By George Rose
May 19, 2009
After an alien invasion hits Earth in the year 2065, it is up to one scientist (who herself is infected by the alien "Phantoms") to find the spirits necessary to release the demons from destroying the world. Computer animation can show and blend visuals together in a way live action has yet to accomplish, allowing Final Fantasy to appear more smooth and fluid than such choppy action films as, well, Wolverine (live action actor + horrible helicopter special effects = comedy, not action). The ensuing destruction of the world is beautiful and epic, and the special effects so genius that they almost even appear realistic at points. At the very least, the complexity, beauty and detail of these effects has still not been matched by the industry, except for maybe Pixar (which itself is still more cartoonish than Final Fantasy). If you were someone who grew up loving Pixar films but are now too old to overlook the lesser quality of most things DreamWorks Animations produces, then I'm fairly confident you'll appreciate Final Fantasy. If not, then I at least recommend you go see Up on May 29th. Pixar and the Japanese can do no wrong with computer animation (I hope you're taking note, DreamWorks).
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Maybe the problem with many films is that they get pigeon-holed into being stereotypes of a group. I love horror and video games but I am not limited to them, nor am I overweight, perpetually single or live in front of my computer. I like to think I'm a well rounded individual who has many tastes and interests, one of which is independent films (which I started paying attention to in my later teen years). Because of the massive mainstream and critical success of A Beautiful Mind and her supporting role in Hulk, Jennifer Connelly and her attempt at a second Oscar, House of Sand and Fog, were put on my radar. They did not disappoint.
Unfortunately Connelly would only strike gold (in terms of Oscar and box office receipts) with A Beautiful Mind, but her turn as a woman wrongly evicted from her home in House of Sand and Fog was far more deserving. After a family of Iranian immigrants move and plan to turn a profit on the cheap purchase, they refuse to let Connelly's Kathy reclaim her family's house despite the circumstance the government has wrongly put her in. Someone should have told them that plans rarely happen as prepared for. Kathy, an emotional wreck (something Connelly plays very well), finds comfort in a lonely deputy who helps her plan her revenge. Two plans - destined to go wrong - collide in this drama-filled feature starring the well-cast Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo as the Iranian residents.
Both Ben and Jen (no, not Bennifer) came into this film with previous Oscar glory, so while both were denied the win with House and Sand and Fog it wasn't as if they had never been recognized. The major upset came when Aghdashloo lost the supporting-actress statue to Renee Zellweger for Cold Mountain. This happens from time to time with the Academy; instead of rewarding the much more deserving Aghdashloo, they had to make up for snubbing Renee in the past by giving her the supporting-actress win "just in case she isn't nominated again". Poor Shohreh. Still, that didn't stop her from making the most of her role; she has since appeared in television shows like 24 and blockbusters like X-Men: The Last Stand. Hopefully we'll keep seeing her, Connelly and Kingsley in the future, but it's films like this – the kind you look forward to because of actor's previous works and the kind that put new actors on the map – that make following the careers of Hollywood elite so much fun. You might sob your little heart out as Connelly kicks and screams her way to revenge but you'll love every bit of the experience.