Archive for Bradley Cooper

Joy

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

JOY is the wild story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.

What people are saying:

Joy is anchored by a strong performance from Jennifer Lawrence, although director David O. Russell’s uncertain approach to its fascinating fact-based tale only sporadically sparks bursts of the titular emotion” 3 1/2 stars

“Joy is far from Joyful; with an uninteresting narrative, performances that feel drained of passion and a filmmaker caught between his roots and his new-found mainstream sensibility, it is an utter mess.” 2 stars

“A well constructed modern fable, but a couple convenient coincidences made for the sake of time at the behest of honesty, as well as Joy’s blind focus on an selfish family, keep it from earning its deserved heart.” 3 1/2 stars

“Jenifer Lawrence has the ability to make some of the most amazing women seem just AWFUL maybe its just her garbage acting skills but God i wanted to love this movie. I knew the story of Joy and i find her a great inspiration but this movie makes her seems like a crazy push over who got as far as she did on luck. ” 1 star

“One of those movies like the Blind Side that just makes you smile. Jennifer Lawrence is at her least annoying and carries the movie well. I enjoyed Edgar Ramirez’s performance too, but Bradley Cooper somewhat stole the show for me. He’s such a great actor and has such great chemistry with Lawrence it’s a shame he wasn’t in it more! ” 4 stars

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Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2014, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Baby Groot are renowned as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ayesha, leader of the Sovereign race, has the Guardians protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster in exchange for Gamora’s estranged sister Nebula, who was caught attempting to steal the batteries. After Rocket steals some for himself, the Sovereign attacks the Guardians’ ship with a fleet of drones. The drones are destroyed by a mysterious figure, but the Guardians are forced to crash-land on a nearby planet. The figure reveals himself as Quill’s father, Ego. He invites Quill, who is accompanied by Gamora and Drax, to his home planet, while Rocket and Groot remain behind to repair the ship and guard Nebula.

Meanwhile, Ayesha hires Yondu Udonta and his crew, who have been exiled from the greater Ravager community for child trafficking, to recapture the Guardians. They capture Rocket, but when Yondu shows reluctance to turn over Quill, his lieutenant Taserface leads a mutiny with help from Nebula. Taserface imprisons Rocket and Yondu aboard Yondu’s ship and executes his loyalists while Nebula leaves to track down and kill Gamora, whom she blames for all the torture inflicted on her by their father, Thanos. While imprisoned, Rocket and Yondu bond. Groot, together with Yondu’s loyalist Kraglin, frees Rocket and Yondu and they destroy the ship and its crew as they escape, though not before Taserface tips off the Sovereign fleet.

Ego explains he is a god-like Celestial, an immortal consciousness that manipulated the matter around it to form the planet with itself at the core. Forming a human guise, he traveled the universe to escape his loneliness and discover a purpose, eventually falling in love with Quill’s mother Meredith. Ego hired Yondu to collect the young Quill after Meredith’s death, but the boy was never delivered and Ego had been searching for his son ever since. He teaches Quill to manipulate their Celestial power. Nebula arrives at Ego’s planet and tries to kill Gamora, but fails and the pair reach an uneasy alliance when they discover caverns filled with skeletal remains. Ego reveals to Quill that in his travels he planted seedlings upon thousands of worlds which can terraform them into new extensions of himself, but they can only be activated by the combined power of two Celestials. To that end, he impregnated countless women and hired Yondu to collect the children; Ego killed them all when they failed to access the Celestial power. Ego forcefully uses Quill to activate the seedlings, which begin to consume every world. Quill fights back after Ego reveals that he deliberately caused Meredith’s death, as his love for her distracted him from his purpose.

Ego’s pet empath, Mantis, grows close to Drax and warns him, Gamora, and Nebula of Ego’s plan just as Rocket, Yondu, Groot, and Kraglin arrive. The reunited Guardians reach Ego’s brain at the planet’s core, and fight the Sovereign’s arriving drones. Rocket makes a bomb out of the stolen batteries that Groot plants on Ego’s brain, while Quill battles Ego with his newfound Celestial powers to allow the other Guardians to escape. The bomb explodes, killing Ego and causing the planet to disintegrate. Yondu sacrifices himself to save Quill, who now realizes Yondu did not deliver him to Ego in order to spare him from the fate of Ego’s other progeny, and that Yondu was Quill’s true “daddy”. Having reconciled with Gamora, Nebula still chooses to set out and attempt to kill Thanos. The Guardians hold a funeral for Yondu, which is attended by dozens of Ravager ships, acknowledging Yondu’s sacrifice and accepting him again as a Ravager.

