Cinderella Man – A Movie Review

When this film initially came out I thought it looked good, but it didn’t look good enough to spend my hard earned cash on.  I think this may have been the underlying problem when it came to this film’s promotion.  I now wish I’d trusted my instincts and gone to see this film on the big screen. 

Let me tell you this: If you decide to rent a movie soon, make it Cinderella Man.  I was blown away at the excellence of this film.  It’s the story of real life boxer James J. Braddock, a Depression era boxer who got a rare second chance at reaching the top of his profession.  James was a promising boxer in the late twenties, but when a string of losses occurred and the depression hit, he found he and his family living in a tiny apartment with no food and barely enough electricity.  But, James never gave up.  He kept his heart and his morals, and when his second chance came, he realized he wasn’t fighting for glory anymore, he was literally fighting for the milk his children so desperately needed to survive.  In his words, he now knew what he was fighting for.

Russell Crowe usually resembles something of a jerk in real life, but there is no denying this man is one of our greatest contemporary actors.  His Braddock is realistic and an everyman, and I dare all of you to resist cheering for him as he fights his way back to the top. 

Ron Howard, a man desperately underrated in my book, directs this film, and while it may not be well known amongst the masses of moviegoers, this film certainly deserves a best picture nomination, if not a win.

Renee Zellweger play Braddock’s wife, and she does an admirable job of it.  I had trouble buying her in this role, however.  She didn’t annoy me, but she just didn’t feel right.

Certainly the unsung hero of this film is Paul Giamatti who played Joe Gould, Braddock’s manager.  Like Braddock, he plays a man, a real man, and because he plays a real man with real ethics and loyalties, we can’t help but admire his heroicness.

The boxing scenes are realistic, not the sensationalized fair of Rocky, the tone of the Depression is spot on, and the acting and directing is superb.  This film will not disappoint.

The Illusionist – A Movie Review

Everything about this movie worked, and I am not exaggerating when I say that you should make it a priority to see it as soon as possible.

Ed Norton stars as an illusionist, a man who makes the seemingly impossible possible.  Jessica Biel is a duchess and childhood love interest who currently finds herself locked into an undesirable relationship with a crown prince.  When the two happen across one another during one of Norton’s shows, the real conflict of this story begins.  How can they get away from the murderous crown prince and start a life together? 

The always-superb Paul Giamatti plays the police inspector who is reluctantly the crown prince’s lackey and responsible for bringing down Ed Norton’s character after Norton makes the crown prince look like a fool in a variety of ways.

I believe Ed Norton to be one of the world’s most underrated actors and he truly shines in this film.  He exudes confidence and genius just millimeters below a humble and patient exterior, and even when his story seems to be at an all-time low, in the back of your mind you still have perfect faith that he will win out in the end.

Jessica Biel’s character, sadly, could have been played by anyone and while she is a true beauty, I don’t feel she brought anything original to the table.  Of course, when you’re playing opposite Norton and Giamatti, it’s hard to shine.  I do respect her decision to take part in such a potentially intimating film.  Thank goodness she’s moving way from films like Blade: Trinity and Stealth.

Speaking of Giamatti, he is beyond fantastic.  Like Norton, the audience senses so much of who his character truly is with his subtle facial expressions, sighs, and grunts.  Giamatti does his best acting without uttering a single line, and the scenes with both he and Norton together were a true joy to behold.

Set in Vienna around the time when the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, the film’s costumes and cinematography are mesmerizing and inspiring.  Some people feel the story has supernatural elements, but I believe Norton’s character was such a master illusionist that everything he did had a very scientific explanation, though some of you may be bothered by the fact that, like any good magician, his secrets remain largely unrevealed.  For me, the story became a bit predictable in the last third of the film, but I was more than able to cast that aside and simply enjoy a riveting and magical experience.

Next time you rent or buy a DVD, I suggest you put this one on the top of your list.