Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Fall 2017 Movie Preview: Drama Part 1

This is going to be a great season. The awards are going to be very crowded. We’ve already seen several powerful films that could be in awards consideration. I’m specifically thinking of Detroit, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and even Logan and Wonder Woman. However, they are going to have to compete with a slew of biopics and powerful narrative dramas and character studies. These movies are like candy for me so excuse me if I tend to go on and on, but part of the joy of cinema is its ability to move us, and that is exactly what these aim to do.

Please let me know which of these you would see if you could only choose one or two. This is only half of the Dramatic movies coming out this season. I’ll be following up to this post with the dramatic movies from November and December soon. Also, make sure you take a look at the others to watch section because there are far too many to talk about all of them at length.

September

Rebel in the Rye – 9/15

The life of celebrated but reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, who gained worldwide fame with the publication of his novel, The Catcher in the Rye.

How many of you have actually read Catcher in the Rye? I think it is one of those books that people buy to look smart but never actually read. If you want to watch an interesting retelling of the Holden Caulfield story, you can watch Perks of Being a Wallflower. Honestly, It is a great work of literature and it will be interesting to see the story behind what inspired the author. It will be starring Nicholas Hoult as J.D. Salinger and will feature Kevin Spacey as a teacher and source of inspiration. Also, I hope you like biopics because this is the first of about a dozen by my count.

Battle of the Sexes – 9/22

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

I love both of these actors. I heard that after La La Land, now Emma Stone is the hottest thing since sliced bread and is making oodles of money. That’s good for her. She has a fantastic comedic sense and is able to sink her teeth into more meaty dramatic roles so this biopic should be great for her. Steve Carell has been one of my favorite comedic actors since his turn as Brick in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. It will be fantastic to watch these two play off of each other in a story of liberation, misogyny, and tennis.

Loving Vincent – 9/22

A feature film about the life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh.

Just watching the trailer for this I am surprised that so much time and care has gone into the preparation of the film. If you haven’t heard anything about it, watch the trailer and be floored by the visuals as you realize that every single frame in this film about the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh was hand painted in oils meant to mimic his style. It looks stunning and innovative. I love to see films that do something that no one else has ever done and this will certainly do just that. Not only have I never heard the story of Van Gogh’s tortured creative process but I have certainly never seen a movie that is put together in this way. It should be very rewarding to watch.

Lucky – 9/29

The spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.

I really hope that Harry Dean Stanton gets an Oscar nomination for this. The film looks quirky and funny and contemplative and it is all centered around the tremendous skill of an actor that generally stays out of the limelight. You might probably best know Harry Dean Stanton as the janitor in The Green Mile that the guards use to practice for the execution. That is one of hundreds of roles he has had in his storied career. This also serves as the Directorial debut for that guy that everyone thinks is the Zodiac killer in Zodiac (John Carroll Lynch). I can imagine that I will probably be quoting lines from this for months after watching.

October

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – 10/13

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

I’ve been ready for this one since I saw the trailer in front of something back in June or July. It is a combination of a number of things that I love. Frances McDormond is an amazing actress that doesn’t get nearly the number of roles she deserves. Much of that is probably because she only takes roles that are good. Sam Rockwell takes everything he is in up a couple of notches. And Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is one of my favorite screenwriter/directors in the business today.

Marshall – 10/13

About a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases.

I’m a bit embarrassed that I know next to nothing about Thurgood Marshall except for the fact that he served on the Supreme court from 1967-1991 (I even had to look those dates up). Chadwick Boseman has been Mr. Biopic as of late. Before landing his role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including his own stand-alone movie coming in 2018) he starred in 42 as Jackie Robinson and most recently in Get on Up as James Brown. So, he is no stranger to taking on another’s mannerisms and portraying their lives. This is clearly a story of Thurgood Marshall’s young life before he became part of the US Supreme court. Is this a film that interests you?

Same Kind of Different as Me – 10/20

International art dealer Ron Hall must befriend a dangerous homeless man in order to save his struggling marriage to his wife, a woman whose dreams will lead all three of them on the journey of their lives.

It looks like Hollywood might finally be figuring out that Christians want to see movies with Christian themes of love and mercy and generosity and equality portrayed in a artful manner by talented actors. I for one will be one of the first people lined up to see this film and I will be encouraging our Church to buy out showings to encourage more film like it to be made. With a cast of actors as eclectic and talented as this group there is no reason it shouldn’t be good. I just hope it’s not too schmaltzy or preachy. If they can walk that fine line and maintain realism while telling the story then it should be good.

Suburbicon – 10/27

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

I was torn whether to put this one in the Horror or Comedy category or here. It definitely will not be your average thriller. But I can’t just discount it as a comedy like Hot Fuzz. Instead, it seems to be blending Drama, Comedy, and Thriller tropes together to create something. It should be very interesting because The Coen Brothers usually direct the stories that they write, but this one they have handed off to their good friend, George Clooney, who has great abilities as a Director, but we haven’t seen his best work as of late.

Others to Watch:

Stronger coming on September 22nd. Stronger is the inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. This is getting some praise from actual Boston natives about it realism and authenticity. Jake Gyllenhaal is super talented so it should be great to see him get lost in this role.

Breathe coming on October 13th. The inspiring true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. Yes, Gollum is directing a film with Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield. That’s intriguing if nothing else.

Only the Brave coming on October 20th. A drama based on the elite crew of firemen from Prescott, Arizona who battled a wildfire in Yarnell, AZ in June 2013 that claimed the lives of 19 of their members. Firemen are good people and they risk their lives to protect people. This might not be the greatest movie, but it should be a powerful reminder of their service with a great cast featuring: Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, and Andie MacDowell.

Wonderstruck coming on October 20th. The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There) and based on the Novel by Brian Selznick (Hugo).

The Mountain Between Us coming on October 20th. Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness. This sounds stressful and I won’t be taking my wife to see it or I will never get her on a plane.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women coming on October 27th. The true story of William Moulton Marston, the polyamorous relationship between his wife and mistress, the creation of his beloved comic book character “Wonder Woman”, and the controversy the comic generated in its earlier years. Playing off the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman earlier this year, we get a biopic about the guy who created the Amazonian princess. Could be interesting.

Wow. That’s already quite a list and we still have two more months of the year to look at. Which are you most enthused about? Are there any that you aren’t sure about or that you think might not live up to their expectations? Let me know in the comments below or on Social media. Also, don’t forget to check out the other installments of this Fall Movie Guide: Action/Adventure, Horror/Thriller, and Comedy/Family.

Fall 2017 Movie Preview: Comedy/Family

This is a hard category because unlike Horror/Thriller where you can be fairly certain that all of the films are meant to be seen by adult eyes and ears, this category blends a bit of both worlds. We can have a family friendly animated film right next to a raunchy comedy. For that reason, I am going to include the MPAA rating after the synopsis. It should be fairly obvious which is which, but I didn’t want to waste time making two posts when these go together nicely.

September

Home Again – 9/8

Recently separated from her husband (Michael Sheen), Alice (Reese Witherspoon) decides to start over by moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles with her two young daughters. During a night out on her 40th birthday, Alice meets three aspiring filmmakers who happen to be in need of a place to live. Alice agrees to let the guys stay in her guest house temporarily, but the arrangement ends up unfolding in unexpected ways. Alice’s unlikely new family and new romance comes to a crashing halt when her ex-husband shows up, suitcase in hand. – PG-13

I’m not much of a romantic comedy fan, but this looks pretty good. I could see it being a fun date night or enjoyable flick for a group of ladies to watch. The guys all competing for her attention will make for some funny situations, but I predict that Michael Sheen as her ex-husband will be the best. Do you think she’ll get back together with her husband, or embrace the single life?

