David O Russell

Silver Linings Playbook

Year: 2012
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Matthew Quick (novel) David O. Russell (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I read recently that this movie was over rated and undeserving of all the awards it amassed. I could not disagree more, if for no other reason than I think the content is important for audiences to understand. The movie comes off a bit different but it reflects what the characters are going through and what they are going through is an increasingly prevalent problem in our society. This day and age more and more people are being diagnosed with mental problems and the answer seems to always be the same. Take this pill or that pill. To the point that we have heavily sedated the person and populous.

In this movie we see that Pat doesn’t want to take his pills because of the way they make him feel. He spends eight months in a mental health facility after a violent incident brings light to an undiagnosed case of bi-polar disorder. He needs those pills and it’s more obvious than ever in the scene when he can’t find his wedding video. Pat prefers different methods in his quest to find a Silver Linings and I think he is on the right track. Keeping to a schedule, staying physically active, and rediscovering who he

is are all great ways in which Pat works to overcome his issues. I think that while medication is necessary we can still all learn something from Pat and get our own lives in order by practicing some of his techniques.

The truth to it is that the way Pat does things are the harder way. Yeah he’s totally unhinged and a little bit crazy but he’s working as hard as a person can to better himself. His ultimate goal is a blinded effort at something unrealistic but it keeps him working to get better. It’s an easy out to simply take pills and forget about what’s really in front of us. So many have problems and it’s just too easy to swallow those problems away with medication. How often would exercise turn things around before it came to medication? Who knows but I like the way Pat does things and I take joy in how his story ends.

This movie was the one that won me over on Jennifer Lawrence. I had stubbornly avoided The Hunger Games, often joking that “I had seen The Running Man before.” I also really didn’t like her portrayal of Mystique in X-Men: First Class. So I hadn’t given her the time of day as an actress but in this movie my opinion changed dramatically. She is fantastic in this movie and I specifically love the scene when she confronts Pat about missing their dance practice and argues with his father. While I still prefer Rebecca Romijn as Mystique I have since watched The Hunger Games and agree that it is a good movie too. I will watch anything that Lawrence does now and I think we have a lot to look forward to from the young actress.

I’ve always loved Robert De Niro but his career has dropped off so much in the last decade or so. He is really quick to do just about anything these days despite his prestige. Yet I think this movie offers one of his finest performances ever. He is so emotionally captivating as Patrizio and proves to be capable of the magic he delivered in his youth. He had terrific chemistry with his costars and I specifically liked his relationship with Jacki Weaver. I think under the direction of David O. Russell that De Niro is as good as he was under the direction of Martin Scorsese.

I used to be such a fan of Chris Tucker, and then he got into the Rush Hour movies and just fell off the map after that. I liked him before his collaborations with Jackie Chan when he was playing parts like we saw in Dead PresidentsMoney Talks, or The Fifth Element He has a wildly funny personality and showed so much promise in his youth. I caught his stand up routine on Netflix last year and thought it was awful. He didn’t sound funny at all but seemed depressed and desperate instead. In this movie I just think it is cool that he is involved and he has a really funny part the way he just shows up and gets taken away again later.

The article I read recently said that this movie was great but that didn’t make it a good movie to watch. Having just finished it I kinda agree but mostly disagree with the statement. It suggested that the way the movie was shot reflected the feelings of the characters and that it took away from the movie. I feel like it gives you such a better insight into these characters and actually enhances the film. I find this movie to be so uplifting because Pat and Tiffany are such sad characters who manage to overcome so much. When they dance at the end it’s so much fun as a prelude to their moment of understanding when they accept that they are in love with one another.

I think this a a great movie that was well deserving of all it’s awards. David O. Russell has collaborated with many of these actors multiple times now and they obviously work really well together. This is the type of movie that can turn your spirits around and influence you to do things differently. I think it is an excellent movie that is easily worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: The Simpsons Movie (2007)

 

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American Hustle

Year: 2013
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

RYAN’S REVIEW

When we watched this movie for the first time it immediately had me with the initial caption: “Some of this actually happened.” This movie goes against the grain and doesn’t claim to be based on a true story but simply admits “some” of it actually happened.  That’s incredible because nothing annoys me more than a movie that promotes itself as “based on a true story” despite how many several liberties that were taken with the truth.  So right off the bat this movie makes a statement.  It’s honest and that says a lot about the type of filmmaker David O. Russell is.  This is another stellar movie added to his already impressive resume.

I don’t know what parts of this movie are true and what parts are fiction.  In truth I don’t care and won’t look it up to find out on principle.  I don’t think it matters what really happened in this story.  All that matters is this story.  This story is awesome and it is brought to life by some actors that turn in some really impressive performances.  I think this movie looks and feels like David O. Russell’s version of Goodfellas. Christian Bale reminds me so much of Robert De Niro in this movie both by his mannerisms and voice.  The content may be different but the way these two stories are told are similar with the voice over and biographical feeling.  Nevertheless, I’m not criticizing, when something is great it is great and there is no disputing this one.  Both films are great and I can’t think of any scenario in which the two of them being similar is a bad thing.

