Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Best of 2017: Outsiders 16-20

My Qualifications

I know that this is a small site and you might think, “why would I care what this guy thinks is the best of 2017, he’s probably only watched 20 movies and so his top 10 will just be a joke.” However, I log all of the movies that I watch over at Letterboxd.com, and they tell me that during 2017 I watched 265 films, and 68 of them were released during 2017. In addition to those, I have played a bit of catch-up like most people and can now say that I have seen 88 of the movies released in 2017 including all best picture nominees, acting and directing nominations, except for Christopher Plummer’s role in All the Money in the World which was largely political as he replaced Kevin Spacey at the last minute after Spacey’s scandal.

Unfortunately, even with this amount of films, I am still missing a few that have come highly recommended. Loving Vincent, The Breadwinner, Personal Shopper, Columbus, Faces Places, Wonderstruck, Lady MacBeth, and Hostiles. One or two of those might work their way onto this list eventually but for now, let’s jump in to see my top 20 films of 2017.
Continue reading Best of 2017: Outsiders 16-20

2010 Best Movie Bracket

There were a tremendous number of innovative and well crafted movies in 2010. This made it very hard for me to decide on my top movie for this year. A lot of the the critics that I really respect pick a ton of independent films that only 20% of film-goers have even really had the opportunity to see. I tend to watch more populist films or independent films that get a fair amount of press. As I have already expressed, I am only picking from movies that I have seen, so I had to pass over films like Never Let Me Go, or A Prophet.

Even without those films, and not counting the three that I finally chose, we still had Inception, Black SwanExit Through The Gift Shop, DogtoothTrue Grit, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Meek’s Cutoff, and Winter’s Bone. Yes, you heard that correctly, I am not including Inception in my top three. It is certainly a good film and I would consider it part of my top 10 of the year, but it had some big problems that I couldn’t get past. Christopher Nolan wants us to see this as his greatest achievement, and while it is gorgeous and very intricately crafted I wish he didn’t feel the need to explain everything so explicitly and the fact that we don’t get much character development.

As far as the box office for the year, it looks like this year is lining up to be very similar to 2010. Five of the top ten highest grossing films of the year were animated, six if you include Alice in Wonderland, and many of them were very good, but I think that as we march backwards through time we will see the chasm between a film’s financial success and visionary prowess shrink. So let’s see the three films that I put on the top of the heap.

3rd – The King’s Speech

Tom Hooper’s historical feature The King’s Speech was the big winner at the Oscars celebrating the films of 2010. It won 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Colin Firth who gave a fantastic central performance as a man with a crippling handicap who just happened to be Britain’s King George VI. The central relationship between Firth and Geoffrey Rush who plays his unorthodox speech therapist is filled with a wry and self-effacing sense of humor.

It’s a pleasure to watch Firth bring a heavy tension and frustration to his role as a man who cannot find his voice who has been thrust into the role of the voice of all of England. Firth begins the film by stepping up to a microphone as if he is stepping into a hangman’s noose. After a series of failed attempts with vocal coaches, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) pairs him with the unconventional Rush who insists on calling the budding monarch “Bertie” and treating him as an equal. Eventually, Firth unbends under Rush’s calm, unforgiving style and unwavering good humor. Firth’s agony and this rich relationship makes this one a good candidate for the best of the year.

2nd – Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 was the top grossing film of the year coming in almost $100 million above Alice in Wonderland. I often think about the reason why these animated films do so well at the box office. I think a huge part of it is because kids can’t go to the movies by themselves. So with every group of happy children there is at least one adult along for the ride. It is like a buy one get one deal in reverse where the theaters sell one ticket and get one more at full price for good measure. However, I think that with Toy Story 3, there may have been times when the kids were being dragged in by the parents who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic they saw years before.

In this third and what we thought would be final Toy Story movie, we see a bunch of toys desperately trying to force an 18-year-old to play with them the way he did a decade ago. Coming to the realization that he has moved on, they mourn and debate about their place as Andy’s toys. The Toy Story movies have always been about the joy of play, but never before has it seemed like such a drag to be a toy. The fate of most toys is probably a horror story if we think about it. Essentially, they are immortal beings whose only pleasure comes from entertaining fickle children who will quickly grow up to forget them, leaving them to be broken and discarded.

There were few grimmer movie moments in 2010 than the point where the toys face their deaths, and few more uplifting sequences than the film’s ending. It’s strange to speak of a kids’ film as challenging, moving, and heartfelt, but Pixar’s movies continue to be some of the most sophisticated and entertaining films that we see all year, bar none. They did it again this year with Finding Dory though maybe not to the extent of Toy Story 3.

