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Rating History

Snow Angels
Snow Angels (2007)
8 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Review: Snow Angels

I will admit that before seeing his most commercial film, "Pineapple Express", I knew very little about David Gordon Green. However, I had heard many things about his more intimate style, sense of characters, and dealing with human dramas that are touching, thoughtful, and sometimes devastating. Now, I really liked "Pineapple Express" and thought it was a wonderful mix of comedy/action and indie/commercial, and I also really like "Snow Angels", which, as I previously mentioned seems to be a trait of his, is very intimate and completely involving. It tells a few different stories about various relationships, most of which are falling apart or already broken, and one that is just beginning, and the impact that these relationships are having on all the people involved. Kate Beckinsale portrays Annie, a married woman who is now seperated from her husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell) whom they share a 4-year-old daughter. Annie is just barely beginning to trust Glenn again with watching their young child. You see, they seperated because Glenn had a meltdown and tried to take his own life. Glenn is now living with his parents, has become more religious, and has started a new warehouse job to try to prove to Annie that he is a changed, more stable man. Annie works long shifts at a local Chinese restaurant where she frequently hits on her fellow co-worker, the young Arthur (Michael Angarano), whom Annie used to babysit once upon a time, but who she now sees has become a handsome young man. As much as they playfully flirt, Annie is having an affair with a married man; a man who is married to her best friend. Meanwhile, Arthur is dealing with the seperation of his own parents, and watching Annie's sometimes public relationships go sour, and finds himself having issues with the fresh relationship he has just started with a girl from school named Lila (Olivia Thirlby). Soon enough, the various relationships turn tragic, and one or more lives (let alone relationships) may end. I found the film to be engrossing, moving, darkly funny at times, and always interesting. The characters and storylines can be so unpredictable that it keeps you guessing, and keeps you glued to the screen to the very end. A big part of this is because it features such wonderful and layered performances from a very talented ensemble cast. This is shaping up to be a big year to recognize Kate Beckinsale for her acting talents as well as her beauty and sex appeal. Try not to get emotional and caught up in her struggles when a tragic twist sets her character into a dramatic spiral. It's gut wrenching and powerful, and because Beckinsale shows you what Annie is going through on the inside, and lets it slowly creep out. Very affecting. But her performance wouldn't amount to anything without someone just as good to play off of. Thankfully she's matched blow-for-blow and then some by Rockwell who is charming, funny, sad, scary and absolutely brilliant. Watching his character descend into the hallowed shell of a man scarred by so many losses and unafraid to lose anything else is a cinematic treat. This is Rockwell's best performance, hands-down, and I think it's awards worthy. And save some praise for Michael Angarano, such a great young find and perfectly in touch with Arthur and all of his complexities. Watching everyone around him crumble, he fears the same will happen to him, but can't help but want to believe it doesn't have to be that way. His Arthur, and Olivia Thirlby's Lila, are the real beacons of hope in this frigid, wintery tale. Thirlby, who was pitch perfect in "Juno", is once again great here, and shows promising range. Definitely one to watch. My only real gripe is that a few moments drag, and the film really only hits one note, but David Gordon Green crafts such a well told tale of loss, reconciliation, and hope, I'm willing to forgive such small complaints for the overall picture he paints.

Pan's Labyrinth
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Pan's Labyrinth is a Spanish language film set in 1944 Spain during a civil war. It tells the story of young Ofelia (played beautifully by 12-year-old Ivana Baquero) who has a wild imagination spawned by the many fairy tales she reads. When her pregnant mother Carmen (played with strong emotion by Adriadna Gil) decides for them to move to the Spanish country side with her new husband Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez, creating the most ominous figure of the film in Captain Vidal), Ofelia discovers both the darkness of war in the real world, and the dark that can be found in fantasy. Other great performances that need to be mentioned are Maribel Verdu as Mercedes, Captain Vidal's maid, and Doug Jones who plays both the faun Pan who's labyrinth Ofelia stumbles into, and the creepy and disturbing Pale Man, a hideously scary creature that Ofelia encounters that feasts on babies and young children. This film is rated R for launguage, but mostly for the strong gore and violence, and such frightening scenes such as a torture scene and the previously mentioned scene with Pale Man. However, in all of this darkness is a fantastic film, one of the best I've ever seen, and it's written and directed with such craft and beauty by Guillermo del Toro. It also has a great score and wonderful cinematography. But the heart and soul of this film lies in Ofelia, and great credit must be given to the young Ivana Baquero who creates a girl that is mysterious, pretty, adventurous, brave, sad, but above all else is real. It must be said that this year (2006) has proved that Dakota Fanning is becoming obscolete. Baquero, along with Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) have shown that child actors can be great without looking like child actors; they can become a character and make them real. See Pan's Labyrinth for yourself and discover that sometimes fantasy and beauty can exist in the cold, dark real world.

