Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Film: That Thing You Do

Tom Hanks directed this musical about the one-hit Wonders. He also directed it. And wrote the script. And played one of the major parts. And wrote some of the songs. That's a long way from Forrest Gump. Uploaded by classicside.blogspot.com.

I’m actually quite embarrassed to say how much I like this little movie. I’m kind of a sucker for other movies with this very basic storyline, like The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart and The Benny Goodman Story with Steve Allen. In each case, the band (here it’s The Wonders, originally the Oneders) struggles to find “the sound” that makes it distinctive. In That Thing You Do it happens quickly, when drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) takes the title song from a ballad to an upbeat dance tune at the Mercyhurst College Talent Show. (They’re “Wicked.”)

Uploaded by gnout.wordpress.com.

The movie follows the band from sock hop to local rock and roll show, to the Play-Tone state fair tour, and ultimately, to the Ed Sullivan Show. Well, they called it the Hollywood Television Showcase. However, “artistic tension” between lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) and the rest of the band causes the breakup of the band. As their manager Mr. White (Tom Hanks) said, “One hit wonders. A very common tale.”

TTYD is Hanks’ sole film director credit, and shows just how versatile he is. (He also wrote the movie and some of the music.) It has a great supporting cast, including Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaac, Alex Rocco, Obba Babatundé, and Rita Wilson (Mrs. Tom Hanks). The movie didn’t win any awards, and really isn’t a “serious” film. But it’s a “good watch.” By the way, has there ever been a better band name than Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters?

Kid Stuff: The Polar Express

The Polar Express is a picture book, written by sculptor turned illustrator/writer Chris Van Allsburg. It won the Caldecott Medal for Children's Literature in 1986. Uploaded by privatelibrary.typepad.com.

Children’s author Chris Van Allsburg created this beautiful Christmas story about a fantasy train that carried children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to see Santa Claus. One boy in particular is picked up in front of his house, then journies with other kids in their pajamas on this magical adventure.

When he arrives at Santa’s workshop, the boy is chosen by Santa himself to receive the first gift of Christmas. The boy can choose anything in the world he wants, but he asks for a beautiful-sounding silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. He puts the bell in his pocket, but soon realizes in horror that his pocket has a hole

Chris Van Allsburg. Uploaded by barnesandnoble.com.

in it, and the bell is gone. The next morning, however, his sister sees a package with the boy’s name on it at the back of the tree. It’s the bell, of course, which Santa found on the seat of his sleigh.

Director Robert Zemeckis adapted The Polar Express and made it into a live-action animated film, “starring” Tom Hanks. The movie was well received, but it’s the book that still captures the imagination of children with its beautiful and evocative illustrations. It won the Caldecott Medal for Children’s Literature in 1986. Both the book and the movie end with this beautiful quote:

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Film: Toy Story

Woody and Buzz Lightyear are rivals and partners. And great foils for each other in both films. Uploaded by thecia.com.au.

This post honors Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999), both of which are among the best animated features of all time. In the original, Woody is Andy’s favorite toy until he’s challenged by the new toy – Buzz Lightyear. And in the sequel, Woody is taken to be part of the highly collectible Woody’s Roundup set, and his toy friends come to help him get back to Andy’s house.

The wonderful Pixar people created these films, and they possess the magical ability to make movies that can be enjoyed by all perspectives, from preschool to adult. What appeals to kids is obvious, but adults appreciate seeing the toys of their childhood brought to life in a smart, witty, and visually enchanting manner.

Part of the films’ success comes from the excellent voice characterizations provided by the likes of Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), John Ratzenberger (Hamm the Piggy Bank), and Wallace Shawn (Rex the Dinosaur). They obviously love their roles, and their enthusiasm is easily conveyed to the audience.

Technology advanced so much between 1995 and 1999 that the sequel’s animation is visibly more fluid, and the animators took advantage to create a bigger world for the characters. Toy Story 2 became the first movie in history to be entirely created, mastered, and exhibited digitally.

Coming in June 2010 will be Toy Story 3, in which Woody, Buzz and friends are dumped in a daycare center when Andy goes off to college. Among the stars voicing parts in this new film are Robin Williams, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Bonnie Hunt, and Ned Beatty. I don’t think Pixar will let us down, do you?

Here’s the haunting “When Somebody Loved Me” from Toy Story 2…and the trailer for Toy Story 3:

Americana: The F.A.O. Schwartz Big Piano

The piano scene in F.A.O. Schwartz was the, uh, heart and soul of the movie Big. Uploaded by blogs.amctv.com.

F.A.O. Schwartz on 5th Avenue in New York is a fun place to visit, as much an experience as a store. But the highlight is the huge floor piano, featured in the Tom Hanks movie Big.

Uploaded by leburke.com.

F.A.O. Schwartz started as a family toy business, was bought out, expanded, bought and sold repeatedly, and finally declared bankruptcy in 2004. It was revived, downsized, and is now owned by Toys”R”Us. Fortunately, current management is smart enough to realize that the piano is what people now identify most closely with the brand.

The notoriety, of course, comes from the scene in Big where Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia “dance” to both “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul.” It was a delightful moment in a charming movie, and now want people want to try it for themselves when they come to New York.

Here’s the original scene that made the piano an icon, followed by what some people have been able to do with it since: