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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.

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Like Crazy (2011)

Warning: What lies ahead is the most personal, incoherent, ambiguous review I’ve ever written. Proceed with caution.

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That inexplicable venom that swirls around in your head when you’re sleeping. It fills your gut with air until it rises into your throat, suffocating your chest cavity. Those tiny pricks that feel like sparks tingling your extremities. This is love, and it’s what Like Crazy desperately tried to create and at times, succeeded. Maybe I’ve been shell-shocked and most likely, I’m not too bitter. But Like Crazy’s authenticity is never in question and for such a universally recognized and understood force, as love is, nothing can even remotely seem falsified. Starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, two youthful and capable leads. Written and Directed by Drake Doremus and featuring an amazing supporting performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Like Crazy shows the foundation and the setbacks in building a fortified relationship.

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Anna (Jones) is studying at a college in Los Angeles. Originally from Britain, Anna meets Jacob (Yelchin) in one of her classes overseas. The two hit it off on their first date and fall in love. When they graduate, Anna decides to violate her visa and remain in Los Angeles with Jacob for a little while longer. Later when Anna travels home to London, she is denied a return flight back to the United States because she overstayed the allotted time given by her visa. After Jacob ventures to Britain for a short period of time, he must return to his business in America. The two decide to part ways as it is impossible to continue their relationship with the massive distance between them. When Jacob returns, he begins a love affair with a coworker named Samantha (Lawrence). As time passes, they realize they cannot be away from one another. Trying to devise a way for Anna return to the United States permanently, Jacob and Anna soon realize their problems are just beginning.

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I’m not going to lie. Yes, at times it tore me apart and yes it gave me misty eyes. I’ve probably fallen for Felicity Jones just from watching it. It isn’t so much the love I’m calling into question because it is very apparent Yelchin and Jones conducted chemistry. The issue I find with Like Crazy, is it’s very much a young love driven film and for some, that can alienate. Don’t get me wrong, Like Crazy is miles ahead of the seemingly weekly releases of Nicolas Sparks adapted pictures. Yet, the ending and ambiguity of the film in its entirety is enough to make you want to rip out your heart and never use it again. If you end up watching Like Crazy and feel nothing, there is something wrong with you, not the film. The heart of Like Crazy is something we all wish we had and it destroys us to confront, arguably the reason we were put on the planet.

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If I’m to be honest, I’m going crazy writing this review because I am sitting on a fence, debating if I hated it or loved it and I can’t come to a conclusion. I don’t like to burn bridges and if I jump too hastily, I could be condemning a film I’d grow to appreciate. This is getting too personal but I’m starting to lean to the positive side. I don’t think I’ve ever been so morose after watching a romance film. For all the right reasons, Like Crazy is difficult to watch, I mean it really hits home. Forgive me if I am too personal, preachy, or disconcerting in my review. Like Crazy is a very personal film and it is hard to separate oneself from it.

The acting is superb. It is very difficult to force or fake such a deep emotion and Yelchin and Jones do nothing of the sorts. The majority of their brilliance stems from their slight facial expressions, eye movements, and silence. Which, much the same as reality, are important tactics when conveying an emotion, especially one as complex as love. Jennifer Lawrence, in a sparse amount of screen time, manages to steal every minute she’s visible.

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I don’t really know what else to say about Like Crazy. The story is fairly straightforward, the acting is terrific, and it aches to watch it. Which, I guess is essential to romance films. All cards on the table, this is one of the more favourable romance films I’ve seen.

Like Crazy: 7.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Films of 2012

We might be a bit late to this particular list’s party, but better now than never. This was a difficult list to compile, lots of great pictures to chose from. But myself (monster1711) and my bud (cinema2033) think we’ve created a diverse and respectable list. If you feel that we overlooked a certain film or have any suggestions for future top 10’s, please comment below. Without further anticipation, let’s get started.

10. Looper. Easily the best science fiction film of the year. Featuring terrific performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, Looper is a brain scrambler that will leave you stunned.

