American Sniper

This week we take a look at 6-time Oscar nominee American Sniper, directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, this movie is rated-R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.

American Sniper tells the true story of legendary sniper Chris Kyle (Cooper). Originally setting out to be a cowboy, Kyle realized that he wanted something bigger for himself and joined the SEALs to become a sniper. As a result, Kyle struggles to remain connected with his family and life back home while becoming a legend among veterans and soldiers alike.

9.0 out of 10

The war genre has seen a slight revival this year, represented by the good (Fury), the bad- well, bad is a harsh word- (Unbroken), and the ugly (The Monuments Men if you even remember that). But none of this year’s war films looked like they could truly stand their ground against the all time greats. That is, until American Sniper was released.

I saw this film after Oscar nominations were released and was kinda confounded that it was voted over Gone Girl and Nightcrawler, and that Bradley Cooper was voted in over Jake Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo. But after actually seeing the film, I can see it (Those snubs are still pretty dumb). American Sniper is a riveting, memorable film filled to the brim with tension and emotion, anchored by Bradley Cooper at his best.

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To put it out there, I was not aware of Chris Kyle’s story and how it ends, which apparently was national news back in 2013. As a result, I was really able to enjoy the intensity of this film that much more. And boy was it relevant. From the intensity of the music to the gripping cinematography, the film perfectly displays the grit and, at times, the solidarity of war. It didn’t take long for me to get emotionally invested simply because Eastwood’s direction perfectly developed Kyle’s journey, all the way from the beginning of his life. A lot of films are able to show the difficult conditions of war, but what American Sniper did was particularly incredible: war wasn’t difficult for him, being away from it was.

A lot of the criticism has been directed towards Eastwood’s glorifying of Kyle. Critics feel as though Kyle was actually an arrogant, racist psychopath but is inaccurately portrayed as the perfect American hero. To be honest, I was able to see that Kyle was a little off. He liked killing those opposite him, and that only added to the imperfection of his character. I didn’t feel like they were paving Kyle to be the perfect human being in any way. A hero, perhaps, but perfect? No, I don’t think so. The fact that he wasn’t a psychopath kept us into the movie. So maybe it isn’t the most ACCURATE film, but boy is it still good.

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The fact that he’s not completely a psychopath is also important because the movie is literally all him. From beginning to end he is the driving force of this film. And the only reason that works is because Bradley Cooper is spectacular. Remember when he was acting in all those comedies? Yes Man, Wedding Crashers, The Hangover? Neither do I. He’s rattled off three straight Academy Award nominated performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and now this, which is, in my opinion, his best performance. Christian Bale certainly rubbed off on him, as seen through the physical transformation he went through. His dedication to this role was clear. He was passionate and stoic, like Kyle, but also had a lighter side that made him likable. Dare I say best performance of the year? It was definitely up there (perhaps losing out to only Keaton and Gyllenhaal).

The one gripe I had with this movie was that it focused so tightly on Kyle that it detracted from the rest of the film. Some of the other characters of the film were uninteresting because they played second fiddle to the legend of Chris Kyle. Even his wife, who Sienna Miller did a really solid job of portraying, was a little bit uninteresting as a character. I know this is his story- I get that. But it certainly doesn’t help when the characters around him pale in comparison to him. And while the whole storyline with opposing sniper Mustafa, which was apparently ridiculously overblown, was really entertaining, it definitely made the movie more about his personal accomplishments rather than the impact of war on an individual.

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As I’ve said, there’s been a lot of criticism about American Sniper’s glorification of someone who really wasn’t that great a guy. So maybe it isn’t a perfect biopic, but it is a great movie. Ultimately, Clint Eastwood puts together a poignant, moving film that perfectly displays the horrors of war on the veterans who live through it. Supported by a brilliant Bradley Cooper performance, American Sniper hits the mark and is one of the best movies of the year.
~Vig

