Film Review : American Hustle (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, Editing, Screenplay, and all acting categories

Directed By – David O. Russell
Starring – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Husto, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Elizabeth Rohm, and Robert De Niro

A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.

After weeks of procrastinating, I finally got out to see “American Hustle”. When I first saw the trailer I decided that it was going to be a film that I would have to wait for the right mood to see as I’m very conflicted on whether I like David O. Russell or not. Honestly, I think the ten Oscar nominations finally got me to get off my ass and see it. I still haven’t seen “The Fighter” and I waited until “Silver Linings Playbook” was released on blu ray to see it. I ended up liking SLP a lot but I still have a horrible taste in my mouth from my viewing of “I Heart Huckabees” which I considered pretentious crap. David O. Russell has always been a director who likes to throw the plot out of the window when he feels and while sometimes he makes the right decision, like last year, sometimes he makes a mistake, which I feel he did in small amounts during “American Hustle”. That being said, I actually enjoyed the film a lot, but that was due to the absolutely incredible cast and not so much the work of Mr. O. Russell. That sounds weird. Mr. Russell? Middle initials are weird.

This is listed as a comedy. I didn’t laugh much. There were a lot of instances where I said to myself, “this is where a laugh is supposed to be”, but it just didn’t happen. Christian Bale’s come over was where the comedy for me came from. I loved looking at it. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know who the hairdresser was on set, but they must of had a great time putting that gorgeous thing together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I was sitting there sulking. I just didn’t laugh the way you’re supposed to in a supposed comedy, which is what this is supposed to be at heart. I could be wrong. Maybe this was supposed to be a semi serious crime drama, but if that is true then the marketing department owes me an apology because every promo spot I’ve seen screamed comedy in my face.

I read that most of the acting in the film was improvised to the point where the script had to be changed in order to make the improvisations work on film. It showed. The first two thirds of the film were all over the place. Characters came in and out and brought back later when you’ve forgotten who they were. Issues were brought up and then never solved or talked about again and motives of the main characters were unclear. It was just sloppy in parts and while it didn’t restrict me from enjoying the film, it certainly could have helped this film be one of the better this year. The thing that truly kept me in this film, was the acting.

The acting was fantastic. All four main stars, with all due respect to Jeremy Renner, deserved their Oscar nominations. I would even venture to say that Bradley Cooper deserved his in the Lead Acting category because he was just as important to the film as Christian Bale. To say he supported it is just wrong. When the nominations came out, I was surprised, along with man others, to see Cooper on the list. Everybody can eat it. Last year Cooper showed me that he can be a fantastic actor and he only solidified that with his performance in this. He was explosive. His “supporting” role partner Jennifer Lawrence stole every scene she was in. She played the logically challenged but secretly intelligent wife of Christian Bale perfectly. All the funny lines in the film were delivered by her. She’s the reason I’m going to start calling my microwave a science oven. Amy Adams was versatile as ever. She honestly can’t do anything wrong. Her British accent wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and she’s one of the few actors and actresses than can sell an audience merely by her eyes. She’s amazing at her craft. Finally, Christian Bale knocked it out of the park with his subtle portrayal as the Brooklyn con man who is too overweight and can’t see that he has a horrible haircut. He was quiet throughout most of the film but carried anybody who was in a scene with him by letting them overpower his character with theirs. He was like a great set up man in basketball, setting up the glory for everybody else but also being completely pivotal in the success around him.

The film really came together towards the end as there finally seemed to be a point to the script and it’s here that I finally accepted this film as a Best Picture nominee. It actually has a chance to win, although it shouldn’t, but it certainly belongs in the race. The acting was easily the best of the year if you factor in everybody involved. I didn’t even have time to mention Louis C.K. and Robert De Niro who were in the film only briefly but were great to see. It may not be a re watchable film for me, but it was a fun watch and I’m glad I finally went out to see it.

3.5/5




Film Review : Her (2013)

IMDB Score – (Currently) 8.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay

Directed By – Spike Jonze
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

A week ago I thought I saw my film of the year. Inside Llewyn Davis was a bleak and ultimately devastating story about a folk singer who can never catch a break. It was soulful and moving and really just hit me in a way that no other film this year hit me. “Her” is the complete opposite. It is soulful and devastating but in the complete opposite direction. They are my ying and yang picks for films of the year.

I’ve been a fan of Spike Jonze since seeing him wear granny make-up and swing his boobs around in “Jackass”. His music videos are some of the most memorable videos of the late 90’s and early 2000’s and his films are visceral experiences that are unique and one of a kind. This time, Jonze puts his pen to the paper and crafts not only the best screenplay of the year, but one of the most intimate and personal films I’ve ever seen. The film stars Theodore, a lonely recently divorced man who is seeking a friend. Theodore walks past a kiosk advertising a new operating system which developing intelligence and personality. The operating that Theodore purchases is named Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The film takes place in an obvious future world but instead of being a dystopian nightmare, the future we see is vibrant and colorful. Social media seems to have evolved into a living breathing entity and everybody walks about with ear pieces in their ears which reads them the news, emails, or just converses with their user. This is really all you should know plot wise as the film grips you and takes you on the ride. Two hours never flew by so fast.

Having some relationship issues of my own at the moment, the film spoke to me. It’s premise is ultimately a very strange one. A man falling in love with a computer? How silly. Is it really that silly? Who is to say that a person can’t have a connection with somebody who is not there physically. I know it is usually frowned upon, but long distance relationships do work in small amounts. Those relationships are kept through phone conversations, letters, and recently with the ability of video conversations. I know people who have gotten married after meeting on the internet. I know people who have had extensive relationships with people miles away. Samantha may be a voice of a computer but in this world, that voice has a mind and personality that only builds more and more every day.

