The Shawshank Redemption

  • Directors: Frank Darabont
  • Producers: Niki Marvin
  • Writers: Novella, Stephen King, Screenplay, Frank Darabont
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, James Whitmore

In 1947, a banker named Andrew “Andy” Dufresne[1] is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover based on strong circumstantial evidence and is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank State Penitentiary in Maine. At the prison, inmate Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding is rejected for parole after having served twenty years of his life sentence shortly before Andy’s arrival. Andy gradually becomes acquainted with Red’s circle of friends, and Red himself, who is known for cleverly smuggling in contraband. After a month of adjusting to his new life, Andy approaches Red and asks him to get a rock hammer, intending to pursue a hobby of rock collecting. Red supplies the hammer for ten dollars, and later fills Andy’s request for a poster of Rita Hayworth.

One day in 1949, while tarring the roof of Shawshank’s license plate factory, Andy overhears the captain of the prison guards, Captain Hadley, bitterly complaining about the taxes he will have to pay on a forthcoming inheritance. Andy approaches Hadley with a solution that will allow him to keep the entire inheritance tax-free; though Hadley nearly throws Andy off the roof initially, Andy’s willingness to set up the transaction for the cost of beer for the tarring crew wins Hadley’s respect. Prior to this, Andy had frequently been beaten and sexually assaulted by a gang called “The Sisters”, led by inmates Bogs and Rooster. After a particularly vicious beating at the hands of the Sisters lands Andy in the infirmary, Bogs returns to his cell from a week in solitary confinement to find Captain Hadley there. Hadley inflicts a brutal nightstick beating on Bogs, which leaves him paralyzed. Bogs is sent away to a state hospital, and the message to the Sisters is clear; Andy is never bothered again.

The next year, 1967, Red is finally released on parole after serving 40 years at Shawshank. Red is afraid of “the outside”, dreading living in fear, worried that he would end up committing suicide once outside of the prison’s strict regime, as fellow prisoner Brooks Hatlen had done. Ironically, he’s given the same room and the same job Hatlen had. But instead of committing suicide, Red recalls his promise to Andy and heads to the field in Buxton that Andy told him about. He finds a small metal box containing money and instructions from Andy. He violates his parole and travels to Mexico, eventually reuniting with Andy in Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast. Both of them are elated and hug each other when they meet at the coast.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

  • Directors: George Lucas
  • Producers: Rick McCallum, George Lucas
  • Writers: George Lucas
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Actors: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Terence Stamp

The Galactic Republic is in a period of decline, its bureaucracy bloated and corrupt, its economy deteriorating. In response to a taxation on trade routes, the greedy Trade Federation organizes a blockade of battleships around the small planet of Naboo. Hoping to resolve the matter, the Supreme Chancellor dispatches two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to negotiate with Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray. Unbeknownst to them, the Trade Federation is in league with the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who orders them to invade Naboo with an army of battle droids and kill the Jedi. Narrowly evading death, the two Jedi stow aboard landing crafts and escape to Naboo. There Qui-Gon saves local Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks from being trampled by a Federation tank. Indebted to the Jedi, Jar Jar leads them to the underwater Gungan city of Otoh Gunga, where the Jedi unsuccessfully attempt to persuade the Gungans to help the people of Naboo, though they are able to obtain a transport to reach the city of Theed on the surface.

Queen Amidala of the Naboo is captured by the Federation droid invasion army, but is rescued by the Jedi. The Queen escapes Naboo with the Jedi on her personal starship, which is damaged on its way through the blockade surrounding the planet, forcing them to land on the nearby desert planet Tatooine for repairs. Qui-Gon ventures into the settlement of Mos Espa with PadmГ©, one of the Queen’s handmaidens, to a junk shop to purchase a new hyperdrive generator. There they meet a young slave child named Anakin Skywalker, who takes an immediate liking to PadmГ©. After spending time with Anakin and his mother, Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force within him, and suspects he may be the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon makes a bet with Anakin’s owner to enter him in a Podrace, and that if Anakin wins, he will be freed. With Qui-Gon’s guidance, Anakin manages to win the race and joins the group to be trained as a Jedi, but he is forced to leave his mother, who Qui-Gon was unable to release, behind. Before they leave, they are attacked by Darth Sidious’ apprentice, Darth Maul, who was dispatched to capture the Queen. After a brief fight, they manage to escape.

