Tag Archives: friendship

Review: The Shawshank Redemption

shawshank redemption poster
via Movie Poster

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

R / 142 min

Drama / Crime

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton

Director: Frank Darabont


The prison walls can do a lot of things to people.  The confines of such walls can drive some men into a dark pit of madness while others might look upon the walls with hope, hope that one day they can see the light again on the other side.  Some men are put inside these walls because of their own doing, while some have no choice.  Some prisoners have fear while others believe in hope and it’s their mindset that can keep them from seeking redemption.  This is the idea behind Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont’s directorial debut.

shawshank redemption 1
via IFC

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a well-to-do investment banker, is the last person you would expect to find behind the bars of prison.  After a series of unfortunate coincidences, Andy is convicted of murdering his wife and the man she was seeing behind his back.  He truly believed he was innocent, but the judge and jury saw otherwise.  Carrying the burden of two back-to-back life sentences, he is sent to the Shawshank prison, where he will spend the rest of his life for something he didn’t do.  The first couple of days are rough.  They’re rough for everyone, but Andy seems to walk with an air of confidence, one that surprises his fellow inmates, including a prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), a “veteran” of Shawshank.  After some time has passed, Andy starts to make the best of the situation he was thrust into.

Days turn to months and the months to years as time starts to pass.  Andy has a rough tenure during his first couple of years but he starts to make a name for himself inside the prison walls.  He gets on good footing with Shawshank’s warden Norton (Bob Gunton), builds and organizes a prison library with the help from senate funding, does the taxes for almost every single guard within the walls, and most importantly, deepens his friendship with Red and some of his other fellow inmates.  This is not the kind of prison movie that you would expect.  Sure, there’s some violence here and there but this is a story of redemption and good will.  Perhaps the title didn’t make that clear.

shawshank redemption 2
via Fan Pop

What makes the film work so well is the deep bond between Robbin’s Andy and Freeman’s Red.  The duo’s friendship comes a long way since the day Andy rode into the prison in a white bus with Red and his cohorts taking bets on who would be the first to cry.  The two help each other, together coping with the situation they were given.  Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are the standouts by far, but the rest of the cast did an amazing job as well.  Every character was well written and they were all instrumental to the overall story.

Just like the characters, every single scene and detail played an important part in the progression of the story.  There were no filler scenes.  Everything was important, whether viewers know at the time or not.  The sequences documenting Shawshank’s librarian (James Whitmore) and his life outside of prison were super effective and some of the best parts of the movie.  They were depressing in a way, but they were important.  This is a movie where you want to pay attention to every single little detail because you know they will come into play later.  The Shawshank Redemption is an example of brilliant writing.

shawshank redemption 3
via Fan Pop

There’s a build-up that takes place from the very start.  The movie might seem slow at parts, especially during the second act, but this all leads to the grand finale.  Remember the part where I said every little detail in this movie has meaning?  Well, there’s a twist that comes in the movie’s third act, one tighter than a corkscrew.  It’s an impressive twist that will leave you in awe wondering how it all even happened.  However, after careful examination of the events and subtleties that led up to it, everything makes perfect sense.

It’s a battle between fear and hope.  People handle these emotions in different ways and The Shawshank Redemption encapsulates these emotions in fantastic ways.  Inside the walls of Shawshank there’s a story of hope, friendship, redemption, fear, and perseverance in the face of dire circumstances.  The Shawshank Redemption is a feel-good story that succeed tremendously in execution.  It also goes to show that it’s not always doom and gloom inside the walls of prison.  There’s always a shimmer of light inside the darkness.

shawshank redemption score

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Review: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday

pee wee big holiday posterPee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)

PG / 90 min

Adventure / Comedy

Starring: Paul Reubens, Jordan Black, Doug Cox

Director: John Lee


It’s been almost fifteen years since the quirky Pee-wee Herman took to the small screen for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.  Actor and comedian Paul Ruebens has had small roles as Pee-wee here and there since then but the quirky and sometimes absurd character has been on hiatus for a while.  It’s almost felt like there wasn’t going to be another Pee-wee movie.  Leave it to Netflix to bring an old nostalgic property to the small screen.  Pee-wee has come out of retirement…to take a holiday in the new family-friendly comedic romp Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, only on Netflix.

pee wee big holiday 1
via Collider

Were fans calling for another Pee-wee movie?  I’m sure there were some fans hungry for another adventure with Pee-wee but it’s hard to say.  When Netflix announced that they were making a full-length Pee-wee movie I was like, “okay, let’s see what they can do with it.”  Not so surprisingly, Paul Ruebens still has it.  Despite his age, he slid right into the role of Pee-wee Herman perfectly.  He’s got the goofy laugh and rocks the numerous facial emotions that will instill nostalgic feelings in any die-hard fan.  He even has the looks.  I swear Paul Ruebens just does not age.

For his latest adventure, Pee-wee decides to step out of his comfort zone and go on a road trip to New York City.  Perhaps the film’s biggest draw is the inclusion of Joe Manganiello who plays himself in the movie.  In a bout of destiny, Joe meets up with Pee-wee at his café and inspires him to travel to New York City to attend his big birthday bash at his penthouse.  There’s a big hilarious bromance that brews between the two that can get a little weird at times.  Paul Ruebens and Joe Manganiello seem like the unlikely duo to star in a comedy but the two work well together and provide most of the feature’s laughs.

pee wee big holiday 2
via Coming Soon

We only really see Joe at the beginning and end of the film, so the bulk of the comedy has its spotlight on crazy Pee-wee.  Since this is a comedy of the road-trip variety, don’t expect Pee-wee’s first vacation to go smoothly.  He runs into a female trio of thieves that kidnap Pee-wee, kicking off his journey with a bang.  Pee-wee also runs into a farmer who has a whole handful of daughters that instantly gain interest in Pee-wee.  Not to be outdone, there’s also a community of Amish people that welcome Pee-wee into their home.  Pee-wee’s journey is never uneventful and it’s full of wacky surprises.  He eventually makes it to New York, only to get himself into more foolish shenanigans.

