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Rabbit Hole (2010)
A gripping and heart wrenching film about how everyone deals with grief differently
I just watched this film and went into it with fairly high expectations due to the insane amount of buzz surrounding it and the performances of the cast. For the most part I was not disappointed. I liked how the story progressed and slowly you are offered pieces of the puzzle regarding the death of Howie (Eckhart) and Becca's (Kidman) son. You have to keep watching really to get the whole story as to what happened and in the process it really effectively draws you into the character's heads and what they truly are feeling. Nicole Kidman gives quite possibly the finest performance of her career which will almost assure her a 3rd Oscar nomination. She hits all the notes perfectly in a very nuanced performance that demonstrates the grief, confusion and utter despair this woman is going through even if she doesn't show it enough for her husband's liking. Eckhart gives an almost equally compelling performance as the husband who is dealing with his grief very differently than his wife's. Dianne Weist rounds out with a great performance as Becca's mother who tries to support her daughter in anyway she can albeit sometimes it seems as if Becca would rather she just leave her along. Well acted, emotionally riveting and while melodramatic at times, a very realistic portrayal of grief.
Freeman shines as Nelson Mandella leading a nation towards unity
I remember first hearing about the biopic Clint Eastwood was doing on Nelson Mandela with Morgan Freeman in the role and instantly knew I wanted to see the film. To find out it was about the world cup of rugby and Mandela leading the campaign for South Africa to win the title I wasn't so sure if I was as enthused as before. I was wrong. Sure, this movie has everything your typical sports drama does. Sentimentality, coming from behind to beat all odds, but through the rugby you see Mandela's vision for his racially divided country. I loved the first half of this movie leading up to the final game of the World Cup. From the opening scene seeing the black children playing soccer, and the white children playing rugby. Then to see Mandela drive by just after being freed from prison. It set the tone for the entire movie.
While this isn't a masterpiece by any stretch, I feel it accurately captured what Mandela meant to South Africa and the world. Morgan Freeman plays the role not as an impersonation, but as an embodiment that should definitely net him an Oscar nomination.
The Blind Side (2009)
Typical feel good sports story that is driven by a compelling performance by Bullock
I usually am not one for the sappy, beat all odds athlete stories because usually they are a dime a dozen. The Blind Side follows the usual trend. The story is laden with clichés, predictable and at times a little melodramatic. This film though was quite touching and the vehicle for that was Leigh Anne Tuhoy played by Sandra Bullock. While the role is showy and at times maybe a bit over the top, I blame that on the writing and not Bullock. There are several outstanding scenes in this movie that should assure Bullock of her first Oscar nomination, hell maybe even a win. The one scene that moved me the most is when Leigh Anne was talking to Mike's real mother. Not much was said, but the facial expressions on Leigh Anne's face said it all. It was so touching to see Leigh Anne begin to realize just where this boy came from. Its easy to see why this film has become such a hit over the holidays and its easy to see where all the praise for Bullock is coming from. This film is by no means flawless, but it is a neat little story.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Unbelievably well crafted, one of the best of the 90's
I hadn't watched this film in its entirety in probably 10 years so I felt it was time for a re-watch. It still holds up as one of my favourite films from the 90's. The very intricate adaptation of King's work is so smartly done by Frank Darabont. You have to pay attention to all the little details in order to make sense of the film at the end. Its no easy task as the movie can move at a snails pace at times, but that's what makes it so great. Its not trying to be flashy, its trying to portray a very realistic view inside a mid 20th century New England prison. You come to feel for every single one of these characters and most importantly understand their motivations. A film like this could have went so badly, but the actors and Darabont seem to make it look effortless. The cast as an ensemble works wonderfully and Morgan Freeman quite possibly gives the best performance of his career.
Its too bad this film was released in a year that saw it competing against Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. One of the most underrated films of the last 20 years. If it had been a different year, it could have cleaned up at the Oscar.s I don't know if it deserves to be #1 on IMDb's 250, but it definitely deserves a high spot.
Visually stunning, but boring story hinders it from being a masterpiece.
Here we are in 2009. It has been 12 years since Cameron last gave us one of his blockbusters in Titanic. With Avatar he set out to change the way we watch movies with his new motion capture technology all in 3D. Did he succeed? Sort of. While no one can deny the visual masterpiece this film is, there are some major problems that hinder Avatar from being one of the greatest movies of our time. The big problem I had with this movie was the story itself. It was redundant, one dimensional and well, boring. There were times throughout the film that I was compelled and on the edge of my seat, but for a 2.5 hrs + film, you need to feel that way 90% of the time. I am not naive, I knew going into a James Cameron film the story and especially the script wasn't going to rivet me out of my chair, but I at least expected to be entertained by it. I wasn't. The commentaries Cameron seems to do on anti-war and environmentalism just did not resonate with me. The dialogue in parts had my eyes in a constant roll.
