A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Will Make You Feel Loved Again

mr fred rogers neighborhood trolley
Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) and Trolley.

I just came out from viewing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And this is funny: last night I watched the award-winning 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I like being a sort of completist.

Bear this in mind: I don’t like documentaries.

I can’t think of another documentary I’d watch on purpose if’s not about science fiction (for example, later tonight I’m watching the Galaxy Quest retrospective <— see, that’s sci-fi).

But the Fred Rogers documentary is really something special. Partly riding on nostalgia, and partly posited as a wish fulfillment for adults who don’t like who they’ve become, knowing Mr. Rogers loved everybody makes all the difference. And “everybody” includes me. And YOU.

I cried like a baby during the documentary to be reminded that someone likes me. Just exactly the way I am.

So I was excited to catch Tom Hanks’ dramatized version of Fred Rogers. What did I walk away with? A complicated set of feelings.

First off, Hanks was just lovely in the part. At times he sounded a little more like southerner Forrest Gump than Fred Rogers, but the actor freely admitted he never intended to mimic Rogers. He wanted to capture the essence. And in that, I believed him.

When he talked to the camera and told me he liked me, I felt liked. I felt accepted and appreciated. And ultimately, though the film was ostensibly about a jaded reporter and his dysfunctional family — which would normally bore me silly — the message of loving acceptance came shining bright, shining through. The message was sincere and sorely needed in this era of intolerance and hate-mongering.

This is timely. This is needful.

What I didn’t like

I wanted more Fred Rogers. More Tom Hanks. He felt sidelined in his own movie. 75% of the film focuses on Lloyd Vogel (a sort of real, sort of fictional character). Way too much time was spent with Lloyd, his wife, his father, and various family members (the baby was super cute, though). I wasn’t caught up in the ‘reporter angle’. And I’ve been a reporter myself, although in my case that didn’t cause rifts in my family. This is a story ostensibly about Mr. Fred Rogers. I was expecting Lloyd’s tale to be a side-plot.

I realize the movie had to ramp up the drama to be a box office success, but what I didn’t expect was that meant taking the spotlight off Mr. Rogers and his fantasy neighborhood. I am deeply grateful I watched the documentary first, to reacquaint me with Trolley, Picture Picture, King Friday the XIII, and of course Daniel Tiger, since the Tom Hanks film didn’t go there enough.  Those too few segments taking place on Fred Rogers’ show were weirdly positioned as a dreamscape. And now it seems I must find those old PBS episodes to feel loved and cherished again.

31 seasons of loving acceptance, crossing several generations

The best moment on Neighborhood was — of all things — on a New York subway. Fred Rogers, recognizable TV star and all,  loved taking the Subway. In one scene, people in the subway car gave him the side eye at first, wondering if this was actually Rogers himself. Quickly deciding he was, everyone  (including two hardened NYC beat cops) sang his famous Won’t You Be My Neighbor song out loud to honor him.  I’ve read this actually happened.

You could see Hanks channeling the joy and gratitude of this beautiful experience. Rogers touched so many, in several generations.

Do you realize the show ran for a mind boggling 31 seasons? How many mothers, fathers, and children grew up hearing his message of tolerance and self-forgiveness? Grew up realizing we are not broken, and are all deserving of unconditional love? That we are liked for who we are.

Did anyone tell you this lately?  Do you tell this to the people YOU love?

As I said above, I didn’t care for the focus on the reporter and his family. I realize part of this was based on a real-life experience, but it was just your basic family drama, seen a gazillion times before. Yawn. I’m glad Lloyd learned what heroism really is, but it was all so telegraphed. Yes, he forgives his father. His family comes to realize familial love and ends up happier.

But could we get back to the Kingdom of Make Believe now?

Full Disclosure:

It hurt to see Lloyd’s relationship with his dying father. It hit a little too close to home. My father has a disease that steals him from me day by day. He was always my hero, and now he’s a shell of a person who needs more care than my mother and I can handle. I wish I had Mr. Rogers around to tell me how to handle the difficult emotions this brings up.

Sorry. Maybe that’s too much to share. But, as Mr. Rogers makes a point of telling us in this film, being open, honest, and accepting of things like death is one of our greatest challenges. What he says, actually (and this is deeply hopeful), is that “anything mentionable is handle-able.”

I hope so. As Mulder would say, ” I want to believe.”

And yes, I did cry at the end. I was moved by this singular, loving, kind man. I’m a sucker. I just wished there was more Fred Rogers in it.

