American Hustle (2013)

Am hustleReleased: December 20, 2013. Directed by: David O. Russell. Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper. Runtime: 138 min.

With “American Hustle,” David O. Russell creates a heavily stylish look at the lives of con men and an FBI agent trying to reduce corruption in late 1970’s New Jersey; but ridding the city of corruption might not be so easy when one is working so closely with con men. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his seductive mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) make their living by selling fake reproductions of great art, and getting checks from people who give them a deposit of $5, 000 who think they will receive $50, 000 in return because Sydney creates an alias (Lady Edith Greensley) where she has connections to British banking.

When the pair gets caught by the Feds, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) says they will get out of it if they help him bring down some powerful people in the government in New Jersey, such as Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). The powerful folk can be tempted by the funding to rebuild Atlantic City. The con artists are led into this world of powerbrokers and mafia that is dangerous, but enchanting. One of the only people who can jeopardize the whole operation is Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who doesn’t appreciate her husband having a so-called whore on the side.

This world of powerbrokers and mafia is only enchanting to me because of the style and the cast. Director Russell creates quite the vision with the help of cool hairstyles (maybe not Irving’s combover), tans and cleavage. Russell is a great director, but I do like his last outing “Silver Linings Playbook” a lot better than this. The cast helps keep audience members interested because they’re great screen presences. The plot itself is slowly-paced some of the time, where I just thought it would be a good place to get to the point and bust these baddies already. But no, Richie keeps wanting more people to take down. For some of it, the actors on-screen are some of the only aspects that keep this from being a snoozefest. The  character developments are interesting, and I like how unpredictable working with career liars can be.

I like the tension between Irving and Richie; it gets created by Richie putting moves on Sydney, who Richie thinks is actually named Edith – her alias. Richie is a bit of a crazy character, who gets in over his head a bit often, and his behaviour might just be better suited for a film like “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Bradley Cooper is showing more and more versatility with each role, so that’s really great. He’s worthy of the Academy award nomination with this performance, but this isn’t winning material. The only other character who might be crazier than him is Irving’s wife Rosalyn. Jennifer Lawrence fits this character because she makes a lot of different kind-of character choices, so the two unpredictable personalities fit. Lawrence is funny as the character, when she consistently starts fires – but more than a bit odd for me when she’s talking about how the best nail polish smells great but has a hint of a garbage smell.

The character dynamic between Irving and Rosalyn is interesting because she doesn’t want to divorce him because no one in her family has been divorced before, and Irving doesn’t want to divorce her because he adopted her son. I think Rosalyn’s reasoning is a bit more immature, so she should just take her gross-smelling nail polish and hop on someone else’s dingaling; because they’d both be happier. Irving is trapped in this situation, especially when Sydney would just much rather have him all to herself and get Rosalyn out of the picture entirely.

Amy Adams is just great as her character, one who is caught so in the lies that she seems to get lost in her character of Edith; and she gets to sport a great British accent, so that’s fun. I think her true motivations are love, freedom and money. She’s the eye candy for Richie, and there’s so much tension in her and Irving’s relationship because of that. Christian Bale is also great as his character, one who seems honest to his friends and seems like a kind-enough con man. So as you can see, this cast is pretty great. A comment on the only main cast member who didn’t receive an Oscar nomination: Jeremy Renner’s character is easily the most noble of them all, because whatever he does is either for his family or New Jersey.

There seems to be an ongoing theme of how everybody has to cheat and lie alittle to get their way. There’s also an interesting theme of reinvention. These characters get so into the role they’re playing that they seem like they might eventually lose sight of themselves. Maybe they like the role they’re playing more than they like their actual self. If you think about it, actors aren’t so different from these con men.

Of course, actors actually make an honest wage while playing a role – but they reinvent themselves to make others believe the role. That’s what I think great acting is, where you, as the audience member, simply believes the actor is the character they’re playing. That’s why I don’t really like reading all those tabloid magazines and gossip about the actor, so I can more easily believe that they’re really character they’re playing. (I also don’t read them because I don’t think they’re interesting at all.)

I think method acting really utilizes that, when even the actor changes their appearance to fit the character – that’s why I like Christian Bale a lot. He goes through the craziest transformations, like when he was as skinny as a pterodactyl in “The Machinist” and then bulked back up for “Batman Begins.” Now he has a big belly and a combover for this film. I really appreciate when people go so far for their art – as long as they don’t do it too dangerously, because then they might not be around to make enjoyable films much longer.

Score: 77/100

December 20-22 Box Office Predictions

American Hustle“American Hustle” looks like it will be a great movie, and it has a dynamite cast – it features Bradley Cooper sporting a perm, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. It’s the new film from David O.Russell about con artists. Films similar to this open at $13.97 million; and this opened to $740 thousand at six theatres. So, to say this has quite a bit of anticipation behind it is a bit of an understatement! It’s coming to 2507 theatres this weekend, and I think it will do well because adults don’t have many films out right now directly for them. They could also wait for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” My prediction is $19.6 million.

