Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
The cover for Cinderella Man features a nice shot of Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger embracing at the top, with a nice shot of the boxing ring at the bottom. It does a nice job of setting the scene for this movie, which is a movie about boxing, of course, but it is also a movie about family and keeping focused on surviving.
The menu is the classic Universal menu, which features scenes of the movie running over a black background. I am not fond of the menu that Universal has adopted, but at least I am used to it, and know where things are.
- Ron Howard Commentary – I have to admit, I don’t love sitting through Ron Howard commentaries, but he always has a lot to say and offers a great deal of insight into his visions. With 3 commentaries on the disk, I might have liked a combo effort, but some may enjoy all 3 separate.
- Akiva Goldsman Commentary – Co-writer Akiva Goldsman offers a different type of view than Howard, and focuses more on the history of the James J. Braddock story. Obviously he would, as he was involved in researching and writing about Braddock. His commentary is also pretty enjoyable.
- Cliff Hollingsworth Commentary – Cliff Hollingsworth is the other co-writer, who actually got permission from Braddock’s family to co-write the initial screenplay. Hollingsworth’s commentary again involves a lot of history as he worked closely with the Braddock family to gain insight into the Cinderella man himself. I am not sure why Hollingsworth and Goldsman did not do a joint commentary, because I think it would have been better than having them do two separate ones.
- Deleted Scenes – There are quite a few deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray. Ron Howard explains at the beginning that the choices were tough, as with a cast and movie like this one, the scenes were not bad, but just made it tough for the movie to flow. Howard also talks about he scenes in a commentary, explaining why they were cut.
- The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man – This is a great feature that details the casting direction of the movie. There are shots of the movie mixed in with interviews of the stars, and it details how different people were brought in for the roles and what the actors did to try to correctly portray their characters.
- For The Record: A History Of Boxing – Consultant Angelo Dundee discusses his involvement with the boxing aspects of the movie, and talks about how Russell Crowe, in Dundee’s eyes, transformed into James J. Braddock for the film.
- Ringside Seats – This is a nice piece where Ron Howard and Brian Grazer sit down with one of the writers and Norman Mailer to watch video of the Braddock vs. Baer fight. Interesting to see the fight from their eyes.
- Jim Braddock The Friends & Family Behind The Legend – At about 11 minutes in length, this short features interviews with remaining Braddock family members, who discuss James J., and the movie. It is interesting to see some of Braddock’s family, who became very involved with the making of this movie, which is nice and adds to the authenticity of the film.
- Pre Fight Preparations – This feature was divided into 4 sections, and details such things as the inflatable dummies that were used for the crowd in the boxing scenes, and Russell Crowe’s training schedule before the movie was filmed. It also details the script in detail, and the creation and detail that went in to the various sets.
- Lights, Camera, Action The Fight From Every Angle – At around 21 minutes, this extra focuses on Howard’s attempts to stay true to the time and era of the movie, as well as the actual fights themselves.
- Braddock Vs Baer Fight Footage – This extra is just what it states: film of the historic championship match. It is amazing to see the fight itself, and while it does show that the movie embellishes a good deal, it is a great inclusion on the disc to see the actual footage of the bout.
- Photo Montage – Included are shots from the movie. Standard fare here really.
- The Sound Of The Bell – A feature on the soundtrack and score of the movie. It discusses how the music adds emotion to the scenes.
- Cinderella Man Music Featurette – This is another extra based on the music of the movie. It kind of seems like just a shorter version of the above feature.
- The Human Face Of The Depression – Ron Howard briefly talks about how it was important for him to capture the essence of the Great Depression, which ha extra meaning for him as his parents lived through the ordeal. At about 6 minutes, this is a nice feature that really shows the emotion that Howard likes to include in all of this films.
