Tag Archives: Cinema Reviews

American Hustle

28 Jan

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CAST

Christian Bale – Irving Rosenfeld

Bradley Cooper – Richie DiMaso

Amy Adams – Sydney Prosser

Jeremy Renner – Mayor Carmine Polito

Jennifer Lawrence – Rosalyn Rosenfeld

Louis C.K. – Stoddard Thorsen

Jack Huston – Pete Musane

Alessandro Nivola – Reggio

Michael Peña – Paco Hernandez/Sheik Abdullah

Shea Whigham – Carl Elway

Robert De Niro – Victor Tellegio

REVIEW:  Directed by David O. Russell and written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer is based on the ABSCAM sting of 1978.  The story concerns itself with Irving Rosenfeld a small time Hustler, sells fake art, owns a chain of Laundromats, and cons people out of thousands with fake investment scams. He is a genius at what he does and like most con-artists he has bigger dreams. He meets his match at a party, a woman, Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams. She is an ex-exotic dancer/stripper and is looking to reinvent herself.  Irving finds himself connected to her, and she with him, she falls for him and becomes his mistress.. He teaches her the con game and she reinvents herself as English noblewoman with Royal connections. The two swindle the desperate with bad investment schemes, until one of the investors turns out to be an FBI man named Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper.

DiMaso coerces the two into helping him put the finger on corrupt politicians like a New Jersey Mayor , Carmine Polito played by Jeremy Renner. Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, Irving’s wife, whose son, Irving has adopted as his own. She gets involved much to Syndney’s dislike and almost ruins the sting operation. Irving is forever mending fences caused by his wife and DiMaso who wants to be in control but is at odds with Irving’s plans.

The look of the film, its’ colors and textures are very reminiscent of films made in that era. The music is strictly Disco and Jazz, giving the film its’ mood and setting. The script is a dark screwball comedy, and I found myself laughing at the situations as they grew more complex and absurd.

This is a fine film with an outstanding cast, all deliver solid and believable performances. Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld and delivers New York greasy with class and panache. He is balding, with a comb over from hell. that he meticulously puts into place with latex and hairspray to keep the illusion of being someone else. He is adorned with bling that includes a big Star of David on a gold chain and bracelets. He wears suits that look like they fell off a hanger . Bales performance is real, comical in a human way, and pathetic every time he downs a heart pill.

Amy Adams delivers a fine performance as Sydney Prosser, it is wonderful to see her in a role that is down and dirty as opposed to squeaky clean. You understand her as she looks for something real in her life, opposed to the fakery she has been living, in order to survive.

Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld plays her as ditzy, bored, scared, and looking for some excitement in her life. Every time she does something stupid, like accidently blowing up the microwave or causing a fire in her kitchen or some other thing it is obvious she is trying to get her husband’s attention. She is a very lonely and this is at the core of her performance.

The cast is rounded out by great performances by comedian Louis C.K. as FBI man, Stoddard Thorson and Robert De Niro’s cameo as mob boss(what else) Victor Tellegio, among others.

This comedic caper is one of the finest ensemble casts I have seen in a long time. The film is deservedly getting a lot of attention and rewards. Don’t miss it. I predict the film will walk away with Oscars.

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Blue Jasmine

2 Aug

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CAST

Alec Baldwin-Hal

Cate Blanchett-Jasmine

Louis C. K.-Al

Bobby Cannavale-Chili

Andrew Dice Clay-Augie

Sally Hawkins-Ginger

Peter Sarsgaard-Dwight

Michael Stuhlbarg-Dr. Flicker

Review: Written and Directed by Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine is Allen’s modern telling of Streetcar named Desire.  It is the story of a fallen Manhattan socialite, Jasmine (Blanchett) who moves in with her sister Ginger(Hawkins) after she loses all her money and social standing  because of her investment broker husband  Hal’s  (Baldwin) dirty investment dealings.

Jasmine’s state is post nervous breakdown and when she arrives in San Francisco she is a fish out of water. On the plane ride from NY to California she is talking to herself and the poor lady sitting next to her politely listens. Jasmine arrives at her sister’s home in Frisco’s mission district she asks a stranger  “Where am I exactly.”   This where the story begins and we realize Jasmine is over the edge and hides it by drinking vodka and downing xanax. Blanchette’s performance is masterful as Jasmine clutches to whatever dignity she has left.

