Posts Tagged ‘tom hanks’

Movie Review: The Green Mile (1999)

Posted: September 17, 2012 in Drama
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In 1935,  Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is in charge of death row in an Alabama prison.  They call death row in this particular prison The Green Mile because of the lime green floors.  As if dealing with dangerous prisoners isn’t bad enough, Paul is suffering from a painful bladder infection, and a power hungry prison guard named Percy (Doug Hutchison), who’s a sadist, and a bully.  Some prisoners are less violent than others.  Edward Delacroix (Michael Jeter) is a Cajon, he finds a mouse, names him Mr. Bojangles, and trains the mouse to do tricks.  The two people that join Del on death row, are very violent.  John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is accused of killing two little girls, they found John holding the dead girls, clothes covered in blood.  The second prisoner is a fast talking psychopath called Wild Bill (Sam Rockwell) who is a serial killer.  Paul sees John not as a killer, but a gentle childlike soul.  John offers to “help” Paul with his bladder infection, he grabs Paul by the groin and touches him, Paul suddenly feels no pain in his groin and his bladder infection is healed. But things never quite settle down on the Green Mile, Percy steps on Mr. Bogangles, and injures him, but John brings the dying mouse to life.  Percy also purposely forgets to wet the sponge when he is taking the lead on Del’s execution.  The result is gruesome.  Warden Hal Moores (James Comwell) wants answers for the botched execution, the warden is not in the best mood because his wife Melinda (Patricia Clarkson) is dying from a brain tumor.  Paul is even more convinced that John is not a killer, given his healing of Paul’s groin, and the mouse.  Paul now wants to smuggle John out of the prison, and give him a chance to heal Melinda.  Does Paul get John out of prison? Does John  heal Melinda?  Is John Coffey a killer?  Or has the system convicted the wrong man?  If John didn’t kill the little girl, who did?

This is a great movie because it works on two levels.  It works on a literal level, as the story of a possibly innocent man, being wrongly convicted, or it works on a spiritual level, as a simple man, who inexplicably works miracles, while awaiting his death.  The obvious spiritual comparison is John Coffey is Jesus Christ, but upon closer inspection, the Green Mile is a very superficial reading of the Jesus story.  John Coffey, simple man, condemned to die, works miracles, laments the sinful world around him. Jesus, a simple carpenter, performed miracles, laments the sinful world, condemned to die for the sins of the world.  But John Coffey’s miracles seem like some kind of cheap parlor trick compared to Jesus, he sucks the hurtful thing out of the person’s body, (except Paul’s groin) and coughs out powdery particles to signify that the person healed.  John Coffey unlike Jesus, gets tired, after healing someone, and can never raise a person, or animal from the dead, as Jesus did with Lazarus.  I bet Stephen King’s thought process began like this, what if Jesus was a big, black prisoner, on death row?  There is value in realizing that Jesus could be embodied in any phyical shape, spiritual people (including me) need to rid themselves of the blonde haired blue eyed Renaissance Jesus, and realize that Jesus was a Middle Eastern man, with dark hair and a swarthy complexion.  King uses the archetypal, simple black man character with supernatural powers at least once more, in the Shining, where a black caretaker has the ability to read minds in The Shining.  It’s clear that King wants you to draw the comparison, just don’t take it too far, Jesus never punished his enemies or did harm to them, that’s more an Old Testament conception of God, the all powerful, vengeful God, as opposed to the loving, and forgiving Jesus.  This is still a powerful story, amazingly well told, and emotionally draining, and deserving of a viewing whatever the nature of your spirituality.  Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan get most of the attention, in fact it was Duncan’s recent death that made me want to see it again.  Hanks understated performance is superb, Michael Clarke Duncan is incredible, although the character of the simple minded minority gets hard to swallow at times.  Duncan makes the character work, because the viewer believes Duncan is a gentle soul, despite his enormous size. Despite the two strong leads this movie works because of the great ensemble cast.  James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, David Morse, Patricia Clarkson Doug Hutchison, and Barry Pepper all give powerful performances.  Sam Rockwell is a little ham handed as Wild Bill, but it’s still an intriguing performance to watch.  This is a great movie, maybe even a better watch if you’re not aware of the spiritual similarities or dissimilarities with Jesus.

The Green Mile.  Miles above most movies.

