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:
Cop Land (1997)
Cop Land is the first movie that I remember hearing about where an actor or actress severely changed their weight for a part in a film. Sylvester Stallone gained 40 lbs. for his role in the movie. I remember thinking how crazy he was for doing that. 40 lbs. is a lot of weight to gain, and it is a lot more to have to lose again. Now, 16 years later, I realize that it was just Stallone’s awesome dedication to doing what he loves that allowed him to do what was necessary for his role in Cop Land.
The film is about an army of corrupt New York City cops with ties to the mob who buy themselves a chunk of New Jersey. They are virtually untouchable until the sheriff of their little “Cop Land” (Sylvester Stallone) becomes wise to their ways.
The movie was written and directed by James Mangold and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Janeane Garofalo, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent, John Spencer, Arthur J. Nascarella, Edie Falco, John Ventimiglia, Robert John Burke, Michael Gaston, Bruce Altman, Tony Sirico, Frank Pellegrino, Vincent Laresca, Victor Williams, Paul Calderon, and Malik Yoba.
They brought in all of the big guns to make this film. The cast list is so staggering that I am sure that I left someone out. You couldn’t ask for a better cast in a movie.
Because of the type of movie Cop Land is, and especially because of the cast, you can expect a lot of violence and language, but mostly, powerful performances.
Cop dramas don’t get a whole lot better than this one. Cop Land is one of those movies that gets better every time that I watch it.
It is interesting because a number of actors in the film were cast against type. Guys who usually play bad guys are now playing cops. But, it works out because some of them are corrupt. So, I guess they are just bad guys with a badge.
It is no surprise that the movie has a bit of a Goodfellas (1990) and The Sopranos feel to it, because a number of the cast members were in those shows. A couple of them were also in the film Beautiful Girls (1996).
With so many great actors in the movie, none of them really stood out over another because they were all acting on the same level.
Overall, Cop Land is a unique, underrated cop drama that packs a big bang. Like a fine wine, it gets better with age.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
Grudge Match (2013)
This Christmas Sylvester Stallone will be boxing Robert De Niro in the film Grudge Match. It’s The Italian Stallion vs. The Raging Bull. That promises to be a Christmas present worth waiting for. My money is on Rocky.
The movie is about two retired boxers who come out of retirement for one final grudge match 30 years after the only time they ever fought.
The film looks basically like another Rocky film. I just want to see if the fight ends by knockout or heart attack.
The movie releases on 12/25/13.
Jackie Brown (1997)
Jackie Brown was the last of the Quentin Tarantino movies that I had not seen, until now. Here is a film with a number of big name actors in their prime and an established director who had semi-recently directed Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994). So why did I wait 16 years to watch this movie? The answer is that I was only 11 years old when it was in theatres and it is rated R. I was thinking about watching it about 11 years ago, but I had only heard bad things from die hard Tarantino fans, so I decided against it. I figured I would get around to it eventually, but I sure didn’t think it would take me this long.
The film is about an arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson) who is at risk of being investigated by the police, so he decides to clean up shop and dispose of some of the employees of his illegal organization. One of his employees named Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is not so easy to get rid of.
From the very start of the film, it feels like Samuel L. Jackson is playing basically the same character that he played in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He is loud, he talks a lot, and he uses the F and N words way more than he or anybody else probably should. He gets away with it though because he is Samuel L. Jackson and somehow that makes it okay.
To this point in time, Tarantino’s films had been known for their heavy language, violence, and lots of dialogue. Jackie Brown carries on this tradition, except has far more scenes of people sitting or standing around talking. If the main characters are not sitting around an apartment chatting and smoking pot, then they are sitting around a bar or an office drinking, smoking cigarettes, and talking up a storm. There is an obscene amount of talking and far less doing, anything.
This is a 2 hour and 34 minute long crime drama. Honestly, it feels like Tarantino’s ego may have gotten the better of him while making this movie and he decided it was a masterpiece and therefore didn’t cut anything. Maybe he had gotten so much praise from his first two films that he let it go to his head. The film was probably an hour longer than it needed to be. Some scenes were so painstakingly slow that I got bored and a little sleepy.
De Niro seemed somewhat miscast. His character was so dumbed-down that it did not seem like he fit the part.
It was entertaining to see all of these big stars while they were still in their prime. However, Jackie Brown is a bloated thriller without very many thrills. This is Quentin Tarantino’s worst film. I’m glad that I finally watched it because now I know what all of the fuss is about. If you have not seen this movie, you’re not missing much.
I rate this movie a 4 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Run.
The Big Wedding (2013)
I come from a very dysfunctional family, but I am sure that we all do in one way or another. So maybe that is why I am drawn to dysfunctional movies.