Lego: Ninjago – 9/22

The battle for Ninjago City calls to action young Master Builder Lloyd, along with his friends, who are all secret ninja warriors. Led by Master Wu, as wise-cracking as he is wise, they must defeat evil warlord Garmadon, The Worst Guy Ever, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad. Pitting mech against mech and father against son, the epic showdown will test this fierce but undisciplined team of modern-day ninjas who must learn to check their egos and pull together to unleash their inner power of Spinjitzu. – PG

The folks behind the Lego Movie and the Lego Batman movie are hilarious. Here they have once again collected an extremely talented cast (Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan, Olivia Munn, etc.), although most of them are less well known than in the previous films. I don’t think this one will fare quite as well since Ninjago is not as well known or loved as Batman and that might hurt it. But it should be funny and enjoyable for the family.

October

My Little Pony – 10/6

A dark force threatens Ponyville, and the Mane 6 embark on an unforgettable journey beyond Equestria where they meet new friends and exciting challenges on a quest to use the magic of friendship to save their home.

I have a 12 year-old little girl. I will likely be front and center for this movie. I have to admit, while I’m not quite a bronie (look it up if you don’t know what that is), I do appreciate the humor and message of the show. Friendship is indeed magic. All of the glitter and sparkles of the Trolls movie with a heartwarming message at its core.

Goodbye Christopher Robin – 10/13

Goodbye Christoper Robin gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family? – PG

This one will be a nice film to take the kids to. It sounds delightful as a true story and kind of reminds me of Saving Mr. Banks. I think Domhnall Gleason is a fantastic actor. His work in Ex Machina was inspired. Plus I get to hear Kelly MacDonald’s beautiful Scottish accent as the nanny.

Killing Gunther – 10/20

A group of eccentric assassins are fed up with Gunther, the world’s greatest hitman, and decide to kill him, but their plan turns into a series of bungled encounters as Gunther seems to always be one step ahead. – R

Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer for this! I had not even heard of it. It feels like it has a Taika Waititi vibe, but that could just be the mock-umentary style. It reminds me of What we Do in the Shadows with the dark humor and shaky cam style. I hope that is a good sign. I know next to nothing about Taran Killiam beside the fact that he’s on Saturday Night Live and he’s married to Colbie Smoulders.  Most Saturday Night Live movies are awful, but they tend to take a skit and blow it up into a movie, this looks like a different concept and Schwarzenegger as the greatest hitman Gunther seems inspired. I guess all we can do is wait to see how it is.

November

Wonder – 11/17

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August (Augie) Pullman, a boy with facial deformities who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. – PG

Steven Chbosky is one of my favorite writers. I hope this is a good adaptation. The trailer looks inspiring. This kind of film is so nice to see and I hope it gets good reviews and people go to see it. We all know how cruel kids can be, but will they use their ability to look beyond the physical to connect with this amazing young man. He’s being played by Jacob Tremblay (Room) and I can barely recognize him.

Coco – 11/22

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. – PG

I’m excited that Pixar is jumping into a film like this that feels much more provincial than their most culturally specific film to date, Brave. I hope it pays off for them and that people come out in droves to see this. It reminds me a little bit of Book of Life and Kubo and the Two Strings. It should be a great film for the whole family.

December

Disaster Artist – 12/1

A behind the scenes look at the making of the best bad movie of all time. Based on the book of the same title by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau who wrote, produced, directed, and starred in 2003’s The Room.

I’m a big nerd about film making as well as movies in general. If you’ve never seen the trainwreck that is Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, do yourself a favor and watch it… for science. It is awful! How it could have possibly been made is beyond me. Why didn’t someone tell this man that he had no business making a movie? There has to be a story here, and there is. This won’t be for everyone and many will hate it because by the trailers it seems like James Franco’s Wiseau is spot on.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – 12/20

Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game’s jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they choose. – PG-13

For a remake / re-imagining it looks like they are doing things right. I loved the gender and role reversals we got in the trailer. it looks like it is going to be funny. I still don’t think that we need a new Jumanji, but if we’re going to get one, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack, Black, and Karen Gillan should be able to provide an awesome one.

