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

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Mud (2013)

MudTwo teenage boys encounter a fugitive living in a boat in the trees on an island. They form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.

Release Date: May 10, 2013

Director: Jeff Nichols

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland

Runtime: 130 min

If you take anything from this movie; it should be that Southern gals named Juniper are bad news.

Mud is a modern-day fairy tale, a crisp chase thriller, and a coming-of-age drama all in one. It’s a gritty fairy tale because Mud is waiting for his love on an island; and there are themes of happily ever after, true love; but it’s less “Repunzel, Repunzel, lay down your hair!” and more like “Mud, Mud, let down that boat!” It’s a chase movie because Mud is a fugitive on the run, attempting to evade some lethal bounty hunters. As for the coming-of-age tale, that mostly lies with Ellis (Tye Sheridan).

He’s at the delicate age of fourteen, the age where one begins to choose role models. His parents are on the brink of divorce, and they really aren’t there to offer much advice; so the role model he chooses is Mud. Ellis must make his way through adult lies and learn his own way through hardships of love. Neckbone doesn’t latch onto Mud the way Ellis does, mostly because he finds a solid role model within his Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon). Mud is a superstitious character, but he’s also a serial liar. He tells great story after great story, and as the film progresses, the audience learns he is appropriately named, because he really is full of shit. The character contrasts are fascinating; Mud wants things to be done, but Ellis (and Neckbone) are the two to do them. Ellis seems to have a lot more backbone than Mud ever would. The lady loves of the story, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), Mud’s love, and May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant), is the gal that Ellis has his eyes set on; some of their character traits have striking similarities, and the way Jeff Nichols makes them mirror each other is truly stunning and creative.

Jeff Nichols writes in a lot of themes, and while they may suffocate the story at times, they’re still very beautiful. Nichols suggests that the water current could really make one’s hardships more difficult, because Ellis lives on a makeshift boat on the banks of an Arkansas river, and his parents are struggling with their relationship. Nichols seems to have a true handle on some natural elements. The symbols of snakes and Mud’s wool shirt are thought-provoking and, often enough, poignant. Nichols’ third feature film states that he just didn’t become lucky with a few winners, this states that he is an artist; and most will love the story Nichols has to tell.

The story has a comfortable pace and it knows where it wants to go. It’s slow, but engaging. There are some scenes that might feel redundant at the time, but they don’t interrupt the flow of the film. The cinematography has a crisp feel to it, and it’s stunning when the camera is looking out into the hopeful horizon. The characters will keep you engaged. The relationship that blossoms between Mud and Ellis is about as beautiful as a relationship between a thirty-something sandy-haired fugitive and a fourteen-year old boy can get. Juniper and Mud want to be together; and even if we do not feel we can always trust Mud, he’s always very intriguing and has a lot of depth.

Matthew McConaughey delivers a tour de force performance, and seeing what he does here, it’ll make you much more excited for the upcoming Dallas Buyers Club. Tye Sheridan portrays Ellis very well; he’s capable of being tough, sweet, confused and vulnerable. The performances are superb all across the board. Jacob Lofland gets outshined by Sheridan, but he’s a great comic relief, and a nice presence. His name also reminds us that this is truly a Southern film. Some of the actors have characters that just don’t do much.

Reese Witherspoon portrays Mud’s love, Juniper. She has about ten minutes of screen time. Witherspoon does well with what she has, but if she gets an Oscar nomination for what little she does; it will only be a smaller farce than Jacki Weaver’s nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. Though, Witherspoon being under-utilized is not Nichols’ biggest crime. Michael Shannon has a criminally low amount of screen-time. He portrays Neckbone’s uncle, Galen, where he works as a role model for Neckbone and he wears this huge, comical scuba diving gear – and that’s about it. Shannon is a go-to guy of Nichols, as he is been in his two prior films, as the lead in Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories. It’s great to see Shannon in anything, but if you’re not going to use a guy of Shannon’s talent extremely well, don’t use him at all. This is Nichols’ biggest mistake, and if he does show a preference to use him, he should have cast him as Carver (Paul Sparks), the main bounty hunter adversary of Mud. He would rock that role!

