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Category Archives: Drama Movie Reviews

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)


A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Poster

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)

I had never even heard of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints until I rented Charlie Countryman (2013) at the Redbox.  When you rent Charlie Countryman, you get A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints as a bonus movie.  They give you a two-for-one, a double sided disc for the price of one movie.  It’s a Shia LaBeouf double feature.  They are both indie films.  This was all the more intriguing to me, so I watched each movie the other night.  You can guess what one of my next reviews will be.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Group

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was based on the book with the same title.  Surprisingly enough, the man who wrote the book, Dito Montiel, also directed the movie.  The movie is a film adaptation of Dito Montiel’s life growing up in Astoria, New York in the 1980s.  The story is a look into a messed up childhood in a rough part of the city.  It follows the struggles of inner city teenagers, Dito (Shia LaBeouf plays young Dito, and Robert Downey Jr. plays grown up Dito) and his friends as they are becoming adults.  The circle of friends are pitted against drugs, violence, sex, love, hate, loss, and hardship.  All the while, Dito wants to escape New York and try to make a better life for himself somewhere else.

The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Martin Compston, Scott Michael Campbell, Anthony DeSando, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Laila Liliana Garro, and Eric Roberts.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Downey Jr. Dawson

I’m surprised that this movie got past me 8 years ago, because the cast is excellent.  I should have been aware of this film earlier.  It’s another low-budget independent film that slipped through the cracks.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints was hard to watch, at times, but it was also hard to stop watching.  The film was an excellent depiction of how rundown certain areas of the country can be and how it affects the people living there.  It’s indeed unfortunate, but it’s in-your-face honesty.  Some people won’t be able to handle the honesty of this movie.  The trashy characters, obscene language and other vulgarity, along with the sex, nudity, and mindless violence, among other things, will be too much for some.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints LaBeouf

But, you have to take the sweet from the sour.  There is indeed a silver lining in this story.  The headlining actors in this film are exceptional.  The movie makes you feel like you are in the slums with the characters experiencing it all.  The actors portray a remarkable friendship and camaraderie that helps you come back to the reality that people often try to be good even if they are bad.

The story is rigid and rocky, but the writing and acting make it all worthwhile.  Here is an unknown gem for those who are willing to give it a chance.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Tatum Palminteri

I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

If you liked A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, you might also enjoy the following movies:

White House Down (2013)

The Company You Keep (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Out of the Furnace (2013)

The Big Wedding (2013)

Stuck in Love (2012)

Flight (2012)

Prisoners (2013)

Wrecked (2010)

Mud (2012)

The Iceman (2012)

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American Hustle (2013)


American Hustle Poster

American Hustle (2013)

Back in August of 2013, when I first heard about American Hustle, this was my viewpoint on it:

David O. Russell has taken 3 stars from his film Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and 2 stars from his film The Fighter (2010), and brought all 5 of them together to make a movie.  If The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook had a baby, it would be named American Hustle.

Not only is this film a guaranteed Oscar contender, but it will likely be amazing.

I have been excited about seeing American Hustle ever since.

American Hustle Cooper Adams Bale

What do you get when you cross two conniving con artists, a crazy FBI agent, corrupt politicians and the mob?  The answer, American Hustle.  Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have developed an excellent partnership of swindling desperate people out of their money.  Everything is going great until one day, a power hungry FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) catches the couple in his web.  In order to keep from going to prison, Irving and Sydney are forced to work with the FBI to try to help bring down other criminals.  One thing leads to another and they find themselves butting heads with the mafia.  The beauty of it all is that you can’t tell who is conning who.

The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Pena, Alessandro Nivola, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Robert De Niro, and Paul Herman.

I have to say that I loved the trailer for this movie.  It tells you what the movie is about without telling you much about the movie at all.  They leave a lot to the imagination.  It was refreshing.  You get excited to see the movie because of the cast of characters and how they are acting, but you are dying to know what the movie is really about.  In this day and age, this is a risky concept because there are multiple movies out there that appear like they are about nothing because their trailer does not tell you much, and when you go to watch them they are pointless.  Their secrecy sucks you in, but in reality they weren’t keeping a secret.  They just really suck and you just wasted your time.  American Hustle is not like that, at all.  There is far more to this film than the trailer leads you to believe.

I did not expect there to be as much humor as there was.  The movie was laugh-out-loud hilarious.  It was very smart, well thought out dark humor.

