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The 2002 Academy Awards will always be remembered for just one thing: Halle Berrys unforgettable speech after she picked up the award for Best Actress. Well, perhaps the fact that she and Denzel Washington became the first black recipients of Best Actor and Actress in the same year, that was kind of important too. In case you havent seen it, she broke down in uncontrollable tears and generally looked quite silly. It was her performance in this film, Monsters Ball, for which she won the prize. Did she deserve it? Or does the Academy perhaps have a thing for films with the word Monster in the title? The answer is a definite yes. To both.
Halle Berry plays Leticia, a waitress in financial difficulties, with a criminal husband due to be executed on death row (Sean P Diddy/ Puff Daddy/ whatever he is now Combs), and a son who cant stop eating chocolate. Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank Grotowski, the prison officer who is responsible for sending him to the chair. Hanks life is just as muddled as Leticias, since he has a son he hates (Heath Ledger) who also works at the prison, and a racist father (Peter Boyle) whom he looks after at home. Due to a series of tragedies and coincidences, the pair meet up and have a night of passion. Will they stay together despite all their differences and past secrets?
Monsters Ball is a triumph of intelligent, small budget filmmaking. Marc Forsters direction is extremely simple and understated, which allows the powerful story to unfold in all its beauty. The story itself is very dark and quite sad in places, and the film isnt one to watch if you want a good laugh, or rather any laughs at all, since it deals with the weighty issues of racism, death and capital punishment. It also has some surprising twists up its sleeve. The pace of the film may also be a problem for some, as its pretty slow, although that makes it feel more believable and accentuates the characters development.
The acting from everyone involved is great, from the main stars to the minor characters. I wasnt expecting much from Sean Combs since singers dont usually make good actors, but he seemed natural enough, even during the slightly unrealistic final goodbyes to his family. Heath Ledger was impressive in a very heavy role, showing that he can do serious acting as well as comedies (as he proved again this year in Brokeback Mountain). Billy Bob Thornton was also excellent as the dislikeable Hank, and I found it interesting to watch a film in which I didnt really find any sympathy in the main character. Although he does develop from the racist man we see at the start of the film, I still didnt particularly like him, even by the end. Ive never seen anything with Thornton in before, but it sounds like he specialises in these grumpy old men type characters.
The star of the film for me though was Halle Berry. Critics have said that in her character, Hollywood has just created another stereotypical, poor black woman with an unrealistic accent, and that the Oscar voters were tricked. Although I can see where theyre coming from about her character being slightly clichéd, I still found her performance really powerful and engaging. The scenes with her and her son arguing, her in the hospital and when she meets Hanks father were all impeccably acted, and I found her predicaments genuinely emotional.
The part that other reviewers seem to be talking about most is the long sex scene between Hank and Leticia. I dont really know what to make of it. On one hand, it was a brave bit of film-making and it was handled realistically, but I just dont think it really fitted in with the mood of the film, and it did lower the tone somewhat. Whats for sure is that Monsters Ball should definitely be an 18, not a 15. The sex is extremely graphic, on more than one occasion, and they even show a man being executed. It cant be old-fashioned or over-sensitive to find watching a man being electrocuted to death unsuitable for kids. Surely fifteen-year olds should not be able to see this, let alone the under-fifteens who would be able to get into a cinema and watch it.
On a more positive note, the cinematography and camera-work was fantastic; very dark and moody, with lots of fading in and out of focus on the different characters. The editing was also quite effective, as it knew when to play out a scene in a single shot and when to change. The soundtrack, although not that memorable, certainly fitted the mood of the film and was very atmospheric.
I thought the ending was strange; it felt like a part of the story had been missed off. Just as you are about to reach the conclusion, the film stops and lets you decide for yourself how it all ends. It certainly makes you think, and its much better than a cheesy happy ending, but I felt that one further development would have been better (youll probably know what I mean if youve seen it).
Overall, I think that Monsters Ball is a powerful film, one that is certainly worth watching once or twice, although perhaps not one which you would rush out to buy on DVD, then enjoy it again and again.
Monsters Ball is available to buy online for £5.99, from www.blahdvd.com.
Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Halle Berry...Leticia Musgrove
Billy Bob Thornton...Hank Grotowski
Heath Ledger...Sonny Grotowski
Sean Combs...Lawrence Musgrove
Peter Boyle...Buck Grotowski
Coronji Calhoun...Tyrell Musgrove
Mos Def...Ryrus Cooper
Running Time: 108 minutes
Classification: 15 (tut tut)
It tackles racism without sinking into politically correct mushy dialogue - thanks to the father. He gets some really awkward lines to speak. His son, following in his footsteps, appears like his father but is a more complex character. Another brave move is making Hank so unlikeable. The audience does not sympathise with him or understand his motives. The female lead is acceptably believable and illicits immediate sympathy from the audience. But as the film progresses, its almost as if the writer/director lost interest in conveying this character as one of life's real people. By the end she has slumped into the Hollywood mould of the female sex interest. Lost points there.