In a series of mid- and post-credit scenes, Kraglin takes up Yondu’s telekinetic arrow and control fin; Ravager leader Stakar Ogord, inspired by Yondu’s sacrifice, reunites with his ex-teammates; Groot starts growing back to normal size, exhibiting typical teenage behavior in the process; Ayesha creates a new artificial being with whom she plans to destroy the Guardians, naming him Adam; and a group of uninterested Watchers listen to their informant discuss several experiences on Earth.

REVIEW:

Let the summer blockbuster season of 2017 begin! First film out the gate is Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2. Like just about everyone, I still don’t know much about the Guardians. Since the release (and success) of the first film, they have had an increased presence over at Marvel, including an animated series. Will this sequel justify the success they’ve had or are they just a fluke?

What is this about?

Set to the backdrop of ‘Awesome Mixtape #2,’ Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.

What did I like?

What an Ego. The villain this time out is Ego, the Living Planet, whose origin has been changed slightly so that he is the father of Star-Lord. Now, with a name like Ego, you can just about assume the kind of personality he has to have. Well, who better to get than Kurt Russell, someone who has played a few pompous characters in his day (just watched him a couple of days ago in Sky High). I also must mention the creative things the effects department did to show him as the living planet, such as the face on the planet, talking energy, etc.

Too cute. At the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot sacrificed himself to save the team. As the credits are rolling, we see that he is a sapling living in a flower pot (and dancing to the Jackson 5). Well, this film is set shortly after the first one and Groot is a little older. Let’s not be naïve, here. The filmmakers made him that age to sell merchandise. He’s just so cute! That aside, he’s also vicious, as seen on Yondu’s ship, so be warned!

Source material. Speaking of Yondu, this is another character that I’m not too familiar with. I remember looking him up when the first film was released and seeing that giant fin on his head, wondering where it was in the film. The filmmakers must have had some fanboys pester them about said fin because they put it on him this time. I can’t say it is an upgrade, but I will say it is nice to see some adherence to the source material, rather than changing everything to make it more realistic, or whatever excuse studios have nowadays.

What didn’t I like?

Mixtape. A music connoisseur such as myself is sure to appreciate the diversity of the soundtrack, and I really do. However, in comparison to the collection used for the first film, this one falls short. The biggest reason for this is that there isn’t anything to catch the listener’s attention and bring them in. This mix needed something akin to “Hooked on a Feeling”, but doesn’t have it.

All that glitters ain’t gold. Aside from Ego, and a short Ravagers mutiny, the other villain in the film are a race of gold people, who believe themselves to be perfect, known as the Sovereign. I understand the reason they were after the Guardians, and like how they remote controlled their ships but, to be honest, they just became pests after awhile, especially during the climactic battle with Ego inside the planet’s core where they just show up and interfere while the Guardians are trying to defeat a God-like being who wants to terraform the universe in his image.

Why so serious. Unlike some of the other films in the MCU, the Guardians’ films have never been all that serious. Much like the Fantastic Four (are supposed to be), this is a team that enjoys what they do and doesn’t over analyze it or make every mission a political fiasco, etc., etc. That being said, I feel like this film got a little too serious in parts, particularly during the family parts (Star Lord and Ego and Gamora and Nebula). Yes, there is some conflict there, but those scenes were so serious that it felt like I was watching a different movie. Thank goodness both scenes were interrupted by someone crashing in and interrupting their dialoguing.

Final verdict on Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2? Truth be told, this is an entertaining film. It will make you laugh, cry, and maybe even sing. We get perhaps the most interesting Stan Lee cameo to date and a new character is introduced to us, played by Sylvester Stallone. All of the cast members return from the first film, and we may have gained a new guardian in the innocent, lovable Mantis. So, with all that in mind, do I recommend this? Well, it isn’t the surprise hit that its predecessor was, but I think that has more to do with expectations, but it is fun from beginning to end. I highly recommend it for all!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

War Dogs

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

“War Dogs” follows two friends in their early 20s (Hill and Teller) living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military–a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.

