Shawshank Redemption

Weekend Roundtable: Is It Worth a Second Chance?

As a savvy filmgoer (which certainly all of our readers are), surely you’ve come across a movie or two that seemingly everybody else loves but that you didn’t appreciate much on a first viewing. What famous movie have you seen and disliked, but feel that maybe you should give a second chance?

To be clear on this, the idea is that you haven’t given the movie that second chance yet, but are questioning whether you should bother. Perhaps the movie is a classic that you simply didn’t get, or perhaps you were too young when you saw it, or maybe you just weren’t in the right mood for it.

M. Enois Duarte

If I suggest ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’, would I immediately be met with a mob at my front door demanding I be burned at the stake? Fortunately, I wouldn’t really do that. Instead, I’ve been thinking that ‘Iron Man 3‘ might deserve another shot. As a comic book fan, I remember not caring for this one as much as the first two ‘Iron Man’ movies because it was such a massive departure from the comics. Now that it’s been a few years, I wonder if I was too harsh on it the first time around. After all, Tony Stark was also drastically changed to better fit Robert Downey, Jr.’s acting style, and the story is connected to the first ‘Avengers’ movie. On top of that, it was directed by Shane Black, who I love, and was co-written by Drew Pearce of ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’.

I’m going through the MCU series again right now anyhow, so I’m eventually going to watch ‘Iron Man 3’ regardless. With Ultra HDs on their way from Germany, let’s see if my thoughts have changed.

Luke Hickman

Over the past few years, I’ve become a big fan of director Joe Wright. ‘Hanna’ is one of the best and most refreshing action movies out there, ‘Anna Karenina’ is one of the most creative takes that I’ve seen on a period piece (if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out for the production design alone), and I even saw past the flaws and was able to enjoy ‘Pan’.

Having such a deep admiration for Wright now, I need to go back and give ‘Atonement‘ a second chance. It’s the favorite film of several of my friends, but when I saw it, I simply didn’t like it. Admittedly, the conditions were not ideal. The one time I watched ‘Atonement’ was from the comforts of my college apartment over a holiday break. I received an awards screener and decided to watch it – but what college apartment is a conducive place to enjoy a period piece drama like that?

I’m fairly certain that when I revisit ‘Atonement’, I’ll love it. In fact, last year I found a used copy on Blu-ray at FYE for $4 and picked it up. If I can get the kids into bed on time, I’m sure my new environment will be far more suited for the viewing.

Brian Hoss

Tom Hanks regularly makes tough dramatic roles look easy while elevating forgettable plots into memorable movies. Paul Newman is, at worst, a charming star and a Hollywood legend, a boon to nearly every movie he was in. But when I watched ‘Road to Perdition‘ some 15 years ago, it just fell flat, inducing sleepiness in my little group. Despite that, and even though I think of the movie as a long, dull chore, I think it’s time to give it a second chance.

Shannon Nutt

The year is 1992. After a TV campaign that promised an Irish Republican Army plot and a big secret, my best friend and his sister went to see ‘The Crying Game‘ in theaters. Now, before I come off as a bigot here, everyone needs to put this film in a 1992 perspective. As someone who grew up in a VERY conservative small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we were just getting used to the idea of seeing homosexuality portrayed in mainstream media, let alone what this movie has to offer.

Anyway, I won’t rehash the plot here (what little of it I remember), but there’s a point in the movie where the main character, Fergus (played by Stephen Rea), gets what I’ll politely refer to as oral attention from the character Dil (played by Jaye Davidson). Since even this was something not frequently portrayed in a mainstream movie, my best friend leans over during this point in the movie and asks, “Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” Having already guessed the movie’s secret by this point, I replied, “Yeah, but I don’t think that’s a She.” My friend did a double take at that point, stared in silence at the screen for a good five seconds then, said loudly, “WHAT?!” His sister, who had apparently figured things out long before we did, began laughing hysterically at the two closed-minded white guys sitting next to her.

We’ve come a long way since 1992, and today no one would blink an eye at a similar plot in a mainstream motion picture, but it was a big deal back then. I’ve never gone back and watched ‘The Crying Game’ a second time – not because of any particular bias, but just because I felt the marketing for the film tricked me into seeing something different than what I expected (which, granted, was kind of the whole point). I wonder if the movie, given today’s much more acceptable society, would still have the same kind of impact for a first-time viewer.

