REVIEW: ‘American Hustle’

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Staring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K. and Robert Deniro.

Directed by: David O Russell

‘American Hustle’ is about two con artists who are forced to work with an FBI agent to take down a corrupt mayor and some congressman. The farther they go in the investigate, the dangerous it starts to get. The film is loosely based on a FBI ABSCAM operation.

‘American Hustle’, in my opinion, is a film that was hype too much. The acting was great, as well as the wardrobe, script and hairstyling, but the story was confusing and boring at times. I enjoy David O Russell’s films. I consider ‘Three Kings’ and ‘Silver Lining Playbook’ to be two of my favourite films, with ‘The Fighter’ also being a fantastic film. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations, but I just didn’t enjoy myself as much as I wanted to.

The movie did have some redeeming qualities, like the talented cast and some very funny scenes, mostly involving Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence and her comedic relief to the roles she plays in. She was great as Christian Bale’s dim witted wife. Bradley Cooper has been a huge surprise for me since Silver Linings Playbook. It seems like just yesterday I saw him in The Wedding Crashers. He was entertaining to watch in this one, giving one of the most wildest takes of an FBI agent I’ve seen in awhile.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy ‘American Hustle’ as much as I wanted to. However, the actors and actresses deserve recognition for their roles, and I think that’s what saved the film from being a lost cause for me. It’s disappointing, considering how universally loved the movie is and how great the director is.

Grade: C+

*Nominated for 10 Oscars

Best Picture

Best Director-David O Russell

Best Actor-Christian Bale

Best Actress-Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actress-Jennifer Lawrence 

Best Supporting Actor-Bradley Cooper

Best Original Screenplay

Best Film Editing

Best Costume Design

Best Production Design

REVIEW: ‘Lone Survivor’

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Staring: Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Ludwig and Eric Bana

Directed by: Peter Berg

‘Lone Survivor’ is based on a true story. The film follows 4 soldiers who go on a mission to kill a Taliban leader. When they are compromised by a few villagers and choose to let them go, the Taliban are alerted and the 4 men must take on a entire army in the fight for their lives.

What I loved about ‘Lone Survivor’ was it’s homage to the people the film is portraying. Photos of the soldiers at the end of the film made for a very emotional end to this roller coaster ride of a film. To me, it didn’t feel like a typical war film, full of propaganda and excessive violence. The film was a real life story about these men and the hell they went through in the battle of their lives. It showed the real effects that the war can have on someone and their loved ones. These men have people back at home who loved them, and it just makes me feel for the people fighting for our country.

‘Lone Survivor’ was a film that must of been hard to make. Knowing that the events took place 9 years ago, it must still be fresh in everyones mind. This was a lovely tribute to the fallen soldiers and the people that helped out that lone survivor. The actors played these characters with sensitivity and near perfection, and to go through all that training and knowing full well that you’re playing someone real must of been very tough. I would like to also point out the score by Explosions in The Sky and Steve Jablonsky. The score made every scene that much more emotional with it’s soft tone. Explosions In The Sky have also been a favourite of mine. They also scored Peter Bergs ‘Friday Night Lights’, which is one of my favourites.

You feel the intensity with every scene while watching this film. You full well know what’s going to happen, but you pray to God it doesn’t. What makes ‘Lone Survivor’ so brutal is the thought of how all this really happened. You now know what happen and what they had to do and what they couldn’t do, and they had themselves to live or die next to when most of them had family at home. So tonight, I think we should all pray for those overseas fighting for us while we are here with our loved ones. They do a hell of a job. Thank you.

Grade: A

 

*Nominated for 2 Oscars

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

REVIEW: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

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Staring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Directed by: Peter Jackson

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ continues where the first film left off, following hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, as he continues his quest with thirteen dwarves, to reclaim their homeland, The Lonely Mountain, from the dragon, Smaug.

The film is more action packed than the first and continues to get deeper in the story of the quest to retake a homeland. Does the film drag a little? Of course it does, but how else are they going to make one book into 3 films?

‘The Desolation of Smaug’ adds a lot more adventure and gives us a lot more to look at. The visuals are amazing and the cinematography is spectacular. The acting is superb, as it was in the first, with great performances from Martin Freeman and a menacing voice acting performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, who voices the dragon, Smaug, with near Perfection.

I thought the film felt unfinished, with an ending that makes you aggravated and wanting more. However, the angrier I was, the more I realized how much I enjoyed the movie and couldn’t wait to see how the story continued. As a Lord of The Rings fan, I was hoping for a little more grittiness. I feel this series is more kid friendly, and I don’t feel like it has the magic The Lord of The Rings films have.

Go see The Hobbit in an I-MAX format. It brings more to the film and the 3D is useful. I’m excited to see how this one concludes.