Back on Naboo, PadmГ© reveals herself to be Queen Amidala, the other “Queen” having been a decoy for her own protection. The Queen convinces the Gungan people to form an alliance against the Trade Federation. While the comically inept Jar Jar leads his people in a battle against the droid army and the Queen moves in to capture Viceroy Gunray in Theed, Anakin commandeers a vacant starfighter and joins the dogfight against the Federation droid control ship in space, using his skills with the Force to destroy it, which deactivates the entire droid army. The Jedi, meanwhile, encounter Darth Maul once more and engage him in a two-on-one lightsaber duel. Qui-Gon is mortally wounded in the battle, but Obi-Wan manages to kill the Sith once and for all. With his dying breaths, Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Senator Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor, Viceroy Gunray is sent to stand trial for his crimes, and the Jedi Council reluctantly allows Anakin to become Obi-Wan’s apprentice. At a grand ceremony, Queen Amidala presents a gift of appreciation and friendship to the Gungan people.

Happy Endings

  • Directors: Don Roos
  • Producers: Michael Paseornek, Holly Wiersma
  • Writers: Don Roos
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music, Thriller
  • Actors: Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Ritter, Tom Arnold

The film follows the lives of a diverse group of mostly middle-class Americans through the emotional ups and downs in their flawed yet very human lives, each loosely connected to each other through a restaurant.

The film follows three interconnected stories. In the first, a woman (Lisa Kudrow) reluctantly agrees to work with a would-be young filmmaker (Jesse Bradford) in order to locate the now grown son she secretly gave up for adoption after becoming pregnant from her stepbrother (Steve Coogan) (who is later found to be gay) 19 years earlier.

In the second story arc, her stepbrother and his domestic partner (David Sutcliffe) are deciding whether or not to confront their friends, a lesbian couple (Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke), regarding the paternity of their son.

And in the third, a young man (Jason Ritter) is involved with a band and trying to keep his father (Tom Arnold) from learning that he is gay, while also dealing with the seemingly gold-digging woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who inserts herself into their lives.

No Country for Old Men

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: Novel, Cormac McCarthy, Screenplay, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller, Western
  • Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald

West Texas in June 1980 is desolate, wide-open country, and Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) laments the increasing violence in a region where he, like his late father before him, has risen to the office of sheriff.

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) strangles a sheriff’s deputy with his own handcuffs, steals his patrol car, pulls over another vehicle and murders the driver with a cattle gun.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), hunting near the Rio Grande, discovers a group of corpses, vehicles and a lone dying Mexican, the aftermath of a heroin deal gone awry. He also finds two million dollars in a satchel not far from the massacre and drives home. Moss cannot sleep and returns with water for the dying man, but he’s set upon by a pair in a jeep who chase him into the river. Moss barely escapes, his boots lost and his truck abandoned.

Chigurh tours the crime scene with a pair of well-dressed gangsters. He grabs Moss’s truck’s registration plate, receives their transponder, and kills them.

Moss fears the money’s owners will trace his truck in the morning and insists that his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) stay with her mother in Odessa, Texas. Chigurh arrives as predicted and breaks into the Moss trailer using his cattle gun, finding nothing of use but a bottle of milk and the latest phone bill.

Now retired, Bell shares with his wife Loretta (Tess Harper) two disquieting dreams. In the first, he lost “some money” that his late father had given him; in the second, his father rode past him on a snowy mountain pass, going ahead to make a fire in the surrounding cold darkness. Whenever Bell got there, he knew his father would be waiting.

The Green Mile

  • Directors: Frank Darabont
  • Producers: Frank Darabont, David Valdes
  • Writers: Novel, Stephen King, Screenplay, Frank Darabont
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Fantasy
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Cromwell, Michael Jeter, Graham Greene, Doug Hutchison, Sam Rockwell, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey DeMunn, Patricia Clarkson, Harry Dean Stanton

The Green Mile is a story told in flashback by an elderly Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Greer, later by Tom Hanks in the younger version of the character) in a nursing home who is talking to his lady friend Elaine about the summer of 1935 when he was a corrections officer in charge of Death Row inmates in Louisiana’s Cold Mountain Penitentiary. His domain was called the “Green Mile” because the condemned prisoners walking to their execution are said to be walking “the last mile”; here it is on a stretch of green linoleum to the electric chair.

