Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review: Young Frankenstein

Director: Mel Brooks
Year: 1974
Score: 7.5/10

This must have been the first scene filmed, since in every other scene Marty Feldman showed the effects of what happened here (having his neck squeezed until his eyes popped out). On a more serious note: Graves' disease.

This must have been the first scene filmed, since in every other scene Marty Feldman showed the effects of what happened here (having his neck squeezed until his eyes popped out). On a more serious note: Graves’ disease.

The best of the three Mel Brooks comedies I caught up on, probably because it has the funniest gags and the best parodies. Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle are in fine form, with good support from Marty Feldman and others (including Gene Hackman in an amusing cameo). I imagine much of it would fall flat to audiences unfamiliar with the classic horror movies Brooks is poking fun at, but then again they’re so influential and ubiquitous in pop culture that even if you haven’t actually seen them many of the references would probably still be recognisable. The satire is affectionate rather than genuinely critical, and therein lies much of the appeal. It’s quite uneven, with plenty of unfunny stretches, though it remains watchable throughout. The performance of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ is hilarious.

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Review: The Producers

Director: Mel Brooks
Year: 1967
Score: 6.5/10

Either there were elaborate special effects used to achieve this, or the actress suffered a great deal of pain.

Either there were elaborate special effects used to achieve this, or the actress suffered a great deal of pain.

I have an interesting history with Mel Brooks. As a child I watched Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs once or twice, and his later (and widely regarded as lesser) parodies Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It lots and lots of times, so they both have considerable nostalgic and sentimental value for me regardless of their actual quality (or lack thereof). For some reason, though, I never saw his ‘classics’ (other than Blazing Saddles) from the ’60s and ’70s, a failing I’ve now remedied by marathoning three in a row: The Producers, Young Frankenstein and Silent Movie.

I quite enjoyed The Producers. It has fun performances from Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and the ridiculous Kenneth Mars, and a pervasive sense of cheekiness that works well. However, there aren’t really enough jokes, and some sequences (e.g. Ulla’s dance) are unfortunate. The famous performance of Springtime for Hitler is the clear highlight; it’s so much better (funnier, cleverer, more entertaining) than the rest, in fact, that it reveals the mediocrity elsewhere. My favourite line of the film: “You shut up. You are the audience. I am the author. I outrank you!”.

Review: Adventures in the Sin Bin [a.k.a. Sin Bin]

Director: Billy Federighi
Year: 2012
Score: 4/10

Get it? The numbing condoms are called 'Everwood' and have a picture of a hockey stick on the box? This is literally the best joke of the whole movie.

Get it? The numbing condoms are called ‘Everwood’ and have a picture of a hockey stick on the box? This is literally the best joke of the whole movie.

Formulaic, forgettable attempt at a teen coming-of-age sex comedy. It has occasional moments of sweetness, such as those involving the relationship between the protagonist and his brother, and it’s good to see Jeff Garlin, Gillian Jacobs and Tim Blake Nelson (all in small roles), even when wasted in a movie of this calibre. I don’t usually regret watching movies – even the bad ones usually have some redeeming features, or are worth watching to cross off my list – but this one is worthy of regret. Every review of it other than mine seems to draw attention to perceived similarities to (or shameless ripping off of) the style of Wes Anderson, but I didn’t really notice any.

Review: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

Director: David Lowery
Year: 2013
Score: 7.5/10

You could insert this into a trailer for Malick's To the Wonder and nobody would notice.

You could insert this into a trailer for Malick’s To the Wonder and nobody would notice.

Occasionally devastating drama starring three excellent actors, Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster. Great to see Keith Carradine (who in my mind will always either be singing ‘I’m Easy’ in Nashville or getting shot in Deadwood) in a supporting role. Ruminative and enigmatic, it brings to mind the films of Terrence Malick (my favourite director), conveying a similar sense of film as visual poetry and deliberate precision in seemingly haphazard juxtaposition of sound and image. It doesn’t reach Malick’s heights by any means, but the ambition is clearly there and there’s considerable merit in the attempt, though I imagine it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The cinematography is a major asset. I’ll be watching what writer/director David Lowery does next with keen interest.

Review: The Maltese Falcon

Director: John Huston
Year: 1941
Score: 7.5/10

This is a pretty cool optical illusion. Click on this image, make it fullscreen, then stare directly into Wilmer's eyes. After ten minutes, you should see it.

