Russell Crowe

American Gangster

Year: 2007
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson (article)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I thought I was wrong about this movie.  I had seen it in the theater and wasn’t overly impressed but assumed I had to have been distracted.  Nobody agreed with me and after so long I began to question my initial judgment.  When I started it for the second time I found that I wasn’t in the mood for it and it sat on our shelf unwatched until I came up with this brilliant idea for a 4th of July themed series of reviews.  I have now given it my best effort.  I literally put in headphones and watched this movie completely consumed.  I gave over 100% of the two most observant senses and gave the film my best effort, in the name of the 4th of July! However, while I can see why this movie appeals to others I just simply hate it.  I feel like it is the most over exaggerated film cashing in on the pretext of being based on a true story. While I can accept that it is a good film I just don’t think there is anything that distinguishes this movie from other gangster films.

I know that this film is based on a true story.  I am from the area Frank Lucas hails from and he was actually interviewed on local radio stations when this movie was coming out. I think it’s really cool to see a movie about a local guy that really hit it big in the seedy underground of New York but I don’t know about his portrayal in the film.  All I’m saying is that Frank Lucas was not the Godfather and this movie is just all wrong for me.  In so many ways it is just more of the same without anything to set it apart.  I am a huge fan of Russell Crowe and I like Ridley Scott as well.  I am not a Denzel Washington fan.  Yet I find with this movie I don’t like Russell Crowe and I actually think Denzel Washington turns in one of his finer performances.

Of course the character of Frank Lucas is the better part. He is part Godfather and part Robin Hood in this film.  Albeit this Robin Hood doesn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor. He offers herion at discounted rates, and this just messes up everything for everyone.  The real mobsters don’t have the same type of quality heroin and they can’t buy it for what Frank Lucas is selling it to the consumer for.  Boo Hoo and Blah Blah.  The mega rich criminals have been robbed of an opportunity to make even more money and they have to pick on the kind and generous Mr. Lucas, who is just trying to do right by everybody with his generous nature, and reasonable rates on HEROIN.  Gotta love the guy, this Frank Lucas is portrayed in a manner that is totally contradictory to his actions.  I do appreciate his sudden and savage violence but that is only there to wake the audience up during what is otherwise a dismal film.  I can’t stand the man with the noble nature who earns his fortune doing something so despicable.  If you are gonna do it that’s one thing, but if you are going to do it you need to be Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell and not the Don Corleone/Robin Hood we see in this film. No offense to Denzel, I think he was awesome in this part.  I just think the part was a little over the top and poorly written.

Russell Crowe is an actor that never ceases to amaze me, but I just can’t see it with this performance.  Granted he is great, he is a pro all the way and does his job well but I don’t think he does anything exceptional. To start with he plays the kind of character that nobody is going to like.  Who is going to pull for the straight laced cop among all the dirty ones when he is going after a criminal you are set up to pull for? If you want to make Serpico make Serpico, but don’t put so much of the focus in a film like this on him because it throws off the whole film.  I get that this is a story about both men but I think there would have been better angles to take that could have made a better film. You could cut half of Russell Crowe’s scenes and replace them something that builds up a different part of his character and achieved the same result.  There is undoubtedly more to the man than simply his honesty so let’s note his honesty and move on to more of what makes him character worthy. You have to admit a role is bad if Russell Crowe can’t even make something out of it but I’m sure plenty of people will argue the contrary point.

I love gangster movies and typically find something to like about all of them but I have failed to do so here.  I totally immersed myself in the film but cannot find myself wrong in my initial reaction to the film.  I don’t think it does anything at all to distinguish itself and I think it is one of Ridley Scott’s weakest films. Denzel did a great job but he can’t save what just isn’t any good.  I don’t know how accurate this movie is and truthfully I don’t think it matters.  There is too much to the story that we simply don’t see and all this film offers are exaggerated highlights to something that undoubtedly has more to offer. This film threw a bunch of big names on the screen and sold us on the pretext that it was based on a true story.  The key word in that, as always, is “based.” Sure there was a real Frank Lucas, I have heard him on the radio and know it for a fact, but I doubt this is an accurate representation of who the man really was and what he did.

I give this film two thumbs down and regret doubting myself enough to purchase it for the collection. If anybody I know personally is reading this feel free to text me if you want this copy.  I think the movie is so bad I will freely give it to whoever will take it off my hands.  In fact, if I don’t get that message I may just leave it on the curb with a note that says, “take me but watch at your own risk (your time will be wasted).”