Billy Bob Thornton is, for me, the main reason to see “Monster’s Ball”. Forget about Halle Berry – yes, I know she won an Oscar for her role, and she is good, but her acting here certainly wasn’t the best of the year, and, well, Thornton is far better, and it’s his performance that you’re going to remember. The plot centres on his character, as a corrections officer, and he is pivotal to the grandfather/father/son household that the movie is based around. It’s set in the Deep South, in smalltown Georgia, so capital punishment and racial prejudice are presented as common occurances here, it’s part of the territory, it seems. Hank Grotowski (Thornton) lives with his father, a bigoted old timer (Peter Boyle), and also his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger). Both Hank and Sonny work on Death Row, and there’s definitely an atmosphere of sadness, man-to-man, gritty empathy, and a sense of people just trying to get through each day. The title, “Monster’s Ball”, refers to a condemned man’s last night before his execution, where the staff provide him not only with the famed meal of his choice, but also with some degree of dignity. The condemned man in question, who we see at the start of “Moster’s Ball” is Sean Combs. aka “Puff Daddy”). But the movie isn’t so much about him, as his wife, Letitia, played by Halle Berry. In fact, most of the film is about the relationship between Letitia and Hank. Thornton’s acting is very emotive, even though, or perhaps because, he comes across as a man with hidden depths. You know the kind or guy – doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does he speaks volumes. I suppose I’ve got to mention the sex scene – it’s probably the best (or shall we say the most explicit) sex scene you get see on a movie with a Cert 15. The European version includes more ‘sexy
217; scenes than the version released in the US version. I’m in two minds about the sex scene – it’s relevant to the plot and everything, but in some way seems out of place, and it’s not exactly got the chemistry that it should have. Elsewhere there are some quite harrowing scenes – particularly child abuse, but also (and this should surprise anyone, bearing in mind the movie’s title) a prison execution. “Monster’s Ball” would definitely have had an 18 certificate 5 or 10 years ago. I thought it was a good movie, although I did have a couple of slight problems with it – at times it seemed to go slow (something that may be compounded by Hank’s slowness?) and there are one or two central plot devices that just didn’t ring true for me – without giving too much away, I think news would travel fast in a small town and things would become common knowledge that does seem to have). The movie is directed by Marc Foster, and screenwriters are Milo Addica and Will Rokos. For more information visit the website: http://www.monstersballthefilm.com The DVD extras include: two audio commentaries - one from the director and the director of photography; and one from the director and Billy Bob Thorton and Halle Berry. Rounding out the extras -two featurettes (8 minutes long and 4 minutes long), seven deleted scenes, and a full screen trailer. I have heard of a cheat for getting to another DVD extra, and although I haven't tried it myself, I'll repeat it here - At the main menu, select the "Special Features" option. Press Up until a hidden icon above the "Trailer" option is highlighted. Press Enter to view the trailer for Everything Put Together
Critically acclaimed when it opened in the US, and praised even more when it came out over here, this was a film I was desperate to see, especially since it featured one of my current favourite actors, Heath Ledger. That was nearly 12 months ago… the reason I’m writing this review so much later is that it’s only now I can reflect on the film without thinking something along the lines of ‘AAAAAAAARGH!!! Gimme my money back you gold-grabbing cinema mercenaries…” I beg your pardon, I got carried away there. However, as you’ve probably guessed from the above comment, the film didn’t exactly live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. In fact, far from being a modern day classic, it comes across as little more than a cynical piece filmed solely because a movie about racism starring a black actress would give the Academy the chance to hand out the first Best Actress Oscar to a coloured person. Well, at least it worked in one respect. A basic resume of the plot is that Billy Bob Thornton plays racist prison guard Hank Grotowski, abusive father to Ledger’s fellow prison guard, who lives with him, as does Hank’s father, another racist. At the start of the film, he is about to kill off the condemned Lawrence Musgrove, a black man. Musgrove’s wife, meanwhile, has long since lost any feelings for her husband, and is struggling to bring up their son, who is grotesquely obese with a compulsive eating disorder. Tragedy strikes both families, leading to Thornton and Berry getting it on in one of the most horrific scenes of cinema history. While my personal feelings after seeing the film were that the only actors to give even watchable performances were Ledger, and bizarrely, Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Coombes (far better than anyone expected as Lawrence), looking back it is perhaps unfair to criticise the rest too much, as the characterisation is so clumsy tha
t even Bogart or Olivier would have trouble making Thornton’s character come to life. However, I have to say that Thornton failed completely to make me take any interest in Hank’s situation, and Berry left me equally indifferent to her character, Letitia. As well as the awful characterisation, we have to cope with clunky symbolism (Hank uses a WHITE spoon to stir BLACK coffee, which is obviously to show his belief in the inherent superiority of white people, and not just because he likes black coffee and the café he drinks at only has white spoons.) As for the much heralded sex scene, which seems to have received lots of praise on the basis that Billy Bob’s old and not classically good looking but they still show him getting some on screen, it’s risible. Thornton’s character seems to forget that he’s a racist as soon as Berry gets her kit off, and they then roll around a lot in a manner which I can’t really describe too well, as I’ve spent the best part of a year trying to block the scene from my memory. Finally, we have the ending. I won’t give it away, since some of you may ignore my advice and want to watch this tired claptrap anyway. However, it’s anti-climatic, ridiculous, and generally a complete failure to provide a coherent end to the movie. On the plus side, it’s there. While Y Tu Mama Tambien, and The Count of Monte Cristo, both provoked huge cheers when I saw them in the cinema, this is the only film I’ve ever seen where the audience greeted the credits with a collective sigh of relief. Like House on Haunted Hill, the ending seems to come from nowhere, but while in that film, it seemed as if the budget was too high and they’d had to wrap things up quickly, here it’s as if they’ve realised 90% of the viewers will be asleep, and they might as well stop trying. I can’t remember the exact length (it FEELS like 2 weeks, but I
suppose 2 hours is probably more likely), but to paraphrase a joke, you know it’s a bad film when you’re constantly checking your watch – and you know it’s a really bad film when you’re constantly checking that your watch hasn’t stopped.
