Tom Hanks, possibly the most well-liked actor in Hollywood, has spent much of his career acting in period pieces that deal with important or pivotal moments in history, and his latest film, Captain Phillips, is no exception. In it, Hanks plays Richard Phillips, whose freighter is hijacked by Somalian pirates, and after that, he will play Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks.
With Captain Phillips in theaters this week and another historical film on his plate, we got to thinking about all of the eras of history that Hanks has appeared in and the ways he has presented these important historical events in order to get the most powerful reaction from audiences.
The Da Vinci Code - Biblical You know the story of Jesus Christ, right? Well, think again, because Hanks is here to present a slightly different version of events. While the film itself takes place in modern day Europe, the plot of The Da Vinci Code has to do with a conspiracy theory that the church has hidden Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. Both the movie and the novel it's based on caused a great deal of controversy, and it's a testament to Hanks' likability that he was able to make a film contradicting what everyone believes to be true about Jesus and make it out unscathed.
The Green Mile - 1930s As corrections officer Paul Edgecomb in 1930s Louisiana, Hanks befriends John Coffey, a kind, gentle man on death row, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. If you haven't started crying simply from reading that description, you are obviously less susceptible to Hanks' charms than the rest of us. While many films have been made about similar subjects, both Hanks and Duncan give performances that turn a tragic friendship into a devastating movie-going experience, by using the film to showcase the issues of race relations in the pre-Civil War South.
Saving Private Ryan - World War IIHow do you make a film about World War II, already and incredibly emotional subject, even more powerful? By having Tom Hanks lead a company of soldiers tasked with finding and rescuing a paratrooper who has gone missing in action. And if that's not enough to get you, they are forced to go on this mission immediately after fighting on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Becuase when Hanks makes a film about one of the most devastating periods in history, he makes sure that there won't be a dry eye in the theater.
Apollo 13 - Space Race Surely, you must be thinking, there's no way to make audiences cry over the Space Race? Well, Hanks managed to find one. In Apollo 13, Hanks and his crew are trapped in a space shuttle when their mission goes wrong, and they must try and make it hope safely. Not only does Hanks manage to make being an astronaut seem like both the most awesome and the most dangerous profession of all time, but the focus on the people these astronauts have left back on the ground adds to the film's tension and emotional center.
Forrest Gump - Vietnam WarForrest Gump might be Hanks' most famous film, but it's also the epitome of his adventures through history. Over the course of the film, Forrest meets John F. Kennedy, inspires John Lennon to write "Imagine" and reports the Watergate break-in. However, it's the film’s treatment of the Vietnam War that is the most affecting. Having to watch Forrest, one of the kindest, most well-intentioned people in movies witness the death of one of his best friends and the emotional breakdown of the other is almost powerful enough to make viewers want to join an anti-war rally themselves.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - September 11thIt's not difficult for Americans to conjure up strong emotions about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, so it's almost fitting that Hanks only briefly appears in the film, which focuses instead on the character's son, Oskar. That’s right: Hanks has gotten so adept at making audiences cry that he doesn’t even have to be present to do so.
Captain Phillips - 2009 Somali Pirate AttacksHanks' most recent film is set to be a powerful, emotional thrill ride. But Hanks isn't just content with showing the harrowing and courageous experiences of Capt. Richard Phillips, as the film also works to show the Somali pirates as human beings rather than just cartoon villains, and he's so good at playing with audience's emotions that he can help to make the antagonists of the piece sympathetic. However, this film also got us thinking: if Hanks is mining the recent past for historical events to make movies out of, how much longer will it be before he starts making us cry over events from the future? Or has it started already?
The actor, a former bodyguard, never fully recovered from a cardiac arrest he suffered at his home in Los Angeles in July (12) and he passed away in hospital on Monday morning.
Duncan's famous friends flocked to Twitter.com after hearing the news, with Sinise writing, "Had the pleasure of working on 2 things with Michael Clark Duncan. The Green Mile, & as guest star on CSI: NY. A real gentleman. R.I P my friend."
Several stars shared their personal memories of Duncan, with Olivia Munn ?telling her fans, "Michael Clarke Duncan always had a smile on his face & a big bear hug ready for you. My thoughts & prayers are with his family & friends", comedienne Niecy Nash ?recalled, "We shared sum (some) great times! C (see) u (you) on the other side friend" and David Boreanaz ?simply stated: "R.I.P. my friend MCD. I will miss you."