Final note on the film: after writing all of this I did the most minimal of research to find that the movie is widely regarded as 99% false.  Basically there was a Frank Lucas and he did sell heroin but beyond that nearly everything you see in this film is false.  That only reinforces the hate I am developing for this film I wasted THREE viewings on.  I can’t bare to have a friend take this off my hands, if you happen to see a copy left on the street with a note on it then you may be looking at the very same one I am about to throw out.

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Les Miserables

Year: 2012
Directed By:  Tom Hooper
Written By: Victor Hugo (novel) William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, and Herbert Kretzmer (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW 

I think this is one of the greatest stories of all time, yet I have never actually read the book.  About 15 years ago it was our assignment during my sophomore year in English class.  I specifically remember utilizing the internet for the first time to read the Spark Notes for the novel.  What I found to be so interesting was how much I loved the story simply reading the synopsis.  I enjoyed it so much I actually earned the highest grades in the class on all the tests even though I hadn’t actually read it.  I was very vocal during discussions too because I had a lot to say about the story back then.  I think I was about 15 at the time and I thought I was so clever but despite being lazy and cheating on the assignment I still felt I learned something from it.  It’s a great story with powerful characters in it, I hope it is still required reading today and kids are putting more effort into it than I did despite what I may have learned or felt about it.

I did enjoy this story when I was in tenth grade but hadn’t revisited it in the years that passed before this movie came out and had forgotten most of it.  I had looked forward to this movie at first because the cast was shaping up to be significant but when I heard it was a musical I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I always tell people that there is no room for musicals in the movie industry these days and then something this great comes out and makes me look like an idiot.  What’s funny is it’s a mistake I continue to not learn from.  I should have learned my lesson when Chicago blew me away but I didn’t.  This movie too has made me take back a statement or two.  When we finally sat down to watch it I was really dreading it too; I couldn’t have been more surprised by how wrong I was.  This movie is incredible from beginning to end and every single one of the actors literally blows me away with the power of their performances.

Who knew Wolverine could sing? I literally had no idea and during that scene when he rips up his papers I was literally floored by the strength of his voice.  He put on a powerful performance all throughout the film but when he walks out of that house holding that note for what seems like forever my jaw dropped.  I hope he didn’t have to do too many takes for that scene because he looked on the verge of an aneurysm at a certain point.  I have liked Hugh Jackman since he first hit the scene playing Wolverine for the first of seven times, so far.  I have been a fan of most of the movies he has made and of course there is nobody out there that can bring one of the coolest Marvel characters to life like he does.  I think he did a great job as Jean Valjean and have a new found respect for an actor who already had plenty of my respect.

Surprising me even more than Jackman is Russell Crowe.  Seriously, who knew he was capable of this? I have said it many times now, but Russell Crowe always brings it.  Think he can’t do something? Don’t hold your breath because just when you count him out he is belting out these songs with a range that seems completely out of nowhere.  Javert is one of the coolest characters ever even though he is an antagonist in the story.  He is the enemy of Valjean but only because the two find themselves on other sides of the law.  Javert is noble and true to the point that he would rather die than dishonor himself.  I love that in the character, it’s an honesty worthy of respect and Crowe carries it on his face throughout the film.  Despite how much a dick Crowe is rumored to be in real life he pulls off noble and honest characters really well.  He didn’t get nominated for his role in this movie and I am surprised by that because so many were.

Anne Hathaway did win the Academy Award for her role and definitely deserved it. Her performance is so profound I nearly feel bad for all those things I said in our Havoc review.  She is too good and talented an actress to talk about so shamelessly. She is a rare actress who actually has the skills to match her flawless beauty.  I look forward to what else she can do as an actress; the sky is the limit for her.  I thought she would have a longer role in this film but that just goes to show how little I remembered about this story that had such an impact on me in my youth.  Sadly Fantine isn’t in the film for very long but the fact that she won the Oscar despite that is a testament to what she accomplished.

Amanda Seyfried is nice on the eyes but I didn’t think she was exceptional in the film, or maybe she was just drastically outshined by her peers.  Helena Bonham Carter is great in everything she does and this is no different.  She is seemingly ageless and bringing her talent to a wide range of films lately. I was a huge fan of Da Ali G Show and for a while thought Sacha Baron Cohen was a genius and probably one of the most incredible comedians out there.  Once the game was up and he couldn’t get away with his type of comedy anymore I lost interest.  He does a great job in this movie but I just haven’t been a big fan of him as an actor.  The rest of the cast is more or less unknown to me but I thought they all held up well and held their own next to these huge stars.

