FlixChatter Review – AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the release of AVENGERS: ENDGAME as an event, at least to fans of the MCU. If you don’t know what that acronym stands for, but yet you’re curious enough to finally check out just what the fuss is about, I suggest watching a few Marvel movies first in order to fully appreciate what’s going on in this movie. There are 21 MCU movies up until this point, broken down in three phases. ENDGAME, as the title suggest, is the cumulation of the most of the heroes’ journey.

As I was watching the movie, I thought about how much I have come to care about these characters and what they have gone through. Since the release of Iron Man 11 years ago in 2008, there have been multiple new characters being introduced, but in the end, the film pretty much focused on the original six Avengers who survived Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Now, I know there have been calls NOT to spoil the major plot points, though it should go without saying for every movie. FlixChatter readers know I’m very careful about spoilers. That said, it’d be tough to review this film without potentially revealing some key things, so if you prefer to go into the film completely blind, you should stop reading this now [consider yourself warned].

The movie clocks in at 3 hours 1 minute. It’s perhaps the longest superhero movie ever, but there’s just SO much to cover. It actually goes by relatively fast, but that’s not to say there aren’t any slow moments. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is organized in phases, this movie is comprised of three specific ‘chapters’ if you will. The surviving superheroes (and a powerful new ally) only have one thing in their mind, that is to go after Thanos. It’s quite amusing to see the supreme villain is actually living a rather domesticated life, seemingly not losing much sleep after wiping out half of all living creatures. I’m not going to say how that ‘avenging’ business goes, but the movie then jumps ahead five years.

The second act is perhaps the slowest part of the movie, but I feel like the quieter moments are necessary. Naturally those who survived the snap are in mourning, some have lost more than others… some lost absolutely everything they hold dear. It’s not something people can just move onward and upward, not even those as mighty as the Avengers. As Steve Rogers said in the trailer, ‘Some people move on, but not us.’ Some are dealing with this new ‘post-Thanos snap’ era better than others. One could say they’re all dealing with an intense case of PTSD. Rogers is shown in a therapy session, while Hawkeye and Thor are dealing with this trauma in very different ways. I actually love how this movie is playing with our expectations of certain characters. Let’s just say, some of their um, evolution, for a lack of a better word, is truly amusing and not at all what I expected.

Themes of loss, anguish, regret, vengefulness, sacrifice are all we expect in a film that promises to be ‘the end of the line.’ Those themes are explored well here by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, brought to life brilliantly by Joe & Anthony Russo. By this time, most of the actors have convincingly embodied their characters. Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner who made up the original six are particularly strong here, with Josh Brolin’s Thanos as the perfect villain. This movie has plenty of genuine emotional moments without being too heavy handed. It’s dark at times without being too brooding or overly gloomy. In fact, there are plenty of funny, witty scenes that provide the perfect levity to balance out the heartbreaking moments.

I’m glad my bladder held out well despite the three-hour running time, so I didn’t miss anything. I have to say though, the level of satisfaction this movie is would depend on how much you care about the characters that have been carefully crafted in the past decade. By the same token, if you’re not familiar with the previous movies, especially the previous Avengers movie, you’d find this movie utterly discombobulating. Even I find the plot rather convoluted and some things don’t make any sense. But most movies involving SPOILER ALERT (highlight if you want to read) time travel, especially involving quantum physics, is bound to be a head-scratcher. Yet that plot device also allows for backstory for certain characters, a walk down memory lane for others and perhaps even a farewell of sort given that the ‘end is near.’ If I were to nitpick however, I find the action spectacle in its finale to be too bombastic for me. It’s a problem for most superhero movies that even the best ones can’t seem to overcome. Fortunately, the Russos remain focused on the characters and what they have lost/stand to lose, which keeps the story grounded despite some overblown action sequences.

