Film Review – MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)

Image result for million dollar baby 2004MILLION DOLLAR BABY (USA, 2004) *****
      Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors; Production Company: Warner Bros. / Lakeshore Entertainment / Malpaso Productions / Albert S. Ruddy Productions; Release Date: 5 December 2004 (USA), 14 January 2005 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 2004 – 14 July 2004; Running Time: 132m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm (Kodak Vision 2383); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Paul Haggis (based on stories from “Rope Burns” by F.X. Toole); Executive Producer: Robert Lorenz, Gary Lucchesi; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Paul Haggis, Tom Rosenberg, Albert S. Ruddy; Director of Photography: Tom Stern; Music Composer: Clint Eastwood; Film Editor: Joel Cox; Casting Director: Phyllis Huffman; Production Designer: Henry Bumstead; Art Director: Jack G. Taylor Jr.; Set Decorator: Richard C. Goddard; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Tania McComas; Sound: Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman; Special Effects: Steve Riley; Visual Effects: Liz Radley.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frankie Dunn), Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald), Morgan Freeman (Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris), Jay Baruchel (Danger Barch), Mike Colter (Big Willie Little), Lucia Rijker (Billie ‘The Blue Bear’), Brían F. O’Byrne (Father Horvak), Anthony Mackie (Shawrelle Berry), Margo Martindale (Earline Fitzgerald), Riki Lindhome (Mardell Fitzgerald), Michael Peña (Omar), Benito Martinez (Billie’s Manager), Bruce MacVittie (Mickey Mack), David Powledge (Counterman at Diner), Joe D’Angerio (Cut Man), Marcus Chait (J.D. Fitzgerald), Tom McCleister (Lawyer), Erica Grant (Nurse), Naveen (Pakistani), Morgan Eastwood (Little Girl in Truck), Jamison Yang (Paramedic), Dean Familton (Ref #1), Louis Moret (Ref #2), V.J. Foster (Ref #3), Jon D. Schorle II (Ref #4), Marty Sammon (Ref #5), Steven M. Porter (Ref #6), Ray Corona (Ref #7), Ming Lo (Rehab Doctor), Miguel Pérez (Restaurant Owner), Jim Cantafio (Ring Doctor #1), Ted Grossman (Ring Doctor #2), Ned Eisenberg (Sally Mendoza), Marco Rodríguez (Second at Vegas Fight), Roy Nugent (Fan in Vegas), Don Familton (Ring Announcer), Mark Thomason (Radio Commentator), Brian T. Finney (Irish Fan #1), Spice Williams-Crosby (Irish Fan #2), Kim Strauss (Irish Fan #3), Rob Maron (Irish Fan #4), Kirsten Berman (Irish Fan #5), Susan Krebs (Rehab Nurse), Sunshine Chantal Parkman (Rehab Nurse #2), Kim Dannenberg (Rehab Nurse #3), Eddie Bates (Rehab Resident).
      Synopsis: A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.
      Comment: An outstanding drama that works on many levels. It’s seemingly simple and straight-forward sporting drama plot is deceptive as it adds subtle layers of subtext and a change of direction in its final act that is both shocking and intensely moving. Eastwood, Swank and Freeman give multi-dimensional performances. Haggis’ script is wonderful in its use of dialogue and the way it manages the more melodramatic moments. Eastwood directs with a veteran’s eye and ear. Stern’s contrast heavy photography helps set the dark tone. A true modern classic.
      Notes: Won 4 Oscars including Best Film, Director, Actress (Swank) and Supporting Actor (Freeman).

Film Review – TWILIGHT (1998)

Image result for twilight 1998TWILIGHT (USA, 1998) ***
     Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Production Company: Cinehaus / Paramount Pictures / Scott Rudin Productions; Release Date: 6 March 1998 (USA), 4 December 1998 (UK); Filming Dates: 11 November 1996 – March 1997; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong language.
     Director: Robert Benton; Writer: Robert Benton, Richard Russo; Executive Producer: Michael Hausman; Producer: Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin; Associate Producer: Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert; Director of Photography: Piotr Sobocinski; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: Carol Littleton; Casting Director: Ilene Starger; Production Designer: David Gropman; Art Director: David J. Bomba; Set Decorator: Beth A. Rubino; Costumes: Joseph G. Aulisi; Make-up: Bron Roylance; Sound: Maurice Schell; Special Effects: Larry Fioritto, Ric San Nicholas.
     Cast: Paul Newman (Harry Ross), Susan Sarandon (Catherine Ames), Gene Hackman (Jack Ames), Reese Witherspoon (Mel Ames), Stockard Channing (Lt. Verna Hollander), James Garner (Raymond Hope), Giancarlo Esposito (Reuben Escobar), Liev Schreiber (Jeff Willis), Margo Martindale (Gloria Lamar), John Spencer (Capt. Phil Egan), M. Emmet Walsh (Lester Ivar), Peter Gregory (Verna’s Partner), Rene Mujica (Mexican Bartender), Jason Clarke (Young Cop #1), Patrick Malone (Younger Cop), Lewis Arquette (Water Pistol Man), Michael Brockman (Garvey’s Bartender), April Grace (Police Stenographer), Clint Howard (EMS Worker), John Cappon (Paramedic), Neil Mather (Young Cop #2), Ron Sanchez (Crime Scene Detective), Jack Wallace (Interrogation Officer), Jeff Joy (Carl), Jonathan Scarfe (Cop). Uncredited: Stephanie Beaton (Beth Koski), Jennifer Tolkachev (Sunbather), Ron von Gober (Man Walking Down the Street with Boy).
     Synopsis: Private eye Harry Ross lives in the garage of his movie-star, cancer-ridden friend Jack and is attracted to Jack’s wife Catherine. After elderly Lester Ivar shoots at Harry and then dies, Harry learns that Ivar was investigating the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband.
     Comment: Modern neo-film noir tries too hard to create the atmosphere of the 1940s in 1990s LA. The result feels a little incongruous. The strength of the story is with its cast. Newman is as good as ever as the private eye who is torn between his loyalties and doing the right thing. Hackman, Garner and Sarandon all deliver quality performances. Martindale also scores as a chancer with an incompetent accomplice. Bernstein delivers a moody but derivative score. Benton’s script tries hard to be convoluted, but underneath is a straight-forward story of blackmail and murder. The character interaction keeps the plot interesting, but the ultimate solution to the mystery is a little underwhelming.
     Notes: The Ames residence is actually the former Cedric Gibbons-Delores Del Rio home, and a never-completed Frank Lloyd Wright house near Malibu served as the Ames’ ranch house.