Downsizing – 12/22

When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to over-population, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures. – R

From the director that brought us Sideways, About Schmidt, and Election (Alexander Payne) comes another dramady starring Matt Damon. We don’t know a ton about the plot, but it sounds like it involves some sci-fi element and probably relates to social commentary about feeling small in this great big world. I personally am excited. What do you think?

Others to Watch:

A Bad Mom’s Christmas coming on November 3rd. The three moms from the original struggle to cope when their respective mothers visit for the holidays.

Daddy’s Home 2 coming on November 10th. Brad and Dusty must deal with their intrusive fathers during the holidays. The first one was over the top, but funny. This one looks like it could be hilarious with John Lithgow joining the cast as Will Ferrell’s dad and Mel Gibson showing up for the holidays as Mark Whalberg’s father.

Ferdinand coming on December 15th. Animated and based on the classic children’s book by Munro Leaf. After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.

Pitch Perfect 3 coming on December 22nd. Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. Clearly, this is a bold faced attempt at an Oscar from Anna Kendrick… not. I love her as an actress, but this is one franchise I never got into. Acapella music is cool and everything, I think I even downloaded Cups, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

So which of these light-hearted films are you looking most forward to? Please leave me a comment in the section below or on social media! If you want to read the rest of my Fall preview, you can find the other sections here: Action/AdventureHorror/Thriller, Drama Sept-Oct, and Drama Nov-Dec.

2006 Best Movie Bracket

What was the best movie of 2006? I’m going to change the way I do this a little bit. Normally I would share some information about the year and other movies that are honorable mentions in the first few paragraphs. However, I’m afraid that most of you are clicking away before you even get to the #1 pick.  So, I’m going to start with my top picks and I’ll try to pepper in more information about the year and other possible choices throughout my reviews.

3rd – Pan’s Labyrinth

From the innovative mind of Guillermo del Toro comes Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a coming of age tale of innocence and imagination. It is a story about a young girl who is other worldly. Like a crystal vase in a sea of tupperware, she doesn’t match her surroundings. Del Toro creates a fantasy world that is draws us in and leaves us feeling like a child who just heard a fairy tale for the first time.

A warning to my more language challenged readers, this film is in Spanish. It is subtitled. I don’t see that as a problem. I would like to hear why you do if you do. The story is set in Spain in 1944 following the Spanish Civil War. So really any language besides Spanish would feel forced and inauthentic. If you claim that you don’t go to the movies to read, then that is just laziness and you need to get over it. The story centers around Ofelia who is traveling with her pregnant mother. They are moving to a fascist command centre in rural Spain led by the fiendish Captain Vidal  who happens to be the father of the mother’s unborn child. Ofelia is the type of child whose imagination feeds her energy. Unfortunately, it is also her imagination that causes Ofelia’s disconnect with the real world.

Ofelia’s exploring leads her to meet a faun. This is the Pan of the English title of the film (del Toro has told us that that is not actually the faun’s name). The first interaction between Ofelia and the faun is revealing because Ofelia doesn’t draw back in horror at the sight of this creature, in fact she seems more comfortable in his presence that with her own mother. This fantasy is her reality and it becomes ours. Ofelia learns the fact that every little girl steeped in fairy tales has yearned to hear, that she is a long lost princess separated from her kingdom.

Half of the story plays out in this ominous and sometimes frightening dreamland. However, del Toro is using the other half of the story to give us a picture of good and evil. The real monster of the film is Captain Vidal despite his normal outward appearance. Let me be quick to say that this is not a kids movie. With the young protagonist and presence of fairy tale creatures it might be tempting to present this to a child, but violence play an important part in this film showing the harsh, unwanted situation that Ofelia’s real life presents her with and blood, guts, and broken bones are all present in this reality.

El Laberinto del Fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth) is a gorgeously detailed and styled story with characters and creatures to love and despise. Del Toro gives me hope that imagination is not dead. However, it wasn’t the only imaginative film of the year. I would also check out: The Prestige, Little Miss Sunshine, Borat, The Fountain, Paprika, Stranger Than Fiction, The Fall, A Scanner Darkly, Idiocracy, Perfume and Science of Sleep. Perhaps there is still hope yet.

