An oddly uninteresting film. Characters in 70s costumes pulling off a… MoreAn oddly uninteresting film. Characters in 70s costumes pulling off a historically-significant FBI sting should be more interesting.
"American Hustle" has a strong premise: two con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced by the FBI (led by Bradley Cooper) to participate in a sting operation to nab corrupt politicians.
But the execution is off. By injecting some eccentric comedic pieces into the plot, it lowers the stakes "Hustle" has set up for itself. By the time a menacing cameo from Robert De Niro shows up, you don't know if the film wants you to be amused or wants you to be tense.
Either way because it is never clear what kind of film "Hustle" wants to be you find your mind wandering as the game actors keep showing up in over-the-top 70s garb and hair and throw out their lines with gusto. It feels like a costume party with some amusing attendees but you find yourself in the corner nursing a drink waiting for something to happen.
Disappointing but ultimately saved by the acting and the 70s visuals.
This is probably one of the first times that I truly noticed what… MoreThis is probably one of the first times that I truly noticed what happens to a film when you have a director who truly can't keep up with his cast. "August: Osage County" has a cast that is to die for - and they don't disappoint. But when the film itself is directed in a generic, uninteresting, unfocused fashion, it sometimes leaves the actors with too much responsibility to shoulder to make the material work.
"August: Osage County" is better when it sticks to its theater roots and stages scenes statically. An electric scene at the dinner table or intimate exchanges between sisters or mothers and daughters work better than the film's earlier expository scenes where the film attempts to take advantage of its cinematic scope and stage scenes in exteriors or in mobile locations. This gives the first half of the film a very messy feel and makes certain characters feel unrealized.
This is especially true with Meryl Streep's characterization of matriarch Violet Weston. Her first scene is an actor's showcase - she's druggy, sickly and irrational. She chews the scenery with abandon leaving the restrained Sam Shepard and understated Misty Upham looking like lost spectators.
Streep seems to be experimenting at the beginning of the film with what type of character she wants Violet to be. Is she crazy or is it really the drugs? Is she truly mean-spirited or just a victim of a cruel world? It's during that climactic dinner scene where Streep seems to get a firm hold on the character and for the rest of the film is magnificent and fully realized.
But if there's a standout among this talented group, it is surprisingly Julia Roberts who is amazing as eldest daughter Barbara Weston. Roberts lands her zingers better than most of the other cast members and also has her best moments with her facial reactions to her family's actions.
The rest of the cast is good as well, but the material doesn't give them much time to fully bring their characters full circle. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper come closest but they are given more room to breathe, to introduce their characters and to make an impact. The rest of the cast arrives on scene, get dropped in the plot and are expected to make something stick. This is especially apparent with Benedict Cumberbatch who arrives as a crazy mess, yet you don't know if he is mentally unstable or, as the film seems to imply later, a victim of a verbally abusive mother.
Overall, "August: Osage County" is a film is only half effective. A large, talented cast thrown together in a house, given a Pulitzer-Prize winning theater script and told to ACT. They do that. But the result is a story that doesn't feel fully realized until halfway through.
And that is the true definition of a wasted opportunity.
One of the best action flicks I've ever seen. From the moment the… MoreOne of the best action flicks I've ever seen. From the moment the movie starts until it's jolting end, you are on the ride of your life. Damon, who I would have never imagined as an Action Star, has solidified his place among one of the greats
The "Mindf@*ck" film genre has just gotten a solid new entry with… MoreThe "Mindf@*ck" film genre has just gotten a solid new entry with "Black Swan" a psychosexual thriller starring Natalie Portman and directed by Darren Aronofsky. But "Swan" despite its excellent execution and master class performances doesn't quite achieve the heights of other classics in this genre like "Mulholland Drive", "Memento" or even Aronofsky's amazing "Requiem of a Dream".
"Black Swan" follows the rise (or dark descent) of a featured ballerina (Portman) who lands the coveted lead role in a new production of "Swan Lake". As she prepares for the part, she finds herself battling with a beautiful new rival who possesses the qualities she lacks (Mila Kunis), her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey), her admiration for the prior and now past her prime featured ballerina (Winona Ryder) and the production's eccentric director (Vincent Cassel. These conflicts begin a fascinating trip into darkness.
Portman is essential to the film's success and her committed performance is a wonder to behold. The young actress is raw in her approach and brings the character alive both physically and mentally. She's surrounded by a solid cast with Kunis demonstrating chops she had little chance to display in her prior roles. Veterans Hershey and Ryder do well with their parts, but are nothing more but stock characters with very little surprise.
"Swan" is painstaking in its portrayal of the brutality of the ballet world - with injuries and psychological torment in full display - and perhaps this painstaking detail is what distracts "Swan" and ultimately makes it feel too laborious to get through. But this does not destroy the film it just blunts the impact the film could have had if it had only been a bit more tightly paced.
With that said, "Swan" is still a definite must watch. Aronofsky again showcases a unique point of view and perspective that is rarely seen in film today and "Swan" while not a masterpiece is still a fascinating film to watch.