Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Nothing In Common

I’m not going to write a full review, she tells herself. Not even a full rant.

1986: a year I can’t even fathom. The Challenger blows up. Out of Africa wins best picture. Chernobyl is unleashed. Oprah gets on TV. Lady Gaga, Robert Pattinson, Armie Hammer, Kit Harrington, Shia LaBeouf, and the Olsen twins are born. Donna Reed, James Cagney, and Cary Grant die. Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, and Platoon top the box office. Dionne and Friends’ That’s What Friends Are For and Lionel Richie’s Say You, Say Me race up the top 40 charts. A jar of Skippy peanut butter could be had for $1.49, and a Mustang for $7452.

And Tom Hanks made a super weird movie with Jackie Gleason called Nothing in Common. Now, I thought I’d done a pretty deep dive into Tom Hanks’s catalogue, but I hadn’t seen this, or been aware of it, or been prepared for it, more importantly.

David Basner (Hanx) is a womanizing, successful ad executive whose life gets derailed when his mother (Eva Marie Saint) suddenly leaves his father Max (Gleason). This divorce is totally unexpected and shocking. For Max. And David. Not so much for the long-suffering wife who had a neglectful lout for a husband for 30 years or more. Of course, Max is a typical man of his time: totally and completely useless. He doesn’t know how to grocery shop, much less make a sandwich. Or how to do laundry. Or find which drawer the bills go in. Or prevent himself from getting lazy-boy-induced pressure sores (probably). So poor David has to put his life on hold to act as the go-between between his feuding parents.

And let me tell you, 1986 was a pretty slimy time. Because even goody-two-shoes Tom Hanks comes off pretty badly in this. He thinks his mother should go back just because. And he has to listen to his father call his virginal mother frigid. Garry Marshall’s in the director seat, and makes some very mid-80s decisions regarding music. There’s an EXTEEEENDED opening song. Whew boy, I’ve never been in a 30 year marriage but I almost felt like I had by the time the opening credits shut the fuck up. I can’t even tell if I liked this movie – it’s hard to tell ANYTHING when 1986 is punching you repeatedly in the face. And I have a worrisome feeling that this movie could be the story of my own grandparents’ mid-80s divorce, if they weren’t good catholics who believe that god wants them to be miserable in an adversarial marriage for 60 odd years before they die (67 years and counting!), although if my mother is the Tom Hanks in this scenario, she’ll die long before they do because they are driving her to an early grave, and not slowly either! Having old, cantankerous parents is fun, I’m told. Loads and loads of wildly xenophobic fun.

Tom Hanks is charming, but this movie is not so much the fun. But hey, at least Chernobyl can sleep a little better knowing it wasn’t the worst thing to happen to 1986.

 

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The Post

In 1971, Kay Graham was the first of her kind, a female newspaper publisher, but she was never supposed to have the job. The Washington Post was part of the family business but her father passed it down not to her, but to her husband. But when her husband committed suicide, she stepped into shoes that had always been loafers, not heels.

Then, something amazing happens: someone leaks top secret documents that detail the Vietnam cover-up that spanned 4 U.S. presidents including the current one, Richard Nixon, who’s kind of a dick. The NY Times gets ahold of them but gets shut down by Tricky Dick and his cronies. The papers then filter down to The Washington Post, and Kay Graham has to decide whether she’s going to risk her little empire AND a serious prison sentence.

Interesting facts about Mrs. Graham: she was not a powerful business person, or used to MV5BMTg5Nzg3NjUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTY5NzA1NDM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_being in charge. She’d never had another job. She was naturally meek, and kind of nervous. She was surrounded by assertive men, some of whom weren’t crazy to have her among their midst and certainly didn’t see her as an equal never mind a boss, and none of whom were shy about voicing their opinions. She was, however, an accomplished socialite, which in the city of Washington, means she counted many prominent politicians among her friends – and the particular politician at the epicenter of this scandal was among her closest. These facts are not to diminish her but to illustrate just how courageous she truly was to take the stance she did.

