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Cinderella Man is inspired by the life of legendary athlete Jim Braddock, a once-promising light heavyweight boxer forced into retirement after a string of losses in the ring. As the nation enters the darkest years of the Great Depression, Braddock accepts a string of dead- end jobs to support his wife, Mae, and their children, while never totally abandoning his dream of boxing again.
Thanks to a last minute cancellation, Braddock finds himself back in the ring against the second-ranked world contender — and to everyone's amazement, Braddock wins in the third round. Despite being pounds lighter than his opponents and repeated injuries to his hands, Braddock continues to fight against challengers and win. Carrying on his shoulders the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised masses, Braddock, dubbed the "Cinderella Man," faces his toughest challenger in Max Baer, the heavyweight champion of the world, renowned for having killed two men in the ring.
For more about Cinderella Man and the Cinderella Man Blu-ray release, see Cinderella Man Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill
Director: Ron Howard
» See full cast & crew
Cinderella Man Blu-ray Review
Crowe and company save a predictable biopic...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 16, 2009
I'm beginning to think there isn't a leading role in Hollywood that Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe couldn't transform into Oscar gold. Even when he inadvertently stumbles onto the set of a mediocre film -- Virtuosity, Proof of Life, and A Good Year spring to mind -- he exudes an unwavering confidence and commitment to his craft, investing himself wholeheartedly in spite of any circumstances, challenges, or egos that stand in his way. As far as I'm concerned, it's this same integrity that allows a sensationalized, overtly-sentimental period piece like Cinderella Man to work as well as it does. Not only does Crowe's understated performance inspire his castmates to reach similar heights, he provides a much-needed anchor-point for an overambitious director and manages to ground a screenplay that tends to prioritize mild flights-of-historical-fancy over genuine period authenticity.
Based on the riveting true story of James Braddock, a 1930s boxer forced into early retirement after a hand injury threatened his career, Cinderella Man explores the struggles and hardships ordinary American citizens faced during the Great Depression. After reluctantly giving up his livelihood, Braddock (Russell Crowe) begins to look for steady work so he can still provide for his wife (Renée Zellweger) and four children. His days are long, the work is hard, and his mind is occupied with dreams of a triumphant return to boxing. But before you can say plot development, a visit from his former manager (Paul Giamatti) and a fortuitous cancellation gives him another chance to fight. Strapping on a pair of gloves and stepping into the ring against impossible odds, Braddock delivers a devastating blow that forever alters the trajectory of his life. As a public deprived of hope latches onto his comeback story, he becomes an overnight celebrity and begins to prepare for a battle-of-the-ages against heavyweight champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko).
Yes, director Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code, Frost/Nixon, Angels & Demons) attempts to amplify the vulnerability and turmoil of his characters... yes, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend) manipulates events at his slick-penned will... and yes, the film itself has been specifically constructed to appeal to as many heartstrings as possible. However, Crowe, Giamatti, and the usually-grating Zellweger rise to the occasion, injecting humanity and soul into their Depression-era tribulations. In fact, the trio exhibit such masterful control over their expressions and interactions that I can't think of any other actors who could so intrinsically inhabit their roles. Crowe carefully massages a sense of despair and desperation into his every thought and action, presenting Braddock as a hard-working everyman that unwittingly becomes a symbol to a starving nation. Giamatti is a force of spittle-spewing nature, using Gould's chunky charms to cleverly contrast Braddock's at-times thick-headed disposition. Zellweger crams love, loss, and fear into her petite frame, allowing Mae to express devotion, hesitancy, and resignation in the same breath. All three award-winning actors mold the film into something it wouldn't be had anyone else signed onto the project.
Cinderella Man is a bit overbearing -- aligning situations against Braddock in vicious succession, using Thomas Newman's admittedly-astounding musical score to milk every ounce out of tragic developments, and frequently making the boxer's life too humorless for his own good -- but the story at the heart of Howard and Goldsman's take on the tale is too strong, moving, and relevant to affect the film on a fundamental level. Ultimately, I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking Cinderella Man is overwrought and manipulative... it is. However, I found myself so swept up in Braddock's personal life, successes and failures, and eventual rise to fame that I can't help but recommend this one.
Cinderella Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Blu-ray edition of Cinderella Man features a filmic 1080p/VC-1 transfer that, while dark and soft, is quite faithful to cinematographer Salvatore Totino and director Ron Howard's intentions. The palette alternates between warm, golden hues and bleak, colorless expanses, both of which capture the tone of the period and enhance the emotional undercurrent of the story. Blacks are thick and oppressive, but coat the foregrounds and backgrounds beautifully while offering better shadow visibility than the film's previous DVD releases. Likewise, overall detail isn't as crisp or refined as Blu-ray enthusiasts might expect (Totino's use of Cooke S4 prime lenses being the culprit), but textures are still relatively revealing, edges are well-defined (without the help of any overzealous edge enhancement), and the film's intermittent brightly-lit shots look fantastic. It helps that the image is extremely clean: I didn't detect any distracting source noise, artifacting, banding, or blocking. And while it appears Universal employed a minor application of DNR to reduce grain, the technique's usual side effects (waxy faces, motion smearing, and loss of clarity) have been kept to a bare minimum.
All things considered, Cinderella Man looks great. It doesn't deliver the sort of jaw-dropping picture you'll use to showcase your equipment, but it provides an excellent representation of the film's original theatrical presentation.
Cinderella Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal comes through with yet another stirring DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Braddock's bouts are extraordinary: sharp thwacks enhance jabs in the heat of battle, a wet splatter accompanies the leathery whump of hooks, and the meaty shunk of a shot to the jaw packs enough punch to leave a lasting impression on the listener. Hushed dialogue is definitely the cornerstone of the film's soundscape, but the scattered fight sequences showcase the track's LFE prowess, dynamic power, and rear speaker proficiency. No matter the scene, pans are smooth, directionality is accurate, and prioritization is impeccable. Even Thomas Newman's musical score has been meticulously distributed across the soundfield; his crooning violins and heart-aching melodies nestling softly amongst the speakers, enveloping the listener at every turn.
As it stands, my only complaint is that Howard's quietest scenes lack comparable presence. Acoustics are underwhelming at times, injecting an unsettling silence into several subdued interior spaces. Regardless, Cinderella Man's efficient Master Audio track is a satisfying treat any fan or audiophile will be able to enjoy.
Cinderella Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cinderella Man hops into the ring with a myriad of mesmerizing special features culled from the standard DVD, Collector's Edition DVD, and 2006 HD DVD. While all of the disc's video content is unfortunately presented in standard definition, the breadth of Universal's supplemental package more than makes up for it.
Cinderella Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cinderella Man is one of director Ron Howard's finest. It isn't as precise as Apollo 13 or as captivating as Ransom, but it does boast phenomenal performances, an inspiring story, and an unexpectedly relevant exploration of hope during a period of tremendous economic turmoil. Universal's Blu-ray edition is even better. With a faithful video transfer, a rousing DTS-HD Master Audio track, and a seemingly endless collection of supplemental materials, Cinderella Man is a perfect disc to pick up for dear old dad this Father's Day.
Cinderella Man: Other Editions
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Following yesterday's announcement, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'Seabiscuit' and 'Inside Man' to Blu-ray. These titles, which will be presented in 1080p VC-1 accompanied by 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, will join ...
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