Film Review : Backdraft (1991)

IMDB Score – 6.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%
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Directed By – Ron Howard
Starring – Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert Deniro, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Donald Sutherland, JT Walsh, and Rebecca De Mornay

Two Chicago firefighter brothers who don’t get along have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose.

Before I talk about this movie, let me preface this by saying that I grew up in a fire house. My father and brother are firefighters and ever since I was born I have been around the men and women who dedicate their lives to this profession. I just wanted to state that to give my comments context.

This movie kind of sucked. However, this was not due to anything fire related.

First the good. There aren’t many firefighter films but this may be the most accurate in depicting what the job is like. Sure every example on screen is an extreme one, but those events do happen and I’ve seen it myself. The gigantic buildings covered in flames were a real representation of what it’s like when a fire starts eating everything in its path. Why am I explaining fire to you? Have you seen “Ladder 41”? Holy shit, it was like they wanted to make ever single fire look as crazy as humanly possible. Now, did Backdraft do this? To some degree yes it did, but the scenes of the aftermath including the charred remains and the effect fire has on the surrounding buildings…that shit was real. I was impressed with the way Ron Howard did his homework. They also captured the lingo, attitudes, looks, and environment that surrounds living/working in a fire department. None of the characters were really likable and that describes what a family is. A bunch of people who hate each other but will die for one another within a moments notice.

The actual story behind the film, give me a break. I understand this was the 90s, and a little cheese was needed but my god did the script suck. It was cliche after cliche after cliche. There was no originality in the story whatsoever and there were more plot holes than I could count. The last half hour of the film, while stunning in how it was shot, was completely stupid and rushed. The person we have been chasing the entire film for starting these fires had no real reason to do so and didn’t have an actual chance to explain until he was gone. We were told who did it, let it sink in for 27 seconds, and then BOOM, action set piece to end the film that was only used in the film for emotional impact, and there was none, cause none of the characters were likable in any way. I didn’t care. It was a horrible script.

Where did that Baldwin go by the way? Alec is off getting arrested for boozing while still turning in good work on TV. Stephen’s best work was in “The Usual Suspects” but that is compared to his work in “Biodome”. Daniel is a boozer without turning in good work on anything. What happened to William? It’s just kind of weird. Also, Robert Deniro, as high profile an actor as he is, did not get enough screen time. It’s a crime to use him as much as they did. As for Russell, I only like him when Aliens or eye patches are involved.

Don’t watch the film if you’re looking for a gripping thriller. Watch the film if you want to know how fire fighters live their lives when the shit hits the fan. Ron Howard certainly has better films, but as far as pure action goes, this may be his best pure action film. That isn’t saying much though.


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.