Grade: B+

*Nominated for 3 Oscars

Best Visual Effects

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

REVIEW: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

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Staring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman ad B.J. Novak.

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is about P.L. Travers book ‘Mary Poppins’ and Walt Disneys near impossible mission to get the rights from the stubborn writer to make her book into a film.

I didn’t see ‘Mary Poppins’ until the night before I saw ‘Saving Mr. Banks. I definitely would not have loved the film as much as I did if I didn’t watch ‘Mary Poppins’. I loved ‘Mary Poppins’ and was interested in the story of how it was made. What I got, however, was something I never expected. I didn’t know the story of ‘Mary Poppins’ before watching the film, so I was absolutely surprised with how the story came to be.

Travers was very tough on the crew of the film, demanding screenplay approval, no music, no cartoons and absolutely no Dick Van Dyke. While watching the movie, I thought it would have been impossible to get the rights with the crew going against her demands. She was a lady who went through a troubled childhood, and was played with perfection by Emma Thompson, who was as stubborn as stubborn could get. She was hilarious and delivered a lot of great one liners. She prefered to always be called Ms. Travers, while explaining that she should never be on a first name basis with people she doesn’t know.

P.L. Travers wasn’t always stubborn. Her lightheartedness was shown through the relationship with her limo driver, Ralph, played by Paul Giamatti. Ralph has a story that hit close to home for me, and I won’t give anything away, but I was very touch by it. Paul Giamatti is an amazing actor who I’ve either grown to love and hate as he brings a soft side to his good guy characters and a very hard side to his more villainous roles. This is the type of role I love seeing him in.

The film had a lot of flashbacks of her childhood, where it showed her relationship with her alcoholic father, who was played by Colin Farrell, who played the father role with great emotion and light-heartedness. He loved his daughter, and you felt it with every conversation with her. Through the flashbacks, you get a front row look on the inspiration of ‘Mary Poppins’ and why it meant so much to PL Travers. The film did a lot of jumping from her childhood to the present day, which was a little excessive, but was necessary to the film.

While all this is going on, Walt Disney, who is played by Tom Hanks, is working hard to get the rights to this film. Travers opinion of Walt Disney isn’t the greatest, and is very doubtful that he could make the movie she wants. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney with perfection. He becomes Walt Disney in the film, showing us how much his films mean to him, especially Mary Poppins.

The film is hilarious and heartwarming, but the scenes that bring the most hilarity are the ones with PL Travers and the crew trying to work together to make this film happen. Emma Thompson does an amazing job putting the crew in their place and you can’t help but laugh at the facial expression of all the unpredictable things she says and does.

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ will always be a classic Disney biopic to me, giving me a closer look to a Disney classic that I absolutely loved. It’s not for everyone, however, as you really need to be a big fan of ‘Mary Poppins’ in order for it to have an affect on you. Do I wish it was nominated for more Oscars? Absolutely. I felt Emma Thompson’s role deserved recognition, and it’s an absolutely shame she wasn’t nominated for best actress. It’s probably my favourite film of the year so far and will be something I show my kids along with ‘Mary Poppins.

Grade: A

*Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Original Score-Thomas Newman

REVIEW: ‘Captain Phillips’

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Staring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener and Barkhad Abdi

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Based on a true story, ‘Captain Phillips’ is about the hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama ship by Somali Pirates and the kidnapping of it’s captain, Richard Phillips.

After the first 5 minutes of ‘Captain Phillips’, I wasn’t aware what I was getting myself into. The first scenes of dialogue between Tom Hanks and Catherine Keener, who play husband and wife, sounded cheesy and forced. It seemed the movie was headed to a dull thump. What I learned today is you can’t judge a film from it’s opening scene.

The next 125 minutes was probably the most intense I’ve seen in awhile. The intensity level heightened through every scene, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was kept on the edge of my seat. The film did a great job keeping you guessing about the fate of the Captain.

Captain Phillips wouldn’t have been as powerful without the spectacular performances. Tom Hanks, who has made some duds through the past 5 years, has been brought back to true form. He brought a lot of emotion and rawness to his character. This role, I felt, was perfect for him. Surprising me was newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who plays the leader of the pirates. He played his character with menace and perfection, while also giving some emotion.

Paul Greengrass, who directed biopic ‘United 93’, bring us another powerful film. He gives us another gut-wrenching, powerful film. He deliver with respect to the source material, and doesn’t make it into a typical hollywood film, with overbearing action. Paul Greengrass does a good job showing the emotions of his character, which makes the film that much more powerful.

‘Captain Phillips’ deserves all the recognition it’s been getting. From the critical acclaim to the Oscar nominations, the film is the type movie lover are looking for. It’s a great biopic to a very thrilling story. Abdi deserved his nomination, but I’m surprised not to see Tom Hanks nominated. From a man who’s gotten some recognition at the Oscars, I’m surprised his performance was overlooked by the Academy. Will the film win the major awards, I highly doubt it with how much Oscar buzz 12 Years a Slave is getting. However, that shouldn’t take away from how great the film really is.