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday has a short run-time, clocking in at about an hour and thirty minutes, but Pee-wee’s antics start to wear thin as the film goes on.  Nostalgia takes the humor for a good while but even that can’t keep it floating for too long.  The humor might work well with the younger crowd, but it just doesn’t work that well in today’s day and age.  Pee-wee’s brand of comedy had its time and place but I’m not sure it flies these days.  The movie has its moments that made for some genuine knee-slappers, but I wanted to laugh more…I really did.

pee wee big holiday 3
via Nerd Report

The movie’s production value didn’t really help its cause either.  It was from the film’s first moments that I instantly realized director John Lee was working with a slim budget.  Normally I don’t mind low budget comedies, but there were scenes were I just laughed because of how silly they looked.  There’s a scene where Pee-wee is flying through the air and yeesh…it didn’t look too good.

Fans of Paul Rueben and Pee-wee will probably enjoy the serviceable comedy that is Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.  It operates a lot on nostalgia for the character, as well as the bromance between Pee-wee and Joe Mangianello.  However, it’s a road trip comedy that wears its welcome and starts to burn out.  Luckily Pee-wee made it to New York before the comedy started blow it’s tires, because that would have put a bad cap on an otherwise serviceable trip.

pee wee big holiday score

Review: Valiant Hearts: The Great War

valiant hearts coverValiant Hearts: The Great War (2014)

PS4 / Rated T

Adventure / Educational / Puzzle

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Studios


World War I was a really ugly war.  It was the time of rapid advancements in military technology, but that often meant that the men on the front line where the subjects of their tests.  Numerous people, from all sides of the conflict, lost their lives in some of the worst conditions known to man.  We often look at the war in terms of numbers; in terms of how many people died.  What about the individual stories?  What about the individual people who experienced the war first hand?  Valiant Hearts: The Great War tackles the story of five characters and their struggles and triumphs during the time of the First World War

Don’t let the bright and colorful visuals, done beautifully by the UbiArt Framework, fool you into thinking that this is a bright and cheery story, because the story is the complete opposite of cheery.  Yes, the five different characters experience their fair share of triumphs throughout the story, but the struggles and hardships far outweigh the rays of sunshine.  Valiant Hearts: The Great War doesn’t have a happy ending.  It’s not supposed to.

via eggplante.com
via eggplante.com

The game looks into the lives of Emile, Karl, Freddie, Anna, and Walt the dog as they try to retain their humanity amid the terrors and horrors of the war.  Destiny shines upon them all as their stories are interconnected and intertwined as their paths come together.  They all experience some form of friendship, love, sacrifice, and tragedy along the way, some more than others.  It’s a unique story, inspired by the letters written during WWI, and it offers a different and eye-opening perspective to the travesty that was The Great War.

As I mentioned before, the game looks amazing.  Everything is hand drawn via Ubisoft’s crafty artist framework, UbiArt.  The 2D side-scrolling levels pop off the screen with their effective use of color.  It’s a fitting art style for such a game.  The characters don’t talk too much, which just seems right considering the situation that the characters are in.  The story is presented beautifully though use of nice-looking hand drawn cut scenes and a voice narrating the action on the battlefield.

via Techno Buffalo
via Techno Buffalo

The game’s gameplay comes in the form of adventure-style puzzle solving, with some brief sequences of action here and there.  Often times you are on the frontline, moving around picking up items to use for the one or two big puzzles per level.  Nothing was entirely too hard, and the puzzles offered a little bit of challenge.  There were a couple tough puzzles, but there is a well-done hint system that pushes you in the right direction without giving you the outright answer.

I would have liked to see a little more puzzles that offered more of a challenge.  Most of the puzzles were often too easy to solve, and they often involved picking up items here and there, which started to get a little old after a while.  However, I have to commend all of the puzzles for having a purpose.  They all drove the story, whether you were infiltrating enemy territory or reuniting loved ones.

via Vidaextra
via Vidaextra

More action sequences would have also been nice.  The action sequences often consisted of dodging enemy fire by finding cover, sneaking out of POW camps, and taxi missions.  The taxi missions were driving sequences, where you have to dodge different obstacles. The game shines through its adventure-style gameplay, but the action sequences provided a brief change of pace.

The game encourages some exploration in its levels in the form of hidden historical items that are scattered throughout the levels.  These items provide the player with little bits of history about the hundreds of items that were used during the war.  These items were pretty tough to find, with some being hidden in places I would never have thought to look.  It was satisfying to find all of these items at the end of each level.  At the beginning of each level, there are also some historical facts that the player can read on their own time.  I highly recommend taking in all of the history that the game gives you, because it really adds to the experience, and it surprisingly enhanced some elements of the story.

via 3DJuegos
via 3DJuegos

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a game like no other.  It was a moving experience, one that provides a special and personal look into the darkness that the war brought on the people who were a part of it.  I instantly clung to the characters that the game provided me with, which made the ending a little hard to swallow.  It inspires a lot of emotions and it hits all the right spots.  I can’t think of another war game that really captured the spirit and horror of the war in a better way.

valiant hearts score