We all have our favorite character(s), and mine happens to be the first Avenger. My heart constantly went pitter-patter wondering what’s to become of Captain America. I have avoided reading all the incessant fan theories, and I’m glad I did. Part of the journey is the end. This movie delivers on that premise and it completes many of the characters’ arc in such an emotional way. It also lives up to the ‘whatever it takes’ premise as the Avengers face one impossible odds after another. Thor’s line ‘because that’s what heroes do’ was delivered facetiously in Thor Ragnarok, but here it holds a whole new meaning.

What made the MCU franchise so successful and gratifying to fans is that there’s a unifying thread throughout the movies. Yes, there are parts that have continuity problems–I mean what happened to Wanda aka Scarlet Witch’s Russian accent after Avengers: Age of Ultron?? But in the grand scheme of things, the storylines are so tightly-interwoven that by the time they all assembled in Endgame, we know just how high the stakes are for these characters. It also helps that earth mightiest heroes have a worthy adversary to fight against, which in and of itself is quite a feat. For a movie with such a compelling premise and a humongous build-up, it would be a shame if the payoff is weak. Thankfully that’s not the case here and for that I’m grateful. I’m also glad I packed tissues as it’s an emotional roller coaster of the best kind. Endgame made me laugh out loud one moment, then bawl my eyes out the next.

The film is an artistic and technical marvel. The set pieces are great, which is to be expected for a film of this scale. Alan Silvestri, the original composer of The Avengers, delivers rousing music with his iconic score, but it also sounds perfectly melancholy when it needs to be. What a bittersweet and worthy send-off for a bunch of beloved characters. I don’t even mind watching it again before its theatrical run is over, it’s THAT good.

Bravo to the Russos once again for completing a satisfying finale to such a behemoth franchise. There must have been an enormous pressure on them to deliver and I think, all things considered, they did an astounding job.


What do you think of AVENGERS: ENDGAME? Let’s hear it!

Mini Reviews: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) + Wind River (2017)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s been a pretty hectic week last week with freelance gigs, script updates, etc. There’s a hint of Spring (finally!) after such a long and pretty miserable Winter, in fact, we pretty much hibernated most weekends the past couple of months. Well, that gave us a chance to catch up on a bunch of new-to-me movies. Today I’ve got a pair of excellent, moody crime thrillers that both took place in the Winter months.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.

Directed by: David Fincher
Screenplay by: Steven Zaillian

For a while I sort of avoided this adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s crime novel (part of the Millennium trilogy), both the Swedish version and this English language version. I just thought it’d be too violent and that I wouldn’t enjoy it. But well, my hubby and I were in the mood for a good crime noir, and since we both liked Gone Girl, we thought we’d give this one a shot. Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

David Fincher is a master in building suspense even with relatively little action. I quite like Daniel Craig as the disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who’s hired by a retired CEO Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece Harriet. Vanger exposed some really strange family dynamics which lives up to his descriptions, and then some. The film took its time before Mikael and Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) meets, as their story runs in parallel until their eventual meet-up.

I knew going into this that this is a violent film, especially dealing with brutal sexual assault and rape, but still, it’s quite harrowing to watch. The way Lisbeth retaliates for this brutality has that ‘wish fulfillment’ fantasy, as the wicked assailant has no idea who he’s dealing with. Mara’s transformation as Lisbeth is astounding and she completely lost herself in the role as the brilliant but antisocial hacker. I thought Mara’s a bit of an unusual choice to play her, but she pulled it off. Lisbeth is quite a mesmerizing and intimidating character, an undoubtedly challenging-but-flashy role every prominent actress would want to portray.

What I like most about this movie is the way the story unfolds. I actually like the deliberate, almost unhurried pace, but every moment is never without a sense of dread. Fincher’s direction is superb, using the setting (in Sweden and various Nordic countries) to great effect in conveying the perfect mood for the film. It’s the kind of mystery thriller that fully immerses you in the story and rewards your patience. Stellan Skarsgård is pretty memorable here as well in a quiet, but sinister role as Harriet’s brother.

