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Hail, Caesar! (2016)

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Hail, Caesar!

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TIFF Review: The Lobster (2015)

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The Lobster

TADFF 2014: Review: Zombeavers (2014)

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Zombeavers (2014)

The Trip to Italy (2014)

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Since I started blogging a little over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a ton of new friends, simply through a reciprocated love of film and television. Additionally, I’ve been given more opportunities to expand my craft and following through new outlets. The Cinematic Katzenjammer and its wonderful staff welcomed me and my contributions with open arms and I am eternally grateful. So please, head on over and check out my latest review, and while you’re there, be sure to have a look around! It’s run on WordPress, so please login and drop a like and/or comment. You can find my review and be redirected to the site by clicking below. Thank you!

The Trip to Italy (2014)

Neighbours (2014)

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As I’m sure most of you have already been briefed in regards to my, let’s call it…halfhearted hatred and disinterested disconnect towards the comedy genre, I’ll spare you the agony of sitting through another directionless, yet passionate speech. Now, comedy in film isn’t good for much, but it does occasionally allow me to rant harshly and aimlessly, that is if I can make it through one of these dreadful, contrived, structureless abominations that miraculously find funding and a wide-release…but I digress. As I was saying, I don’t get many opportunities to publish posts that display my opinion raw and unedited. That being said, when I do get the chance to speak unrefined, it’s usually a comedy film that’ll feel the brunt of my coarse, critical onslaught. And for some reason, I feel that readers appreciate brutal honesty, so without further delay, let’s get into “Neighbours!”

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Drugs, nudity, vulgarity, and a preposterous plot? There must be a new Seth Rogen film out! Seriously though, all kidding aside I do love Rogen. He’s a talented, intelligent, honest Canadian boy and back in 2007, when I was at the height of my teenage years, “Superbad” and “Knocked Up” defined popular culture. Since then however, to say he’s been struggling would be putting it lightly in my opinion, of course that’s with the exception of the brilliant film “50/50.” I don’t know what happened, either I grew up or his shtick became all too familiar. Whatever it was, I haven’t been excited to see a Rogen film in a good, long while. Nevertheless, with early reviews holding strong and a cast that with respectable merit, I decided to give “Neighbours” a chance. Do I regret it, you ask? Well I’m not exactly thrilled whenever I make a mistake, but the film has some respectable qualities and memorable moments? I put a question mark as I’m not exactly confident that this statement will hold up with the passage of time…or for the duration of this review…

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With “Neighbours'” incessant awareness campaign set to overkill, I’m not sure there are many who don’t know the film’s plot and selling points. Nonetheless, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the film’s black hole of mediocrity, you’ve managed to save a significant amount of hilarity for the actually viewing of the film, granted you view it at all. Yes, a sizeable chunk of the film’s most memorable, hilarious scenes are plastered all over the internet and television for free, so enjoy. Now, essentially “Neighbours” is a tale of two childish, unfulfilled men at different stages in their lives trying to prevail and dominate over the other. Yes, that’s the premise and yes, it is as immature in its delivery as it is script-wise. In layman’s terms, a frat somehow manages to move into a quiet neighbourhood and soon is at war with their new neighbours.

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Directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), and starring, apart from Seth Rogen, the lovely and immensely talented Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Dave Franco, “Neighbours,” on paper, should have been a laugh riot, not a measly chuckle and whimper. Apart from a few laughs, the film offers nothing of value cinematically. I’m sure the ladies will get a kick out of Efron shirtless, hell, even the male section of the film’s audience will see more of Rose Byrne than preferred, but these aren’t exactly facets to be proud of.

The film would have been infinitely better if they actually focused on the maturing aspect of birthing a child. After the all, the entire film is symbolic of couples rushing into parenthood. Stoller and Rogen are usually geniuses when it comes to displaying the emotional, consequential side of their comedies, but completely ignore that element in “Neighbours.”