Holly Robinson Peete ?mourned, "Devastated... RIP Michael Clarke Duncan. Heaven has an amazing new angel. I will miss your smile most", La Toya Jackson ?tweeted, "My prayers are with the family and to the loved ones of Michael Duncan Clark. What a kind sweet & loving guy you were! May you R.I.P" and Jordin Sparks declared, "RIP Michael Clarke Duncan. Thank you for being so kind to me & for sharing your talent with the world. You will be truly missed."
Donald Faison ?offered, "Michael Clarke Duncan I'll never forget you. Such an awesome man taken way too soon. Rest in peace my friend" and Christian Slater ?admitted he was shocked by his friend's passing: "Can't believe it MCD! What a good man! Always a laugh! He will be greatly missed."
Mia Farrow, Russell Simmons, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Timbaland, Ricki Lake and Katharine McPhee ?also offered their tributes on Twitter, while Hanks opened up about his memories of Duncan for Entertainment Tonight.
He told the show, "I am terribly saddened at the loss of Big Mike. He was the treasure we all discovered on the set of The Green Mile. He was magic. He was a big love of man and his passing leaves us stunned."
The Green Mile director Frank Darabont admits he is "devastated" about Duncan's death, and writes in a statement, "(He was) one of the finest people I've ever had the privilege to work with or know. Michael was the gentlest of souls - an exemplar of decency, integrity and kindness. The sadness I feel is inexpressible.
"Our experience making The Green Mile together was immersive and incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime journey. What sticks most in my mind was his devotion to his craft and the strides he made as an artist during that time, which was beyond inspiring to those of us who took the journey with him. Never has an actor more richly deserved the recognition of an Academy Award nomination than Michael did for his performance as John Coffey.
"Michael has left us far, far too soon. We lost a great man and a great spirit today. My thoughts and condolences go out to his fiancee, Omarosa, and to his family."
The larger-than-life former bodyguard passed away on Monday morning (03Sep12).
The actor's representative tells TMZ.com Duncan never fully recovered from a cardiac arrest he suffered at home in Los Angeles in July (12).
His fiancee, reality TV star Omarosa Manigault, was with him in hospital when he passed away.
Duncan's rep says, "She is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time. Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date."
The hulking star had become a vegetarian in recent years in an effort to stay fit and healthy, but his fiancee had to resuscitate him via CPR after finding him in a state of cardiac arrest at his L.A. home in the early hours of 13 July (12).
He was taken to a nearby hospital and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He has been under doctors' care ever since.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Duncan moved to Hollywood chasing an acting dream and became a bodyguard to stars like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx. He quit as a minder after a friend was with rap star The Notorious B.I.G. the night he was shot and killed in 1997.
Duncan landed his big acting break in 1998 among the stars of Armageddon. A year later he wowed the critics as convict John Coffey in The Green Mile. He also appeared in Daredevil, The Scorpion King and comedy The Whole Nine Yards.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
In a year marked by deaths in the entertainment industry (and the death of quality entertainment), the extended Thanksgiving weekend did not spare us from more loss. In addition to the passing of Hollywood legend and comedy royalty Leslie Nielsen, director Irvin Kershner has also passed away. He was 87.
Kershner was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and went on to study art and music at Temple University and photography at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. His film career began at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, teaching photography and studying cinema under montage artist Slavko Vorkapic. After directing numerous documentaries around the world, he came back to the states to develop television series and pilots like The Rebel, Peyton Place, Cain's One Hundred, Philip Marlowe, and others.
After that, features came calling. Hoodlum Priest was first, followed by The Luck of Ginger Coffey, A Fine Madness, The Flim-Flam Man, and The Return of a Man Called Horse, among others. However, his most notable work came later in his career. Kershner was asked by George Lucas to helm The Empire Strikes Back after the monumental success of Star Wars. The film went on to be regarded as one of the (if not THE) best in the series and has a legacy all its own.
Kershner jumped into other lucrative franchises, helming the Frank Miller scripted Robocop 2 and the unauthorized, non-canonical Bond film Never Say Never Again while acting in films like Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation Of Christ and the coming of age teen flick Angus.