Present day, American Deep South. Black prisoner Lawrence Musgrove (Sean 'P Diddy' Combs) awaits execution by, among others, prison guards Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger). Meanwhile, Musgrove's wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), tries in vain to look after herself and her morbidly obese son on her waitress' wages. Leticia's life is a constant struggle against loneliness, her son's condition, poverty, the demands of work and single-motherhood, her dying car and the covert and overt racism that still characterise her part of America. Grotowski's life is equally unappealing. He lives with his father and his own son in an unhomely house devoid of humour and affection. His father - a retired prison guard - is a racist with a philosophy befitting the KKK of yesteryear, and these views have been instilled into Hank from birth. Hank's mother is dead and his wife has long departed, though her memory is bitterly rekindled every day by the presence of Sonny. Following Musgrove's execution, circumstances conspire to bring Leticia and Hank into contact. Both are hopeless characters leading bleak, bleak lives, and both by this time share a tragic coincidence which I will not divulge. Out of this dark despair, a relationship starts one drunken night. Much has been said of the crucial sex scene that begins the relationship of these two characters, and much of it on this site has poked fun or seen its explicitness as audience-grabbing titillation. I strongly disagree. For me, this is one of the most powerful scenes (sex or otherwise) in modern cinema. It is not beautifully lit. It does not contain close-ups of oiled bodies writhing in impossible breathless perfection. Depicting the connection of two lonely, f*cked-up desperate souls, it is absolutely heart-rending in its gritty, grunting realism and pathos. It is warts-and-all sex: noisy, clumsy, pawing, clawing, driven b
y need and repression, not love and desire. Filmed at arms-length through a lens that appears worn and scratched, the sex scene epitomises the style of the film as a whole. Though many of the film's themes are psychological, the movie never attempts to get into the minds of the individuals involved. Instead, it views their imperfect, grim lives from an unbiased distance, with the camera acting only as amoral observer. Director Marc Forster leaves it to the actors themselves to communicate their psychological dilemmas and shredded emotions, and this they do sublimely. Berry gives the performance of her life as Leticia, a woman so ground down by life that she at times seems comatose. As her emotions are awakened by first tragedy and then love, her tentative emotional growth and the emergence of terrified hope in her soul is perfectly portrayed. Thornton is equally brilliant, managing to convey a lifetime's racist hatred with one look at the start of the film, and then a lifetime's worth of remorse as he begins to change. Combs and Ledger provide very capable support as the condemned man and younger prison guard respectively. There are, of course, flaws in this film, and Hank's personality change is one of them. Although his reasons for change make sense and are believable, it all happens a little too swiftly and too pat. Also, the characters appear to inhabit a world full of amenities - a huge café, a new gas station, a large modern hospital - but strangely devoid of people. There are never any customers in the café, no one fills up at the station and the hospital appears to have no patients. Other people have criticised the movie for its pace, and for its lack of dialogue in places. For me, though, both added, rather than took away, from the film. Battered into inarticulacy by life, it is entirely fitting that Leticia and Hank are not the types for polite conversation. And, portr
ayed as they are by two superb actors working at their peak, words would often be superfluous. Monster's Ball is the best movie I have seen in a long time, and certainly the best to come out of Hollywood since American Beauty. I cannot recommend it highly enough. N.B. A 'monster's ball' is a condemned prisoner's last night on earth.