I do assume it’s a positive that Rogen hasn’t been this effective in a while and that Efron has never been so charismatic, but in all fairness, their track records aren’t exactly top-notch of late. In Efron’s case, we really don’t have a resume to begin with. Byrne is as beautiful and entrancing as ever, but the vulgar humour doesn’t fit her well. Not surprisingly, the underrated Dave Franco truly steals the show here with his comedic prowess and impeccable impression of Robert De Niro.

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Look, It’s not that I’m pretentious or hate laughter, far from it. I simply prefer subtle, intelligent, timely, sympathetic, relatable humour rather than an alternative that consists of the raunchy, idiotic, unfathomable approach of modern comedy, you know what I’m talking about, films like “Neighbours” or Adam Sandler abortions. I know that sounds conceded, even ostentatious, but honest to god that’s my preference. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the dirty, unflinching, harsh, truthful approach of today’s comedians. It’s just, I find that humour occurs so naturally and fluidly that it is nearly impossible to capture true hilarity on demand for the sake of cinema. Additionally, where films of other genres rely on dialogue, performances, story, direction, cinematography, music, etc…comedy films, for the majority, solely depend on the appeal and material of its leading cast members, and “Neighbours” doesn’t meet any of the aforementioned criteria wholeheartedly.

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It’s extremely hard for me to write-up a post regarding comedy as I’m sure you can tell by the incoherence and simplicity of this article, not to mention the uncomfortable feeling that washed over you as it continued, so I’ll just end it. “Neighbours” is about as good as purely comedic films get nowadays, sadly. Without much stimulation and an abundance of unintelligent humour, I can guarantee this film will be a distant memory in the not too distant future. I might be a little to bias and it seems as if I’m having a little too much fun ripping comedy apart. If it’s any consolation, the film is watchable and consistently has your attention, which is a huge bonus when considering the state of current comedy films. It might not be as bad as I’m making it seem, but not by much.

Neighbours: 6 out of 10.

How I Met Your Mother: Finale Reaction, Series Summary, and Top 10 Episodes

Obviously, massive spoilers!

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It feels as if it was only yesterday that we said goodbye to Michael Scott and the Dunder Mifflin crew one last time. Now, roughly a year later, and we’re again forced to part ways with another comedy series benchmark, solidified sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.” We walked through the doors of MacLaren’s Pub nine seasons ago and returned every Monday to catch up with Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney over a few drinks. Through the laughs and tears, hard work and laziness, love and heartbreak, we were apart of these characters lives and grew alongside them for the better part of nearly a decade. Relationship after relationship, break up after break up, we stood witness to the intertwining tales of this group as each searched for their counterpart and identity. Of course though, our main focus was Ted, a hopeless romantic searching for his true love. He and his story is what hooked us and kept us coming back every week.

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Look, I know “How I Met Your Mother” isn’t the coolest show on television, far from it. Nevertheless, I felt that it always brought out the best in me, you know? Yes, it’s corny, fantastical, and supremely annoying at the best of times. Yet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a show with as strong a moral compass and genuinely kind-hearted characters as “How I Met Your Mother,” but I digress. So we waited, nine long years for Ted to finally unveil exactly how he met the mother of his children, and a little over a week ago, we got our answer. The way things went down during that last hour of “How I Met Your Mother” set social networks ablaze and it seemed as if everyone who had endured the long journey to that moment shouted their opinions from skyscraper rooftops. Personally, I applaud the way this iconic show wrapped up. It could’ve concluded a lot sooner albeit, but nothing about the way things played out sat unwell with me.

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During the last couple of seasons, when things began to wind to a close and the identity of Ted’s mysterious wife was mercifully divulged, I was a tad relieved, but also subconsciously enraged. See, I’m one of the fans that were adamant throughout the series that Ted was destined to end up with Robin, despite all the hints and facts stating otherwise. That being said, as much as the show’s creators and writers pushed Robin away from our protagonist, they simultaneously lead us on, leaving us begging for Robin and Ted’s union, weird right? Well, this entire conundrum was solved during that last episode and I, as you can imagine, was relieved, vindicated, overjoyed!

