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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Robert Zemeckis
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Rebecca Williams, Michael Conner Humphreys, Sally Field
Writing Credits:
Winston Groom (novel), Eric Roth

Tagline:
Life is like a box of chocolates ... you never know what you're gonna get.

Synopsis:
The magical story of Forrest Gump, a sweet-natured idiot savant from rural Alabama. As he goes down the road of life, mouthing pithy and quotable homilies, he encounters luminaries such as John Lennon, Elvis Presley and JFK. But all the while he can't forget one special girl from his childhood ...

Box Office:
Budget
$55 million.
Opening Weekend
$24.000 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$329.691 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/24/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary from Director Robert Zemeckis, Producer Steve Starkey and Production Designer Rick Carter
• Audio Commentary from Producer Wendy Finerman
• “Musical Signposts to History” Interactive Feature
Disc Two:
• “Greenbow Diary” Featurette
• “The Art of Screenplay Adaptation” Featurette
• “”Getting Past Impossible: Forrest Gump and the Visual Effects Revolution” Featurette
• “Little Forrest” Featurette
• “An Evening with Forrest Gump” Featurette
• “The Makeup of Forrest Gump” Featurette
• “Through the Ears of Forrest Gump - Sound Design” Featurette
• “Building the World of Gump - Production Design” Featurette
• “Seeing Is Believing – The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump” Featurette
• Screen Tests
• Trailers


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Forrest Gump [Blu-Ray] (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 18, 2010)

Some movies can easily be examined on their own merits, and others become too wrapped up in other factors to be viewed without bias. Into the latter category falls Forrest Gump, the enormously successful 1994 film that eventually turned into a litmus test for one’s cinematic allegiances.

As I’ve noted in many others reviews, I’ve often disagreed with the Oscar selections for Best Picture, but rarely has a year seemed quite as strong. 1994 came chock full of solid nominations, as almost any of the five films easily could have warranted the prize. Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption were fine films, while only Four Weddings and a Funeral seemed out of place. However, few gave any of those three much of a shot, as it seemed clear that the battle would occur between Gump and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Though the latter didn’t approach Gump’s box office gross, it was an astonishing success in its own right. Gump grabbed $329 million, but Pulp’s $107 million seems nearly as astonishing given the nature of the two movies. Gump was unusual in that it lacked the “big” qualities we generally associate with blockbusters, but its kind, gentle spirit made it accessible to all audiences. Pulp, on the other hand, was distinctly adult, and also much nastier. Few were likely to take grandma and the kids to see this profane, violent work.

It also seemed much fresher, as Tarantino appeared to be creating a whole new style of neo-noir. Gump may have been entertaining and warm, but it didn’t offer anything particularly scintillating or innovative. Gump felt like cinematic status quo, while Pulp was an exciting look at future possibilities.

As such, the fight between the two was largely drawn along generational lines. Those distinctions seemed less related to the age of the viewer than to their expectations for film. It also created an opportunity for the Academy to move ahead and pick the less safe - but more rewarding - choice.

Of course, they didn’t do this. While a victory for Pulp would have rewarded daring filmmaking, the almost inevitable win for Gump meant support for the status quo. Not that I feel Gump is an ordinary film, for it’s actually quite well made. However, it didn’t do much to take motion pictures forward, and it was about as safe a film as one could find.

Even before the Oscar controversy, I found it hard to view Gump on its own merits. The film’s pre-release trailers immediately turned me off, as the made the movie look like a sappy piece of pandering tripe. However, when I read reviews, I started to feel differently, as most of these indicated Gump offered more depth than I initially expected.

Back in those days, I almost never saw films during their initial theatrical runs. A number of bargain theaters ran close to home, so I usually waited for movies to make it there. This meant I was often behind the times cinematically, and since Gump did so well, this meant that I wouldn’t be able to check out the flick until it’d been around for many months.