Newsflash: Steven Spielberg is a good director. Yeah, we already knew this, but this film had me noticing all kinds of little details that I admired greatly. This movie has the feel of a smart and sharp little indie; it’s taut and thrilling and lots of fun. It gets a little heavy-handed at times but its best moments are when it’s showing, not telling.

Maybe Spielberg’s greatest asset is his incredible ensemble cast. Tom Hanks is the fevered editor, and he’s flawless. Bob Odenkirk is stupendous as a hard-working investigative journalist. But of course it’s Meryl Streep who steals the show as Kay Graham. It’s not a showy role. Mrs. Graham is never the biggest personality in the room. She’s not commanding, but we are nevertheless riveted by Ms. Streep. Her shaking hands, her tremulous lip – we see how hard this for her, and so we admire her all the more for doing it.

You are not contractually allowed to write a review of this film without using the word “timely”. About a year ago, Nixon was down-graded to only the second most douche-baggiest president in history. Truth matters. The press belongs to the governed, not the governors. Support journalism. Subscribe to a newspaper, even if you read it online. One day they’ll be making movies about this time. But this is not just a news story, it’s also, of course, a nod to feminism. Mrs. Graham walks through a sea of secretaries before she’s admitted to the all-male floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She faces a Supreme Court that has never had a female Justice and wouldn’t for another decade. When someone says that Mrs. Graham’s father willing the family business to Kay’s husband says a lot about the man, Tom Hanks replies that actually, it says more about the time. So yeah, this is the movie we all need right now. It’s essential viewing. But even if wasn’t so “timely”, it’s so thoroughly peppered by exceptionally talented people that The Post is an easy recommendation and a damn fine film.

How They Met: Stories Behind Famous Couples

In 2003, Matt Damon was in Miami shooting Stuck on You (he plays Greg Kinnear’s conjoined twin). It was supposed to have shot in Hawaii but the location was changed last minute and Damon was a lot less familiar with Miami. One night the crew convinced 00-matt-damon-luciana-barrosohim to join them for a drink, and that was it. Literally from across a crowded bar, he looked up and saw her. She was the bartender that night, separated but technically still married to someone else, with a young daughter at home. But he knew. They were married in December 2005 at city hall, at 9 in the morning because he was expected on the set of The Good Shepherd that night, and production was moving to Europe the next day. She went with him, and so did the unborn baby in her belly. Ben Affleck was unable to attend – Jennifer Garner had just given birth the week before. Three daughters have joined the elder one from Luciana’s previous relationship so now Matt Damon is happily surrounded by women. In 2013, ten years after they first met, they held a lavish vow renewal in St Lucia with 50 guests, including Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Messina, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant, Chelsea Clinton, and Stanley Tucci (fun fact: Tucci is married to Blunt’s sister, Felicity]. Jimmy Kimmel officiated.

In the 1970s, Tom Hanks remembers being a kid at his friend’s house, watching The gallery-1452197593-tom-rita-volunteersBrady Bunch, when a girl guest starring as a cheer-leader caught his eye. She was 16 and so was he. He thought she was cute. He didn’t meet Rita Wilson in person until 1981 when she had a guest role on his sitcom, Bosom Buddies. Hanks was married to someone else at the time, and her character ended up with Tom’s costar, Peter Scolari. But fate threw them 324451C900000578-0-image-m-7_1458170786580together in 1985 on the set of Volunteers where the attraction was so strong that Hanks left his wife even though he admits that had they met in high school “I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak to you.” They married in 1988, have 2 sons together (plus Tom’s 2 kids from his first marriage). In 2015 they weathered Rita’s breast cancer diagnosis and remain a totally strong couple that’s all kinds of #goals.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard first met in 2007 at a birthday party. Their meeting was “not electric” (her words) – no sparks, no interest on either side. He was suspicious of her “unbridled happiness.” But two weeks later she was at a hockey game (Kings vs Red Wings) with her Veronica Mars castmate\roommate Ryan Hansen and she saw him with a mutual acquaintance. 36908E2D00000578-3706107-image-a-1_1469400447589Apparently this time, it took. They fell madly in love and nauseated each other with their mushiness, but their personalities were quite different. Kristen is sweet and generous, and Dax had a long history of bad decisions and addictions. He was already sober when they met, but she was insecure as to whether he could really step up. They went to couples therapy obsessively and weathered the storm. They famously refused to marry before it was legal for everyone to marry, but once that hurdle was crossed, they speed-walked right to the court house to get themselves a license. A judge just happened to be available, so why not, they tied the knot right then and there, having spent about $140. Friends met them later with a cake that said World’s Worst Wedding in frosting, but Bell and Shepard never looked back.