I am always pleased to be surprised by a movie and this one surprised me in many ways.  I went in with a bad attitude about watching a musical but found myself enthralled by the power of the film.  It captivated me immediately and by the end of the movie had earned my respect. I like the songs, I like the actors in the movie, and I think the story is incredible.  Hands down this movie earned its keep in our collection and I think it is without doubt worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is truly incredible. The way the music carries you through the entire film, but isn’t confusing at all is a work of genius. I don’t even know how they were able to sing an entire movie and I was able to keep up and understand. And the immense talent that this film has in it is remarkable. Anne Hathaway blew me away. I just think she is the bee’s knees when it comes to acting. She started in the silly little film about becoming a princess and here she is lighting it up on the big screen singing across from Hugh Jackman. She completely impressed me as well as the entire cast. This film is an amazing adaptation and it is well worth anyone’s time, even if you aren’t the biggest musical fan.

Cosette-Official-Movie-Poster-les-miserables-2012-movie-32280133-864-1280

I love this poster. The coloring is spot on for the mood of this movie. And this girl is almost the reason for hope. The hope to be something better and to live a better life where you can dream to be better. Her eyes are stark and draw you in. I love the proportions. She is a little off center to the right and her hair goes to the opposite direction. This creates a dramatic view of movement. The typography is great and almost has a bit of passion to it. I love this poster. I think the designers did an incredible job.

NEXT MOVIE: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Man of Steel

Amber and I had the opportunity to get out to the movie theater today for the first time all summer.  We haven’t had the chance to see many summer blockbusters yet but this weekend this movie was an easy choice.  I’m not going to go too far into it right now other than to tell you that it was worth it and it was awesome. Of course it was right? Warner Brothers knew what they were doing when they put Christopher Nolan in charge and when this is all said and done I think it will have paid off handsomely

I expected this movie to be good. I have the utmost respect for Christopher Nolan and David Goyer both, I think Zack Snyder is an OK director but regardless what I think his future is a lot brighter now. I think you can clearly see Nolan’s influence in this film and that is a great thing.  Henry Cavill impressed me, Kevin Costner impressed me, and Christopher Meloni really impressed me.  I thought Michael Shannon was every bit as good as I expected and of course Russell Crowe always brings it, he brought a lot to this film.  Amy Adams was OK, Laurence Fishburne has gained a lot of weight, and it’s a sad and unfortunate reality that Diane Lane has aged enough to play the role she had in this movie(she is still a gorgeous woman and she was great in the movie but I will miss her youth). I have never seen Antje Traue in anything else, but as Faora she was a complete and utter badass.  Now this isn’t enough about any of these people.  They all deserve more here but all that will come in time. I am already reserving a spot on the movie rack for this movie and can’t wait to see it again and give it a better review.

A lot hinges on the success of this movie.  More or less this movie represents the future of films about DC Comic characters.  Warner Brothers owns the rights to these people and they have got to be interested in one-upping Disney and what they did with The Avengers.  This movie is the first step in what will ultimately be a goal of making an equally successful Justice League movie.  Along the way we should see films about The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the inevitable next Batman reboot. These movies will be on a new platform and set up to all tie together, or at least that should be what is done.  In the end we will hopefully see something really incredible in Warner Brothers answer to The Avengers. This was an awesome movie and a nice step in the right direction.  If you are on the fence about it at all let me erase any doubts you have and please share your own thoughts on the film.  I will give it a much deeper review when we buy it, until then let me insist that this is a movie worth seeing in the theater and encourage you to get out there and see it for yourself.

L.A. Confidential

Year: 1997
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Written By: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I consider this to be one of the best movies I have ever seen.  It is a perfect movie and that puts it in an upper echelon with only a few others.  I see this movie in the same light as The Godfather, Casablanca, or Full Metal Jacket. Movies this good suck you in and make you part of their world.  They leave an impression on you and every time you see them they get better.  This movie is a hit on all levels and it blows me away every single time I see it. I think our timing to reach this movie in the collection is awesome because coincidentally we watched Gangster Squad last night.  That movie has a very similar story line to this one and watching them back to back has given us the opportunity to accurately contrast the two. Gangster Squad wasn’t that great and specifically once put up next to this one it seems like a horrible movie. It wasn’t a horrible movie, it just simply doesn’t compare to this one in any way, shape, or form.