This is a pretty cool optical illusion. Click on this image, make it fullscreen, then stare directly into Wilmer’s eyes. After ten minutes, you should see it.

Fun, engrossing detective story that’s heavy on plot and full of twists and turns. It’s very talky, perhaps too much so; in fact, the fast-paced dialogue barely lets up the whole way through. Sam Spade is a wonderful creation of Dashiell Hammett brought to life memorably here by Humphrey Bogart, but the bizarre supporting characters he encounters along the way are as much as part of the film’s appeal as he is. The furtive, panicky Cairo and the crafty ‘Fat Man’ Gutman (played by Peter Laure and Sydney Greenstreet respectively) are especially enjoyable. Though billed as a film noir, it’s much more lively and full of humour than any other film noir I’ve seen. Well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Review: Dirty Wars

Director: Richard Rowley
Year: 2013
Score: 6/10

Jeremy Scahill is so self-obsessed that he insisted the documentary include a shot of himself looking at himself on a TV screen while being filmed. I just hope the DVD release includes, as a special feature, a clip of him watching this scene.

Jeremy Scahill is so self-obsessed that he insisted the documentary include a shot of himself looking at himself on a TV screen while being filmed. I just hope the DVD release includes, as a special feature, a clip of him watching this scene.

Disappointing documentary that’s gotten more acclaim (including an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary) than it deserves. It tackles undoubtedly worthy subject matter – covert military operations (including assassinations) undertaken by US special forces, particularly the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), in places such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia in recent years – but it does so in a naïve, somewhat clunky way. The two main problems are that the protagonist/journalist Jeremy Scahill is included in the documentary as a character far too much – this should be about the frightening activities under investigation, not about the journalist undertaking that investigation – and the absence of any meaningful historical context (e.g. what led to JSOC’s establishment in 1980? What was it up to in the ’80s and ’90s?) to allow the audience to understand the disturbing trend at the heart of the film. Scahill also presents all of his findings as startling new revelations, when in reality (as I understand it) lots of other journalists and writers have known about and reported on this stuff for a long time. The stylistic flourishes in the vein of thriller movies tend to misfire, and I could maybe have done without some of the footage of dead kids. Having said all that, I should acknowledge that there’s some powerful stuff in the film and it’s certainly watchable enough.

Review: Pi

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Year: 1998
Score: 6.5/10

This almost makes me want to see a horror movie in which the villains are sullen/angry/rabid Jews. Almost.

This almost makes me want to see a horror movie in which the villains are sullen/angry/rabid Jews. Almost.

Darren Aronofsky’s debut is a singular, though not wholly successful, experience. It explores many of the themes he revisited in later films, such as isolation, paranoia, obsession and self-destruction. The ambition of it is plain to see and it showcases Aronofsky’s talent and promise well. The scratchy black-and-white photography doesn’t add much really, other than giving it a very specific look. Sean Gullette is quite good as our protagonist, the paranoid genius Max, and he also co-wrote the story. I have to say I didn’t find the ideas and theories that so obsess Max all that compelling. It also delves perhaps a little too far into the realm of the surreal for my tastes. Nonetheless, I’m glad I finally watched it (it’s a movie that has stared at me in video shops for a long time).

Review: On the Waterfront

Director: Elia Kazan
Year: 1954
Score: 7.5/10

As this is so clearly Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the movie was made in 1954, I've written to Wikipedia to inform them of the inaccuracy of their claim that Van Damme was born in 1960.

As this is so clearly Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the movie was made in 1954, I’ve written to Wikipedia to inform them of the inaccuracy of their claim that Van Damme was born in 1960.

Powerful drama about personal responsibility in the context of waterfront union corruption. The film is justifiably best remembered for Marlon Brando’s Oscar-winning performance, one that still holds up six decades later for its intensity, dynamism and depth of feeling. Apart from Brando, there are some other good performances, most notably Eva Marie Saint and Karl Malden. The famous car scene (“I coulda had class… I coulda been a contender… I coulda been somebody…”) is as moving as you’d expect, though it’s more understated than I’d been led to believe from my previous exposure to snippets out of context. The story is fairly predictable, as is the romance, but it’s still quite effective. Elia Kazan’s direction is nothing flashy, though it won him a second Oscar.

