Tag: bradley cooper

MOVIE REVIEW | Joy (2015)

Joy 1
Never speak, on my behalf, about my business, again.

In the last half a dozen or so years, David O Russell has specialised in a very specific kind of prestige movie.  They’re dark but funny, dramatic but silly, gritty but quirky.  It’s worked well for him, with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle all cleaning up at the box office and when it comes to award nominations.  It seems like it’s a formula he’s sticking with, because he’s back with another movie that ticks all of those boxes with Joy.


It’s the 80s and Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is living a pretty shit life.  Her house is overrun by her soap opera addicted, shut in mother (Virginia Madsen as Terry), her deadbeat ex husband (Edgar Ramierez as Tony), her grandmother (Diane Ladd as Mimi) and her two young children. Things get even more stressful when her father (Robert De Niro as Rudy) returns to live in the basement after being kicked out by his second wife. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | American Sniper (2015)

Sniper

“If you think that this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong. You can only circle the flames so long.”

I think I’m probably in the majority as someone who had never really heard of or noticed Bradley Cooper until the Hangover. As good and as funny as that movies was (if only the same could be said for the sequels), I also think I’m in the majority as someone who never really expected a prestige, Oscar laden career for Cooper. But here we are, with his third nomination in as many years. Even more impressive, all three have been for completely different performances. Depressed and suicidal in Silver Linings Playbook, to put upon with a small man complex in American Hustle, to PTSD riddled killer, in American Sniper.


Growing up tough in Texas, Chris Kyle (Cooper) lives for nothing more than rodeo riding and picking up chicks. Until one night, watching the news, he sees the report of a terrorist attack on a US embassy. He immediately gets his patriot up and enlists with the Navy. At 30, he defies the odds and makes it through the elite training to become a Navy Seal. Meeting Taya (Sienna Miller) in a local bar, they’re soon married, just in time for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and wars to be declared in Afghanistan and Iraq. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | New York, I Love You (2008)

new-york-i-love-you-1
“But only if you’re comfortable with this, and if you’re not then you can just forget it, and you can quit, but if you are… then open this door.”

Anthology movies never really work.  Very few get good reviews and even less make good box office.  But despite this track record of little to no success, every few years, someone manages to convince another batch of directors and writers to contribute their own short film to something bigger, tackling some sort of common theme.  In the 80s, powerhouses like Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese couldn’t make it work with New York Story.  In the 90s, break out rock star film makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez couldn’t make it work with Three Rooms.


Not only do the film makers get tricked into thinking that somehow, this time, it might just work.  But I do as a viewer as well.  Sure, the above geniuses took a big swing and a miss at their own versions of the anthology movie, but surely, the next batch will get it right.  Won’t they?  It’s that optimism that lead to me buying the DVD of New York, I Love You back when it came out.  But it’s the practical part of my brain that has let it sit on my DVD shelf, collecting dust for the six or seven years since.  I want it to be good so much.  But I also know that the odds are against it.  But today, I bit the bullet.  I watched New York, I Love You. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Serena (2014)

Serena

“It’s a hard place this world can be. No wonder a baby cries coming in to it. Tears from the start.”

Jennifer Lawrence is possibly the biggest female star in Hollywood at the moment.  Bradley Copper’s right up there on the A-list as well.  And, they’ve made two hugely successful movies together already in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.  So to assume another team up would be something audiences want to see seems reasonable.  Which is why I should have heard a lot more alarm bells when I first became aware of Serena.  A Lawrence / Cooper joint that was made a couple of years ago, kept on a shelf, then barley released now with a whimper.  But, I liked the source book and I like the stars, so I ignored those warning signs and went in with hopes high.


It’s the Great Depression and George Pemberton (Cooper) is doing his best to chop down every single tree in North Carolina before the government seizes his land for the then-new national parks project.  In Boston for some political glad handing, he meets Serena (Lawrence), a woman who has made it in the man’s world of logging and timber.  Immediately married, they return to North Carolina where a young employee of Pemberton’s (Ana Ularu as Rachel) has given birth to his love child.  Serena makes it clear that Pemberton’s past is no concern of hers, unless it in anyway gets in the way of her plans for their future. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | American Sniper (2015)

Sniper

“If you think that this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong. You can only circle the flames so long.”

I think I’m probably in the majority as someone who had never really heard of or noticed Bradley Cooper until the Hangover. As good and as funny as that movies was (if only the same could be said for the sequels), I also think I’m in the majority as someone who never really expected a prestige, Oscar laden career for Cooper. But here we are, with his third nomination in as many years. Even more impressive, all three have been for completely different performances. Depressed and suicidal in Silver Linings Playbook, to put upon with a small man complex in American Hustle, to PTSD riddled killer, in American Sniper.


