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The Woodsman (2004)
It takes guts
I know this is a controversial subject and will most likely not earn Kevin Bacon - or at least the movie makers - any good points with a lot of people, but I urge people to keep an open mind.
Walter - Kevin Bacon - is released after 12 years in prison for child molestation. He is trying to get back on track when he meets Vickie - Kyra Sedgwick - who makes him feel a bit better about himself. The movie portrays Walter's struggle with his past, his crime and his new life.
The characters and the crime are not romanticized. The movie can even a bit abrasive as it drills down to the truth and shows you the things just as they are.
I think it takes guts to portray a controversial subject like this one and I certainly think it takes guts to play a role like Walter's. Excellent performances by Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and Mos Def.
Ladder 49 (2004)
I like to be surprised and I was with this movie. Jokingly and completely inaccurate I duped it Backdraft 911 based on the trailers I had seen in theaters before. My wife thought differently and I humored her.
I was so delighted to see a very realistic chronicle of a serious fire fighter in it not for the glory, but to make a difference in the world. Joaquin Phoenix is making a name for himself and he is becoming one of the great movie players of our time. Also a good bet: not the traditional and expected ending to this movie. Even I had to fight a tear.
Great job and thanks to all the players for making this a heart warming and real life drama!
Michael Mann does it again
Mesmerized by Heat, I was hoping for the same laden atmosphere in Collateral. I was not disappointed: Michael Mann did it again!
The story line is simple: a hit man comes to LA to off 5 witnesses to an important case. Tom Cruise is the callous hit man, Jamie Foxx the innocent cab driver who ends up sucked into this against his will.
The way Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx cary this movie is just unbelievable. It's intense and will leave you with a hole in your soul wanting for more. Don't miss it!
The Ladykillers (2004)
In one word: excellent. I have not seen the original and certainly plan to, but I think the movie deserves more credit, and a higher vote average. Tom Hanks plays his role excellent as the eloquent professor/band leader. And, I would say the Coen brothers just keep getting better and better.
For those of you who appreciate stories with funny twists, this is a must. For the erudites: please lay off! It's just a good movie with a good story, and I bet an excellent remake.
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Rewrite the Oscar list
And I just diligently put my list of Oscar favorites together...
This is an absolute gem of a movie with magnificent performances by Ben Kingsley (much underrated as far as I am concerned) and Jennifer Connelly. It is also a magnificent directorial debut by Vadim Perelman.
People should be forewarned that this is not a happy movie.
Jennifer Connelly loses the house left to her (and her absent brother) by her father on a technicality. Ben Kingsley, a former Persian colonel, and his family are trying to make living for themselves in the US. He takes possession of the house through an auction as a means to make money to put his son through college. With the help of a local deputy (Ron Eldard) Jennifer tries to get her house back.
From this moment on the lives of the main characters revolve around keeping the house or getting it back, culminating in a tragic climax.
Now, if you will excuse me. I have to rewrite my Oscar list...
A bone chilling performance by Charlize Theron who deserves nothing less than an Oscar for this one.
Charlize depicts the true life story of a Florida serial killer. Trying to leave the path of prostitution and booze, she struggles to make a life for herself and the love of her life - played by Christina Ricci.
It's a powerful movie that offers a lot of food for thought. Not light entertainment!
Cold Mountain (2003)
Better than expected
I have to admit: I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Half expecting to be disappointed, the performances of Jude Law and Renee Zellweger turn out to be Oscar material.
Although a bit lengthy and somewhat predictable, the movie focuses on the lives of the stars and their hardships trying to survive the Civil War. Although they just met before the war, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman are drawn to each other tremendously. After being wounded he deserts to be back in her arms.
I'm sorry to say that I think the role of Ada Monroe would have been better served if played by Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, but that's just my opinion.
The Human Stain (2003)
Heartwrenching, dramatic and so lifelike
Very dramatic life stories intertwined from 1940s to present with excellent acting by Anthony Hopkins. Two people - Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman - lead lives with terrible secrets only to unfold when they become lovers. Even though there is a big difference in age, they fall deeply in love and start to trust one another enough to share their secrets and defining moments. Gary Sinise plays Anthony Hopkins' friend and confidant; Ed Harris in a brilliant role as Nicole's ex-husband gone off the deep end. This is one for real movie lovers, not for the ones looking for entertainment.