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PFR is marking the 500th post by putting up a bunch of DVD extras this week. This guest paragraph review is from Fogs at Fogs Movie Reviews; an awesome review site that generates a LOT of discussion about films.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: Directed by noted screenwriter Steve Zaillian (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Moneyball, Schindler’s List), “Searching for Bobby Fischer” is an intimate look at the challenge of growing up “gifted”. It’s the story of young Joshua Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc), and what happens when it’s discovered that he’s a chess prodigy. Joe Montegna and Joan Allen play young Josh’s parents, and the two do a great job of showing the pride, anxieties, and inner conflicts involved in raising a brilliant child. How far do you push him? How much time do you have him dedicate to his gift vs a “normal” childhood? As they begin to train Josh and enter him in competitive events, he meets two very different mentors. One is a “speed chess” hustler in Washington Square Park (Lawrence Fishburne), and the other is a very exclusive, private, traditional tutor (Ben Kingsley). The two clash over the boy’s training, as you might imagine, but the true conflict of the film revolves around just how hard a child should be pushed to grow up, to compete, and to hone a killer instinct that might jeopardize the innocence of youth. With such a great cast (it also features small roles by William H. Macy, Dan Hedaya, and Laura Linney), and such a compelling story, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” winds up being a very moving, heartfelt film. It’s sitting at 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert gives it four stars, and I myself recommend it very highly.

 

Score 8/10

Mystic River: drama/mystery that follows three childhood friends in Boston from a day that changed all of their lives forever. Acting-wise, this is an absolute powerhouse of a roster with too many big names to do justice; Penn‘s passion and attitude are outstanding – a career-defining role for him, Bacon‘s awesome at staying cool and reserved, Fishbourne‘s flawless as a badass cop, Robbins is great at portraying a man on the edge, and hell, even the bit-part boyfriend’s hyper believable… everyone involved is outstanding. Technically, the film’s a masterpiece. Every shot is picturesque, the detail’s all there, the camerawork is spot-on, the direction is simple but effective and the lighting in particular adds a whole other dimension to the film – most noticeable with Robbins, who’s progressively lit to look more crooked and bizarre as the film goes on. The final product is haunting, atmospheric and unbelievably gripping as it builds up to the finale. On paper, this is as depressing a story as any other Eastwood film of late – but with a cast this strong, great pacing and simple storytelling this a proper tour de force – and while it is quite bleak, that’s where all of the mystery and drama comes from. in a nutshell, this is simply a great film.

Score: 9/10

The savages: ‘estranged siblings re-onnect as they take care of their ailing father in this Oscar-nominated black comedy’… only it’s not really a black comedy, just plain old grim. Only laughed at one part of this film, the rest of the ‘funnies’ were predictable or potty humour. Couldn’t believe Chris “Hitman” Partlow (from The Wire) played a care worker – casting FAIL! Laura Linney looked like a total milf for the duration. It was well-shot, and brilliantly acted – can’t really go wrong with Seymour-Hoffman. As a drama it ticks a few boxes, although it is a tough watch. However, it just doesn’t cut it as the Todd Solondz-esqué black comedy it was marketed as. Ignore the critics!

Score: 4/10