Jennifer Lawrence

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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X-Men Apocalypse

Spoilers Ahead

Here’s the first thing that comes to mind for me, as a veteran comic film fan, and that’s that when I have high expectations they better be met or at the very least come reasonably close. I suppose Days of Future Past spoiled me with this series but this movie just didn’t fit the bill. In truth I think the biggest problem was letting J-Law try to carry the movie, the absence of Jackman in the leading role was felt severely. 

As aesthetically pleasing as the film was it just didn’t deliver on any level. The were two, three scenes tops that were worth wild in this movie and beyond that it’s a lot of disappointment. Everybody looked good though. Olivia Munn as Psylocke specifically looked incredible. The entire costume department for the film did an incredible job with everyone. Yet it was not enough to overcome the plot problems and the lack of action throughout. 

Michael Fassbender is fantastic as always but he wasn’t used properly or enough. Tye Sheridan was great as a young cyclops but I felt Alexandra Shipp was not used enough either. She looked great but didn’t get enough speaking lines, and when she did they were silly a la “I heard he was your father.” That was just weird at the end of the film. If gossip is so rampant at the X mansion that new chick has heard about it how is it Magneto doesn’t know he has a son? 

I thought Jennifer Lawrence was just going through the motions here. For the record I think she is a fantastic actress but not suited for the lead in this film. I didn’t like that the story set up Mystique to be the hero for all mutants because I just didn’t think it was right for the character. Mystique is an awesome character but I like Rebecca Romijn’s version better. Mischievous villain shouldn’t be the one everyone looks to for leadership. I also thought Sophie Turner looked silly touching her head James McAvoy style the whole movie. She has the hair to honestly play Jean Grey but I am not overly impressed with Turner as an actress.

Though the biggest disappointment lies in the main antagonist himself. Apocalypse just doesn’t do enough, or rarely more than glossing over his eyes. I just expected more. He looked great but not big enough, when he is eye to eye with Magneto there is something wrong. He should have been bigger, taller. Apocalypse is an all powerful bad guy who is too easily defeated and not given enough to do.  

In this movie Quicksilver and Wolverine steal the show. Evan Peters is great in the part and he really steals the scene when things get explosive. I didn’t think it made any sense when he took on Apocalypse alone at the end of the movie with seemingly super human strength, but I’ll excuse that in his case. He brought more to the film than most. Hugh Jackman was sorely missed but his small part was one of the greatest in the entire film. So savage and so satisfying was his kill streak through the Weapon X place. I thought his look was perfect with the head gear and the wires as he wreaked havoc through the base.

By the climax of this film I was so dissatisfied I could have walked out and cared less what else happened. I hate that, because I wanted to love this movie. Instead I left the theater wanting and wishing I had just watched Captain America Civil War for a second time instead. Civil War was a fantastic movie and managed to do exactly what this film surprisingly failed to. We did hear people clapping when the movie ended but we have no idea why. I was so disappointed I didn’t even care to see the post credits scene and didn’t wait around to see it.

I have doubts that this franchise will even move forward with whatever was shown in the post credit scenes anyway. I am probably wrong but I don’t think the movie will be successful enough to garner another film in the franchise. I think most likely the studio will move on to other properties like X-Force, New Mutants, and Deadpool with certain X-men popping up now and again like Colossus in Deadpool.

This movie failed to meet my expectations and when people ask me I will tell them so. Your time will be much better spent seeing Captain America 3 than it would watching this film.

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!

 

X-Men First Class

I would like to say some things about this movie having watched over the last weekend.  I was very critical of the film when it first came out. You can read that post here. I still stand by a couple of those statements in my initial reaction to the film but now realize I was being overly critical of others.  I think my expectations for the film were higher than I was willing to admit.  I have loved the X-Men since I was a little kid and can’t help but anticipate any incarnation in film.  I am getting more and more excited for the next X-Men movie with every bit of releasing news because it is shaping up to have all the potential of what X-Men 3 should have been.  Given that excitement I decided to revisit this film and watch it with fresh eyes.