Monsters Ball is one of those films that not many people had probably heard of until Halle Barry picked up the Best Actress Oscar earlier for her performance. It's one of those films that is small in scale and the kind that builds slowly. Of course there was the small matter of a full on sex scene between Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in the movie to contend with as well. Thornton plays Hank Grotowski, a correctional officer who resides over state executions. Among his staff is his son Sonny (Heath Ledger) and today they are executing Lawrence Musgrove (Puff Daddy/P.Diddy). Berry plays Leticia, the wife of Lawrence who only maintains contact for the sake of their overweigh son. In Hank's private life things are grim. His father Buck (Peter Boyle) is a racist and a bully who Hank has taken after, Sonny is more like a chore to Hank than a son and there is nothing but contempt and pent up anger in Hank's life. Meanwhile Leticia is struggling to make ends meet but then tragic circumstances cause Hank and Leticia to meet and soon a strange love affair is started. This is a movie that could have easily been your average TV movie of the week that tugs at the heart strings and makes you reach for the sick bag. However the approach here is different and one that makes Monster's Ball a memorable film. The thing that draws you in is that it's a small character piece where there's not a lot going on outside of the main characters lives. These lives are also incredibly bleak and troubled which makes it interesting. The acting is excellent from all the main cast. Peter Boyle is intimidating despite breathing oxygen through a tube while Ledger is good in a small but pivotal role. However it's Thornton and Berry's show. I find it strange that Thornton wasn't recognised at the actors for this and his role in The Man Who Wasn't There. Here he plays a man who goes from anger through to sadness with ease, he's normal and that
's why I bought the character. Berry is also a revelation, the performance certainly deserved the oscar because it's certainly the bravest out of all the nominees. Berry is stripped down and completely ordinary, there are times when it's heartbreaking what happens to her character. Director Marc Forster handles the film well by never glossing over things but never making them offensive either. Everything is done with a slow burning pace and is very intimate, the sex scene isn't as glowing as say the infamous one in Don't Look Now but it certainly is raw. It's also a compliment that Forster get's solid performances out of rap stars Mos Def and P Diddy. This is a film that shows you what the drama genre is all about, it's just characters interacting in life and a story. Nothing else and that's why it's good.
Just because the actress playing the main role wins an Oscar for Best Actress does not mean the film is also Oscar-caliber. This review tells you the bad and the worse news about the film without disclosing the entire story. STORY: Hank (Billy Bob Thornton), a white man, gets romantically involved with Leticia (Halle Berry), a black woman. Hank and his son (Heath Ledger) are the prison guards carrying out Leticia’s husband's (Sean Combs) execution. Hank’s father (Peter Boyle) is sick and needs Hank’s constant care. SETTING: Somewhere in Georgia, USA Present time (2000) SEX SCENES: A few very realistic scenes. Hold onto the chair arms! THE TITLE: A Monster’s Ball is the last few hours of a prison inmate’s life before he’s executed. The movie starts with a Monster’s Ball, but it’s hard to understand what connection it has with the rest of the story. VIOLENCE: A suicide scene that’s quite unexpected. Prison execution scene – you may wish you had not seen it. Car accident -- you’ll only see the bloody aftermath. LANGUAGE: Hank’s father’s hard-to-take racist comments a la Archie Bunker. PACE: S L O W – 2 hours seems like 5 hours. ACTING: Exceptional. Halle Berry deserves an Oscar. Billy Bob Thornton and Peter Boyle are believable as Down South white racists. Sean Combs gives a touching performance during the Monster’s Ball. COMMENTARY: The story line is boring, at best. The number of storyline coincidences makes it difficult to believe. Hank is present at the execution of Leticia’s husband. Hank is a frequent patron of a diner where Leticia is filling in for another waitress. Hank just happens to be driving by the scene of a hit-and-run accident where Leticia’s son is the victim. Both Hank and Leticia’
s sons die within days of each other. REDEEMING FACTORS: The cinematography. When the credits roll by, you’ll be mesmerized. Some ordinary, everyday events turn extraordinary via the camera’s magic. Halle Berry. Not only is she stunning, she can act! Her character, Leticia, frequently falls onto hard times. In character, Halle’s face vividly reflects every emotion. RATING: See it only if there’s nothing else to see in the video store Or If you’re interested in seeing Halle Berry’s Oscar-winning performance.
Halle Berry walked away with, what some might have viewed as a "surprise" Oscar at the ceremonies earlier this year. While many had pinned their bets on Sissy Spacek to take home the little gold man for the independent film In the Bedroom, it was Halle Berry who was up in tears excepting it for her role in also independent Monster's Ball. But was it deserved? While some would say that Berry merely picked it up because she was black, others supported the Academy’s decision. As for me, well at the time of the ceremonies I was sceptical, not believing that Berry was particularly capable of giving anything more then a chest exposing, flimsy, stand-there-and-look-pretty performance. It must be said her past features weren't all serious classics. From X Men and Swordfish to BAPS, she had done little in the series roles. But I decided to check out this film at its release in this country, and boy was my mind changed. This film was quite clearly advertised as "Halle Berry's film" a statement that doesn't quite hold true in the film. This is a story not about Berry's Leticia, but far more revolving around Billy Bob's Hank. It's a story about Hank and how a set of unfortunate and fortunate events change this mans life and views. The plot is as follows. Hank is a prison guard at a local prison. He deals with executions and the arranging of them inside the jail. He is an open racist, not quite a member of the KKK, but a person with attitudes that are not sympathetic to coloured people. He lives with his father (Peter Boyle) and son (Heath Ledger) and the film follows a short space of time in his life where life changing events re-shape the way he views life. He works with his son Sonny a young man, who is quite different to his father in views, attitudes and personality. Anyway, Hank and Sonny make preparations for the execution of prisoner Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy) a husband to Leticia
