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April 28, 2011

Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart was released in 2009 and Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award for it in 2010. Crazy Heart tells the story of Bad Blake, an aging country music artist who struggles with alcoholism. It is an emotional story and Jeff Bridges gives an amazing performance. But I can see why it was not nominated for best picture. The story is interesting and relatable, but I think it could have been much more emotional. Most of it was not dramatic or intense, but rather almost apathetic. It's a great movie! But Jeff Bridges' acting outshines the story, other actors, and directing. I can see some people feeling this film is almost boring. It is not very fast paced and lacks the ups and downs that we generally see in films.

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April 25, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is the story of a veterinary student who leaves school to join the circus after his parents are killed. He bonds with the ringmaster's wife over their mutual love for animals and becomes part of one of the most well-known circus debacles in history. This is based on a best-selling novel, which usually is a recipe for success; however, I was concerned that the casting and uniqueness of this story might make the on screen representation weaker than the novel. Much to my surprise, the acting is impressive and the creation of this unusual world is very creatively presented.

First, Robert Pattinson plays the lead character, the former veterinary student. I was very skeptical, because Pattinson's most well-known role has been in the Twilight series. While I love this series, it does not increase his credibility as a quality actor. Contrary to my expectations, his acting was deep, believable, and perfect for this role. His character is a shy, young man who has fallen into the circus world after a tragedy in his life. Pattinson perfectly creates a reserved and educated man, who is also torn and passionate. My other concern was the on-screen relationship between Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. These two seem to be in a different generations of actors that would make a romance unnatural or unrealistic. I was pleasantly surprised that their on-screen chemistry was very good. Their relationship and flirtations were believable, but the intimate scene between the two was a little uncomfortable, for me at least.

This story is set in the 1930s and follows the life of a circus crew. This is a very unique world, that was seen as luxurious and fabulous during this time. I was a little concerned that this world would not be created as well on screen as it can be created in the individual minds of readers. Again my expectations were put to shame by the realistic and imaginative representation of this film. The world of luxury and excitement was created perfectly, while still incorporating the darkness and hard work that was also part of this world. The lead character is able to experience and move back and forth between these two aspects of the circus life. This unusual life is portrayed with no cheesiness or artificial feelings. 

This film had the potential to be very successful, because of the creativity of the novel. This potential was met despite all of my skepticism. The acting is impressive and very well cast. This unique story was brought to life in a creative and realistic manner. While this film is very much geared towards women, it can be a pleasant surprise to most audience members. It makes you apart of a world that is completely different and unknown to us today. If you are looking for a whimsical story of illusion and survival, Water for Elephants is the film to see.

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April 23, 2011

The Conspirator

You may not have heard about The Conspirator, because it has not been advertised as much as other recent releases. It tells the story of Mary Surrat who is charged with conspiring with others, her son included,  to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. This happens in the heat of the Civil War, so the Union is looking for a scapegoat to ease their pain and help end the war. One lawyer, a former Union soldier, is convinced to represent her and try to save her life. The directing, story, and acting are great, but I doubt this one will be remembered for long.

It is very unusual to watch a film from the Civil War time period, since we rarely see films set in this time period oriented towards the general public. It takes a minute to adjust your mind set from the 21st century to the 19th century. Even once adjusted, films set in this time can feel cheesy or unrealistic.  However, Robert Redford as director does a great job of making all aspects of the film relatable, understandable, and authentic.  I question a few aspects of the film for it's authenticity, but I have to agree that some things will have to be changed a tiny bit for audiences to relate to and enjoy the film.

The story is an amazing one! Before Surrat no woman had been hanged for their crime. This creates a controversial decision for the coalition deciding her verdict. This was a heated time in the history of our country. As the emotions rise, so does the drama. Surrat's trial also led to major changes in the rights of Americans that we value today. The whole story is a debate of loyalty and ethics. How do you put your North/South alliance aside to do the right thing for one woman?

The acting in this film was very impressive. It has to be very difficult to change the way you act so greatly to represent a person from a very different time period. James McAvoy plays the lawyer that must represent Mrs. Surrat. He is very debonair, as men of this time appeared to be. He perfectly portrayed a man torn by this loyalty to the country he fought for and his duty as an attorney. Robin Wright plays Mary Surra,t the meek woman being charged with a hefty crime.  She transformed herself greatly from the modern woman she is to this frail mother trying to stay alive while also protecting her family. Both of these actors created such accurate portrayals that bring you completely into their story.

Overall, the acting and story really sucked me in. It took a moment to get fully on board with the authenticity of the time period representation. But Redford made me look past the time period and the acting and intense story took over. As mentioned, I don't think this film will be turning heads or talked about this time next year, but I would definitely recommend it. It is well made, enjoyable, and dramatic. But you don't need to see it in theaters.