After watching the movie again I am willing to admit I was wrong about many things.  I don’t agree after second viewing that Michael Fsssbender was overacting.  He was incredible in the part in fact and I think he is a great actor.  I also disagree with the statement that the film wasn’t engaging or interesting.  It is an interesting movie and I did find myself really tuned in when the climax was approaching. I also think that while January Jones may not have been very good in the film that it really doesn’t matter if she was or not.  She manages to look really hot in the outfits they have her dressed in and does anything else really matter? I stand by the statement that Jennifer Lawrence was miscast and not good in the film.  I know it’s blasphemous to say so now with her having just won the Academy Award but I just don’t like her. This movie is probably the biggest reason why I don’t.  I don’t like what she is wearing in this movie and I don’t like the pouty chipmunk expression on her face in most of the film. I also don’t really like that Mystique and Xavier grew up together in the film. I think the film would have been better served to have Cyclops and Iceman on the team instead of Havok and Banshee, but I guess they were looking for continuity with the other films and in that case Iceman wouldn’t have worked. I do and did like Kevin Bacon in the film despite what I said in my previous post.  I am a fan of Kevin Bacon and it was nice to see him in a significant role again. Lastly, I still stand by what I said about James McAvoy. I think he sucks and I thought he was horrible in the part. Michael Fassbender makes a great young Magneto in the shadow of the great Sir Ian McKellan, but McAvoy doesn’t do this next to Patrick Stewart.  As I said in the first review he seems to think Professor X had some kind of button on his temple that activated his power.  It makes the ridiculous actor look even stupider playing the part.

With all that being said I would like to apologize for my initial reaction.  This wasn’t a perfect movie but it was good and I found myself enjoying it the second time around.  I will probably buy it one day eventually, when I see it marked down to an overly reasonable price.  I like to be the kind of person that willingly admits when I am wrong so here you have it.  I was not right about this one and I think it is worth your time.

Movies Not To Watch

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

This was too little too late from Bryan Singer, who destroyed this franchise himself over five year ago when he dumped X-Men 3 for the hopeless Superman reboot.  I had high hopes for his return to the franchise but I have been gravely disappointed.  I think Bryan Singer is a great filmmaker but I have hated him since he ruined this franchise.  X2 was an incredible movie and a great follow up to a pretty good first film, there was no reason the third film shouldn’t be just as good as the second. Out of no where Bryan Singer decided to abandon the series and it passed through a handful of people before landing in the hands of the hack Brett Ratner.  The movie was awful, despite a very good cast it was poorly made and a completely ridiculous story. X-Men: First Class is just as bad I’m afraid, I seriously doubt there will be any follow-ups to this reboot.

X-Men is part of a universe with so many exciting characters, it makes no sense to me for there to be movies made about X-Men with made up characters in it.  The third X-men movie did this exact same thing and it was ridiculous then too.  There are literally hundreds of characters to chose from and the writers are making up a girl with fairy wings that spits fire balls? This movie is dumb, but it is especially bad for the comic book fan because it’s not even remotely what it should be.  The script was very generic, the actors were awful for the most part, and it didn’t engage me at all.  Michael Fassbender was a great Magneto but honestly, I thought he was over acting at times.  Why was Havok in the movie? January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence were both bad and poorly cast.  James McAvoy seems to be under the impression that Professor X had some kind of button on his temple that activated his powers.  I think Kevin Bacon looked good on paper, but come on, were they really taking this thing seriously?

I don’t expect a movie made about a comic book to follow the story line perfectly, but it should at least remotely follow the story that its actually based on. The third X-Men movie was just like this, no respect for the original storyline.  I knew within the first five minutes of this film that I wasn’t going to like it and I suffered through the whole thing.  Don’t make the same mistake I did, I cannot get that time or money back, go see Thor (not in 3D) instead, it’s a good Marvel movie.  X-Men: First Class did offer one scene that was awesome, and it involved an incredible and unexpected cameo. I cannot stress enough how much that was the only good part, and that doesn’t make the movie worth seeing.

UPDATE: I have made a mistake, the girl with the fairy wings, Angel Salvadore, is in fact a real character from the X-Men universe.  I don’t know this character and didn’t recognize her in an origin movie because she wasn’t created until nearly 40 years after that origin.

UPDATE 2: I am leaving this post up because it does represent my initial impression of the film but my opinion has changed since.  I wrote an updated review a year or so later after watching the film again on TV.  You can read that review here.