Invictus

Going to see Invictus made me realize that the onslaught of  big Oscar players had begun. Know this upfront, I am a big Clint Eastwood fan and in general consider his work absolutely great. Of course how can you not with a track record of Mystic River, Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, and last years Gran Torino just to name a few.

This film begins just as eventual South African President Nelson Mandela is elected. The first portion of the movie deals with the taking of office and setting the stage explaining and understanding the problems of South Africa. The Nations Rugby team isn’t playing all that well, and viewed by the nations black population as a sign of apartheid. So literally the home team was being booed every time out. Mandela decides to use the Rugby team and it’s entrance into the world cup to begin to heal the racial hatred that exists in his country, and everything culminates in the finals match against an unbeatable New Zealand team.

Well, what was my take on the movie? Well, let me say, this is a very entertaining film, and I was never bored with it, but to my disappointment I can’t say that I think this is a Best Picture caliber film. It almost seemed that there was a struggle of what type of film this was, whether it is a political film or an inspiring sports film. With not having a true direction, neither sports or political story were told in enough detail or depth. At times I was wanting more from the political side, but during the second half when the Springbok Rugby team was in the forefront, I felt like I had missed out on character development and the sport of rugby. The only character that was developed at all, was of course the Matt Damon (Bourne Supremacy, Good Will Hunting) Francois Pienaar. I am a big sports fan and know some basic rules about rugby, but when it came to the final match against New Zealand, I wanted to know more details about how the game is played, and extra character development would have helped in in caring and cheering for them that much more in the end. I really wanted Best Picture material from this film and it didn’t quite get that high.

As far as performances, Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). Of course he does a good job playing the character and does everything necessary for the film, but having such high standards for him, this isn’t the best performance by him. Matt Damon also, is adequate for the role, but doesn’t really bring much to the table. Don’t get me wrong, they are not terrible at all, just nothing that si jumping off the screen screaming Oscar.

I normally wouldn’t make to much of a comment about music unless it moved me one way or another. I think Mr. Eastwood as a director should keep more of an open mind when it comes to the score of a film, and realize that his Malpaso piano “interludes” and solo horns don’t work for every film or in the same way it worked for Unforgiven and Gran Torino. You would think that a film about South Africa, you wouldn’t have music that was poignant and soft. Although there were poignant and touching spots in the film, overall I don’t think his music worked well at all. The only point where you hear anything bold was when the Springbok team goes for the 6am run. I definitely would have prefered a soundtrack a bit more primal or native sounding.

Ok, back on a good note. Would I recommend this film to friends, yes, absolutely. It really is an enjoyable film, especially the last 45 minutes when the main focus seems to shift from politics to the Springbok rugby team. It is a feel good, uplifting film that can be enjoyed by all.

The Black Dahlia

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Just like my last review, Burn After Reading, I was giving this film a second chance. I will say the result didn’t change much from what I thought of it in the theatre. Since it was directed by Brian De Palma (Mission Impossible), I expected so much more. The theatrical trailer for this movie was so misleading. The trailer really sells the Black Dahlia murder, and the film really doesn’t focus on that at all. The focus of the film seems to center around the two cops that were at the crime scene, Josh Hartnet (Pearl Harbor) and Aaron Eckart (Thank You for Smoking) and their relationship with Scarlett Johanson (The Other Boleyn Girl). Before any murder even takes place, the story seems to be more worried about creating a boxing rivalry between Eckhart and Hartnet.

As far as the cast, there are a lot of big names in this film and none of them seem to deliver. Josh Hartnet seems to look as disgusted during the film as I was watching the film…FOR A SECOND TIME! I even thought the saving grace for me might be Scarlett Johanson, just because she is in it (Just as Daniel Craig and Adrien Brody are my better half’s saving graces), but she seemed to just be in the frame reading lines. And then there is Hilary Swank (Best Actress Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry), what was she thinking? She does ad some interest during the family dinner scene, but from nothing she did other than the fact that she took Hartnet over to her house for dinner where her mother and father seem to go a bit ballistic.

If this film had a title of  Boxing Cops or LA Crime, I might have been more forgiving about this film going all over the place, in every direction except the way it should have gone. Being billed as a murder mystery, I was starving for information about the crime and details. The Black Dahlia has so much creepiness about it, and is such a bizarre macabre murder, you don’t have to tell all of the side stories. The film was titled The Black Dahlia, and to see less than a story of the Black Dahlia murder is highly disappointing.

Nurse Betty

Nurse Betty

Nurse Betty is an above average film that has a very dark tone with it’s humor but still sophisticated if you want to think about it. There are a few scenes in the movie, especially the scene with Betty’s husband, Del, that turns very violent, but there are some wonderful lines of dialog that come from it. Of course this is how the movie gets its start with Betty and a traumatic event, that throw her into shock where she believes she is a character in her favorite soap opera. And the quest is on to find her soap opera love, David Ravell, played by Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets).

Renne Zellweger (Best Supporting actress Cold Mountain) gives her standard performance with basically playing a similar role to Bridget Jones. She does have some wonderful scenes late in the film with Greg Kinnear when they encounter each other and she is convinced he is her reality, the surgeon from Loma Vista, the soap’s hospital. Both Greg Kinnear and Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby) are good in their roles, but the scene stealer throughout this movie is Chris Rock…something I thought I would never thought I would say. He has a very quick tongue and is very witty in his comments and conversations with Morgan Freeman.

Overall, this isn’t a movie that was made for awards and nominations, but a dark comedy that delivers. To me I don’t have to have movies that need to be discussed philosophically to no end, I just want to have fun and be entertained sometimes. Seeing this movie, I was entertained.