- Russell Crowe’s Personal Journey: Becoming Jim Braddock – In this 27 minute long feature, we are given insight in to the depths that Russell Crowe went to to try to recreate himself into James J. Braddock. It is interesting to see how Crowe attempted to change his body shape to resemble the look that Braddock had in the 1930s, which is nothing like the body shape of current boxers. This was a great feature, and shows the passion that Crowe had for this role.
- BDLive – Again included for those with Blu-ray 2.0 enabled players is Universal’s Blu-ray live features.
The Movie: 9/10
Cinderella Man is the story of James J. Braddock, a boxer from New Jersey whose career in the sport began before the Great Depression. Braddock hit a rough patch, losing several bouts during the bad years for our country, but then he miraculously hit his stride again to reclaim some of his boxing greatness. The story is a true story, and it is one that really demonstrates the power of not giving up, and one that shows that second chances can and do happen.
The movie stars Russell Crowe as Braddock, who shines in this role. Crowe demonstrates not only the acting chops needed for such a family oriented, good hard working guy, but also the boxing techniques to make this movie feel real. I was very impressed with just about every aspect of Crowe’s performance (well, there is the issue of the accent that kind of got on my nerves, but other than that Crowe was superb.)
Cinderella Man is a well paced, heart warming story that is about boxing, but not to the point where this becomes a sports movie. Ron Howard has done an excellent job of making this about a man trying to keep his family afloat in the Great Depression, by any means necessary, and when Braddock gets a second chance, he takes it, and runs. Crowe performance is book ended by excellent showings from Renee as Braddock’s wife Mae, and Paul Giamatti as Joe Gould, Braddock’s manager. Each brings their character to life and each adds a lot to the feeling of camaraderie and emotional side of this movie.
I was very impressed with Cinderella Man, and I often found myself caught up in the underdog story, which is empowering and uplifting throughout. The movie does a great job of capturing the struggle that the everyday man dealt with on a day to day basis, and it did an exceptional job of showing how hard it was not only surviving, but trying to raise a family under such harsh conditions. Braddock, once a boxing champion, is forced at one point to swallow his pride and not only accept money from the state to survive, but also basically beg some of the boxing promoters for cash so that he could pay the bills and keep his family from splitting apart. When he regains some of his former glory, Braddock is the type of man who returned the money he received from the state, which made him a fan favorite. As it is stated in the movie, in such a tough time, people felt that Braddock was fighting for them, and he inspired people and gave them something to cheer for in such desperate times.
Cinderella Man is a movie about heart, and about being a good person. It seems to be incredibly poignant right now, with the economy the way it is. I really thought Cinderella Man was well done, and just about everything about it was spot on. Presented in Blu-ray, this is a true gem, and I can’t believe that I had not seen it before now.
Audio & Video: 9/10
The video for this movie is sharp and it looks great. They have used a sepia coloring to the movie, and it really adds to the depression era feel of the movie. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, it looks sharp and the blacks are dynamic. Overall a very nice presentation.
The audio is also really well done. I noticed several times the use of the rear speakers during fight scenes, and the ambient sound throughout was excellent. The audio really added to the feeling of the boxing scenes, and helped give add to the tension. Overall a very solid experience in both audio and video.
Before seeing Cinderella Man, I would have told you that I am not a big Russell Crowe fan. I obviously can not be up to this point if since this was the first time I have seen Cinderella Man, which came out in 2005. After having seen this great movie, and going back over other Russell Crowe films that I have seen, I am a changed man. I will admit that Gladiator was a good movie, and Crowe was decent in it, but for some reason I just only thought he was okay. Cinderella Man, coupled with a Beautiful Mind, and Master and Commander now have made me realize that Crowe is a very talented actor. I might even have to go watch a Good Year again, in which I thought he was pretty decent, but not great. I loved Cinderella Man, and the story and acting was superb. The fact that this is based on a true story makes it so much fun to watch, and I will do so again, probably after watching a few other Crowe movies. I can now admit that I am a fan.
Overall Score 9/10