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

Easy one: ‘Eraserhead‘, directed by David Lynch. I saw that early in college and just didn’t get it. Just bizarre. There’s a really weird, disturbing dinner scene where the lead character is asked to carve the bird, and the headless game hen starts pumping out blood and moving its legs back and forth. I don’t think I made it very far past that scene before walking out of the theater. In fact, it may be the only movie I’ve ever walked out on, and I’ve seen some stinkers.

Meanwhile, Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ may be in my Top 20 favorite films of all time and I absolutely loved ‘Twin Peaks’ when it was on the air. In fact, I even generally enjoyed ‘Dune’ (though maybe not as much as Josh). So yeah, one day I’ll give ‘Eraserhead’ another shot. But I’ll have to make sure the kids are asleep. And we won’t be eating chicken that night.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

A couple months back, my wife and I watched Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Trilogy‘ over three consecutive nights. After being so charmed by the first two films in the series, we had the highest of expectations for ‘Before Midnight’.

To at least some extent, we knew what we were getting into. This isn’t a film about the first blush of young love. This isn’t about slightly more mature people reconnecting and falling back in love with one another. Throughout the course of ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’, Jesse and Céline had known each other for hours. ‘Before Midnight’ opens with them having been in a committed relationship for nearly a decade. I’d say that the honeymoon period is over, but that would suggest that they’re actually married. The effortless banter from the first two films is largely a distant memory. Jesse and Céline had previously shared nearly every moment together on-screen, whereas a number of scenes throughout ‘Before Midnight’ split the two of them apart. We were prepared for that. What we weren’t expecting was how truly, irredeemably vile Jesse in particular and, to a far lesser extent, Céline had become. After the end credits started to roll, Maggie and I discussed the film at length and were entirely on the same page. After digging around online to get a sense of the general reception, it seemed as if no one else the world over shared our opinion. Every review, every blog post, and every thinkpiece we came across demonized Céline and practically deified Jesse.

Jesse had always been somewhat full of himself, but he’s insufferable as an established, successful author, clearly having bought into his own hype. He browbeats Céline into signing a book at the hotel despite her vocal discomfort with the idea. He refuses to acknowledge that he’s a serial cheater. Jesse’s son has a far better relationship with Céline than he does with his own father, to the point that the boy eagerly speaks to Céline during a layover back home but shrugs off speaking with Jesse as something he’ll get around to later. He doesn’t even want his father visiting him, as Jesse’s presence so profoundly rankles his ex-wife that the kid would never be able to enjoy himself. Jesse stops just short of saying that he wants Céline to give up the life they’ve built together in France to be closer to the child he’d abandoned – something his son has made no indication that he even wants – and reacts like a spoiled brat when Céline quite reasonably says no.

Jesse doesn’t want a partner in life. He wants an automaton to glorify him, agree with him without question, and sexually gratify him. Céline manages most every aspect of their lives together while Jesse does next to nothing, but he sneers at her for not taking better care of herself and resents any implication that he’s not sufficiently contributing. He’s a sexist who dismisses Céline’s entire gender and accuses her of being hysterical. He preys on her insecurities and indecisiveness about her career path. He’s manipulative, selfish, and an unrepentant liar. For the first time in the series, Céline and Jesse are the same people at the end of the film as they are at the beginning. Nothing is resolved from the nuclear blowout of an argument that ultimately defines ‘Before Midnight’.

How could Jesse possibly be perceived as the hero of the film? Céline doesn’t get a free pass, but she’s hardly the shrill harpy that most every reviewer and blogger makes her out to be. I’m baffled that so many critics found the epic argument to be howlingly funny at times, as I found it horrifying just about from start to finish. It may be a cliché to ask “Did I watch the same movie as these writers?”, but for seemingly everyone but my wife to feel the exact opposite of the way I do makes me feel as if I’m missing something. Part of me is eager to give ‘Before Midnight’ a second look to see what merit there is in the general critical response, while the rest of me never wants to suffer through it again.

Josh Zyber

A lot of movies fall into this category for me, but my top pick has to be ‘The Shawshank Redemption‘. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody else other than myself who didn’t love, and I mean loooooooooove, this movie. For a very long time, it was even voted the #1 Movie of All Time among IMDb users. I. Don’t. Get. It.