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Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) is a newspaper columnist from Baltimore.  She’s convinced herself that she is happy, being engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman) a steady, reliable, sometimes quirky fiancé.  Annie has a talk with her mother, Barbara, (LeChanche du Rand).  Barbara describes the moment she met her husband as “magic.”    Annie has resigned herself to the fact that she will never have magic with Walter, but she pushes on with her wedding plans anyway.  To pass the time in her car, Annie turns on a radio show hosted by a psychologist named Dr. Marcia Fieldstone (Caroline Aron) A young boy named Jonah (Ross Mallanger) calls the show and says his dad, Sam (Tom Hanks) is lonely and needs a wife.  Jonah explains that his mom, Maggie, (Cary Lowell) passed away recently, and so his dad is moping around the house.  Later in the same phone call, Sam takes the phone, and starts to describe in detail what a great woman Maggie was.  By this time, Annie is in tears over this man who she’s never met.

Annie is hooked.  She listens to the radio show incessantly for weeks.  She does a Lexis Nexis search on Sam at the newspaper and finds out he lives in Seattle.  She tells her editor she needs to do a story on radio psychologists, and quick as a bunny, Annie is on a plane to Seattle to meet Sam.  By the time she actually sees him, Sam is hugging another woman, who Annie thinks is his girlfriend.  Does the relationship end before it starts?  Does Annie go back to her safe fiancé, Walter?

This is the perfect romantic comedy.  The story pulls the viewer in immediately, it is not schmaltzy or manipulative, the emotions of grief and loss seem very real, that’s a credit to Hanks, Meg Ryan, and young Ross Malenger, who does a really good job in a really tough role.  A lot of people will say When Harry Met Sally is their favorite romantic comedy, I disagree, Sleepless in Seattle is much better and here’s why.  Billy Crystal is primarily a comedic actor, I will never think of him as a romantic lead.  Hanks is someone who is very funny who can easily be a romantic lead.  And Hanks is at his sensitive, funny, best.  He also interacts with Mallenger as a real father would, because Hanks is a father, and at that time his son was young.  Meg Ryan was also at the height of her perky cuteness at the time, and she was also a natural in this role.  Even though they have very few scenes together, Hanks and Ryan had unmistakable chemistry.  The writing, by the late Nora Ephron, is superb, the dialogue just crackles.  So many movies have tried the same formula, woman on the way to the altar, only to meet someone on the way.  So few of these movies are funny or touching, this happens to be both.  Nora Epron tried again with the same lead actors with You’ve Got Mail, but for whatever reason, that didn’t work.  Sleepless in Seattle was…magic!

Sleepless in Seattle.  Before Starbucks a reason to stay awake.

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Andy (John Morris) is going off to college, his mom (Laurie Metcalf) wants him to decide what to do with his toys.  He decides to take Woody (Tom Hanks) to college, and take the rest of them up to the attic in a garbage bag.  Mom sees the garbage bag, and thinks Andy wants to toss the other toys, The toys besides Woody, are taken to the curb and loaded up in the garbage truck.  Woody manages to rescue the other toys and land them in a day care center as donated toys.  Woody is adamant to go back home to Andy, but the other toys want to stay in the day care center and get played with.

At first everything in the day care center seems like a dream come true, sure the kids play a little rough, but Barbie (Jodie Benson) meets Ken (Michael Keaton) and best of all there’s a friendly bear named Lotso (Ned Beatty) But when Buzz (Tim Allen) asks Lotso for age appropriate kids to play with him, Lotso turns into a totalitarian dictator, turning the day care center into a prison, locking the toys in cages, and setting Buzz back to his factory settings so he forgets his friends.  Woody ends up in a young girl, Molly’s (Beatrice Miller)  house across the street, when he hears to truth about Lotso from a clown toy named Chuckles (Bud Luckey) Lotso was lost and then replaced by a little girl who loved him, and that turned him bitter.   Does Woody have time to rescue his toy friends, and get back to Andy before he leaves for college?

This is a great movie.  A very simple story told with a great deal of comedy, intelligence and a touching finish.  The two funniest gags are Mr. Potato Head disguised as a tortilla to break of day care prison, and Spanish Buzz, my cynical side would say those two gags were done to boost the Latin audience in America and around the world, but those gags were bust a gut funny so my cynical side can take a walk.   Honestly, the only quibble I have with the story is that the day care center scenes might be too intense for young kids.  The actors were top notch.  Hanks superb as Woody, Beatty  is amazing as the sinister Lotso, Michael Keaton rediscovers his comedic touch as metrosexual clothes horse Ken.  John Ratzenberger is always funny as Ham, and Don Rickels is funny without his usual mean streak stand up persona.  Kudos to the writers, including John Lassiter, who’s had a hand in all the really good Disney Pixar movies.

Toy Story 3. Playtime for adults and kids alike.