Tag: amy adams

MOVIE REVIEW | Arrival (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says:Arrival takes itself very seriously.  Arrival tells an insane story.  What Arrival forgets to do is have fun with it.”
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“Memory is a strange thing.”

The academy awards have often been accused of being elitist. Only awarding highbrow, often little seen movies, so voters can feel smart.  One of the reasons the Best Picture category was opened up a few years ago to include up to 10 movies was so more crowd friendly, box office hits could be included, instead of exclusively recognising prestige, “important” movies. Last year was an example of that system working, with fun, genre escapism being nominated in the form of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian.  This year, the genre, blockbuster slot is filled by a far less worthy recipient, Arrival.

When giant, alien spacecraft appear in a dozen different places all over the globe, world leaders freak out as they try to determine if these visitors come in peace, or if they have something more threatening in mind.  Recruiting college professor and linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), the American government makes contact with the seven limbed aliens they dub heptapods. Communication and translation proves to be a slow process, but piece by piece, Louise, along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), builds a rapport with extra-terrestrial visitors. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Master (2012)

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“If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world.”

My general rule here is to only write about movies I’m seeing for the first time. Sometimes I’ll fudge that restriction if it’s something I haven’t seen in a couple of decades and barely remember. But here’s a movie that I only saw two years ago when it came out. Here’s a movie that I thought was amazing at the time, while being fully aware that I understood very little of it. Not the plot, I get that. I understood very little of why it was so amazing. Here’s a movie that I’ve thought about constantly for two years, knowing I needed to see it again. But I was kind of intimidated. I felt like the circumstances needed to be just right if I was going to give it the attention it deserved. Here is The Master.


It’s the end of the Second World War, and Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns home, unsettled and unsure what to do next. When his homemade moonshine poisons a man, Freddie flees and stows away on a yacht leaving port. He’s soon discovered by the boat’s owner, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher. But above all, he is a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Her (2013)

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A man works in an office designed for little people and discovers a portal into the mind of real life character actor John Malkovich…  In an adaptation of a book about flowers, the premise of the book is immediately abandoned for Nicolas Cage to play the real life screenwriter of the movie and his completely fictional twin brother…  A feature length adaptation of a 40 page kids book that’s mostly pictures.  I don’t know if ‘high concept’ is the correct phrase to describe the work of Spike Jonze, or if ‘bat shit, nutso crazy’ is more accurate.  Whatever it is, his latest effort fits in well, as a man falls in love with his phone, in Her.


In the not so distant future, Joaquin Phoenix is that man, Theodore Twombly.  He writes seemingly heartfelt, personal letters on behalf of others for a living, which is a direct contrast to the emotionless, shut off life he leads outside of work, ever since breaking up with this wife (Rooney Mara).

Already reliant on his phone and computer games as a way to avoid any interaction with real people, apart from his old friend Amy (Amy Adams), he knocks things up a notch when he downloads a new operating system for his phone that boasts the most sophisticated artificial intelligence ever.  Named Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Theodore’s phone quickly becomes a close friend and trusted confidant, before moving on to the next level.  The level of love and sustained moments of gettin’ it on.

Not many film makers could turn this concept into a believable movie.  Charlie Kaufman gets a lot of credit for coming up with the wackiness of Being John Malkovich and  Adaptation, but what about the bloke who manages to reign in the wacky and turn them into movies with genuine emotion that we can somehow relate to?

It’s making this story believable that makes Her so impressive.  From a writing and directing standpoint, Jonze somehow makes the goofy concept of “Man falls in love with Siri” surprisingly realistic and understandable.  Sure, the husky, sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson is a good start, but it’s a lot more than that.  Jonze makes the relationship believable because he makes it so real.

And what makes it so real is Jonze’s decision to inject it with the good and the bad of a real relationship with a real person.  Samantha might be a computer program, but for every dream girl attribute that you could imagine the designers of artificial intelligence might try to emulate, she also has plenty of negative emotions.  Happy and adoring one minute, petty and jealous the next.  And the very human Theodore Twombly is just as quick to indulge in his own pettiness and jealousies.

This, combined with the world Jonze creates in which the idea of people falling in love with their operating systems is quickly accepted, means the gimmick is just as quickly over shadowed by a legitimate love story that feels just as real to the audience as it does to Phoenix’s character.

Her
Directed By – Spike Jonze
Written By – Spike Jonze

MOVIE REVIEW | American Hustle (2013)

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David o Russell has always been an interesting film maker, but his career was pretty rocky for a while there.   Early movies like Flirting With Disaster found appreciation over the years, but are still mostly unseen by the masses.  Then there were leaked videos of onset screaming matches with his cast, and a lost movie that was shut down multiple times before disappearing all together.  But a few years ago, something happened and David O Russell became a bankable, Oscar nomination regular.  First the Fighter, then Silver Linings Playbook, and now a movie that seems like it’s sure a thing for a few categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, American Hustle.

Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld, a small time con man who falls in love with his new accomplice, Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser.  Unfortunately, he’s already in a loveless marriage with Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).  Even more unfortunately, Irving and Sydney get caught in an FBI sting by Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMaso, that leads to working for the feds, trying to take down bigger targets, including Jeremy Renner as small town New Jersey Mayor, Carmine Polito.

Once the many balls are in the air, the multiple plates are spinning and various wheels are in motion (trust me, the complex, but never convoluted, story really does deserve that many metaphors), American Hustle plays out as an amazingly effective combination of drama, action, suspense, mad capped caper and broad comedy.  And Russell really deserves all the credit for making these conflicting tones work with each other, instead of collapsing into a big mess.

A lot of American Hustle is about lies people tell to others.  But even more of it is about lies people tell themselves just so they can survive.  Irving knows his comb over isn’t fooling anybody, but he tells himself it makes a difference because running a confidence scam is all about having confidence.  Richie knows he’s a substandard agent living a substandard life, but he tells himself he’s smarter than everyone else around him, hoping that one day he might actually believe it.

While Carmine might not be lying about doing everything for the good of his New Jersey constituents, you can see him tyring to justify his actions to himself as much as to anyone else.  And as Irving’s bored and otherwise clueless housewife, Rosalyn is the only one completely self-aware of all their lies, internal and external, even getting a nice little rant about how we all tell ourselves whatever we need to just get through the day.

I’ve read a few comparisons between this movie and Goodfellas.  And while American Hustle never attempts the real darkness of Scorsese’s masterpiece, I understand the link.  The most obvious being the multiple character voiceover and meticulous period setting.  But it’s more than that.  A lot of the camera work, music choices and editing also make me think Russell has seen Goodfellas more than a few times.  I don’t want that sound like I’m saying he ripped off Scorsese.  I think it’s more of a respectful homage.

Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence were all nominated for Oscars the last time they were in David O Russell films, and even though I think Bale, Cooper and Lawrence should all get another shot with American Hustle, I’m not sure if they will.  The Academy really has a stick up its ass when it comes to great comedic performances.  And even though they all get deep, dramatic moments too, they made me laugh way too many times for the prestige-addicted Oscar voters to give them a chance.

American Hustle
Directed By – David O. Russell
Written By – Eric Singer, David O. Russell