9.0 out of 10
In light of recent conflicts and criticisms, I’m gonna go ahead and preface this by saying I haven’t read all too much of Chris Kyle’s story so I can not judge the man but instead the movie itself. I’m allowing American Sniper the usual privileges I do for historical: it can have some inaccuracies or streamlined parts because, well, it is a movie and that’s just an occupational hazard of the art form. All that said, Clint Eastwood, the director who crafted Sniper, is a heckuva a talented man. I loved Gran Torino, I’ve heard great things about Million Dollar Baby and I do enjoy his Chrysler commercials. I lean to the Left but I’ve totally absolved him for talking to a chair on stage that one time. And, shocker here, he’s hit it out of the park with American Sniper.
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Sniper has killed it at the box office, its fared well with critics and has been universally praised by audiences. Aside from the controversies mentioned earlier, it has probably earned its place alongside the best war movies of the past few decades. So who’s responsible for this success? Who drives the movie and manifests Eastwood’s directions? As much as I had to boil the success of a huge film like this to one person, I must give that honor to Mr. Bradley Cooper.

Cooper’s star is rising. The star, once known as “that guy from The Hangover”, has handled some heavy-hitting performances these past few years and damned if his role as the military Chris Kyle ain’t one of them. The challenging thing about portraying Kyle is that, in the best way possible, there isn’t too much to portray. Whereas last review’s subject had his outbursts and even tantrums, Kyle remains quiet. Not out of coldness but out of years of layering over his actual feelings on the pain he’s either suffered through or caused. That’s a welcomed change from the usual heroes Hollywood presents us that gush with feelings: real people rarely just leak out their emotions, especially those who’ve been through numerous tragedies. Cooper plays Kyle as a quiet man but with undercurrents of shakiness and an aura of uneasiness that tenses the audience. Silence is scary.

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Here inlies, I believe, the number one issue many have with Sniper. The film very much trusts its audience to read Kyle and to fill in the blanks of his detached attitude. And, while Cooper does very well with this subtlety, that can be somewhat challenging considering the acts of violence that Kyle carries out in the film. As a result, that detached attitude, paired with Kyle’s incessant desire to assist his SEAL comrades, translates into stone-cold aggression to some. It’s easy to see how many could slip into this opinion but I do believe they’re missing the point.

Similar to The Hurt Locker, Sniper shows the dent that’s slammed into many ex-military men’s lives. This is hole widens and consumes plenty of veterans’ enjoyment of everyday activities. It’s a very challenging thing to portray, especially in a modern movie atmosphere that loves clear-cut arcs and black and white morality when it comes to war. When Kyle often itches to return to his role as a top sniper, its important to realize that the film is not sugarcoating his choices or depicting the relentless battle he fights in a positive way. Instead, it expects us to see how much violence has wrecked Kyle’s capacity for satisfaction with his life at home.

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Aside from Kyle’s development and Cooper’s brilliant performance, the film does provide a very gritty vision of Iraq that helps to fuel the suspense of the film. The Iraq the film portrays is not the usual place for villains to be conquered and fables to be made; it’s a place thoroughly ridden with dangerous, unrelenting terrorists at all turns and citizens tragically caught in the crossfire. It’s obviously, not a nice place to be and it provides the perfect backdrop for Kyle’s development into both a tortured man and a savior to all Marines.

American Sniper’s a very good film that benefits from its strong direction, sturdy lead and sheer intensity. Once again, I can’t really predict its performance with the Academy this year since we’re all looking at a very tight competition but I would not be thrown off if Cooper won. It’s any man’s game and Sniper just may hit a few targets.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
~Zach

Thoughts on… Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations are finally here! As we countdown to the ceremonies, with about a month left to go, we will try and review all the films we have yet to for Best Picture, followed by films that received other nominations. Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel led the way with nine nominations a piece, and Boyhood claimed six. But for right now, here are our first glance thoughts.

Eight Best Picture Nominees

For reference, this year’s nominees are The Imitation Game, Theory Of Everything, Birdman, Boyhood, American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, and Whiplash. In a year with so many great movies and the option to pick 10 films, why would the Academy choose to go with 8? Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, and Foxcatcher were all snubbed. Even Into the Woods could have slipped in there.

