Cinderella Man

Ron Howard, an exemplar of honorable mediocrity, reunites with actor Russell Crowe and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman of A Beautiful Mind for this epic treatment of a seven-year stretch in the career of New Jersey boxer James J. Braddock. The story culminates in Braddock’s near miraculous defeat of Max Baer (Craig Bierko), which made Braddock world heavyweight champion, but despite the effective fight sequences, this is more about what it means to have your electricity shut off, enhanced by detailed re-creations of working-class misery during the Depression. Paul Giamatti is a particular standout as Braddock’s manager. Cliff Hollingsworth cowrote the screenplay; with Renee Zellweger, Paddy Considine, and Bruce McGill. PG-13, 144 min. (JR)

Published on 27 May 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Madagascar

A Dreamworks computer-animated feature (2005) about a lion (the voice of Ben Stiller), a zebra (Chris Rock), a hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and a giraffe (David Schwimmer) in a Manhattan zoo that get shipped to Africa, then find themselves unequipped for the wilds. Philosophical confusion abounds about the identity of both characters and places (apart from New York): the multiethnic beasts (including some hilarious penguins) oscillate between being kids and grown-ups, being animals and humans, while Madagascar itself veers from Africa to Hawaii and from nature to civilization. The music blithely bounces from New York, New York to Chariots of Fire to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World to the wind chimes from American Beauty. The whole thing feels throwaway, but some of the gags are funny. Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath directed. PG, 86 min. (JR)

Published on 27 May 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Getting To Know The Big Wide World

Kira Muratova’s flaky 1978 feature, said to be her favorite, also goes by the title Understanding Life, but as often happens with her movies, appreciation ultimately triumphs over understanding. A loosely plotted comedy about a romantic triangle, set in and around a rural wasteland, it alternates between silence and sound, stopping and starting, with the cheekiness of 60s Godard. The relative chaos of the construction-site location, like the ones in Alexander Dovzhenko’s Ivan and Aerograd, is what Muratova seems to like most about this. As usual with her movies, the actorsincluding regulars Nina Ruslanova and Sergei Popovare wonderful. In Russian with subtitles. 80 min. (JR)

Published on 27 May 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Mindhunters

Eight FBI trainees are sent to a deserted island by their bossy instructor, who wants to test their abilities as psychological profilers, but as they’re bumped off one by one, they begin to wonder who’s really calling the shots. Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin scripted this gory thriller-whodunit, whose premise is loosely derived from Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The plot twists are so preposterous that you can enjoy this only if you reject any relation to the real world, yet director Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger) is so adept at delivering this nonsense that you may find your task an easy one. With Eion Bailey, Clifton Collins Jr., Val Kilmer, Jonny Lee Miller, Christian Slater, LL Cool J, Patricia Velasquez, and Cassandra Bell. R, 106 min. (JR)

Published on 13 May 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Yellow Sky

William A. Wellman’s 1948 western, beautifully shot in Death Valley by Joe MacDonald, is gritty and ambitious, but the story, adapted by producer Lamar Trotti from a short story by W.R. Burnett, grows more conventional as it develops. A group of bank robbers fleeing the law (among them Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark, John Russell, and Harry Morgan) happen upon a ghost town where a prospector (James Barton) and his tough granddaughter (Anne Baxter) have been mining gold; some nearby Apaches serve to heighten all the tensions and conflicted loyalties. 98 min. (JR)

Published on 13 May 2005 in Featured Texts, by admin

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