I have to say though, the scenes towards the end with Lisbeth inhabiting a completely different persona as a femme fatale is feels a bit off from the rest of the film. The hurried pacing and more glamorous setting makes it feel like a Bond movie (with Lisbeth playing ‘Jane’ Bond) which is amusing given Craig’s casting. Honestly, it took me out of the movie a bit. I enjoyed watching the scenes, it’s just that the whole thing feels incredulous. Perhaps that is the point, Lisbeth going way out of her comfort zone to help someone she cares about.

Despite the gruesome scenes, I actually like this film enough that I might even rewatch it at some point. There are SO much details during the investigation that I likely missed a few things. It also got me intrigued to see the original Swedish versions starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth.

WIND RIVER (2017)

A veteran hunter helps an FBI agent investigate the murder of a young woman on a Wyoming Native American reservation.

Written & Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

After seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, my hubby and I are craving for more mystery thrillers. I was impressed by Taylor Sheridan‘s impressive writing in Sicario, but haven’t seen anything else he’s done since. Well, he’s definitely no ‘one hit wonder.’

The film opens with a card that says “inspired by true events,” which makes the scene that follows all the more excruciating to watch. A panic-stricken young woman is running in a vast snowy land on the Wind River Indian Reservation with barely enough clothing to survive the harsh climate. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), an expert tracker working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agency, discovered her frozen body and alerted the FBI. The Feds sent a rookie agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) who arrived from Las Vegas and soon realized this case is way in over her head.

The unlikely partnership between Lambert and Banner is the core of the story and it’s intriguing to watch. The fact that Renner and Olsen worked together in Avengers: Age of Ultron two years prior is amusing, but it’s a testament to their acting that I quickly forgot about that fact as the film progressed. I love that Sheridan’s just as concerned with his characters as he is with solving a murder case, putting this film far and above a typical CSI or Law & Order’s ‘whodunnit’ episode. Soon we learn about Lambert’s past and why this case is so hugely personal to him. Sheridan also toys with our expectations, in a good way, in the way he presents the murder suspects. I’m also impressed by the skilled use of flashback to tell a crucial detail, without spoon-feeding the audience too much details. I also appreciate that the film is not gratuitously violent nor gory.

Renner is particularly strong here in a soulful, emotionally-grounded performance as a man who’ve been through hell and back. Lambert offers a nice contrast to the inexperienced Banner, teaching her the ropes without being condescending. Veteran character actor Graham Greene as the Tribal Police chief Ben plays a crucial role here. “This is the land of you’re on your own.” Ben sheds lights into how the Native American community like Wind River is marginalized and barely gets the attention they deserve, as evidenced by the lack of federal support Banner gets to solve this case. I like Jon Bernthal‘s casting as well which again toys with our expectations given the tough guy roles he often plays.

The desolate setting here is a character in itself, in which the location is pivotal to the story. It’s a bleak film to be sure, but a deeply engrossing one and it’s not without hope. That scene towards the end of Lambert and his friend Martin (Gil Birmingham) is a powerful one that ties well with an earlier scene after the girl’s body’s just discovered. I find myself engrossed in this slow-burn mystery, which also rewards your patience with a satisfying ending. I’d say it’s a pretty strong directorial debut from Sheridan, though it made me curious to see how the film would look like under someone like David Fincher. In any case, Sheridan is definitely a gifted writer and a promising director, I’m definitely keen on seeing more of his work in the future!


So have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: ARRIVAL (2016)

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Sci-fi films involving aliens coming to earth is a dime a dozen. So it’s so refreshing to see a film that treads a familiar ground, yet still manages to be original and truly thought-provoking. Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, the premise of ARRIVAL is deceptively simple. One day, twelve alien ships land all over earth, one of them in is Montana, USA. Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) was teaching at her college when the world came to a standstill watching the breaking news reporting the aliens arrival. Soon Louise is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

The linguistic aspect is something I haven’t seen before in a sci-fi movie, or not one I remember well anyway. Apparently director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer created a fully functioning, visual, alien language, which is utterly fascinating to see on film. It looks like a circular thing made out of black ink called the logograms. The alien creatures (which they dubbed ‘heptapods’) have a squid-like form with tentacles that they use to ‘write’ these logograms onto a frosty glass wall that separate them from the humans when they visit their spaceship. There’s quite a suspense the first time we saw these heptapods, but as the film progresses, it’s apparent that this film is so much more than an alien movie or stories about aliens. With any great science-fiction, the best ones are those that remind us of our humanity, and that is the case with Arrival.

