael Keaton’s Batman joining forces with  as Wonder Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) to defeat a Superman (George Clooney) who falls under the control of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). That would have been crazy. But instead, the studios were content to create their sequels.

Marvel came to understand this first. With the crazy success of Iron Man it was obvious to studio execs that even less popular comic characters could drive a story if given the right material and a chance. Since then, we have seen Marvel bet against the house with properties like Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant-Man and they have won big. (However, they have had missteps along the way, but most of those came out of Fox. (I’m talking to you Daredevil, X-Men Origins, and the not-so-Fantastic Four.) They learned who their audience was and they played right into their pocketbooks. Not only can these properties hold their own audience, but we go nuts when you mix them together.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of JusticeThere are just a couple of rules to make sure that this works:

  • Stay grounded in reality. I think that Marvel has a distinct edge here because their comics are set in real cities. Spiderman web slings around New York not Gotham and even though Thor is from Asgard he lands in New Mexico instead of Smallville. This connection to the audience is crucial and shouldn’t be downplayed.

Wes for Publicity

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. I hate to quote the Joker, but “Why so serious?” Take Batman and Iron Man as examples. They were both orphaned as teenagers, they both inherited vast sums of money and were thrust to the top of their family’s empire, they are both crazy smart and have major character flaws, they both decide to don suits of their own creation to fight crime (albeit one is for revenge while the other is for redemption). So why is there so much difference between the brooding bat, and the playboy rocketman? Maybe you have to chock it up to their personalities, but I will tell you that moviegoers may appreciate a dark and contemplative movie that wrestles with existential quandries. They may even tolerate that from their superhero movie (Thank you Dark Knight) but if every film is like that, it isn’t as enjoyable. The Marvel films have walked this tightrope brilliantly, and I believe that it has made the difference in the success of their films and the detriment of others. In a word, a comic book movie should be, above all, fun.

batmanvsuperman2

  • Tell great stories. This is more of a general principle for all movies and it kinda goes hand in hand with staying rooted in reality. As a movie-goer, if you don’t give me a compelling story that I can follow, I don’t care if you are Stanley Kubrick or Michael Bay, I will not care for your movie, because there is nothing to care about. That means that you can’t give me a movie that is so complex that I need to take notes as I go, and it can’t be so vapid that I feel like it has about as much substance as a balloon. When you have a huge film like Spiderman 3 with 3 newly introduced villains and then you waste precious character development time by throwing in a street dancing emo Peter Parker, the audience says nope, not worth it. On the flip side, you can have Captain America: Civil War with 12 Marvel Characters including a handful that we just met and as long as you give me funny dialogue, awesome special effects, and a believable story arc, they will be with you all the way.

sam_r4_v11c3_151002_17mj_g_r709f.362886.tif

I will say this, I didn’t hate Batman vs. Superman. It just left me wanting more and less at the same time, if that makes any sense. I wanted to see more depth of character than brooding and contemplative stares. I wanted the movie to be boiled down to a simple plot without DC getting ahead of itself and setting up a whole range of other movies that are in the pipeline. If the movie I’m watching isn’t great, it makes me much less excited about the future movies in the franchise.

This movie was almost enough to push the viewers into clinical depression. it is extremely dark and foreboding. Where was the fun DC? It left me craving Joel Schumacher Batman. I’m hoping that the DC universe is going to be darkest before the dawn, and now that we are after the dawn they will come out of their moody teenage angst. Tell me what you thought.