P.S.- Soon I'll be posting my Top 10 Films of 2006 list, and with it my award choices if I were an Academy member.

The Pursuit of Happyness
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Pursuit of Happyness is the only film of 2006 that can be called both the feel good and feel bad film of the year. By that, I mean that the film eventually becomes the most feel good movie of 2006, but the lead character Christopher Gardener (Will Smith) goes through hell first, and thus the audience does too. Christopher is a good father and husband, but unfortunately he's made some bad decisions financially. When things get rough, his wife Linda (Thandie Newton) leaves him. Christopher keeps his young son Chris (Jayden Christopher Syre Smith) and tries to get a job at a stockbroker internship. Through the rough patch that follows, Christopher and young Chris stay together and Christopher never stops being a loving caring father. Will Smith has never given a more fully realized or nuanced performance. This is the most accurate and authentic portrayal of a single father I've ever seen. Smith has evolved into a fantastic actor to watch. Each and every little choice he makes for the character are the right ones, and I guarantee you he will have you in tears. And give a shout out to Jayden Smith (Will Smith's real-life son) who makes young Chris an intelligent and insightful young boy, but one who is still just a kid. He plays the part just right. This film really moved me, and the performances were the main reason why. The script is a tight one, but it lingers a little too much in the middle. The cinematography is well done, and the direction by French director Gabriele Muccino gives the film heart without making it sappy. My only major complaint is the unnecessary voice overs for each "Chapter", but other than that it's a very fine film that is worth seeing for Smith alone.

Dreamgirls (2006)
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Someone asked me shortly after I watched 'Dreamgirls' whether or not it was worth the hype. The answer is yes. Although it's main fault is that it runs too long, resulting in some dragging in the third act, this film has style, heart, a strong cast, a tight script, good music, and great direction. Bill Condon brings great style to this Broadway adaptation, but he definitely gives it heart as well. It tells the story of three best friends who have formed an all female girl group called 'The Dreamettes'. When the girls try to break in to the music industry at a talent competition, they get their lucky break from Curtis Taylor Jr. (a sly Jamie Foxx) who gets them a job singing back-up for the popular James "Thunder" Early (a magnificent Eddie Murphy). Soon after, the girls get to make their own record. But the good news comes with a price when Curtis decides to switch out the powerhouse voiced (but broad hipped) Effie White (a star-making and powerful Jennifer Hudson) for the more lean and beautiful back-up singer Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles, giving a surprisingly subtle and emotional performance). In the meantime, third member Lorell Robinson (Anika Noni-Rose) begins a relationship with James Early, and Curtis leaves Effie for Deena, prompting her to sing the most emotional song in the film (and it's high point) "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going". Everyone in the cast plays the part well (with the exception of a miscast Keith Robinson as Effie's song-writing brother C.C.). But special mention must be given to Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. Hudson brings the strongest vocals, but she also makes Effie both a force to be reckoned with and a woman to sympathize with. Murphy turns "Thunder" Early into more than just a hip-swiveling James Brown-esque performer, and makes him an aging musician who might be sacrificing too much of himself for the sake of making records that sell. Both are Oscar worthy. Dreamgirls deserves to be the type of film that has both strong critical and commercial success, and I'll bet that it does.

Little Miss Sunshine
10 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Looking for a film to make you feel good? Try 'Little Miss Sunshine'. It's honest, hilarious, touching, dark, light, and practically everything in between. It tells the tale of the Hoover family, dyfunctional, but believable. There's the father Richard (Greg Kinnear) who believes in his '9 Steps To Becoming a Winner' program a little too much, the mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) who is perhaps the most well-balanced of the lot, Sheryl's brother Frank (Steve Carell) who attempted suicide after his boyfriend left him for another college professor, young daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) who wants nothing more than to attend the Little miss Sunshine beauty pageant, teenage son Dwayne (Paul Dano) who is taking a vow of silence to prepare for the air force, and finally the fiesty Grandpa (Alan Arkin) who is coaching Olive for the pageant after being kicked out of his retirement home for drug use. All of the performances here are fantastic and perfect, too perfect to even pick a favorite without mentioning the merits of each actor. The script by Michael Arndt is very true to life, and is often funny only because you're laughing to keep from crying. The directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (husband and wife) is well thought out, and serves the story well. It's never too over-the-top, and this keeps it well grounded in reality and makes each character believable. If I were forced to pick favorites, I'd say that Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, and Steve Carell stand out the most. Abigail Breslin, however, brings such heart to Olive that you almost instantly love her and want her to make it all the way. She's definitely tops as well. Greg Kinnear plays Richard as a man who believes too much in something that he ends up seeing why everyone else loathes it. And Collette gives the most subtle performance as the caring mom who wants nothing more than the well-being of everyone else. This movie deserves to be seen by anyone who has an interest in films. It's that good.