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The story also deals with the notion of time, which I can’t quite begin to explain. I have to admit it took me a while to grasp just what is going on, as Louise’s time decoding the alien language is interspersed with remembrance of Louise’s daughter. To say more about this might get into spoiler territory, but let’s just say that the mother/daughter story is an emotional one. By the end of the film, we’re not asking so much about how and why the aliens got to earth, but it makes us ponder about love, loss, and the ‘choices’ that we make in life.

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Amy Adams‘ quiet yet affecting performance is superb here, she is truly the heart and soul of the film. I have seen quite a few of her stellar work and this could be her best performance yet. Perhaps 2017 would be the year the 5-time Academy Award nominee is finally a ‘bride’ instead of the the ‘bridesmaids’ at the Oscar. Jeremy Renner gives a strong supporting performance here as the mathematician partner of Louise, he has a pretty effortless chemistry with Adams and was quite the comic relief in some scenes. I thought the Abbott and Costello reference was quite a hoot. Unfortunately Forest Whitaker isn’t given that much to do in this film, neither is Michael Stuhlbarg.

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I have to say that people who have little patience for slow-paced films could be potentially frustrating. In fact, the guy next to me actually dozed off and snored loudly after about a half hour, it’s too bad as he missed out on the best parts of the film. For me, it’s such a treat to see a visceral and emotionally-complex film, especially with a female protagonist at the center, so I was engrossed from start to finish. The eerie music by Jóhann Jóhannsson adds a creepy and mysterious feel to the film, it’s deliberately somber yet enigmatic. I still prefer Jóhannsson’s work in Sicario but this one is certainly excellent in its own right.

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Québec-based filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is one of the few emerging directors (like Jeff Nichols, Taika Waititi) whose work have continued to impress me. I love his emphasis on character development instead of wham-bam action. The use of special effects here is utterly fascinating, especially in the design of the alien spaceships and the otherwordly logograms language and how they’re transmitted. I’m now even more psyched about Blade Runner 2 just on account of having Villeneuve at the helm.

Arrival is one of those films that will stay with you long after the end credits, and that’s always a good sign. It certainly has a haunting quality that is always a positive thing in my book. Whether or not this will be a sci-fi classic remains to be seen, but without a doubt this is one of the best films of the year.

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What are your thoughts on ARRIVAL?

Throwback Tuesday: Fave scenes from THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002)

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Hello friends! I thought I’d introduce a new blog series, as I’m so good at keeping up with every single blog series I’ve put together, right 😉 This series is sort of inspired by Deadpool believe it or not. I just saw it last night and it’s got a lot of hilarious 80s throwbacks so I thought why not do a throwback post?

So this series is to highlight a scene/quote/photo what have you from my favorite movies that’s at least a decade or older. And since we just saw the Jason Bourne trailer during the Super Bowl, it made me want to re-watch the original trilogy (I’m not counting the lame Bourne Legacy w/ Jeremy Renner).

Firstly, look at what Matt Damon look like fourteen years ago. Yep, it has been that long since The Bourne Identity was released in 2002! I’d say he still looks pretty good now after over a decade, I mean he’s got more lines on his face which adds more character and grit. He looks like he’s even more pissed off too, which made him scarier, ahah.

