Flags of Our Fathers

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: James Bradley, Ron Powers, William Broyles Jr, Paul Haggis
  • Genres: Action, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Neal McDonough, Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery

The story focuses on seven US Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, Sgt. Mike Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Hank Hansen, and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski, as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John “Doc” Bradley.

In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii. They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats. The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jima, located less than 700 miles from the Japanese mainland. As Captain Severance puts it, they will be fighting on Japanese soil, and will expect tough resistance. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the US Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. On the night before the landings, Mike is put in charge of second platoon.

The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft and meet no resistance. Ralph, aka “Iggy”, suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders, as do most of the Marines. After several tense minutes the Marines advance forward and the Japanese open fire. The battle is extremely intense, and the Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. After several attempts, Second Platoon takes out a Japanese pillbox which was pinning them down. They advance forward, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secure. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross. Finally, the mountain is secure. For the next four nights, the Marines take cover in foxholes as Japanese soldiers charge through the mist.

In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block’s family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon’s father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy’s mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are no longer offered to him. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1995, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.

Apollo 13

  • Directors: Ron Howard
  • Producers: Brian Grazer
  • Writers: Book, Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger, Screenplay, William Broyles Jr, Al Reinert
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris

Apollo 13 opens with a flashback of the Apollo 1 fire incident, accompanied by narration by Walter Cronkite. As Cronkite’s monologue ends, the film moves on to July 20, 1969 where veteran astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) is on his way home to a party for the Apollo 11 moon landing. After witnessing Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon, an inebriated Lovell stares up at the moon and tells his wife, Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan), of his wish for a moon landing of his own.

A few months later, Jim, who’s expecting to fly Apollo 14, is giving a VIP tour of NASA’s towering Vehicle Assembly Building while Apollo 13’s massive Saturn V rocket is being assembled. As the U.S. representatives among the VIPs question the possibility of any further moon landings after beating the Soviet Union to the moon, he is informed by Deke Slayton (Chris Ellis) that he and his crew have been bumped up to be prime crew of Apollo 13. After informing his family of his new flight assignment, Lovell and his crew, Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) begin training for Apollo 13 instead of Apollo 14. As the launch date approaches, Marilyn’s fears for her husband’s fourth space mission manifest in her unwillingness to go to the launch.

After witnessing the damage suffered by the scarred Service Module, the crew strap in for their descent into atmosphere. With one final goodbye to Aquarius, the lunar module that saved their lives is jettisoned. Then, Odyssey re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and after over four minutes of radio ionization blackout – three minutes is normal for re-entry – the crew reports that they have made it alive and well. Celebration rushes through Mission Control and in the homes of the astronauts’ families. In an emotional scene, Kranz simply sits down as everyone applauds around him, looking overwhelmed and fighting back tears. After splashing down, the crew is plucked out of the water and taken to the USS Iwo Jima for a heroes welcome. The film then concludes with a slow-motion sequence with monologue by Hanks (as Lovell) about the events that would follow their return from space. Lovell shakes hands with the captain of Iwo Jima while narrating as the sequence ends with “I look up at the moon and wonder: ‘When will we be going back, and who will that be?'”

The Polar Express

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Gary Goetzman, Steve Starkey, William Teitler, Tom Hanks, Jack Rapke, Chris Van Allsburg
  • Writers: Novel, Chris Van Allsburg, Screenplay, Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr
  • Genres: Animation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Leslie Harter Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Chantel Valdivieso, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Steven Tyler, Michael Jeter

The Polar Express is a story of a young boy (Daryl Sabara) on Christmas Eve who is hoping for belief in the true spirit of Christmas. He suddenly hears some noise from downstairs and runs to investigate. Seeing a shadow of what appears to be Santa Claus, he soon discovers that it is his parents. He runs back to his room and looks through magazines and encyclopedias for confirmation of Santa Claus and the North Pole, but to no avail. Hearing his parents coming, he runs back to bed and pretends to be asleep while his parents whisper about how he had once stayed up late listening for Santa Claus. About an hour after they leave, a magic train called The Polar Express pulls up in front of his house. He is invited aboard by the train’s mysterious conductor (Tom Hanks) to journey to the North Pole. Though he initially hesitates, he boards the train after it starts to move.