This movie takes place in such an interesting time and place for our country.  Having grown up and spent my entire life on the east coast I have always had a fascination with the wild wild west.  Things were always done a bit differently out there as the rest of the country and authority slowly made their way over through expansion and development.  The West might be different altogether but there is specifically something different and unique about Los Angeles, and the whole Hollywood world.  Right and wrong are different there; it’s a world influenced by corruption, glamour, and greed.  It is influenced by the people that built it and to understand that you have to understand the people that built it.  The men who built the west were men who decided to go for a hundred different reasons.  They went for opportunity, they went to build a new life, and they went for the promise of work, gold, oil, and even fame. They came from all over the country and from a large variety of backgrounds.  They built something out there and the minute others started to notice what they had done they began looking for ways to move in and take advantage of the opportunities now available there.  Well like I said, things are different in the west.  Why let mobsters move into town and run the rackets when the local authorities can simply make all that money themselves? I know that this movie is based in truth but admittedly don’t know enough about the accuracy of it.  Nevertheless it is an awesome story and one that really does garner some more research on my part, eventually.

Curtis Hanson really hasn’t made that many movies that I found impressive but his name always immediately grab my attention.  No matter what else he has done, he was the guy that made this movie and doesn’t that say everything you need to know about him? His camera work and storytelling are so incredible in this movie.  I have always admired how he leads you through the crime scene at the Night Owl and you take everything in together with Detective Exley as he investigates the crime scene.  I love what he does with these three diverse and different police officers and how he manages to make us emotionally invested in all three of them. I love the arc each one of them has as a character and I love the men who were chose to play the parts.  I think the story in this movie is fantastic.  It’s so satisfyingly violent and intelligent at the same time with a little bit of sex and scandal thrown in for good measure.  It is a story that never fails to captivate and hold my attention.  The only other movie I really liked from Hanson was 8 Mile, and that is liked only from an admitted biased opinion based on being a fan of Eminem. Like I said though, it doesn’t matter what else Curtis Hanson has done.  He did this, and that gives him credibility for a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.

When discussing the cast I want to start with Guy Pearce as Detective Exley. Not because I think he was the best, in fact I really don’t like him at all, but his performance is seriously one of the best I have ever seen.  Detective Exley isn’t a likable character and you immediately begin to despise him. As the movie progresses you can’t help but feel differently and the more you watch the more you begin to like Exley.  Pearce plays the part so well and I am literally shocked to find myself so impressed with it every time I see it. He is such a little weasel till he interrogates the Night Owl suspects.  He is such a badass in that scene he doesn’t just deserve but practically comes through the screen and demands your respect by force.  Once he establishes himself as a badass he just continues to keep it up for the whole movie.  Whether he is shooting all of the bad guys, throwing caution to the wind to do what is right, sleeping with his rival’s girlfriend, or manipulating a massacre to his own advantage he is doing it all as a badass.  I love the respect he develops for his rival Bud White and the ass whooping he accepts when he knows he has wronged him.  I have never seen another movie where I saw what Guy Pearce did and thought “wow, he really did a great job in that movie.” I simply don’t like the guy and think he brings nothing to the table.  I can’t deny him this role though; he should have been nominated for it and taken the award home with him.  If he ever showed up for work and really brought it, it was on the set of this movie.

While I am incredibly impressed by the part played by Pearce my favorite is the most popular part played in this movie, by Russell Crowe.  This was Russell Crowe’s first major American role and it set the tone for his entire career.  He has been one of the best leading men of the last fifteen years because he is an outstanding actor. In this movie he burst onto the scene with aggression and brutality.  He plays the tough guy that is underestimated by everybody and proves to be much more than meets the eye.  As the movie progresses we see that he has the intelligence and detective skills to match his brutality.  The character then goes even deeper as we learn about his past and see his softer side when he is with Lynn Bracken.  When he confronts her after finding out about her and Exley you can feel his pain as his anger gets the best of him.  Another scene in which you feel his anger is that of the interrogation scene when Exley shines.  That scene showed us two things, one being that Exley was way more badass than we thought, the other being that Bud White is every bit the badass we think he is and more. This is one of Crowe’s finest roles and I think he also should have been nominated for the part.

