Clint Eastwood has done a lot of films. Over 50 for sure. He has directed almost 30 of them as well. He has learned a lot over his years of film making, which explains why Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Changeling are so well-done. Now Eastwood acts and directs this film. His last time on-screen was in his film Million Dollar Baby. Supposedly, this may be the last time he is on screen. Well, if thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the case, he ended on a good note. He plays a war veteran named Walt Kowalski who has lived in the same neighborhood for years and has watched it change over the years. He is a stubborn man who is racist on every level and against all nationalities. Walt is old school and seems to fit the stereotypical elder by hating the youth of today and the way they dress and appear. He is stuck in his own ways and does not plan to change on how he views the world. However, plans can always change.
The story is about Walt and the immigrant family that moves in next door. He ends up protecting the immigrant family from a gang. He did not do it for them, but is still seen as a hero by them. It begins with Thao (young immigrant boy) practically being forced in to trying to steal WaltÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s precious Gran Torino in order to join his cousinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gang. This circumstance connects the family and Walt. For better or worse. So, Thao works off his debt to Walt by doing any handy work that Walt wants. Through the process, Walt gets to know Thao and the rest of his family. He starts to understand how his family works and becomes closer to them than to his own family. Walt has to confront his prejudices head-on. And soon he is watching out for this immigrant family. Except this time itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s on purpose and for a damn good reason.
The story fits so well with the times we live in. Eastwood is perfect as Walt. Walt really is the older version of Dirty Harry. However, Walt becomes open about change and whether he likes it or not, the world is different. It is constantly changing. Eastwood has directed another great movie that has a great story that entertains and delivers a message. It is funny, touching, and contains a message of hope, forgiveness, and change. The film is about acceptance and always learning. No matter how old you are, we are always learning.
At the theater I saw this in, it is under the theme of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Underplayed/OverlookedÃ¢â‚¬Â and I agree. This is a good film with a unique story about desperation. The film is just as gritty as its characters. This is a independent film and you can tell. It does not have the big production budget, but it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need one. The filmmaker relies on his storytelling and the performances, and they both go so well together.
The story is about a woman whose husband has left her and her two kids. She has no money and a low-paying job. She cannot get enough hours and barely has enough money for her kidÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lunch. Her kids have to settle for orange Tang and popcorn for breakfast every day. Ray Eddy finds her husbandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s car one day, but he is nowhere to be seen. However, she meets Lila and it is not under the best circumstances. But soon together they smuggle illegal immigrants in to the U.S. All Ray wants is to get her a new house (double-wide) for her kids. The only way to get it may be turning to smuggling for good.
The way this film is shot really digs in to the characters that are in it. It is a gritty film and no glamour shots. These characters are raw and seem to be the furthest people from Hollywood. It feels real and genuine. Melissa Leo plays Ray and she is good. Really good. I have never seen her before, but this was a breakout performance for sure. Ray and Lila represent desperation, and what mothers are willing to do for their children. Even if it means breaking the law. This film shows how some people live and their struggles of everyday life. Sometimes when an opportunity presents itself, you take it. But you may pay for the consequences later.
This is the first attempt for Adam Sandler to really make a movie for his own kids to watch. The closest thing has been Click, but that is not completely for kids, especially younger ones. The movie centers around Sandler who agrees to watch his niece and nephew for a week. He tells them bedtime stories about gladiators, dragons, and space. However, those stories start to become true. The only catch is the kidsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ parts come true, not SandlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. And so the rest of the movie is him trying to get the kids to wish certain things upon him like getting a fancy car or lots of money. He soon finds out what is most important: family.
The movie has its strengths. It is funny. Not real funny, but will make you chuckle a few times. I did like how the movie makes you think its fantasies coming to life, but that is not completely true. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all in his head really. He thinks he knows what is suppose to happen, but really he is finally making the choices he should have made a long time ago. He just needed some help. And now we get to its weaknesses. Sandler is still Sandler in this, and that is not a compliment. I understand itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a kidsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ movie, but he acts like the same person in almost every movie whether its for kids or not. I know he can act because we have seen Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love. Or I hope you have. But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a tired routine that adds nothing to the movie.
I hate to say this because it is a movie for kids, but I think adults should be included. We all know movies can be targeted for adults and children. It can be smart and funny all at the same time. But this one is not. Of course, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s over-the-top, but its cheesy as well. It goes for cheap laughs and has a very predictable plot. You can only laugh at the guinea pigs eyes for so long. When I left the theatre I thought to myself: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I should have just rented it.Ã¢â‚¬Â And that is probably what the rest of you should do.
I ended 2008 on a good note with Frost/Nixon, and I believe I have started 2009 even better. The Reader is a unique film that has a great story and great acting. The film is about a 15 year-old boy named Michael and his love affair with a woman twice his age. However, their affair only lasts a summer, but stays with Michael forever. After Hanna disappears one day, Michael is left with a broken heart, and I do not think it ever heals. He will never have a relationship like the one he had with Hanna again. As Michael finds out more about Hanna and her past, he still cares for her. She has made a lasting impression on him for the rest of his life.
Kate Winslet plays Hanna, who has more than one secret. However, one secret may be worse than murder. Slowly as the story unfolds we find out who Hanna is. However, there is another part of herself that she is very ashamed of. It is amazing what she is willing to do to hide it. She has a history of having people read to her, and she trades sex for stories being read to her by Michael. And soon it is reading and then sex. However, the relationship becomes more than that. As the film winds down, you realize how important Hanna and MichaelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s relationship was and how they really helped each other.
Stephen Daldry directed The Hours, and he has advanced since then. He told a great story post WWII that has so much to offer about people and their struggles. But this film would not have been so good if it was not for Kate Winslet. David Kross plays young Michael and he does a great job. You have to be good if most of your scenes are going to be with Winslet. And Ralph Fiennes plays the older Michael and portrays a man with a broken heart very well. He is sincere and cares, but it almost seems hidden. He has become very fragile and emotionless over the years. This goes back to the day Hanna left him when he was in his youth.
And now I have to get back to Winslet. She has becomes one of the best actresses working today, perhaps even the best actress of today. She can play glamorous women or plain Jane. She has this ability to make you believe in every character she plays. She shows it in this film as well. The things her character has had to live with and she has regrets. And can you see it in WinsletÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face. She did a fantastic job and she deserves to finally win an Oscar. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m looking forward to seeing what she does in Revolutionary Road as well. But I can assure you that I will remember this film at the end of the year. The well-crafted story and the great performances that tell it.