Archive | December 2013

American Hustle


American busted

David O. Russell’s American Hustle could probably pass as a Silver Linings Playbook sequel as the movies virtually share the same cast and director, though Hustle comes packed with even more strong performances from its phenomenal leading cast than Playbook’s already stellar showing. Thanks to said phenomenal cast, the movie fits in a rare niche of films that are funny, layered, and lovable enough to be watched repeatedly for years and years after its release. If you haven’t seen it yet, you probably will. The buzz surrounding this movie is no scam, and while it most likely won’t be a runaway frontrunner to win everything in the upcoming awards season, it will deserve every nomination it will inevitably receive.

Based (incredibly loosely) on the Abscam incident in the late 1970s, pot-bellied Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale, who gained 40 pounds for the role) and his newfound partner Sydney Prosser, or, as she’d prefer to be called, Lady Edith Greensly (Amy Adams) run an incredibly successful “business” conning people desperate to avoid debt out of their last dollar. Their success is shortly lived, because soon FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them red-handed. In exchange for their freedom, they must use their unscrupulous skills to help the FBI catch four other con artists. Hot on the trail of Camden, New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who may bend the system at times to do what is best for the city he loves, the characters begin to question how far they would go to get what they want, let alone deserve.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Hobbit desolation of smaug movie poster

An unexpected improvement

As hard as it tries, the Hobbit trilogy (or perhaps ‘miniseries’ would be a better descriptor) can’t make Bilbo Baggins’ journey to Smaug’s mountain as gripping as Frodo’s journey to Mordor in Lord of the Rings was. That’s not Peter Jackson’s goal with this prequel series – the jury’s still out on what the goal here actually is. Still, The Desolation of Smaug improves upon its predecessor in almost every conceivable way, and even though it trails dangerously close to the 3-hour mark, the majority swings by with a confidence the first one lacked.

Somehow, somewhere, someone involved with this movie decided it would be a good idea to kick things off with a newly imagined exposition scene occurring sequentially before the first movie, as if the 40 minutes of exposition provided by that film just weren’t enough. That scene, starring Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan, basically just Gandalf) and dwarf king and current mission leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) lasts longer than it should, but soon we rightfully rejoin Bilbo (Martin Freeman) where the last film left off.

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Out of the Furnace



Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, a movie with a title that makes about as much sense as the story, seems to be trying to make some sort of social commentary on soldiers who return from war and receive no help finding jobs, but that part of the movie is so skeletal all that’s left is a plodding drama with no clear direction. Fortunately Cooper and crew somehow drummed up an excellent cast capable of saving the below average quality of the script and making the film watchable. The finished product is something that starts out great, and gradually gets worse the longer it goes, culminating in a climax that’s arguably the most boring part of the film. People were saying this was Oscar-worthy?

Set in some bizarre part of the country where every stranger wants to beat you up and females are an endangered species, Russell Baze (Christian Bale, at long last speaking clearly again) works at a ‘mill,’ some kind of metalwork factory. Russell is at a low point in his life when his dad becomes deathly ill and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck, whose older brother Ben is about to get his voice as gravelly as Bale did) is about to leave to go fight for the army. Russell’s relationship with Lena (Zoe Saldana) is the only good thing he has, but even that is taken away when a tragedy occurs unexpectedly, and Russell ends up in jail for about eight years.

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