In retrospect, this was unfortunate, since it resulted in a second backlash on my part. The film truly took the nation by storm, and its popularity made it almost unbearable. Much of the hype was combined with a conservative rush to embrace its “family values” - this was the year of the great “Republican revolution” that claimed many new seats in Congress - and the roar became deafening. All of this seemed ironic, since many of those who so strongly embraced the flick promoted politics quite different from those of its creators, but nonetheless, the Gump onslaught got really annoying for those of us who weren’t under its spell.

As such, it became almost impossible for me to consider the movie on its own merits when I finally did see it. Still, I tried to do so, and I think I generally succeeded. My thoughts in 1994 remain virtually identical to those I experienced when I watched the film again years later. Gump remains an entertaining and fun trifle that has many winning qualities but that fails to do anything particularly special.

Gump features no true plot, as it simply recounts the self-told life story of the titular protagonist, played by Tom Hanks. We see Forrest grow from a boy (Michael Conner Humphreys) plagued by a variety of concerns. He had to wear leg braces to straighten his back, and he lacked much in the way of mental faculties; the latter concern almost forced him to go to a special school. However, his mother (Sally Field) was determined to have him be treated like everybody else, and her support helped Forrest make it through the years.

Eventually Forrest attended college on a football scholarship, and after that, we went into the Army. While in that position, he fought in Vietnam - where he earned a Medal of Honor for bravery - and also played Ping-Pong in communist China. After that he captained a shrimp boat, which made him buckets of money, and became famous again for multiple running treks across the US. Along the way, he encountered boohoogles of famous folks, such as three presidents and John Lennon.

However, the main narrative of Gump addressed his semi-unrequited love for childhood friend Jenny (Hanna R. Hall as a kid, Robin Wright as an adult). While Forrest felt content to go along with the status quo and do what he was told, Jenny was much more restless, and her inner unhappiness carried her through many traumatic events. In the Army, Forrest also befriended shrimp-obsessed Bubba Blue (Mykelti Williamson), a guy only a few points smarter than Forrest, which made him the more dominant of the pair by a small margin. He also got to know Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise), their commanding officer in Vietnam. Those paths crossed many times after the war as well.

Gump alternates between semi-mushy and sentimental fare and more comedic material. The former tone gets most of the attention, but I think many miss the point. A lot of folks vilified Gump for its apparently reactionary tone, and the complaints seemed understandable. Forrest is dumber than dirt, but almost nothing seems to affect him; his few displays of emotion almost always relate to Jenny. However, he skates through life without many scratches, and he becomes terrifically successful along the way. On the other hand, smarter and more ambitious people like Jenny and Dan spend most of the film in a state of unhappiness.

Does this theme mean that the filmmakers endorse a lack of drive and attempts to grow? I don’t think so. For one, interpretations of Gump’s tone often go down the wrong path. Much of the film creates a satirical fantasy. It’s often clear that we’re not really supposed to believe what we see. Forrest’s story should not be taken literally, for although it’s portrayed as “real”, the absurdities make it become far too silly and unbelievable to really accept. Honestly, I think much of the movie means to mock the kind of true-hearted and steadfast character represented by Forrest; he achieves so much so easily that it becomes difficult to see the story as anything other than a parody of those sorts of tales.

I do think that Gump espouses some values, but I disagree that they’re as regressive as they may appear. As a character, Forrest doesn’t represent the triumph of the idiots. While he certainly is a dope, I feel that he prospers due to his convictions more than just because of dumb luck. To be certain, the latter appears to be the point much of the time, as Forrest stumbles through history and success. However, I think the movie promotes the concept that you should do what you believe to be right and not waver from a commitment to behave nobly and appropriately at all times.

Forrest’s IQ complicates matters, for his denseness does make it appear that the only way to succeed is to remain blithely unaware of negativity. That doesn’t remain the case, however, for we do see happiness in smarter folks once they accept the appropriate path. Too many of them fight against what they know to be right, and only when they do the proper thing are they able to find contentment. Forrest isn’t depicted as an ideal, but he’s used as the proverbial blank slate against which we can compare ourselves.