Obviously, I’m well aware that a majority of you disagree. However, simply put, I’m much more comfortable thinking I spent nine years of my life watching a show revolve around two characters (Ted and Robin) falling for one another than the alternative. Think about it, why take nine seasons to build up Ted finally meeting his soul mate, just to have him end up alone. It’s much better knowing that this aspect of the show was merely a gambit and the real story was going on the entire time the show was in production.

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Now, I’m a big Ted backer, without a doubt, and to witness him crumble under her death was mortifying…almost too much to endure. Having for so long defended and scoured the earth for this fantasy, just to have it ripped away sent in motion a tsunami of sadness that washed over and pulled me under. Yet, to see him then courageously soldier on with a continuing respect and thirst for meaning and love after her passing was invigorating, inspiring! And although the show’s finale resonated with the harsh, unflinching truth regarding life, love, and loss, it illuminated the meaning in our existence.

Why should we weep for Barney? Has it not been clear for nine seasons that he is a notorious womanizer that can’t be tied down? He is capable of love and loyalty, which he will give limitlessly to his daughter, he simply prefers emotional and sexual freedom to the restraints of a relationship. Marshall and Lily have fulfilled every dream they ever conceived, together and individually. Robin became a world-renowned news reporter while travelling the world and experienced everything life had to offer, which is all she had ever hoped for. And as for Ted, well, it might have taken him a little longer to get there, but he achieved everything he set out to in life. He experienced the invisible force that is love and birthed two children. “How I Met Your Mother” might have ended a little too melancholic for some, but it hid the spark…the inevitable truth of existence that no matter how long and hard the trek, what is meant to be will find a way to flourish.

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Without further delay, let’s get into my personal top 10 episodes of “How I Met Your Mother!” But before that, one thing that will become abundantly clear during this list is that I am a huge sap. Yes, I’m in love with the idea of love. Also, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you have seen the entire show, so I didn’t write an entire summary for each entry…sorry.

10: “Last Forever” Season 9, Episode 23/24

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9: “Right Place, Right Time” Season 4, Episode 22

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8: “The Limo” Season 1, Episode 11

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7: “Showdown” Season 2, Episode 20

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6: “Slap Bet” Season 2, Episode 9

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5: “Nothing Good Happens After 2 AM” Season 1, Episode 18

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4: “No Tomorrow” Season 3, Episode 12

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3: “No Pressure” Season 7, Episode 17

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2: “Blitzgiving” Season 6, Episode 10

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1: “The Time Travelers” Season 8, Episode 20

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

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There’s been a few controversies surrounding this film in the media since its release, a little over a week ago. Controversies that range in significance and utter bewilderment, regarding the film’s source material, its author, anti-hero, and inspiration Jordan Belfort, to the film itself “The Wolf of Wall Street” being attacked by critics, labeled as shallow drivel glamorizing a life of criminality and abuse. Now, I can’t comment on behalf of the novel, as I’ve never read it (although I plan to), or defend Mr. Belfort as I have never met him, picked his brain, or researched his life (I must say however, it is very intriguing). That being said, there is one thing clouding my brain that I can shed some light on, debate and hopefully resolve. Something that’s distorting my thoughts with its incoherent, simple, overwhelming stupidity. And that is the irrational, baseless notion that “The Wolf of Wall Street” idealizes and absolves an existence free of morality, accountability, and stable relationships.

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I’m perfectly content to dismiss this critical negativity and deem it as idiotic complaints that pander to the obviousness and cosmetic, depthless aspects of a film that uses these highly-superficial, vivid visuals intentionally to mask, bury the truth of these distractions from the emotionally and intelligently inept. I’m fine in doing that and moving on. I form my own opinions, not base them on the unfulfilled experiences and half-witted conclusions of others. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s fair that those who have yet to see the film or those that are looking for more from “The Wolf of Wall Street” should be bombarded by the opinions of those who only have a disdain towards it. I created this site to voice my thoughts, to interact with others, and to educate and be educated, so that’s exactly what I intend to do…

