Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”

The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short novel by famed author Stephen King. It was adapted for film by writer and director Frank Darabont. The story is set in Maine in the late 1940’s, where a mild mannered banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), is convicted of the double murder of his wife and her lover. He is given a life sentence and is set to serve it at Shawshank State Prison.

Once Andy arrives at prison, we are introduced to Ellis Boyd Redding or “Red” played by Morgan Freeman. Red is a popular prisoner for his ability to smuggle in contraband for other prisoners. Andy and Red soon strike up a friendship after Andy uses Red’s smuggling services. Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) soon singles out Andy for his intellectual abilities concerning finance and enlists him in some accountant work in the warden’s shady business dealings. As the years pass, Andy attempts to retain his humanity by refurbishing the prison library and clings to his stoic nature in spite of the harsh conditions and having to participate in Norton’s corrupt business dealings. Andy and Red are conflicted about the nature of their situation as Andy retains hope of living beyond the walls of the prison; whereas Red fears he would not make it on the outside as prison is all he knows. As events later take a turn for the worst, Andy begins to lose hope and is forced to make a fateful choice.

This film highlights the horrors of an unjust prison system. It does this by humanizing most of the prisoners as normal, rational people who have made mistakes in life and are now faced with living in oppressive conditions as a result. The film features many elements that hearken to religious interpretations of key moments in the film, from a falsely pious warden to Andy’s reoccurring attempts to bring the feeling of freedom to the prisoners if only for a moment.

While this movie did not earn much gross revenue at the box office, it was an outstanding success among critics and the public later on. It would be nominated for seven Academy Awards. It was eventually selected for the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for it being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. The Shawshank Redemption remains to this day on the popular website IMDB as rated #1 on its top 250 films of all time. This film has such a powerful impact on anyone who watches it.

The Shawshank Redemption is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence and harsh language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “We Were Soldiers”

Director Randall Wallace has written, produced, and adapted many moving stories into outstanding motion pictures, such as Braveheart, The Man in the Iron Mask, and classics like Secretariat. In 2002, he brought to life the harrowing true story of how on November 14th, 1965, the brave men of the U.S. 7th Cavalry found themselves in the first major battle of the Vietnam War.

We Were Soldiers stars Mel Gibson as Lt. Colonel Hal Moor, who has recently been chosen to command the U.S. 7th Cavalry.  Knowing that war is likely imminent in Vietnam, Moor must train his soldiers in the use of helicopters as a way of getting them into to battle. Moor quickly bonds with his enlisted men and earns the respect of his officers. Secretly he fears the ominous legacy that the 7th Cavalry has incurred ever since it was nearly wiped out in the past at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. When tensions escalate, the 7th Calvary is called to Vietnam. Unsure of where the enemy is, Moor’s orders are simply to find the enemy and destroy them. The eventual battle would come at the Ia Drang valley.

The North Vietnamese Army had been wanting to lure U.S troops into a trap, and as fate would have it, this proved to be a perfect opportunity. After Moor and the first detachment arrive, they soon learn they are severely outnumbered and are being pinned down by large numbers of NVA troops. The men of the 7th Calvary are cut off and surrounded on all sides, and they risk being annihilated like at Little Bighorn. Over the next four days, Moor and his men fight for survival day and night against frightful odds.

The film also cuts to the home front where Moor’s wife Julia (Madeleine Stowe) decides to help look after the soldier’s wives back on the base once they start receiving news of some of their husband’s deaths. We lastly see the story through the eyes of a young combat reporter, Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper), who documents the sacrifices of the young soldiers. Joe Galloway would later go on to author the book “We Were Soldiers Once and Young” detailing the accounts of the battle Ia Drang Valley. Victory in the battle finally comes for the Americans but at a terrible cost, and it becomes clear that, as a result, the war in Vietnam will only escalate in its scale and ferocity.

So many movies on the Vietnam war attempt to shock and dehumanize both sides of the conflict; this film stands out because it shows the bravery and humanity of both the Vietnamese and Americans who died fighting.

