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.

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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

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.

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.

 

The Iron Lady [review]

I’m a huge fan of Meryl Streep. She possesses a rare gift that allows her to truly transform — role to role — and make even the most unbelievable concept believable. At 62, she has the ability to play people several years her junior, and with plenty of makeup, she flawlessly took on the role of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, many years her senior.

Note: I watched the Thatcher biopic while sporting my Thatcher frames by Warby Parker.

While the film has not been entirely embraced by the Brits who grew up in her era of political reign, Streep gave a fantastic performance, highlighting something that is impossible to ignore: the strength behind Thatcher’s leadership, a woman in a man’s world. While I consider myself politically liberal, and so not at all on-par with many of Thatcher’s views, I was moved by the film’s ability to find aspects of her life to highlight for entertainment and intrigue.

I could not disagree more with Ebert’s assessment. I think the neutrality on part of the filmmakers did the film the most justice possible – they didn’t shy away from the distaste that many had for her, and still have, but they also highlighted a more likeable Thatcher.

See below for the official trailer. Now having caught up with the movies I patiently waited to see, I wait again for the release of W.E. and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Carnage [review]

After a quick jaunt back into the city, I passed by the theater nearest the train — City Cinemas 1, 2, 3 — and noticed that Carnage was still playing. I had exactly $13 in cash, which I decided was fate telling me to see this movie, one I had been meaning to see for a few weeks now.

While I have not seen the play, I really enjoyed its film adaptation. Since Christoph Waltz‘s performance in Inglorious Basterds, I’ve been drawn to him. He and Kate Winslet worked well in contrast to the couple portrayed by the beyond talented and lovable — even in a state of rage — John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster. Kenneth Turan was right when he called the camera work claustrophobic, but it worked well and brought to life something that reminded me of what I had imagined while reading Satre’s No Exit. Everything about the plot felt natural, and I suppose that is the biggest success of acting. Watching the couples and their drama unravel, as they started off as otherwise “decent,” was actually a dark treat. It’s what we want, because it’s real — amusing when it happens to others. Human nature at its best, well done by Polanski.

The Women on the 6th Floor [Review]

I have always loved the experience of going to the movies — from buying the tickets, to contemplating the least hydrogenated foods at the concession stand, I feel like a real film-goer when I allow myself the little luxury of spending $13 on a New York movie ticket.

Whenever my father’s parents were burdened with watching all ten grandchildren, “going to the show,” as they would call it (and still do), was an easy way to keep us all quietly occupied for two hours.

On my short trek home from the office, I pass a small, non-Blockbuster theater called City Cinemas 1, 2, 3. Located on 3rd Ave. between 59th and 60th streets, City Cinemas always has at least one film that I’ve been desperate to see, and so I often delight in an after-work movie. Most recently, my dear friend Evan and I decided to see the 2011 French film, The Women on the 6th Floor.

Starring Fabrice Luchini, the film was about a wealthy, conservative Parisian couple whose lives change when they make the decision to employ a Spanish maid from the sixth floor of their Paris apartment building. Set in the early 60s, the film captures Paris in a whimsical era. When Luchini’s character discovers the sixth floor quarters where the Spanish maids all live, he becomes fascinated and entranced by their happy way of life, versus his boring, albeit luxurious life as a stale stockbroker.

The film takes its audience on a trip of full of laughter, romance, and lighthearted fun, bouncing back and forth between French and Spanish (thankfully with subtitles).

I highly recommend this film for anyone looking for a feel-good comedy.