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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
American Hustle (2013) (Click on the title for my full review.)
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 American Hustle (2013). 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 most likely be amazing.
This film is a definite must-see.
It is set to release this Christmas, 12/25/13.
Man of Steel (2013)
With the countless number of sequels, remakes, and superhero movies that are being spewed out these days, I have become very skeptical and picky when it comes to deciding which of these movies I will see and which I will avoid like the plague.
Honestly, Man of Steel was a difficult choice at first. My initial reaction was derision. I rolled my eyes and scoffed. How many Superman movies does this world really need?
Superman and Batman are probably my favorite superheroes. What I always enjoyed about those characters was the fact that they both had alter egos and they both were always trying to do good by helping people.
The thing is I like Batman better than Superman. Batman is more real. He puts on a costume and goes out, mostly at night, to right wrongs in his city. Batman is fed up with the scum in his city and he tries to clean up the streets. Superman on the other hand, is an alien from another planet who ends up on earth. Superman looks human, but has a number of superpowers that make him almost godlike. He disguises himself as a human, but puts on a costume when its time to fight the bad guys. He is faster than a speeding bullet, can fly, has x-ray vision, and is virtually invincible except around kryptonite, etc. etc. Superman is a godlike alien from another planet. Batman is a human vigilante. Which is more believable to you?
Following my initial reaction about the new Superman, I learned who all was cast in the movie. I raised one eyebrow as I contemplated the film’s potential. The cast includes Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Antje Traue, and Ayelet Zurer. Great cast right? Except Henry Cavill is a dud and he was cast as Superman.
In my opinion, they needed a far superior actor to play the lead role. Sort of like Christian Bale played Batman. Instead they surrounded an almost nobody with an awesome cast. The part will boost Henry Cavill’s career, but that doesn’t make him a better actor. They needed someone like Mark Wahlberg, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jake Gyllenhaal, or even Matt Damon.
Still, the strong cast was enough to make me want to see Man of Steel. It also helped that Christopher Nolan produced the film and both he and David S. Goyer wrote the screenplay and story. Of course, Nolan and Goyer also both wrote The Dark Knight Trilogy, which Nolan also directed. However, Nolan did not direct Man of Steel, Zach Snyder did instead. Snyder is a capable director, but Nolan is far superior.
Man of Steel is about a boy who finds out that his parents on earth are not his real parents. It is believed that he was sent to earth from a different planet. These details are revealed to him by his earth parents after he figures out that he has super powers. Now he must learn what he was sent to earth to do and what type of man he will become.
The film was bursting at the seams with special effects. The aspects of Superman that I do not enjoy were highly prevalent in the movie. I don’t like the overuse of super powers and Michael Bay-esque explosions, along with multiple superhuman aliens in an endless battle of invulnerability. Everything in their path becomes obliterated and it all seems so unrealistic. With that being said, I expected the film to be that way. But, I also hoped that the film would concentrate more on the humans on earth than the aliens on Superman’s home planet. That hope was shattered. It became more about Superman stopping an alien invasion on earth than Superman just stopping bad guys on earth.
Although there were a few things about the movie that I did not like, I will admit that those things were done tastefully. The special effects were amazing. They were too much at times, but they were also insanely awesome at times. The cast was great, but Henry Cavill could have been replaced with someone better. Everybody else’s performance made up for his. It’s not that he was bad, but he just could have been much better. The supporting cast should not be better than the main character. That is not a solid foundation for a film.
Crowe, Costner, Shannon, Adams, and Lane all made the movie worth watching. They used their acting super powers to totally make the film.
Man of Steel is a worthy update to previous Superman movies. Even a superhero skeptic like myself, enjoyed the movie. With the obscene amount of action in the film, it will certainly be better on the big screen.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
The Hangover Part III (2013)
Nobody is getting married this time, but with this group, things always have a way of spiraling out of control.
Todd Phillips returns again to write and direct. Ken Jeong, Jeffrey Tambor, Heather Graham, Mike Epps, Sasha Barrese, and Gillian Vigman are all back along with the addition of John Goodman and Melissa McCarthy.
Most sequels to any movie usually can never be as good as the original. There are a few exceptions, and it is always a very welcome surprise when it happens. But, this rarely ever occurs. With that said, I went into this movie hoping that it would be as good as Part II, if not better.
This movie was not quite as formulaic as I expected it to be. Although it was a bit predictable at times, they had a few surprises thrown in and it was not exactly like the first two films.
The type of comedy was different throughout the majority of the movie. This film seemed to tone down the raunchy humor and substitute it for more obvious, subtle, or dark humor. Instead of being so outrageous and over-the-top all of the time like the first two films, this movie concentrated a little bit more on the events in the story taking place.
Cooper, Galifianakis, and Helms were all just as comical as they were in the first two films. The rest of the returning cast is also just as good as they were in the first movies.
Goodman and McCarthy are both great additions to the movie.
