Review: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

ShawshankRedemptionMoviePoster (1)This film originated from a Stephen King novella called Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The actress actually does play into this movie and her famed hair flip from Gilda even makes a memorable appearance. However, the shortening of the title not only simplifies things, but it refocuses the film on what it is all about. You guessed it. At its core, Shawshank is about the redemption of one man who would never let his hope or ardent spirit be quelled. That man is the memorable, but generally unassuming, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins).

His story began back in 1947 when he was put on trial after being accused of riddling his unfaithful wife and her lover with bullets in his drunken rage. We see bits and pieces of what happened, but not everything. Andy quietly maintains his innocence, but he is dealt two back-to-back life sentences in the Shawshank state penitentiary.

When he gets there initially he looks to be a pushover, not ready for the dark recesses and the harsh reality that is prison life. In his typically smooth mode of voice-over, Morgan Freeman, as camp grifter Red, recalls when he first set eyes on this man. He didn’t know it then but Andy would prove to be a life-changing acquaintance, and he also proved to have more guts than Red was expecting.

They first cross paths when Andy comes to Red inquiring about getting a rock hammer and Rita Hayworth. Red obliges and these trinkets allow Andy to shape rocks to form a chess set. The poster goes up on his wall and others soon follow. He’s a man who always strives to stay busy, and he never lets his circumstances get him down.

It doesn’t come easy though because the local prison gang christened “the sisters” are used to getting their way with any inmate they cross paths with. Andy is not one such individual, and he pays the price, receiving beatings on multiple occasions. Still, he keeps on living and ultimately makes a name for himself by providing tax advice for one of the most notorious guards. It’s after this specific moment when he wins a round of beers for his mates that they begin to see the extraordinary individual in their midst. He goes by the credo, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Following his own words to a tee, Andy begins to prove his worth and earn respect as he gives tax advice to many of the prison attendants and guards. Even the hypocritical warden uses his services to keep his finances and office in order.

Andy is also transferred from doing grunt work to helping the aged prisoner Brooks in the library. It’s a step up and unprecedented in the history of the prison, but then Andy is truly special. After Brooks is released and tragedy strikes his life, Andy continues to improve things. He regularly writes his representative for funding so he can get more books and his work finally pays off. He also sets up a program so prisoners and workers alike can gain the equivalent of a high school education.

As the years pass, the prisoners get older and the posters change on Andy’s wall from first Rita, to Marilyn, and finally Raquel. About that time, a young prisoner named Tommy finds himself in prison and all the old timers like his energy. Andy resolves to get the young man an education and Tommy, in turn, shares some potentially life changing evidence with Andy. But it all comes to naught. The warden maintains his tyrannical reign and the defenseless Tommy is struck down.

Andy begins to lose some of his privileges as the warden starts to clamp down on him again by throwing him into solitary confinement for two months. When he gets out, Andy’s hope is still alive, sharing with Red about his dream of someday going to Zihuatanejo in Mexico to live in solitude. Red thinks it’s all folly, but agrees to do something for him if he ever gets out.

Then during an upcoming roll call, all of a sudden, just like that, Andy Dufresne is gone for good. To add insult to injury, he used his business acumen to stick it to the warden who is investigated by the police. Andy has the last laugh.

After so many rejections and denials, Red finally gets his parole and he looks like a mirror image of Brooks, a man who grew to know the Shawshank as his only way of life. It looks pretty fast and grim on the outside now. But Red has a purpose that Brooks did not, in Andy. He keeps his promise to Andy and rendezvous with his old friend.

Shawshank is a thoroughly engaging film and it works because of the performances of Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Robbins acts as such a bright light despite his solemnity and subtlety. He is unceasingly upright;  the perfect contrast to this prison which is a vile, disgusting place full of corruption and violence. Freeman is the cynic and in many ways, he stands in for the audience. He wants to believe in a man like Andy as much as us, but the world initially tells him he cannot. However, Andy proves Red and the world wrong, by redeeming what has fallen. I can never get over that truth because it is such a powerful message told in such an engaging way.

4.5/5 Stars

The LEGO Movie (2014)

 adada-the_lego_movie_posterKudos to the minds behind The Lego Movie, because it is unlike any animated movie I have seen before and it is due to remixing, so to speak. For one thing, their story satirizes the ever popular action-adventure trope complete with an evil mastermind who is bent on controlling the world, and an every man who ultimately becomes the chosen one to save the…Lego race.

The world that Chris Miller & Phil Lord created is filled with annoyingly popular music, a superficial television program, overpriced coffee, and of course cities full of Lego people living in Lego places. They’ve taken the pieces and people that every little boy knows and spliced it into their own little unique universe.

In their world, Emmett (Chris Pratt) is a simpleton construction worker who is suspected to be the chosen one by the fugitive master builder Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks). They track down the prophetic Vitruvious (Morgan Freeman) and after gathering support, they enact a plan to take down the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who wants to subject the world to the Kragle super weapon. I might as well stop the synopsis here because for one I do not want to spoil the film, and for another, it probably sounds like I am speaking complete gibberish.

