Review: American Hustle

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.
Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

John Connor’s Big Con
Rating: ***

A running joke in my movie group was that Christian Bale, who plays a con man in American Hustle is in fact a Connor – John Connor of Terminator: Salvation. In David O. Russell’s new film set in the late 70s, Bale plays Irving Rosenfield, an old school con artist who has found success, but is still thirsty for more.

This brings us to Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who joins Rosenfield’s con gang as Lady Edith Greensley, a fake British aristocrat. Adams has had her fair share of memorable performances but American Hustle (much like David O. Russell’s earlier film, The Fighter) travels to a land far away from her girl-next-door image. Here in American Hustle, she is the pot of gold – the reward everyone wants.

Justifiably, she buries herself underneath low-cut gowns and really (and I mean really) high heels. With all that glitz and makeup, one may wonder whether Adams was going to a Farrah Fawcett party and took the wrong bus.

Rosenfield’s guilt trip begins with Mayor Carmine Polito, a legit man, living a decent life, who is sweet talked into taking a bribe. Jeremy Renner is a fine candidate for the role of Mayor Polito. With two Oscar nominated roles in his kitty, this is cake walk for Renner.

The problem with American Hustle begins with Richie DiMasso, a young FBI agent (played by Bradley Cooper) who wants to be famous for pulling off the biggest intelligence operation ever. There are a couple of scenes that provide us little information on the life and times of DiMasso, which of course could have been avoided.

Much like Argo, American Hustle tries to become a personal battle than a political thriller. The success of ABSCAM isn’t the real deal, Rosenfield’s survival is.

He’s a con artist, and he helps FBI pull off a scam. But, what makes Rosenfield a common man is his estranged, neurotic wife (played by Jennifer Lawrence). She explains in one scene “you can’t divorce me because you fear I’ll talk about your illegal activities.”

That’s right, Rosenfield. You’re whipped for life!

American Hustle is a star-studded seventies crime comedy that bears plenty of resemblance to the Martin Scorsese mafia classic Goodfellas. There are the voiceovers (one each for Bale, Adams and Cooper), the constant usage of classic rock and jazz music, and of course Robert De Niro as a mafioso.

American Hustle is an old-fashioned, unapologetic, commercial cocktail prepared in Russell’s trademark style. It’s clever, funny and sometimes over the top. But, that’s the joie de vivre in watching a David O. Russell film.

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2012 – The Best of Hollywood

The following is my list of the best movies that released in 2012.

Ben Affleck in Argo.
Ben Affleck in Argo.

Argo – Arguably the best film of the year, Argo is a nail-biting film that adds a good amount of fiction to the Canadian Caper, a CIA mission to rescue six US consulate workers from Tehran. As an entertainer, Argo is no surprise as Ben Affleck is well-known for directing two other edgy films – Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook.
Bradley Cooper, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook.

Silver Linings Playbook – This comedy-drama is about a bi-polar man trying to fit back into the world he wrecked. Featuring several prominent actors such as Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker and India’s own Anupam Kher, Silver Linings Playbook hurls a grenade filled with emotions with well-scripted scenes and finely acted characters.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises – A fitting sequel to  The Dark Knight and a marvelous adieu to Nolan’s vision, The Dark Knight Rises has all the ingredients to be one of the best superhero films of all time.

Daniel Craig's James Bond and Sean Connery's Aston Martin in Skyfall.
Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Sean Connery’s Aston Martin in Skyfall.

Skyfall – 50 is just a number, and the aging James Bond proves it in Skyfall. A smartly written, old school Bond film, Skyfall left out several key ingredients, but compensated with a Bond and M we have never seen or heard of.

L-R: Ezra Kramer, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
L-R: Ezra Kramer, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – A bravado if any, The Perks of Being a Wallflower infuses comedy and drama with childhood trauma, and dishes out a fine coming-of-age story for today’s youngsters.

Denzel Washington in Flight.
Denzel Washington in Flight.

Flight – As an alcoholic, drug-addled pilot, Denzel Washington plays the badass character of the year, I’ve wanted to see. From flying a plan upside-down to stealthily mixing drinks on a no-alcohol flight, Washington makes it easy for the Academy if they were wondering on who should take the Best Actor Oscar. With a whirlwind first hour and a tense second hour, Flight is Robert Zemeckis’ comeback to making hardcore cinema.

L-R: Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom
L-R: Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom – Set in 1965, this smart comedy drama revolves around two teenagers who elope. The starry cast includes Billy Murray, Frances McDormand, Eddie Norton and an enigmatic Bruce Willis.

Review: The A-Team

Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Liam Neeson and Quinton Jackson in The A-Team

CGI infused whodunit wannabe

The A-Team (PG-13)

Director: Joe Carnahan

Starring: Liam Neeson, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson

Genre: CGI-dependent Action

Rating: *

In one of the unimaginable action scenes, The A-Team escapes from a burning plane in a tank. The leader, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) commands his men to rotate the canon forty-five degrees and fire. This pushes the falling tank to the right which then falls into a lake, saving the four mercenaries aboard. I wondered how this stunt could have been created. But, the pre-title sequence became the horror of horrors. A rickety medical chopper does a flip and if that didn’t turn me off, it was the CGI overdose in the final action scene which did.

The A-Team has quite an outdated storyline, probably because it is based on a 1980s TV series and also the fact that there’s a less commercial movie with the same storyline, running in theatres. But, The A-Team is all glitz when compared to The Losers. Tell me if you knew any of the actors other than Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana. The A-Team is led by four well-known actors. Led by Liam Neeson, you have mixed martial artist Quinton Jackson, District 9’s Sharlto Copley and the charming dude from The Hangover, Bradley Cooper. Along with them, there’s Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel. Now, that’s a well-recognized cast. And, according to the rules of Hollywood blockbusters, a well-recognized cast can alone rake half of the budget. So add some cheesy humor pepped up with CGI devised action scenes to rake the other half and the privileges.

What irritated me the most was the hands-on experience which featured queasy-camera presentation. The cinematography was a real eyesore. If only this movie had been a 3D presentation, I’d be searching for an eye donor. Mauro Fiore presents such horrendous work with the camera.

The A-Team nevertheless entertains and no matter the goof-ups, your main preference is entertainment and The A-Team is a wise choice.