Red Sparrow (2018)
This movie appeared like it would be a cross between Atomic Blonde (2017) and Black Swan (2010). I always find it interesting how after such a unique film like Atomic Blonde is released, shortly after we get a copycat movie (I will talk more about this concept in a post in the near future).
I have gotten fed up with actors and actresses feeling the need to be politicians. As if their political opinions matter. Please just do what you do best and stick to filmmaking. It gets a little old when they stir up the negativity.
All politics aside, Jennifer Lawrence is a talented actress. I feel that she proved her ability in her role in Silver Linings Playbook (2012). She has a tendency to make insanely outrageous statements that are about as inappropriate as some of the things that come out of President Donald Trump’s mouth. This has started to taint my view of Lawrence as an actress. If she was a little more careful with her words publicly, I would respect her more.
Prior to seeing this movie, I went to the theater with an open mind. Instead of having a biased and negative opinion before even seeing the film, I thought I would let Jennifer Lawrence’s acting do the talking and drown out the crazy things that she says publicly.
Red Sparrow is about a damaged Russian ballerina who finds herself training to be a “Sparrow”, a Special Agent of sorts for the Russian government. She is tasked with getting information from the American C.I.A. and becomes entangled between both governments working against each other.
The movie was directed by Francis Lawrence and the noteworthy cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Shoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Douglas Hodge, Bill Camp, Sakina Jaffrey, and Thekla Reuten.
The film did in fact, feel like a cross between Atomic Blonde and Black Swan. However, there was much less action than Atomic Blonde and far more drama. It has the surprising sexual darkness of Black Swan, only much more magnified. The graphic violence in the movie is a lot more twisted and vicious than Atomic Blonde.
I did not think that Jennifer Lawrence was going to be able to pull off a Russian accent. I was worried that this would really take away from the movie. For the most part, the accent was OK though. Towards the end of the film, it started going in and out, but overall was believable. Her performance was quite gritty. There were some surprisingly twisted nude scenes. It definitely has the shock value.
Edgerton’s character was likable, but he was a little underused. His character was not quite developed enough. That was acceptable, because it really is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie. However, I feel like this did take away from the film. The chemistry between the male lead and female lead was just not there.
I did feel like Red Sparrow was trying really hard to be like Atomic Blonde. All the way down to platinum blonde hair and Stoli vodka. Charlize Theron was a much bigger badass in Atomic Blonde than Jennifer Lawrence was Red Sparrow. Atomic Blonde was a lot more fun and exciting. The dark subject matter in Red Sparrow was not broken up with any humor or much fun. I feel that took away from the overall quality of movie because it makes the 2 hours and 19 minutes runtime feel like that amount of time. They did not cut the tension and therefore it felt like it was trying too hard to be too dark.
This is a shadowy spy thriller that pulls no punches. It is intentionally and methodically puzzling. The film is a little rough around the edges, but overall is well-made and well-acted.
I rate this movie a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
If you liked this film then you might also enjoy:
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Black Swan (2010)
Casino Royale (2006)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
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:
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 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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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.
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.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
In the new film, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time in order to try to change the past and prevent a horrible future.
The movie was directed by Bryan Singer and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Ellen Page, Evan Peters, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Bingbing Fan, Daniel Cudmore, Lucas Till, Booboo Stewart, Omar Sy, Adan Canto, Josh Helman, and Thai-Hoa Le.
I love movies that have to do with time travel. X-Men movies have been better in recent years, and this one, once again, has a great cast. This should prove to be a recipe for a fun and enjoyable movie.
The film is set to release on 05/23/13.
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.
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.