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Damon as Jason Bourne in 2002 and in 2016

Look at that baby-faced Damon in the first Bourne movie. Who’d have thought he’d be a highly-efficient killing machine?? I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of Damon before Bourne. I mean, I didn’t dislike him or anything, I just didn’t think he was anything special. I never would’ve thought he’d be good in a role like this so imagine my surprise that not only did I LOVE the first Bourne movie, it also changed my opinion about Damon in that he can be super bad-ass!

Now, there are a ton of awesome action sequences here, but I always LOVE a good chase scene. Especially set in one of my favorite European city! This was directed by Doug Liman who recently did Edge of Tomorrow.


Who doesn’t love Clive Owen. It’s absolutely brilliant to see him (the man who could be Bond) as the strong-silent-type villain opposite Bourne? I think the finale is fantastic, but if you haven’t seen this movie yet you might not want to watch this.



Are you a fan of the Bourne franchise? What’s your memory of the first time you watched The Bourne Identity?

FlixChatter Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

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I’ve been a fan of this long-standing franchise even from the first one by Brian De Palma. Looking back, it certainly was a more cerebral, somber affair as it took itself way too seriously. It might’ve been the fourth movie when the film took a decidedly lighter tone, but amped up the action to be even crazier. It’s akin to a cinematic roller coaster, a huge adrenaline rush from start to finish. You know when want to go for another round the moment you’re done with a REALLY fun amusement park ride? Well, that’s how I felt the minute the end credits roll.
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It’s to be expected that the stake of Mission Impossible movies get more and more well, impossible. But really, they’re not called the Impossible Missions Force for nothin’. This time Ethan and team take their craziest mission yet, and a personal one. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you know about the mysterious International organization the Syndicate, which is as skilled as the IMF and commited to destroy Ethan & co.

Right from the opening sequence with the highly-publicized plane sequence where Tom Cruise was hanging out on the side of the plane, a stunt the superstar himself performed no less than 8 times, you’ll know what you’re in for. But you’ve got to have a lot more tricks up your sleeve if you show THAT scene early in the movie. Thankfully that is the case here. If you love chases of any kind, whether it be on foot, car, motorbikes, etc. you’ll find them here. It’s as if each action scene tries to one-up the other and I have to say each one is as exhilarathing as the last.

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My favorite scene is the one within the Vienna Opera House, with stunning camera work in the narrow, shadowy corners. The fight scenes are jaw-droppingly spectacular, even more so against the classic aria of Nessun dorma. It’s truly the spectacle to watch going into a movie like this and it looks amazing on the big screen.

Early in the film, we’re introduced to a new character Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), but THIS is her moment to shine. She’s my favorite female character in ALL of the Mission Impossible movies so far. I’d vote to have Ilsa replace Ethan Hunt in future MI movies or have her star in a MI spinoff movies. She’s THAT great. I love the fact that she’s a formidable character who’s no bimbo, and on top of being Ethan’s equal in the action scenes, Ilsa actually has a compelling character arc.

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The relentless logic-defying stunts are electrifying, but I like the fact that director Christopher McQuarrie actually includes one scene that show Ethan is human after all. I won’t mention the scene as to not spoil it for you, but I actually feared for his life for once, even for a moment. There is also an emotional connection between the characters, especially when it comes the dynamic of Ethan’s core group: Benji (Simon Pegg), William (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames). The camaraderie works well and it’s easy to root for this group.

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Humor is another recipe for success in this franchise. The high-octane stunts are matched with crackin’ wit, mostly from the resident comedian Pegg, but Renner also made the franchise’s oft-used line “I can neither confirm nor deny any details without the secretary’s approval” to hilarious effect. There’s also a particularly humorous scene involving the British PM towards the end. Nice to see Alec Baldwin as another CIA officer, 25 years after playing Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October.

If I have one quibble though, it’d be the villain (Sean Harris). I don’t know why the filmmakers think a weird & creepy bad guy is more effective than a normal-looking one. I’d think that a perfectly normal character with a ruthless agenda can be just as menacing, so long as they cast the right actor. Harris just seems more of a damaged, eccentric psychopath than a really scary villain worthy of a super spy like Ethan.