Growing up tough in Texas, Chris Kyle (Cooper) lives for nothing more than rodeo riding and picking up chicks. Until one night, watching the news, he sees the report of a terrorist attack on a US embassy. He immediately gets his patriot up and enlists with the Navy. At 30, he defies the odds and makes it through the elite training to become a Navy Seal. Meeting Taya (Sienna Miller) in a local bar, they’re soon married, just in time for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and wars to be declared in Afghanistan and Iraq. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines
The rise of Ryan Gosling over the last few years has been interesting.  I first remember hearing about him because of art house and festival darlings like Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl.  Around the same time, he had also made an impact as a class–A dreamboat with The Notebook.  In the years since, he’s made an obvious decisions to not be nailed down to any genre or style of movie.  Instead, picking hugely different roles and hugely different collaborators.  From B-grade genre stuff like Drive and Only God Forgives, to big budget cheese like Gangster Squad, to serious drama, like Blue Valentine.   Then, there’s a strange movie that’s a combo of all of that, and a little bit more, The Place Beyond the Pines.


In a pretty amazing single shot, Gosling’s Luke makes his way from his dressing room, through a carnival and into a circus tent where he performs as a motorbike stunt man.  It turns out that a year or two ago, when the carnival was travelling through the same town, he knocked up town hotty, Evan Mendes as Romina.  When he finds out he has a son, Luke quits the stunt show so he can stay and try to build a life for his son.

Looking for work, he meets Robin (Ben Mendelshon), a local mechanic.  When garage work doesn’t pay the bills for either of them, they decide to use Luke’s motorbike skills to rob banks.  During one robbery, Luke gets in a high speed chase with local beat cop, Avery (Bradley Cooper).

It’s almost 50 minutes into The Place Beyond the Pines before Cooper’s character is introduced, and the movie takes a totally unexpected left turn.  Then, as soon as you get a handle on the new, Bradley Copper focused direction, it changes track again for the last third.  And while all three sections take place over different time periods, focusing on different characters, there is a very clear connection between them all.

Both Gosling and Cooper’s characters do some terrible things, and they both do them all in the name of their families and the pursuit of being good fathers.  We also get some straight up Bronte shit with some Wuthering Heights style themes of people suffering for the sins of previous generations.  Don’t let that put you off though, even at almost two and half hours, The Place Beyond the Pines turns these ideas into an unrelenting story that never drags.

As well as Gosling, Cooper, Mendes and Mendelssohn, the cast is also rounded out by Ray Liotta and Rose Byrne.  This is an awesome cast that is never wasted in any way.  Every actor gets their own little moments to shine and none ever seem under utilised.

When I saw director Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, I thought it was perfectly OK, while also the epitome of ultra depressing movie festival cliché.  Which was the reason that despite all the great reviews, I actively avoided The Place Beyond the Pines for a long time.  But that was a mistake.  It’s a clear step forward for Cianfrance as a writer and director and enough to make me see whatever he makes next.

The Place Beyond the Pines
Directed By – Derek Cianfrance
Written By – Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder 

MOVIE REVIEW | The Hangover Part III (2013)

hangover3
Comedies have a pretty terrible track record for sequelisation and franchisation.  For every great comedy sequel like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey or Police Academy4: Citizens on Patrol, there are dozens of shit bombs like Blues Brothers 2000, Weekend at Bernie’s II and Police Academy: Mission to Moscow.  So when The Hangover was followed up by one terrible sequel, I can’t imagine why a single person was excited to see The Hangover Part III.


The wolf pack is back.  Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis).  After a genuinely funny first movie and a genuinely pointless and redundant sequel, the upside of Part III is the writers actually bothered to come up with a new story this time.  The problem is, I just didn’t give a shit.

As the breakout character from the first movie, Galifianakis gets the central role this time around.  After the death of his father, he starts acting even crazier than usual, leading to his friends holding an intervention.  This then leads to some boring, attempted comedy until the core group is kidnapped by John Goodman as crime lord Marshall.  There’s some story here that linked to the first two movies, but I dare you to be interested enough to pay attention.

This is where The Hangover Part III goes full blown Urkel.  Ken Jeong was legitimately funny as Mr Chow in the first movie.  And after watching Part II, it was blatantly obvious that he was so funny because he was used so sparingly.  So when Part III trots him out as the central character to everything that keeps the movie moving forward, he wears out his welcome almost immediately.

Galifianakis is a really funny screen presence.  Ed Helms has proven himself to be super funny in other things.  Bradley Cooper is one of those effortlessly charismatic actors who makes even the most extreme ass holery somehow charming.  But Todd Phillips found a way to make me hate all three.

The Hangover trilogy runs a tight parallel with Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans trilogyThe first was a surprisingly great genre movie that came out of the blue to become a big hit.  It was light, escapist fluff, but well mede, well executed light, escapist fluff.   The second was an exact carbon copy of the first, almost like the writers just used “find and replace” in Microsoft Word to change the location from Vegas to Bangkok.

The third…  Well, in both cases, at least the third tried something different and kind of interesting.  But in both cases, all goodwill from the original was long gone and long exploited before I ever got a chance to give a crap about the final installment.

The Hangover Part III isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just a totally unnecessary one.  There are a few funny moments, but nothing that wasn’t done better and funnier in the first movie.  Parts II and III are the kinds of sequels that even manage to take some of the shine off the original.  So if you’re fan of the first and have managed to so far avoid the sequels, keep it that way.  You’ll like the original all the more for it.

The Hangover Part III
Directed By – Todd Phillips
Written By – Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin

MOVIE REVIEW | American Hustle (2013)

AMERICAN-HUSTLE-poster-1024x768
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