Review: Rounders

Director: John Dahl
Year: 1998
Score: 6.5/10

He's an unpleasant character, but I love his dress sense. This bright red adult onesie  (WANT!) with black hat ensemble is a highlight.

He’s an unpleasant character, but I love his dress sense. This bright red adult onesie (WANT!) with black hat ensemble is a highlight.

Flawed but watchable poker movie starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, two actors I like (which helps). It’s been called “the best poker movie ever made”, but that isn’t really saying much; how many can you name off the top of your head? Damon has sufficient screen presence to make a lot of it work, and the poker stuff is fairly engaging, particularly the hustling scenes. However, it’s brought down by a lack of subtlety, ridiculous plot points (most notably: a central character having the world’s most obvious ‘tell’ that’s somehow only discovered by another character at a climactic moment) and an awful performance from John Malkovich, who totally overdoes it with a bad Russian accent. Always good to see John Turturro in a supporting role.

Review: The Vikings

Director: Richard Fleischer
Year: 1958
Score: 5.5/10

"Hands up if you've read the script and think it's awesome."

“Hands up if you’ve read the script and think it’s awesome.”

I first watched this in high school since apparently it had educational value. Supposedly a historical epic, it’s neither historical nor particularly epic. The thing is, it should be epic, given the subject matter and plot outline, but it just never quite gets there and instead the story – featuring conflict between Vikings and Northumbrians, a hidden heir, long-lost brothers, and various other tropes – ends up feeling pretty silly. The performances aren’t terrible but they’re not good either; there’s a fair bit of hamminess and over-acting. I usually like these actors (especially Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis) more. The exception is a near-unrecognisable Ernest Borgnine, who hams it up as the fabled Ragnar in a way that works perfectly. A couple of other pluses: the battle scenes are fairly reasonable for 1958, and there’s some lovely scenery shot quite well.

Review: West Side Story

Director: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins
Year: 1961
Score: 7/10

Somehow a simple message delivery very nearly turns into a gang rape. What the hell is wrong with these guys??

Somehow a simple message delivery very nearly turns into a gang rape. What the hell is wrong with these guys??

This musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet is pleasant enough, transposing the familiar story into the world of local and immigrant gangs on the streets of New York. The songs are a mixed bag, with some duds and some real winners, but none as memorable as those in some other musicals I’ve enjoyed in the past. Interestingly, I only recognised one song – ‘America’ – which suggests the rest haven’t reached the level of pop culture ubiquity so many songs from other musicals have. The beginning and ending are strong; the long middle is uneven, often brought up or down by the relative quality of the songs. The central romance is easy to get swept up in, helped by the charisma of the young leads, Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood, and the chemistry between them. Considering the setting and everything it’s supposed to represent, I could have done with more of New York itself; it often felt like I was watching Generic Place With Xenophobia Story rather than an actual West Side Story. It won many Oscars, including Best Picture; I wouldn’t call it a deserving winner, though to be honest I haven’t seen enough other 1961 releases to make a definitive call.

Review: Man of Steel

Director: Zack Snyder
Year: 2013
Score: 5.5/10

Henry Cavill attempting to nail his 'Superman is concerned!' look. As usual, he succeeds only in making me laugh.

Henry Cavill attempting to nail his ‘Superman is concerned!’ look. As usual, he succeeds only in making me laugh.

I’ll try to put aside my general lack of enthusiasm for superhero / comic book movies in order to fairly review this.

It seems an odd decision to reboot Superman so soon after 2006’s Superman Returns. However, it’s not a fruitless decision, as it allows a retelling of the Superman origin story, which I regard as the most interesting part of a superhero’s mythology. It also means Brandon Routh – who was sterile and unmemorable in Superman Returns – gets replaced by Henry Cavill, who isn’t great (and has some laughable facial expressions when attempting to look serious or concerned) but is at least an improvement. The other casting is quite good too, with talented performers such as Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne and Richard Schiff in key roles. I enjoyed the treatment of Superman as an alien; the people of Earth (and the authorities in particular) react to his presence and power much as they would any powerful extraterrestrial being suddenly discovered here, which is a refreshing change from the standard you’re-a-superhero-fighting-for-good-so-we-love-you response.