What people are saying:

“As giant a leap forward for Todd Phillips as “The Big Short” was for Adam McKay. It’s not only the best movie of Summer 2016, it’s one of the year’s very best films. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill make a fantastic team, and Bradley Cooper totally kills in his glorified cameo. Belongs in a time capsule w/ “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short” so future generations can see what life was like in early 21st century America. So smart, sharp and tautly paced; even the song selections are inspired. ” 4 stars

“This movie is very fun, informative, enjoyable, eye opening and we’ll casted. I believe I watched this movie 3 times in a week with different people telling them they needed to see it. Definitely brought a light to Gun Running and not in a negative way.. They do paint a negative/good light on greed vs need.” 4 1/2 stars

“Instead of outrage or any sense of shock and surprise, all the film has on offer is mild entertainment. Given the company, that feels like a bit of a miss.” 1 1/2 stars

“Excellent performances from Hill and Teller as they take advantage of a government initiative to purchase excess arms. Movie explores the mysterious world of arms dealers through the cynical eyes of Hill and Teller. Cooper adds to the story as the shady middleman who ultimately brings down the scam. Lots of foul language and some tense violence so the R rating is deserve” 4 stars

“In some ways this movie resembles the great gangster flick ‘Goodfellas’ in that it is a confessional about a couple of guys who climb the ladder of criminal success and eventually get in over their heads. Of course, the film alludes to ‘Scarface’ and you can see the rags-to-riches connection to that classic as well. Note that both films have a strong ethnic dimension, one Irish and the other Cuban; here our anti-heroes are Florida Jews. Anyway, the plot is straightforward: two wise guys go into the arms-dealing business and get engaged in ever-larger, ever-more-dangerous deals while experiencing a variety of domestic, drug, contractual and character-related problems that eventually are their undoing. The main attraction to this film is the fantasy of scoring millions of dollars in an exciting, high-adrenaline way, visiting extremely dangerous locales and firing assault rifles for fun and profit, while driving expensive sports cars and living in ritzy beachfront digs. What red-blooded man wouldn’t like such a scenario?” 3 stars

Wet Hot American Summer

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The setting is Camp Firewood, the year 1981. It’s the last day before everyone goes back to the real world, but there’s still a summer’s worth of unfinished business to resolve. At the center of the action is camp director Beth, who struggles to keep order while she falls in love with the local astrophysics professor. He is busy trying to save the camp from a deadly piece of NASA’s Skylab which is hurtling toward earth. All that, plus: a dangerous waterfall rescue, love triangles, misfits, cool kids, and talking vegetable cans. The questions will all be resolved, of course, at the big talent show at the end of the day.

What people are saying:

“I don’t think that a lot of people realize that yes this film is a comedy-but it’s more specifically a SATIRE. It’s supposed to be stupid and leave you thinking “What did I just watch?” It’s making fun of cheesy summer romance movies in the 70s/80s. If that’s not the type of comedy you find funny, that’s understandable. But a lot of the 1 star reviews simply say that they “didn’t get it”. That being said, I thought it was a great display of obnoxious satire. It’s definitely not one of my top ten favorites, but I still enjoyed it and would watch it again.” 4 stars

“Always enjoyed cult classics like Porky’s, Meatballs and Spring Break but this movie was like watching a Tornado crashing into a warehouse full of stupid. 97 minutes of my life I will never get back.” 1 star

“It looks like the cast had a great time and loads of fun making this film. Unfortunatlly that fun doesn’t transcend to the viewer.” 2 stars

“Charm free comedy vacuum, considering how successful some of the cast has become it seems inexplicable any would wish to revisit this joke free embarrassment. Unless you have a literacy level of a three year old I strongly recommend you do ANYTHING other than watch this .” 1 star

“This is the sort of movie that probably didn’t get any rewrites. It felt like a series of random events strewn together. I guess it’s going for the quirky vibe, but it doesn’t make it any funnier/more entertaining. That said, there were 3 or 4 laugh out loud moments and seeing some familiar comedic faces in the cast made it more forgivable. It could’ve been a great parody, but I guess that’s why it isn’t a mainstream film and achieved cult status.” 3 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1988, following his mother’s death, a young Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonta. Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, Quill steals an orb only to be intercepted by Korath, a subordinate to the fanatical Kree, Ronan. Although Quill escapes with the orb, Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora after the orb.

