With the studios oddly continuing to treat late summer like the new January (I guess they’re steering clear of the continued “Guardians of the Galaxy” juggernaut, but really, no new blockbuster for Labor Day? Really?), once again our most noteworthy release of the week is actually a re-release. Last week we celebrated the 30th anniversary of “Ghostbusters,” now we’ve turned to a more prestigious, though still *hackhack* beloved *hack* pop culture classic. Yes, it’s been 20 years since Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump,” and the multi-Oscar-winner is back in select theaters this weekend.
Have we been over how much I hate this movie? I don’t think we have enough space in this introduction for me to get into it. But suffice to say it’s a personal theory of mine that more people would see “Forrest Gump” for the condescending, trite tripe it is if it weren’t for the fact that the protagonist is played by Tom Hanks, only the most likable everyman to grace the screen since Jimmy Stewart. I get it – Tom Hanks is great! I love him too! So let’s go watch him in some other movies. We’ll even stay in the same time period! For your perusal and serious consideration, three Tom Hanks movies from the ’90s – that are all better than “Forrest Gump.”
“Sleepless in Seattle” (1993)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Ross Malinger, Victor Garber, Rita Wilson, Bill Pullman
Available to purchase from Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix
Once upon a time, someone at a studio would notice that two young actors had that elusive something called chemistry, and lo! a rom-com was born. While we seem to have forgotten this magical formula in favor of superhero movies (see Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone), “Sleepless in Seattle” remains an example of savvy casting based on the leading couple’s chemistry. Inspired by (and featuring) “An Affair to Remember,” the movie manages to convince us of the couple’s final destiny together when they’re only onscreen together for a few minutes. A young and dashing Tom Hanks is at his broodiest here, staring into the water with his back to the camera, illuminated only by the night lights of Seattle, while Meg Ryan is sweet and quirky, somehow able to convince us that she has fallen in love with a guy she only heard on the radio. “Sleepless in Seattle” is sincere and unapologetically romantic, and in this age of irony, bromances, and alien invasions, that’s refreshing.
“That Thing You Do!” (1996)
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, Obba Babatundé, Giovanni Ribisi, Chris Ellis, Bill Cobbs
Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix
A cheeky, breezy musical comedy, “That Thing You Do!” manages to be simultaneously superfluous and essential, a perfect cinematic equivalent of the film’s subject: a one-hit wonder band maneuvering the perils and benefits of their fleeting fame. Pop music can be terrifically difficult to fake, but the film’s title track (written by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger) is that rare movie track that sounds exactly like what it’s supposed to be: a catchy, disposable trifle that manages to catch a wave in the summer of 1964 and get The Wonders (or, say it with me now: the Oh-Need-Ers) a record deal; and a real manager, played by Hanks with slick, though not unkind, pragmatism. As it happens, “That Thing You Do!” was also Hanks’ debut film as a director – and, choosing to ignore the little debacle of “Larry Crowne,” we might be able to think of Hanks himself as a bit of a one-hit wonder, in that respect.
“The Green Mile” (1999)
Cast: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Sam Rockwell, Patricia Clarkson, Gary Sinise
Available to rent or purchase from Amazon Instant and iTunes, on disc from Netflix
On the list of great prison movies, “Shawshank Redemption” will undoubtedly rank first. But “The Green Mile,” made five years after Andy Dufresne crawled to freedom (by the same director and based off another Stephen King novel no less) looms near the top. It’s another story of the relationship between a black man and a white man in prison, but while the first movie was about the tenacity of the human spirit, “The Green Mile” is a spiritual, supernatural film, where a Christ figure makes us reflect on our sins by absolving them. Tom Hanks stars as the captain in charge of Louisiana’s Death Row during the Depression, exuding his likable Everyman charm even in this least charming of roles. The movie is intentionally slow-paced and invites us to soak up the powerful emotions it evokes. We get to know the prison inmates, the rhythm and humdrum of prison life, and ultimately, the grisly horror of the electric chair.