Probably the biggest problem I have with Gump relates to its mildly schizophrenic nature. At times director Robert Zemeckis can’t decide if he wants to favor the satirical comedy or the more introspective and emotional side. Personally, I think the former parts work best, as I prefer the funny bits. Gump’s forays into topics of depth don’t always succeed, and the movie plays best as a gleeful farce.

Nonetheless, I do think that the movie functions well as a whole, though I remain unconvinced that it merited the level of success it achieved. Pulp still looks like the much superior film, and while I really like Tom Hanks, I don’t think he deserved an Oscar for his work as Forrest.

To be sure, he did a nice job in the role. Unlike Dustin Hoffman’s one-note performance in Rain Man, Hanks brings an appropriate level of depth to the character. He makes Forrest dense enough to have us accept his stupidity, but he avoids creating a cartoon moron. At times Hanks’ innate intelligence comes through and breaks character to a degree, but these examples are rare, as he usually stays in the part successfully.

My objection to his victory relates to the scope of the character. Hanks throws himself into Forrest with gusto and shows a commitment to the part others would lack; he never winks at the audience or lets them in on the gag. However, Forrest is such a limited part that I don’t think anyone would merit an Oscar as him. The role remains so inherently free of complexity that the job becomes much easier than it otherwise might be. To be certain, Hanks is generally excellent as Forrest, but it isn’t an award-worthy role.

The supporting actors all prosper as well, though not perfectly, as they occasionally come across as one-note themselves. Wright’s Jenny is probably the biggest victim of this trend. Frankly, she makes it hard for us to understand why Forrest loves her so much. Sure, she’s lovely, and part of the problem relates to the script, which forces Jenny to abandon Forrest multiple times. Wright lets us see the broken side of Jenny but we rarely witness much else. She plays up the abused girl aspect of the role and doesn’t give us much in addition to that. It’s still a nice performance, but it would have benefited from additional depth.

The same goes for Sinise’s Dan. He mostly comes across as someone mad at the world, and we don’t really understand the reasons for his anger. Sure, there are some discussions of his “destiny”, but the film doesn’t back these up with enough exposition. Instead, it treats his “destiny” in a jokey fashion that makes it hard for us to accept his bitterness when his desired fate doesn’t occur. Sinise brings his usual skill to the role, but as with Jenny, it’s an underwritten and somewhat unsatisfying part.

At the time of its theatrical release, Gump received a lot of attention for its visual effects. Ala Woody Allen’s Zelig, the film often places Forrest in historical situations, though it one-ups the older movie; while Allen’s flick simply put the character in static places, Gump shows Forrest as he interacts with famous folks.

This all seemed pretty convincing 1994, but those effects haven’t aged well. The shots in which we see the notables speak work especially poorly. The mouth movements don’t match the words well, and the effects make the scenes come across in a jarring way. They’d disrupt the flow of the story in any case, as the audience will always be startled to see history and fiction mesh in this manner.

When the effects don’t function well, however, the problem becomes exacerbated. Most of the film’s visual elements were integrated cleanly; as with Zemeckis’ 2000 hit, Cast Away, Gump features a slew of shots that utilize effects in pedestrian, non-showy ways, and those remain solid. However, the more gimmicky shots become a definite distraction, and they can take the viewer out of the story.

15 years after it dominated multiplexes, I remain of two minds about Forrest Gump. On one hand, I still don’t understand its enormous success, both financially and at awards ceremonies; it was a pleasant and entertaining movie, but it wasn’t anything remarkable.

On the other hand, I really do enjoy Gump as a film, at least for most of its running time. The movie makes some missteps along the way, but for the most part, it provides a witty and endearing program. I don’t feel that Forrest Gump is a classic, but it offers a fun and winning experience for the most part.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Forrest Gump appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For most of the film, Gump looked very strong.

