Although this is a movie with Richard Gere, it is definitely NOT about Richard Gere. Rather, this is about an Akita, adopted by a kindly professor. This is not an animal tale where the dog “speaks” through creepy animated lips. It is a movie with simple themes: grief, canine loyalty, progression of time and death. I am not spoiling the movie (the trailers show much of the plot) by saying that the dog is “adopted” by Richard Gere”s character. Gere and the dog develop a special relationship, one not shared by Gere’s wife (played by Joan Allen).The dog waits outside the train station each night for him to return from work. One day, he does not return, and Haichi just waits…..and waits.

“Hachi” is based on a true story from the 1920′s, and this movie is a remake of a 1987 Japanese movie called “Hachiko Monogatari”.

I can’t say the movie is a blockbuster. In fact, it by-passed the theaters and went straight to DVD. “Hachi” is very sentimental, but not the kind of sentimental one usually sees in these types of films. It is not gushy nor will you hear swelling music or slo-mo scenes of Haichi and his master cavorting on the beach. Gere “shines” during his time on screen, and supporting characters played by Erick Avari and Jason Alexander give solid performances. I found Joan Allen, as Gere’s wife, to be somewhat distracting. But, for anyone who loves dogs, and believe animals exhibit the human feelings of loss, this is a three-hankie can’t be missed.

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A poignant drama about a wife who cheats and a husband who finds out. This simple premise turns very dark and deadly, when the movie really takes off and sets the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Unfaithful shows what the pain of an affair can do to a couple…how both the betrayed and the betrayer feel toward each other and toward themselves. The performances of Richard Gere and Diane Lane as the seemingly happy husband and wife are stunning…nothing they say or do seems overly forced or too overdone. The scene on the train after Lane first has her extramarital encounter showcases what a brilliant and underrated actress she really is. The ending leaves everything up in the air, which I did not like at first but after more thought, I came to see that leaving things open is best. Emotions do not always have easy answers, so then why should a movie with so many emotions end neatly?

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This is my guilty pleasure of 2004. I really liked this one, even though I probably shouldn’t. First of all, it’s supposed to be based on a much better Japanese film from 1997, which I have not seen yet – though I want to now. After I finished watching this film, I just felt all good inside…like I could dance and sing around my house, all by myself. And, I think that’s what the attraction is for everyone: this is a feel good film and who doesn’t want to feel good? The story revolves around a married man (Richard Gere) who is set in his ways of working late and coming home to his wife and older children. Through no dialogue, but just through the expressions on Gere’s face, we can tell he’s frustrated with the path his life has taken. This all changes when he discovers a dance studio and begins to take lessons…begrudgingly at first. Soon, the desire and need to dance consumes…he HAS to dance. It’s a compulsion, like something he cannot control in himself. Dance is just what he needs to bring some spice and excitement back into his life. I enjoyed this one from beginning to end. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, something else comes along and surprises you. It’s not a fabulously directed film that makes any strides in the area of filmmaking…it’s just a sweet, endearing film that leaves you with a good sense of humanity and optimism about life.

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A fabulous legal thriller that owes most of its points to the performance of Edward Norton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role. A breakout role of Norton, the character he plays here is Aaron, a shy, stuttering young man who has many more layers than anyone gives him credit for. Aaron is accused of a heinous crime, which he is adamant he did not commit. Enter smug, self-obsessed attorney Martin Vail, who takes Aaron’s case because it’s assured a lot of publicity. Vale, in the beginning, couldn’t care less about Aaron, but as time passes and Aaron reveals more of himself to the lawyer, Martin warms to Aaron…some. But, just as he does…WHAM! A curve is thrown that keeps Vale and the audience guessing. But, this is not anywhere near as powerful as the final curve. As I said, this movie is really put over the top with Edward Norton’s portrayal of Aaron. The portrayal comes to fruition at the end. Call it the payoff. And, boy, it is a doozy!

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A riotous, toe-tapping adaptation of the Kander-Ebb Broadway musical that will keep you dancing and singing along from start to finish. Told through the eyes of wannabe star Roxie Hart, the movie’s tone is much lighter and more fun than the Broadway musical, which spends more time on the dark side of Roxie. Great performances by Renee Zellweger as Roxie and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Roxie’s nemesis Velma Kelly but that stand-out performance is by Richard Gere, who is just phenomenal as the conniving lawyer Billy Flynn. If you’re not still humming the songs of this Best Picture winner a day later, there’s something wrong with you!

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