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Monster's Ball
DVD disk
10.06.2004 By: Scott Weinberg
Monster's Ball order
Director:
Marc Forster

Actors:
Halle Berry
Billy Bob Thornton
Peter Boyle

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
It’s about how two monumentally wounded (and stunningly different) people forge a tentative love affair in the face of massive personal tragedy.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Only if you’re into great acting, honest dialogue and cliché-free storytelling. The somewhat sobering subject matter and a seemingly endless parade of painful tragedies may not equal out to a “great time” for some movie-watchers, but those who like ‘people movies’ that don’t pander and manipulate, MONSTER'S BALL comes highly recommended. While the stellar acting performances alone make the movie worthy of your time, it’s the raw, bittersweet screenplay (by Milo Addica and Will Rokos) that elevates the film into something special. You’ll think you have it all figured out after the first twenty minutes, but the unpredictable script repeatedly allows it characters to defy convention and behave more like actual people – and less like the cardboard cut-outs generally employed in most ‘tearjerkers’. MONSTER'S BALL offers a series of surprising plot turns, and the two main characters quickly become people you truly care for. Much of this can be attributed to the superlative performances by Thornton and Berry, but director Marc Forster deserves a lot of the credit for setting the film in a setting so painfully real – it sometimes seems like a documentary.

Berry won an Oscar for her performance as Leticia Musgrove, a struggling young mother whose husband has just walked Death Row. Billy Bob Thornton is absolutely fantastic playing Hank Gratowski, a corrections officer who’s learning the err of his ways a bit too late in life. Heath Ledger (offering his best work yet) and Peter Boyle shine in small-yet-integral roles. Though MONSTER'S BALL may sound somewhat like a southern-fried version of JUNGLE FEVER, the truth is that it’s a quietly powerful film, a meticulously crafted and altogether compelling way to spend two hours. Notice I didn’t mention the now-legendary sex scene between Thornton and Berry at all? Perhaps I’m finally mature enough to enjoy ‘grown-up’ flicks like Monster’s Ball…Nah!!! That sex scene is pretty damn hot!
THE EXTRAS
Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment clearly has a winner on their hands in Monster’s Ball, and the DVD release reflects the movie’s quality. Aside from how great the film looks, there’s also a handful of worthwhile extras to please the fans.

Included are two separate full-length audio commentaries, the first by director Mark Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, the second from Thornton, Berry, and Forster. Logically enough, the initial commentary focuses mainly on production specifics like casting, set design, location, and the overall creative process. The actors’ track is considerably more lively, although both commentaries are loaded with fascinating factoids and interesting anecdotes.

Four deleted scenes are also available, all of which seemed to be “smart cuts” in that they don’t really add much to the film besides a few extra minutes of running time. But it’s always great to see excised footage (particularly footage involving such strong acting performances) included as a special feature, so consider these a plus.

There are two brief featurettes entitled Behind-the-scenes and Scoring the Film. The first one runs about 5 minutes and deals mainly with the lead actors and a few alternate scenes, while the 8-minute “Scoring the Film” features some brief conversations with Forster and composers Thad Spencer, Chris Beaty, and Richard Werbowenko.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Monster’s Ball is a damn good movie. It’s not a particularly HAPPY movie, so perhaps a rental would be in order the first time around. Those who already admire the film will certainly want to add this impressive DVD to their movie library.
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