I’ve never gotten it. The appeal of the movie eludes me. When I watched it, I felt that it was little more than a dull prison drama that played like a TV Movie of the Week. I didn’t see anything special in it. At all. Even the acting performances seemed overdone.

I should probably revisit this. Maybe I just watched it at the wrong time in my life. Maybe the viewing conditions weren’t ideal. (It was among the huge volume of movies I consumed on Laserdisc while wasting time at my college work study job.) If I watch it again now, will I see in it what everyone else does? I wish I was more eager to find out.

What movies do you think you probably ought to give a second chance? Tell us in the Comments.

39 comments

  1. Shawshank: I agree.

    A couple from Terry Gilliam: THE FISHER KING was spoiled for me for a scene of (it seemed to me at the time) nauseating violence. Maybe I’m more hardened now and I have it in the queue.

    TIDELAND: I saw it without subtitles and couldn’t understand the little girl most of the time. I’d like to try it again.

  2. Chris B

    I actually rewatched Shawshank a few nights ago because I hadn’t seen it in years and was curious as to how well it holds up. I still think it’s a great movie though not without it’s flaws. The score is a taf overblown and sentimental and the dialogue has some hokey exchanges. All in all though , I still think its very good though shy of being a masterpiece. The thing that junped out at me this time was Deakins’ cinematography. There’s some really great shots and the overall quality of the camerawork pulls you into the story imho.

    Give it another go Josh, perhaps being a married father will help you connect with some of the themes that may have been lost on you during your first viewing. Personally, I enjoy it more now as someone in their mid-thirties than when I was a teenager.

  3. EM

    Funny you should ask—I have such a movie checked out from my public library, ready for me to rewatch. As I recall, I didn’t dislike it the first time; I just didn’t feel it lived up to the hoopla. The movie is the 1955 comedy The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more tonight. At the very least, I’m sure I’ll once again enjoy the bit about the vessel with the pestle and the flagon with the dragon.

  4. Jason Radcliff

    How anyone cannot like Shawshank Redemption eludes me, unless you were in prison and had your very own Bogs and the sisters to deal with. That’s it, fight. Better that way.

  5. Michael

    Lawrence of Arabia. I bought that movie blind on Blu Ray due to its status as being “one of the best movies of all time” and because of the scene used in Prometheus (“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts…”). However, the movie left me competely flat despite some gorgeous cinematography. Plus the movie is seriously long! It’s a major time investment to sit and watch the thing from beginning to end.

    What is it I’m missing about this movie that others consider it so wonderful?

  6. Elizabeth

    I have this feeling about basically every Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino movie I’ve ever watched.
    I hated The Shining; Shelly Duvall was super annoying and Jack Nicholson was playing the only character he seems to ever play. 2001: A Space Odyssey should have been subtitled A Cure For Insomnia instead; I can’t get more than 15-20 minutes into it without being sound asleep. A Clockwork Orange? No, just no. No.

    And Tarantino. Ugh. I sat through about 30-40 minutes of Pulp Fiction and all of its unlikeable characters before looking at the box and realizing there was nearly 2 hours of tedium left. Needless to say, I turned it off and never regretted the 2 hours of my life I saved for other things. I tried to watch Kill Bill, actually made it through Part 1 thinking it wasn’t terrible and then Part 2 started and all remaining interest drained away.

    People love their movies and I really don’t get it. But people also love The Big Bang Theory and I don’t understand that either.

    Quentin Tarantino, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Shia LeBoeuf, Adam Sandler, and Michael Bay are names I look for and avoid anything they’re attached to.

        • Elizabeth

          Josh, why is it wrong? Like every other human, I have my own tastes in movies. I pretty much never read the movie plot reviews on this site for that reason.

          I’ve never enjoyed a Tarantino movie. I’ve tried and they just don’t work for me. Pulp Fiction is supposed to be his major opus and I just found it tedious and uninteresting.

          I also don’t like bacon which I’m told is practically un-American.

          • Thulsadoom

            I’m with you on Tarantino, Elizabeth. I just don’t get the thrill. I’m not even a fan of Adam Sandler or Michael Bay fan (They’ve both made some awful films, and Sandler peaked with The Wedding Singer), but I’d still give any of their films a go before I’d watch another Tarantino.