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This adaption of Jordan Belfort’s miraculous, unbelievable tale is directed by the illustrious Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead character, the aforementioned Jordan Belfort. Containing an excessive amount of nudity, sex, drugs, alcohol, vulgar language, deplorable behaviour, violence, and illegal activity. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is quite the unique cinematic experience, a difficult one to stomach and endure at that. Clocking in at a trying two-hours and fifty-nine minutes, one might argue that it’s near impossible to match the celebratory nature and complete disregard for compassion and equality with vulnerability, depression, and regret for the film’s entirety. To that I say this… After roughly the thirty-minute mark, there wasn’t a moment that went by in which I didn’t ponder the stability, endurance, and humanity of our protagonist that was on display. “What about the first half-hour, you ask?” Well, it’s very simple, our lead was a decent human being for that duration.

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One might look at what he does, listen to what he says and brand his actions and reactions as gutless, inhumane, selfish, and heartless…While this is undeniably true, the way in which it’s portrayed, you know, how the light shines upon it has beencompletely misconstrued. Through every abhorrent movement and despicable word of DiCaprio’s Belfort, there is this nagging, disheartening hint of encompassing sadness and loneliness that radiates through the brash chaos. This is not a happy man, and anyone who arrives at any conclusion that contradicts this, his overall demeanour, has misunderstood.

Listen, it’s totally reasonable to connect Belfort’s outward appearance and emotional surface with happiness, a man who is pleased with himself and the choices he’s made. Hell, even the film’s ending seemingly coincides with this ideal. Conversely however, I implore you to see that there is nothing content about this man. He has lost his family, his privacy, his decency, and himself. DiCaprio’s Belfort has been misconstructed from the get go and every drunken stupor, drug-induced numbness, and orgy coma is an attempt to distract…draw his glazed eyes away from his creeping fears that became a reality all too soon. In the end, like us, he is alone, no matter how high he lived each moment. There will be a time after the present, everything becomes the past. DiCaprio’s Belfort has mistaken living for life and love. I don’t believe for one second that, apart from the time he spent with his lover and children, he was happy.

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Well, that’s enough dissection of this taut character study, on to the technical aspects! Directed by the aforementioned Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a welcomed return to criminal-empire filmmaking for the talented vet. Depicting the life of Jordan Belfort, a kind-hearted family man who gets caught up in the world of Wall Street. Earning a job at a successful firm and passing the Series 7, Belfort is informed by his then boss to adopt a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and sexual release to remain atop of the game. Then, having lost his stable job due to Black Monday, Belfort soon starts his own firm, hiring his friends and selling flimsy stocks. Soon, the company is a multi-billion dollar success, with a long list of criminal offences, laundering, fraud, and tampering being a few. Funding lavish parties for his staff, consisting of drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, and obscure events, things begin to spiral out of control. Having divorced his wife, remarried, and becoming a father, Belfort soon begins to crumble under everything.

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It may be misogynistic, abusive, excessive, vulgar, and dirty, but there’s no denying that “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the most entertaining film to come around in a good, long while. Scorsese captures the world of Belfort’s Wall Street in his usual, immaculate form. Feeling like a throwback to Marty’s “Goodfellas,” his use of entrancing visuals, unfathomable character depth, and intoxicating music allows him to achieve feats that no other film has this year. Martin embraces the violent language, sexuality, and craziness of his film’s premise superlatively. It’s not long until you’ve completely forgotten the fictitious feel of everything and simply become another stockbroker at Stratton Oakmont. Very rarely does one notice the handiwork of a director, but with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” it’s impossible not to marvel at Scorsese’s impeccable form. In all fairness, Martin hasn’t been this good since “The Departed” in 2006.

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I’ve mentioned in great depth the brilliance of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street” earlier, clamouring over his deliciously heartbreaking and charismatic Jordan Belfort. However, there is more character perfection here besides Leo’s larger-than-life portrayal. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah hill, Margot Robbie, Joe Bernthal, Kyle Chandler, and Jean Dujardin also star in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and their contributions cannot be overlooked. But before we move onto them, I have one final thing to say about Leonardo. This is the year he finally earns that Oscar, or at least, he damn well better. I mean, this guy has been passed over too many times. Is this the performance of his career? Well, that’s up for debate. That being said, is his take on Jordan Belfort the best performance of the year? Hands down! Open the “best actor” envelope blindfolded, because this award is all but official.