John Krasinski thought he might quit acting when he had his big break – he was cast on The Office, and he moved to L.A. In 2006, he went to the movies expecting to see 159270240_emily-blunt-john-krasinski-zoom-3cde631c-7e21-4382-9e84-75e9969cab4bSuperman Returns, but when it was sold out, he and his buddy saw The Devil Wears Prada instead. He claims to have watched the film 50 times before meeting his future wife, Emily Blunt, who stars in the film, in 2008. As he describes it: It was one of those things where I wasn’t really looking for a relationship and I was thinking I’m going to take my time in L.A. Then I met her and I was so nervous. I was like, “Oh god, I think I’m going to fall in love with her.” As I shook her hand I went, “I like you.” But he felt so far out of his league that he was sure it could never work, and almost blew the first date, on which he took her to a gun range. But she stuck it out, and when he proposed, they both wound up crying. Now they’ve got 2 daughters and lots of celebrity double dates: they vacation with the Kimmels and dine with George and Amal.

Matthew Broderick was the youngest actor to receive a Tony but of course it was landing the lead role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that made him a household name and allowed him to go back to his first love, the theatre, this time as a director. One of his actors felt 65110102b3c437394a37f16cda4e6020Broderick would be perfect for his sister, so he made the introductions. It took Matthew three months after meeting Sarah Jessica Parker to actually ask her out, over the phone, and on their first date, she was so nervous she talked a mile a minute while he sat stunned and silent. They wed in 1997, she in a black wedding dress because the guests all thought they were attending a party. They have three kids together and though she’s currently the star of a new show called Divorce, they celebrated their 20th anniversary together this spring.

Goldie Hawn met Kurt Russell on the set of The One and article-2209534-153CC875000005DC-578_468x358Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (blink and you’ll miss her). She was 21 at the time, and he just 16. She thought he was cute and interesting but much too young. Luckily, fate intervened and 15 years later they met on another film set, Swing Shift. Kurt was hungover at the audition and immediately regretted the first thing he said to her: ‘Man, you’ve got a great figure.’ She was magnanimous. This time their age gap seemed inconsequential. They never married but after more than 3 decades together, I think it’s Kurt and Goldie forever.

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Who’s your favourite celebrity couple?

 

The Circle

The Circle is THE company you want to be working for. It’s a blatant stand-in for Google; the ‘The Circle’ campus and work space looks identical, comes with all the crazy perks we’ve been jealously-not-quite-believingly hearing about for years: sushi bars, yoga workshops, nap pods, etc, etc. Mae (Emma Watson) is ecstatic when she’s hired for an entry level position – the salary is generous, room and board are included, the health plan is fabulous – it’s more than any millennial has the right to expect these days. The only thing The Circle asks for in return is a complete lack of privacy.

And in fact, The Circle doesn’t just ask that of employees, but of everyone joining their network. The Circle is a platform that would link all of your online accounts. You’d have one account, one username (your own, your real one), one password that links to everything, all your aps, your bank, your email, your work, social media, etc, etc. The m-442_circle_11286fdrv1rdream come true starts to feel a little…invasive to Mae. There’s no turning off, no going off-grid. Everyone participates in everything all the time! Horray! So the dream is turning out to be a bit much, but with her father (Bill Paxton) suffering from MS, it’s extremely hard to turn down.