I am and always have been a huge fan of Kevin Spacey.  The character of Lester Burnham he would play a couple of years later taught me quite a bit about life.  I do not know what has happened to him these days though.  He is an incredible and academy award winning actor who has simply fallen off the map for some reason.  The last thing I saw him in was Horrible Bosses and it wasn’t one of his finest roles.  As Jack Vincennes he is the sleazy cop that suddenly finds purpose in himself again.  He has been dirty for so long he forgot about all the right reasons he joined the force for in the first place.  As he begins to realize those things he starts to discover the skills that got him to the top and he uses them to do the right thing.  Until doing the right thing gets him killed that is.  That’s how it happens for the bad guy that decides to do good though, it’s an irony that is worth dying for to make that character a martyr. Vincennes became a martyr and a hero with his dying breathe by finding out the cleverest way to warn Exley. All past digressions forgiven, he died a hero and might have ended up with his name plastered somewhere in the city of Los Angeles. I don’t know what has been up with Kevin Spacey but I will always have my eye on what he is doing because within him are more performances of this caliber, I know it.

The rest of the cast was just as stellar and on point as the three most important I have already discussed.  James Cromwell is a fantastic actor and can play any part in any movie.  He can do it all pretty good but it turns out he can pull off mastermind villain pretty well as we see in this film. David Strathairn plays one of his best roles as Pierce Patchett. I have always liked Strathairn; he carries an air of dignity with him that makes him great for roles like this.  I am a big fan of Danny DeVito and like what he brought to the movie as well.  I have mentioned many times that I don’t like where his career has now led him but I think for the majority of his time in the business he has been very successful.

Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for this movie and was the only one to win the award for any of the performances in the movie.  I don’t understand that and practically consider it a crime.  I think she did a good enough job as Lynn Bracken but I don’t know how her performance warranted that kind of reward when some of the others weren’t even nominated. This movie was without a doubt her greatest performance as an actress but I don’t think she had much competition from her other roles.  Basinger is one of those women who made her career on her looks and not her talent and truthfully she has just never done it for me.

I honestly believe this movie is better each and every time I watch it.  As I already said I think this is a perfect movie and the fact that it seems better every time I watch it only reinforces that opinion.  As for Gangster Squad, it just didn’t have the raw and real element that this one had.  I knew things were going to be like that when we first met Josh Brolin’s character and he “Jack Bauer-ed” a room full of armed men. It’s just a bit too over the top and unrealistic.  When Bud White got angry he whooped ass on anybody within reach but not even he would have assaulted a crime base single handedly and walked out all hunky dory.  I think Sean Penn played an exceptional part as Mickey Cohen but even he was a bit over the top and exaggerated for effect. Gangster Squad is a film for the amateur movie fan but this movie is for those of us who really appreciate the art of film making.

This is a flawless movie and is without doubt worth your time.  It isn’t a movie that gets a lot of replay on TV and it isn’t brought up on a regular basis these days.  That is a crime.  This movie deserves its own three night weekend on AMC like The Godfather gets.  It’s that good of a movie and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you seek it out and take the time to watch it.  Incredible film that will always be one of my favorites.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan loves this movie and wrote a ton so in true Amber fashion, I will keep it short. This is a great crime movie. It captures your attention and keeps it throughout. The actors are perfect for their roles and do such a great job. It’s a really good flick that is definitely worth watching.

LAconfidential

Oh no. Another poster where they are trying to fit in way too many characters. This is not very successful either. Don’t miss the faded out guy right beside the word confidential. They also cut off Basinger’s head at the top with a solid black bar for the names. Bad call. The best thing about this poster is the marketing/advertising ploy behind the whole thing. Who is the target audience for this movie? Men. What do [some] men love? Boobies. That’s all any man really needed to see to want to see this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Lady in the Water (2006)

Gladiator

Year: 2000
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: David Franzoni, John Logan, Willian Nicholson

RYAN’S REVIEW

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” I’ve always thought that quote was incredible and it set the tone for this movie. This movie blew everybody away in 2000 and won all the awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe. I was in high school at the time and it set quite an impression on me. It immediately became my favorite epic film of the “swords and sandals” genre as I have heard it described.  It had that effect on nearly everyone, it is a powerful movie. It’s about powerand revenge, and like all good “swords and sandals” movies it’s about courage and honor.