MIRogueNation_SeanHarris

Thankfully, the rest of the cast delivered and the movie is as fantastically entertaining as ever. Just like the unstoppable franchise, Cruise clearly still has plenty of energy to make us believe he IS Ethan Hunt, he made even James Bond seems rather tame. He’s starting to look older but young enough to pull off the relentless action and even the shirtless scenes. Still I’m thankful there’s no unnecessary romance that’d make me cringe.

I enjoyed the heck out of MI: Ghost Protocol and I remember thinking, boy how’d they top that Burj Khalifa scene?? Well, not only does Rogue Nation manage to top THAT scene, but the movie as a whole. This one now stands as my favorite of the franchise. I rarely say this about any movie, but I hope they continue to make more Mission Impossible movies and hopefully McQuarrie will be back for at least the next one. This is only his third film, and I actually quite like his previous film with Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher. He also wrote the screenplay for Edge of Tomorrow, so it seems that his collaboration with Cruise has been a rewarding one. Joe Kraemer who worked on the score for Jack Reacher also did a great job scoring this one.

I can’t wait to see this again, next time at IMAX. It’s an escapism sort of movie and Rogue Nation delivers on that front, and more.

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So have you seen MI: Rogue Nation? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: American Hustle

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Based on the ABSCAM scandal of the late 1970s, con-artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser are forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.

When I first heard David O. Russell was making this film, I was immediately drawn to it mainly because of the cast. It’s combining the best of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and just like many of O. Russell’s films, this one is one wild but entertaining ride. Right from the start, the movie gives me the giggles as it shows a good 10 minutes or so of Christian Bale‘s Irving Rosenfeld meticulously putting on his toupee. That alone is worth the price of admission if I were to pay full price at the cinema. I mean, it’s as if retro Mr. Bruce Wayne has been enjoying too much of his um, retirement. Bale is in his transformative role once again, gaining 55 pounds for the role, going the opposite route of what he did for The Fighter. He’s convincing as always, what with the Jersey accent and full-on con-man smarmy-ness, though at times his amazing transformation actually takes me out of the story a bit.

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The film shows how Irving became the con-man that he was, which he seems destined to be since he was a kid. It’s as much a story about Irving as it is about Sydney Prosser, his lover and partner in crime, played with wild abandon by Amy Adams. Posing as a British national, Sydney is seductive and perhaps even more cunning than her lover. Inconsistent British accent aside, Adams totally disappears into her role. Hard to believe this is the very same innocent Giselle from Enchanted. She also has a sultry chemistry with Bale, in fact, I tweeted right after the movie that there’s more sparks between her and fat, balding Batman than with the Man of Steel earlier this year 😉

As Irving and Sydney’s cunning schemes grew bolder, inevitably it caught the attention of the Feds and ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) soon got both working for him, hustled them into exposing Jersey power brokers and mafia underworld. It seems like an enchanting proposition but of course things are never as simple nor easy as they seem. It’s later revealed that Irving has a sexy but unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who makes things even more complicated as the plan progresses. The 22-year-old once again displays that she could effortlessly portray someone much older than she is and hold her own against actors twice her age. Her deliberately campy performance steals scenes every time she appears, especially the bit involving a microwave.

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The story seems to shift the focus between the developing relationship of Richie & Sydney, as well as Irving and Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). The latter ends up revealing Irving’s sense of humanity, what’s left of it at least, as he gains more sympathy for Carmine. The film plays like an ensemble cast of sort, with not one but a trio of protagonists (Irving, Sydney and Richie) with power plays entwining between the three of them. Though Cooper still has a long way from becoming one of my favorite actors, I’ve grown to appreciate him more and he does have dramatic as well as comic timing. There’s a cameo from Robert DeNiro which is one of the film’s highlights, though Michael Peña is the scene-stealer here in a brief but hysterical supporting role. I’ll let you see it for yourself what role he’s playing. Oh, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. is a hoot as Richie’s boss as well, that was an interesting casting that works pretty well. I think the cast is what makes this movie so enjoyable. I know a lot of people compare O. Russell’s direction style to Scorsese’s. Now, even if there’s some similarities, I don’t know why someone of O. Russell’s stature would ever need to copy someone else’s work.