, although an absent one as he has spent many a year inside jail. Leticia is not particularly sad to see the end of Lawrence (at least not openly), but she worries more for her son and the fact that she can no longer support him financially. Lawrence is put to death, in an execution run by Hank. It would be unwise to tell you anymore of the plot, as it may well spoil it for anyone who has not watched the film. But I will say that a set of events, bring Leticia and Hank together, they become romantically involved, but the question is, will she find out about Hank executing her former husband and if she does what will she do. This is a brilliant, humane drama, that brings life to all the characters in it and takes us on a journey for a real reason. Director Marc Forster makes us think and believe the story he is telling, by using dramatic pauses, lighting effects and a great score. The script is well written and holds believable dialogue, with lines that you can relate to. But more importantly perhaps, is the emphasis on what the script doesn't say. These things, the feelings and reasons of the characters are wonderfully put across in facial expression, body language and excellent lighting. There are many subtle references and similarities between scenes, small things like what's on the television. Forster brings it all out, but subtly, something a lot of directors just cant do. One of the best scenes is probably the execution one. The way in which it is filmed is brilliantly constructed, I almost got a feel of what it would be like to be strapped down, immobile, knowing that the end was inevitable. A truly brilliant scene. Of course this is primarily an acting movie. and rightly so, all the performances are brilliantly done, perhaps even perfectly. I was surprised by most of the performances and just how good they were. Sean "Puffy" Combs is the prime example. His performance was absolutely excellent, I just wonder why he doesn'
;t quit the music industry and work in independent movies. He had just the right mix of everything, not too wishy-washy and sentimental, but not the "hard-ass" bad bay in jail either. It would be very interesting to see him in another demanding harder role. He could be a one performance guy, but I'd like to know for sure. He could be another Brendan Fraser, a man who's awful at the stupid roles, but really surprises you when he attempts something more challenging. I was also really surprised, in a good way with the excellent performance from Heath Ledger. I was rather sceptical about his performance, seeming as his last role was in A Knight's Tale I was assuming that e was just another pretty boy. I was very wrong, Ledger played his part perfectly and considering the personality, actions and looks of him in this I would severely warn any young girls out there who are planning to rent this out just to see Heath Ledger, don't. Your vision of him will be greatly shaken. It seems that he too is wanting to shake off his pretty boy look. He comes across on this as looking rather plain, which is nice and refreshing to see from an actor of his age. I am definitely looking forward to seeing him in more roles with this much depth. Halle Berry was excellent, there is no denying that. She played her role brilliantly and my opinion of her has been greatly changed. She too like Hedger should be looking to do deeper roles in the future like this. It would be a shame to see her wonder down the action/pretty girl road when she has proved her capability to give a great performance. Although I am less then excited about her two forthcoming films Die Another Day (James Bond) and X2 (X-Men 2). Still I think she most definitely deserved to be up for that Oscar, although I don't think she quite topped Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. So Really it turns out that the greatest Oscar travesty with this film is not that it Halle Berry won
the Oscar, it's that Billy Bob Thornton was not nominated. Berry was excellent, but this really was Thornton’s show. He has proved once again that he is one of the top actors in the business. Both this and his equally excellent performance in the Coen Bros' The Man Who Wasn't There have really put Billy Bob at the top of my list of top actors. From his excellent speaking voice, to his very interesting face, that lights in so many ways to convey so many emotions (please don't get a face lift!). It pains me to think that Sean Penn and Tom Wilkinson were up for best actor when there were far better performances from Thornton for this and The Man Who Wasn't There and Jack Nicholson for The Pledge. This is a top film, one of the best this year. In a film where I really wasn't sure what to expect I walked away surprised by a film that blew me away. Excellent, go see it. Although it may not apeal to those who prefere big bangs and action sequances, but for those who like to think when watching a film, you should like it.
What Is It? Monster’s Ball is the Oscar winning movie, which enraptures the essence of raw Southern feeling towards racism and the impact it has on its inhabitants as a consequence. Starring Halle Berry, the movie incorporates deep vein racism and flowering love into a highly emotionally charged tear fest. However in saying this, although the title suggests it, the film is not actually based around the final party of a criminal on death row, a confusing title considering what the film is actually about. Opening The opening scene is sex orientated and it sets the scene for the rest of the movie. The Deep South is the stage and it becomes immediately apparent to the viewer that the movie is about the lust and infatuation amongst the inhabitants of the Deep South, the hot weather conditions being a perfect setting. Camera Quality The camera has managed to capture the meaning behind the film, the issue of racism and the power of sophisticated love; Halle Berry’s performance is simply complemented by this brilliant assistant. The concept of dramatic love and passionate almost melodramatic human encounters is all successfully captured by the silver screen. Despite this fact, at times the some powerful images of violence and disorder in the Deep South are often I feel overlooked by a camera man who seems to be struggling to fit everything into a couple of hours. Attraction The movie will attract different kinds of people and it would be unfair for me to conclude that this movie is simply a weepy drama for the ladies, however, some folk who believe they are in for a monster, action packed movie will be gravely disappointed. However, in saying, this movie does bring a lot to the pate, if not drama and entertainment for the male reviewer then a taste of history and how far we have come as a nation and not just a race. I recommend this movie for anyone who needs a direct eye opener. The Main F
ocus The main focus of the movie is that of racism and how deep seeded it is in the American continent. Despite the amount of positive figures in politics and even the media, hatred still reigns in some people’s hearts. This is what the movie is all about, but also how this disheartening fact can be overcome. I don’t want to give too much away but the movie was definitely worth watching, if not for entertainment then education. The Characters The character performances in the movie were definitely exceptional, not just that of award winning Halle Berry but that of the supporting cast and co-star Billy Bob Thornton. Each actor expresses and represents their part brilliantly. Halle Berry in particular is very believable and at times almost too believable. Highly emotional scenes see her talents as an actor truly shining through. Conclusion Monsters Ball is an exceptional movie. I wouldn’t watch it again because the entertainment factor is high but not lasting. Although entertaining the first time, I can’t image having to sit through the entire film again simply because I would rather remember it with the innocence and lack of judgement that I had when I first watched it. Monster’s Ball is a lesson in culture and racism; but with all lessons, they should never be repeated but rather remembered.