American Hustle Cooper Bale

The film oozed with elegance.  Everything about the movie seemed classy.  It was clean and crisp.  The colors were so clear and bright.  From a filmmaking aspect alone, the movie was perfection.  Picture that, but then throw in some of the best actors in the business into a flawlessly put together movie.

So, now you have a diamond of a movie with a cast that is worth its weight in gold.  What do you get now?  Fireworks.  American Hustle recreates the 70s believably and the soundtrack is there to prove it.  The actors play the game like the all-stars that they are.  The chemistry was electrifying between everybody.  The actors kept one-upping each other.

Chistian Bale, with a porky belly and the cheapest comb over imaginable stood out among the rest.  His performance was not surprising, but it was every bit as good as anything he has ever done before.  His performance was not surprising because he has been acting at such a high level for such a long time, that it’s hard to expect anything less out of him.  His acting was power and precision.  For a long time now, Johnny Depp has been my favorite actor and Bale has been my second favorite.  I think Bale just surpassed Depp.  Dare I say, lately he is more consistently in better movies.  Bale is capable of almost any role and he proves it time and time again.  I have not seen all of the movies that are up for Academy Awards, but as of right now, Bale gets my vote for Best Actor, and he should be competing against himself for Out of the Furnace (2013)(that movie was snubbed), as well.

American Hustle Adams Bale

Speaking of Academy Awards, Amy Adams.  She was absolutely wonderful in American Hustle.  She was stylish and sophisticated.  Instead of being dressed down, like she was in The Fighter, her beauty was really able to shine through to her core.  She played a woman who was always in control and it was the best performance by an actress that I have seen since perhaps, Hilary Swank in the film Million Dollar Baby (2004).  It certainly was Amy’s best film that I have seen to date.  It was even better than her performance in The Fighter.

Bradley Cooper had more curlers in his hair than Amy Adams.  He pulled it off though and it was funny.  He brought a level of insanity to his role in American Hustle that showed similarities to Silver Linings Playbook.  He was allowed his moments to shine, but you could tell he was along for the ride in the back seat behind Bale.  Amy Adams was riding shotgun and Jennifer Lawrence was in the back seat behind her, sitting next to Cooper.

Jennifer Lawrence seemed to pick up right where she left off in Silver Linings Playbook.  She was the broken housewife with an attitude and an appetite for wreaking havoc and turmoil.  I thought she played the part about as well as she did in Silver Linings Playbook.

American Hustle Lawrence

David O. Russell has come a long way since Flirting With Disaster (1996) and I Heart Huckabees (2004).  He took a page right out of Martin Scorsese’s book by having multiple narrators in American Hustle.  The movie actually was very Scorsese-esque.  Russell’s last three films have all been Oscar contenders and American Hustle is as deserving of an Oscar as either of the other two.  My only concern is that this movie gets screwed out of the Academy Awards that it rightfully deserves for the sake of diversity.

This film was like the acting all-star game of 2013.

I rate this movie a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Note: I usually do not rate a movie a 10 after the first showing, but I could not find anything wrong with this movie.  I thought that it might drag on a little bit because of the 138 minutes running time, but it didn’t.  It was just an exercise in excellence.  I am often reluctant to give a movie a 10 rating right away because I think that it should prove the test of time.  I think this one already did.

If you liked American Hustle, then you will most likely enjoy the following films:

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Out of the Furnace (2013)

The Machinist (2004)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Prisoners (2013)

Broken City (2013)

The Counselor (2013)

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Wrecked (2010)


Wrecked Poster

Wrecked (2010)

Wrecked is a low budget independent film that may have exceeded expectations if given the proper opportunity.

Before watching this movie, I knew nothing about it except for the fact that Adrien Brody was the main character.  I have been a big fan of Brody ever since I saw the film The Pianist (2002).  He acted his heart out in that movie and I quickly came to find out that he usually does in all of his films.  It’s no wonder that he received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Pianist.

Wrecked Brody Bloody Face

Wrecked is about a man (Adrien Brody) who awakes to find himself badly injured in a mangled car wreck in the middle of a densely wooded area at the base of a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  He has no memory of how he got there, who he is, or who the dead passengers nearby are.  He is stuck inside of the car and is forced to try to survive as he contemplates his past and how he got into his current situation.

The film was directed by Michael Greenspan and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Caroline Dhavernas, Ryan Robbins, Adrian G. Griffiths, Adrian Holmes, and Jacob Blair.