We Were Soldiers is available at the Union University Library. Please note it is Rated R for intense scenes of warfare.  We are also happy to provide you with the book that this film is based on and adapted from.

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Darkest Hour”

2017 was a big year for historical, period piece movies as the much anticipated film Darkest Hour was released. It follows the turbulent time at the beginning stages of World War II during Nazi Germany’s swift advance and conquest of much of Europe. Britain was left relatively isolated and with the decision to either make peace or continue to resist alone.

The film focuses on the newly elected prime minister, Winston Churchill (portrayed by Gary Oldman), as he attempts to convince the British Parliament to not sue for peace in spite of their current position in the war. We are shown the personal struggles Churchill goes through with his relationship with his wife and the heavy weight the war takes on his conscience as there was a very real threat of invasion and subjugation. As the film progresses, we are introduced to Elizabeth Layton (Lily Jordan) as Churchill’s new personal secretary who has the task of shadowing the prime minister and typing up the various letters to his allies in Parliament and his replies to various world leaders.

As the war rages on, Churchill continues to attempt to inspire the British public to courageously resist. His opponents in Parliament seek to oust him from power and elect a different Prime Minister to begin peace talks with Hitler. It soon becomes clear that, unless a miracle happens, the entire British expeditionary force in France will be destroyed as they are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. To the surprise of all the troops trapped at Dunkirk, they are rescued by the British Navy and thousands of volunteer flotillas. As this happens Churchill gives his famous speech “We shall fight on the beaches,” which goes on to rally Parliament in his favor and unite the British public.

Darkest Hour is a perfect companion to Christopher Nolan landmark film Dunkirk. Gary Oldman has always been one of my all-time favorite actors, and in this role he truly shines and transitions flawlessly into the elder British statesmen. Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill carries the film the entire way through.

Gary Oldman won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for this role. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and won an additional award for Best Hair and Makeup for the transition of Gary Oldman into the role of Winston Churchill.

Darkest Hour is available at the Union University Library; it is rated PG-13 for some mild language.

Top 5 Suspenseful Movies For Halloween

pex halloween

If you enjoy a little Halloween fun but don’t want to watch a movie that’s too scary, then a suspenseful film may be the right choice for you. The library has several suspenseful and older horror movies that, while entertaining, will probably not shock a modern audience. Check out our list below for some great choices!

Note: there are a lot of fantastic thrillers in the world of cinema, so this list is limited to the ones that we have available in the library.

 

Rebecca

A young bride is brought by her new husband to his manor house in England. There she finds that the memory of her husband’s first wife haunts her, and she tries to discover the secret of that mysterious woman’s death. Rebecca the book is also a classic suspense novel.

 

Nosferatu

Take it all the way back to 1922 with this thrilling, silent film about Dracula (called Nosferatu in this version). While the effects may not be as scary to a modern viewer, they are dazzling for the time period. Nosferatu is one of the most influential films of the modern horror genre.

 

Vertigo

Alfred Hitchcock was certainly one director who knew how to tell suspenseful stories. Vertigo is the story of San Francisco police detective Scottie Ferguson, who is forced to retire when a freak accident gives him a severe case of acrophobia. Ferguson is hired by a rich shipbuilder to follow his wife, who is behaving suspiciously and might be planning suicide.

 

The Sixth Sense

If you don’t know the twist to The Sixth Sense, watch it before you find out! This is a great movie to watch at least twice- once before you know the twist, and once after. Bruce Willis gives an empathetic performance as a child psychologist who tries to help a boy with visions of dead people.

 

Donnie Darko

This was my favorite movie for many years. Donnie Darko has everything that a good suspense/science fiction movie needs: a giant bunny rabbit, a countdown to the end of the world (starting on October 2nd and ending on Halloween), and a classic 80’s New Wave soundtrack. I love Donnie Darko because it’s a movie that could fit in so many genres- and it will keep you guessing until the very end- but ultimately it’s about a troubled teenage boy trying to figure out how the world works, and what’s more relatable than that?