This movie made Russell Crowe a superstar, he had been on the rise for some time but this was what put him over the top.  I think he has made many great movies since but in my opinion this was his peak as an actor.  He might have made many great films since but none so great as this.  As Maximus he commanded respect on and off the screen.  I think people started to think that he was the great and noble character that he played in the film.  I remember when he started beating people up in the real world it was such a shocker, but I happened to think that worked well for him as it encouraged me to see his upcoming film Cinderella Man. With this film Crowe used up the last of his youth, I have always felt he looked so much older since.  I can say that he got the most out of it though, he gave a great performance that was due all the credit it got.  Crowe has worked many more times with Ridley Scott but they haven’t been able to match what they did with this movie, although they have made some good films since.

As great as Crowe was in this movie I have always thought Joaquin Phoenix brought just as much to the movie. He was terrific as Commodus and despite all his problems he is a great actor.  I am always afraid that there will suddenly be breaking news that he has died just as his brother River Phoenix did.  Phoenix obviously has had serious problems with drugs, but he has always managed to keep it together for his movie roles.  I think he thrives playing really complex characters and this film is no different.  Commodus is a child in a man’s body, a little boy that desperately wanted his father’s approval and failed to achieve it.  He is angry and cruel, he is weak but unpredictable in a way that makes him very dangerous.  He has the power and nothing is scarier than power wielded by someone like Commodus. Phoenix lost the Academy Award to Benicio Del Toro for his role in TrafficI have always thought that was a load of crap, the award should have went to Phoenix, he deserved it.  I like Del Toro but you can barely understand anything he says and I have always thought Traffic was overrated.

This film is not even remotely historically accurate but I don’t think that matters, it doesn’t in any way claim to be based on fact.  There was a real Marcus Aurelius and a real Commodus but none of this happened the way we see it in the movie, or at all. Richard Harris did a great job playing Aurelius.  He has a noble aura about him that makes him great for roles like this.  I think the Harry Potter films really suffered when he died, he was great as Dumbledore and left big shoes to fill.  Djimon Hounsou was great as Juba.  I thought bigger things were ahead of him when I saw him in this film but he hasn’t lived up to my initial expectations.  Connie Nielsen looked the part and performed admirably as the lone female role in the movie.  Oliver Reed also played an exceptional part in the role of Proximo.

This is a great movie and it will always be important to me for the lessons it taught me as a teen.  Russell Crowe’s character of Maximus sets a good example for all young men.  He is heroic and brave, he does what is right instead of simply what he is told, and he perseveres when things get difficult. Those are qualities that we should all study and take something away from.  This kind of epic movie is the type that always appeals to me so I fit nicely into the target audience.  If you like these types of movies then this is definitely worth your time, and if it isn’t your type it would still be worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Some movies really speak to people and some movies don’t. This movie speaks to Ryan. I cannot say the same. I have tried to watch this movie so many times and every single time I get bored and stop paying attention. This is yet another movie that I don’t like that makes people look at me and say, “Really?” I don’t know anyone else that doesn’t like this movie, so I know that I am the odd ball out.

The scenery looks amazing and so does Russell Crowe, but like I said, I get bored every time. The movie poster for this movie is actually quite nice, however. There is a lot of symbolism. Notice how he is large compared to The Colosseum. They are trying to portray this idea that even The Colosseum doesn’t amount to this Gladiator’s glory. He is larger than life and can’t be stopped. The costume is perfect, the color is great and the typography of  “Gladiator” is a nice serif font with an ever prevalent movie style texture to the font, which stands there just as boldly as The Gladiator himself.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather (1972) 

Cinderella Man

Year: 2005
Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Cliff Hollingsworth

RYAN’S REVIEW

I distinctly remember having no interest in seeing this movie when it came out back in 05, but I saw it in the theater despite that.  I went to the movies with my brother and it was his suggestion. I only agreed on this one because Russell Crowe had recently got in trouble for beating someone up. I don’t remember what the circumstances of what he was in trouble for were but it was for beating someone up for something.  I remember liking the idea of a guy in the news for beating people up having a big budget movie where he was a boxer in theaters.  Thinking back to it now I find myself wondering if that was indeed a coincidence or an interesting plan for publicity.

There are more movies made about boxing than any other sport and not all of them were made by Sylvester Stallone.  Men who dedicate their lives to fighting often find themselves in interesting situations in life.  The lives they live can be so dramatic yet so inspiring, either way their lives are often story worthy.  It takes a special type of person to choose a life of fighting, of hurting and getting hurt. Those people are fascinating and we all love the opportunity to observe them from a distance, and to cheer for them when they are punching the shit out of the other guy. James J. Braddock was one of these interesting men and he lived not only an interesting life but through a very interesting time in our country’s history that we should all remember and learn from, The Great Depression.  Braddock was an inspiring fighter during a time when many people were in serious need of inspiration. This movie does a really good job of capturing the desperation of the Great Depression without going too far and becoming overly sappy.  Times were harder than most of us can imagine today and it took a hard person to survive it.