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Matthew McConaughey won’t be winning any awards or nominations for his performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Besides, with “Mud” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” he’s got more than enough material to earn a ton of accolades this award season. That being said, McConaughey continues his ascent to the top with another memorable, hilarious, potent performance here. Who can forget him beating his chest in the middle of a restaurant, making weird noises, and talking about sex, drugs, alcohol, and money? If Jonah Hill should be nominated for “best supporting actor” because of his character in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” you won’t here me complaining. He’s awkward, both personality and appearance wise, down-right hilarious, and dramatically effective as always. Might not be as worthy as his “Moneyball” performance, but it’s certainly one of the best this year.

Kyle Chandler never seems to get the recognition he deserves and it’s starting to really tick me off. Countless films this man has appeared in and has given tremendous performances in each of them. At least Scorsese took notice of this man’s talent and gave him a fairly significant role. Jean Dujardin, who you’ll know as the Oscar-winning actor for his performance in “The Artist,” is used sparsely, but uses each moment to excruciating effectiveness. Whether it’s his invincible mindset or untouchable attitude, Dujardin will make you laugh while you simultaneously beg those around to let you punch him in the face. Jon Bernthal, or Shane from “The Walking Dead,” continues to make a career for himself post zombie apocalypse. His appearance, personality, demeanour, and narcissism will leave you gasping for breaths between laughs.

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Lastly, my favourite female performer of 2013, up-and-comer Margot Robbie. She’s got the “supporting actress” award all wrapped up in my books. I would like to inform her to start clearing off shelf space or at least get someone, perhaps myself, to build her a case for it. She’s sexy, poignant, ruthless, funny, and seductive as Leo’s ambitious, take-no-shit trophy wife. There has not been a better performance by a female this year. I know that in reality she’ll be lucky to receive a nomination at the very least, but in all honesty, there’s no denying her charm, talent, and beauty here.

Well, here we are, 2013 is now officially over. So I thought it fitting to present you with my favourite film of the year, so here it is. “The Wolf of Wall Street” takes the cake for me and I’m sure it’ll win a few of you over as well.

The Wolf of Wall Street: 10 out of 10.

American Hustle (2013)

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It’s been quite a while since a film’s come along and moseyed its way on in to the lore of cinema. You know, the type of film you can watch over and over again…that plays on TV every other weekend. A film you’ve seen so many times over you can catch it midway, watch till the end, and still enjoy each and every part. A movie that plays in the background of gatherings, parties, or while you’re performing other tasks without taking away from these other primary distractions. These are the flicks we quote day in, day out to no end. Now, these pictures may not always the best of what cinema has to offer, they might not have even garnered many awards or much critical acclaim, but still we love them more than most things we’d care to admit.

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On the other hand however, these timeless movies do pertain to our greatest cinematic achievements and have been acknowledged as such by critics and cinephiles. And of course the odd award or two has been bestowed upon them. Nonetheless, what’s so special, enduring about these films is that they’re so appealing and appeasing. They’re fun, entertaining, and most importantly, they never seem to get old. “American Hustle” fits somewhere in this criteria, I’m just not quite sure where exactly. It’ll win its fair share of accolades come award season 2014, it’s endlessly entertaining, and full of quote-able dialogue. Wherever it finds itself, expect this flick to be on television in the near future and in your hearts after the initial viewing.

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Directed by the aforementioned David O. Russell, “American Hustle,” is the much anticipated follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “Silver Linings Playbook.” Glamorizing the lives of a couple of con-artists and corrupt politicians until they are dealt a harsh reality check by a power-hungry detective. I think it’s safe to say O. Russell went in a completely new direction with this one. Using a magnificent soundtrack, the trademark styles and imagery of the late 70s and early 80s, and extremely potent, masterful performances from his entire ensemble to conjure up a mafioso-like thriller with moments of overwhelming drama and an array of diverse comedy. O. Russell has truly created a unique cinematic experience with “American Hustle.” Although, it is one that feels vaguely familiar, even Scorsese-esque. Yet, it remains so original and genuine that Marty himself would be proud.