I listed the rest of the noteworthy cast, but in reality Wrecked is a one-man show.  The vast majority of the movie is Adrien Brody acting alone.  The movie has some similarities to 127 Hours (2010), All is Lost (2013), The Edge (1997) and Unknown (2006).

It takes a highly talented actor to make a film like this watchable, let alone entertaining.  Brody was up for the challenge and he was a superb choice for this role.  The pain that his character felt in in the movie appeared genuine in every way.  You feel for his character as if the events that are happening to him on screen are actually happening.

The film is pretty gruesome and intense.  There is a bit of language throughout, but it all serves to make the story more realistic.

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Unfortunately, I think that this movie is underrated and under watched.  It didn’t get the chance that it deserved in theatres.

The movie grabs on to you in the very beginning and keeps you guessing what will happen next.  It is slow at times, but that is to be expected when there is basically only one person in the film.  The suspense holds your attention throughout as Adrien Brody’s character is injured in the wild and facing what the wilderness has in store for him.

I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

If you liked Wrecked, then you will probably enjoy the following films:

127 Hours (2010)

All is Lost (2013)

Trance (2013)

The Edge (1997)

Unknown (2006)

Buried (2010)

Brake (2012)

The Book Thief (2013)


The Book Thief Poster

The Book Thief (2013)

 

 

The Book Thief is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story of innocence, stolen.

I’ve always been drawn to stories about World War II.  Movies about WWII have a tendency to be very powerful films if done correctly.  I think that this is because it was such a hard and troubling time in the world when Hitler was in power.

The Book Thief Rush Watson Girl

The movie is based off of the novel with the same name by Markus Zusak.  The film is about Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), a young girl without a family in Nazi Germany during WWII.  She gets taken in and adopted by a couple who also hide a Jewish boy under their stairs.  With all of the terrible things going on around her, Liesel takes comfort in learning how to read.  She begins to read whatever books that are available to her.  Eventually she starts stealing books and sharing them with her new family.

The film was directed by Brian Percival and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Joachim Paul Assbock, Kirsten Block, Roger Allam, Nico Liersch and Sandra Nedeleff.

The film was slower, but a true drama.  It depended solely on acting and story to get its point across.  Don’t expect an action-packed war movie.  However, a story about Nazi Germany during WWII is intense enough.  Although the story is pretty serious, I liked how there was a bit of humor thrown in to cut the tension and make it more enjoyable.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief had some similarities to the movie The Pianist (2002), except that it was not as intense.

I will admit, the touching story made me shed a few tears.  The movie does a great job of making you care about the characters.  The acting draws you into the story.

Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse both deliver genuinely heartfelt performances.  The presence of Rush was what was needed to make everyone act on a higher level.  He was the glue that held the movie together.

The set was a work of art.  Germany during the late 30s and early 40s was duplicated very believably.  That task could not have been a simple one.

The only thing that I thought was a little weird about the movie was the way that it was narrated.  The only explanation that I can think of as to why it was done the way that it was is maybe that was how it was narrated in the book.  Regardless, it comes off as a little odd.  The narration style does not seem to fit the type of film that The Book Thief is.

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I applaud the filmmakers for getting a movie like this one made.  In a movie world so consumed with special effects, action, sequels, superheroes, and unoriginality, The Book Thief is the type of film that we need more of.  It’s a genuinely refreshing story that takes plenty of risks.

I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Lone Survivor (2013)


Lone Survivor Poster

Lone Survivor (2013)

 

You will laugh, and you will cry.  They live, they fight, and they die.

I was very excited to see Lone Survivor.  When I learned of the movie months ago, I knew it would be one that I had to see.  Recently, I heard from numerous people that the film was amazing, and that just made me want to see it more.  These days, if Mark Wahlberg is in a movie, you can basically expect gold.

Film Title: Lone Survivor

The film is based on the book with the same title which was written by Marcus Luttrell and is based on his true story.  It’s about a group of Navy SEALS on a covert operation in Afghanistan that goes horribly wrong.  Four SEALS are left severely outnumbered and outgunned and behind enemy lines.  Unable to make radio contact, they are forced to stand together as one and try desperately to fight the local Taliban for their survival.

The movie was directed by Peter Berg and the noteworthy cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch, Yousif Azami, Ali Suliman, Alexander Ludwig, and Jerry Ferrara.

I had vaguely heard of the mission that was portrayed in Lone Survivor, but ultimately, I hardly new any of the details before watching the film.  I’m not sure how much of the story went by the book, and what was fictionalized for pure entertainment purposes.  I have not read the book, but it would be interesting to see how it differs from the movie.