When Quill attempts to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world Xandar, Gamora ambushes him and steals it. A fight ensues, drawing in a pair of bounty hunters: the genetically engineered raccoon Rocket, and the tree-like humanoid Groot. The Nova Corps arrives and arrests the group, imprisoning them in the Kyln. A powerful inmate, Drax, attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Ronan, who killed his family. Quill dissuades him by saying that Gamora can bring Ronan to him. Gamora reveals that she has betrayed Ronan, unwilling to let him use the orb’s power to destroy entire planets such as Xandar. Learning that Gamora has a buyer for the orb, Rocket, Quill, Groot, and Gamora work together to escape the Kyln.

Elsewhere, Ronan meets with the titan Thanos to discuss his daughter Gamora’s betrayal and the loss of the orb. Accompanied by Drax, Quill’s group escapes the Kyln in his ship—the Milano—and flee to Knowhere, a remote criminal outpost in space built in the giant severed-head of a celestial. A drunken Drax summons Ronan, while the rest of the group meet Gamora’s contact, Taneleer Tivan. Tivan opens the orb, revealing an Infinity Stone, an item of immeasurable power that destroys all but the most powerful beings who wield it. Suddenly, Tivan’s tormented assistant grabs the Stone, triggering an explosion that engulfs his collection.

Ronan arrives and easily defeats Drax, while the others flee by ship, pursued by Ronan’s followers and Gamora’s sister Nebula. Nebula destroys Gamora’s ship, leaving her floating in space, and Ronan’s forces leave with the sphere. Quill contacts Yondu before following Gamora into space, giving her his helmet to survive; Yondu arrives and retrieves the pair. Rocket, Drax, and Groot threaten to attack Yondu’s ship to rescue them, but Quill negotiates a truce by convincing Yondu that they can recover the orb. The group agrees that facing Ronan means certain death, but that they must stop him from using the Infinity Stone to destroy the galaxy. On Ronan’s ship, the Dark Aster, Ronan embeds the Stone in his warhammer, taking its power for himself. He contacts Thanos, threatening to kill him after the destruction of Xandar; hateful of her adopted father, Nebula allies with Ronan.

On Xandar, the Dark Aster is confronted by Yondu’s fleet, the Nova Corps, and Quill’s group, which breaches the Dark Aster. Ronan uses his empowered warhammer to destroy the Nova Corps fleet. Drax kills Korath, and Gamora defeats Nebula (who escapes) and unlocks Ronan’s chambers, but the group finds themselves outmatched by his power until Rocket crashes the Milano through the Dark Aster and into Ronan. The damaged Dark Aster crash lands on Xandar, with Groot sacrificing himself to shield the group. Ronan emerges from the wreck and prepares to destroy Xandar, but Quill distracts him, allowing Drax and Rocket to destroy Ronan’s warhammer. Quill grabs the freed Stone, and with Gamora, Drax, and Rocket sharing its burden, they use it to destroy Ronan.

In the aftermath, Quill tricks Yondu into taking a container supposedly containing the Stone, then gives the real Stone to the Nova Corps. As the Ravagers leave Xandar, Yondu remarks that it turned out well that they did not deliver Quill to his father. Quill’s group, now known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, have their criminal records expunged, and Quill learns that he is only half-human, his father being part of an ancient, unknown species. Quill finally opens the last present he received from his mother; a cassette tape filled with her favorite songs. The Guardians leave in the rebuilt Milano along with a sapling cut from Groot.

In a post-credits scene, Tivan sits in his destroyed archive with two of his living exhibits: a canine cosmonaut and an anthropomorphic duck.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, I along with everyone else scratched my head and said WTF?!? No one really knew anything about these characters. They aren’t the mainstream heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, etc. All that skepticism and mystery was thrown out the window when the first trailer was released during the Super Bowl. Ever since then, this has been one of the films people have been looking forward to the most, but does it live it up to the hype, or fall short of expectation, giving Marvel Studios its first real flop?

What is this about?

On the run from intergalactic warlord Ronan, hotshot space pilot Peter Quill unites a ragtag band of oddballs to form a team of unlikely heroes. Soon, the Guardians discover that they alone stand between Ronan and the galaxy’s destruction.

What did I like?

Pacing. I’m sure we’ve all seen movies like this that either start off with a band and then slow down or they start off so slow and never really get going until the climax, leaving you sitting there bored out of your mind for most of the film. Well, fret not, my friends, because this film manages to get in its moments of drama and then quickly move on to something else. The filmmakers know that the audience for this does not necessarily wan to sit through all that, so they move it along at a quick pace and don’t look back.