If you are a fan of the first two Hangover films, than you will surely enjoy this third movie. I liked this movie just as much as Part II. It did not top the original, but The Hangover Part III is a worthy final chapter of the Wolf Pack saga.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
The Place Beyond the Pines was not exactly what I expected it to be. The film was unique because there were multiple layers to the story as well as to each of the characters. The storyline flowed nicely even though each layer of it seemed to change who the main characters were. The mood of the movie was rough and intense throughout with a darkness that few films are capable of.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt driver whose life gets turned upside down after finding out that he is a father. In order to try to provide for his kid, he quits his job and begins robbing banks. Avery (Bradley Cooper) is an honest cop. Eventually both men’s paths cross.
The film is written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Gosling is cast against type. He does not usually play the rebel outlaw type, but he proves once again that he is capable of widening his range as an actor because he nails his part.
Cooper has a strong presence and when his character arrives, it changes the whole dynamic of the movie.
I felt like Mendes did a good job, but we could have gotten more out of her character. I fault the writers for that. She did great with what she had to work with, but her character could have been developed better.
Liotta seems to have resurfaced after being pretty washed up the last few years. In this film he carried himself like the Ray Liotta of old. He did not seem like the train wreck that he was becoming. This was a welcomed surprise.
Both Cooper and Gosling continue to make smart decisions when it comes to which films to act in. This film is guaranteed to keep them both in the spotlight.
The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie filled with tough subject matter mixed with raw emotion portrayed by a fantastic cast of actors who are very passionate about their work. This combination makes for a very exciting and suspenseful film about people leading hard lives.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (click on the title for my full review)
The film looks like a cross between Drive (2011)(good) and Killing Them Softly (2012)(bad). In Drive Ryan Gosling is a stunt driver turned driver for hire. In The Place Beyond the Pines it appears like he is a stunt motorcycle driver turned bank robber. It seems that Eva Mendes plays a very similar character in The Place Beyond the Pines that Carey Mulligan plays in Drive.
Overall the movie looks pretty dark in a similar way to that of Killing Them Softly. Also, Ray Liotta and Ben Mendelsohn are in both of those movies. Both actors played very scuzzy characters in Killing Them Softly and I think they have continued that trend in The Place Beyond the Pines.
The wildcard in The Place Beyond the Pines is going to be Bradley Cooper. In recent years Cooper has proved that not only is he a supremely capable and extraordinary actor, but he has also chosen his movies very wisely. Gosling is great and Liotta has that ability as well, but we have seen them in this type of movie before. Cooper, I think, will be the deciding factor as to whether or not this movie is any good.
On paper, a movie with this cast should be a slam dunk. It does look good enough to see in the theatre, but I’m going to be a little skeptical.
The movie directed by Derek Cianfrance and it is set to release on 3/29/13.
The Hangover Part III (2013) (click on the title for my full review)
Here is the first look at the teaser trailer for The Hangover Part III. It supposedly all ends with this third piece of the trilogy.
Hollywood loves sequels. They want to see how much money they can squeeze out of basically one story. Honestly I am pretty fed up with sequels, but a movie like this is guaranteed to have moments of uncontrollable laughter. The Hangover (2009) was hilarious. The Hangover Part II (2011) was really funny, but not as good as the original. I have a feeling that The Hangover Part III will probably be about as good as Part II. Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised and it will be better than the original, but for the most part with few exceptions, the original is always the best and the sequels never add up.
Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Justin Bartha are all back again for another go round. Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson, and many more from the first two parts are back again along with the addition of John Goodman.
Hollywood is sure to rake in a lot of cash once again, and I’m sure there will be some laughs along the way.
The movie is set to release on Memorial Day, 5/27/13.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
A solid, raw, dysfunctional drama that felt real. It was refreshing to see a movie in the theatre where the actors were actually given the opportunity to act. Instead of relying solely on special effects or action, this movie relied only on acting and story. It did not disappoint.
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver were all superb. The film was so well scripted that is felt believable. But, it only felt believable because of how wonderfully it was portrayed on screen by the actors. The chaos and craziness and drama were there all the time and it was a treat to watch.
Even though Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are 16 years apart in real life, their chemistry together in the film made that unnoticeable.
Although this film is classified under the drama genre, I classify it under my own made up genre: dysfunctional reality. It also could be called dysfunctional drama or true drama. It is a genre that some people are afraid of because it is too real. The stories that belong to this genre are too honest and true to life. Usually the dialogue is very realistic to the point where it doesn’t feel written; like it has to be real because nobody could have come up with it.
In a great line from the movie, Bradley Cooper’s character says, “I don’t have a filter when I talk.” To me, that is a perfect line for this movie because true to my made up genre, you can’t write this stuff. He is not filtering what he is saying as if he is reading from a script. He goes with his gut, with his instincts, and the words just flow.
I rate this movie an 9 out of 10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.