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9. The Cabin in the Woods. Speaking of brain scramblers. The Cabin in the Woods is definitely the most bizarre film of the year. Mixing the hilarious and terrifying elements of horror and poking fun at them, it is sure to be a cult favourite.

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8. Skyfall. Quite possibly the best Bond film to ever grace the big screen. Skyfall is witty, charming, and one hell of a ride. With towering performances from Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem, Skyfall is not to be missed.

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7. Seven Psychopaths. Another entry into Martin McDonagh’s violent comedies. Seven Psychopaths is full of violence, hilarity, and outstanding performances from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken.

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6. Argo. Winner of the 2012 Oscar for best picture, need we say more? Directed and starring Ben Affleck, Argo is history come alive.

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5. Silver Linings Playbook. Thought by many to be the best picture of 2012. Silver Linings Playbook is another solid outing from David O. Russell and features a return to form for Robert De Niro. Not to mention the emergence of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as real acting heavyweights.

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4. On The Road. Possibly the most controversial film on the list, On The Road left audiences divided. Based on Jack Kerouac’s generation defining novel. On The Road features entrancing performances from Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, and especially the lovely Kristen Stewart.

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3. Django Unchained. The second chapter in Tarantino’s yet to be finished history trilogy. Django Unchained landed Christoph Waltz another supporting actor Oscar. Also starring Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, and a deliciously evil performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained is violently hilarious.

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2. Zero Dark Thirty. Best picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty is brought to you by the creators of The Hurt Locker. There really isn’t anything else that needs to be said. Incredibly tense, monumental performances, and impeccably scripted. Zero Dark Thirty is an unstoppable force.

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1. The Dark Knight Rises. The conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy, directed by the brilliant Christopher Nolan. With Tom Hardy as Bane, The Dark Knight Rises has the best villain performance of the year. Including an unmatchable cast and an epic finale no one saw coming, The Dark Knight Rises might be the greatest comic book adapted film in the history of cinema.

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Honourable Mentions. Lincoln, Sightseers, Prometheus, The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, End of Watch.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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The quirkiness of its approach to aggression and mental illness may be off-putting to some, but Silver Linings Playbook is an undeniably realistic and accurate depiction of psychological instabilities and the people who deal with them. Of course personally being able to relate to the illnesses portrayed is an advantage. However, one does not need to be at a disadvantage to enjoy and understand the craft and perfection in Silver Linings Playbook. Directed by the dependable David O. Russell (The Fighter) and featuring oscar nominated performances from Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), and Robert De Niro (Goodfellas). Silver Linings Playbook is a faithful adaptation for the countless who have been helped by the original text and for ones who need to feel hope and know they are not alone. It is a nice change of pace to see that optimistic, although controversial film making still exists amongst the endless pieces of high budget dribble released every weekend.

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Pat Solatano Jr (Cooper) convinces his mother Dolores (Weaver) to discharge him from the mental health institution after his court ordered stint is complete, against medical advice and without the consent of Pat Sr (De Niro). With conditions that Pat Jr must live at home with his parents, take medication, and attend mandatory therapy sessions, Pat Jr attempts to get his life in order and return to his wife. Pat Jr attends dinner with close friends and it is here where he is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence), a recovering sex addict who’s husband has recently died. Through their mental issues, Pat Jr and Tiffany find common ground and become friends while they help each other to get over their tribulations.

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It was uplifting to see the strength in the supporting and leading male actor categories at the Oscars this year. When Bradley Cooper and especially Robert De Niro walk away empty handed after their performances in Silver Linings Playbook, it becomes clear there was some serious competition. Robert De Niro gives the best performance of his illustrious career with his take on an aging OCD victim. Jennifer Lawrence, the only actor in the film to win an Oscar for her performance, is radiant as always. She melts with Cooper and together they become flawlessly dysfunctional. Feeding off their problems to become unified and eventually able to heal. David O. Russell once again unleashes a compelling tale of distress and succeeds in showing not just the work and time needed to breakthrough hardships, but as well as the support needed from family and friends. Silver Linings Playbook is the most elevating and rewarding film of the year.

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Silver Linings Playbook: 8.5 out of 10.