 

Bonus movie:

Jaws

The first summer blockbuster was also a terrifying experience for moviegoers in 1975. Jaws is notable especially for its soundtrack, which inspires a creeping sense of dread as the giant shark approaches. Jaws will not be as scary to current horror fans due to limited (but still impressive) effects, which makes it a great movie for those who prefer suspense. You can read Matthew’s review of Jaws here.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Ghostbusters”

In the mid 80’s, writers Dan Aykroyd and Harrold Ramis, with the help of director Ivan Reitman, managed to catch lightning in a bottle with their iconic hit film Ghostbusters. The film was a bold and risky endeavor as it would blend the horror and comedy genres. Aykroyd and Ramis used clever writing and excellent special effects to make Ghostbusters an instant classic.

The zany plot revolves around three scientists: Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz, (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harrold Ramis). They work together in the field of paranormal investigations and are making head way in documenting and studying ghosts when their funding is cut, and they subsequently fired by the college that employs them. Rather than giving up, they decide to go in to business for themselves as professional Ghostbusters who eliminate unwanted spirits haunting the people of New York. The business begins to grow and prosper as ghosts and ghost sightings seem to be plaguing the city, alluding to an evil entity that is attempting to cross over into our world. While they become icons and popular celebrities across the city, Venkman begins to fall for his first client Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who happens to be haunted by a particularly nasty spirit. Soon the Ghostbusters are targeted by an unscrupulous bureaucrat who unknowingly hastens the arrival of an apocalyptic force. It falls to the Ghostbusters to save Dana and the people of New York from an ancient evil.

Despite its strange and risky premise, Ghostbusters became an enormous pop culture phenomenon. Its use of sharp and witty comedy with bizarre and stylish horror aspects were a hit with audiences. The characteristic logo and equipment became a mass marketing success in a similar way to Star Wars merchandise. Ghostbusters would go on to start a whole new sub-genre of films that attempt to make audiences laugh and shriek. The film has consistently made it among various publications’ Top 100 Films Of All Time lists. The popular movie review website Rotten Tomatoes still holds it at a 97% fresh rating.  Ghostbusters would go on to start its own franchise and the film itself racked in nearly 300 million dollars. I grew up watching this film, and my family and I can quote nearly every bit of dialogue in this memorable movie.

Ghostbusters was rated PG at the time, but today it would be in the PG-13 category for some use of language, innuendos, and some frightening scenes. Ghostbusters is available at the Union University Library.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “King Kong” (2005)

In 2005, director Peter Jackson was riding high off of the success of The Lord of the Rings franchise. But he had always dreamed of remaking the classic 1933 film King Kong. Jackson was a young boy when he first saw the film and instantly fell in love with its timeless story. In fact, King Kong impressed him so much that it would eventually lead him to becoming a filmmaker himself. Jackson’s own King Kong is a re-imagining of the great classic that uses state-of-the-art visual effects that help bring the giant ape to life (as well as realistic motion capture) and show off impeccable set design, stunning visual sequences, and awe-inspiring sound.

The film’s plot revolves around an ambitious filmmaker out to make a name for himself who manages to con some down-on-their-luck actors, a captain, and his crew into venturing to the uncharted and mythical Skull Island. They hope to shoot the first on site film and use the mysterious island as its backdrop; however, the island turns out to be populated by hostile natives and, worse still, all manner of giant monstrous creatures.  The fiercest of these creatures are what the natives have dubbed “Kong,” a giant gorilla that they worship as a god. The leading actress is captured by Kong, and the cast and crew must attempt to rescue her. They then decide to capture and bring Kong back alive and to show off the beast to stunned New York crowds. This inevitably leads to disaster as Kong escapes and terrorizes the city.

This film’s cast includes Naomi Watts as the aspiring lead actress Ann Darrow. Although Ann is captured by Kong, she soon realizes he is not a mindless brute but can be quite tender and protective. Adrian Brody stars as Jack Driscoll, a pragmatic screenwriter who attempts to rescue Ann and ultimately falls in love with her. Lastly, Jack Black stars as Carl Denham, the man who is desperate to achieve greatness and is willing to risk everyone’s lives to do it.