            I’ve given Tarantino far too many second chances based on other people telling me “Oh, even if you didn’t like that one, give this a go…”

            I agree, Josh. Lumping Tarantino in with Sandler and Michael Bay IS wrong. 😉 He’s another few levels down even from Sandler and Bay 😀

      • Elizabeth

        Gee Kim, I guess I’m not allowed to express an opinion on an article about opinions. Thanks for letting me know.

        • Kim Tarder

          No, I just think it’s funny when people say they lost two hours out of their lives when a movie is bad like they had anything better to do.

    • I am with you. I cannot stand Tarantino, and don’t get why his movies are so popular. I have actually gotten to the fact where I will avoid a film if it has Tarantion’s name on it. Unfortunately I was in an IMAX with friends seeing Kill Bill Vol 2, an hour from home (that was back when IMAX theaters were rare, but they were still true film).

      Kubrick is a mixed bag. I like 2001, but it is SLOW. Lolita was…. Interesting. But A Clockwork Orange? No no no! Also didn’t care for Full Metal Jacket or Dr Strangelove.

      • photogdave

        I consider myself a Tarantino fan with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Bastards being two of my favourite films but I definitely put Kill Bill on this list. I watched Vol. 1 and felt the “humour” was flat and obvious and his use of non-linear storytelling completely destroyed any potential dramatic tension.
        After that I had no desire to see Vol. 2 and still haven’t. People seem to like these movies so I’ll give it another shot and watch them back to back.

        • Csm101

          Kill Bill vol. 2, at first viewing was a big disappointment, but the more I watched it, the better I liked it. That one is worth a second chance.

          • I will admit that, out of the Tarantino movies I have seen, the Kill Bill movies were the ones I hated the least – in fact, I will go as far as to say they were “okay”. But that is the most praise I can give the guy – his other movies that I have seen were absolutely awful.

      • Thulsadoom

        I can’t think of many movies that I’m yet to give a second chance to (that I’d want to). I’ve either already given a second chance to a lot of films, or else have no plan to. 😉

        I might give Interstellar and Ex-Machina another try some time. I found both to be pretty weak, even annoyingly stupid in places, but they’re stories/setups that I WANTED to like. So I’ll probably try again in a few years.

      • Thulsadoom

        Sorry, my reply above, was meant to be my normal comment at the bottom of the page. 😉

        Like you, William, I’m at the “I have actually gotten to the fact where I will avoid a film if it has Tarantino’s name on it.” stage. The last one I sat through was Django Unchained and pretty much vowed to myself that I wouldn’t waste any more time on Tarantino movies (And I have sat through and enjoyed a LOT of bad B-movies just for fun, but I’d sooner keep doing that, than watch any more Tarantino).

        Likewise, Kubrick I find a mixed bag, similar to Spielberg. Always visually great, and from that perspective you can always get a certain level of enjoyment from their work, but the films as a whole (story, characters etc.) can often be hit and miss.

  7. Csm101

    Elf. Almost everyone I know loves Elf. They quote it and giggle and watch it during the holidays. I’ve tried and it just bores me. I’d like to give this one another chance at some point, but even the idea of that feels like an impending visit to the dentist for a root canal.

  8. Scott David

    For me, it’s Citizen Kane. I had to watch it for school and write a paper about it. I thought it was boring and I remember dozing off during it. But maybe I should give iit another chance.

    • photogdave

      You should check it out on Blu. If you still don’t appreciate it after the first re-watch then watch it again with the Roger Ebert commentary. It’s like two years of film school condensed into two hours!

  9. photogdave

    There are lots of movies I don’t like and I don’t think further viewings will change that. Anything by Kevin Smith for example.
    One film that seems universally praised but I didn’t get at all was The Thin Red Line. I didn’t engage with any of the characters and found it really exhausting to watch. I enjoy slow-paced movies — the above-mentioned Lawrence of Arabia and 2001 are some of my favourites, but I couldn’t get into this one.
    I remember watching with a friend and we started going MST3K on it, making jokes about rocks and sticks in the water…
    If it shows up on Netflix I’ll give it another go.

