The Next Three Days
Director: Paul Haggis, Rated M, 122 Mins
Australian Academy Award winning actor Russell Crowe (Robin Hood) returns to the big screen in the exciting remake of a French thriller Pour Elle written and directed by Award winning filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash and Million Dollar Baby).
Unlike his tough cop role in American Gangster, Crowe plays mild mannered college professor John Brennan whose life is turned upside down after his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks from W) is suddenly arrested for the murder of her boss.
Despite her conviction, John’s belief in her innocence never falters and he fights persistently to convince the justice system to release Lara so that she can become a mother again to their young son Luke (Ty Simkins).
As the appeals fail and the money runs out, John becomes so desperate and determined to free his wife by any means necessary - even resorting to stealing money from drug cheats.
Besides having the story take place in Pittsburgh, home of the largest city prison in the world Haggis cleverly divides his production into four time frames - the last three years, the last three months, the last three days and the next three days - which provides him with the title of his movie.
The location also provides John with a huge challenge in freeing his wife and the possibility of succeeding by adopting a painstaking plan with the help of David Pennington (a cameo performance from the talented Liam Neeson) playing a former prison escapee.
At the heart of a gripping and suspenseful storyline is the loving relationship between John and Lara as depicted so vividly in the gut wrenching scene at the prison showing the silent desperation of a couple separated by glass as a husband struggles to tell his wife that her last appeal has been rejected.
Despite a lack lustre performance from Banks it is Crowe who stands alone in this tense thriller and is the driving force behind this thoroughly engaging and entertaining movie-transforming his character from a mild mannered academic into a calculating professional prison breaker whose love never wavers over his wife’s innocence.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 Rubber Stamps
DVD REVIEW (Sony)
Eat Pray Love
Release Date: February 2011
Director: Ryan Murphy, Rated M 140 Mins
One of Sony’s newest DVDs being released this month is Ryan Murphy’s insightful direction of an unhappy married woman’s journey of self discovery based on Liz Gilbert’s international bestseller Eat Pray Love with Academy Award winning actress Julia Roberts playing the famous author Liz Gilbert.
Tired of her domestic life and husband Stephen (Billy Crudup), Liz embarks on a fascinating year long journey that takes her on a tantalizing tour of Italy (spending some four months eating), a spiritual excursion into the heart of India (spent in prayer) and finally stopping in Bali where she falls for a local divorcee, Felipe (Javier Bardem) and discovers the true meaning of unconditional love.
Roberts delivers a satisfying portrayal of the self indulgent Liz Gilbert in what is a rather long movie that features some splendid images and scenery.
In addition to Crudup, Roberts also shares the limelight with such well known stars as Viola Davis, James Franco, and Richard Jenkins as well as Academy Award winning actor Bardem.
Some will find the story both touching and uplifting but as mentioned by director Murphy in the bonus features of the DVD, people do not have to travel to foreign countries to take the journey in order to find inner happiness.
Sony’s DVD contains both the theatrical and director’s versions of Eat Pray Love as well as Murphy’s approach in the making of his movie.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 Rubber Stamps
DVD REVIEW (Sony)
The Ghost Writer
Release Date: 16 February 2011
Director: Roman Polanski, Rated M, 128 Mins
Another Sony DVD being released in February is from controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski who returns with his superbly directed mystery thriller The Ghost Writer.,
The title is adapted from conspiracy novelist Robert Harris and starsEwan McGregor as the main character (without a name) hired to rewrite the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang, played by former Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. McGregor - referring to himself as “The Ghost”- is flown to Lang’s special retreat to undertake his assignment where he soon discovers that not everything is what it seems, including some photos belonging to the previous ghost-writer whose mysterious death is still unaccounted for.
As the ghost writer pursues further clues, he uncovers possibilities for conspiracy theories until the dramatic conclusion which may not have been anticipated but which suggests that his assignment may have been part of a wider conspiracy.
As well as infusing the right amount of atmospherics and suspense into his stylised storyline, Polanski also has a number of gifted actors in cameo roles including James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Eli Wallach and Tom Wilkinson.
Besides the fine performances from McGregor and Brosnan, it is Olivia Williams who steals the show as Lang’s secretive and seductive wife Ruth.
Polanski has lost none of his touch as the master director of the mystery thriller genre and, in addition to three fascinating featurettes incorporated into the bonus features, this is one Sony DVD worth having in one’s home movie collection.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 ½ Rubber Stamps
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