Lone Survivor is a superb depiction of the camaraderie and brotherhood that is commonly found in the Navy SEALS.  The actors walked the walk, and talked the talk.  They were large, bulky instruments that were trained to kill and trained to survive.  They fight like soldiers and they curse like soldiers.  This film does not edit itself for a lighter rating.  It’s as real as I’ve ever seen.  Prepare yourself to be shocked.

Lone Survivor Barracks

This movie has some of the most insanely realistic and severely intense battle scenes that I have ever seen in a film.  Although I knew that I was in a theatre watching a film, it was as if I was watching real footage of actual soldiers at war, and not actors pretending for a camera.

Lone Survivor is a trip into hostile territory.  The movie reminded me of how I felt about Saving Private Ryan (1998) when I saw it for the first time.  It’s an epic achievement.  The film changes the way that you look at the war movie genre.  It raises the bar and leaves huge shoes to fill for any future war movie.  It’s a game changer.  I have a feeling that this movie will be hard to beat for years to come.  The genre has now been reestablished.

The cast was a force to be reckoned with.  Everyone was awesome.  Wahlberg stood out above the rest and he continues to add to the arsenal of reasons why I like him.  He has become one of my favorite actors.  He is a consistent entertainer in the movie world and that is a rare thing in this day and age.

Lone Survivor Wahlberg

This movie should be an Oscar contender.  It would be a crime if it didn’t win something.  It would be an excellent way to honor all of the Navy SEALS that fought for their brothers standing next to them.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Note: Lone Survivor could deserve a higher rating, but it has to live up to the test of time before it gets one from me.

There was a bit of a disturbance in the densely populated theatre where I watched this film.  A man in the same row as mine was yelling obscenities during the first half of the movie.  He started to violently strike the seats in front of him before he was finally removed from the premises.  I was unable to give my full attention to the first part of the movie because of this distraction.  It was unfortunate, but when I watch the movie for a second time, my rating could possibly change.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)


Miller's Crossing Poster

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

 

The Coen brothers (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) really started to get noticed after writing and directing Fargo (1996).  The popularity of the indie writers and directors continued to increase with each movie that they made together.  However, when most people look back on the Coen brothers’ career as filmmakers, they usually don’t look further back than FargoMiller’s Crossing seems to fall between the cracks.

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I was 4 years old when this movie was released, but I watched it for the first time when I was 13 years old.  It was the first Coen brothers’ movie that I had seen and it was the beginning of a new friendship.

Miller’s Crossing is a gangster film about Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), a heavy gambler and trusted confidant to two rival mob bosses during the 1920s.  Regan finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle and all out gangland war while trying to manipulate both sides against each other.

The movie was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Albert Finney, Jon Polito, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Steve Buscemi, J.E. Freeman, Mike Starr, Olek Krupa, and Michael Jeter.

Miller's Crossing Finney Tommy Gun

The film is an excellent homage to the James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart gangster movies of old.  The writing and directing is flawless.  The Coen brothers resurrected the 1920s gangster era all the way down to the soda bottles, pocket watches, fedora hats, tommy guns, rotary phones, pinky rings, dirty coppers, smoking jackets, robes, stogies, custom three piece suits, and of course, the model T.  The costumes and set designs were perfect.

Miller's Crossing Polito

The movie has an R rating, but I don’t think that rating would live up to today’s standards.  There is hardly any swearing, and the sex is insinuated.  There is violence, but it is not extremely graphic.  One scene shows a girl topless, but she is wearing nipple tassels.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s frontal side-boob.  I don’t think that alone is enough to garner an R rating.  In other words, the movie is basically PG-13.

Miller's Crossing Byrne Harden

My oldest brother once pointed out to me how the Coen brothers love having big guys sitting behind desks arguing or yelling at people sitting across from them.  He was right.  Watch almost any Coen brothers’ movie and you will get just that.  I think the reason behind this is that usually the dialogue in their movies is so very well-written.  An office setting is a good place to get the point across.  People tend to pay more attention to you if you are behind a podium or desk, especially if you are yelling or arguing a point.  Just look at Barack Obama, or Hitler.  Don’t get me wrong, both men are opposites, but both men could definitely deliver a speech.  As bad as Hitler was, people eat up what he said like it was candy.  They did the same for Obama.  Well thought out dialogue delivered to an audience with explosive vigor while standing behind a podium or desk is enough to get people to listen.  It certainly has worked for the Coen brothers and Miller’s Crossing is a classic example of that.

