Tag: Hilary Swank


The Homesman

November 6th, 2014 — 5:32pm

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.30.22 PM***

The Homesman sp Life was not easy on the Nebraska frontier in the 1850s, especially for women. It took Hilary Swank to show us how difficult it could be with some help from Tommy Lee Jones who co-starred with her, directed the movie and was a co-writer of the screenplay. The story is based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout . It presents us with three women who have had nervous breakdowns due to the hardships of frontier life including losing three young children to diphtheria and being sexually abused. These three are all acting in a somewhat stereotyped manner where they never speak, roll their eyes and at least one acts like an animal. Swank’s character Mary Bee Cuddy agrees to take them back east across the bleak frontier land in a rickety horse and wagon since their men won’t do it. Her dedication, determination, frontier skills and compassion make her an unforgettable if not a somewhat tragic figure. She coerces George Brigg (Tommy Lee Jones), a claim jumper who was about to be hanged until she saved him, to accompany her on this mission to return the “out of it” women to a minister in Iowa. Except perhaps for the mental patients everything and everybody seemed quite authentic from “ Indians” encountered along the way, Ms. Swanks weather beaten face and her plowing the field for her crops, the desert, Mr. Jones weather beaten face, the inn that wouldn’t let them stay there for the night and what subsequently happened to it . The two stars were outstanding as were brief character roles by James Spader, John Lithgow and Meryl Streep whose daughter Grace Gummer did a very good job as one of the silent mentally ill women. The message of the film was clear and well done but we are not sure it was worth the two hours. (2014)

2 comments » | 3 Stars, Drama, Western

Freedom Writers

November 3rd, 2013 — 6:16pm

***FWPoster

Freedom Writers- nf  We watched this film with our 12 year old granddaughter and 10 year old grandson. We all liked it and got caught up in the inspirational theme of the movie as we saw young people asserting themselves and making a difference. The screenplay is written by Richard LaGravenese who also directed the film. It is based on a true story about a newly graduated schoolteacher who is taking her first job at Wilson High School in Long Beach California in 1993 shortly after the riots in Los Angeles the previous year. The teacher is played by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank who is surrounded by a few veteran actors but mainly a cast of unknown young people who play high school freshmen (although they look a little older than that age) who are the first teaching assignment of the novice teacher. The students are from various factions in the community, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian with some, of course from various gangs. The high school had formerly been a high achieving school but since it was integrated with students from the various groups, it has mostly lost its academic standing. The school administration had little expectation for the students but the new teacher Ms. Gruell didn’t seem to get that message. However, she does have to struggle to figure out how to reach these students. She realizes that while many of them have had similar experiences they don’t have empathy or understanding for each other.  She also helps them learn about other people who have been terribly oppressed by introducing them to the facts of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. There are a few undercurrents and subplots that may not be entirely clear as well the story of the teacher’s personal life which includes a marriage falling apart as her husband (Patrick Dempsey) feels he is being neglected by his hard working wife who has to take on 3 jobs to get all the books and things for her students. Perhaps the most dramatic part of the film is the reenactment of the event where the students wrote letters to Miep Giess (Pat Carrol), the woman who hid Ann Frank and they actually raised money to bring her to the USA to meet and address them. (That scene will bring a few tears to your cheek) The teacher then had the students write about their feelings and experiences in a journal.  A compilation of these writing was then put into a book, which was published as The Freedom Writers Diary. The entire story reached national prominence when it was featured on the ABC TV shows Prime Time. Now it lives on to inspire new generations of teachers and students as well as others like us as we catch up with it on NetFlix. (2007)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

New Year’s Eve

June 8th, 2013 — 6:10pm

New Year's Eve***1/2

New Year’ Eve –nf  This is a movie that is perfect to see with your lover, young or old and might be especially nice to curl up with this person on New Year’s Eve. It is also a New York film  and a good part of it includes Times Square, getting ready to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve as well as Mayor Bloomberg. The screen play, by Katherine Fugate, consists of several stories that show people’s various romances and loving situations  which is brought out in anticipation of the new year. So this a romantic film  in the traditional sense  with the usual clichés but it also includes the love between a mother and her young daughter and a daughter and her older father. The new year brings new beginnings and also new chances for the future. However, the film is also a comedy which should not be surprising since the Director is Garry Marshall. Part of the fun of this movie is to identify this amazing cast which is somewhat characteristic of a Marshall film. It  includes Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katherine Heigel, Robert DiNero, Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sophia Vegara, Mathew Broderick, Josh Duhamel, Jim Belushi  and others. These stars don’t just have walk on parts, as each one plays an important role in his or her mini-story. There are also acting and singing roles for Jon Bon Jovie and Lea Michele (of Glee fame). In the film you can also find Garry Marshall’s sister Penny, his wife Barbara, his granddaughter and a couple other people named Marshall. There is a small role for Hector Elizondo, a veteran actor and friend of the director  who     is in many of his films. The movie offers several surprises and in the end you should feel satisfied. If you stay for the credits you get a bunch of out takes which adds to the fun experience of seeing this film. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

