American Hustle

I fell in love with David O. Russell over Silver Linings Playbook (they did an awesome job using social media to promote the movie, too!), and so when I heard he was banding Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, and Christian Bale together for a new film called American Hustle, I was beyond geeked.

This movie had everything I was hoping for. Christian Bale (Irving) played a lovable conman, caught in a dysfunctional marriage with the wildly talented — and in the film, wildly delusional — Jennifer Lawrence. He meets Amy Adams’ character, and falls in love, and into a whole lot of trouble. Bradley Cooper was pretty good, but Bale and Lawrence really stole the show.

I really feel that Jennifer Lawrence is the modern Meryl Streep. She was so committed to her role as Rosalyn, the nail polish-sniffing Long Island housewife whose husband, a conman with a comb-over, spent his days making money with his mistress.

The movie had pieces of romance, adventure, and grit…enough of each to make it a great choice for date night with my non-moviegoer fiancé.

Cameos by Louis CK and Robert (I want to call him Bob…) De Niro were great, and while the movie did feel a bit long — longer than it actually was — the plot twists were well worth it.

See, there, I told you how I felt about the movie, without really saying very much about it. Even if you really want to see Anchorman 2, go see American Hustle first.

Silver Linings Playbook

When my friends approached me about my Thanksgiving Eve plans, I figured we’d all end up at some bar or another in Royal Oak or Ferndale. By 9 p.m. we were all too tired from the day to really have fun in that scene, and so instead, we opted to see a movie (admittedly, this was my initial reaction).

Deciding what to see wasn’t so hard — we vetoed one friend who wanted to see Twilight (never happening), and decided we didn’t have the energy for Lincoln — we settled on Silver Linings Playbook.

Glad we did. First of all mad props to author Matthew Quick and screenwriter David O. Russell. The dialogue at the core of each characters’ performance was brilliantly written. A mix of banter and emotional rants makes for a movie full of chemistry.

Of course, chemistry relies heavily on the actors who are cast. I was actually surprised at how well the movie flowed. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper delivered phenomenal performances. I’ve never been overly wowed by Cooper — and will never forget his cameo in Sex and the City, or his appearances as part of the student audience on Inside the Actors Studio —  but this performance earned him major stage creds in my book. He pulled what I like to call a Meryl — Meryl Streep has an impeccable command of each role she assumes — and made this role his own. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, has added another film to her roster proving just how versatile her skill is.

Robert De Niro was better than ever as an OCD-fueled father who just wants to bond with his son — and have the Eagles kick the Cowboys to the curb.

In a small, supporting role, I was pleased to see Chris Tucker make a comeback sans Jackie Chan. He was crazy and lovable, and even busted a move or two himself.

The actors accomplished something rare, in that the audience felt what each respective character felt at any given time. When Pat (Cooper) was angry at the point of a bi-polar breakdown, we felt as hurt and confused as he did — almost like a crying baby, you feel compelled to help.

This movie is perfect for the holiday season, in that it is totally and completely unthemed to it. Instead, it’s a feel good film — in a crazy kind of way — that delivers everything from wit-filled humor to passionate anger, and you will leave feeling thankful, which is what this season is all about.

For the trailer, see below. And to check out the awesome Facebook page for the film (shared with me by my movie marketing genius friend), click here

Home for the Holidays

Cover of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles ...

Cover via Amazon

I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Detroit again this year — something I’ve worked hard to be able to do each year since moving to New York. Some traditions have changed — especially since the passing of my grandmother — but it’s still nice to spend time with my mother’s family, especially over the holidays.

I grow nostalgic during the transition from summer to fall. To help get me through, I pilfer through a series of movies that I associate with this season only because there’s a certain coziness to them:

  1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  2. The Great Outdoors
  3. Home for the Holidays
  4. The Holiday
  5. Love Actually
  6. Home Alone and Home Alone 2
  7. The Addam’s Family
  8. Problem Child and Problem Child 2
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  10. Julie and Julia
  11. Something’s Gotta Give
  12. It’s Complicated
  13. Manhattan
  14. It Runs in the Family
  15. French Kiss
  16. In Her Shoes
  17. The Odd Couple
  18. National Lampoon’s European Vacation
  19. Curly Sue
  20. Father of the Bride (the Steve Martin version)

Monsieur Lazhar [Review]

I love a good French film. Since seeing Love Me If You Dare back in 2003, I’ve seen many French films, all varying in quality. The other day, I met my cousin Esther for a movie at my favorite theater — City Cinemas 1, 2, 3 (on 3rd Avenue between 59th and 60th). I had already seen Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (great movie, go see it!), and so the only other option besides Bully was a movie called Monseiur Lazhar.