What I think is the flaw of the film is the slightly off pacing and lack of emotional gratification. Through all the topsy-turvy scenarios, I don’t really have any emotional connection with any of the characters. Though the 1970s set pieces, costumes, vibe, etc. is convincingly retro, I didn’t always feel so immersed in that world as I had hoped. So in the end, it never became anything more than a fun and amusing ride featuring solid performances. Given the premise, there are crazy situations involving sex, drugs and a whole lot of scheming, but having seen The Wolf of Wall Street though, that one makes American Hustle looks like a PG-13 movie!

“I believe that you should treat people the way you want to be treated, didn’t Jesus say that? Also, always take a favor over money. Effin’ Jesus said that as well.” – Irving Rosenfeld

The screenplay was originally titled American Bullshit by Eric Warren Singer and was listed at #8 on the 2010 Black List of un-produced screenplays. O. Russell ended up co-writing the script for this one, which features some riotous dialogue and fun use of music. I especially enjoyed the scene of Rosalyn cleaning her house whilst singing Live and Let Die, complete with vinyl yellow gloves on. I had fun with this one, it’s as amusing as you’d expect and more freakishly hilarious as I thought it’d be. I don’t even mind watching this again when it’s out on dvd.

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4 out of 5 reels

So have you seen American Hustle? I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Viewing Roundup: People Like Us, Mission: Impossible 1996 + Hansel & Gretel Guest Review

Well, it’s another Wintry weekend here in MN with snow and plummeting temps. But I’m looking forward to 30 degrees above zero this week, ahah.

Well, it’s relatively unproductive as I only saw two movies this weekend as I spent some time working on my ARGO write-up for The Lamb Devour The Oscars series.

ThiArgo_UKposters is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars.

Click on the poster to see my full post.

Do check out the other entries of the LAMB Oscar series.
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Here are mini reviews of the two films I saw over the weekend:

People Like Us

While settling his recently deceased father’s estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.

PeopleLikeUs_posterBoth my hubby and I wanted to see this when we saw the trailer. The two lead actors, Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks are both likable and charismatic, and I’m glad this wasn’t another silly rom-com or a Nicholas Sparks lovey-dovey romance. Instead, the film follows the journey of two incredibly flawed characters whose paths crossed after a famous record producer died after a long battle with cancer. Sam, a brash salesman, has been estranged from his dad for some time, in fact, he despised him so much he tried to weasel his way out of going to his funeral! But when his father left him a large sum of money and left a note for him to give him to someone named Josh Davis, it led to a journey that would change his life forever.

The film is quite predictable and at times perhaps seems rather formulaic, but what I do like is the emotional resonance. One can’t help but deeply sympathize for Sam, Frankie (Banks) and her son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). There’s also a brief but effective performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as Pine’s mother. There are a lot of honest, heart-rending dialog between the two, and all the actors believably played their roles. At times I was frustrated by Sam’s decisions in keeping the ‘secret’ from Frankie about who he really is. In fact there’s one tense moment where Frankie’s rage was justified. I kept thinking what I would do if I were in her situation.

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It’s interesting to note that this was Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut. He and Roberto Orci are the writers of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness you just saw the trailer last night. This is quite a different role for Pine though, there’s the cool confidence he projected as Sam, but there’s also some vulnerable moments that he was able to capture as well.

Despite some slow moments, I think People Like Us is a decent drama that manages to move me. There are some great music here and interesting camera work that adds to the level of enjoyment. I’d say give this movie a shot if you’re looking for something to rent. Not a bad first effort from Kurtzman, curious to see what he’d tackle on next.