Baldwin’s Hal is cold calculating, manipulative and charming. He gives Jasmine the dream life of jewels, furs, a Park Avenue address, a beach house in the Hamptons she has all the superficial trappings and spoils a woman can want. Hal is a philanderer, lives off the spoils of other people’s money and doesn’t care who he brings down to get it. He charms his way all the way into ruination ala Bernie Madoff.

The Stanley Kowalskis’ in this scenario are Jasmin’s sister’s ex-husband Augie, played by Andrew Dice Clay, he nails it, and Chili, Ginger’s new boyfriend played by Bobby Cannavale.

The story is told in flashbacks as Jasmin relives the past in her rantings, as much as she tries to reconcile what she has become each passing day she is haunted by her past. Blanchett’s mood swings are so real as she navigates from sober then drunk to passive on the pills. You are pulled along for the ride and her performance  is the best I ever have seen her do. Allen is known for writing great parts for woman and this role is no exception.

This is Allen’s strongest movie since Match Point and proves once again what a prolific film maker he is. The movie never uses humor as gag  style comedy, the moments of humor scattered throughout come organically from the situations Jasmine finds herself in and the self delusion that goes along with it. You hope throughout that Jasmine’s can turn her life around.

There are moments when you realize that Jasmine’s breakdown has an underlying feeling of betrayal, is she betraying herself, is she hiding a secret, was it Hal’s betrayal and philandering that put her over the edge. Allen who loves Ingmar Bergman’s films, gives this story a  tragic Bergamanesque take on the human condition in the way the film deconstructs inch after fragile inch of Jasmine’s character. Blanchett reveals enough of Jasmine’s demons to root for her to change. Jasmine is in such deep denial that when she castigates her sister for having such losers as a husband and boyfriend, you can’t help but think that she is actually talking about her own situation.

The way Allen writes each character none of them fall into charactures or exaggerations, he pulls great performances out of all his cast members.

This is one of Allen’s finest films and it is apparent Allen is still at the peak of his story telling powers. Blanchett is a tour-de-force and shows us why we like to go to the movies in the first place. I am sure she will see a best actress nod for this one.

 

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Zero Dark Thirty

23 Feb

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Synopsis: Based on actual events the film chronicles the decade-long hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011. The film has been nominated for The Academy Award for Best Picture 2012.

Cast

Jessica Chastain…………………………………………………………..Maya

Joel Edgerton…………………………………………………………….Patrick

Kyle Chandler……………………………………………….Joseph Bradley

Jason Clark……………………………………………………………………Dan

Chris Pratt……………………………………………Justin, a US Navy SEAL

Review: Jessica Chaistain, plays Maya, a newbie CIA operative in search of leads to track down and eradicate Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The ten year search after 9/11 is the basis for the events that follow and haunt Maya. There are gruesome scenes of water-boarding, a torture technique used by the American Government under George W. Bush, to extract information from terrorist captives, as to the whereabouts of bin Laden. You do get the sense of how wrong this technique is, how the Bush administration used this more as an excuse to show the world, see we are doing something to get bin-Laden. A case can be made against water-boarding, its use, and the Bush administrations abuse of authority at the time. There are those who agree with its use, and those who don’t. The film has no particular view one way or the other, like with any good work of fiction, it let’s the audience have their own opinions.

It is Maya’s feisty determination, played believably by Chaistain, a new Meryl Streep, yes she is that good, that forces the CIA to follow the hunches and leads she brings to the table. Although we know the outcome, it is the suspense of the build-up that makes this a riveting film. There are those that believe that Maya is being naive in her pursuit of obvious leads. She believes that bin Laden and his operatives are hiding in plain site, living life as an average citizen, more overt than covert. The powers that be are trailing the more covert, it takes Maya’s relentlessness to duty to make them see things the way she does. Was she right about bin Laden living in the big compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, was her leads to the compound a mistake. There are two points of view at odds here, Maya’s and everyone else’s.

The actual raid of the compound brings the action and suspense to its peak. The Navy SEALS, clandestine air craft are brought in and the raid proceeds on Maya’s hunch. The moment is so real, that when bin-Laden is found and shot, Maya’s decompression in the aircraft waiting to take her home brings tears to your eyes. She checks bin-Laden’s body bag as the SEALs are celebrating. They are in awe of bringing bin-Laden down, this is contrasted against Maya’s own personal feelings after ten years of frustrating pursuit. Chaistain alone in the aircraft before she departs home will bring tears to your eyes. You feel through her all the agony she is releasing through her silent yet emotional tears. This film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker, has the look and feel of a documentary and this plays well especially during the raid sequence. The hand-held camera effectively brings you into the action.

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