Most of her The Circle colleagues are drinking the kool-aid but she finds a kindred spirit in skeptical Ty (John Boyega). He’s worried about how every single piece of our lives are being accessed and stored, analyzed and monetized, by The Circle: personal data is being mined to make a few people very, very rich. And if you have any presence on the internet at all, there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Circle is a terrific book by Dave Eggers. It’s an urgently fascinating story because our reality is probably only about one and a half paces behind what’s depicted in The Circle, and that’s just what we know about. We’re creeping closer and closer every day. Unfortunately it seems that Eggers’ brilliant books are not that easily adapted into films; A Hologram for the King was also a bit of a flop and that’s too bad because there’s some really thoughtful and thought-provoking material in there that’s getting lost.

The film asks more questions than it answers. In truth, it sort of lets some of the issues it raises fall away without doing them any justice. So that’s unfortunate. I still thought the movie was compelling and watchable, and Tom Hanks is of course irreproachable. I think it’s worth your time. But the book is even more worthy of your time, and if you read it, you’ll see the changes that Hollywood makes to make a story more ‘palatable.’ But I’m pretty confident that you can handle the truth. Right?

 

 

 

This was Bill Paxton’s final film. He died before it was released; a dedication in the closing credits reads ‘For Bill.” Glenne Headley, who plays his wife, died in June. She’s got a couple more movies in post-production.

Ithaca

Should you tip the boy who brings you the telegram that says your son is dead?

That dilemma and others covered in Ithaca, loosely based on William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy, which is not remotely funny. But it did give Meg Ryan some comfort when she was going through her divorce from Dennis Quaid, so what better material to use in her directorial debut?

ithaca9f-2-webShe plays the mother of sons, a hard thing to be in 1942; Marcus, who is off to war (played by Jack Quaid, Ryan’s actual son), Homer (Alex Neustaedter) who struggles with being the 14 year old man of the house now that his father (Tom Hanks) is gone, and little Ulysses (Spencer Howell) who doesn’t remember anything different.

This is really Homer’s story and the growing up he had to do. He’s such an exuberant kid at the start of the film, determined to be the best and fastest bike messenger in town. But 1942 means WW2, and WW2 means lots of devastating telegrams. How does it transform a 14 year old kid to deliver grief in an envelope? To witness the moment a woman is made a widow? To see a mother torn apart by pain? That’s pretty heavy stuff to be grappling with when you’re also mooning over your first crush and taking your little brother down to the local fishing hole. It makes for a heightened existance, but it’s also just life for Homer, who has his own little odyssey to live.

The film is a little under-achieving, a retread of themes we’ve seen elsewhere, and often. Sam Shepard has a pretty compelling role, which makes up for the very rare glimpses we get of Hanks. If it doesn’t quite live up to its potential, it’s still bittersweet in its nostalgia, and tucked sufficiently at my heart strings. Meg Ryan hasn’t hit it out of the ballpark on her first swing as director, but don’t count her out.

 

 

Charlie Wilson’s War

Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a Texas congressman, a jolly womanizer but otherwise fairly low-level until his good friend former beauty queen Joanne (Julia Roberts) convinces him to take time away from his hot tub shenanigans to make a little trip to help the Afghan people.

In the early 80s he visits the Pakistani president who is frustrated with inadequate American support in opposing the Soviet Union. Pakistan is flooded with Afghan refugees (a fifth of them!), but thousands of others have been slain. They send Wilson to a refugee camp and he can’t help charliebut be moved by what he sees there. Going home a changed man in his heart, he rallies around the cause. His personal life, though is still a shambles: US Attorney Rudy Giuliani is leading an investigation against him for allegations of cocaine use.