Sharpness consistently appeared solid, as most of the movie seemed to be crisp and detailed. Only a minor smidgen of softness ever appeared. The majority of the film offered excellent clarity and accuracy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge enhancement. Source flaws remained minor. I saw occasional small specks, but these were tiny and infrequent.

Colors looked nicely natural and well saturated. The movie featured a lifelike palette, and the disc made these tones appear clean and vibrant at all times. I saw no problems related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, as the colors remained consistently vivid and distinct. Black levels also came across as nicely rich and deep, and shadow detail appeared appropriately opaque without any excessive thickness. Much of the transfer looked great; it barely fell short of “A”-level consideration.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Forrest Gump, the soundfield presented an unusual affair due to its frequently subdued nature. Throughout much of Gump, the mix remained very firmly anchored to the forward channels, and even there it appeared fairly quiet. In addition to the nice stereo reproduction of Alan Silvestri’s score and the many rock tunes we heard, the track focused largely upon general ambience. In that vein, Gump created a gentle but convincing atmosphere.

During a few scenes, however, the soundfield came more forcefully to life. Some solid environmental effects cropped up during the football games, and a few other segments offered light surround elements. The real showstoppers were the shots in Vietnam, though, which kicked the mix to life in a very loud and active way. I’ve read some criticisms of this technique that felt the shift was too jarring. Well, duh! Since the film was told from Forrest’s point of view, it should blast the audience with the same impact he would have felt. As such, the change of pace was absolutely appropriate, and it helped make parts of the soundtrack much more involving and active.

Audio quality appeared to be solid. Dialogue sounded warm and natural, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were crisp and accurate, and even during the loud scenes, they showed no signs of distortion. Music also seemed clear and bright. Some of the period rock tunes displayed a little crackling, but this appeared to relate to the original recordings, not the disc’s soundtrack.

Dynamic range seemed to be good but not exceptional. While highs sounded clean and distinct, I thought that bass response was merely decent; low-end could have packed a more powerful punch. Ultimately, Forrest Gump provided a fairly positive soundtrack, though not one that presented a consistently exciting package.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the film’s DVD version? Audio was pretty similar; the lossless track here was a little stronger than the original disc’s mix, but it didn’t present a remarkable difference.

Visuals were a different story. The DVD had a mix of problems; it tended to be soft, messy and flawed in many ways. The Blu-ray improved in virtually all areas. It was tighter, brighter, cleaner and better defined. The Blu-ray provided a substantial step up in quality.

The Blu-ray offers most of the same supplements found on the DVD as well as some new ones. I’ll note Blu-ray exclusives with special blue type.

Most of the extras appear on Disc Two, but the first platter provides some goodies. There we find two separate audio commentaries. The first - and superior - comes from director Robert Zemeckis, producer Steve Starkey and production designer Rick Carter. Zemeckis was recorded separately, but Starkey and Carter were taped together; I’ve read other reviews that argue they made their statements individually, but that’s nonsense, as the two clearly interacted with each other often throughout the piece.

In any case, their remarks were intercut with Zemeckis’ for this commentary, and the results usually seemed to be entertaining and enlightening. The track’s biggest problem stemmed from a surprising number of empty spaces; with three participants, I expected a more consistent flow to the piece, but quite a few spots went without material.

Nonetheless, the overall caliber of the commentary was strong. The men generally avoided the usual happy talk as they provided a lot of good information about the making of Gump. I learned a lot of interesting technical bits plus aspects of the storytelling and minor - but fun - pieces of trivia, such as the identity of Elvis’ speaking voice. Overall this was an entertaining and informative track that merits a listen.

Somewhat less compelling was the second commentary, a running, screen-specific track from producer Wendy Finerman. This track suffered from even more empty spots than did the first. While these rarely became inordinately long, they did crop up fairly frequently, and they occasionally made the commentary something of a chore.