1st – The Social Network

Writer Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, A Few Good Men) and director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) make a movie about the contentious beginnings of Facebook, scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from metal band Nine Inch Nails. While that certainly sounds interesting and potentially exciting, it also sounds like it could be a bit of a mess. I remember thinking when I heard about the plans for this film that it had everything it needed to be great it just had to find a way to put all those things into one box.

That is what makes this movie is so audaciously impressive. Sorkin is famous for his extremely verbal dialogue. How could that exist alongside the visual stylings of a guy like Fincher? And what business do these guys have working on a Facebook biopic since their specialties seemed to be government corruption and cover-ups, murder, scandal, and social unrest? They made it work to amazing effect. Using the deposition recordings of two separate lawsuits against Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg  as an ingenious framing device,The Social Network traces the site’s origin in all its agonizing complexity.

Speaking of Zuckerberg, if you have seen this movie, the picture that you get in your head probably looks a good bit more like actor Jesse Eisenberg than the actual founder. Eisenberg was able to capture the innovation and youthful energy of Zuckerberg while also detailing his all too human flaws. We completely forget that this is a movie about recent events in the unfolding of the technological world and we are enthralled in this compelling story of a genius who is often petty and puerile but is also driven pathologically by the same thing that drives the 500 billion users of Facebook… the need to belong.

What do you think? Did I get it right? I’m actually going to put an asterisk on this one because I would like to potentially come back and add Toy Story 3 if I don’t use my four ties before the end.

If You Liked… Cast Away (2000)

I know a good number of people that could count the number of films they have seen in the last 5 years on their hands. I don’t think it is because they have an aversion to film, rather they have their favorites that they saw a long while ago and now they just don’t know what to watch. With this series, I want to highlight a classic film and then make suggestions of other films that you might like.

Cast Away is one of those films that it seems like everyone seen, but just in case you have been under a rock, Chuck (Tom Hanks), a top international manager for FedEx, and Kelly (Helen Hunt), a Ph.D. student, are in love and heading towards marriage. Then Chuck’s plane to Malaysia ditches at sea during a terrible storm. He’s the only survivor, and he washes up on a tiny island with nothing but some flotsam and jetsam from the aircraft’s cargo. Can he survive in this tropical wasteland? Will he ever return to woman he loves?

Suggestions based upon Cast Away:

Flight (2012)

If you liked the composition and direction of the movie then you might like another Robert Zemeckis movie, Flight (2012) staring Denzel Washington. This one involves a plane crash too.
If you liked the composition and direction of the movie then you might like another Robert Zemeckis movie, Flight (2012) staring Denzel Washington. This one involves a plane crash too.

Jarhead (2008)

If you liked the writing (though really there isn't much writing in Cast Away), you might like another film written by William Broyles Jr. Jarhead (2005) is a psychological study of operations desert shield and desert storm during the gulf war told through the eyes of a U.S marine sniper (Jake Gyllenhaal)
If you liked the writing (though really there isn’t much writing in Cast Away), you might like another film written by William Broyles Jr. Jarhead (2005) is a psychological study of operations desert shield and desert storm during the gulf war told through the eyes of a U.S marine sniper (Jake Gyllenhaal)

Captain Phillips (2013)

Maybe you just like seeing Tom Hanks on the open seas in distressing situations. Well, I'm the captain now and the in flight movie is Captain Phillips (2013) the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
Maybe you just like seeing Tom Hanks on the open seas in distressing situations. Well, I’m the captain now and the in flight movie is Captain Phillips (2013) the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

127 Hours (2010)

Maybe you just like Harrowing stories of survival and personal triumph. Then you have to check out the true story of adventurous mountain climber Aron Ralston who becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive in 127 Hours (2010).
Maybe you just like Harrowing stories of survival and personal triumph. Then you have to check out the true story of adventurous mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) who becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive in 127 Hours (2010).

So what do you think? Will you check out any of these movies? What classic should I feature next time? Leave your comments below.

Day 09 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

Favorite Movie Soundtrack

Growing up, I remember getting to go to work with my dad from time to time. My dad has worked for several different companies, from pest control to shoe repair, but I will never forget the day that he took me to work with him at the radio station. He sold airtime to businesses that wanted to advertise on the station. I got to sit in the booth with the Djs, I even recorded a little radio spot when I was probably no older than 4 or 5 for the station that used to be GC-101.