As for negatives… well, there are quite a few, and they’re biggies. Though he’s better than Routh, Cavill is no Christopher Reeve. Costner isn’t given a whole lot to do as Superman’s adoptive father Pa Kent and Shannon is regrettably one-note as the villainous Zod. Apart from the origins-of-Superman stuff, which is fine, the story is weak, consisting mostly of convoluted silliness involving conflict with Zod over the Kryptonian ‘codex’ (a MacGuffin if ever there was one). Many of the action scenes are Michael Bay Transformersish or akin to watching a video game unfold before our eyes (speaking of video games, the acting, dialogue and action in some of the early scenes on Krypton bring to mind the worst kind of video game cutscenes). In some cases, most notably the climactic sequence involving the ‘world engine’, it’s pretty hard to know or care what’s going on. A few scenes and devices are particularly preposterous, such as the preserved consciousness of Superman’s father Jor-El (Crowe) appearing on board the Kryptonian villains’ spaceship to guide Lois Lane (Adams) through a series of attacks. There are also quite a number of nits I couldn’t stop myself from picking and questions I couldn’t stop myself from asking even though I knew the answers were all ‘shut up and suspend your disbelief and logic, it’s a superhero movie!’, such as why the Kryptonians would rely on the least secure form of security I’ve ever seen (pegs that fit into holes!), why they speak English, why Superman’s parents don’t flee Krypton with him, etc. And lastly, a minor complaint: it’s a shame that John Williams’ iconic Superman theme isn’t used at all, even briefly as an homage.

Review: When Harry Met Sally…

Director: Rob Reiner
Year: 1989
Score: 9/10

An early draft of the script had Estelle Reiner saying "I'll have whichever food causes orgasms too, please" at this point. The revised version ended up being the most memorable food-ordering line in film history - unless you count Jack Nicholson's "I want you to hold it between your knees" from Five Easy Pieces.

An early draft of the script had Estelle Reiner saying “I’ll have whichever food causes orgasms too, please” at this point. The revised version ended up being the most memorable food-ordering line in film history – unless you count Jack Nicholson’s “I want you to hold it between your knees” from Five Easy Pieces.

One of the best, funniest, most genuine romantic comedies I’ve seen. At its heart is a hugely appealing performance by Billy Crystal; I’ve never liked him this much before (except perhaps as Mike Wazowski in the Monsters movies). Meg Ryan, who I normally don’t take to, is in good form too. The final act is a tad uneven – we know where it’s all heading, and toward the end there seem to be too many hoops to be jumped through before we get there – but that’s probably my only gripe. There’s such truth to be found in it, and such enjoyment to be had along the way, that I must thoroughly recommend it.

Review: The Selfish Giant

Director: Clio Barnard
Year: 2013
Score: 9/10

Does it still count as 'kitchen sink realism' if the kitchen appears to - quite unrealistically - not have a sink?

Does it still count as ‘kitchen sink realism’ if the kitchen appears to – quite unrealistically – not have a sink?

Poignant, immersive drama about two working class boys in Northern England who collect and sell scrap metal to a local dealer. On paper it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s really something special. It’s a slice of life in this poverty-stricken community, a portrait of quite a beautiful friendship between the two boys, and a thoughtful (and very loose) reimagining of the Oscar Wilde short story from which it draws its name. Writer/director Clio Barnard draws heavily on the style and voice of Ken Loach; in particular, there are strong echoes of Kes. The adult cast, largely unknown to me (the only actor I recognised was Ralph Ineson, who played Chris ‘Finchy’ Finch in the UK version of The Office), is solid enough. However, it’s the young actors who play the boys – Conner Chapman as the hyperactive but resourceful Arbor, and Shaun Thomas as his gentle horse-loving friend Swifty – who truly shine in their film debuts. Chapman is especially good, showing maturity well beyond his years with the power, precision and restraint of his performance. I highly recommend this film and will be keeping a close eye on what both Barnard and Chapman do next. A warning to accompany the recommendation: the final act is kind of devastating (I bawled).

Review: Her

Director: Spike Jonze
Year: 2013
Score: 9/10

Joaquin's impression of his dead brother.

Joaquin’s impression of his dead brother.

Wow, what a remarkable piece of cinema! Spike Jonze has such an inventive, creative mind, and it’s a pleasure to experience a slice of it. Though I loved his three other feature films (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, both written by Charlie Kaufman, and Where the Wild Things Are, written by Jonze and Dave Eggers, adapting Maurice Sendak’s book), this is the one that made me appreciate him most, since not only did he direct it perfectly, but it’s an original screenplay (never was the term so apt) he wrote alone.