When Finerman spoke, she periodically added some useful details, and she gave us the most information about the ways in which the book was adapted as a film. However, much of the time she did little more than provide minor statements about the characters and their actions, few of which contributed much insight. I didn’t dislike Finerman’s commentary, especially because her passion for the film came through, but I thought it was slow-paced and a little dull.

For a look at the movie’s tunes, we go to Musical Signposts to History. In a three-minute, 54-second intro, Zemeckis, musicians Michelle Phillips, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Ray Manzarek, rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres and music supervisor Joel Sill discuss the use of songs in Gump.

After the intro, the disc launches an interactive feature. With this activated, the film occasionally branches off into short clips that tell us about the movie’s tunes. The viewer can access this in a number of ways. “Manual Mode” places an icon onscreen when a clip becomes available; hit “enter” to watch it. “Auto Mode” simply detours to the segments without viewer input, and “Selective Mode” lets the viewer check out the snippets independent of the movie.

Since 44 of these appear, that’d take us away from the film awfully frequently, so I absorbed the info via the “Selective Mode”. We get notes from Fong-Torres, Zemeckis, Sill, Phillips, Manzarek, Starkey, McGuinn, Crosby, songwriters Mike Leiber, Jerry Stoller, Barry Goldberg, Jerry Goffin, and Lamont Dozier, and musicians Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Erik Darling, Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Scott McKenzie, John Phillips, Pete Seeger, Marilyn McCoo, BJ Thomas, Gary Rossington, and Jackson Browne. The snippets tell us a little about the songs as well as why the movie used them. Though these pieces are brief, they’re interesting and add to the package.

Now we move on the Disc Two, where a large variety of additional extras await us. A featurette called Greenbow Diary goes for 25 minutes, 59 seconds as it throws out notes from Zemeckis, Starkey, and actors Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, and Mykelti Williamson. The program takes us to the movie’s various sets and offers a production diary of sorts. While it features a number of soundbites, much of it concentrates on raw footage from the locations, and that makes it especially interesting.

We look at the script in the 26-minute, 57-second The Art of Screenplay Adaptation. It features Finerman, Starkey, novelist Winston Groom, screenwriter/cultural critic Stephen Schiff, and screenwriter Eric Roth.The show examines the original book, its development, and its move to the big screen. “Art” digs into its subjects in fine fashion, as it explores related topics in a rich, compelling manner. Expect many fascinating insights here.

Getting Past Impossible: Forrest Gump and the Visual Effects Revolution fills 27 minutes, four seconds with notes from Starkey, Zemeckis, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, visual effects artist Doug Chiang, and ILM visual effects supervisor/Photoshop co-inventor John Knoll. “Revolution” looks at the development of visual effects techniques over the years as well as specific work done for Gump. Other parts of this disc look at effects, but “Revolution” becomes the most satisfying take on the subject matter. I really like the tutorial about older effects methods, and the program digs into Gump-related elements well. This is a fine program – I wish it ran even longer than it does.

After this comes Little Forrest. In the 14-minute, 48-second piece, we hear from Zemeckis, Hanks, Starkey, Finerman, and actor Michael Conner Humphreys. The piece examines Humphreys’ casting and performance. It’s fun to see Humphreys as a grown-up and also to learn how his work affected Hanks’.

Finally, An Evening with Forrest Gump goes for 55 minutes, eight seconds and presents a spring 2009 Q&A session. Hosted by USC Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts Elizabeth Daley, the panel discussion involves Zemeckis, Hanks, Sinise and Roth. They discuss adaptation/development issues, characters and performances, deleted sequences, whether Gump could be made today and its impact/legacy, working with effects, thoughts about 3D films, the director/actor relationship, music, and a few other thoughts about the flick.

Some of “Evening” rehashes info that appears elsewhere, but we still find plenty of new content. In addition, it’s simply enjoyable to see these guys chat together after so long, and that helps make “Evening” a good addition.

