August 11, 2019

DVD Review # 51 The Shawshank Redemption (Plus my Top Ten Stephen King Film Adaptations) With Talking Flick Podcast Appearance!

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman Written and Directed by Frank Darabont

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne)

Famous critic Roger Ebert once wrote “Every Great Film Should Seem New Every Time You See It” and I couldn’t agree more. The Shawshank Redemption doesn’t feel dated, it doesn’t feel old, and after 20 plus viewings (and countless partial viewings, shouts to TNT) I can safely say it remains fresh, thought-provoking, and as good as ever. It is on almost every meaningful “Best Films of All Time” list and sits comfortably as my #2 favorite film (I even named my rating scale after it). The film is about friendship, the human spirit, and so much more. It is so satisfying in every way; I dare someone to watch it and be disappointed. So, let’s GET BUSY LIVING and review it! 

Wonderful Writer/Director (and frequent Stephen King adapter) Frank Darabont directs a movie about two men who are both serving life sentences at a poetically beautiful prison called Shawshank. The first inmate Red (played in an Oscar Nominated performance by Morgan Freeman) is a seasoned veteran of the prison, a man who has been known to get things for other inmates from time to time and does double duty as the story’s narrator. He is immediately likable; Red’s earnest delivery and incredible smile make you hang on his every word. His initial impression of Andy Dufresne “looked like a stiff breeze could blow him over” lead you to believe that things are not going to go well at Shawshank for Andy. Andy our second inmate (played in an Oscar worthy performance by Tim Robbins) on the other hand, is icy and empty, he looks like a lost soul, it is hard to gauge what he may be thinking and that serves the story very well.  The Shawshank Redemption is full of incredible dialogue (Written by Darabont and adapted from King) and one of my favorite lines is Red’s quote about geology: “Geology is the study of pressure and time” and that quote really does encapsulate this very patient films essence. The film burns slowly like The Godfather so you feel the time passing you by and the years wasting away. Prison films often attempt this feat, Shawshank is a masterclass on it. The film has countless supporting stars worthy of mention some of whom have become iconic over the years. One of the greatest villains in film history (no that’s not hyperbole) is Warden Norton (played expertly by Bob Gunton) “Put your trust in the lord: your ass belongs to me” along with his vicious partner Capt. Hadley (played with a stoney-eyed genius from Clancy Brown) steal many scenes in the film.  James Whitmore, William Sadler, and Gil Bellows all serve the story well as fellow inmates. No subplot is wasted in this story and the flawless editing (Deborah Aquila) and cinematography (Oscar winner Roger Deakins) are a large part of what make the film timeless. Thankfully in large part due to Castle Rock and famed Producer Liz Glotzer who recognized the genius of the script, it was given a healthy budget and Darabont wasn’t noted much by the studio, but even still, though it is hard to believe, this film was a box-office failure in 1994, many studio big shots were confused as to how to market the film and assumed it would go away and die after its lackluster theater run. Its slow burn success story (one of the most successful cable film commodities of all time) is fitting given the story the film tells, after all no good thing ever dies (as Andy would say). In one of Andy’s stays in “the hole” he tells the other inmates he made it through in part because he had Mozart in his mind to keep him company, I’d like to think if I was ever in solidary confinement I’d use this film to keep me company. This film is huge part of why I love the movies and I HOPE that there are more studios willing to give adult dramas a chance. As much as I love Batman and Iron Man, Red and Andy are the heroes I want on my big screen when push comes to shove. Shawshank is my Zihuatanejo! The Shawshank Redemption is one of, if not the best film ever made, of course you should SEE IT! 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A true testament to the human spirit, a movie that can mean many things to many people (that’s what great art does), for me it is about friendship and love above all, two things that have provided me direction in a much too often directionless world. Salvation lay within indeed.The Shawshank Redemption is a flawless film, both classic and modern, perfectly paced, wonderfully acted, and written with undeniable genius, it gets a PERFECT 10 on THE SHAWSHANK SCALE

Ranking the Top Ten Stephen King Film Adaptations:

1.The Shawshank Redemption (1994)-See Review above, simply perfect.
2. The Shining (1980)-Kubrick and King, a perfect match.
3. Stand by Me (1986)-Another short story Reiner expands and makes great.
4. The Green Mile (1999)-More expert casting as Darabont returns to King material.
5. Misery (1990)-A career making performance by Kathy Bates carries the film.
6. Carrie (1976)-Brian De Palma really piles on the blood in this sharp adaptation. 
7. It (2017)-Andy Muschietti gives one of my favorite King stories new life.
8. The Mist (2007)-It didn’t do well but Darabont’s’ 3rdround with King material is very good. 
9. The Dead Zone (1983)-It’s not the most rewatchable but Cronenberg delivers here.
10. Christine (1983)-Best car horror film of all time, John Carpenter gives it life. 