Anchorman 2“Anchorman: The Legend Continues” looks freaking awesome! (And it was, expect a review soon!) I’ve been excited for it all year and I was very pleased to find out it’s coming out tomorrow now instead of Friday! I loved the humour of the first and I’m sure I’ll love this. Films similar to this open to an average $31.14 million. Since the first film has established itself as a comedy classic, I’m sure this will do very well over this five-day frame. “The Hangover Part III” mustered $42.6 million in its three-day opening and something like $62 million in its five-day frame, to give you an idea of how comedies over five days do. And even though that was a bad movie, it did well at least in its opening. Sequels nine years apart is never a great thing, but for this it might work out okay – because people love their Will Ferrell and this character. I’m one of those people. The first film opened at $28.4 million, and I think this do near $40 million in a normal three-day weekend, and $54 million in its five-day frame, because even though the opening date was changed to December 18 three weeks ago, I didn’t realize it until today – and I wonder if I’m not alone on that.

Saving Mr. Banks“Saving Mr. Banks” looks like a very moving live-action Disney flick. It looks like an entertaining biography film, and it will really appeal to fans of “Mary Poppins.” It’s a family film that has a lot of competition with “Frozen” as well as the “Walking with Dinosaurs” film also coming out this weekend. My prediction for this is $15.4 million.

Walking with Dinosaurs“Walking with Dinosaurs” is the only movie being released this weekend I’m really not interested in seeing. It looks like an incredibly lame 3D sort-of cinematic event for the kiddies. I think the kids will want their parents to take them to this. Dinosaurs are awesome, but this looks boring. Films similar to this open at $25.13 million. “Jurassic Park 3D” opened to $18.62 earlier this year. I think since it is going to 3200 theatres or so this weekend, it will do around those numbers. My prediction is $18 million.

What are you most excited about seeing this weekend? Or are you just going to wait for all of those movies being released on Christmas day?

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: David O. Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Runtime: 122 min

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is a former history teacher who has been in a mental institution for the past eight months because he nearly killed the man who was having sex with his wife. Now, Pat is out and he’s trying to reconcile with his ex-wife, Nikki. He is staying at his parents house (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), and all they want him to do is move on and share their family obsession of the Philadelphia Eagles. Pat then meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman with many problems of her own. After their meeting, things get very complicated.

The relationship between Pat and Tiffany is pretty nice. They both have many problems. Pat is struggling with consistently taking his medication, he is not fully comprehending that he might never be able to reconcile with his wife, and he is having much difficulty controlling his emotions and anger. He’s sort of like a fairly more controlled Hulk.

Tiffany is a very young widow that has recently lost her job. She lost her job because she slept around with just about everyone in her workplace. This may sound sort of peculiar, but the way she tells the story is actually quite funny. Tiffany may have multiple problems of her own, but she is much more comfortable with her current state of mind than Pat is with his own.

Soon enough, Pat learns that Tiffany has a way of communicating with his ex-wife, Nikki. He cannot do it himself because of the restraining order, but he asks Tiffany if she could deliver a letter to her. But wait, there’s a catch. Tiffany needs help with this dance competition, and if Pat helps her, she’ll deliver that letter. This allows them to bond over time, and grow a solid relationship. Together, these crazies will have to find that silver lining on any old negative or dark day.

Silver Linings Playbook offers a great story that will be talked about for years to come. The plot may seem like yet another traditional romantic comedy, but no, it is much more than that. While it does have some components of the formula to make a romantic comedy, it is far from that. This is more of a dramedy with a few spices of romance, for good taste.

There’s a great canvas of incredible characters. The whole cast brings the multi-layered characters of Matthew Quick’s novel to life. Each actor wonderfully captures the exact emotions they are supposed to be expressing. A notable character is Chris Tucker’s Danny, who further adds some comedy to the feature. Though, the real notable performers are the two primary characters themselves, Bradley Cooper as Pat and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany. They both express craziness well, they are both very hilarious, and they express emotions of stress, anger and anxiety well. When they are called to have an outburst, they do it very well. The direction by David O. Russell is also very amazing, and he directs these people with ease. To any ordinary director, directing these performers may be difficult, but this guy makes it look easy.

Silver Linings Playbook offers an experience that is difficult not to love. It is hilarious, sexy, beautiful, meaningful, sad, emotional, and sometimes quite dramatic. All of these aspects go very well together. Some thing that helps that is the impeccable writing by David O. Russell, and Matthew Quick who originally wrote the novel. The pacing never gets off track, and it never misses a beat. The viewer may not be able to relate to the exact situation of these characters, but they could fully understand their motivations – and most may have felt similar emotions that these characters express on a daily basis. This makes 2003’s Anger Management look like trash, and it ranks up to the greatness of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sure, it may not be as dramatic as Cuckoo’s Nest, but it has great performances like that – and it sure is funnier than Anger Management. This is easy to admire because at times, it finds comedy in many intense situations.

100/100