On the surface it’s an exploration of love in the digital future and the question of what it means to be human and to love, but beneath that it’s basically a movie about a man coming to terms with the collapse of his marriage. There are loads of wonderful ideas and it all hangs together into a solid dramatic whole. It’s also frequently very, very funny.

Joaquin Phoenix is memorable and entirely committed to his role; it may be his best performance to date, though to be fair I haven’t seen I’m Not There yet. Amy Adams continues her recent string of strong work; she’s a real talent. Scarlett Johansson is great too in a voice-only part, helping to create ‘Samantha’ as a fully realised character in our minds, which is crucial to the movie succeeding.

The production design is ingenious and the costuming is hilarious (especially the ubiquitous high pants) without being implausible in the least. I also love that the film never bothers to tell us precisely when in the future it’s set, since it’s too busy being awesome. I can’t recommend this highly enough; even if you don’t end up loving it as I did, you’re bound to find plenty to like.

Review: 12 Years a Slave

Director: Steve McQueen
Year: 2013
Score: 9/10

Spoiler alert much?

Spoiler alert much?

There were a lot of reasons I was looking forward to this, but two are worth mentioning: the trailer used some of my favourite music from The Thin Red Line (my second favourite movie ever), and David Simon raved about it. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. It truly is one of the very best films of 2013, and consequently it took home the Best Picture Oscar; though personally I preferred Gravity and Her, I was fine with this outcome.

A singular, visceral experience, it’s immensely powerful, particularly towards the end. Steve McQueen shows great precision, pathos and nuance in his direction. It’s one of the best cinematic explorations of injustice and suffering I’ve seen. Telling the story of a kidnap victim rather than one of the countless other slaves he finds himself amongst is an interesting and ultimately fruitful window into the broader issue of the immorality of slavery; we focus on the personal hardship and tragedy of this one man, but in doing so cannot help but recognise the wider injustice around him.

The supporting performances from Michael Fassbender (who performed so well for McQueen in Shame) and Lupita Nyong’o are excellent, and Paul Giamatti does well in a small role requiring him to be a racist arsehole, but it’s Chiwetel Ejiofor who shines brightest in a powerhouse lead performance. Indeed, were it not for Matthew McConaughey’s sterling work in Dallas Buyers Club, I would have handed the Best Actor Oscar to Ejiofor in a flash. Also look for Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) in a role that basically amounts to a cameo.

This is the kind of movie that I imagine many prospective viewers are apprehensive about watching; it looks like it will be unpleasant, perhaps the cinematic experience of eating one’s greens. I’d say this: it certainly is unpleasant at times, but it’s also deeply moving, uplifting, and full of meat to go with the greens.

Review: Nebraska

Director: Alexander Payne
Year: 2013
Score: 8/10

This gave me an idea for a photography exhibition: a collection of photos of families sitting around watching TV, taken by placing a camera on top of each family's TV set, hiding, and waiting for just the right moment.

This gave me an idea for a photography exhibition: a collection of photos of families sitting around watching TV, taken by placing a camera on top of each family’s TV set, hiding, and waiting for just the right moment.

I’ve become such a big fan of Alexander Payne; his movies always have real warmth, humanity and truth to them. Nebraska is no exception, and in fact is one of his very best. It’s the bittersweet story of an old man, played wonderfully by Bruce Dern, and his quest to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect the million dollars he thinks he’s won. More than that, it’s the story of how his son, Will Forte in a long-overdue serious role, finally gets to know his father by accompanying him on his quest and meeting the denizens of his home town. As good as Dern is, I was even more impressed with June Squibb’s scene-stealing performance as his wife. The film is populated by a ragtag collection of small town folk, most of them getting on in age and all of them ringing true. There’s some great humour which might seem mean since it’s often at the expense of these characters, but it’s coupled with enough wryness and affection that it never feels spiteful or sneery. A surprising amount of the humour involves old people talking about sex, which has its charms. It’s beautifully photographed in black and white, with plenty of lovely landscape shots of rural Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. The wistful score, heavy on violin and accordion, fits well too. Recommended.

Review: Philomena

Director: Stephen Frears
Year: 2013
Score: 8/10

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in... Law & Order: Irish Adoption Unit.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in… Law & Order: Irish Adoption Unit.

