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Tuesday: Anatomy of a Murder

This is an absolute must see for all ages!

Anatomy of a Murder
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After being nominated for seven Oscars, Anatomy of a Murder is a classic that isn't spoken about as much as it should be. It was released in 1959, although it proves to be stronger than almost everything being released nowadays. In 2012, we have a lot of crime TV shows. They range from documentaries to cop shows. Nevertheless, the topic of murder and the justice system proves to still be worthy of centering both films and television shows around. Those who have seen the classic known as 12 Angry Men know that the film tells the story of twelve jurors deciding the verdict in a murder trial. Anatomy of a Murder has a very similar feel to the feature, although the majority of the movie takes place during the trial from the lawyer defending the accused. Those who have seen and loved 12 Angry Men as much as I did will feel the exact same about this beautifully crafted movie.

Country lawyer Paul Biegler attempts to exonerate Frederick Manion, who's charged with a local barkeep's murder. However, he claims the victim raped his wife. Employing a temporary insanity defense, Biegler tries to outmaneuver slick celebrity prosecutor Claude Dancer, but discovers that there's more to the case than meets the eye. In the case of Anatomy of a Murder, instead of having the entire trial deciding whether or not he's guilty or not guilty, Manion already confessed to the crime. However, the complications come with the situation regarding his wife. The defense argues that he's simply insane and that he has a condition that took him out of the moment and that he was a time bomb just waiting to go off. While we learn plenty about the accused, his wife, and his entire life, the film primarily focuses upon Paul. He's an extremely witty and likable character. Even the small supporting roles here are introduced into the movie very well. The lines of dialogue are well-written and viewers will always feel as if they know the characters rather well by the time his or her scenes have ended. For those looking for a compelling film with the topic of murder trials, you have found one of the best.

Behind this brilliant piece of writing is an outstanding cast. James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, and others. Stewart is Paul Biegler. He has a certain charm on screen that pulls in the audience when he speaks. He has a certain presence that's hard to describe, although he truly is an attention grabber. Remick is Laura Manion, the wife of the accused. She does a wonderful job, as well. The audience is constantly unsure whether or not she's telling the truth about being raped, and Remick does a fantastic job at showing such uncertainy in her character. Gazzara is Lt. Frederick Manion, the accused. He delivers a fine performance, as well. How this film didn't win any Oscars in any categories is beyond me. This features some of the best performances one could ask for while watching a movie.

For those wondering why I'm reviewing a movie from 1959, the film was just rereleased through Criterion onto blu-ray. In terms of the picture and audio quality, this is the best the movie has ever looked. You can't possibly ask for more from an older movie as this looks and sounds better than even some movies made a couple decades ago. The screenplay is a masterpiece and the acting is phenomenal. This movie not only deserved to win in the categories of the acting departments, but even to take home the prize of Best Picture. 12 Angry Men is one of my favorite movies of all time, and Anatomy of a Murder is an extremely strong film as well. This is an absolute must see for all ages!

My Rating = Four and One Half Stars

Next movie: Ice Age: Continental Drift

Sunday: Ice Age: Continental Drift

It's enjoyable enough to warrant a rental and checking out in theaters for those with young children and those who want to see this with the extra dimension.

Ice Age: Continental Drift
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With all of the success seen through other animated features by some studios, most of the big film studios are trying to cash in on it. Back in 2002, the first Ice Age was released. I vividly remember seeing it in theaters and enjoying it at the time. I never once thought that there would be a fourth entry in this series. The characters have charmed families worldwide as 20th Century Fox has joined the race for animated feature films. However, if you're expecting a mind-blowing masterpiece from this, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Unexpected events set the continent in motion, which sends Manny, Diego, and Sid away from Ellie and the herd and into the vastness of the open sea. The world around them is forever changed, but at least one thing remains the same: their ability to make the most of extreme climate change. Before the feature even starts, there's a short cartoon of The Simpsons that I found to be cute. It was a well-made short that all audiences will enjoy. The story is a bit ridiculous if you take a moment to think about it, but this is a family film set around talking animals, so don't expect actual historical facts to come from this. However, children are sure to enjoy the return of these characters. One of the most loved things about Pixar is that their films appeal to all age groups. It doesn't matter whether you're a child, a teenager, or an adult, there's something for all audiences there. This isn't entirely the case with Ice Age: Continental Drift since most of the humor primarily applies to children. While there are some funny parts here and there, the majority of this film is going to be loved by kids and simply tolerable by teenagers and adults. Audiences have come to expect the lovable squirrel, Scrat, in some outlandishly humorous situations. The fourth entry is no exception. In fact, Scrat is seen even more than usual. Yet again, this squirrel is one of the best things to happen to this series. I would enjoy watching an entire movie on just Scrat being involved in a bunch of different situations where he continues to get acorns. There are a lot of messages about friendship and staying true to your friends in this movie, so young children will receive the sweet messages. The plot is entertaining enough, although the melodramatic teenage angst attempted through Manny's daughter feels extremely cliché and it wears out its welcome very quickly.

There were multiple times throughout Ice Age: Continental Drift where I felt that I knew some of the voices, but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Once the cast list appeared during the credits, I was correct in finding the voices familiar. Of course, the most recognizable out of the voices were Queen Latifah as Ellie and Wanda Sykes as Granny. The remainder of the cast is played by Peter Dinklage, Nick Frost, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez, along with some supporting voices by stars such as rapper Nicki Minaj. The voice acting is fine and all of the voices fit the characters.

20th Century Fox clearly wanted Ice Age: Continental Drift to be a fun movie for the kids to see, despite the fact that there's a lot of visual gimmicks. The movie is in 3D and it isn't the usual depth that we've come to appreciate in live action movies, such as Hugo, but it has a much more fun than realistic feel to it. There are a lot of moments where characters and objects pop out of the screen towards you. There are a lot of designs in the animation made to intentionally direct towards the screen, in order to create a pop up book effect for the younger audiences. It's definitely a fun addition to a movie that isn't meant to be taken seriously from the start. The animation itself is excellent as there's an incredible amount of detail in everything from the characters to the backgrounds. The 3D glasses don't affect the brightness of the feature too much. My only complaint to list with the 3D would be that I noticed some 'ghosting' in the 3D, which means that the image appears to almost double itself at time. There's also a bit of motion blur that gets in the way in a couple sequences. Neither of these complaints are frequent, but they were noticeable enough for me to note that in the review.

I remember having an absolute blast with the first Ice Age, but I didn't get quite the same experience with this installment now that I'm older. The characters from the original film are still enjoyable enough to warrant checking out their most recent adventures. However, I'm not as much of a fan of some of the newer supporting characters. The voice acting is decent with this all-star cast and the animation is top-notch. For those that enjoy the 3D format should have a good time seeing this with the extra dimension. As for the movie itself, the kids are going to enjoy this, but it'll be hit or miss for teenagers and adults. It's enjoyable enough to warrant a rental and checking out in theaters for those with young children and those who want to see this with the extra dimension.

My Rating = Three Stars

Next movie: Traffic