King Kong did extremely well with critics, who praised its visual effects and imaginative retelling of the classic 30’s film. The film pulled a whopping 550 million in box office revenue. It still holds an 84% fresh rating among audiences and users on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.  King Kong went on to win Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

King Kong is a fantastic retelling of a classic piece of early cinema that modern audience will appreciate and enjoy.  It is available at the Union University Library and is rated PG-13 for some mild violence and language.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Signs”

M. Night Shyamalan has brought us some thrilling movies over the years, and his 2002 hit Signs is definitely one of them. It was written, directed, and produced by Shyamalan, and with that much creative control he really was able to implement his artistic vision and take credit for the finished project.

The setting is a rural farm home owned by Graham Hess (Mel Gibson). Hess is a recent widower and has apparently lost his faith. He lives with his young son and daughter. His son Morgan (Rory Culkin) uses his inquisitive mind and quirky nature to mask his pain over his mother’s recent death. The younger daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin) is socially withdrawn and has developed an odd compulsive behavior since her mother’s passing. Recently, Graham’s younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) is also in a current low point in his life and has moved in to help the family.

One morning, the family is awakened to find large acres of the corn crops have been meticulously bent and arranged into strange shapes- from the air, they look like crop circles. Graham, a prudent and pragmatic man, believes these to be the actions of vandals and pranksters seeking media attention. Soon these strange formations begin to happen across the globe. As the days go on, more and more strange sightings and panic begin to spread throughout the nation and in the Hess home itself. With all things considered, Graham slowly starts to believe the threat is real and seeks to protect his family. Only by a renewed since of faith can he pull his family together through their shared love for one another. Will they survive this frightening ordeal simply by chance, fate, or perhaps even a miracle?

Signs is a fantastic slow burn thriller that uses escalating tension to rise to a fever pitch towards the end. Shyamalan has been compared previously to a modern day Alfred Hitchcock. The dialogue of his characters are often dry and mundane and help the audience relate to the tedious periods in our day to day lives. He also taps into the fear and dread of the unknown, and how people must overcome their own shortcomings and flaws.

Signs made a respectable $400 million of a budget of around $70 million, and while some critics had negative opinions on sections of the script, most found it fresh and original.  Most audiences give it about 75% favorable to 25% unfavorable rating. Most will enjoy this suspense/thriller, but I can agree it’s not for everyone.

Signs is available at the Union University Library.

*It is rated PG-13 for some language and mild violence.

 

 

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Insomnia”

Insomnia by director Christopher Nolan is a hidden gem and one of his lesser known works. While Nolan is mostly known for his epic action pieces like The Dark Knight franchise or his sci-fi themed dramas like Inception, Insomnia is a modern take on noir, mystery crime thrillers. The film features a star studded cast that includes Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank.

The plot centers around Will Dormer, a veteran detective with a troubled past who agrees to help out an old friend with a case in a remote Alaskan town. There he finds that a young girl has been murdered, and it is up to him to find the girl’s killer. While attempting to track down the culprit, he soon finds that the tables have turned, as the killer has learned of a terrible mistake that Detective Dormer is responsible for. The killer uses this information as leverage and blackmails the troubled detective into helping him attempt to clear his name from growing police suspicion.

Detective Dormer struggles with the guilt of his crime and his sense of duty in bringing the killer to justice. The tension of the film builds due to the location and time of year: in Alaska during the summer months, it remains bright and sunny even at night. Along the way, a young local detective named Ellie Burr (Hillary Swank) who idolizes Dormer begins to suspect that things are not what they seem with the veteran officer. The film ends with a long anticipated showdown between Dormer and the killer, culminating into a dramatic confrontation.

This film tends to fly under most people’s radar and is usually eclipsed by Christopher Nolan’s more famous works, but I find it quite thought provoking and the acting is spot on. The intensity and depth of the characters is remarkably both genuine and realistic.  The film still stands at a solid 92% on the website Rotten Tomatoes.