On the train, the boy encounters a group of other children who are on their way to see Santa Claus, including a pretty young girl, a know-it-all and a lonely little boy. The boy also encounters a mysterious hobo (Tom Hanks), who lives on the top of the train, as well as the engineer and fireman (Michael Jeter). They must all overcome a variety of obstacles; at one point, a herd of caribou block the tracks. Later, the cotter pin holding the throttle together breaks. The train, now out of control and with the Hero Boy, Hero Girl Nona Gaye, and the Conductor standing on the front, then reaches “Glacier Gulch,” an area with steep downhill grades. The three must hold on tightly as the train speeds through Glacier Gulch and onto a frozen lake. The train tracks are frozen under the ice, and as a result, the Conductor must guide the engineer and the fireman towards the other side of the lake as the ice breaks up behind them

The children return to the train, and the conductor punches letters into each ticket. These letters spell some form of advice (such as “Learn,” “Lead,” or “Believe” for the Know-it-All, Hero Girl, and Hero Boy respectively.) As the train leaves, the Hero Boy discovers the pocket of his robe torn and the bell missing. He returns home, saddened by the loss of the bell, but is cheered when he sees that Santa had already arrived at Billy’s house. On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small present hidden behind the tree after all the others have been unwrapped. The boy opens the present and discovers that it is the bell, which Santa had found on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound; but because their parents no longer believe in Santa Claus or Christmas, they do not hear it. The last line in the movie repeats the same last line from the book: “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.”

Planet of the Apes

  • Directors: Tim Burton
  • Producers: Richard D Zanuck, Ralph Winter
  • Writers: Screenplay, William Broyles Jr, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Novel, Pierre Boulle
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren

In the year 2029, aboard the United States Air Force space station Oberon, Leo Davidson works closely with primates who are trained for space missions. His favorite simian co-worker is a chimpanzee named Pericles. With a fatal electromagnetic storm approaching the station, a small space pod piloted by Pericles is used to probe the storm. Pericles’ pod heads into the storm and disappears. Against his orders, Leo takes a second pod and goes in pursuit of Pericles. Entering the storm, Leo loses contact with the Oberon and crashes in a world in the year 3002. He comes across a world where humanoid apes speak human language and control human beings as slaves.

Leo comes across a female chimpanzee named Ari, who protests the awful treatment humans receive. Ari decides to buy Leo and a female slave named Daena to have them work as servants in the house of her father, Senator Sandar. Leo escapes his cage and frees other humans. Ari sees them, but Leo manages to convince Ari to join their cause. Leo forms a human rebellion against the apes and develops a love triangle with Ari and Daena. General Thade and Colonel Attar march ape warriors in pursuit of the humans. Leo discovers Calima (the temple of “Semos”), a forbidden but holy site for the apes. Calima turns out to be the remains of the Oberon, his former space station, which has crashed on the planet’s surface and looks ancient (the name Calima coming from the sign “CAution LIve aniMAls”, the letters Calima being those not covered in dust). According to the computer logs, the station has been there for thousands of years. Leo deduces that when he entered the vortex he was pushed forward in time, while the Oberon, searching after him, was not, crashing on the planet long before he did.

General Thade chases Leo into the Oberon, where he attacks Pericles and breaks his leg. Thade becomes trapped in the pilot’s deck and last seen huddled under a control panel, still alive. Leo decides it is time for him to leave the Planet of the Apes, after he says goodbye to Daena, who loves him and kisses Ari. Leo climbs aboard Pericles’ pod, which is undamaged, and uses it to travel back in time through the same electromagnetic storm. Leo crashes in what appears to be Washington, D.C. on Earth in 2001. He looks up to see the Lincoln Memorial is now a monument in honor of General Thade. A swarm of ape police officers descend on the confused Leo, who is left to wonder what Thade has done to this world.

Cast Away

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Jack Rapke, Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks
  • Writers: William Broyles Jr
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt

Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a time-obsessed FedEx systems analyst, who travels worldwide resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He is in a long-term relationship with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), whom he lives with in Memphis. Although both want to get married, Chuck’s busy schedule causes problems. The couple’s Christmas with relatives is interrupted by Chuck being summoned to resolve a problem overseas.

While flying through a violent thunderstorm somewhere over the southern Pacific Ocean, apparently having flown off course, an incident occurs on Chuck’s aircraft which results in it crashing into the ocean. Saved by an inflatable life-raft, Chuck floats for some time in the storm before being washed up on an island.

It soon becomes clear that the island is uninhabited, and Chuck’s early attempts to make visual signals for any searching aircraft, and to escape the island in the remnants of his life raft are fruitless.

After several FedEx packages from the crashed plane wash up on the island, Chuck begins to open them, looking for items to use for his survival. He finds a number of potentially useful items but leaves one package, painted with a pair of wings, unopened.

During a failed attempt to make fire, Chuck receives a deep wound to his hand. In anger he throws several objects, including a Wilson volleyball from one of the FedEx packages. A short time later he draws a face in the bloody hand print on the ball, naming it “Wilson” and talking to it as if it were a person.

Chuck then travels to the address on his unopened package to deliver it. The house is empty so he leaves the package at the door and departs, stopping at a remote crossroads. A woman passing by in a truck explains where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck stands at the crossroads, apparently trying to decide which direction to go. He then notices a pair of wings painted on the back of the woman’s truck: the same as those on the unopened parcel. The film ends with Chuck watching the departing truck with a faint smile.