Philip Seymour Hoffman provides brilliant support as a maverick CIA guy who is leading the covert US effort in Afghanistan. Wilson ultimately multiplies the American contribution by a hundred fold, and it becomes a huge part of the foreign policy of the time, but there aren’t exactly a lot of easy answers here and Hoffman’s crazy windmilling arms tell us a lot about the near-impossibility of his job.

Julia Roberts is of course poised as hell, the perfect choice for a controlled, smart, beautiful woman who knows what she wants, and how to manipulate men to get it. The few scenes she shares with Amy Adams, playing Wilson’s administrative assistant, are quite punchy, their rivalry crackling. Emily Blunt makes a brief appearance in her underwear as well, which means I didn’t know who Emily Blunt was back in 2007 when I would have seen this for the first time.

Tom Hanks is commanding as always, but I have to wonder whether he was the right man for the role. Some of the juiciest material of this “true story” seems to have all but disappeared, his drug use played down (have we ever seen Hanks snort cocaine?), his DUI unmentioned, and his worry about what happens when the US inevitably disengages from Afghanistan only vaguely alluded to.

The truth is, there were unintended consequences to this involvement. When Afghanistan lay in ruins, the US pulled out, washed their hands of death and destruction they had funded, and this left a vacuum for Osama bin Laden to emerge as a power player. I have read from multiple sources that Tom Hanks couldn’t deal with the 9-11 implications, so they were largely written out, with just the identifiable sound of a plane flying over Washington hinting at what was to come. The film is quite good, almost great, but I do wonder if someone else was bringing it to life, could it have maybe been a Dr. Strangelove for a new generation? I guess we’ll never know.

Sully

You know his name: Captain Sully became a celebrity and a hero when he made a successfully landed a passenger jet in the Hudson river after losing both engines shortly after takeoff. The passengers, the media, and then the sully-tom-hanks-aaron-eckhart-slice-600x200world, praised him for his quick thinking and skill. His maneuver saved every soul on board. It was quickly labelled “The Miracle on the Hudson.” He made the rounds of late night talk shows, smiling politely as hosts feted him, but that smile was a facade.

What few of us realized at the time was that Captain Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles were going through private hell. While dealing with crippling flashbacks, they were basically put on trial by the National Transportation Safety Board, accused of making the wrong decision and endangering a plane full of passengers.

Sully, with 40 years of experience, knew in his gut that going into the river was the best option. The NTSB, however, maintain that computer simulations prove he could have made it back to La Guardia for a safe landing on an actual strip. All the people thrown into frigid waters, the cold and frightened babies, the weakened-heart old ladies, could all have been spared a terrifying crash-landing. Should Sully be held responsible for his actions?

Tom Hanks as Sully is spectacular. He deftly portrays a crumbling man, one whose confidence is badly shaken, who can’t escape the mental replaying of the incident, the assessment of the choices he made, effectively putting 155 960lives on the line, his own included. Aaron Eckhart plays Skiles, the right-hand man with an equally formidable mustache (what is it with pilots and mustaches?). Laura Linney has is relegated to an even smaller part, as the wife on the other end of a telephone. Both are fine, but this is clearly Hanks’ show, and Sully’s story. He’s the one not just with his reputation on the line, but his career and pension and ability to support his family in flux too.

Director Clint Eastwood plays it safe; in fact he even downplays what must have been a petrifying few minutes for the other 153 on board. What he may not have accounted for is how jarring Sully’s day-mares are to an audience, post 9-11 (and keeping in mind the movie hit theatres for its 15th anniversary). Sully keeps imagining that his plane is zipping through New York City’s skyline, missing and not missing buildings along the way. It hurts.

Where Eastwood excels, and always has, is in hero-worshiping, and Sully’s an easy target. Humble, grateful, stoic: just the kind of man that appeals to old Clint. But Sully’s not the only hero I see here. The flight attendants are brave. The air traffic controller is determined. Rescue workers are quick. Ordinary citizens lend a hand. Heroes come in lots of shapes and sizes. Not all wear uniforms. Maybe Clint should make a movie about one of them sometime.