Noteworthy observation:

I wouldn’t have noticed this if I didn’t just watch the documentary, but Joanne Rogers (Mr. Roger’s real life wife) makes a brief cameo in the food diner scene. I almost expected her to say, “I’ll have what she’s having,” but that’s another background story for a different type of movie.

Movie Grade: B+

 

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

mr rogers neighborhood
Even the trailer for this has me crying.

Everyone’s saying the Tom Hanks Mr. Rogers movie is great and I definitely plan to see it this Thanksgiving week. I remember loving “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child, with the trolley and the cute puppet kingdom…but haven’t given the show another thought as the decades passed. Then 2018’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor hit the indie circuits, and people recalled Fred Rogers as a sort of folk hero.

I figured I’d watch the documentary before seeing the dramatic, wide release version.

I’m happy to report Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an absolutely lovely 90 minutes of time, well-spent. If you watch it before seeing Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you’ll go in with a greater understanding of this incredibly kind, compassionate man. I look forward to seeing Tom Hank’s take on it: I’m told Hanks channels Rogers’ essence, instead of performing an exact mimicry.

The documentary shows clips of the television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (which ran 31 seasons, beginning in 1968), interview segments with Fred Roger’s wife and sons, and a bit of background on what the show was about — mainly (and I didn’t realize this as a child) to provide children a role model for dealing with difficult emotions. The show promoted tolerance for others and self-love.

In a world where hate is accepted as the New Normal, being reminded of human kindness/acceptance of differences is hugely important.

Did I cry while watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor? You bet I did. The documentary felt like a long, warm hug. Fred Rogers somehow radiated love and patience to everyone he met, even through the TV screen, to thousands of children everywhere. I’d forgotten this.

How often do you hear “I like you just the way you are?”

My guess is, not enough. Perhaps never. And that’s a damn shame. It’s so easy to accept and love one another, and yet we don’t. Life hurts us and we get jaded. We harden our hearts. And sometimes we hurt each other because we don’t remember what’s it’s like to receive unconditional love.

Watching a grown man reach out to others through old puppets, especially the sensitive tiger Daniel (who, like The Velveteen Rabbit, has most of his fur loved off) was surprisingly heartwarming. You absolutely buy into the notion that Mr. Rogers loves everyone. And everyone includes me and you.

Watching this made me want to be better — to be like him. And it made me feel more optimistic about humanity in general. I don’t think it’s possible to watch Mr. Rogers do his thing and not be comforted.

And I for one am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Ancestry.com has discovered that Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers are sixth cousins. That’s made all the more relevant due to Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in the critically-acclaimed movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. (Bringing a whole new meaning to getting into character.)

“It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks told Access Hollywood when the show informed him of the relation.

According to Ancestry.com, Fred and Tom share a 5x great-grandfather (Johannes Meffert), who immigrated from Germany to America in the 18th century.

At first glance, that seems pretty astounding, but when you consider probabilities of family trees overlapping, it becomes less and less impressive the further back in time you go. For instance, there’s nearly a 100% probability that any two people of European decent share an ancestor from 1,000 years ago.

And of course, if you want to get pedantic about it, that banana you had for breakfast was your 108-cousin. 🙂

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodThere’s something so satisfying about the idea of Tom Hanks playing children’s TV show host Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Who can resist one of America’s favorite actors playing one of America’s most beloved TV icons?  And I know Mr. Rogers was beloved because every time the preview for Won’t You Be My Neighbor played at the local art house theater last year, it got applause.  In honor of Hanks’ latest performance and a possible sixth Oscar nomination, here’s a look back at some of his best and worst films.

Tom Hanks 5 Best Movies

Tom Hanks has such a plethora of great films, it was hard to whittle it down to just five.  His IMDb page is an embarrassment of riches.  I encourage you to explore his filmography.

1. Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaTom Hanks won Best Actor for his role as a man with HIV suing his law firm for wrongful dismissal.  Antonio Banderas plays his partner.  Denzel Washington plays his attorney in a powerful performance.  Hanks gave a memorable acceptance speech, thanking his gay high school drama teacher.  The movie was groundbreaking at the time for not only having a gay main character but casting an A-list actor in the role.  It was also one of the first mainstream films to take on the topic of HIV.

2. Forrest Gump

One year later, Hanks won his second Oscar for playing the dim but big-hearted title character who was always at the right place at the right time throughout the twentieth century.  He is one of the few actors to win back-to-back Oscars.  (Others include: Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Jason Robards.)  Forrest’s famous quote from this movie is, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.”  This is probably the movie Tom Hanks is most famous for.  The film spawned a popular soundtrack and even a chain of restaurants named Bubba Gump’s.

