American Hustle

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David O. Russell struck gold last year with ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, shortly after first striking gold with ‘The Fighter’ in 2010, and he is back now with ‘American Hustle’.  Featuring Russell favourites Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, the film is set in the late 1970’s during an FBI undercover operation and is based partially on true events.

A quite enjoyable film, ‘American Hustle’ at times seemed to languish in its own storytelling, waiting too long for something to happen on a couple of occasions.  Normally, this would not be a bad thing, but there were also instances where the film seemed to be muddled or messy, a clear indication that Russell was trying too hard to make a film to win Oscars.

While that takes away from the film a little bit, what it does not do is take away from the performance set forth by Christian Bale.  This is not Batman on screen, but a strong job from one of the most wide ranging actors currently plying their trade in Hollywood today.

Quite possibly the weakest link of the four main actors in the film is last years Oscar winner for Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence.  This may seem like a stretch, but in a film with great acting performances, Lawrence’s felt the most contrived and forced.  It almost feels like Russell added more scenes for Lawrence after she won her Oscar last year.

In the end, ‘American Hustle’ is a step down from ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and may not be worth the insanely high levels of hype that have been bestowed upon it.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

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Fall 2013 Season – Part Two

I don’t know if it is due from just getting older and as a result being more open to films beyond raunchy comedies and big-budget popcorn flicks, or if my tastes are changing, or if I am actively seeking out more types of films and being open to them, but with each passing year I manage to find additional levels of enjoyment from award caliber fare later in the calendar year.

As a result of this, the following article is full of eleven different award season fodder that under normal circumstances, will be on my viewing list before the end of January, and this list contains only one film that I know for sure would have made my list just two to three years ago.

This is also a sign for movie audiences everywhere on two different fronts.  First off, more big name directors and big name actors and actresses are willing to do smaller, character driven films that have enough entertainment value for the general masses.  Secondly, bigger metroplexes in more markets, and even smaller cities, are willing to bring these films in knowing that it will draw audiences to increase profits.  These two things lead off into numerous films on this list.

The ten films that follow are the larger films that are already garnering award buzz, be it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress awards, and these are the eleven films that most people will have the opportunity to see before the Golden Globes are held in January.

Rush – September 27

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The only film on this list that I will 100% see, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the famed 1976 Formula One season and the race for the title between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda and the horrific crash that Lauda suffered during the German Grand Prix of that season.

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ seems poised to push Hemsworth beyond his role as Thor and into the light as an actor to deal with moving forward.

Gravity – October 4

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Initially put forth as a true 3D event film, in the same vein as last year’s ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Gravity’ may be one of Hollywood’s last gasps to sell a film as must see in the format that has been shunned for the most part in North America this year.  From director Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity’ appears to tell the story of astronauts being stranded in space.

In order to get the best feel for the film, many people are avoiding watching trailers and TV spots featuring stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating away in space, and as a result of not furthering plot points in these scenes, the average theatre goer may wind up passing on this film, but much like ‘Life of Pi’, it could be a mistake waiting to happen to pass on it.

Captain Phillips – October 11

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Tom Hanks was one of the most bankable actors of the mid to late 1990’s, and with back-to-back Best Actor Oscar wins for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ and two further nominations for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Cast Away’, Hanks practically owned Hollywood at the turn of the millennium.  While his time since than has been more miss than hit, it appears that ‘Captain Phillips’ may be a turning back the clock so to speak.

Based on a true story, a running theme in this years films that are chasing the award’s season, ‘Captain Phillips’ will feature a defiant Hanks in a bit of an isolationist role, something right in his wheelhouse, and we may end up seeing a sixth career Best Actor nod from this film.

The Fifth Estate – October 18

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Featuring one of the hottest names in films today, Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘The Fifth Estate’ tells the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his exploits in becoming one of the most infamous men in the world.  Featuring Daniel Bruhl in his second appearance on this list as Assange’s right-hand man and author of the book that the film itself is being partly based on.

That being said, due to the nature of the film and the fact that is based around a whistle-blower, it may wind up not being able to live up to its own hype, and a quick look at the current Rotten Tomatoes score for the film seems to back up that line of thinking.

12 Years a Slave – October 18

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If there is a film that could be considered a heavy runaway contender for most awards this season, ’12 Years a Slave’ would be sure to be that film.  Based on the real-life re-tellings of Solomon Northup, ’12 Years a Slave’ tells the story of a freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South before the Civil War.

Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, and a slew of name actors in other roles, such as Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, ’12 Years a Slave’ sure seems to be the go-to film for critics ahead of its limited release in mid-October.  Whether that steam continues for average theatre goers or not, this film is sure setup to win hearts and trophies.

The Wolf of Wall Street – November 15

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Another year, another highly anticipated film that might finally give Leonardo DiCaprio his sought after Oscar.  That is what ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ carries with it this year.  While the film also features actors like Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, expect DiCaprio to be the centre of attention of the marketing for this film, especially considering it is directed by Martin Scorsese, and the history between the two.

Whether or not this film can finally get DiCaprio the long elusive Oscar for Best Actor will be one of the key drivers and selling points moving forward, especially if it is having a healthy run in the theatres when nominations begin to be announced.

The Monuments Men – December 18

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I am a sucker for war movies, and ‘The Monuments Men’ seems to be right up that alley, yet with a nice twist to separate it from the pack.  Set during World War II, this film features a group of allies trying to preserve works of art and other culturally relevant items from the hands of Hitler and the Nazis.

Based on true events, ‘The Monuments Men’ will be another testament to the wide range of great actors in Hollywood today, with the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman putting on the fatigues to fight an important cause during the war years.

Inside Llewyn Davis – December 20

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The latest film from the Coen Brothers, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, features another star-studded cast in a film built around the 1960’s folk music scene.  Featuring the talents of Oscar Davis, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is bound to be one of the harder to predict how it will do.

The reason for that is that it could be a quieter film due to the plot and the store, but the film also managed to win the Grand Prix award at Cannes this year, and that could cancel out the other aspects of the film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – December 25

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It appears that ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is Ben Stiller’s attempt to enter the serious part of his career.  As director and lead actor of the film, Stiller is definitely trying to show off that he has some real acting ability, and judging by the trailer that was released for the film, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t pulling it off.

While a story of a daydreamer has been done before, specifically a film of the same name all the way back 1947, a serious tone to the film could be quite the interesting take in the Christmas time period that Hollywood loves for serious award contenders.

American Hustle – December 25

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Last year’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ from director David O. Russell was one of my favourite films of 2012, and Russell is back with ‘American Hustle’ this year.  Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and two of Russel’s favourites in Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who  both received Oscar nomination for ‘Playbook’ last year, ‘American Hustle’ takes a look at greed and corruption in 1970’s America.

‘Playbook’ was the first film since 1981 to garner nominations in all four acting categories at the Oscar’s, and with the cast present in ‘American Hustle’, there is no reason to think it can’t duplicate the feat, and a repeat of ‘Playbook’s big five nominations is quite possible as well.

There are definitely more films that will be considered as award season contenders, but this is just a quick list of the ones that most people will end up having come to their theatres this fall and holiday season.  Leading up to the Golden Globes and the Oscar’s, anyone of these ten films could become a front runner.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Silver Linings Playbook

slpLast evening I took in my 5th Best Picture Nominee so far as I finally had the opportunity to watch ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.  This movie, which is also up for 7 other Academy Awards next month, is an adaption of a book of the same title that was written by Matthew Quick.

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ is the first film in 31 years to secure nominations in all four acting categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, and just the 14th movie ever to do so.  It is also the first film in 8 years to secure nominations in each of the big five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I really enjoyed this movie and I can fully understand all critical acclaim it is garnering.  The story was wonderful, it had its lighter moments for laughs, but it was also able to tug at the heart strings as well.

Its exploration of bi-polar disorder and how it affects the everyday nature of people’s lives was well done as well.  It also highlighted how even “normal” people suffer from lighter variations of situations like this, which was a nice change of pace.

Wonderful performances take place throughout the entire film, from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the leading roles, through Robert De Niro in a supporting role, all the way to Chris Tucker, perfectly cast as a fast talking patient friend of Cooper’s character, and all of these actors bring to light their characters throughout the entire film.

Even at two hours in length, the pacing was well done in this movie to not make that feel like a long time at all, and in all honesty, this was never more evidenced by the fact that I only saw a single person leave the theatre during the entire movie for an obvious bathroom break.

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ slots in as my second favourite of the five Best Picture nominees I have seen so far from 2012, sitting only behind ‘Argo’ so far, but ahead of ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and ‘Les Miserables’.  So yes, I would recommend this movie as being well worth seeing.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.