I wasn’t a fan of Bradley Cooper when he first came around. I remember seeing him for the first time, in the days before The Hangover, playing Aiden in one of the later seasons of Nip/Tuck. The show had really gotten awful by that point and his character didn’t leave a good impression with me.  Despite the initial impression I received this guy has never ceased to distinguish himself, especially in collaborations with David O. Russell. I really like the character dynamic Cooper brings to this film. He is kind of brilliant but kind of stupid at the same time.  He is a goofy looking guy with his curls but he might snap and go a little crazy at any moment. Men who get into cocaine are like that, spur of the moment insanity. They start slow but over time it goes to their head before they know it. Cooper pulls it all off nicely. Great performance from an actor who has earned my respect over time.

Amy Adams continues to be flawless and incredible.  She is a beautiful woman who brings true talent to all her performances.  She has specifically shined in David O. Russell films as she was also great in The Fighter. She fits into his films so deftly, and brings it each and every time. In this film she looks so incredible in those dresses. She plays such a dominant female role and I specifically like that about her.  She isn’t just a pretty face in this movie she is another badass in a film about badasses.  She plays Bradley Cooper for a chump and owns him at every turn.  She is a strong female lead and she should have won the Academy Award for the part.

Christian Bale, second greatest Batman after the first, never fails to be incredible no matter what he does. Despite not having an upper lip the man has done well for himself. As I mentioned earlier, in this film he reminds me implicitly of one of the greatest. I do not know if it was intentional or not but it is so spot on that I feel like it had to be. It’s amazing the things he does to his body for his roles.  We have seen him on each edge of the spectrum and in between.  He has been anorexic in The Machinist and The Fighter, he has shown the in between as a muscular Batman, and we have seen him put on the weight for this film. He put on over 40 pounds for this film. Bale continues to build what has already been an impressive career.

Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal, plain and simple.  I wanted to be on the edge, I’m weird when it comes to trendy things and nobody has been trendier than Jennifer Lawrence for the last several years.  Nevertheless her performance speaks for itself.  Her accent is what shocks me so much in this film, it’s incredible.  Not only that but I refuse to acknowledge how hot she is because when she first came around I thought she was too much younger than me. I’m weird about that and it’s different as the years have passed. Nevertheless she makes it hard not to notice with this performance and I doubt anybody did. She plays the kind of woman that all men and women fear alike.  The unpredictable kind that can pretty much get whatever she wants and knows it.  She is intimidating in all the ways that only a beautiful woman can be.

For this whole film I kept telling Amber how much Christian Bale reminded me of De Niro.  Imagine my surprise when he actually showed up in the film.  I didn’t know prior to this although I should have.  I love his part in this movie and I love what he brings to this film.  Nobody does mobster like De Niro and I am happy to see how exceedingly well he can still pull it off. De Niro is just one of many gems playing a smaller role in this film. I remember an episode of Louie that was all about how uncomfortable Louis C.K. was acting in films.  I thought there was something to that episode and I had seen something into his real persona.  I doubt that now because he brings so much to this film with his performance.

The only thing that got Jeremy Renner on the poster for this film was that hairdo.  Otherwise I think his role in the film isn’t all that different than the ones turned in by De Niro and Louis C.K. and maybe they could have just as easily been that fifth person headlines for the film. Now don’t get me wrong, that hairdo is a thing of awesome and maybe he deserved that listing. Not only that but he is in the now, really hot at the moment and he does bring something significant to the film.

It’s not lost on me that two significant actors from Boardwalk Empire are in this film about Atlantic City. Shea Whignam, who plays Nucky Thompson’s brother Eli, and Jack Huston, who plays the assassin with no face Richard Harrow, both appear in the film.  That is another connection between Martin Scorsese, who serves as Executive Producer of the HBO series, and David O. Russell.  I am now inclined to think that Russell may be the second coming of Scorsese and if that is true then this man is only getting started.  We have a lot to look forward to from him and the actors he has drawn to himself.  In a time where marketable drives the movie industry it is nice to know that there are still men out there making art.  Making films that are more than just about making money and about lasting forever.  That is what we have in David O. Russell, a director that will make something unique and exceptional no matter what he has decided to do.  I have faith that he will continue to make the great films of the future and I can’t wait to see them.

This isn’t a movie that I need to recommend because it’s too recent to have been overlooked. It was a great film that received a lot of well deserved attention and respect.  It has no real connection to the 4th of July theme I suggested earlier other than having “American” in the title.  It might be a bit of a stretch but I was just looking for any excuse to watch this movie again and write a review about it.  I love it and I think it is proof that extraordinary films are still being made. This movie is worth your time to see.  If you somehow missed the boat then it’s never too late to climb aboard and see what you were missing.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I really, really enjoyed this movie. It is put together in such a beautiful, artistic way. Everything about this movie is beautiful. I think the entire cast was incredibly on point and the story keeps you interested until the end.