Although it was released last November in the States and in March its leading actress picked up an Oscar for her appearance in it, "Monster's Ball" has only been on our screens for just under two months. ================================== PLOT (AS ALWAYS, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!;D) ================================== In the film we are introduced to two different worlds with very distinct boundaries that gradually become blurred. The first is that of corrections officer Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a man whose job involves leading the condemned to their executions. His father Buck (Peter Boyle) also worked on death row, and while the two do not have a particularly close relationship, Hank initially seems to be trying to please him. He's following in his father's footsteps and mimics his father's heavily racist behaviour. Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger) is also trying to please his father, who in this case is Hank. Sonny's also ended up a corrections officer, even though the job seems to be too difficult for him emotionally. His life appears to be very empty. We see little evidence of him doing anything other than carrying out a job he hates and spending money on prostitutes. In the same way that Buck does not have a good relationship with his son, Hank and Sonny do not get on. Hank claims to hate his son, who despite everything cares for him. Moving on. The second world belongs to Leticia Musgrove. She's a black woman struggling to cope with losing her house, losing her husband and looking after their overweight son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). For the past eleven years, her husband Lawrence (Sean Combs) has been on death row and is now finally about to be killed. She's stayed with him, mainly because of her son. Whatever love she had for him is gone and all she feels now is tired. Both Hank and Leticia suffer a personal tragedy and despite the apparent
racism that exists for Hank, the two become friends. Eventually their relationship deepens and they become lovers. ====== VERDICT ====== "Monster's Ball" deals with some very heavy themes. Racism, violence, and abuse all feature, and explicit sex scenes are also there. It's rated 15 over here in the UK, which means a significant number of 14-year-olds will end up seeing it. It's maybe not that suitable for them because of the themes previously mentioned, but you know they'll see the film anyway. It's easy to see why Halle Berry picked up her Oscar for her appearance. In fact, all the actors who feature, put on very credible performances. I'm including Sean Combs in this, or P Diddy as he now likes to be known. If you haven't seen the film yet, you may wonder about the acting skills of a rap star, but he's actually very good in his role as a condemned man. Speaking of people from music crowd, Mos Def also puts in a appearance as a black man unafraid to stand up for himself and his children in an area where racism is rife. Apparently the main sex scene is longer in the UK version than the American one. Sex sells and in used in many films, but here it actually can be justified. In the words of Halle Berry, it's "the pivotal vital part of the movie". "Monster's Ball" is probably not everyone's type of film, but if the genre appeals and you feel comfortable sitting through scenes of suicide and naked Halle Berrys, then go see. ======== THE NAME ======== By the way, in case you're wondering... Monster's Ball is the term given to a condemned prisoner's last night on earth. I'm pretty sure Billy Bob Thornton refers to it somewhere near the start of the film. Unlike the Dooyoo "similiar products" link would have you believe, it's got absolutely no connection with "Monster
's Inc" ;) Which is a fab film in itself. ==== LINKS ==== http://www.monstersballthefilm.com - The official site. Uses flash. Has pictures, cast info and a message board amongst other things. http://www.oscar.com/oscarnight/winners/winner_actress.html - Halle Berry's transcribed acceptance speech.