The Coen brothers were lucky enough early on to be able to get great actors to act in their movies.  This is harder to do for independent filmmakers.  Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorite Gabriel Byrne films.  He gives a slick performance and it must have been contagious because in my opinion, this is Albert Finney’s best movie.  Marcia Gay Harden easily transforms into a 1920s dame and does a likable job.  This is the first movie that I really liked John Turturro in.  Jon Polito gives his best performance channeling the likes of Edward G. Robinson.  Steve Buscemi spits his dialogue like a pro.  It was as if J.E. Freeman was plucked right out of a 1920s gangster movie.  He played his role that well.  These actors have all worn many different hats.  This one fit them all like it was tailor made just for them.

Miller's Crossing Hat

Like fine wine, Miller’s Crossing gets better with age.  If you are a Coen brothers fan already, you will most likely enjoy this movie.  It is one of my favorite Coen brothers’ movies.  It’s a classy gangster film.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Home Alone (1990)


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Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone is the first movie that I could quote in its entirety line for line and I was maybe 6 years old at the time.  I watched the movie for the first time on VHS when I was 5 years old.

Home Alone Culkin eyebrows

The film is the first holiday tradition that I ever had.  Christmas just doesn’t seem like Christmas without watching Home Alone at some point.

It’s the movie that boosted Macauley Culkin to superstardom while simultaneously dooming his acting career.  Forever, he will always be known as Kevin McCallister, the little boy whose family forgot about him and left him home alone.  Thanks to Home Alone, Culkin is the most famous child actor ever.  However, Home Alone was the peak of his career and he was only 10 years old at the time.  He could never, and will never top that movie, no matter how hard he tries.

Home Alone Culkin Stern BB gun

Home Alone was touted as the family comedy without the family and it was exactly that.  I don’t know if I have ever met anybody who has not seen the film.  That is how popular it is.  Everybody has seen it.

So, for all of the newborns out there who weren’t in their mother’s womb over Christmastime, the movie is about Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin), an 8-year-old boy who gets left at home when his big family goes on a trip to Paris for the holidays.  He is left to fend for himself and forced to defend his home against two stupid criminals.

home alone pesci fire

The film was written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus.  The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, John Candy, Devin Ratray, Larry Hankin, Gerry Bamman, and Keiran Culkin.

Home Alone has been one of my favorite movies ever since my childhood.  It’s festive, heartfelt and hysterical.  It’s everything that a family comedy should be.

Macauley Culkin did an excellent job for his age.  Pesci and Stern gave priceless performances as the knuckleheads who insist on trying to rob the McCallister’s residence, even after knowing a little kid is home.

Home Alone Stern Pesci

It’s a John Hughes classic that never gets old, no matter how many times you watch it.  Trust me, I know.  I’ve seen this movie more times that I could ever count.

I rate this movie a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

If you enjoyed Home Alone than you will most likely enjoy:

Christmas Vacation (1989)

Out of the Furnace (2013)


Out of the Furnace poster

Out of the Furnace (2013)

There are certain movies that appear to be destined for greatness and Out of the Furnace looked like one of them.

Out of the Furnace Bale

Christian Bale is one of the most versatile actors of our time.  I’ve been a fan of his ever since I watched Newsies (1992) for the first when I was a little kid.  Bale has become such a great actor that I eagerly await all of his new movies.  Out of the Furnace especially sparked my interest after I learned how many other big names are in the cast.

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) goes looking for his younger brother, Rodney, (Casey Affleck) after he goes missing.  Russell will stop at nothing to get his brother back and release his own form of justice on whoever is responsible for taking him.

Out of the Furnace Affleck Bale

The film was directed by Scott Cooper and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Woody Harrelson, Willem DafoeForest WhitakerZoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, and Tom Bower.

As the title suggests, the movie is rough and only gets more severe.  It’s out of the furnace and into the fire.  The title did, in fact, suit the film quite well.  The movie was injected with pain and anger.  Eventually the intensity boiled over and the film sizzled.  Out of the Furnace stirs up the emotions and lights them on fire.  It’s easily the most powerful movie of the year.

Out of the Furnace Harrelson Affleck

Christian Bale does not cease to impress.  Nobody could have done a better job in his role, and the only thing better than Bale’s performance was the fact that the rest of the film was filled to the brim with extraordinary talent working alongside him.  The entire cast was firing on all cylinders.

