Reel Critics: 'Extremely' good and 'Incredibly' emotional

Few films have more award-winning talent than"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock need no introduction. Director Stephen Daldry earned Oscar nominations for "The Hours" and "The Reader." Eric Roth wrote the screenplays for"Forrest Gump" and "Munich."

But they tackle a tough assignment in their new film centering on the9/11attack. The overwhelming tragedy is presented through the life of a boy whose father is killed in the twin towers.

Thomas Horn is outstanding as the grieving child. His complex performance is reminiscent of Haley Joel Osment's acclaimed role in"The Sixth Sense."

His relationship with his loving father (Tom Hanks) is presented in many great flashbacks. The boy discovers a note and a key in his dead father's closet. This leads to an enigmatic search for answers. Max Von Sydow is excellent as a mysterious stranger who helps the boy find meaning in the loss of his dad.

The search creates many emotional moments. Some are joyous, but many more are tearful and had my audience pulling out hankies and sniffling several times. Parts of this story may seem contrived, but it's life-affirming and the emotions it stirs are very, very real.


The Academy Award race is on!

Curious about the just-announced Oscar-nominated films or performances? Here's my "must-see" list of movies to check out before the awards are handed out Feb. 26:

"The Descendants"— Flawless cast, smart writing, and George Clooney as you've never seen him before.

"The Artist"— Its glamour and charm are like a breath of fresh air. You'll be smiling so much, you'll forget in the first five minutes that it's a silent movie.

"The Help"— Our not-so-distant past told with humor and dignity. Can we just give Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer their Oscars now?

"Hugo"— Martin Scorsese's love letter to the magic of movies, and cinema's early pioneers.

"Midnight in Paris"— A love letter to the City of Light with its rich past. It's the Woody Allen movie for all those who don't like Woody Allen movies.

"A Separation"— A suspenseful drama that escalates from sad to tragic. Don't be put off by subtitles; some things transcend all language barriers.

"Beginners"— A father and son finally learn how to embrace life. Christopher Plummer has never been so wonderful.

"Warrior"— It's "Rocky"with an edge. Edge of your seat action, and even better performances headed up by the amazing Nick Nolte.

"A Better Life"— Another fine father-son film, Mexican actor Demián Bechir gets a well-deserved nod for his performance as a day laborer.

"Bridesmaids"— Because women can be flawed, flatulent — and funny.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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