My dad and I always connected with music. We agreed that the oldies were goodies, and I developed a love of music that sometimes surprises people. I can’t stand most modern music but the anthems and ballads of the 1960s struck a chord with me. Because of that, my choice for favorite movie soundtrack popped immediately into my head. Just look at this list of songs from Forrest Gump. Entertainment Weekly published a list of the top 100 soundtracks of all time, and this was a gigantic glaring omission from that list. I will be silent and let the music speak for itself.

  • “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” – Joan Baez
  • “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – The Four Tops
  • “Respect” – Aretha Franklin
  • “Rainy Day Women” – Bob Dylan
  • “Sloop John B”- Beach Boys
  • “California Dreamin'” – The Mamas & the Papas
  • “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield
  • “What the World Needs Now Is Love” – Jackie DeShannon
  • “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” – The Doors
  • “Mrs. Robinson” – Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – The Byrds
  • “Joy to the World” – Three Dog Night
  • “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” – B. J. Thomas
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “On the Road Again” – Willie Nelson
  • “Hanky Panky” – Tommy James and The Shondells
  • “All Along the Watchtower” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • “Hello, I Love You” – The Doors
  • “People Are Strange” – The Doors
  • “Love Her Madly” – The Doors
  • “Hey Joe” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” – Pete Seeger
  • “Let’s Work Together” – Canned Heat
  • “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” – Tony Orlando & Dawn
  • “Get Down Tonight” – KC & The Sunshine Band
  • “Free Bird” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac

How about your pick for best soundtrack? Is there one that you find particularly moving or have a personal connection to in some way? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Day 04 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie That Makes You Sad

I don’t watch movies that make me sad. The reason most people watch movies is to escape for a couple of hours from your life. Who wants to escape to a sad alternate reality? On the other hand, there are plenty of movies with sad elements or scenes that make me cry no matter how many times I watch them. Yeah, that’s right I cry at movies. But that sadness is usually part of an ultimate happy ending or uplifting message.

According to this pretty cool study of emotional elicitation, done by the Psychology Department of the University of California at Berkeley, the saddest movie of all time is The Champ (1979). Doing some research for this, I was amazed at how many movies that many consider their saddest movie that I’ve never seen. This is a glaring omission in my film library. Many of these are classics, but knowing they are sad, I can’t bring myself to watch them. I’m talking about movies like Stand By Me, Seven Pounds, Selena, The Color Purple, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Brian’s Song, The Joy Luck Club, Lorenzo’s Oil, Sophie’s Choice, The English Patient, and most notably Schindler’s List. That’s right, I’ve never brought myself to watch more than a few clips from these films. So when thinking about sad movies, my viewing experience is lacking. Maybe I need to have a good crying marathon.

To narrow it down, I thought of 5 sad movies that I had seen. Those 5 were: My Girl, Boy with the Striped Pajamas, Dead Poets Society, A Walk To Remember, and The Green Mile. The saddest movie that I could think of was The Green Mile. At John Coffey’s execution everyone is weeping at seeing something so unjust. Everything from the scene where Paul goes into John’s cell and asks him what he wants him to do is sad. He can’t bear the thought of killing “one of God’s true miracles.” He doesn’t want to stand before God at the judgment and have to answer for why he killed an innocent man. Then as John asks to see a movie, he sits amazed at the beauty that he is beholding. At the execution I have to stop myself from sobbing out loud. Even the ending when we see Paul as an old man grieving over the loss of a friend saying that this is his punishment killing John Coffey. For those that think Stephen King is only a horror author, this film is the answer to that.

What is a movie that makes you sad? What are your top 5 sad movies? Are there any sad movies that I absolutely must see? Should my film buff card be taken away for not seeing Schindler’s List? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter and Facebook.

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Well, after a crazy couple of holiday weekends I am attempting to get back on schedule with my reviewing of the IMDb’s Top 250 movies of all time. Though I’m sure I’m going to fall behind again. We close on our new house on Friday and then the next two weeks will be a blur as we move all of our accumulated crap across town. But this isn’t a Christmas card… on to the review.

I was and am a fan of Toy Story. It was magical. A great story which birthed a whole genre of animation. It came out when I was 12. I was a little bit older than it’s target audience, but I was still too young to recognize the significance of this groundbreaking film.
However, when rumors of Toy Story 2 began to circulate, even at my tender age, I was already jaded enough with production companies money-making tactics to know not to expect much. The original plan was for Toy Story 2 to be a direct to DVD release. To this day, Disney has only created one worthwhile sequel without the help of the masters at Pixar, that being Fantasia 2000. To illustrate my point, let’s briefly review Disney’s track record with sequels.
The Rescuers Down Under
The Return of Jafar
Aladdin & The King of Thieves
Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamps Adventure… I could go on, but I think I made my point.