This movie is not for anyone with a weak stomach.  The violence is brutal and the language is harsh.  The filmmakers’ gloves came off in order to make a film so sharp that the jagged edges will cut into your mind and all sorts of emotions will come leaking out.  Out of the Furnace will stick with you long after it ends.

Out of the Furnace Bale Saldana

The movie deserves to be nominated for an Academy Award in just about every category available.  It gets my vote for Best Picture of the Year and Bale deserves the Best Actor award, hands down.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

If you liked Out of the Furnace, then you will probably enjoy the following films:

The Machinist (2004)

American Hustle (2013)

Prisoners (2013)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)


The Hunger Games Catching Fire Poster

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

As I mentioned in my review of The Hunger Games (2012), I told my friend that I would see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with him, even though I was not very interested in either of the films.  I’m not going to watch a sequel to a film without first watching the original, so I watched The Hunger Games at home before going out to the theatre.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games, and this made me excited to see the sequel.  I would certainly not recommend watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire without first watching The Hunger Games.  It is pretty much essential to watch the movies in order.

I would advise against reading the rest of this review if you have not yet seen The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Harrelson Hutcherson Lawrence

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up where the first film left off.  Through an act of defiance, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) were the winners of the 74th annual Hunger Games.  Their public defiance was enough for the government to want to make an example out of them by punishing them in hopes of preventing a revolution.

The film was directed by Francis Lawrence and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Jena Malone, and Toby Jones.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Hutcherson Banks Lawrence

Like most sequels, I expected this movie to be a step down from the first film.  My expectations were wrong once again.  It’s a rare thing that a sequel is better than its predecessor, but this is exactly the case with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  It’s as if the filmmakers ironed out all of the kinks from the first movie in order to make the sequel.

Everything that I liked and disliked about The Hunger Games was improved upon in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  It was another welcomed surprise.  The acting was more passionate, the special effects were sharper, the story was more interesting, and the quality of the film as a whole was just plain better.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Lawrence Hutcherson

Fans of The Hunger Games will undoubtedly like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire even more.  The film is a higher caliber and therefore delivers a stronger potency.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

The Hunger Games (2012)


The Hunger Games Poster

The Hunger Games (2012)

I’m not usually the type of guy to rush out and see a movie like The Hunger Games in theatres.  I guess that is why I had not seen the film, until now.  I probably would have put off seeing this movie even longer, but since a friend of mine wanted to see the The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) in theatres, I thought it best that I see the films in order.

People have raved about this movie, but it just wasn’t a must-see for me, even though, for the most part, it has a very solid cast.  I don’t know if it is the PG-13 rating or what, but it just appeared to me like it would be a teenie-bopper film of sorts.

The Hunger Games Banks Lawrence

The movie takes place in the future where a society is split up into twelve districts.  Once a year a lottery takes place in order to select a young man and a young woman from each of the twelve districts to take part in a televised battle to the death called The Hunger Games.  The latest Hunger Games gets its first volunteer, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).  Katniss volunteers in order to protect her younger sister from almost certain death.  Now, Katniss is facing the same odds.

The film was directed by Gary Ross and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, and Toby Jones.

The Hunger Games Lawrence Bow

I’m not sure that I buy into the concept of a society that would force a few of its residents to battle in a fight to the death.  The idea was a little bit of a stretch.  However, it did remind me a little bit of gladiators being forced to fight in an arena.  It’s a backwards advanced warped society that would be a sick world to live in.  Maybe I just hope that it could never get that bad, but given the world that we live in, maybe I’m just in denial.  After all, if the holocaust can happen, maybe something like this could too.  A movie like this that takes place in the future can get away with a concept like this one, because nobody knows what the future holds.

The film was a cross between The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Death Race (2008), and Gladiator (2000).

The Hunger Games was certainly better than I anticipated it would be. The big name actors in the movie all played their parts well.  However, it was ultimately Jennifer Lawrence’s film.  It was an intensely engaging, heartfelt movie with lots of cool visuals and a good soundtrack.

The Hunger Games Hutcherson

At times, the graphics were a bit overdone and almost too colorful.  Some of the costumes were far out.  The technology in the film seemed a little too advanced for a poor society.  All of these things temporarily took away from the story along with a touch of lower quality acting from the lesser known supporting cast members.

Overall, The Hunger Games was a big surprise to me.  It far exceeded my expectations and I wish I had given it a chance sooner, because I didn’t give it the credit that it deserves.

I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.