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There is so much that makes O. Russell’s “American Hustle” this instant classic, a modern masterpiece. The first thing to hit you is this obscure, dated, penetrative humour executed flawlessly by the film’s cast. Speaking of which, has an undeniable, limitless chemistry that bursts forth from the screen and roots in their bones. It’s this bizarre, surprising nature that spawns so many instances in which you’ll find yourself asking, was that just said? Did that just happen? It’s content and characters are fresh and honest, the “what you see is what you get” type that refrains from being bland and predictable. O. Russell’s camerawork is the most stellar I’ve seen in recent memory, reminiscent of the aforementioned Scorsese, albeit younger. It’s a concoction of all these facets mixed with impeccable timing, immense, boundless talent, and extraordinary vision by all involved that makes “American Hustle” shine so bright.

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Fine, you got me, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The story definitely takes a bit of a backseat to the characters, which isn’t necessarily a big deal. That being said, with “American Hustle,” the stakes don’t ever appear or feel as high as they actually are, or at least should be. I mean, I never really feared that the lifestyle or the lives of those who’ve been chosen to lead us through this picture were ever compromised. They just never seemed to be in as much danger or trouble as they should have been, if that makes any sense? It’s plot is as captivating, enthralling as can be and the characters are some of the most well-written and developed of the year. The end however, the last thirty minutes give or take, is a tad anticlimactic. That being said, the fact that the film’s ensemble and spectacular, utter enchantment can overcome this slight blemish should speak to its almost fully realized immaculacy.

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The cast, the ensemble, that’s all I keep blabbering on about. I supposed it’d make sense to inform you of who comprises this plethora of talent and achievements. Returning are O. Russell vets Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence, with new faces Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner rounding out the unit. Now, I could go on and on about the superlativeness of each and every member and how it wouldn’t surprise me at all if each individual got a nomination come award season, but I’m a realist. If I had to stake my life, I’d say Christian Bale is the front-runner to take home some hardware. The rest, I feel are too up in the air. There’s been a surplus of solid flicks with tremendous portrayal this year, so it’ll be tough to break through. Cooper, Adams, and Lawrence bring their predictable flair and still manage to stun. Renner is the only one who comes close to rivalling Bale’s brilliance and already his outstanding performance is being overlooked. Oddly enough however, is that funny man Louis C. K somehow steals every scene he’s in. Figure that one out and let me know.

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Hilarious, intoxicating, and bloody brilliant, “American Hustle” is, without question, one of the best films of the year.

American Hustle: 9.5 out of 10.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

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Is it the media industry that’s in the shitter? Or is it the content itself that’s stuck to the back of the toilet? Who knows, maybe we’re to blame for digesting this garbage. Because quite frankly, I don’t think public relations, commercialism, and technology has ever been so abundant, profitable, advanced…essentially, easy. The ones who’s jobs it is to shove this over-saturated, bland, overcompensating drivel down our throats until we choke are succeeding, they’re doing their job. And sure, the ones who create the pollution are at fault to an extent, but the crap they conjure up is kind of intentional isn’t it? I mean, if we keep gobbling it up and spewing currency into their wallets like a volcano, who can blame them, right? So doesn’t that mean the reason for quality’s collapse stems from us, the consumers? Who do you think is to blame, the creators, the sellers, or the swallowers?

