It's been a while since I offered my relatively uneducated opinion movies and music. So...here goes:
Everything is Illuminated - Based on the recent book with the same title, this movie tells the story of a Jewish man's journey to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather's life during World War II. It's a travelling movie, but also a Holocaust movie. As the story wanders, almost unravelling, then coming to a powerful conclusion, the title is shown to be the theme, that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. Frodo, um, Elijah Wood does a good job as the Jewish traveller, but is upstaged by his Ukranian guide, played by Eugene Hutz. Everything is quite funny and powerful and sweet. Very well done.[Note: Because of a couple "adult" conversations, this movie isn't for kids.]
Cinderella Man - In short: a good boxer loses too much, suffers during the Great Depression, has a chance for a comeback, supported by great wife and cute kids. The high points: Ron Howard's direction and the acting (Russell Crowe & Renee Zellweger), the power and beauty of a wife devoted to her husband, the depth of commitment men ought to have to their families, cool boxing action. The low points: Humanism + savior complex = nothing good (i.e., the idea that you just have to try hard enough and everything's going to be all right leads folk to find hope in all the wrong places), the repeated blasphemies by Paul Giamatti's character as he repeatedly used Jesus name in vain. This is as good a sports movie as you might see, but, underneath the shiny, tear-filled exterior, the lies of hope in humanity remain.
The Island - Where to begin? What might have been a clever concept (engineered clones trapped in a facility find out who they are and fight the man) is slicked-up and turned into one long product-placement video game. The acting isn't bad (but I'd like to get a count on the "come on!!" and "let's go!!" quotes), the action is pretty cool, there are some clever ideas, yet it's like a Twinkie (68% air). Instead of wrestling with biogenetic ethics, it's a simple good guys vs. bad guys action movie pretending to be heavy. And seriously, if they pack any more product placement into this movie, it might qualify as the most expensive commercial ever. Go read a good book.
Joss Stone, the Soul Sessions - We find ourselves split. I like this record, but it's a little too much soul for the wife. Anyhow, if you need some groovy yet romantical-type music, this might fit the bill. A good band, great singer, good songs.
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny - Two jazz guitar masters noodle around for an hour or so. Parts of this record are absolutely wonderful; for instance, the vastly different groove on "Summertime" is worth the price of admission. But the improv pieces will have all but the most dedicated jazz fans wincing a little bit. So, if you can get past the flights of fancy, this is a great album.
The Derek Trucks Band, Songlines - I've reviewed this before (scroll down a bit), but I'm simply astounded that you haven't bought it yet. Really. What are you waiting for? It's one of the best albums I've bought in years.