One day, a new inmate arrives, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a 7-foot-tall black male convicted of raping and killing two young white girls. Upon being escorted to his cell, he immediately demonstrates “gentle giant” character traits: keeping to himself, fearing darkness, and being moved to tears on occasion. Soon enough, Coffey reveals extraordinary healing powers by healing Edgecomb’s urinary tract infection and resurrecting a mouse. Later, he would heal the terminally ill wife of Warden Hal Moores (James Cromwell), who suffered from a large brain tumor. When Coffey is asked to explain his power, he merely says that he “took it back.”

In the present, Edgecomb’s friend questions his statement that he had a fully-grown son in 1935. He explains that he was 44 years old at the time of Coffey’s execution and that he is now 108 and still in excellent health. This is apparently a side effect of the life-giving power of Coffey’s touch: a significantly lengthened lifespan. Mr. Jingles, Del’s mouse resurrected by Coffey, is also still alive — but Edgecomb believes his outliving all of his relatives and friends to be a punishment from God for having Coffey executed. Edgecomb explains he has deep thoughts about how “we each owe a death; there are no exceptions; but, Oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.”

Last Man Standing

  • Directors: Walter Hill
  • Producers: Walter Hill, Arthur M Sarkissian
  • Writers: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Walter Hill
  • Genres: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly

In Prohibition Era Texas, a mysterious character (later identifying himself as “John Smith”) drives into Jericho, a town mere miles from the Mexican border. Gang violence between the resident Irish gang (headed by Doyle) and Italian gang (headed by Strozzi) has decimated the town and left few legitimate citizens remaining, aside from the bartender Joe Monday, an undertaker and a corrupt sheriff, all of whom make their living by catering to Jericho’s criminal elements. Smith immediately establishes a reputation by outdrawing and killing Doyle’s top shooter, a brazen act that gets the attention of both gangs. Smith promptly hires himself out to Strozzi’s gang for what Strozzi predicts is an upcoming gang war following the impending dissolution of an uneasy ceasefire. He dispatches Smith to oversee an operation where the corrupt Mexican soldiers guarding Doyle’s illegal alcohol smuggling change alliances mid-operation and murder Doyle’s men, stealing the product and trucks in the process.

Amidst constant bickering and accusations by Strozzi’s hotheaded cousin Giorgio and unwanted attempts at investigating his past, Smith quits Strozzi’s gang. Doyle returns to Jericho and immediately asks Smith to join his gang, which Smith politely declines. Smith later tells Strozzi a rumor about the Mexican soldiers returning to Doyle’s ranks, forcing Strozzi to send Giorgio down to smooth things over. Later, Hickey (Christopher Walken) returns to Jericho and informed of the Mexican soldiers’ betrayal, travels to Mexico and ruthlessly guns down the soldiers, several of Strozzi’s men and an American police officer. Hickey leaves Giorgio alive as a hostage. An exchange is arranged between the two gangs, where Giorgio will be exchanged for money. At the swap, Hickey shoots Strozzi’s bagman, revealing the contents of the suitcase to be newspaper. When Doyle threatens to kill Giorgio unless Strozzi surrenders and leaves Jericho, Strozzi pulls out Felina, Doyle’s mistress whom he previously abducted and demands a clean exchange for Giorgio. The exchange is made and the two gangs scatter, leaving Smith standing alone over the discarded body of Strozzi’s bagman and newspaper blowing in the desert wind.

Two days later the Sheriff arrives at the church, informing Smith that Doyle has discovered the bartender’s complicity in Smith’s escape and will probably torture him to death to find him. Smith re-arms himself with a large bread-knife. The Sheriff gives him his dual 1911 Colt semi-automatic pistols instead. Smith goes back to the Red Bird Saloon, collects his hat and extra magazines then storms Doyle’s mansion, gunning down a dozen men before freeing the bartender. He mounts a tommy gun onto the shattered remains of the mansion, signaling Doyle and Hickey to meet him at Slim’s Roadhouse at sunset. In the final scene, Doyle, Hickey and Bob the Deputy meet Smith and the bartender. Doyle, happy with his victory over Strozzi, is despondent over the loss of Felina and begs Smith to tell him where to find her. The bartender promptly shoots Doyle and Smith shoots Bob before he can retaliate. Hickey raises his hands and asks if Smith is going to have the bartender shoot him too. The bartender lays his gun down and watches how Smith and Hickey will react. Hickey expresses no desire to die in Texas (“Chicago maybe”) before turning back on Smith. With lightning speed he quickdraws a pistol from his holster (just as he had done before when he killed the Border Patrol officer), but Smith is faster, and kills Hickey. With all the gangs dead, Smith slides holster’s his gun, steps into his car, and drives off into the sunset.