I've found that most movies that fall into the category of "romantic comedy", "tear-jerker", or "chick-flick" employ the same overused, cliched formulas. Most lack any originality and use the same cheap methods to coerce a laugh or a cry.
One of the reasons "Letters to Juliet" is a good movie is because it doesn't take the cheap route. It's an entertaining, well written story brought to life by a strong cast and some really solid direction.
The story is nothing too deep and is a little predictable but it's also not a lame rehash of other movies of it's kind. The story is made all the more interesting by some really good acting. There isn't a bad performance to be found in the film and this is another thing that separates it from other films in it's genre. Take "The Last Song" from earlier this year. It was a weak movie that was brought even lower by some really bad acting.
"Letters to Juliet"s cast is on an entirely different level from the starring roles all the way to the smaller supporting parts. Seyfried is good in the lead but it's the graceful, exquisite Vanessa Redgrave whose elegance is shown in each scene she has. Her experience and talent shows in a truly great performance. Christopher Egan is also very good and as I watched him I couldn't help but make comparisons to a young Heath Ledger. Franco Nero, Redgrave's real-life husband, is brilliant and has such a screen presence. His scenes shared with Redgrave are some of the movie's best.
Another huge plus is the solid direction from Gary Winick. Scenes are shot beautifally and I found myself immersed in the various Italian locales. Whether it's the visits to Verona and Sienna or the Italian countryside, the gorgeous art direction and amazing cinematography is something normally not seen in these types of films.
Now the movie does have a couple of scenes that are sappy, cliched, and completely out of place. But as a whole "Letters to Juliet" is a smart, intelligent film. It's warm, tender and sometimes quite funny. Also it's a clean movie that anyone can enjoy. "Letters to Juliet" is a film that actually give me hope for these types of movies.
On my way to see Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood", I couldn't help but wonder if I had set my expectations so high that it would be impossible for the movie to reach them. After all, this is Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, the same team who brought us "Gladiator" which happens to be one of my all-time favorite films. Could they even come close to matching the strength of their previous Oscar winning period film. The answer is yes, they did come close.
While overall "Robin Hood" isn't as accomplished as "Gladiator", it still does well in the same areas that made "Gladiator" such a strong film. When it comes to making an epic period film few can do it better than Ridley Scott. His amazing attention to detail, extravagant set pieces, and gorgeous cinematography create a believable and immersive 13th century England. From the film's opening sequences to it's incredible finish, the realistic feel and old English atmosphere is done to perfection. Scott also creates some fast-paced, frenzied action sequences. The frantic, gritty camera work and well executed CGI makes the small battles and huge epic scale war sequences feel real and intense.
The film also is strenghtened by the incredible performance of Russell Crowe. Few actors can command the screen like Crowe. He has a presence on film that not only brings strength to his characters but also a genuine humanity. Crowe's Robin Hood is possibly the most human of any of the previous portrayals showing a sad but strong man in the dark about his past and uncertain about his future. Mark Strong gives another great "bad guy" performance and is truly menacing and despicable. Cate Blanchett creates a very different and intriguing Marion while Max von Sydow and William Hurt also give great supporting performances.
"Robin Hood" is an entirely different look at the classic character. It's a prequel that sets itself up for possibly more films. It's incredibly well made with high production value. It's a well written story that may start off slow for some but is actually smart and intelligent and builds itself up to an exciting climax. A great film that shows why Crowe and Scott are one of Hollywood's best combinations.
If "The Losers" was intended to be a deep, serious, action film it would be a complete failure. But it never pretends or claims to be. It's simply a witty, sometimes corny, action-packed good time.
It's not hard to tell that the movie is a comic book adaptation due to it's cool stylized camera work, over-the-top action sequences, and slick dialogue. While there are a couple of scenes that don't really make sense or have little to offer to the plot, overall it is a tight, well written story. Yes, it uses a few action movie cliches but in a way that's the point. It's intended to be an exaggerated, over-the-top, entertaining popcorn film. There are no false pretenses with "The Losers".
The movie features some good, fitting performances and it's especially good to see Jason Patric doing well in a bigger role.
If you know what to expect from "The Losers", you'll find a humorous and fun film. It has it's flaws but it's entertainment value helps me to easily overlook them.
"Crazy Heart" is a movie about bad life choices, consequences, and redemption. It uses country music much like "The Wrestler" used professional wrestling. While the film does touch on the old school country music environment, it's actually used as more of a backdrop.
This film is a character study of Bad Blake, a down on his luck country music singer living a life of absolute self-destruction. He's been married four times, smokes heavy, and is a raging alcoholic. Life then teaches Blake some hard lessons and shows him the way to redemption through a journalist named Jean who, along with her 4 year old son, Blake truly falls for.
Jeff Bridges won ever major acting award including the Best Actor Oscar for his performance and it's not hard to see why. Bridges completely embodies the character and his performance is the film's strongest attribute. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives one of her better performances as does Colin Farrell in supporting roles.
The story does get a little predictable and isn't anything profoundly original. But neither of these minor gripes are glaring problems mainly due to the strong, honest performances and the genuine feel of realism the movie brings out. Sadly, the movie is polluted with needless profanity that is a pain to listen to and brings the movie down some. But "Crazy Heart" is a testament to Bridges' acting abilities and his performance alone is a sight to behold.
"The Lovely Bones" is a heart-wrenching and disturbing journey into very dark and emotional territories.
Saoirse Ronan brilliantly plays 14 year-old Susie Salmon who is brutally murdered by an evil, sadistic neighborhood resident played by Stanley Tucci. Susie is caught in what's called "in between" and the story unfolds as she is able to see both her family and her murderer while trying to understand exactly where she is. Ronan gives a great performance as an innocent, likable young girl who immediately draws you in by her sweetness. Wahlberg and Weisz are very well cast as Susie's suffering, heart-broken parents trying to cope with the loss of their child and with the fact that her killer is still at large.
But the real star is Stanley Tucci who has shown amazing diversity throughout his film career. Here he creates one of the most frightening, unnerving, spine-chilling villians ever on film. His ability to disturb by simple looks or mannerisms is amazing and shows why he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Director Peter Jackson creates some amazing, surreal imagery when depicting his vision of the "in between" and his use of CGI is excellent.
The film isn't perfect. Susan Sarandon plays Susie's grandmother and her character really contributes little to the story other than being annoying and absurd. She also is the centerpiece of a really odd, out of place scene in the middle of the film meant as comic relief. Her character could have been completely omited and it would have helped the film more than hurt it. There are also some plot holes that I really wished has been covered.
But those things aside, "The Lovely Bones" is a strong film that will make you uncomfortable one moment and have tears coming down the next. May be hard to watch for some but this is a movie that should be seen.