2nd – Children of Men

Children of Men is a near future science fiction film based on a 1992 P.D. James novel and directed by the ever versatile Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity). It is set in 2027, but there is nothing special about that date. It could just as easily be 2050, or 2019. It feels like it is just a breath away. Forget giant asteroids or alien invasions, Children of Men conveys a doomsday scenario that is realistically frightening and contemporary.

Mankind has become infertile, there has not been a new birth recorded for over 18 years. Devolving into chaos from the ticking clock facing everyone, the world has resorted to violence. Britain, the only country that still “soldiers on,” has closed its borders to the swarms of refugees (sound familiar?) Those that make it through the cracks, called “fugees,” are captured and deported. The country is now a completely totalitarian state with state police and surveillance cameras everywhere.

The war-torn atmosphere and the mayhem that seems to erupt out of nowhere convey the urgency and danger of the situation. All of it is captured brilliantly by Alfonso Cuarón and the incomparable Emmanuel Lubetzki. Without hope, people are resorting to their base instincts ad lust for survival. Theo’s quest to protect Kee becomes the only thing that matters. The revelation that she is pregnant means that she is fighting for the future of all mankind.

Clive Owen plays Theo as a very ordinary man. With the action in this film, he could have easily become a 007 knockoff, but instead we are left in the frightening mess with him and allowed to feel his fear. In the same way, it would have been easy to write the appearance of this pregnant woman as a miracle, but Cuarón never makes that mistake. It’s hard to categorize this film as either a rich thematic drama when it elevates into a high-octane action film. That is one of the best things about it. It is a great dystopian thriller that is one of the best things that we have seen from a talented young director.

There were a couple of other Science fiction or dramas that almost made this list, but came up just short. Other films to add to your watchlist for the year are, The Lives of Others, Babel, Blood Diamond, Apocalypto, Last King of Scotland, and Little Children.

1st – The Departed

This is why remakes shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The legendary Martin Scorsese with his screenwriter William Monahan have taken an okay Chinese film, Infernal Affairs, and breathed new life into it, framing it as an American epic crime drama. This is Scorcese’s best since Goodfellas and it deserves mention alongside Scorsese’s other most celebrated films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

I don’t want to go into the plot too far. The trailer goes a bit too deep in my opinion. I will just say that it is a high stakes game of lies, secrets, and hidden identities. This is among the greatest of ensemble casts of all time. We have headliners like Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg (Oscar nominated), and Alec Baldwin turning in superb supporting roles while Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon shine under the leadership of a premier director. This was the role that skyrocketed DiCaprio into the stratosphere. He and Scorsese work so brilliantly together, this was the best work he had done at the time. This is an amazing return to form for Jack Nicholson. He relishes every moment before the camera with this diabolical confidence and intensity. I think it was criminal that he wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.

Speaking of Oscars, The Departed did go home with four awards on that night. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. As far as crime dramas go, this is one of the best. Take note, this is a gangster film by Scorsese so there is a fair amount of violence and profanity. However, The Departed is somewhat tame in comparison to some of the director’s other films. It is entangling and highly entertaining, truly the best of 2006.

These posts are getting pretty long as I can’t help but write a full review for the film instead of just a quick snippet, so to help with this, starting with 2005, I will be posting my reviews separately and the Best Movie Bracket post will fairly short. It will link to my full reviews and will help explain why I chose one film over another.

Jason Bourne, Bad Moms, and Nerve – Weekend Outlook

Will Jason Bourne knock out Star Trek Beyond who was king this past weekend at the box office? With 83% of critics calling Beyond fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it looks like it might not drop off as quickly as other sequels this year. However, with three wide releases this weekend I think it is highly doubtful that Star Trek will be on top of the charts beyond its first week. Also, will the new Ghostbusters continue to haunt the top 5 in its third weekend? All puns aside, let’s take a look at the new releases this weekend and see what your best bets are at your local multiplex.