Music. When the first trailer featured Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, everyone wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was it a song they just used for the trailer? Is it part of the soundtrack? What was the deal? Well, as it turns out the 70s hits such as that and a few other well-known ditties are the soundtrack, but the music is also incorporated into the storyline through a tragic backstory of Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt. I’ve got to give the film credit, because that was an ingenious way to incorporate such a random group of songs in a space flick. Also, the use of a Walkman and a tape deck, which kids of today surely have no idea what those are, was a nice nod to those of use who grew up listening to those things much the same way as young Quill.

Characters. With this property, more than any other up to this point in the Marvel Universe, the characters had to be developed, fleshed out, and made accessible to a public that knows little to nothing about them. I would say that this was done successfully. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is basically what you would expect Han Solo’s son to be. Gamora, for all my hatred of waif thin Zoe Saldana, is the assassin with a heart that I believe she is meant to be. Drax takes everything literally. As it is explained, he comes from a race of people who don’t know metaphors, which makes for some interesting comedic moments. Yes, comedic moments from Dave Bautista. Who’d have thunk that?!? Groot is the loveable tree and bodyguard for Rocket. Ah, Rocket, the show stealing raccoon! First off, you would never guess that was Bradley Cooper doing his voice. Second, he provides not only some of the best comedic lines in the film, but also, while explaining things to Quill and Gamora, explains why things are the way they are, without the film having to stop and do so.

Let there be light! Apparently, over at DC they believe every character they have has to be dark and brooding, because that is the formula that worked for The Dark Knight trilogy. The only exception appears to be this new Flash show that is coming this fall. Marvel, on the other hand, knows not only how to balance the light and the dark, but also create various genres of films. Take for instance, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That was darker than its predecessor and also a different genre, as it delved more into the spy racket. This film takes us into space and leaves every bit of darkness behind. I, for one, am ever so grateful for that. Enough with the dark comic book films! Let’s have some fun! Which is the formula this flick uses successfully. Hopefully the start of a new trend towards the light!

What didn’t I like?

Sacrifice. For one of the main characters to sacrifice themselves to save the rest of the team is nothing new. However, I am starting to see a trend in superhero films where they kill off one of said main characters as a way to give motivation to the rest of the group. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t feel it had been done to death. I can’t remember exactly where I’ve seen this plot point before, but I know I have. The sacrifice that was made here was emotional, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not so sure it was necessary.

Nova corps. One of the major issues people had with Green Lantern is that we didn’t see enough of the other members of the Corps. Well, Marvel’s equivalent to the Green Lanterns is the Nova Corps. While these aren’t as a popular or varied as the GLs, they do each have their own personalities and I think it would have been nice, since they included them, to get some more insight into at least one or two of them. Maybe even introduce or hint at the one that would go on to be Nova on Earth (the one being used currently in the animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man)

Ronan. Going into this, I heard all the talk about how Ronan wasn’t that great of a villain and how Marvel needs to step up the villain game, blah, blah, blah. Well, my take on it is that Ronan is who Ronan is supposed to be, from what I know of him. Lee Pace does a respectable job with him, maybe not the best, but far from the worst. However, as one review I read/listened to said, “we see Thanos and geek out over knowing that a film is coming where he is the big bad, which makes Ronan one of the bosses that has to be beaten along the way.” I like that analogy, because it sum it up very nicely. If you played the Mega Man games, think of it this way, Thanos is Dr. Wily, Loki and Ronan are two of the bosses that had to be taken out before you can get to him. If not for Thanos, though, Ronan would have been more menacing, I believe. Had they just held him off until later in the film, or let him just be a hologram, a la The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back, then it probably would have worked.

Well, I wasn’t able to go see Guardians of the Galaxy when it was released because I just didn’t have the time. This weekend, I just couldn’t get up the energy to drive across town and go to the theater. However, this has been the perfect birthday movie for me. Everything I want is in here, action, sci-fi, talking animals, comedy, great music, space. The only thing missing is some retro stuff, but I’ll get to that before the week is over. For me, this film has a couple of flaws that can be overlooked, but few that are enough to make this a bad film. The only thing that I might consider changing is switching Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian’s characters (before she shaved her head…such a shame to lose those luscious red locks). I will definitely be getting this when it is released to DVD/Blu-Ray. Does that mean I recommend it? Emphatically so! You need to stop what you are doing and go see this right now!

5 out of 5 stars

side note…there is a post credits scene, but I have chosen not to discuss it as I don’t believe it is meant to be anything more than an inside joke to true Marvel fans that are familiar with all of their properties. however, I will say that the previous design of that character might have looked better, in my opinion.