Bradley Cooper Snipes Last Spot

Not many people saw this coming. Cooper beat out Selma‘s David Oyelowo and Nightcrawler‘s Jake Gyllenhaal for this last spot in Best Lead Actor. I personally would have loved to see Gyllenhaal here; he was my favorite performance of the year. The other four nominees are Steve Carrell, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Selma’s March on the Academy Proves Unsuccessful

Though I (Vig) have yet to see it, I’ve heard it’s powerful and David Oyelowo is absolutely incredible. I (Will) have seen it and it’s fantastic. It’s the movie of the moment, given everything that has been going on in New York and Ferguson. However, Oyelowo, director Ava Duvarnay, and cinematographer Brad Young were all left on the outside looking in.

Racial Representation at the Oscars

I don’t mean to get political, but of the 20 actors nominated, all of them were white. Of the 5 directors, Alejandro G. Inarritu is latino, and that’s it. The Academy is notorious for being white and old but this is a particularly homogenous group of nominees in a year with incredibly diverse movies. Not gonna make a huge fit about it, just had to comment on it.

Biggest Snub of the Day:
Selma got two nominations, Nightcrawler and Gone Girl had one, and A Most Violent Year had none. But the fact that The Lego Movie did not get nominated of Best Animated Feature is maybe the most horrendous snub in the history of the Oscars. You heard it here folks. It’s official: white and old people don’t know how to have fun. How can The Boxtrolls and The Book of Life be nominated over The Lego Movie? Who the hell knows.

Thoughts on… 2015!

Hey readers!

2014 was a great year for movies, both in action blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and indie dramas like Nightcrawler, and in less than two months the Oscars will crown Hollywood’s best. Some of Screenwars favorite movies of the year include Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Captain America 2, Gone Girl, and Birdman. But as we ring in the new year, it’s time to look ahead and check Vig and Will’s seven most anticipated films of 2015. (because five wasn’t enough for Will)

Number 7

St. James Place
First, I’d like to briefly acknowledge the films that didn’t make it. Joy, Spectre, Mockingjay Part 2. All are movies I will definitely see, but just didn’t make the list. St. James Place, on the other hand, did make the list. With Tom Hanks leading, Stephen Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, and an incredibly interesting premise about a Cold War spy, what isn’t there to like about the film? It should definitely be in the running for the top awards in 2015.
Joy
Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a struggling housewife turned entrepreneur, in this upcoming film from golden director David O. Russell. In recent years Russell has helmed such films as The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, all character driven dramas with fantastic casts. And with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro joining Lawrence here, Joy should prove to be one of 2015’s rousing successes.

Number 6

Ant-Man
Honestly, anticipation for Ant-Man may be a bit of a strong word. Nervous may be the better word. If Marvel is going to slip up anytime soon, it will probably be with Ant-Man. With creative differences endangering the film early on, it looked as though the film would be a disaster. Nevertheless, it recovered, and Paul Rudd, Michael Douglass, and Evangeline Lilly headline the hopefully successful final sequence of Marvel’s phase two.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
Though Mockingjay Part 1 was a critical disappointment due largely to its dearth of action and tension, the second part of the Hunger Games’ final installment will hopefully be the action-packed finale we are all hoping for. Harry Potter arguably reached its greatest heights with the concluding Deathly Hallows Part 2 and given the unbelievable cast assembled for this new Hunger Games film, here’s to hoping we will see the same thing mirrored in Mockingjay. At the very least, teens will come out in droves for this one.

Number 5

Jurassic World
We have been witness to three Jurassic Park films, with only one of them being remotely good. Luckily for the series, the first one is a classic and its legacy is, for the most part, still in tact, still making 2015’s Jurassic World so heavily anticipated. Chris Pratt stars, hot off his breakout year with starring roles in The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, and will be sure to give this film the star power and comedic touch it needs. He will be supported by Bryce Dallas Howard and Jake Johnson in a movie that looks to bring relevance back to the Jurassic universe after two straight duds in the series. 
Inside Out
There were some fantastic animated films this year – most notably The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and How to Train Your Dragon 2—but we were robbed of the yearly Pixar feature. In Inside Out, we get a look at the inner working of the mind of a teenage girl and the emotions that battle for control of her head. Featuring the vocal talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black, all comedy stars, Inside Out will surely be a massive hit for all ages and a film that will contend for Academy Awards next year. We should expect nothing less from the creator of Monsters Inc. and Up.

