News of the World


Viewed – 16 February 2021 Netflix

Following Apple TV’s Greyhound, actor Tom Hanks once again embraces the streaming platforms, this time Netflix and like that earlier battleship thriller, there’s little dip in quality compared to his usual, reliable output. This eighteenth century set western has him as a retired army veteran who now travels from town to town reading news articles to paying audiences. However one day he stumbles upon an orphaned young girl and decides to help return her to her family.

Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Identity) based on the novel by Paulette Jiles, this boasts eye catching cinematography that brings the setting and time period to life. Although slow burning, the gradual bond that forms between Hanks and the girl is of course the heart of the movie … this is a very simple tale but one that’s done with a lot of feeling and authenticity.

At times some details of the girl’s background can be a bit too vague (not helped by a language barrier) and where Hanks was heading to lost me at one stage. The movie also feels a little too understated at times. Yet with some nail biting scenes, including a tense shoot out and a sand storm, this was still quite gripping. Again Hanks is great, conveying all the necessary emotions and brings the character to life. Helena Zengel as the little girl is also memorable. That ending really got me too. Worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Greyhound


Viewed – 14 July 2020 Apple TV+

Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks is the latest name to appear exclusively on a streaming platform and shows that the digital medium and subscription services are making quite the impact. This based-on-true-events WWII drama has Hanks as a commander of an American warship given the unenviable task of escorting a fleet of ships across the ocean in 1942. However, they are not safe in the waters as a group of German U-Boats make an appearance.

A fairly simple setup paves the way for 90 minutes of gradually building tension as Hanks attempts to out-wit the Germans over several days before air support can arrive. The movie felt very authentic from the off, with plenty of I’m guessing realistic naval terms, that I’ll confess went a little over my head. Hanks as expected, is mesmerising and delivers a highly nuanced performance of a man with no small degree of humanity in the face of war and death. Support comes from Stephen Graham and Elizabeth Shue, both of which get very little to do, which goes to highlight this movie’s only failing … that of fairly one dimensional support characters, although the movie still managed to make me care, despite a lack of personality. Battles are visceral and heart-pounding and effects work throughout is decent, which delivers a real foreboding scale to the action.

Not as epic as similar fair but this is right, to the point and effective. Even if Hanks wasn’t in this, I would still have found it edge-of-the-seat stuff, but he does elevate it still and because of that I give this a firm recommendation. Just a shame it’s Apple TV exclusive because it surely deserves a wider audience.

Verdict: Recommended

Toy Story 4


Viewed – 25 June 2019 Cinema

When toy cowboy ‘Woody’ (voiced by Tom Hanks) finds himself sidelined by new owner ‘Bonnie’ in favour of other toys, he finds new found purpose after Bonnie’s hand-made new toy ‘Forky’ goes missing at a carnival during a family road trip. At the same time Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

I was looking forward to this. I’m a big fan of the other movies and couldn’t wait for the further adventures of Woody, Byzz and the gang. This time around we are introduced to a new villain, antique shop dwelling Doll ‘Gabby Gabby’ (Christina Hendricks). Yet despite initial promise with her brilliantly creepy Ventriloquist doll henchmen, she just failed to live up to her potential. The same could also be said for wasting the presence of such established characters as Jessie, T-Rex or even Buzz Lightyear (who is mostly demoted to a supporting role). Instead the movie focuses on Woody and Bo Peep which is at least different, even if Bo’s topical feminist symbolism was a bit too on the nose.

With that said, Forky is a welcome addition and gets all the best gags, and the movie looks as expected, stunning – the CGI animation often wowing this viewer. The caper at play here, if a little typical is still great fun too. The heart-strings get pulled firmly towards the end and the key characters are well written with at times real emotional depth. Overall though, this fails to be quite as sharp, clever or funny as what’s come before and the plot was not as engaging, Toy Story 3 had everything coming full circle. This however, whilst still worthwhile … didn’t have much more to say.

Verdict: 3 /5

The Post


Viewed – 29 May 2018  online-rental

It’s easy to gravitate towards a movie starring Oscar-magnet powerhouses Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks even if the setting and plot didn’t make it for me, a must see.  That being said, add legendary director Steven Spielberg and well, how could I refuse?

The Post

This at times eye-catching movie tells the story of the political controversy surrounding the Vietnam War in the early 70s and how one ailing newspaper helped expose years of cover-ups and lies. I found this intriguing from a world history stand point, aided by solid turns from not just Hanks & Streep but a plethora of recognisable faces.   Although I  have only a vague knowledge of what was going on at the time, and more familiarity with Hollywood’s somewhat glossy obsession with the war during the 80s, this proved a thought-provoking and in it’s second half, rather thrilling story.  Spielberg again proves himself a great director of actors as well as showcasing a keen eye for period-detail and atmosphere, making this a story very easy to get swept up in.

However, the movie takes a bit of time to get going, seriously glosses over many details on what really transpired back then, and I felt failed to fully explore the real-life figures played by Hanks & Streep.  Oh, and distant through-a-window silhouetted shots of President Richard Nixon just felt cheap.  So not Spielberg at his best, but still worth your time if the true story the movie is based on intrigues.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Sully


Viewed – 18 April 2017  online rental

Tom Hanks is surely one of the most dependable and talented actors of his generation and for me, always an appealing prospect whenever he’s in a movie.  Something about him is just so likeable and relatable and he’s very much not your typical Hollywood star.  He’s like someone you feel you know.  So we come to his latest effort.  Overseen by the acclaimed directing talent of the legendary Clint Eastwood, this tells the true story of a freak accident that lead to a plane having to land in the Hudson River in the middle of New York City in 2009.

Sully

With an interesting, non-linear structure (the movie opens after the landing and flashes back to the day in question several times) Tom Hanks plays airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger (aka Sully) who is immediately faced with suspicion and attempts at being discredited for his actions by the airline and investigating parties, despite being heralded a hero by the public and media.  A very simple story at it’s heart held together by solid performances including Aaron Echhart and especially Hanks who’s plight I believed in and felt every emotion, doubt and uncertainty conveyed.  Eastwood builds tension and delivers a gently told but emotional story with great moments of drama from the actors and when we finally get to see how things occurred it’s pretty damn scary … especially for someone like me who’s never been on a plane.

It ends a little abruptly but that’s nit-picking for what is otherwise a well told, very well acted and powerful dramatisation of a remarkable incident.  A must for fans of Tom Hanks and anyone who enjoys gripping true stories.

Verdict:  4 /5