Conviction

October 8th, 2010 — 7:54am


*****

Conviction sp- This is  a true story of a man convicted of a bloody murder in a Boston suburb in the 1980s .  There are witnesses who say that he told him he did it and there is blood typing evidence (this is before DNA analysis) which strongly suggests it was him. The only thing going for him is his sister who is sure that he didn’t do it. You have seen this relatively simple plot play out many times on television on Dateline, 20/20 or on similar programs. The only difference here is that you have another magnificent performance by Hillary Swank playing Betty Anne Waters who is going to take the next 18 years of her life completing High School, going to college and then law school in order to see if there is way to get her brother his freedom. You also have Sam Rockwell, playing the  brother Kenny,  in a performance that should earn him an Academy Award nomination. The screen play by Pamela Gray and  the direction by Tony Goldwyn gives us pieces of their childhood which clarifies their great devotion to each other. The struggle of Betty Ann to become a lawyer and her determination to find the evidence that would be the key to saving her brother allows us to understand this person. Her interaction with Kenny similarly provides insight into his pain and bravado.  The difficult lives of the people in the community where this happened and the very questionable actions of the police and district attorney Martha Coakley (who subsequently was defeated in the recent  US Senate race in Massachusetts to replace Kennedy)  was brought out by a stunning performance of Juliette Lewis who played one of the witnesses who recounts what really happened to make her testify against Kenny. We had the good fortune to meet at our preview screening Swank, Rockwell, Lewis, the real life Betty Anne Waters and her good friend and fellow law student Abra Rice who was well played in the movie by Minnie Driver. They confirmed that truth is stranger and at times more unbelievable than fiction. I recall reading about the well known lawyer Barry Scheck, who was depicted in this movie, and wondering about his decision to devote his career to  the Innocence Project where the new science of DNA matching is applied to old crimes. It turns out that over 250 innocent people have been freed from prison due to his efforts. There is one particular line in this film stands out in this regard as Swank as Betty Ann remarks that if Massachusetts had the death penalty her brother would have been killed before she had chance to make a case for his innocence. Swank, speaking for herself at our screening told how making this movie allowed her to understand the unique life affirming experience that these people went through. Watching this film also gave the audience the opportunity to share this journey.(2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama, History

Iron Jawed Angels

September 5th, 2010 — 10:55pm

* * * *
Iron Jawed Angels
– nf – Most of us did not learn very much in school about the women’s suffrage movement. This film, which was made in 2004, shows the period 1912 to 1920 and provides a gripping emotional depiction of this piece of history that changed the face of our country. It is the story of a group of young suffragettes led by Alice Paul who is played brilliantly by Hilary Swank and also features Francis O’Connor who is excellent in the part of Lucy Burns as well as roles by Angelica Huston, Lois Smith and Patrick Dempsey. It shows the brave unforgettable actions of these women as they organized and ultimately demonstrated in front of the White House with their banners in all kinds of weather. They were even taken to jail for peaceably protesting for their right to vote and were treated unbelievably badly, essentially as political prisoners on U.S. soil. It clearly demonstrated how President Woodrow Wilson’s own words which decried the lack of democracy in other parts of the world were pointed out as being applicable to most of the United States which was denying women the right to vote and control their own destiny. The team of screenwriters relied mostly on the true story based on books, speeches and newspapers of the time. Katja von Garneir does a wonderful job directing this movie and bringing the characters to life. You can not help but being caught up in the emotion as a new constitutional amendment is finally ratified by the required number of states. 2004

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Amelia

January 16th, 2010 — 2:17am

Amelia* * *
Amelia
– sp – Most people know the story of Amelia Earhart, the famous female pilot who tried to fly around the world and disappeared. So when Hollywood decides to make a biopic about this famous aviatrix, it might not be easy to come up with any big surprises in the story, which was the case with this movie. Ted Waitt a wealthy businessman was always interested in this story and decided to put up all the money if necessary, and produce this movie. He brought in Oscar awardee screen writer Ron Bass (Rainman) who told us that he wrote 7 drafts of the movie and emphasized the fact that Ms Earhart had an alcoholic father who rejected her and led to her trying to achieve some kind of affirmation from men and also through her accomplishments of doing what no one has ever done. The Director whom they had on board left the project and Mira Nair came on to direct and brought on well know writer Anna Hamiliton Phelan (Gorillas in the Mist) who did 13 rewrite versions and ultimately emphasized Amelia’s love of flying and the great feminist hero status that she became. Hilary Swank was chosen for the lead and Richard Gere was given the role of her promoter and the person whom she ultimately married. Swank gave the character great likeability and conveyed the determination, which dominated her. Ultimately we found there was not enough of this character to hold our attention. Not only were there no surprises in the movie but despite Ms Swank’s fine performance, there was not much depth or intrigue in the film’s portrayal of this great American hero. We believe that Mr. Bass’s vision of the character perhaps would have offered more to the movie. There were some wonderful flying scenes, beautiful landscapes, well done period clothes and a full strong soundtrack. The interspersing of some actual newsreels was also a nice touch. (2009)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

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