Number 4

The Hateful Eight
This is tentatively put on here because after Tarantino’s outburst about the script leaking, who knows if this will actually come out this year. Regardless, this film looks to be great. Samuel Jackson and Quentin Tarantino always produce gold, from Pulp Fiction to Django Unchained. Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, and Tim Roth join Jackson to give this film a superb cast, one that will give Tarantino plenty of talent to work with. The Hateful Eight, at least in concept, will continue Tarantino’s string of great films and perhaps be a contender for Best Picture. 
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Avengers is the third-highest grossing film of all time, and I fully expect Age of Ultron to gross even higher, given the seemingly ever-increasing desire for superhero tent poles. Marvel studios has had a string of massive financial and critical successes, including Captain American: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy and with Joss Whedon directing Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth, look for Age of Ultron to be a critical success and the highest grossing film of the year, the decade, and maybe of all time.

Number 3

The Revenant
Could Leo finally get that Oscar? It looks possibly with The Revenant. The film is about fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is robbed and abandoned by his companions after being mauled by a bear. Surviving and out for vengeance, the film follows Glass, played by Dicaprio, on his quest for vengeance against his companions who left him to die. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu, coming off a hit in Birdman and starring DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domnhall Gleeson, this film certainly has the star power to be great. Supported by an extremely interesting premise, watch for The Revenant in best picture discussions next year.
Spectre 
Spectre will be the 24th Bond movie and will ostensibly begin the exploration of the criminal organization that dominated the first – and the consensus best – Bond movies that starred Sean Connery. My major complaint with Skyfall was that it felt too much like a typical action film rather than the suave Bond films that we’ve been accustomed to, but with the throwback to the original films that we saw at the end of Skyfall, Spectre has the potential to be one of the best Bonds yet. Oh, and joining Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes will be Blue is the Warmest Color lead Lea Seydoux and Quentin Tarantino-favorite 2-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz.

Number 2

Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Of course this is on here, it was just a matter of whether it was first or not. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fanatic in the world, but the original trilogy is arguably the best series of all time. I wholeheartedly trust JJ Abrams with this film, who has directed two great Star Trek films and definitely has a great grasp on the sci-fi genre (he also built a replica of Millennium Falcon, so yay practical effects!). By the looks of the first trailer, Episode VII will not follow the path of prequels and disappoint us all.
The Hateful Eight 
Quentin Tarantino will make his return to the big screen with 2015’s The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s story will feature two bounty hunters, betrayal, deception, and, knowing Tarantino, a massive amount of violence. Featuring Tarantino regulars Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth, the legendary Bruce Dern, and global superstar Channing Tatum, who just found his first fantastic dramatic role in Foxcatcher, The Hateful Eight will undoubtedly be one of the finest movies of the year and an almost definite Best Picture contender.

Number 1

Avengers: Age of Ulton
Drumroll please! The new Avengers is a hands down number 1 on this list. You all know my affection for superhero films, and with the Marvel Cinematic Universe rolling at full force, Age of Ultron looks to be one of the best Marvel films yet. Following perhaps Marvel’s best year yet, one that featured Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers 2 heralds a star-studded cast that adds Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen to the mix. Joss Whedon is also back at the helm directing what looks to be Marvel’s biggest film yet. The first trailer was sick, and the leaked details about storylines (CIVIL WAR!!!) regarding Marvel’s phase three only make this movie all the better, making it my most anticipated film of 2015.
Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Words can’t describe just how excited I am for this movie. Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films of all time, featuring fantastic characters, a compelling story, and groundbreaking visual effects. Despite the trilogy of prequels that did all they could to ruin the Star Wars legacy, with JJ. Abrams at the helm and Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, and Andy Serkis joining the original cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, I’m confident The Force Awakens will be more reminiscent of the original trilogy rather than the prequels. In a year full of sequels to blockbuster franchises, three of which are on this list, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is by far the most anticipated movie of 2015.

 

What movies are you most excited for in 2015? Let us know in the comment section below. Happy New Year!