“It is not the colour of my skin, nor the way that I speak that contorts your mind into such pitiful thoughts. It is not your upbringing, nor your breeding that encourages such detestation for the things you don’t understand. The truth lies deeply embedded in your own fear, a fear that makes your hatred burn with a passion that only you can control, yet you let it control you. Don’t pity me, pity yourself, as that’s where the answer to your problems lies.” Angus Reid. 2/06/2002 Monsters Ball encompasses both deep racism and sexual lust, and twists the two into almost two hours of dramatic insight into Southern culture, Louisiana style. I am somewhat bemused by this version of Monster's Ball which is based on a screenplay by actors Milo Addica and Will Rokos, and have yet to get my head around the concept that they chose to follow. Monsters Ball is a tem giving to the last party held by an inmate on death row, shortly before his execution. A morbid occasion, and one virtually non-existent in this movie! So why did they pick this title when another would have described the movie somewhat more globally. Two minds are better than one, we are led to believe, and in this instance, I beg to differ. The film opens with graphic sex and carries on the theme throughout, leaving the more straight-laced audience member with an uncomfortable situation. Exploring the inner reaches of sexuality, lust and even perversion to the extreme, Monsters Ball journeys into the somewhat dark side of life in the deep south of the USA. Indeed having travelled through some of the southern Sates, such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, I can quite easily relate to the attitude, if not the content of this film. The concept of this drama is deep, meaningful and obscure at times, yet simplistic in its own realm of humanities obsessions with appearances and ego. Graphic violence lies side by side with no
rmality, and seems to have little effect on daily life Some excellent camera work aided this dramaticall movie to flow, not quite like a river, but more like a stream in the summer, slow and cumbersome, yet purposeful and not without reason. I found myself trying to make the journey with them, but often felt like I had been left at the bus stop as the director pushed for more abstract reasoning than simplistic values and easy to follow scenarios. Indeed, when you thought you could see where this movie was heading, along came another scene to throw you right back into the murkiness of plot reasoning school, and I found my chain of thought being pushed to another extreme. A glance around at the audience showed similar reactions, with some people engrossed, some bewildered, and some bored senseless, expecting to see a violent thriller rather than a drama that sucked you in, chewed with your thought patterns and spat you out to the side of the plate for later. The character performances were exceptional, compelling at times, loathsome others, and even pitiful despite their somewhat lack of tolerance for violence. Tears were often and racism a major focal point whereas normality kept poking its nose through the often-heavy dialogue, ensuring that far fetched and unrealistic were terms never associated with the script. To sum up my reactions to this movie, I felt I had been taken on an emotional journey, an insight into the real back roads of life in Southern USA. One moment you were watching no holds barred sex, the next cold and heartless hatred and graphic violence, only to be taken down by a gentle compassion and change in principals. Not a movie to watch twice, nor one to choose when in an excitable mood, but a definite for people who like to be taken by the hand and placed somewhere in the mind of the actors. Recommended for the mentally stimulated, not recommended for the all action hero type. I
f you like both, then fine, for Monsters Ball is a movie that will stay with you for a long time. Angus Reid CAST Billy Bob Thornton Halle Berry Heath Ledger Peter Boyle Sean Combs DIRECTOR Mark Forster For more technical info and further information go to; http://www.monstersballthefilm.com/ FACT Halle Berry won an academy award for her part as the widow of a recently executed murderer on Death Row, and excelled in her somewhat downcast role. Her acceptance speech will go down in memory as one of the most touching and genuine speeches ever given at the Oscars and may she go on to better and bigger casting parts in the future. Angus Reid
Monster's Ball is definitely a surprise hit this year, but when you see the quality of acting and directing you are left in no doubt why. The acting is fantastic and I could clearly see why Halle Berry took home the Academy Award. As Leticia she makes an unrealistic character in an even more unrealistic situation seem real. It's like we can almost feel her emotion. Billy Bob Thornton is also incredible although he plays a character very simialar to his other roles. I am not a great fan of P. Diddy, Puff Daddy or whatever he calls himself now, but Sean Combs did a fantastic job as the condemned Lawrence. I think he may be a finer actor than a rapper! I also like the way that there were several shocks along the way, some expected, some not. But the ending as calm as it was was the biggest surprise for me. I thought that the director's finest part of the film had to be the opening credits. I liked the way that he made it look very surreal then once the credits were through turned into a realistic situation. If you are interested in filmaking this is a good film to see for directorial work. My only critisicm of the film is that the story moves along very slowly and after two hours you do feel like you have been in the cinema for about four. All in all it is a good film which is definitely worth a cinema ticket and a bucket of popcorn. It makes you think as well as being interesting to watch.
Monster's Ball is not the sequel to Monster's Inc! I say this because as I was waiting in line to see it- a parent told her child it was- in a attempt to keep the poor kid quiet. Of course, this didn't work as the litt 'lun wanted to see it then instead of Spiderman! Anyway, where was I? Yes, Monsters Ball. Well, if you watched TV or the news in March you will have seen Halle Berry walk away with an Oscar for Best Actress. There was so much talk about her emotional acceptance of the award that it was easy to forget the film she won it for. It was for this very film. So, after months of waiting for this critically acclaimed gem- it is here to provide audiences with Summer movie fodder with an added bonus; a message as opposed to a huge budget. Before I review the film- here's some background info: ============================================= MONSTER'S BALL Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean Combs Director: Marc Foster Certificate: 15 Running Time: 1hr 52 mins ============================================= Monster's Ball is about two people from opposite sides of the tracks. It's about love and the how it can occur in the saddest and most unusual of situations. The film opens on Death Row. Laurence Musgrove (Sean Combs; aka Puff Daddy/P Diddy) has exhausted lots of appeals for killing a cop. His execution is now but 24 hours away. His wife Leticia (Halle Berry) is in her words "tired." She is tired of living life on credit, working all hours as a waitress and getting her son in order. He eats chocolate obsessively to make up for the fact that he is missing his daddy. Leticia is addicted to another source of comfort; alcohol. What each of them lack is a stable figure in their lives. There is nothing to stop the quicksand falling from beneath their feet. Hank (Billy Bob Tho