Insomnia is a great addition to Mr. Nolan’s filmography; it’s an engaging thriller and not your average murder mystery. It is available at the Union University Library and rated R for violence and language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Ocean’s Eleven”

In 2001, director Steven Soderbergh gave us a fantastic remake of the classic 60’s era Rat Pack film. Ocean’s Eleven features a star-studded cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts. The plot centers around Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a recently paroled thief who plots the unthinkable caper: robbing not one but three Las Vegas casinos.

Now your average Las Vegas casino has more money than a federal bank and more armed security and cameras than most military bases, so this isn’t a marginal undertaking. Danny decides to enlist a dream team of fellow thieves, hackers, and con-artists to pull off this impossible heist.

Too cool for school is the name of the game here: every actor is on point. They do a fantastic job in portraying a motley crew that each uses their individual talent and charisma to stay one step ahead of the casino security and the law. While the task they set out to accomplish is quite serious as the odds aren’t stacked in their favor, this film truly shines on its lighthearted and sharp-witted comedy through near misses and close calls that could spell doom for the thieving band. At this film’s heart is actually a quasi-love triangle between three characters as Danny Ocean desperately tries to win back the love of his ex-wife.

Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit at the box office, racking in $450 million dollars based off of an $85 million budget. It’s no wonder this film went on to become a three-part trilogy as well as inspire an ensemble all-female spinoff. This is a fantastic film filled with thrills and tasteful comedy that aims to please mainstream audiences. Ocean’s Eleven will leave you with the desire to see it again and again. You’ll want to catch all the subtle slights of hand in this picturesque heist

 Ocean’s Eleven is available at the Union University Library.

* This film is rated PG-13 for mild violence and some suggestive scenes.*

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Blade Runner”

Director Ridley Scott has a long history of making epic and awe-inspiring films and Blade Runner has got to be at the top of that list. Its affect on the science fiction genre as a whole cannot be overstated. It has also heavily influenced both video games and anime for its style and futuristic prospects of what the world may evolve into in time.

The film is set in 2019 Los Angeles in a dark and dreary dystopia, where mankind has adapted to become a technocracy influenced by powerful corporations. Man has mastered interstellar flight and colonies are forming in space. The key to this success has been through the use of androids called “Replicants” who have become so life-like and self-aware that they are nearly indistinguishable from humans and as a result banned from Earth. If a Replicant manages to smuggle themselves to Earth, the police hire a “Blade Runner” to track down the android and kill it.

This brings us to our protagonist, Rick Deckard, a disillusioned former cop who was famous for his ability to eliminate Replicants. Deckard is played by Harrison Ford, who was just coming off the success of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Deckard is tasked to hunt down four Replicants who have committed several murders and illegally entered the city. They are led by Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer. Batty is a combat synthetic soldier with advanced tactical training and genius levels of intelligence.

Deckard travels to meet Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell corporation, who is responsible for creation of the Replicants. While there, he learns there is a psychological test designed to trigger an emotional response in Replicants in order to distinguish them from humans. He also meets Dr. Tyrell’s daughter, Rachael (Sean Young), and soon becomes infatuated with her.

The next phase of the plot involves Deckard hunting the Replicants down one by one while also pursuing a relationship with Rachael.  The Replicant leader Roy Batty soon learns that he and the other Replicants have a built in half-life of a little more than three years. Realizing this, he seeks to meet his maker and acquire more time to live. In the final phase of the film we see Deckard battling the Replicants in a life and death struggle.

The themes expressed in this film are as numerous as they are profound.  In the end we are left questioning the very nature of humanity as the Replicants struggle to survive. They have hopes, dreams, memories, and the fear that all self-aware beings share: the fear of death.

Actor Rutger Hauer unfortunately passed away on July 19th of this year.  During filming, Hauer rewrote his character’s final lines in the film, and they have been praised ever since as one of the most moving speeches of all time in the sci-fi genre. In memory of the late great Rutger Hauer I’ll shall share it here:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Blade Runner has left quite a mark on pop culture and cinema and I do believe we will continue to see its influence in novels and films for years to come.

Blade Runner is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence, brief nudity, and some language.*