Under “Archival Special Features”, we get components from the DVD. The Make-Up of Forrest Gump goes over exactly what the title implies. The eight-minute, three-second program consists of interviews with makeup artist Dan Striepeke plus movie images and test material. I thought this was a surprisingly compelling program because it went over issues I rarely hear discussed. In addition to the expected topics such as Sally Field’s old-age look, Striepeke talked about the subtle ways that the maturation of Forrest and Jenny were conveyed. We also got to see some makeup tests that involved the cast members. This featurette provided a nice little look at this area.

Within Seeing Is Believing: The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump, we get nine smaller segments. In these we learn a little more about how the movie’s visual elements were created. Each snippet includes footage from the set and demonstrations of how the work was done, and we also always hear from visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston; in addition, computer graphics supervisor George Murphy and CG supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum show up separately at various times. Each clip lasts between one minute, 26 seconds and seven minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 30 minutes, 23 seconds of footage.

Although the material could become redundant at times, I generally enjoyed the information. Ralston helped break down the elements so that they made sense on their own, and it was interesting to see the different stages through which the footage needed to go.

Through the Ears of Forrest Gump works in a format similar to that of the prior section. Here we get five subsections that looked at the audio of the film. These consist of interviews with sound designer Randy Thom and snippets from the movie. Each of the five segments lasts between one minute, 20 seconds and seven minutes, 55 seconds for a total of 15 minutes, 20 seconds of material.

Thom offers good remarks about his work, which will come as no surprise to anyone who heard his part of the Cast Away audio commentary. The biggest segment of these five is the third one, which discusses the Vietnam scenes. For those who don’t know much about sound design, that section provides a nice tutorial, as Thom covers a lot of basics during it. Overall, these featurettes were reasonably interesting and informative.

Next up is Building the World of Forrest Gump, a program that focuses on production design. The show offers interview snippets from production designer Rick Carter as he discusses the work he did on Gump, and it also provides some glimpses of the planning created along the way. The seven-minute and 18-second program wasn’t fascinating, but it gave us a decent look at this aspect of the film.

In the Screen Tests area, we discover auditions for a number of cast members. There are trials for Michael Conner Humphrey and Hanna R. Hall - both shot together - plus Robin Wright and Haley Joel Osment. The first section includes three screen tests, while each of the others offer two auditions apiece. Each of these runs between 35 seconds and 125 seconds for a total of eight minutes and 50 seconds worth of footage.

While all of them were interesting, the Wright and Osment clips offered the most fun since they featured Tom Hanks as well. He clearly hadn’t finalized the character yet, as he seemed much more like “Tom Hanks” than “Forrest Gump”. The second test with Osment was particularly entertaining, as it really wasn’t a performance. Instead, Hanks simply chatted with Osment, and it was a cute and charming little piece.

Lastly, we find two trailers for the film. One provides the original clip, while the other - referred to as “Remember” - clearly tried to tempt a return audience.

The Blu-ray drops a few elements from the original DVD. It omits a photo gallery, two segments of “Seeing Is Believing”, and a documentary called “Through the Eyes of Forrest Gump”. I suspect that much of “Eyes” probably became integrated into the new components, but I still think it should’ve reappeared here. I have no idea why the Blu-ray drops the other pieces.

Although I continue to harbor some reservations about Forrest Gump, I admit that most of these revolve around the film’s profile, not the work itself. On its own, Gump offers a reasonably entertaining and winning experience. It didn’t deserve all of the success it earned, but I can’t hold the reactions of others against it.

The Blu-ray provides positive picture and sound as well as an excellent collection of supplements. While Gump will never be one of my favorite films, it remains entertaining, and this Blu-ray works really well. It’s an easy recommendation as an upgrade for folks who already own the DVD.

To rate this film, visit the Special Collector's Edition review of FORREST GUMP

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main