Spike Jonze created a perfect screenplay here. It is nearly flawless in its pacing and immersing in its intimacy. I don’t know what is going on in the mans life but he wrote from the heart and it showed. The whole film radiates red like it’s the center of a beating heart. I’m not usually a huge romance fan. I have been slowly integrating and finding wonderful films of this genre and am really warming up to the idea that romance films can not only be made well, but be considered important pieces of art. Jonze created a piece of art that is directly linked to the heart. Whether we have had many or only a few relationships, we each have gone through life changing events with another person. These events and the time we spend with somebody builds our character. They make us into the people we will eventually become. This is the main theme of Her. The relationships we have with other people, whether they end badly or flourish, create the people we turn into and help us learn from our mistakes until the next person comes along. I just can’t write enough how touched and moved I was with this film after this year. I have regretted more things than I can count. I wish I could change things. I wish there were some way to do things different. This is no way though. Those things happened and it’s only up to me to make sure that the future is made with all the love and happiness I experienced along the way. That is human nature. We push on and try to maintain happiness. The film just reiterated to me that everything is going to be okay.

I’m sorry I got a little personal there. It just it me hard.

The aesthetics of the film should also be noted. It’s a gorgeous film. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema should honestly win all the awards for this. As I stated before the film just radiates red which only goes to further the emotions thrown at us by the cast. Geez I haven’t even mentioned the cast. Scarlett Johansson could actually be nominated for a supporting role in which she doesn’t appear on screen in any way. She was that good. It was just a voice but it represented one half of a completely real and touching relationship with co-star Joaquin Phoenix who was incredible as always. Phoenix, who appears in nearly every single scene dominates as a lonely man who finally finds love after going through a difficult and draining divorce. Amy Adams, who really can’t do anything wrong recently, rounds out the trio by giving a heartwarming performance as Theodores friend and neighbor. It’s a film full of just amazing everything.

Go see this film. Take your girlfriend. Take somebody who is going through a rough time or recently lost somebody they love. It is a smart, funny, and incredibly real science fiction film that produces such honest and earned emotional response. Some people won’t get past the premise, but the people who have experienced loss in their lives are going to feel amazing at the fact that we still have so much to gain and learn. It’s my top film of the year along with “Inside Llewyn Davis”

5/5




Film Review : Man of Steel (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 55%

Directed By – Zach Snyder
Starring – Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Christopher Meloni, Antje Traue, and Laurence Fishburne

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extrastellar origin when Earth is invaded by members of his own race.

Earlier on in the year I reviewed “The Avengers”. I explained how I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies that don’t involve Batman. Most of this is because Batman is just a lunatic billionaire ninja in a cape and the rest of them have super powers that I just find stupid. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re into that kind of stuff, all the power to you. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Now, I did really enjoy “The Avengers”. The same can not be said of Man of Steel.

This is the first Superman film I’ve ever seen. I didn’t grow up on Superman. I grew up on Batman and occasionally Spiderman as long as it is represented by bad 90s animation. I had no interest in the Christopher Reeve films and when Bryan Singer made his version I skipped it as well. I guess the only reason I watched Man of Steel is because it made so much damn money and I felt that my 2013 end of the year review would be incomplete without it. I also think that Zach Snyder is perfectly capable of making a good film if he wants to evident by the vastly underrated “Watchmen” and one of the better modern zombie films “Dawn of the Dead”. When the initial trailer came out I had hope. It had a great narration from Crowe and just felt like it was going to be done right.

It wasn’t. It ended up being a big let down. However…

What I liked…

The visuals were fantastic. This is to be expected from a director like Zach Snyder. Pretty much every one of his films has that visual flare that makes in more than an ordinary film. It’s usually a spectacle and Man of Steel follows that mold. It’s a gorgeous film that really shines when the action kicks up. The second half of the film featured plenty of great fight scenes and it was fun to watch those. The acting was also good in parts as I enjoyed the always fantastic Amy Adams. I don’t think she’s ever had a bad role. Russell Crowe was also casted perfectly as the wise father of Superman. Oh and Elliot Stabler was in this. He was not saving rape victims with Benson but rather trying to kill aliens with bullets even though he knows they don’t work. Silly Stabler. Oh, and Michael Shannon is a badass. His face is made for villain-ry.

What I didn’t like…

Pretty much everything else. The story was full of holes. They tried to pack in ALL the Superman lore into a nice two hour plus package and it came off very shaky. Multiple times they had to create a situation where a talking head would come in and narrate a story so we could try to figure out what the hell was going on. It didn’t work well as I was constantly trying to figure out what certain words were or what the hell the Krytonians…Kryptons? Kryptonites? SEE? I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY ARE CALLED. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I don’t know much about Superman but geez did they shove that fact in my face. They also, and I don’t see this as a spoiler, killed like a million people. Seriously, Superman with his brash fighting skills ended the lives of women and children and dudes who were getting coffee in an office building that is now toppling over. This happened in “Star Trek Into Darkness” and at least they had the decency to have a scene in which they acknowledge the fact that a lot of people died. Metropolis kinda just went “Well that sucked. Anybody wan to get a pancake or something?” Maybe we’ll get an Academy Award style memorial during the sequel and it’ll last sixteen hours.

It just wasn’t very good. I didn’t like the cheesy dialogue. I didn’t like Henry Cavill’s face. I didn’t like the same blockbuster garbage that seals the fate of promising films with great visuals. It’s like they spend the entire time making sure every detail on every ship is great but forget to write a story until it’s Monday morning and your homework is due first period. It didn’t work for me in High School and it won’t work on a 250 million dollar film.

2/5