..3.5 reels


Mission: Impossible (1996) – rewatch

An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization.

MissionImpossible1PosterThanks to Ted for lending me the Blu-ray. It’s been ages since I saw this movie and I must admit I didn’t really care for it. It was just way too convoluted for its own good, and not nearly as entertaining as the latest movie. Upon second viewing though, I think I appreciate it a bit more, and it’s not as impossible to follow as I thought previously. Still, I think Tom Cruise and this franchise gets better with age.

Speaking of age, this film certainly feels dated, especially when Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) was on the plane watching the tape, ahah. It just looked so primitive! I didn’t remember how great the cast was though, especially Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave, both are sadly underutilized and not on screen long enough for my liking. The star of the show, as always, is Cruise as Ethan Hunt. The special features said he apparently loved the TV series, and certainly his um, mission to bring it to the big screen has paid off given how profitable this franchise has been.

The first part of the film has quite a different tone than the finale, it even felt like it’s a whole different film. Brian De Palma framed the whole failed mission and the chase through the streets of Prague like a Hitchcockian conspiracy noir, but by the end it was on a full-throttle Michael Bay style action flick with a chopper flying inside a tunnel and exploding, of course with the main hero unscathed.

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Overall it was entertaining enough, the most memorable sequence when Hunt & co. tried to hack into the CIA mainframe through the roof still holds up. Jean Reno was especially hilarious in that sequence, but the rest of Hunt’s team wasn’t really given much to do. I don’t mind that there isn’t as much action set pieces here as in the other MI films, but at the same time De Palma seems to take this film way too seriously whilst the twist is actually pretty predictable. Thankfully, the franchise only gets better and the fourth film was excellent as Brad Bird could deliver a fast-paced and thrilling ride from start to finish.

Interesting that as I watched the Special Features, Cruise barely aged from movie to movie! He looked practically 17 in this movie, he’s just so boyish looking. So I guess that’s a good thing as even now that he’s 50, he actually looks about 40 which is what I’d expect Ethan Hunt to be.

3.5 reels


Hansel & Gretel : Witch Hunters

– thanks to my friend Ashley S. for her review!

HanselGretel3DposterVan Helsing meets Kill Bill in this original retelling of the classic fairytale, Hansel and Gretel.  Say goodbye to cliché fairytale nursery rhymes and hello to a badass duo, who set the record straight on being “victims” and take action into their own hands. This isn’t your average bombs and explosions action packed movie, but a blend of brutal yet simplistic medieval weaponry with sleek and highly functional modern technology. The fight scenes take place across murky waters, gorgeous forests, pious villages, and, oh yes, a candy covered house.

The makeup, wardrobe and props were spectacular! Each witch’s makeup was unique to her own evil attributes, but gave a nod to traditional folklore, without having to throw on a crooked nose and warts (burn her!).

The actors weren’t afraid to get down and dirty, either. When one is a witch hunter, one is bound to end up covered in their work—literally. There were several close up shots of the lovely Gemma Arterton covered in goop (almost as if she were being slimed), but even covered in blood, guts and dirt, she still manages to look beautiful, sigh. But what good would a period film be if we didn’t catch the main actor in only his pantaloons? Don’t worry! Jeremy Renner doesn’t disappoint and bares his chest (or more) to ease his aches and pains.

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The short, snappy and dry dialogue is similar to other popular romacolypes (romantic apocalypse) movies like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead. Be on the lookout for subtle and not so subtle hints of modern day culture amidst medieval inconvenience, which fits perfectly into the growing popularity of the “fairytale” genre. The movie isn’t just fantasy or action, but simply takes a classic bedtime story and turns it into something fun for every child-at-heart, adult. All in all, if you’re looking to be pleasantly surprised, have a few laughs and quite possibly be a little disturbed, this is the movie for you. It’s fun, unexpected and will leave you hoping for more movies like it to come.


Thoughts on these movies, folks? Do share your own weekend viewings in the comments.