With that being said however, whenever the story was boring me to tears, I could just sit and look what was going on around the story. There was always something to look it, always something to fascinate me. Sigourney Weaver turned in a very decent performance and was the only actor in places to be able to rise above the dialogue Cameron gave them. However, there were times even she could not do it. Sam Worthington I feel was miscast, but he fits Cameron's niche for male leads, a la Arnold. I do believe this film will be showered with technical awards for its revolutionary technology and will get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars in March. But, we must all remember that if you take away the visuals of this film, it is nothing more than a camp-fest that would go straight to DVD. With most of Cameron's previous movies they were much more layered beyond the visuals and special effects. I feel he got too caught up in wowing our eyes and completely forgot about what's behind them.
**1/2 out of ****
War of the Worlds (2005)
The last 10 minutes downgrade a great movie to a good movie
War of the Worlds was worth the price of paying the 8 bucks for a movie ticket for sure. The eye appealing visual effects, the great score of John Williams and the shock and awe of everything that was playing out in front of our eyes. Hell the acting of Tom Cruise was actually not bad. I was really into this movie and had read the ending is what takes out the steam and boy did it ever. I mean I know movies are supposed to be unrealistic but I mean come on Robbie parts ways with Rachel and his dad to fight the aliens and really theoretically should have died with everyone else. When Ray sees the outside after all the destruction no one and I mean no one is around. Then at the end go to where the mother and step dad are staying and the son just magically is there and we have this big hug and kiss reunion. Total garbage. Steven Spielberg directed the thing wonderfully but the screenplay was very very cheesy. Thankfully the rest of the movie was a fast paced, excitement filled epic.
What could have been a four star movie comes in with barely 3 ***
Batman Forever (1995)
A letdown from the original two but still decent
Batman Forever was the first Batman I ever saw so I really had nothing to compare it too when I first saw it in theatres on my 10th birthday :) and I loved it but you know I was young and just payed attention to the eye dazzling visuals and the comedic elements of the riddler and stuff like that. Now that I am older and have seen all of the Batman's several times I realize that Batman Forever while still decent was a major letdown from the previous two. Val Kilmer comes in and manages to pull off Batman but Bruce Wayne not so much. The chemistry with Nicole Kidman, wait a minute there was no chemistry. Nicole Kidman was awful in this movie and really was not needed. The best acting came from Jim Carrey who portrayed the insane and obsessive Edward Nygma/The Riddler but was a little over the top. Tommy Lee Jones was way over the top with his portrayal of Harvey Two Face. The show was much more lighter and humorous than the previous two but most likely because of a different directorial interpretation of Joel S. I still watch it from time to time and it keeps me entertained. Much more substance than story but still an OK watch.
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns made the series
Of all the four films in the Batman series (I say 4 because I truly do not include the new Batman Begins in that series) Batman Returns had the best story, plot, sub plots and best acting. Michael Keaton returned as a very respectable Batman and Bruce Wayne this time taking on the likes of the grotesque Pengiuin of the sewer played by Danny Devito. Christopher Walken effectively plays a very shrewed and borderline evil business man Max Schreck who will do anything, even kill to get what he wants. The there is Michelle Pfeiffer who plays nerdy, insecure Selina Kyle who is Max Schreck's assistant. Whe she stumbles on his huge devious plan he takes care of her and Catwoman, the best villain in the series is born. Michelle P stole the show for me as the very dark, seductive and sexy Catwoman. Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne are attracted to one another and Batman and Catwoman are attracted to one another. The best subplot of the entire Batman series. Definitely is underrated here at IMDb IMO. It was one of the better films to come out of the 90's. I watch it over and over and never get tired of it.
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Begins redeems a series that I thought was unredeemable
This film was probably the least hyped of the 5 Batman installments but I think that possibly played into its favor. It's a fresh new beginning for the franchise and its legions of fans. Appropriately titled, Batman Begins is a prequel to the very successful series of 4 films that were released over a course of 8 years. By the end of that series the state of it was not good. Batman & Robin was a joke compared to the 3 movies released prior. It had went from being a dark, brooding captivating thriller in the first two to a cartoonish poorly executed mess in Batman and Robin. Batman Begins regains the darkness that Batman began with effectively explaining how Bruce Wayne in fact took on his alter persona. Christian Bale plays the best Bruce Wayne yet as he is tormented by his parents death and is thirsty for justice to make sure what happened to him does not happen to anyone else. This was hinted in all of the previous 4 but never explored like it is here Liam Neeson who in fact is pretty much responsible for making Batman while in fact proves to be quite the enemy of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. With a stellar cast which wasn't used in its marketing like some of the other ones pull off in each role. Michael Caine was amazing as Alfred and Morgon Freeman as Fox, who is always good in any film he is in added a lot to the film as well. Go see Batman Begins you will not be disappointed.
**** out of four
Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005)
Captures the "Order" side of things quite well
I have watched almost every episode of TBJ that has aired since it came on and I believe that has given me enough time to make a fair judgement on this show. I've liked it from the very first episode and one of the major reasons why I've liked it is because it focuses entirely on the order side of things. Now I know with a name Trial By Jury that is expected but it not only looks from the prosecutors point of view (which is all wee see on the other 3 L&O installments) but we also see it from the defence side of view too. Defence lawyers meeting with their clients, counseling them on their trials. It is very interesting. I give it 7/10 so far. It has held my interest and I look forward to seeing what else it can offer.