Guardians of the Galaxy

Hey all! Today we’ll be taking a look at Marvel’s biggest risk yet, Guardians of the Galaxy. Directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper, it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fiction and language.

The latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe follows Peter Quill (Pratt) after he steals a mysterious orb that puts him right in the center of a manhunt led by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). However, Quill, after being thrown in jail, makes four unexpected allies that help him combat Ronan and preserve the safety of the galaxy.

8.5 out of 10

Ever since the first time we heard the steady beat and tribal chants that prelude Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling in the very first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy we were excited, for the soundtrack if nothing else. This was Marvel’s riskiest film yet, taking a bunch of “D-List superheroes” (as one article called them) and throwing them on to a slate that already features Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor: all A-list superheroes. But boy, did it pay off big time. What we received was a hilarious, action packed film that stands its ground with Marvel’s best.

I will admit that the beginning of this film did not have me. After the first five or ten minutes I was starting to wonder how this movie, which looked so awesome, could be the biggest disappointment since Iron Man 3! The first scene was pretty unexpected, as his mother dies and then he is taken by a spaceship (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler). It was too abrupt a shift from something so sad—something that established a really tragic tone—to something as unrealistic and bizarre as being taken by aliens. It was just too much for me at first. 

Additionally, the first few minutes after the beginning credits served as an adjustment period for the audience, as the dialogue was difficult to enjoy at first. It was extremely different depending on what characters you were talking about. Ronan and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have a formal, more strict way of speaking when compared with Quill and Rocket Racoon (Cooper) who are laid back and snarky. And then of course, there’s Groot, who only knows how to say “I am Groot”. I can’t really explain it, but  the contrasts made it hard to really enjoy at first, but after 15 minutes or so, I was really loving it.

Last criticism. Ronan the Accuser wasn’t incredibly exciting as a villain. He reminded me of Malekith from Thor 2, which is not a good thing considering how notoriously boring he was. Ronan was an improvement, but not by much. However, he did seem a bit threatening, especially towards the end. Even more threatening than Thanos. Which I’m not sure is what you want.

As much as I’ve talked about the bad stuff, this movie really is awesome. The characters are among the most interesting comic book movie characters I’ve seen and, even better, they mix very well together. Expect for Zoe Saldana’s character, who is kind of boring but still likeable, all the characters are unique, important, and interesting.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot steal the show. Their love-hate relationship is one of the best things about the film. Both characters are such a contrast to each other that it makes it believable that they’re a talking raccoon and (somewhat) talking tree respectively. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel nailed it.

Chris Pratt, likewise, is very good. He’s funny, heartwarming, and courageous without being annoying at all. People are talking about Chris Pratt potentially being one of the next big action stars and consider me on board. Peter Quill has become one of the best characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, largely thanks to Pratt.

The movie also features some of the best written comedy of any Marvel film. As I’ve pointed out, I didn’t love Iron Man 3, largely because I thought it forced its comedy. This, however, was so well done. The timing was absolutely spot on. Pop culture references, Groot-Raccoon moments; everything. It was a very funny movie.

What lets this movie be so successful is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows how silly it’s concept is and capitalizes on this. It’s a funny, action-packed adventure that proves to be one of Marvel’s finest to date.
~Vig

9 out of 10

Two years ago, Marvel Studios released what many consider to be its magnum opus: The Avengers. In fact, any future Marvel adventures seemed unneeded. So, naturally, once Marvel announced it was producing a second phase, a lot of questions were raised. The main one being what are they going to top The Avengers with? To which Marvel stood up and proudly announced that it would follow up with an exciting, epic sci-fi team: The Guardians of the Galaxy.

And, as far as I can remember, there wasn’t too warm of a reception. Don’t get me wrong, people still poured their faith into Marvel but nobody knew what to think of Guardians. They thought they could top Robert Downey Jr. with a talking raccoon? And the whole rest of the team with a bunch of no-names?

rocket

And two years later….they did. In fact, I think they surpassed the standard set by The Avengers in my opinion. Let us go over why:

The comedy: I laughed more in Guardians of the Galaxy than around 75% of the comedies I’ve seen. This film is very self-aware; it knows its dealing with a pretty ridiculous set of characters and it never takes itself too seriously. The comedic bits tied all of the film’s elements together and utilized humor in such an effective way that it sits on top of the list of funniest Marvel films.