The cast is an excellent ensemble, also including Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon and Sam Shepard. The story is impressively engaging, even if it has little wiggle room because of its many themes. Jeff Nichols writes a story that has enough power to strike you down like a mighty current, and raw emotion that will maul at your tear ducts. One thing is for certain, you will never believe a movie with such a dirty title could become such a beautiful work of art.

86/100

February 15-18 Box Office Predictions: A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful Creatures, Escape from Planet Earth, Safe Haven

The new releases

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Safe Haven

Safe Haven

Escape from Planet Earth

Escape from Planet Earth

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures

The four big releases this weekend are A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful CreaturesEscape from Planet Earth and Safe Haven.

Films similar to A Good Day to Die Hard often open to an average gross of $27.1 million, and that’s stellar for action films. The first Die Hard opened to the sound of $600, 000 at 21 theaters (but it went onto gross $83 million, domestically); the second to an opening weekend of $21.7 million; the third to an opening of $22.1 million. The fourth one opened to a franchise best $33.3 million. I believe this will beat the fourth’s earning, because everyone has been dying to hear “Yippee Ki-Yay, Motherf*cker!” since McLane last said it in 1995. Apparently in 2007, the damn MPAA didn’t want him saying it. The Die Hard franchise has typically had a summer opening, but I don’t think this film’s February opening will have any sort of affect, especially on Family day weekend. Because nothing says ‘family’ better than terrorists and John McLane.

Those who are still feeling romantic post-Valentine’s Day might just be running out to see the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Safe Haven. Is it just me, or does this look like it could pretty good? I think The Lucky One was seriously one of the worst films of last year, but I am a sucker for the charm of The Notebook, and this and Notebook share some similarities. This is the eighth adaptation of Sparks’ works, and there is a collected $17.8 million average opening. This one would look stellar if it opens between Message in a Bottle‘s $16.7 million and The Lucky One‘s $22.5 million opening. It’ll probably lean more toward The Lucky One, though. The popularity of Hough is at an average opening of $13.9 million, and Duhamel is at an average opening of $37.3 million (but that average is mostly thanks to the three Transformers flicks).

If the new Die Hard proves to be too much of an adrenaline rush, or Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven is too sappy, one might just choose this teen romance with a hint of dark witch secrets. While this won’t be the young adult heavyweight any of the Twilight flicks were, this might do nearly as well as Warm Bodies‘ $20.3 million opening. It isn’t getting a ton of love from the critics, and the leading woman (Alice Englert, in her film debut) and man (Alden Ehrenreich, in his wide release debut) don’t have much star power at all. However, the others included in the cast (Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Thomas Mann) may attract a fine audience. This reminds me of last year’s Dark Shadows with its whole strange family vibe (that opened to $29.6 million) and the sort-of fantasy and atmosphere of The Spiderwick Chronicles (a film that opened to $19 million). Anyway, this is in solid shape if it opens between Red Riding Hood‘s $14 million and Water for Elephants‘ $16.8 million. It’ll probably do better than those, though.

This space adventure from the Weinstein Company sounds really lame to me, but visually appealing, and generally fun for the kids. While the Weinstein Company is a serious award-winning powerhouse, they haven’t fared well in the animation genre (they’ve given us the Hoodwinked films and that apparently god-awful Doogal). Though, kids still enjoy innocent old aliens in animation… But they don’t love them. Planet 51 opened to $12.2 million, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius opened to $13.8 million way back in 2001; Aliens in the Attic, $8 million; and Monsters vs. Aliens, $59.3 million. What I’m getting from that is, kids like to see both monsters and aliens in their movies. 2011’s family day weekend had Gnomeo and Juliet opening to $25 million. While this won’t gross anywhere near that, it will make most of its money on Monday; as this will be one of the only fairly popular, family-friendly films in theaters.