Dramatisation of real-life events as a washed up journalist (Steve Coogan) pursues a ‘human interest’ story by helping an old Irish woman (Judi Dench) search for the son that was taken from her fifty years ago. It could so easily have been saccharine or exploitative or depressing or effectively the kind of mundane story Coogan’s character initially maligns. Instead, scriptwriters Coogan and Jeff Pope and director Stephen Frears nimbly weave between all of these and create a thoughtful, engaging, respectful film that tells its story in a straightforward but effective way. With Coogan co-writing, there are welcome regular doses of light humour, most from his character but some from Dench’s too. Having a son close to the same age as Dench’s character’s son at the time of the separation – which we see in flashbacks – added an extra level of emotional resonance for me. Even without that though, there are several heartfelt moments that are enough to warrant tears, all hinging on Dench and her outstanding performance in the title role. It’s not a perfect movie by any means (one gripe, for example, is that Michelle Fairley as Coogan’s character’s editor is a bit one-dimensional, never missing a chance to play into the ‘unscrupulously exploitative editor’ stereotype), but it’s very nicely done and well worth a watch – even if just to see Dench do her thing.

Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese
Year: 2013
Score: 7.5/10

Nice period detail: it's true, back in the early '90s people WERE constantly doing impressions of Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone!

Nice period detail: it’s true, back in the early ’90s people WERE constantly doing impressions of Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone!

This is Scorsese’s best film since The Departed, but that’s not saying much since it only had to beat the mediocre Shutter Island and the terrible Hugo. It’s a largely enjoyable romp about a despicable stockbroker’s rise, debauched antics, and inevitable fall. The acting is hard to fault: Leonardo DiCaprio’s at the very top of his game and it’s difficult to recall a better performance from him (if pressed I might point to Revolutionary Road or What’s Eating Gilbert Grape); Jonah Hill continues to surprise me, showing that Moneyball was no fluke and he’s actually an actor of considerable skill; Matthew McConaughey appears quite briefly but adds yet another sterling performance to his recent body of work (Dallas Buyers Club and Mud were enough to put him into my list of all-time greats, and this is just icing); and even Margot Robbie, in the few scenes in which she wears clothes, is good enough to make you forget she’s best known for being on Neighbours.

Marty certainly knows his craft and the entertainment value is pretty high, but it’s held back from greatness because it’s too lightweight to succeed as a drama in the tradition of Goodfellas (one of his very best films, and the one this resembles most closely in terms of its storyline), and too Goodfellasish – or, perhaps, insufficiently committed to making the audience laugh – to succeed as a comedy, despite a few solid gags (mostly involving drug use, which is never not funny, right?). By the end of the three hours, I’d seen a lot of crazy things and my interest had never flagged, but I was left wondering if there was anything beneath the decadent veneer. In that sense, it felt like the perfect companion piece to American Hustle.

Review: American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell
Year: 2013
Score: 7/10

So, Batman gets fat and suddenly Lois Lane is into him. I predict this will also be the plot of Zack Snyder's Batman vs. Superman movie.

So, Batman gets fat and suddenly Lois Lane is into him. I predict this will also be the plot of Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman movie.

There’s a lot to like in this; as a piece of fluffy entertainment, it succeeds quite well. However, there’s not actually much depth to it and the plot – despite its various twists and turns – doesn’t satisfy. David O. Russell has assembled a very good cast (as usual) and the production design, costumes and wigs are all nicely distracting, but they can’t quite disguise the fact that it’s basically just a caper with nothing much to say. The acting is strong, especially from Amy Adams and Christian Bale (more like Christian Whale, amiright?? Boom, roasted! Seriously though, he got himself quite fat for this role). I’ve always liked Adams and it’s great to see her landing – and absolutely devouring – meaty parts like this. The only misfire in terms of casting is Jeremy Renner; don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented actor, but I didn’t buy him for a minute as an Italian-American community leader (perhaps he lacks range?). There are some memorable moments, such as the early romantic scenes between Bale and Adams, Louis CK’s ice fishing story, and Jennifer Lawrence’s use of the “science oven”. I would have preferred more consistent use of voice-over; it’s used quite effectively at the start, sounding almost like retrospective interviews with the characters, but at a certain point it gets dropped and is only picked up briefly towards the end. Overall, it’s definitely still worth watching, but make sure you manage your expectations; if you go in looking for a stylish popcorn flick, you’ll probably enjoy it.