The characters: As I said before, people weren’t too thrilled about this team of misfits. A less professional studio would labor over these new characters’ backstories and tell rather than show anything about their development. Not Marvel: it trusts in the characters’ attitudes and dialogue to tell their story and they do.

The universe: Guardians goes so far out of Marvel’s usual realm that its a wonder it belongs the same continuity. But special effects paired with original designs really made the sci-fi atmosphere. In a weird way, seeing all of these new settings reminded me of the first time I saw Tatooine or the starship Enterprise. Very original, new world that opens itself up to so many plots and characters.

Speaking of, I’m actually anxious to see the Guardians interact with the usual Marvel suspects. It seems like a bit of a challenger but I’m convinced Marvel is up to it. Considering how they were able to integrate five heroes into one movie, I’m sure they can fit two teams.

Gamora (left), Rocket, Quill, Groot, Drax

Gamora (left), Rocket, Quill, Groot, Drax (right)

My one criticism (And it’s an incredibly small one) is that it was so good at crafting little sincere moments that they could have delved into them a little more. That’s a small complaint and, hey, there’s always the sequel, am I right? This is Marvel, so of course I am.

There you have it. All of these elements combined created such a great superhero movie that I daresay it cracks my top five superhero movies list. But I really can’t describe the fun, you’ll have to experience it yourself: see it.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.2
Metacritic: 76
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

American Hustle

We hope everyone enjoyed their New Year. So long to 2013, a fantastic year for movies. We will soon be releasing our favorite/least favorite movies of the year, but this week we take a look at Oscar contender American Hustle, directed by David O. Russell, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Renner. It is rated R for language, sexual content, and brief violence.

American Hustle tells the story of two con artists, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his partner, and lover, Sydney Prosser (Adams). Sydney poses as a British women, “Lady Edith Greensley” in order to attract investors, and to fuel their con. They are very successfully, despite the insecurity presented by Rosenfeld’s crazy wife Rosalyn (Lawrence), who Irving refuses to divorce due to the presence of their son.

Once the two are caught by the FBI, they are forced to work with federal agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) in order to catch corrupt politicians and mafia members, including prominent New Jersey politician Carmine Polito (Renner). Between his romantic struggles with two women, disdain for DiMaso, and a budding fondness for Polito, Irving struggles to survive with these new challenges he must face.

6 out of 10

I was pretty hyped for American Hustle, and why shouldn’t I have been? Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence, and Renner all in a move directed by the fantastic David O. Russell. The trailer dazzled me as well. Then critics praised it. I was excited. But after seeing the movie, I honestly couldn’t tell whether I was impressed or not.

Let me start off by saying this: the acting is fantastic, the direction is fantastic, and the cinematography, fantastic. Each of the 4 lead actors could easily get nominated for an Oscar, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lawrence or Adams win. The chemistry between the group is really good, and each of them is able to display the growth and development this movie aimed for.

In addition, the direction and the cinematography are beautiful. Russell does a great job of telling the story in a way that the audience is able to create their own perspective and their own point of view on what’s going on, in addition to understanding Christian Bale’s character’s, the narrator, point of view. The cinematography is dazzling as well. It really allows you to get a glimpse of what the time period is like but also doesn’t focus on that too much, and is still able to help with the characters and their emotions.

That being said, there are plenty of plot things about this movie that really concerned me. Being completely honest, I did not like the first hour and a half of this movie even though the characters are so good. The plot made no sense, I was so confused and I did not know where the movie was going. It had no point. I did not know what this movie was going to be about, even though the main conflict had been introduced. I was unable to stay captivated. I almost dozed off in the middle of it, it really dragged. The beginning couldn’t get me into it, in the middle still couldn’t get me into it.