Jason Bourne

Yet another big franchise that is getting a reboot or delayed sequel. Matt Damon is back in the titular role after a seemingly failed attempt to pass the baton to Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy. Will the return of the star and director Paul Greengrass guarantee a big opening? I kind of doubt it in this summer of failed sequels. Legacy opened to only $38 million while Damon’s last appearance in Ultimatum was the largest of the series with an opening weekend of over $69 million. I think we will see an opening somewhere between those two films as there is some buzz around Damon’s return. See the other movies opening this weekend and my box office prediction after the jump.

Continue reading Jason Bourne, Bad Moms, and Nerve – Weekend Outlook

2015 – Best Movie Bracket

From start to finish, many of 2015’s biggest news stories were centered around violence and terror threats and they showed a general sense of fear. The year began with a targeted terror strike in Paris and closed out with another planned attack in San Bernandino, California, proving that threats around the globe remain an issue for all.

However, much of the world found a place of solace at the theater amidst the fear and violence. 2015 featured a variety of films that showed the triumph of the spirit in the face of adversity, bigotry, and evil. Movies like: Southpaw, The Good Dinosaur, Joy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Room, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Revenant, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Inside Out.

As fun and epic as the continuations of Mad Max, Star Wars, and Avengers were, there was not enough to set them apart and leave a lasting legacy. Leonardo Dicaprio deserved an Oscar for what Innaritu put him through in The Revenant, but the movie itself though stark and piercing didn’t create the effect in viewers that you expect from the best. The Martian was alternatively hilarious and harrowing, and Room ripped my heart out and slowly put it back together again, but there were a lot of really good movies in 2015. I keep coming back to three films from the year that will have some staying power. Here are my top 3 films of the year. Continue reading 2015 – Best Movie Bracket

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Day 20 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

Your Favorite Movie With Your Favorite Modern Actor and Actress

No, I didn’t mis-count, it is still day 20. Yesterday I stretched this question into two questions by naming my favorite classic Actor and Actress. Today, I have the unenviable task of naming my favorite modern actor and actress. Gladly, these don’t necessarily have to be an on-screen couple, because I have struggled to find that perfect pair like Stewart and Kelly. While there are some couples with great chemistry, they are not my favorite performers. I was even tempted to separate my modern performers into young performers and those that are in their twilight, but I thought that would be going over the top.

As it is, My favorite modern actor is Matt Damon, and while I haven’t seen his newest offering Contagion, his filmography is filled with juicy roles. Since he broke out of obscurity alongside his long-time friend Ben Affleck with Good Will Hunting in 1997 and won an Academy Award for writing with him. He has worked for some of the finest directors (and alongside some of the most talented actors) in Hollywood, and proved his mettle as a dramatic actor, gifted screen comic, and steely action hero. He was even voted the Sexiest Man Alive in 2008. I wrestled with his many superb roles, but could never find one that surpassed his freshman effort in which he plays a janitor who is a mathematical genius.

My favorite modern actress is another tough decision. The leading lady I picked has been very selective in her roles. She started her career at 12 years old by getting herself kidnapped by a hitman named Leon. She would go on to get her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard University, and become the Queen of Naboo and a representative in the Galactic Senate. But Natalie Portman really caught my eye when she shaved her head and learned an English accent to play Evey in the futuristic V for Vendetta. She is the accomplice to V, a masked and mysterious anti-hero who’s either a terrorist or a freedom fighter, depending upon which side of the explosion you’re on.

What are your favorites? Some of my honorable mentions for the fellas are Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Brad Pitt (All who have shared the screen with Damon). On the female side, you have Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz. I would love to hear what you have to say. Perhaps you can come up with a modern on-screen couple on par with Stewart and Kelly. Leave me a comment in the area below or you can get in touch with me on Twitter or Facebook. I’m currently working on a complete list of films I have watched and films that I want to see, I’m using a great little site called icheckmovies.com you can create a profile and track your own progress.