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million dollar baby

Million Dollar Baby stars Hilary Swank, who should win an Oscar for her portrayal of a novice 30 year old boxer with nowhere to go but down for the count (or, alternately, rocket to pugilistic stardom). Director Clint Eastwood stars as the trainer who refuses to work with girls. He will, of course. Co-starring Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby is a hard core drama that ranks with the finest of the year. A tough sit, but a good sit for those who want nothing but good acting and drama. [we know that's a couple of y'all out there <g>]. Kids expecting a female Rocky will be bored silly.

hotel rwanda

Hotel Rwanda stars Don Cheadle as manager of an African four star hotel in a country beset by tribal civil war. That means atrocities every- where you look. Nick Nolte appears as a UN Forces commander but, as you cynics can guess, his idea of saving the day isn't the same as the Manager's. Hotel Rwanda is violent and shocking; it is as uplifting as it is hard core drama. One of the best "art house" oriented films we've seen this year. Djimon Hounsou and Joaquin Phoenix costar.

Highly recommended

For everyone not in a Top Ten market, multiple Oscar nominee Sideways stars Paul Giamatti (who didn't get a nomination) and Thomas Hayden Church (who did) as two pals on a road trip into California wine country prior to the latter's wedding. Add ladies Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen (the latter also nominated) to the mix and you've got one of the top indieflicks of the year -- at least it's getting all the awards it can carry home. Try and figure out why the Academy gave short shrift to Giamatti. We can't.

aviator

The Aviator stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in the days when quirky wasn't the equivalent of off the wall whacko. Cate Blanchett co-stars as girlfriend Katharine Hepburn. Directed by Martin Scorsese it is another addition to our best film of the year list. At a shade under three hours it only feels like two and, for those who haven't trusted us on this since Gangs of New York, our femme friend shares your pain and even she says to go. This will take most of the Oscars, come Sunday.

Highly recommended

Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou stars Bill Murray as a Jacques Cousteau-like deep sea explorer whose best friend is eaten by a shark. Murray's character vows revenge.

That's it. There's nothing more in the way of story or plot or character development (which also wastes co-stars Cate Blanchett and Angelica Huston) in a total waste of time that has even less to offer than last year's Oscar nom Lost in Translation -- y'all know if you should spend your money on this loser, based on your reaction to that flick. One day Bill Murray's fanbase will make enough noise to get him the Oscar nomination that he deserves. We wish they'd do it for a film that deserves the nod.

A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby Long stars Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta and Gabriel Macht. Johansson's character heads home for the first time in ten years, following her mom's death. There she finds two drunks -- Travolta as an ex-professor and Macht as a student determined to write a book about his prof's life. From there on out it's all Travolta doing his best to show his chops and get an Oscar nomination. The story isn't interesting. Neither are the characters or the performances.

Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is impressively directed by Joel Schumacher (he always does manage lovely pictures) but if Andrew Lloyd Webber's score leaves you flat -- in our case it bores the stuffing out of us -- this Phantom is a tiresome run of pretty pictures. But that's just us.

Better we should say that our femme friend adored the thing and leave it as a dateflick reco. That is the definition of our $5 dateflick rating after all, a movie which will thrill one end of the date and stupefy the other.

Assassination of Richard Nixon

The Assassination of Richard Nixon stars Sean Penn in a based on real life story of a miserable businessman who, back in 1974, got it into his head that all his woes would disappear if only the country weren't run by Richard Nixon. How he decides to do it should ring a bell with anyone who remembers 9/11. Yeah, the one 25+ years on. As much as it is Penn's try for Oscar nomination, this is a better balanced film than the two described to the right. Those who live for the arthouse, which this week seems to include all the posters on the IMDB, will walk out drooling over Penn's performance. Wait 'til March and see if he gets nominated. Then rent. Either way you'll thank us for saving you money.

Beyond the Sea

Beyond thes Sea stars Kevin Spacey as the late singer, and star of the pre-Beatles time Bobby Darin with Kate Bosworth as his wife, movie star Sandra Dee. Yes, the same Dee dissed in the musical Grease. Those fans who grew up with Darin first hand, like Cranky's mom, will enjoy this greatly. Spacey is way too old to be playing the lead role, though his singing is fine, and the life story is not all that interesting to those raised on rock 'n' roll.

Closer is a Mike Nichols film with A-listers Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen as a pair of couples whose lives go to pot when a wee bit of amorous dalliance gets in the way. We actually sat for this thing twice for the simple reason that we didn't believe such a cast and helmer could turn out such a piece of crap. Our first reaction was correct. Avoid this film unless you prefer arthouse fare that sets y'all up with light comedy and drops the hammer with extreme unpleasant stuff and a ton of four letter words in the back half.

Spanglish

Spanglish is the new Téa Leoni dramedy (drama and comedy) about an illegal Mexican immigrant (Paz Vega) and the self absorbed mistress of the house ( Leoni) she will come to serve. From James L Brooks, who never wrote a teevee sitcom that didn't make us laugh nor a film that made us want to stay -- yeah, we know all about all the Oscars won by As Good As It Gets. This time out Brooks managed to hit all our negative buttons inside of the first five minutes of film.

Oh. Wait. You thought it was a new Adam Sandler comedy? It's a Ha Ha Ha Ha-free flick. Sorry.

White Noise

White Noise used to be found on TV screens late at night when local stations sent out an unmodulated carrier wave after signing off for the night. With cable and 24 hour local stations we don't have this in most of the USA anymore, thus this worst of the year tale of a dead wife communicating via the electronic ether, dreamed up by Brits who still have plenty of noise. Michael Keaton and Chandra West are the happy loving couple unhappily separated early on in the film. A man (Ian McNiece) appears to say he is receiving personal messages from beyond the grave (he's doing the same for Deborah Kara Unger) but the script and production are so second rate it is too painful to describe let alone sit through. Avoid.

 

 


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