Honorable Mentions: Dreamcatcher, Creepshow, and Children of the Corn



Special thanks to Tyler and Producer Rian for allowing me a guest spot on Talking Flick to gush over one of my favorite films and giving me a reason to finally review it. Truly a wonderful experience! 

Talking Flick on Anchor (The Shawshank Redemption Episode)
Talking Flick on iTunes  (The Shawshank Redemption Episode)

August 3, 2019

Movie Review # 63 Once Upon in Hollywood with 9 Tarantino Films Ranked! Plus my Talking Flick Podcast Appearance!

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino

"Anybody accidently kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It’s called manslaughter.” Brad Pitt (Cliff Booth)

Tarantino’s 9thfilm may just be his most baffling. His usual style is present, his always entertaining dialogue is there (though not as on point or clever as usual), and as he has done before, he brings this idea of revisionist history to a familiar historical event. All the pieces are in place for another Tarantino classic, but something was a little off in the valley. 

Always interesting director Quentin Tarantino brings “young girls to the valley” with his film set in 1969 Hollywood. Mostly a buddy film than a revisionist history lesson that chooses to focus more on the relationship of aging TV cowboy Rick Dalton (played very well by DiCaprio) and his driver/stuntman Cliff Booth (a vintage Pitt performance), than steer too closely to the Manson/Tate murders. I don’t think the script was always intended to go this direction. Perhaps Tarantino didn’t have a clear picture of what story he wanted to tell here, or maybe once he got Pitt and DiCaprio (rumor has it Cruise was maybe considering the Cliff Booth role), he decided to lean into those two superstars rather than the Tate murders. Sharon Tate (played quietly well by Margot Robbie) does get a decent amount of screen time, most of which she spends just walking around L.A. looking fabulous. I don’t want to criticize Tarantino too much for borderline objectifying Robbie’s version of Tate in this film because the real Tate was a beautiful woman worth celebrating (in one endearing scene the Robbie version of Tate watches the real Tate on screen in a 1968 film called The Wrecking Crew), but she doesn’t get a lot of dialogue to work with, which I found somewhat odd. The film does build tension in typical Tarantino fashion with a series of setups that in most of his films would end in bloody violence, however, he chooses to display some restraint in this film (very uncharacteristically), and we don’t get the gruesomeness we are accustomed to until the very end of the film. There are a slew of cameo’s from familiar faces of the Tarantino-film-verse, but only a few standouts get enough dialogue to chew on. Dakota Fanning (Squeaky) and Margaret Qualley (Pussycat) mischievously play two of the Manson girls, and recent Stranger Things alum (and Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter) Maya Hawke also gets a neat little scene stealing moment. In the final analysis, for almost 3 hours, we meander around Hollywood (and briefly jet-set to Italy) a bit too much for this film to be an all-timer. At times it is very clever, at times the backdrop of 1969 L.A. is downright gorgeous, and at times, the acting is top notch; however, the sum of all these parts never quite comes together. I think when you are revisiting Nazi’s and Slavery and putting a different narrative down it works well enough, but when you are focusing (or trying to focus) on a more personal tale like the Manon/Tate murders, it feels a little more distasteful. I couldn’t help but think of Tarantino’s defense in the early 2000’s of Polanski’s rape case, why this story? Art is art, and I respect Tarantino too much as an artist to question him, but I could see how some folks may think this film is in poor taste. Hollywood can’t save Tate, Tarantino may be unable to save Hollywood, but still this film is different enough than the usual summer fare we get, it is definitely worth seeing: SEE IT! 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A killer soundtrack, Tarantino’s view of 1969 L.A. through his stylistic eye, and a penchant for near flawless casting keeps this film fresh and interesting enough to give Once Upon a Time in Hollywood a worthy 6.5 on the Shawshank Scale. I can’t help but feel like this film went through the script washer one too many times, and maybe Tarantino didn’t have a complete idea here. That said, I’ll be in line for his next one. 

Ranking Quentin Tarantino Films:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)-Unlike anything I had seen before in terms of a feature film.
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)-Incredible dialogue, realistic violence, and a cool throwback soundtrack. 
3. Jackie Brown (1997)-I liked Taratino’s take on Elmore Leonard, he should adapt more! 
4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)-It took me awhile, but I’ve learned to really appreciate this one. 
5. Django Unchained (2012)-It was almost great, but a little overstuffed. 
6. Kill Bill 1 & 2 (2003 & 04)-Culmination of all things Tarantino.
7. Death Proof (2007)-Part of a double feature, I was entertained, but didn’t find it rewatchable. 

SHOUTS TO TRUE ROMANCE! Directed by Tony Scott and filled with great performances and excellent dialogue. It’s not better than Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, or Inglourious, but might be better than the rest. 


Talking Flick on Anchor (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Episode)
Talking Flick on iTunes (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Episode)