Here’s how I see the top 10:

TitlePrediction

1. A Good Day to Die Hard: $44, 500, 000
2. Identity Thief: $22, 400, 000
3. Safe Haven: $20, 000, 000
4. Beautiful Creatures: $18, 900, 000
5. Escape from Planet Earth: $14, 750, 000
6. Warm Bodies: $12, 500, 000
7. Side Effects: $8, 500, 000
8. Silver Linings Playbook: $7, 200, 000
9. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: $4, 000, 000
10. Argo: $3, 500, 000

Identity Thief, Side Effects (Box Office Predictions: 2/8 – 2/10/13)

The new releases

Identity Thief

Identity Thief

Side Effects

Side Effects

 

 

 

 

The two new movies coming to theaters this weekend is Seth Gordon’s Identity Thief, starring Melissa McCarthy as the woman who steals the identity of Sandy Patterson, played by Jason Bateman. He is playing the straight man, and it’s a role he plays very well in the comedy genre. It will definitely get over $20 million this weekend because it has no competition in the comedy genre yet this year (Movie 43 seems to be rushing out of theaters) and it could turn out to be the first good comedy of the year. However, the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ appreciation of the film may state otherwise (as of now, 24% of critics have liked it). Melissa McCarthy is very popular, it has a solid premise, and it could turn out to be surprisingly good. I hope. I also really hope they didn’t show all the funny scenes in its trailers. It really was a large marketing campaign.

Side Effects is a little more on the down-low. I have seen many TV spot trailers but I can’t recall seeing the trailer at the movie theaters. It is being advertised as a star-studded clinical thriller from the creator of Contagion. The story goes like this: Emily and Martin are a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s psychiatrist – intended to treat anxiety – has unexpected side effects.

It really does sound intriguing, and Soderbergh rarely brings a stinker (even though I didn’t enjoy Michael Clayton). I have expectations for this one, and I think it will gross at least $10 million this weekend. Also, part of the attraction is the cast that includes Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

 

Here’s how I see the top 10: 

Title/Prediction

1. Identity Thief/ $24, 000, 000
2. Warm Bodies/ $13, 100, 000
3. Side Effects/ $12, 200, 000
4. Silver Linings Playbook/ $6, 000, 000
5. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters/ $4, 100, 000
6. Mama/ $2, 900, 000
7. Zero Dark Thirty/ $2, 600, 000
8. Bullet to the Head/ $2, 500, 000
9. Argo/ $2, 200, 000
10. Django Unchained/ $1, 700, 000

Warm Bodies Scares Away the Competition (February 1-3 Box Office Results)

"I'm da winner zombie!"

“I’m da winner zombie!”

Warm Bodies opened to a great $20.3 million on the Superbowl weekend, and it’s also a really good film. Stand Up Guys opened to $1.5 million at 659 theaters, which is pretty decent. However, Sly proves that this is not a good year for solo outings for The Expendables co-stars. Arnie’s vehicle, The Last Stand, only grossed $6.2 million in its opening weekend; and Jason Statham’s vehicle, Parker, only grossed $7 million in its opening weekend.  Click the title for my review.

Top 10 Box Office, The Results (Estimates)

My Prediction/Off by (Over/Under)

1. Warm Bodies*$20, 353, 967

– $18, 700, 000$1, 653, 967 under

*Review will be up on Friday

2. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters$9,423,274

– $12, 400, 000$2, 976, 726 over

3.  Silver Linings Playbook$7,738,058

– $7, 650, 000$88, 058 under

4. Mama: $6,590,970

– $5, 620, 000$970, 970 under

5. Zero Dark Thirty$5,176,428

– $5, 530, 000$353, 572 over

6. Bullet to the Head$4,548,201

– $9, 200, 000$4, 651, 799 over

7. Parker$3,302,415

– $4, 065, 000$762, 585 over

8. Django Unchained: $3,002,769

– $2, 920, 000$82, 769 under

9. Les Misérables: $2,420,885

– N/A.

10. Lincoln$2,402,224

– N/A.

Other predictions

15. Movie 43$1, 641, 849

– $1, 970, 000$328, 151 over

18. Stand Up Guys$1,486,390

– $2, 000, 000$513, 610 over

New releases total difference: $6, 819, 376

Holdovers total difference: $5, 562, 831

Zombies Will (Probably) Devour Stallone, Elderly in a Crime Comedy, and the Rest of the Competition

The new releases

Bullet to the Head

Bullet to the Head

Stand Up Guys

Stand Up Guys

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies

 

 

 

 

This weekend, there are three new releases coming along: the zombie-love story, Warm Bodies; Stallone’s new vehicle, Bullet to the Head; and a limited release of Stand Up Guys, where Alan Arkin, Al Pacino and Christopher Walken team up for a crime comedy.