I had read up on the movie ahead of time, but was still unsure of what exactly to expect of the French-Canadian film.

Laced with bits of comedy, Monseiur Lazhar was a deep reflection of the bond between student and teacher, with a glimpse of the events in their lives that shape the bond.

Mohamed Fellag who plays Bachir Lazhar is lovable and honest, and works with a group of students as they overcome the grief caused by their former teacher’s suicide that took place in their classroom. The students are by no means one-dimensional. There’s a growing tension between schoolmates Alice and Simon that mounts throughout the movie.

I highly recommend this movie for anyone looking for something that tugs at the heart from all angles.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [a review]

I love seeing movies solo. I consider it to be one of the best after work unwinding rituals — even better than a chilled glass of pinot. Tonight, I ventured to my favorite New York theater, City Cinemas 1 2 3, to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Smart move on my part.

 

I had been eager to see the movie since its trailer hit the silver screen. Whether or not the movie actually filmed in Yemen, the landscapes showcased in each setting — from England, the Scottish Highlands, and Yemen — were gorgeous.

Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor had an amazing amount of vulnerability in their chemistry, which made the story feel so very real. Watching their on-screen love blossom as their respective characters developed was really heart-warming. The role that faith played in the movie, and the way the Yemenite culture was showcased was really lovely [probably not the best word to describe it, but it’ll have to do].

The movie was certainly not a straight romantic film, and I’d argue that romance played less of a role compared to things like friendship and personal growth.

I highly recommend the movie, almost as much as I did, The Women on the Sixth Floor.

84th Annual Oscars [Belated Reflections]

I devote my annual awards season attention to just one show: The Oscars. I don’t quite have an Academy Awards ritual — watching it from beginning to end is enough for me. To my benefit, I’ve watched the last two shows with my cousin, who organizes a pool with friends and colleagues every year to guess the winners in each category.

There were no real surprises winners for me — I love Viola Davis, but I root for Meryl endlessly — and the red carpet designs did not disappoint. Most delightful of all, however, was Billy Crystal and his ninth-time’s-the-charm talent displayed as he hosted a spectacularly entertaining evening. Just like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin and their host-off battle with Saturday Night Live, Billy Crystal meshes so well with the Academy Awards.

This year I saw less of the nominated films than in the past — likely because I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Ever.

That said, I trekked to the movies this weekend in the rainy windy mess that was New York to the see The Artist, and I’m happy to confirm that it was excellent. The lack of sound beyond the music was surprisingly engaging — even in somewhat empty theater in Queens — and after 5 minutes of the film, I was hooked, attached to the story and characters. Definitely deserving of the win.

I really need to find time to see Hugo, and may go see A Separation tomorrow after work. For someone who works in publishing, I’m really in love with the film industry.

What were your thoughts about the 84th Annual Oscars — the winners, the losers, the fashions?

To the Show

As a kid, I regularly went to the movies. With my paternal grandparents, it was perhaps the only activity that was agreeable for all ten grandchildren, and for my parents, it was a strong quick-fix birthday party. Much like air travel aficionados who reflect back on the evolution — and some would argue unraveling — of the air travel experience, I find myself lightly impacted by present day film-going culture, the changing experience of going to the show.

While one may often be the loneliest number, I have no problem seeing a movie solo. In fact, I go almost weekly on the way home from work. What’s scary, bordering on obnoxious, though, is the way the multiplexes have taken over. My favorite theaters are the small ones. Not necessarily always “art house” theaters, I appreciate the ones that show only 3 or 4 films at a time. Back home, I was treated to a few local options, including two from the Landmark brand. They go beyond the watch-and-go blockbuster theaters, as they boast communities. Midnight movies over the summer, quirky staff members, and tickets still available at student rates in a crappy economy? Winning.

In New York, I’m surrounded more by AMC and Regal franchises than anything else. I feel lucky, though, because we do have plenty of smaller options scattered around. By my office, I frequent — no, really, I’m mayor on Foursquare — City Cinemas 1, 2, 3. Last night, I ventured out to see Albert Nobbs, and while I was probably the youngest member of the audience, I was comforted by the familiar faces of the City Cinemas crew, people who now know my film preferences and concession combinations (small popcorn, medium Diet Coke). I’m a regular.

My taste in film has changed over time, but my love for the experience remains strong. It’s my $13 luxury.