3. The Green  Mile

The Green  MileEveryone knows The Shawshank Redemption.  This is director Frank Darabont’s other Stephen King adapted prison movie.  Hanks plays a compassionate death row corrections officer in this Best Picture nominee.  He and the other guards face a moral dilemma when accused child murderer John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) displays extraordinary supernatural gifts.  This is one of my favorite movies of the ’90s.  The entire cast is amazing.  It features one of Sam Rockwell’s great early performances.  I think about Tom Hanks and Graham Greene’s discussion about the afterlife all the time.

4. Big

Hanks got his first Oscar nomination for this performance.  His character is a boy who makes a wish to be big and wakes up in the body of a grown man.  (A little bit like Shazam.)  Hanks’s performance as a man-child is endearing, as he takes on the joys and burdens of adulthood.  The film features a famous scene where he and his boss play “Chopsticks” by dancing on a giant toy piano.  Hanks started out doing comedies in the ’80s.  This is a great place to start if you’ve never seen anything from his early career.

5. Cast Away

Cast AwayHanks got his fifth Oscar nomination for this Robert Zemeckis film.  When his plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm, Hanks is the only survivor.  He makes it ashore to a deserted island where he must learn how to survive on his own.  The description may not grab you, but I assure you the movie will.  I have watched people get sucked into this film while watching it on display televisions in stores.  Somehow Zemeckis manages to weave a spell over you.  And he does it with a movie that has hardly any dialogue.

Tom Hanks’ 5 Worst Movies

Every actor has their share of missteps and Hanks has some doozies.

1. The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities

What do you get when  you put Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith in an adaptation of a Tom Wolfe novel?  Pure dreck.  This is generally considered one of the worst movies of the ’90s.  Hanks is miscast as an unlikable character.  The power of Wolfe’s writing is lost in its transition to the screen.

2. Punchline

PunchlineWho wants to watch a movie about stand-up comedians that isn’t funny?  Hanks plays a young comic who helps a housewife (Sally Fields) develop her stage act.  I tried to watch this movie several times in the ’80s and could never get through it.  I was used to seeing Tom Hanks kiss mermaids and solve crimes with dogs.  Nothing nearly as exciting happens in this movie.  The punchline is there are no jokes in this film.

3. The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci CodeOne of the best-selling novels of  all-time, one of the most protested movies ever is also…a total snooze fest.  Not even Hanks’ charm or a controversial plot twist can save this so-so thriller.  Things pick up a little when Ian McKellen finally shows up.

4. The Ladykillers

The LadykillersThis is one of the Coen Brothers’ worst films.  Hanks plays an eccentric Southern professor whose gang is posing as musicians in order to rob a casino.  They practice in the basement of his landlady’s home.  I’ve already forgotten most of this forgettable film.  But I’m still haunted by Hanks’ odd performance.

5. Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasWhat can I say about Cloud Atlas?  As a friend of mine likes to say, it’s a lot of what it is.  Nearly three hours to be exact.  It’s a movie I want to like.  But I’m not sure I want to put in the mental work and repeated viewings required to do so.  The Matrix, it’s not.  The movie deals with reincarnation and how our actions ripple through time to affect others.  Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters across multiple storylines.  It requires a lot of concentration to keep up with everything.  And that’s before the post-apocalyptic people start talking like five-year-olds (“Tell me the true true.”)

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Virgin Movie Review – Sully

Movie review: Cloud Atlas

A Happy Shazam Review – A delightful time in the DC universe (for once)

 

Virgin Movie Review – Sully

tom hanks in sullyLet’s just open with this axiom: Tom Hanks can do no wrong.

Done.

That’s not much of a review, is it?

Starting again: I just watched Sully last night for the first time. Somehow, I never heard about “The Miracle on the Hudson.” I shy away from the news, because “news” usually equals “bad news” and I don’t need any more of that. But in this case, as with The Apollo 13 mission, the story fell into the rare “good news” category.

Funnily enough, both Sully and Apollo 13 star Tom Hanks. This man can really lead a film — and I kind of felt, watching Sully, this was a bit like “Apollo 13 with Planes.”

Take a situation where the wrong split-second decision (here it’s a 32-second decision) means a loss of all hands.  155 people survived because Captain Chesley Sullenberger saw no feasible options, and came up with a brand new one. He landed a passenger aircraft on the Hudson River, and everyone — everyone  — survived. RunPee Mom, who used to be an airline attendant, tells me no one survives an emergency landing on water. I assume this aspect led to the “Miracle” moniker.