Grade: A

*Nominated for 6 Oscars:

Best Picture

Best Supporting Actor-Barkhad Abdi

Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Best Sound Editing

Best Sound Mixing

REVIEW: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

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Staring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler and Matthew McConaughey.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is about the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a wealthy stockbroker living the high life, up until getting in trouble with the law. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is a film that I couldn’t take seriously up until the end, where I just felt so bad for laughing at the misfortunes of the wealthy. Drugs and sex take over these peoples lives, and take up a big chunk of this 3 hour true story.

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ was a film I was looking forward to for awhile. Scorsese has never failed me. He’s made amazing films like ‘The Departed’, ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Goodfellas’. For some reason, I didn’t feel like I was watching a Scorsese film. At times, I didn’t even know what I was watching, which may have been the point. These characters get so lost with themselves that we end up getting lost with them. It showed how much these people lost themselves. I saw no redeeming quality in anybody. Everyone seemed to think money was the answer, which again, was what it was supposed to be like, but I just wanted to like somebody.

Leonardo Dicaprio was amazing as Jordan Belfort. I doubt he will win an Oscar for this one, but he was definitely in a crazier, more “fun” role. Jonah Hill was also very good in it, showing that he has more acting chops than I thought. ‘Moneyball’ was a fantastic introduction to his dramatic career. Matthew McConaughey has a fantastic cameo at the beginning of the movie, a scene that was shown during the trailers.

The film was very long. Clocking in at 3 hours, I feel as though a lot of the sex scenes and the drug scenes could have been cut out. They seemed very unnecessary.  The story was very interesting, although, it was hard to get passed all the stupidity and the craziness. Once everyone gets back to reality, it gets very intense and worth the watch.

I’d probably never see ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ again. It was a good film, but it just wasn’t good enough to view it again. I must admit, however, that I had a little bit of fun watching it. By the end, I did very really bad for not taking it as seriously as I probably should. Check out ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Maybe you’ll have different views than I did.

Grade: B

*Nominated for 5 Oscar:

Best Picture

Best Actor-Leonardo Dicaprio

Best Supporting Actor-Jonah Hill

Best Director-Martin Scorsese

Best Adapted Screenplay

REVIEW: ‘Frozen’

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Staring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk and Josh Gad.

Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

‘Frozen’ is about a princess who goes on a journey to find her sister, who accidentally uses her ice powers and ends up giving her kingdom an eternal winter. Joined by an ice trader, his best friend, who just so happens to be a reindeer, and a talking snowman, the princess must find her sister and return her to the kingdom before someone else finds her first.

‘Frozen’ is your typical disney movie. Fantastic music, humour and animation makes the wheels turn for this fantastic joy ride. Kids will adore the colours and characters that are brought before them, and adults will enjoy the humour and the music that they may remember from older disney films.

‘Frozen’ couldn’t have come at a better time. With the year lacking great children’s films, ‘Frozen’ comes out just before the holiday season, which is great marketing for Disney considering how many kids will want anything for Christmas that has to do with ‘Frozen’. I recommend adults pick up the soundtrack. It’s a fantastic listen as the music is just breathtaking.

Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez do a fantastic job bringing this Disney Musical back to what made Disney movies such as Beauty and The Beast and The Little Mermaid amazing. Kristen Bell, who voices Anna and who I’ve never heard sing before, does a great job keeping up with broadway star Idina Menzel, who voices Anna’s snow queen sister, Elsa. The highlight of the film is Idina Menzel singing the song ‘Let It Go’. The emotion and her voice sends shivers down your spine and the scene while she sings it is just absolutely gorgeous to look at. The Demi Lovato version, which plays over the credits, is also very good, but not as good as Idina Menzel.

Josh Gad, who voices Olaf The Snowman, does a great job playing the comedic sidekick character. Olaf adds to a long list of fantastic Disney characters that make you laugh. He does a hilarious musical number about a snowman who wants to take part in summer. The last half of the movie hardly had any music, which I would say would be the only disappointment. You have great performers such as Jonathan Groff, who some may know from Glee, and Idina Menzel. I just felt like they should have sang one more musical number.

‘Frozen’ is your typical Disney story about true love, but it’s a different kind of true love that made me feel even more touched than a typical Disney love story. The bond between siblings is something most of us can relate to, and throughout the film, you feel the bond between these two sisters. Take your children for a day/night out and go see this film. I guarantee the whole family will love it. Also, try to show up for the short film ‘Get A Horse’, which is a short film staring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The short film brings back the old school Mickey shorts and gives a modern look to them. It’s something you don’t want to miss.

Grade: A

*Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Animated film

Best Original Song-Let It Go