rnton) is a highly respected prison officer. His world is linked with Leticia's as he is in charge of the execution. His life is going nowhere. His father (Peter Boyle) is very sick and totally dependent on his son. He is also a racist. Some of his views have rubbed off on Hank. Hank's son (Heath Ledger) is a softer character than the two of him. He has huge respect for human life whatever the circumstances. Hank and Leticia both face totally unexpected tragedies in their lives following the execution. They slowly but surely realise that each of them have alot to offer each other. Emotionally and sexually the two become bonded in a way never thought possible. But the question is can a black woman with morals make it with a white man who comes from a racist background and until now has harboured racist views himself. He also has not been able to show his son that he loved him. Leticia, however is more open and able to show her feelings. Has the relationsip got legs or is it purely circumstantial and destined to end? If you think that this is Driving Miss Daisy for 2002, think again. The director gives you no easy answers and does not pander to the feelgood factor however much you long for violins, sweet images and the Hollywood ending. On paper the idea of a racist falling for a black woman smacks of contrived pap in which each person learns a lesson about life and ends up trading in their old self for a new PC version! But Monster's Ball is not an identikit flick by any means. Its strength lies in the fact that the characters do not change overnight. They are both very sceptical of the situation that they find themselves in. The questions posed by the director and many more are answered in this highly charged and richly detailed character study. Each nuance and element of body language can be read. Each piece of dialogue leads you to the moving conclusion. You hope against all hope that these characters can make ago of it. Bu
t all the while you realise that the obstacles in the way make it difficult for a pat conclusion to appear before the end credits. So, if you are expecting a TV movie style storyline with an equally unrealistic sugary feel to the proceedings then think again. Monster's Ball is not an easy film to watch. It is a film to be admired rather than to be liked. The performances are actually quite mind blowing and get right under your skin. Berry proves that her Oscar win was not a fluke. He chain smokes her way through the challenging role and says more with her eyes than the excellent dialogue could ever do. This is her best role and proof that an actress can give a mediocre performance in trash like Swordfish but give her the right the script and she will shine. Unlike Michelle Pfeiffer in Frankie and Johnny, she becomes a waitress. You never doubt for a second that she is working class and unaware of her beauty and good qualities. Billy Bob Thornton gives the performance of his life. His character is not always likeable but his silence is endearing. His life has not been an easy ride and the lines on his face express his sadness. Heath Ledger has a far smaller role but no less important. As an unloved son his face tells the audience far more than we are willing to accept. Every time Billy Bob Thornton is in the same frame, Heath almost quivers. It is this quality acting that lifts the film to a higher plain. The actors give the characters so much depth that you believe in them totally. You never once feel that you are watching Billy Bob, Halle, and Heath. Even Sean Combs brings a vulnerability to his role as the man on death row with no future. There are strong sex scenes in Monster's Ball. But unlike most in modern American cinema- these scenes move you beyond belief. You realise that for Leticia and Hank to give themselves to each other takes guts and determination. The sex is far from empty and gratuitious. It has an emotional cor
e. It takes time to evolve. When they first have sex, it seems awkward and consists of druken fumblings. Gone is the flattering lighting and body doubles and multiple orgasms! This is raw sex rather then big budget sex! Over over time these two lost souls learn to accept that they can adapt to this new situation and make the most of it. They learn to be loved again and enjoy sex like the very first time. They both need conversation, sex, to be hugged, to be listened to and ultimately to be loved in order to live again. Monster's Ball is a rare film in that it moves you, has plenty of surprises and has you rooting for the lead characters despite their flaws. If you want to see intelligent cinema at its finest which does not pander to any of the conveyor belt rules of movie making then this really is for you. If you like your plots to be fast moving with MTV style visuals then maybe this isn;t for you. This is a slow burning, passionate tale in which the characters take time to develop as in real life. If you are willing to accept this then I advise you to forget Spiderman and Star Wars for now as they are bound to be at cinemas all Summer. Monster's Ball may not have special effects but that doesn't stop it being special in a completely different way. As the plot slowly but surely unravels you will find yourself totally immersed into this tale of small time America. Oscar worthy stuff it may be But unlike A Beautiful Mind, you will get the feeling that Monster's Ball is a small film which has received huge amounts of praise. So please do not expect lots of Oscar friendly material. This may be why the film was only nominated in one category. Reward yourself this week with a slice of the flip side of American Pie. This is definitely a film to savour long after the credits have gone. Thanks for reading, Glenn
A harrowing portrayal of Deep South life in the 21st century, Monster's Ball hits you where it hurts most, in the complex realm of extreme human emotions. This is not a movie to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon. With intriguing juxtapositions and some of the best editing of recent times it has all the makings of a modern film noir, yet it's not only the men that end up on the wrong side of the track: pride and ill-fortune are the real femme fatales here. Billy Bob Thornton is a death row officer whose redneck father has taught him that emotions make you weak, leading to an inability to love his son (Heath Ledger) and feel any compassion for the convicts in his care. When he loses a "loved one", he embarks on a relationship with the widow (Halle Berry) of a man whom he strapped in the electric chair, and the two of them search for comfort in sex, alcohol and chocolate ice-cream. The movie features fine turns from all actors involved, with Berry deservedly winning an Oscar for best actress and Ledger proving he is more than eye candy. Far from concluding the suffering, the ending leaves the viewer in an emotional void in which you will find yourself analysing your own shortcomings, prejudices and emotional ties. --Nikki Disney