The image of everyone standing on the wings as the Airbus plane slowly sank into the Hudson River is indelible, iconic perhaps.

(The rescue scenes in the frigid water reminded me of Titanic, another true-life-based disaster film, but in that case, only 706 out of 2208 souls were pulled from the water. I assume that’s because Tom Hanks wasn’t there to save them.)

Since everyone lived, there had to be SOME kind of plot jeopardy. In Sully, it’s the “blood sucking lawyers.” The climactic formal hearing was tense and well-structured: it perfectly illustrated the obfuscating influence of insurance companies needing to place the blame on someone. How about on the shoulders of the calm-under-pressure hero who saved all the people? Great, let’s go after him! He’s about to retire anyway.

I for one loved the simulation sequences. I’m a sucker for that kind of movie exposition. I liked it when they did it on Titanic, too. It’s an early version of Star Trek’s holodeck!

What else happened in this film? There’s the inquiry and the hearing. The simulations. Tom Hanks acting opposite a cell phone. Tom Hanks having traumatic flashbacks and nightmares. He gets a drink named in his honor: The Sully: Grey Goose Vodka with a splash of water. Get it?

tom hanks and aaron eckhart
You have 32 seconds to save 155 people. What do you do?

Aaron Eckhart had an agreeable role as the co-pilot. I appreciated that he had Sully’s back. He was there; he knew what happened (“BIRDS!”).  He loyally told everyone he trusted Sully’s judgement and was grateful to be alive.

Laura Linney, playing a thankless role as Sully’s wife, had absolutely nothing to do, stuck on the end of a cell phone, in the kitchen with their daughters. That’s one of the misfires of this film.

Mike O’Malley, playing the heavy, looks like he tried, but he still seemed to me like the sweet dad Burt Hummel from Glee, and it was hard to take him seriously. I’m glad he found a leading part in a good movie, but he was probably miscast — someone either scarier or more arch would have been a better choice. (Maybe he looked like the real person?)

Trying to make a side plot with some of the passengers didn’t pay off so well. Early on we are introduced to a trio of golfers getting last minute seats on the plane. That went exactly nowhere. There was also a woman with her wheelchair-bound mother shoehorned into the narrative, and that was a dead end too. It was a bizarre choice: what worked in Titanic with people’s personal stories was only a token effort in Sully. Those well-drawn characters are what made the Titanic film so immersive and enduring. We know what happens at the end, but you kind of forget the ship will sink, because you’re caught up in the story of Jack and Rose.

Maybe they wanted to pad out Sully’s 88-minute run-time, but if so, they should have expanded the film to have these side-stories resonate. Or don’t bother trying to put a human face on the passengers, and expand on Sully’s family watching the news, back home (again, as in Apollo 13).

tom hands and sully photo
Tom Hanks and the real hero, Sully

I really enjoyed Sully and don’t want to nit-pick on it anymore. It’s a feel-good true to life story, and an inspiring one.  What a relief to know that sometimes things work out.

By the way, Tom Hanks can carry an entire movie just talking to a volleyball. How’s that for good acting?  Who would have guessed from his early comedic films like Bosom Buddies and Big that he had so much talent? I think without him, this sometimes dry and definitely spare film would have felt like a documentary.

I also think the non-linear, almost Roshoman-type story structure helped keep the interest high. There are no world changing stakes, but things could so easily have gone wrong, and crashing a plane into New York City’s skyscrapers would have rocked the nation with memories of 9/11. We can be lucky Manhattan escaped this time, and we saw from Sully’s nightmares that this was entirely on his mind. What if? Thankfully, we never found out.

(Just thinking — maybe it’s time to move the NYC airports out of the city, like Denver did, closing down Stapleton Airport. The new one is safely out on the Colorado plains, and is a state of the art, lovely airport to get stuck in.)

Overall: Sully provides an easy hour and a half of entertainment, with a real-life disaster tale, a true hero, and a happy ending. You get to know a little bit more about the historical events and Captain Sully himself. I was glad to see it. Like I said, there’s too much bad news out there.

Movie Grade: B+

Movie Review – Sully

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review — Titanic

Movie Review – The Post

Tom Hanks is the man. Streep does her usual good job, but basically she’s playing a nicer version of her Miranda Priestly role from The Devil Wears Prada. Hanks is really the standout actor in this, and it’s not easy to upstage Streep! He’s settling nicely into his older roles, and in The Post he is so good at being this smart, genial, likeable, dedicated newsman that I lost myself in his part, instead of being constantly impressed with his work. If this sounds like a contradiction, remember that really good acting is about the story, not the actor. [pullquote position=”right”]When someone subsumes their persona into the role given, you forget about star power and just enjoy the work.[/pullquote] Many kudos to Hanks. He’s become really reliable and versatile over the years.