That is the beauty of this film because it takes a previous concept like Legos and builds on it. After all, that is what you are supposed to do with Legos. Build things! In many ways, I could easily see a version of myself making a movie like this when I was younger. In the Lego world, everything collides into a wonderfully beautiful collage. You have cities, Cowboys, Pirates, Superheroes, Basketball players and  Star Wars all tossed together in a giant melting pot. Thus, the Lego movie I would have made would have been a lot different than this one, but that is absolutely okay. Legos are meant to stimulate the mind and allow the bricklayer to build and tell any story they might want to. The minds behind this film certainly did that to great effect with a story that is clever, witty, and even touching.

Furthermore, it is necessary to give a shout out to the voice actors. The two leads in Christ Pratt and Elizabeth Banks did well with their roles. However, they were also surrounded by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, and Alison Brie. Parks and Rec, Arrested Development, and Community were all represented here.

You cannot leave out cameos by Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and Shaq. There are undoubtedly others that I left out. Hopefully, they forgive me.

By the end of the film you will probably be convinced that everything is AWESOME and that each one of us is, in fact, a chosen one, we just have to truly believe it.

4/5 Stars

Birthdays!

Wow what a day! Born on this date are three very different greats in Ms. Marilyn Monroe, Morgan Freeman, and last but not least Andy Griffith. That is quite an impressive trio if I do say so myself. That is all.

Monroe in Some Like it Hot
Everyone’s favorite Mayberry
Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption

 

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Directed and starring Clint Eastwood, with Hilarly Swank, and Morgan Freeman, the film begins with boxing trainer Frankie (Eastwood) who has a girl come into his gym to train. He gives her no attention but she consistently trains by herself and then gets some help from the former boxer and janitor Scrap (Freeman). Frankie finally gives her some tips but when his best fighter leaves him, he agrees to make this spirited girl into a boxer. Soon Maggie gets her chance and wins fight after fight with knockouts. At the same time, boxer and trainer grow close since they have no strong family connections. However, in the biggest fight of her life Maggie is dealt a cruel break and her life will never be the same. I have to say that I felt Eastwood’s character did the wrong thing in the end but it shows his humanity. The acting was very good, the story was moving, and Freeman’s narration was a nice touch.

4.5/5 Stars

Unforgiven (1992)

e1e9a-unforgiven_2Starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman, the film opens with two cowboys who disfigure a prostitute. The sheriff, Little Bill (Hackman) gives them a punishment but the other women pool their funds to pay for bounty hunters. A young gun requests the help of a former outlaw Will Munny (Eastwood) so they can collect the payment. However, because his deceased wife changed his ways, at first Will is reluctant. In need of money, he eventually heads off and brings along his old partner Ned (Freeman). After an initial conflict in the town of Big Whiskey, they kill the first one of their targets. Ned backs out and leaves the other two to get the second victim. After they do it, they find out Ned met trouble from the merciless sheriff. The young gunslinger gets cold feet and so an angry Munny heads into town for the final showdown. Eastwood’s character is interesting because he starts out trying to be good but he finally reverts back to his old ways. In this film it is difficult to tell who is bad or good. Everyone is simply human.

4.5/5 Stars

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

68168-shawshankredemptionmovieposterStarring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, the film begins with a young banker who is falsely accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He soon finds himself in Shawshank prison, the year 1947. When he arrives the resourceful “Red” (Freeman) believes the aloof man will be a pushover. However, after a major turning point Andy does many extraordinary things in the prison. Whether it is a nice deed for a friend, improving the prison library, carving chess pieces out of rock, or doing taxes for the guards, he keeps himself busy. The strict warden keeps him down but unlike others, Andy does not lose hope. He still has one miraculous trick up his sleeve. Fittingly he instills “Red” with hope and in the end they are reunited. I found this film intriguing because in such a corrupt and immoral place, Andy always seems to strive for good. His spirit is ultimately inextinguishable.

4.5/5 Stars

The Dark Knight (2008)

In honor of the release of The Dark Knight Rises next week, the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I would like to review The Dark Knight.

Starring a great cast of characters including Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, this is a great incarnation of Batman. In this film Bruce Wayne, alias Batman (Bale), faces his biggest challenge to protect Gotham City yet in the form of the villainous Joker (Ledger) With the help of Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Dent, Lucius Fox, and of course Alfred, he works to bring peace. However, the Joker is not your everyday criminal. This psychotic villain’s only goal is to create utter chaos and he forces the Batman into difficult choice after difficult choice. By the end, the lines are so blurred it is hard to tell who actually won. Ledger’s performance alone makes this movie a good one. His unpredictable and chilling portrayal has the audience constantly intrigued. Thus your everyday action packed, superhero film becomes an unconventional showdown between good and evil.
5/5 Stars

We will have to wait and see what the third installment starring Bale, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway, has in store for us.