  10. Darkmonk

    Probelm with the CRYING GAME was this – it was a bait and switch movie. I could care less about the sexual politics of it (and nobody in the US was being all Homophobic about it either. That was just you and your friends). The problem was they sold a different movie than the one you actually saw. I wanted to see a movie about Political intrigue in Ireland. And whatI got was NOT that.
    Bait and switch.

    • john barbarry

      “and nobody was being all homophobic about it either”……..you’re naive if you believe that (that’s just you and your friends). Brokeback Mountain had the same affect many years later. Still does depending on the area you live.

  11. JERP

    It’s Donnie Darko for me. I tried to watch it but about 30 minutes into it I had to stop and I’ve never gone back. I love challenging movies with bizarre story lies but, for whatever reason, I just could not connect with this movie. I’ve always considered Donnie Darko to be a “fluke” because to date Richard Kelly hasn’t been successful with any other movie he has made. I’ve been considering purchasing the latest Arrow box set and giving it another chance, I’ve pre-ordered it and cancelled about 3 times, lol.

  12. Tough topic for me. Usually if I give something a shot once, I won’t give it a second shot.

    The one exception may be Neverending Story. I think I was 4 or 5 when it came out, and my parents thought it would be an appropriate movie for kids. It gave me nightmares for years (in fact, it STILL does).

    There are many that I just will NOT give second chances to. Anything Tarintiono, Sin City, Labrynth, The Goonies, Princess Bride, Napoleon Dynamite, Dark Crystal. (Actually, come to think of it, I did give Labrynth a second chance, it was worse than I remembered).

    I did give Twilight a second shot AFTER reading the book. The movie was better than I remembered, but I still would not call it good. The books are fantastic, which surprised me, I told someone I would read the first 3-4 chapters as a dare, and ended up reading the entire series.

    • Alex Diestler

      You might want to consider giving The Princess Bride another try after reading the book as well. It is, without a doubt, one of the sharpest, funniest books I’ve ever read, and goes a long way to enriching the tone and feel of the movie.

  13. To this day, ‘Shawshank’ is still number one, Josh 🙂 (http://www.imdb.com/chart/top?ref_=tt_awd)
    Funny fact: the movie’s available on UMD for PSP. Wonder how many gamers needed that movie in their lives, to watch on the go? (not a diss to ‘Shawshank’, for I’ve never seen it, but isn’t that a weird choice for release on UMD?)

    Regarding the roundtable topic: I didn’t like P.T. Anderson’s ‘Magnolia’, but I’ve enjoyed his other movies.

  14. Alex Diestler

    I know the original requirements for the post were that you hadn’t tried the movie a second time, but I wanted to mention mine: The Last of the Mohicans. I have seen it at least three times, and I desperately, desperately want to like it. Strangely, when broken down into its individual components, I can freely acknowledge its excellence. The acting is excellent, the the cinematography and production values are spectacular, the music is an absolutely triumph – and yet for some reason I just can’t bring myself to like the movie. And I’m not 100% sure why. And I’ll try it again some day, and hopefully next time I’ll like it as much as everyone else seems to…

  15. James Smith

    I saw American Hustle at a press screening a few weeks before it opened in theaters. I was bored by it and didn’t think it’s going to be success, critically and financially. Boy was I wrong, the film it’s currently sitting at 93% on Rottentomatoes and earned over $150mil at the box office. I guess I’m in the minority for not liking it, maybe I’ll give it a watch someday.

  16. Deaditelord

    My choice would have to be Gangs of New York. I remember it was the second half of a double bill with Chicago at a nice little theater in Waverly, IA. Going in I remember thinking that Chicago was going to bore me to tears. Instead, I found Gangs of New York to be so incredibly boring that I fell asleep about halfway through it. One of the staff actually had to wake me up during the end credits. It’s the only time I’ve ever fallen asleep watching a movie at the theater.

    • Deaditelord

      Whoops forgot the second part of my post. I’ve considered watching Gangs of New York again just because it is a Martin Scorsese film and a lot of people seem to think highly of it. However, I can’t convince myself that I should spend another 3 hours watching a movie that originally put me to sleep.

      • For what it’s worth, as a 10-year old lad, I fell asleep during my first screening of ‘Back to the Future’. Now, it’s my favorite movie of all time.

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