Bob Odenkirk also deserves a shout out — he had some of the best, most gripping scenes, and was a great choice in this altogether stellar cast.

One question I do have: did every man in this era have a growly voice like the actors affected here?

The film documents a brave, historic, and positive moment in time, showcasing the better side of human nature. It will make you feel happy to be a small part of it, even as just a passive movie viewer. Politics sometimes isn’t completely depressing! Good job, Spielberg; once again you haven’t let us down. The wonderful score by John Williams is resonant and uplifting as well. I don’t usually enjoy historical dramas, but this is easily an A experience.

Movie grade: A

Movie Review – The Circle

Grade – C+ (a little bit above average)

Imagine if Facebook and Google got married, had a monster-child, and named it Circle. There you have it. Could this really happen? Yes indeed, and to take that one step further, I’ll wager that there’s a monster-child already gestating out there in cyber space.

The Circle had a star studded cast, but if you’re going only because Tom Hanks is in it, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Hanks has about 10 minutes of screen time; he delivers his few lines nicely, disappears for fifteen or twenty minutes, then shows back up to deliver more nice lines. Emma Watson does keep us pretty much entertained throughout the movie, but the real kudos goes to Glenne Headly and the late Bill Paxton. No one in Hollywood will ever be able to shout obscenities the way you did, Bill.

I’m a big fan of Dave Eggers, and his book *A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius* has been in my top 20 books since I read it when it first came out. I think it would have made a better movie than The Circle, but that’s only my opinion, for what it’s worth.

Movie Review – Sully

 

Movie Review - SullyBeing a retired flight attendant who was based in New York, and having flown out of LaGuardia airport frequently, gave me a unique perspective on this movie.

I can’t say that I was looking forward to seeing ‘Sully’. I was flying out of New York during 9/11 and lost many peers and one good friend on that ill-fated morning. So I tend to shy away from any reminders of that day. However, I thank my lucky stars that I did bite the bullet and watched this extraordinary film.

Thank you, Clint Eastwood for not going all ‘Hollywood’ by turning this true event into some tacky, overblown piece of junk just to boost ticket sales. You told us the story as it happened through the eyes of Captain Sullenburger.

I paid close attention to the technical aspect of the movie with regards to the events prior to and following the water landing and I give high praise to the accuracy of what I saw. Even though I never experienced a water landing or ditching (and there is a difference), all safety rules were done accurately. I do appreciate that.

As for the acting and directing, hopefully ‘Sully’ will be remembered during the Oscar season. Not since Million Dollar Baby has Eastwood directed such a powerful film. And as for Tom Hanks; I believe he gave the performance of his career.

Even though the format of RunPee will only allow me to give a movie an A+ as the highest rating possible, I must give Sully an A++ in this review.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: Even though there was plenty of drama in this movie, I did choose 2 Peetimes that were easily summed up in the synopsis. You will not miss any of the excellent scenes concerning the water landing of flight 1549.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Sully. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Virgin Movie Review – Sully

Movie Review – Saving Mr. Banks

SavingMrBanksAn enchanting story from beginning to end. The story wove the past with the present — the present being 1961 — beautifully. The flashbacks to Mrs. Travers’ past helped us understand her character and build the drama for the climax of the movie.

The acting was what you would expect if you are expecting perfection. Emma Thompson is one of my favorite actresses, and she was the ideal choice for this role. Of course, Tom Hanks does what Tom Hanks does, with every role he performs.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of Colin Farrell’s performance, but he did a masterful job portraying the loving but tortured father who inspired his daughter.

mary poppins flies with her unbrella
How do I get my Umbrella to do that?

I was pleasantly surprised that Paul Giamatti had a small part in the film. After doing a little research, I discovered his character isn’t based on any single person in reality, but was added to give Mrs. Travers someone to warm up to. They certainly cast the perfect actor for the role. Giamatti does a great job at playing understated but likable characters.

There is a fair amount of humor, although little of it is of the laugh out loud variety.

Confession: I’ve never read the book or seen the movie Mary Poppins. All through the movie I confused the movie “Mary Poppins” with “Bed Knobs and Broom Sticks”, which I have seen, and enjoyed, many times. It wasn’t until the end of “Saving Mr. Banks” that I realized my confusion. I wonder if anyone else will do the same thing.

Movie Review – Mary Poppins Returns

5 Differences between the Old and New Mary Poppins