American Hustle

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1978, con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser have started a relationship and are working together. Sydney has improved Rosenfeld’s scams, posing as English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”. While Irving loves Sydney, he is hesitant to leave his wife Rosalyn out of fear of losing contact with her son Danny.

FBI agent Richard “Richie” DiMaso catches Irving and Sydney in a loan scam, but offers to release them if Irving can line up four additional arrests. Sydney opposes the agreement. Richie believes Sydney is English but has proof that her claim of aristocracy is fraudulent. Sydney tells Irving she will manipulate Richie, distancing herself from Irving.

Irving has a friend pretending to be a wealthy Arab sheikh looking for potential investments in America. An associate of Irving’s suggests the sheikh do business with Mayor Carmine Polito of Camden, New Jersey, who is campaigning to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City but has struggled in fundraising. Richie devises a plan to make Carmine the target of a sting operation, despite the objections of Irving and of Richie’s boss, Stoddard Thorsen. Sydney helps Richie manipulate an FBI secretary into making an unauthorized wire transfer of $2,000,000. When Stoddard’s boss, Anthony Amado, hears of the operation, he praises Richie’s initiative, pressuring Stoddard to continue.

Richie’s overeagerness to catch Carmine causes the mayor to leave their meeting. Irving convinces Carmine the sheikh is legitimate, expressing his dislike toward Richie, and the two become friends. Richie arranges for Carmine to meet the sheikh at an airfield, and without consulting the others, has Mexican-American FBI agent Paco Hernandez play the sheikh.

Carmine brings the sheikh to a casino party, explaining mobsters are there and it is a necessary part of doing business. Irving is surprised to hear that Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio, second-in-command to Meyer Lansky, is present, and that he wants to meet the sheikh. Tellegio explains that the business needs the sheikh to become an American citizen and that Carmine will need to expedite the process. Tellegio also requires a $10,000,000 wire transfer to prove the sheikh’s legitimacy. Richie agrees, eager to bring down Tellegio, while Irving realizes the operation is out of control.

Richie confesses his attraction to Sydney but becomes confused and aggressive when she drops her English accent and admits to being American. Irving arrives to protect Sydney and tries to stop their deal with Richie, but Richie says if they back out, Tellegio will learn of the scam and murder them both, as well as Rosalyn and Danny.

Rosalyn starts an affair with Pete Musane, a mobster she met at the party. She mentions her belief that Irving is working with the Internal Revenue Service, causing Pete to threaten Irving, who promises to prove the sheikh’s investment is real. Irving later confronts Rosalyn, who admits she told Pete because she feels unloved. She agrees to keep quiet but wants a divorce.

With Carmine’s help, Richie and Irving videotape members of Congress receiving bribes. Richie goes over Stoddard, convincing Amado that $10,000,000 is needed to get Tellegio, but only gets $2,000,000. A meeting is arranged at the offices of Tellegio’s lawyer, Alfonse Simone, but Tellegio does not appear. The operation continues, and Richie records Simone’s admission of criminal activities.

Irving visits Carmine’s house and admits to the scam but tells Carmine he has a plan to help him. Carmine angrily throws Irving out, their friendship ended. Later, the money is missing, but an anonymous source offers to return it in exchange for Irving and Sydney’s immunity and a reduced sentence for Carmine. Amado wants to make the deal, but Richie objects. Irving suggests Richie either has the money or is incompetent for losing it. In fact, they never met with Tellegio’s lawyer. Instead, Irving had a friend pose as Simone to con Richie, giving Irving leverage and keeping them safe from the mob. Amado accepts the deal and removes Richie from the case, dropping him back into obscurity.

Irving and Sydney open an art gallery and move in together, while Rosalyn lives with Pete and shares custody of Danny with Irving. Tellegio accepts that Irving and Sydney deflected attention from him and leaves them to get on with their lives

REVIEW:

Upon my first viewing of the trailer for American Hustle, I didn’t know what to think about it, other than Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were hot and Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner looked stupidly hilarious. Now that I’ve watched it, I still am not sure what to think of it, but I think I at least have an idea.

What is this about?

This fictionalization of the “Abscam” scandal of the early 1980s follows con man Irving Rosenfeld and his lover, Sydney Prosser, as they help an eccentric FBI agent expose corruption among several members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

What did I like?