The Big Wedding is about a couple that must pretend to be married even though they have been divorced for a very long time. Their adopted son is getting married and the family is reuniting for the wedding, but his birth mother is unaware that his adopted parents were ever separated.
The film was directed by Justin Zackham and the noteworthy cast includes Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Surandon, Topher Grace, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Ben Barnes, Robin Williams, Christine Ebersole, David Rasche, Patricia Rae, and Ana Ayora.
The movie is inappropriate from the very first scene and delightfully dysfunctional throughout.
The film revolves more around the families of the groom and bride rather than the groom and bride themselves. That is what the movie actually has going for it because instead of being a sappy love story, it is more about the harsh reality of the lives of the family attending the wedding.
It’s very amusing to see acting legends De Niro, Keaton, Surandon, and Williams all in the same film together and all as awesome as ever.
There are tons of laughs to be had in this film. From the awkwardness of a divorced couple acting like they are married to the funny insults back and forth between siblings and the jokes that get lost in translation with the adopted kid’s foreign birth family.
The humor is raunchy and there is a lot of language.
I laughed harder than I thought I would. The Big Wedding was a pleasant surprise. It was hilarious, witty, messed up, heartfelt, and dysfunctional. It was just like family should be, or at least how my family is.
The film appears like it could be a chick flick, but don’t be fooled. It was just a pure comedy.
I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Buy.
If you liked The Big Wedding, then you will most likely enjoy:
Killing Season (2013)
John Travolta has not been making as many films as he used to. Ever since his son died in 2009, he has made noticeably fewer movies.
It seems like Travolta has maybe gone off the deep end because his characters have gotten angrier and more intense. His role in Killing Season appeared like it was going to continue this trend. The pairing of Robert De Niro opposite Travolta as another darker character was enough to make me want to see the film. Travolta out for revenge on De Niro on screen is bound to be entertaining.
Killing Season is about a retired war-hardened veteran (Robert De Niro) who is trying to live a quiet life in a remote cabin in the wilderness when a man from his past (John Travolta) comes back to hunt him.
The movie touches briefly on the Bosnian war, which I found interesting because I knew nothing about it.
I thought that Travolta pulled off a Serbian accent quite well. Along with his short, dark hair, facial hair, and eyebrows, he was believable as a Serbian. He certainly continued his recent trend of grittier characters and he was a likable bad guy.
De Niro has showed no sign of slowing down even at the age of 70. He ran around in the woods and held his own against the younger Travolta.
The film was a drawn out battle between two aging veterans in the style of The Most Dangerous Game (1932). One man hunted the other while the other man fought to survive.
The movie was a little too predictable at times. However, the quality acting, moderately intense action, and the built up tension throughout the film was enough to make up for where it was lacking, and ultimately made the movie worth watching.
Without spoiling the film, I think that the movie would have benefited from having more time spent hunting. If the chase was a little more spread out, the film might have been less predictable.
The movie is a 2 man show. The bottom line is if you are a fan of De Niro or Travolta, then you will probably enjoy Killing Season.
I rate this movie a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10.
Buy, rent, or run? Rent.
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.
The Family (2013)
Robert De Niro returns to his mafia roots in this film where he plays a former mob boss who enters witness protection to protect himself and his family from getting whacked. Now they all must try to adapt to leading normal, average lives and this proves to be difficult.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays De Niro’s wife and Tommy Lee Jones is the man who put the family in witness protection. The rest of the notable cast includes Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore, Dianna Agron, Joseph Perrino, and John D’leo.
The movie looks like an entertaining dysfunctional drama that could also be good for a few laughs. It has a great cast and some of the best filmmakers in the business are a part of it. That’s good enough for me to want to see.
The film is set to release on 9/13/13.
When I think of Sylvester Stallone, I think of his characters Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. Balboa is from his 5 Rocky films, beginning with Rocky (1976) and Rambo is from his 4 Rambo movies, beginning with First Blood (1982).
In more recent years, Stallone has gathered together his fellow aging action heroes. They have all banded together to form The Expendables trilogy. The Expendables (2010) started it all. The Expendables 3 is planned to release in the summer of 2014.
It appears as if old age is not going to slow down Sylvester. He is 67 and he continues to make action films. This October he will be trying to break out of prison with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Escape Plan (2013). This Christmas Stallone will be boxing Robert De Niro in the film Grudge Match (2013). The Italian Stallion vs. The Raging Bull. That promises to be a Christmas present worth waiting for. My money is on Rocky.
Click on the links below to read my Sylvester Stallone Movie Reviews:
Killing Season (2013) (Click on the title for my full review.)
DeNiro and Travolta play veterans of the same war who have become friends. Eventually their friendship turns sour and they wage a new war against each other.
Both actors may be getting old (especially DeNiro), but this movie looks entertaining and intriguing enough for me to want to see it.
The film is set to release on 7/12/13.