I always love a movie that surprises me and this one definitely did.  I am a fan of both Russell Crowe and Ron Howard but didn’t really like their earlier collaboration with A Beautiful Mind so my expectations for this one were low.  This movie proved to me that they both still had a lot to offer in their careers.  I think this is just one of many fantastic movies from Russell Crowe, he seems to get better with age too. He apparently took quite the beating during the making of this film and sustained several injuries on set.  I was raised in North Carolina not all that far from Mt. Airy, in fact I have to go there for work often and pass right through old Mayberry.  I grew up watching Opie Talyor, then Richie Cunningham, and then the fantastic movies made by Ron Howard.  Howard is an interesting person because he has spent his whole life in the business.  There is a lot of talk about what stardom can do to children with the problems of so many celebrities but Ron Howard has only gotten more successful as time went on.  Ron Howard did a great job with this movie by really capturing the struggles on all levels of society during the Depression, and the boxing matches were wicked.

The rest of the cast to this film was great as well.  Renee Zellweger is such a fantastic actress, and she brings a lot to the film as Braddock’s wife.  The film industry chooses beauty over talent far too often and we don’t have enough actresses like Zellweger because of it.  I think Paul Giamatti falls into the same category oddly enough, he has had to work really hard to get where he is, and it is his talent that got him there. He brings a lot of emotion to this film in a seemingly effortless fashion and it is his performance that helps captivate us with the Braddock character.

As in all boxing movies you need a loud mouth opponent to hate.  Hating the other guy makes us fall in love with our hero even more.  In this film that opponent is a former real life heavyweight champion Max Baer and the film may have taken some liberties with the character to fit him in the mold of the bad guy.  Max Baer is actually the father of Max Baer Jr. who played Jethro on the original The Beverly Hillbillies, and needless to say he and the Baer family weren’t thrilled with the portrayal of their patriarch. He was portrayed as a brutal man who wanted to hurt men more than beat them, a rude and despicable man.  Craig Bierko played the part well whether it was an accurate portrayal or not.  This movie may be “based on a true story” but that doesn’t make everything in it true, and we as viewers must always understand that.

I think I have rambled on about this movie enough now but I hope you give it a shot if you haven’t seen it.  It’s got a great and inspiring story, great performances, and was made by a grade A professional in Ron Howard.  Historical accuracy not withstanding there is still plenty to learn about our own nation’s history with this film.  The poverty on all social levels was true, the homeless taking up residence in a shanty towns they named Hooverville, after President Hoover, was true, and James J. Braddock really was a nobody who managed to beat the world heavyweight champion and inspire the masses during tough times. All that makes for something worth seeing, this movie is definitely worth your time.

One final note about Ron Howard.  I mentioned his early work on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, but failed to mention some of his more recent work in television, Arrested Development. It is probably one of my all-time favorite comedies and it did not last long enough.  It was an intelligent comedy that people weren’t ready for and it didn’t get the ratings it deserved. With the lack of ratings it only made it three seasons before being shut down by FOX. If you have never seen it then you should go out of your way to buy it and watch every episode multiple times.  If you have seen it then I have fantastic news for you.  The show is reuniting for six episodes that will be aired on the internet via Netflix.  It’s awesome because we get more of the hilarious Bluth family, and interesting because it is being offered the show via internet only.  This signals big changes in the industry that will also eventually affect how we receive all viewing media.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Wow, Ryan wrote a book. First of all let me just say that I can’t stand Russell Crowe. I am the only person that I know that doesn’t like him. I also hate movies about boxing and wrestling. I never want to watch them and I dread it when a new one comes out because I just know Ryan is going to make me watch it. However, this movie is more than worth your time. It is the classic cliché boxing movie, but it is so worth you time for the uplifting power that it has. It will take the problems in your life and make them seem like little details in your life.  I also love the fact that it is set during the Great Depression. Sometimes, in America, especially right now, we think we have it so hard, but in reality we just have no idea. Nothing really compares to being that poor. This movie is heart-felt and well worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Clash of the Titans (1981)