Transformation. Normally, I just want to punch Christian Bale in the face. I still do after watching this, but I have to give it up to him and the rest of the cast for the job they did transforming themselves for these roles. Take for instance Bradley Cooper. When are you ever going to see him with a full beard and tiny curls? Amy Adams, who has such a sweet look about her, playing a chick that is just short of being a prostitute. I could keep listing, but I’ll stop there. Just know that the costume and make-up department did a bang up job with these actors.

Balance. Being able to strike a nice balance between drama and comedy is something that doesn’t come easy, as can be seen in the endless list of films that try to do so. The filmmakers manage to emphasize the drama while throwing in some comedic moments here and there so as to break up the seriousness that this film could very well have foisted upon us.

Acting. The cast gives great performances which led to some award nomination and wins. I don’t want to single out any specific cast member, because they are all great. For a film to feature such overall solid performances is something to be noted, especially when all of them are outstanding, as can be said about this film.

What didn’t I like?

Say what? This is one of those films that you really have to be paying attention to know what I going on, and even then, you still may end up getting lost. At least that’s how it was for me. Just when I was starting to understand this part of the plot, the film would switch to another plot point, I almost totally gave up on this film, as a result.

De Niro. Robert De Niro is still considered by many to be one of the finest actors of his generation, but it seems like all he does now is appear in films for a paycheck. Someone of his caliber and talent should be doing much more, if you ask me. I think the last thing he did where he actually put in some effort was Silver Linings Playbook. His role in this film isn’t much more than a cameo but, once again, we find De Niro playing an Italian gangster. Geez! Can we say typecasting?!?

Length. For the type of film this is, the runtime isn’t totally horrible, but personally I think it went on a bit long. Could they have cut out at least 10-15 minutes (if not more)? I think so, but some would say that could possibly hurt the film. Some of the not so important aspects being cut would have made this film that much more accessible. Just because this is meant to be an award-winning film, doesn’t mean it has to be super long and sap all the interest the audience had in this film.

Final verdict on American Hustle? It is clearly meant to entertain as well as appeal to the stuffiest of critics. I really can’t think of much to say, good or bad to say about this film. It has something that will appeal or turn off audiences. Do I recommend it? Yes, it is a solid picture that earned its nominations this award season, but not good enough to win any of the big ones. Still, at some point, give this a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

The Hangover Part III

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two years after the events in Bangkok, Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) escapes from a maximum security prison, using a riot as cover. Meanwhile in America, Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis) causes a 20-car freeway pileup after he purchases a giraffe and accidentally decapitates it on a low bridge. Alan’s father Sid (Jeffrey Tambor), furious with Alan for never owning up to his mistakes, dies of a heart attack in the middle of a lecture. After the funeral, Alan’s brother-in-law Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) informs friends Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Stu Price (Ed Helms) that Alan has been off his ADHD medication and is out of control. They attend an intervention, in which Alan agrees to visit a rehab facility in Arizona, so long as “the Wolfpack” takes him there. On the way to Arizona, Phil’s minivan is rammed off the road by a rental truck and the group is taken hostage. They are later confronted by mob leader Marshall (John Goodman) and “Black Doug” (Mike Epps), his head of security.

He tells them that Chow hijacked half of a $42 million gold heist and, seeing how Alan has been the only one to communicate with Chow during his imprisonment, deduced that the Wolfpack could locate him and retrieve the gold. Marshall kidnaps Doug as collateral and gives the others three days to find Chow, or else Doug will be killed. Alan sets up a meeting with Chow in Tijuana, Mexico, where Stu and Phil will hide and attempt to drug him. However, Alan gives away their location and he forces them to confess they are working for Marshall. Chow explains his plan to retrieve the stolen gold from the basement of a Mexican villa he previously owned. Stu, Alan and Phil break into the house and successfully retrieve the gold, but Chow double-crosses them by locking them in the basement, rearming the security system and escaping in Phil’s minivan. They are arrested but mysteriously released from the police station, where they are picked up by a limousine and taken back to the villa, where they meet up with Marshall.