Sylvester Stallone is breaking off from his The Expendables series for a solo outing with Bullet to the Head. Here, Stallone plays a hit man situated in New Orleans. The story follows Stallone and a Washington D.C. detective who see their respective partners die, and they then form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy. Stallone is a fairly popular action hero whose popularity has grown with his start of a new ensemble action series, The Expendables. Stallone’s average opening weekend earning is $13.079 million, with The Expendables being his best number with $34. 825 million. Bullet to the Head probably won’t meet his average earning, but his new vehicle will draw a nice crowd for those who need their Sly fix.

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin team up for a buddy crime comedy, Stand Up Guys. The film follows Val (Pacino) who has just been released from prison, as he and his buddy Doc (Walken) try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah, before one of the guys takes his last assingment — to kill his comrade. It’s really all a great formula for a potentially great action comedy.

But the real winner of the weekend will be Warm Bodies, a new comedy horror that might be considered Twilight with zombies, but I truly hope, nor think, this is the case. This feature feels like it really might reinvent the genre, and do it successfully. This film follows R (Nicholas Hoult), a highly unusual zombie who saves a human, Julie (Teresa Palmer), from an attack. Their growing bond may just change the lifeless world altogether. You’ve seen the whole odd relationship before: an average girl and a boy of the supernatural kind. But this is different. This is set in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies are the norm, and humans are odd. Another interesting concept is this flick is actually suggesting the main girl is hot enough to reanimate a whole lifeless world, and make the zombies real again. Sure, Palmer’s hot, but she’s no Megan Fox. She’ll have to do. This makes the film have an original concept, and from the trailer, the humour looks like the strange, awkward brand of comedy that I love. This flick will also attract fans of the novel, as well as those who are interested in this awesome feature, like myself. This zombie feature looks cool, smart, and original. One thing that could make this film a certified sleeper hit is expert writing and direction from writer/director Jonathan Levine (50/50). I’ll appreciate this as long as there aren’t any love triangles…

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. Warm Bodies/$18, 700, 000
2. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters/ $12, 400, 000
3. Bullet to the Head/ $9, 200, 000
4. Silver Linings Playbook/ $7, 650, 000
5. Mama/ $5, 620, 000
6. Zero Dark Thirty/ $5, 530, 000
7. Parker/ $4, 065, 000
8. Django Unchained/ $2, 920, 000
9. Stand Up Guys/ $2, 000, 000
10. Movie 43/ $1, 970, 000

‘Hansel and Gretel’ Comes Out on Top (Jan. 25-27)

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters came out on top with $19.69 million, and Mama drops 53.9% to $13.088 million this weekend. Parker made $7 million, while Movie 43 proves to be the worst reviewed film of the year so far, and the largest box office bomb with a measly $4.8 million.

Click the title for my review.

Top 10 Box Office, The Results (Estimates)

My Prediction/Off by (+/)

1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: $19, 690, 956

– $19, 000, 000$690, 956 Under

2. Mama: $13, 088, 145

– $16, 900, 000$3, 811, 855 Over

3. Zero Dark Thirty: $9, 700, 132

– $9, 500, 000$200, 132 Over

4. Silver Linings Playbook: $9, 444, 039

– $7, 300, 000$2, 144, 039 Under

5. Parker: $7, 008, 222

– $9, 400, 000$2, 391, 778 Over

6. Django Unchained: $4, 946, 932

– $5, 000, 000$53, 068 Over

7. Movie 43: $4, 805, 878

– $12, 500, 000$7, 694, 122 Over

8. Gangster Squad: $4, 278, 235

– $4, 000, 000$278, 235 Under

9. Les Misérables: $4, 221, 055

– $4, 800, 000$578, 945 Over

10. Broken City: $4, 019, 558

– $4, 000, 000$19, 558 Over

New releases total difference: $10, 776, 856.

Holdovers total difference: $7, 085, 832.