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Sorry about that rant, I’m just out of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and it’s making me wish things were better nowadays. And I’m not just talking about music either. I had to travel quite aways to catch this flick because it wasn’t playing in my area. And this is happening all to often recently. The only place showing the film is a small art-house downtown that’s a bit of a hassle to get to for me. I have no problem travelling to see a movie, especially one of this caliber. It’s just that, I have quite a few cinemas in my surroundings…big, new, expensive theatres and you’re telling me not one of them bothered to pick this up ? I know the reasons are obvious, for example, compared to the big-budget flicks staring A-listers screening, “Inside Llewyn Davis” would earn mere peanuts. Which is where the problem begins I guess. It’s not like the Coen brothers are unheard of to cinephiles. I mean, would people rather watch mindless trash or sappy romance flicks than this towering achievement? Maybe it’s just me, I’m probably just preaching or being stupid. Anyway…

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As I previously stated, the film we’re discussing here is the Coen brothers latest masterpiece, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It opens on a lonely microphone surrounded by  a disheartening silence. Llewyn soon breaks this soundless void with a haunting, melancholic folk ballad that sets the tone for the rest of the film. If you’re searching for a flick with hope, laughter, and happiness, this is not the experience for you. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is about as depressing, honest, and real as it gets. Soon after, we set off accompanying Mr. Davis, a young folk musician, as he struggles to sell himself and find work. Llewyn then begins to implode under the weight of his own principals and broken relationships. Down and out, Llewyn makes one last push to rise above it all and hitches a ride to Chicago in hopes of jump-starting his career. Making new friends, losing old ones, and accidentally alienating those who love him. Llewyn suffers under our greatest fear, loneliness, as he tries to stay true to himself.

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Granted it’s not the Coen’s most complex, exhilarating story. It’s but a brief moment in a young, talented, ambitious man’s life that they depict, every high and low with staggering accuracy and sparkling authenticity. There’s no doubt you’ll experience, sympathize, and feel more with “Inside Llewyn Davis” than any other film this year. Spotted with gloomy skies, dirty sunsets, harsh weather, and the unforgiving, breathtaking countryside. The Coen’s continue to utilize poignant, terrifying visuals to create unfathomable depth and atmosphere. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more masterful use of what the Earth offers naturally. The dialogue isn’t as memorable as some of the Coen’s more comedic, violent films, but offers up some genuine humour and heartbreaking quips. Alongside this, a series of original and classic folk songs by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Bob Dylan, and others lay an assault upon your body. “Inside Llewyn Davis” has the best soundtrack of the year, hands down, enough said.

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Finding a cast that is as talented on the screen as they are musically inclined is a hell of a feat. A task that the Coen brothers seemed to relish undertaking and one they achieved beyond words. Starring Oscar Isaac in the title role, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake. “Inside Llewyn Davis” offers up one of the best ensembles 2013 has to offer. Without question, Isaac leads the way here. He gives a phenomenal portrayal of an invested, skilled, worn musician fighting with his artistic mindset and conforming to survive. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be picking up quite a few accolades come award season. Mulligan is as striking as ever and quite easily leaves the viewer smitten. It’s a real shame she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. Hedlund and Goodman, although sparsely used, form a charismatic, obnoxious duo that’ll leave you grabbing your sides and clenching your heart. Hedlund closely matches Isaac stride for stride and hopefully will break through with this role. Timberlake brings his talent to the film and not much else, which isn’t any fault of his own. His character is short and not given a chance to develop.

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Right now, the Coen brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis” is battling Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” for my favourite film of the year…that should speak to how good this film truly is. I mean, I’m not a fan of musicals or dance flicks, and I’m not claiming that this film is either of those, but it does have similar elements. I’m merely saying that this expressionistic, impressionistic piece is so bloody brilliant, down right transcendent that it envelopes the screen and radiates life. It may or may not be the Coen’s greatest achievement, but it’s pretty damn close.

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Inside Llewyn Davis: 9.5 out of 10.

Filth (2013)

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For those familiar with my work (good god that sounds pretentious), you might recall last week when I posted a review of “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.” I clamoured on and on in this article about how I loathe and detest the genre that is comedy… Yet, I conversely raved about how “Brits seem to have a direct line to my funny bone,” which eventually led to me building up the aforementioned Steve Coogan flick as the funniest of the year. Soon after this, I sat down and watched another of my most anticipated flicks of the year, Jon S. Baird’s “Filth,” which just so happens to be another hilarious film from the UK, originating from Scotland. Now, I know that there’s no love lost between the segregates of British people, but in all fairness, the English, Scots, Irish, and so on, are all part of one great nation and can all be deemed “British.” Therefore, my theory regarding comedy, the British, and my own, bizarre, dark comedic taste remains as truthful as ever.

