Two stories about shattered dreams turning into comebacks highlight The Fighter, in which two boxer brothers (Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale) battle for the family spotlight. Bale’s turn as a crack-addicted, former contender in the ring earned him a much-deserved Oscar (not so much for co-star Melissa Leo, who won Supporting Actress, as the men’s manipulative mother). There’s his character’s spiral into potential destruction intercut with Wahlberg’s rise to become his own man with the help of a tough-minded barmaid (Amy Adams). It follows the usual sports formula but spends so much time with its characters that the final boxing matches actually mean something. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
A blink-and-it’s-gone release (To my knowledge, it never even arrived at theaters in Chicago) did not aid No One Knows About Persian Cats, and that’s a shame. Bahman Ghobadi’s part-fiction and part-documentary about the underground music scene in Tehran, Iran, features an eclectic soundtrack of real artists trying to express themselves under oppressive circumstances. The feeling of musicians forming a surrogate family is tangible, as the smallest victory for one becomes a victory for all, though the bitter pill of reality is always creeping inexorably toward them. My review is here. Available on DVD.
The opening act is enough to keep even the most tolerant romantic comedy viewers at bay, but if you stick with The Switch, it actually develops a sweet budding father/son relationship–even though neither knows that they’re related. Jason Bateman plays a man who drunkenly swaps insemination samples for his best friend/ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston, dropping almost immediately into the background) and, years later, meets the resulting young boy (Thomas Robinson). The movie works and works after the rocky start only to fall back into the same hole it struggled so hard to dig itself out of by the climax. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Director Clint Eastwood explores the afterlife with the results of a sleep aid in Hereafter. Languidly moving between three people who have been affected by death (Matt Damon as a psychic, Cécile De France as the victim of a tsunami, and Frankie McLaren as a boy whose twin brother dies), Peter Morgan’s screenplay holds them as in amber–stuck and unchanging. Of course they all come together by the end, but even then, there’s little reason to care. It’s stagnant drama. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD/Blu combo.