America loves Tom Hanks, and rightly so. He now has a long string of entertaining films to his credit and some top level thinker films. He won back-to-back Best Actor Oscars in 1994 (“Philadelphia”) and 1995 (“Forrest Gump.”) This week I want to look at three of his films that you might have missed.
America also loves Walt Disney. Put Tom Hanks in a film where he portrays Walt Disney, and we get a sure winner. “Saving Mr. Banks” is that movie. We also love “Mary Poppins.” “Saving Mr. Banks” tells the story of how Walt brought a reluctant Pamela Travers, the author of the “Mary Poppins” story, into allowing the telling of the charming children’s tale to the silver screen. He did not have a simple time of it.
Hanks plays Disney but Emma Thompson as Travers steals the show. Also appearing are Paul Giamatti and Colin Farrell. We can watch this one to enjoy Hanks but also to appreciate Thompson.
Hanks also has the starring role in the much more somber “Bridge of Spies” of 2015. He plays James B. Donovan, an American lawyer given the prickly task of exchanging Soviet spy Rudolf Abel for downed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. His duty is complicated by the Soviets having the nasty East German Communists handle the exchange in Berlin. They snatch an American to pressure the U.S. into recognizing the puppet regime, adding to the tension and complexity of the spy swap.
Right until the last moment we do not know for certain if the exchange will come off. Written by the Coen brothers and directed by Steven Spielberg, “Bridge of Spies” rates highly as a spy flick. Based on true life events, Spielberg creates a sense of oppressive terror in the scenes depicting East Berlin. In a wonderful if tiny bit of Spielberg movie magic he has Hanks cross in front of a movie house showing the then current film “1, 2, 3.” That film takes a comic look at cold war madness in which a young East German Communist is picked up by U.S. intelligence. “1,2,3” had a tiny career, but Spielberg remembered it. I love the flickers.
For a more fun two hours we can watch “Joe Versus the Volcano,” a wildly unlikely story with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan from 1990. Hanks plays a young man trapped in a soul crushing job as a cubicle drone in New York City. He thinks he faces death by modern life, one could say. He has his self-diagnosis confirmed by a physician who pronounces that Hanks suffers from a “brain cloud”and will soon succumb. Just at that moment, a wealthy industrialist approaches him about a suicide mission. He must sacrifice himself to a volcano on a south sea island to calm an angry volcano God.
Watching Ryan and Hanks play the part of a young couple falling in love in this silly bit will make you happy. Hanks as the hypochondriac office slave is terrific.
Note: Sawmill Theatres will have a limited reopening beginning this weekend, according to general manager Craig Triphahn. Get out of the house and see “Home Alone” and “Casablanca” on the big screen. “Home Alone” show times are 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 16 and 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 17. “Casablanca” show times are 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 16 and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 17. Tickets are $5 and social distancing measures will be implemented. There will be limited seating (30% capacity) and every other row will be blocked off. Sawmill Theatres is located at 201 W. Main St.