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Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same title, which is one of my most cherished reads. “Filth” is every bit as vile as the dirty images and abhorrent actions the word conjures up in your brain. It’s repulsive, violent, vulgar, abusive, indulgent, sociopathic, misogynistic, sexually deplorable, and darkly hilarious. That being said, it doesn’t quite knock “Alpha Papa” from the throne of hilarity I’ve bestowed upon it, but “Filth” does exceed its brethren in nearly every other emotional and cinematic aspect. However, as you’ve probably assumed by now (I hope), this flick is really for those with a taste for the gritty and grotesque. So (I feel idiotic for even having to point this out), do not watch “Filth” if you are…delicate, you know, easily offended. Because if you happen to be the “morally stable” type, I can confidently guarantee that it won’t sit well with you and that you’ll be scrubbing “Filth” endlessly from your underbelly to no avail…

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Now, if you’re like me and have a rather…unique taste in film, there’s hardly anything shocking in the goings on of this flick that you haven’t been previously exposed to. Don’t get me wrong though, “Filth” is plenty filthy. I’m simply stating that one, like myself, shouldn’t go into the film expecting to be knocked off their feet from disgust, depravity, and peril. I’ve seen the very worst, disturbing, unhinged things that cinema has to offer and the dirt here doesn’t exactly rival those that rely on inhumanity as a crutch. What I’m saying is that the filth is hardly the driving point of “Filth,” merely a contrast, a theme, a device to assist in nailing our humanity home. To phrase it better, I’ve never seen such selfish, stoic, savage behaviour used so effectively and tastefully. The honest moments of vulnerability, fear, and love in this film is what makes “Filth” so utterly disconcerting, not the extent of ones indifference to the well being of others or themselves.

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Directed by the aforementioned Jon S. Baird, who also wrote the screenplay, “Filth” explores the depths and extremes of the human psyche. Constructed as a series of repugnant acts playing out through a man suffering from the destruction of his family while he fights for a promotion. Baird’s adaptation might not stay completely true to the source material, yet is able to conjure up a rather empathetic, aching, scummy story while keeping the darkness above all else. “Filth” really is an exploration of contrasts, take for example, it’s soundtrack. There’s a scene in which a group of people spontaneously jump into a merry, disheartening chorus staring into the camera dead on, sufficiently demolishing the fourth wall, just mere minutes before and after such foulness has graced the screen. I don’t know who’s responsible for such artistic structure, but they should be applauded. Baird really triumphs thoroughly with his latest outing.

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Now, before I get into praising James McAvoy, I’d like to give a shout-out to “Filth’s” outstanding supporting cast comprised of Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, and Jamie Bell, amongst others. Broadbent definitely takes his bizarre, hallucinogenic role to the next level with a charismatic, descriptively insane performance. Whether he’s ripping out the innards of our unstable lead, causing uproarious laughs with his sporadic mannerisms, or forcing disheartening realizations, Broadbent really pushes the film to the next level. Poots continues to display why she’s one of the most talented up-and-comers. She’s striking, unrelenting, sexy, and immensely astounding. As for Bell, who should really get more chances to strut his stuff, what can I say, he once again proves he’s got the chops to hang with the best. McAvoy, oh James McAvoy…simply put, McAvoy is bloody brilliant, his mannerisms, laugh, voice, beard, everything. The way he looks at the camera and breaks the fourth wall is enough to give you chills and his emotional output is heart-wrenching. His performance alone makes “Filth” worth the watch.

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Featuring one of the performances of the year from James McAvoy, evoking countless reactions and tugging at the viewers heart strings. “Filth” is a rare cinematic achievement in which humanities lowest points cause the film to soar to dizzying heights.

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Filth: 9 out of 10.