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The poster on the other hand, it could be better. Honestly, we like to say that everything could look better, and because I like this movie so much I am finding it hard to actually bash this one. I think it does what it needs to, but it also depicts some of the classic “no-nos” that I have been preaching to you guys for years. There is a MONTAGE of the cast. I hate to admit, but with a cast like this you almost have to put them all on the poster. Some people are going to come simply because they see Jennifer Lawrence’s name and others the same for Bradley Copper. Still, I think there were other ways they could have gone about it instead of putting them in the Mighty Ducks “flying V” and then feathering out the edges into black. The typography is intentional and it works for this period piece.

I still kinda of like it which makes me have some serious inner fighting people. I can’t decide. What do you guys think? I need your thoughts on this one!

 

The Fighter

Year: 2010
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Scott Sliver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington

RYAN’S REVIEW

Amber brought this movie home from a trip to Wal-Mart a couple of days ago and I was glad to see she had picked it up.  We watched this movie when it became available a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.  It clearly belonged in the collection and it was only the matter of time waiting for the price to be reasonable enough for purchase.  Amber found it in the $5.00 bin and I will say that the movie is much too new to be marked down that much but can’t argue with the opportunity.

This movie surprised me in many ways, as boxing movies often do.  I think boxing movies are great and I have written why several times now.  They all follow such a similar story line yet usually manage to bring something new to the table.  This movie is as much about drug addiction as it is about boxing but the two are blended together in a great way that gives the film a clear direction.  I am unfamiliar with most professional boxers and knew of neither Micky Ward or Dicky Ekland before watching the movie.  I don’t know how accurate their portrayal is in the movie but given they were both involved with the making of the film I think it’s a safe bet it got their stamp of approval.

Of course the strength of this film comes from the performances of the cast.  Christian Bale is absolutely incredible in this movie and it is probably his finest role.  Bale won the Academy Award for his role in the movie and it doesn’t take long to see why.  Something about the look he has in his eyes all throughout the film says it all.  I am a big fan of Bale and continue to be impressed with the performances he gives.  I despise Mark Wahlberg but he continues to make good films.  He is well cast in this movie and does a good job but he is the weakest link of the cast.  He plays a character in this movie that is so much like a victim at the mercy of his overbearing family. For more about why I don’t like Wahlberg you should see our review of The Departed.  It has nothing to do with his talent but only the person he was before hitting it big.  I think Amy Adams is a terrific actress and she was robbed of the Academy Award for her role in this movie.  She is a beautiful actress and as an awesome perk you can see her in a great scene in this one where she is wearing see through undies.  Her accent in this movie was great and she had a look of a real hometown local.  Her diversity as an actress continues to be impressive and I look forward to what else she has to offer.  This summer we will be able to see her playing the part of Lois Lane in the new Superman movie.  I have never seen Melissa Leo before but she was incredible in this movie playing the tough and no-nonsense mother.  She rules her family with an iron hand and intimidates the hell out of everyone.  I also want to mention Jack McGee because I think he is awesome.  I was a big fan of his character in Rescue Me, and I have enjoyed many of his roles in film.

David O. Russell directed this movie and although he doesn’t have a large body of work under his belt he has plenty of success to back himself up.  He hit it big this year with Silver Linings Playbook being nominated again for Best Director but not winning.  He was also nominated for this film but lost like many did to The King’s Speech which I didn’t think was that impressive.  The only other movie I know by Russell was Three Kings and I have always like that one as well.  I look forward to seeing Silver Linings Playbook when the opportunity comes and I’m confident it will be great because it was made by such a good director.

This is a movie that follows two themes that are usually always redundant but it manages to set itself apart nevertheless.  Movies about drug abuse and boxing always tend to follow the same patterns but not in this one. We see the damage drugs can do to a person’s life and the lives of those who care about the person while also following the inspiring struggle that boxers go through. The struggles in this movie also extend to the family and how they affect Micky Ward in his effort to make something of himself.  Movies about struggles like this always have something to teach us and give us a chance to learn from the experiences and enhance our own lives. Not everybody sees movies like this but I always have and try my best to learn from the experience.

There is apparently a sequel for this movie in the works that will follow the next stage of Micky Ward’s career and I think there is a lot of potential there.  You don’t often see sequels to movies made based on a true story but I think it’s a good idea in this case.  If we learned anything from the Rocky franchise it’s that the audience is more than willing to see a boxer glove up and do it again, and again, and again. So I hope the sequel to this is made and look forward to seeing what happens.  This movie is good enough for a sequel I think.  This movie is more than worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.