They learn that Chow had lied to them; the villa was never his and the gold they stole was the other half he didn’t get from Marshall. Marshall forgives them for their mistake but kills “Black Doug” for his incompetence and reminds them of their now two-day deadline. The group tracks Phil’s phone, which was left in the minivan, outside a pawn shop in Las Vegas. The pawnshop owner, Cassie (Melissa McCarthy), tells them that Chow traded a gold brick for $18,000, far less than its usual sell rate of $400,000. Using Stu’s former lover Jade (Heather Graham) as their contact, they learn that Chow is barricaded in the penthouse suite of Caesars Palace. Phil and Alan sneak into his suite from the roof, but Chow escapes, jumping from the balcony and parachuting down to the strip. Stu catches up to Chow and locks him in the trunk of the limo that Marshall had lent to them. They take the gold and meet with Marshall, who releases Doug back to the group. Although Marshall initially promised to not harm Chow, he changes his mind and shoots through the trunk of the car, presumably killing him. Luckily, Alan had freed Chow through a backseat compartment just moments earlier.

Chow emerges from the limo and kills Marshall, allowing the Wolfpack to live because Alan had saved his life. He offers Alan a bar of gold as a gift, but Alan turns him down, and ends their friendship due to Chow’s unhealthy influence on the group. As Chow sadly watches them leave, they go to retrieve Phil’s minivan from the pawnshop and Alan makes a date with Cassie. Six months later, the two marry. Vowing to begin taking responsibility for his actions, Alan regretfully resigns from the Wolfpack, but would still like for the gang to hang out on occasion. As the four walk to the ceremony, a montage of clips from the previous films play, thus ending the film. In a post-credits scene taking place the morning after the wedding, Alan, Cassie and Phil appear to have staged another wild party that they cannot remember. Stu emerges from the bathroom with breast implants and Alan remembers that the wedding cake was a gift from Chow, who emerges from the next room naked, laughing and wielding a Katana.

REVIEW:

I’m not sure anyone really wanted it, but bring the Wolfpack trilogy to an end, we have The Hangover III. The big question that has been surrounding this has been, can they recapture the magic that made the first film such a huge hit, or will this one fall flat on its face and suffer from sequel-it is?

What is this about?

Capitalizing on the success of two previous Hangovers, Phil and the boys set out on another road trip and soon find their plans reduced to chaos. Before the dust settles, the gang will have to figure out how to rescue Alan from a mental hospital.

What did I like?

Giraffe. Ok. Decapitating a giraffe is a bit much. I’m no fan of killing animals, especially majestic ones such as giraffes, but the fact that this sequence captured the audience is something to be aware of. It very well could have just ducked under the bridge. Seriously, though, if you saw someone driving down the interstate with a giraffe, wouldn’t you be stunned and shocked, too?

Full circle. Since this is supposed to be the end of the saga, it just seems right that they bring things around full circle and return to Las Vegas. If you recall, The Hangover was set in Vegas. Also, some characters from the other films returned. I was very glad to see Heather Graham again, but it would’ve been nice to see Mike Tyson.

Molly. How can anyone not like Melissa McCarthy? She’s cute, cuddly, and funny! Her character here is an employee at a pawn shop and apparently has an attraction to the lovable shlub, Alan. The chemistry between the two of them is great, especially when we see them again near the end.

What didn’t I like?

Rushed. I like to point to Shrek 3 as a sequel that was bad, rushed into production, and was nothing more than a cash grab. Well, this film falls into many of those same trappings. When this was announced, I felt like they were rushing it out just to cash in, and the finished product just validates that thought.

Characters. The plot for this doesn’t matter, let’s face it. We watch this franchise for the interaction of the characters, especially to see what Alan does. However, this whole film may as well have been the Alan and Chow show, because the others may have been kidnapped along with Justin Bartha’s character, because they served no purpose, other than collecting a paycheck. Where was the funny confidence of Bradley Cooper’s character? Where was the funny neuroses of Ed Helms’ character? They surely weren’t to be found in this threequel.

Ending. I’m not going to spoil the ending, just know that it leaves things open for a possible 4th film, while also being a fitting ending for this franchise, considering what it is. Having said that, during the ending, we get full frontal of Ken Jeong. I don’t want to seem like I have a double standard, because if that was a female, I’d have no qualm with seeing her full frontal, but just seeing Jeong standing there in his “glory” was uncomfortable for me.

This is a franchise that surprised everyone with the first film. The Hangover part II was actually very well received, but The Hangover part III just seems as if they stopped trying and figured they had an automatic license to print money. That sadly was not the case. I enjoyed parts here and there of this film, but not enough to blow me away. It was just an average outing. Thank goodness for Melissa McCartney and that giraffe, because everything else falls flat. Sure, you can check it out if you want, but I won’t really recommend it.

3 out of 5 stars