They did manage to salvage the ending. I remember audibly gasping at what happened in the end – and I was laughing too, that’s something else about this movie that was really good. It featured really well written comedic moments that weren’t excessive. Anyhow, the ending finally provided the movie with the point. It wasn’t about the hustle, it wasn’t about the love triangle, it wasn’t about the plot. It was about the characters. Those characters had developed so much, and the emotions were so relevant, especially in Christian Bale’s character. By the end, I felt sympathy for Bale’s character. *Spoilers ahead* Even though he won the girl and he won the scam, he lost a friend and that’s what mattered to him. Those emotions were so prevalent, so raw, and it really helped punctuate the ending this movie. Did he win, or did he lose?

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld

This is where I get confused. I liked a lot of aspects of the film… But i was bored for almost the entirety of the film. And this isn’t like Lincoln where I can expect to be bored. I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the movie because of it’s (very) poor story, something that was prevalent for a majority of the movie. The movie ended up being about the characters’ growth, which isn’t a problem in the slightest. Regardless, this still doesn’t take away from the disappointment of the plot, especially seeing how that was a focal point, whereas other movies clearly prioritize characters, and the plot isn’t as important. A 7 may seem kinda low after all the good things I said, but with all the hype, I was kind of let down. The mundane plot was just too much for me.

I guess I was the one hustled in the end.
~Vig

9 out of 10

If you think that the genre of criminal dramas must inherently involve dark situations, downward spirals, and seriously sociopathic characters then I highly suggest you check out American Hustle.

For Hustle is indisputable evidence that realism and emotional interaction with the audience do not necessarily warrant a barrage of dramatic moments and dark, dark, dark issues. Hustle tackles an array of the usual commentaries on greed and criminal power while some how being wildly funny, taking every advantage of its very talented cast (Of which Bradley Cooper stood out to me).

Adams (left), Cooper, Renner, Bale, Lawrence (right)

Adams (left), Cooper, Renner, Bale, Lawrence (right)

We’ll start with Cooper, in fact. Its universally agreeable that Bradley Cooper has grown immensely as an actor. Within three years, he effortlessly made the leap from passable films like Yes Man (You remember that? Good. Neither do I.) to remarkable showcases like Silver Linings Playbook. If his range was at all in question, then get ready for delivery after delivery to give an answer. Here, we see him play Richie, an FBI agent plagued with an insatiable desire to get himself in the headlines. Cooper, without spoiling too much, breathlessly bounces between a somewhat likable man to an utter (Entertaining to say the least) psycho. He blurs the lines between FBI agents and the people they chase all the while.

In fact, empathy for every character plays a huge part in what makes this movie the masterwork it is. Christian Bale, Jeremey Renner, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams all evoke feelings that their character is trapped. The criminals may use humor (It’s their strongest tool after all!) as a coping mechanism but they’re ultimately stuck in the complex situations they’ve managed to drag themselves into. That’s not to contradict what I mentioned in the beginning of this review, as the film still manages to believably and appropriately

Yet what really ties the film together, even as it plods through some of its muddier scenes, is the beautifully done scenery and the somewhat kinetic directing. Scenery choice is one of the most underrated parts of filmmaking and boy does this film exemplify why it definitely shouldn’t be put on the back burner. The color palette and set pieces really wrap the viewer into the decade and give a sense of excess mixed with the unsettling anxiety a lot of the characters feel in their own tense situations.

Then there’s the camera movement. If you were to count, I don’t believe the camera will hold on any shot longer than three seconds without tightening, widening or switching perspectives all together. Usually, this wouldn’t give any leeway to absorb the scenery (Especially in a rich film like this) but it keeps the film moving even if there’s a sense that it is table setting for the plot or seemingly taking a break from its complex story. Even if does move fast, it does certainly give enough time for the average audience member to observe just not a terribly long amount.

Now, shall we address the impending Hollywood showdowns? American Hustle, in my view may sweep plenty of award shows with enough momentum but there is a certain bias against comedy and drawn-out plot payoffs as people are generally more impressed with something that can get them in suspense faster, even if it does feel somewhat cheap (We’ll delve into that if another movie that uses this comes up).

Overall, this is absolutely worth it. It can’t really be placed into one genre so just see it and attempt the impossible challenge of categorizing it yourself. It’ll most likely land in the “memorable” category no matter what.

By the way, was that Louis C.K.?
~Zach

IMDB: 7.3
Metacritic: 90
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%