So when the folks at Pixar brought the script and some storyboards for what would eventually become Toy Story 2 to Disney, they made the smart decision to pour their resources into this sequel. Most sequels simply dilute the story and characters like too much water added to good Scotch. But not all sequels are bad. The best sequels take the original film at face value and then seamlessly expand from there with a movie that stands on it’s own merit instead of being propped up simply by the success of it’s predecessor. For instance, I loved Terminator II: Judgment Day from the moment I first watched it, but it took me several years to build up a desire to watch the original Terminator.

So what about Toy Story 2 earned it a 100% fresh rating from the aggregated rating site Rotten Tomatoes? Well, to answer that question I re-watched the movie a few times, some with my kids and some by myself. And I think it comes down to two main issues which play themselves out over and over again in this film. First is the film’s ability to entertain both the young and the young at heart. My kids love it because even though it is now over 10 years old it looks great with an attention to detail that Pixar has become known for. The colors and textures are light years (no pun intended) better than the original, and that’s saying something because it was beautiful and the improvement came in just 4 year’s time. Also, my kids are continuously quoting lines from these movies, and I believe it’s because the movie isn’t pandering and condescending to “their level.” The dialogue is incredible for a kids movie and it is carried by a voice cast that has expanded its diversity to include Joan Cusack. But my kids watch it over and over and hear different things every time. The story is easy enough to understand that you could follow it even if the sound on your TV went out, but everything about the story is enhanced because of the humorous and touching script.

I love the movie because of the little movie homages, the inclusion of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 2001: a Space Odyssey in the opening video game sequence, Rex chasing after the car in a nod to Jurassic Park, and the hilarious twist that Zurg didn’t kill Buzz’s father… he is his father! When my kids watched The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and Vader spills his big secret, one of my kids said it’s just like Toy Story. Speaking of twists, though I can’t remember the first time I watched this film, I am willing to bet that I was surprised at the devious selfishness of Stinky Pete. And even though we are used to movies like this now, this one is simply action packed, with at least 5 distinct chase scenes, two shootouts, several covert operations, and epic surroundings for all of the above make this movie one that I find it hard to rip myself away from.

But not only is this story entertaining for all ages, but it is a classic because it is so well done and we can see the shadows of many Pixar greats yet to come in it’s deep library of scenes. I don’t know that we would have had the emotionally crushing opening montage from Up were it not for the “When She Loved Me montage in Toy Story 2. The same goes for the door warehouse chase scene from Monsters, Inc. It would have been impossible had Pixar not broken ground in Toy Story 2 with the chase through the airport baggage area. Also, think of as many animated films as you can that have made you want to both laugh and cry, applaud and think, remember and wonder. I would be willing to wager that almost all of those films are from the storytelling magicians at Pixar. They just have the ability and lack of inhibition that lets them expertly dive into issues that most animated or childrens’ films won’t touch. Issues like loss, rejection, abandonment, fear, identity, purpose, and love.

Just take this film for example and you will see Woody’s crisis of purpose as he battles with a desire for eternal life and fame. But to get it he must reject the very reason he was made, as he taught Buzz in the first film, life isn’t worth living if you aren’t being loved by a child. At the same time, the roundup gang treats Woody as if he is the promised messiah who has come to save them from the darkness and loneliness of storage. There is the mistaken identity of Buzz, and the matter of who is the real Buzz is not determined by who has the cooler tool-belt, but which action figure bears the name of their owner. This is a unmistakable Christian ideal, we are who we are not because of some inherent goodness in us, but because we bear the name of Christ.

Who knew that a simple movie about the secret lives of toys could go so deep as to teach its viewers something profound about themselves. That is the art of film-making, the magic of Pixar, and the reason why I can’t stop watching movies. Because movies have this ability in common with Scripture. I love Scripture because it can destroy me one minute as it reveals my sin, then restore me as it reveals my Savior. And I keep watching movies because I hope that the next one will cut me open to my core and teach me a little bit more about myself. If my kids watch the Toy Story movies and want to act like Woody or Buzz, that is fine with me, because both characters exemplify the type of behavior and strength and purity of character that I wish everyone had and pray that my children will develop. I can’t say that about every cartoon character. The thing that makes Toy Story great is the desire it creates in its viewers to not only observe greatness but to pursue and attain it.