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December 29, 2013

American Hustle

American Hustle is the story of a conartist couple that is forced to help an eager FBI agent catch some major criminals. It is roughly based on a 1970's sting operation called ABSCAM that focused on finding corrupt public figures. The film stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence. While the story is similar to many other conartist films, the satire in this film goes above and beyond any film I have seen before. Along with fantastic comedic timing, these all-star actors give some amazing performances. The acting is a definite highlight in this film.

The comedy in this film is one of its strengths. I was very confused after watching the previews to hear that this is considered a comedy. Throughout the movie I asked myself if I would consider it a comedy. As the entire audience laughed out loud frequently, there was no question that this is a comedy, and a great one. This is really what sets this movie apart from others. 

Another major strength is the acting. Christian Bale has demonstrated his strength and range many times in frequent years. This is another hit out of the park. The opening scene finds Bale working on his elaborate comb over, a perfect sign of the times. This hysterical scene sets the tone for the whole movie and shows off Bale's skills as an actor. Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper give exceptional performances also. They both have demonstrated their range. This really showed off their comedic timing. Jennifer Lawrence rounds out this cast. She is just beginning to show off her varying talents. In this film she shows that she can hang with the big dogs. She is able to be physical with her acting and keep up her character in some of the most hilarious scenes in the movie. I was extremely impressed with her performance. It is not surprising that this performance has put her name in the running for more awards this year. 

Overall, American Hustle is a comical twist on a regular conartist story. The story won't blow you away, but the comedic writing and production along with some fantastic acting will leave you wanting more. 


January 19, 2013

Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad is the story of some rogue cops that go after the mobster, Mickey Cohen, who is running the town of Los Angeles. I find the release date of this film very interesting, because it hits right at the same time as the beginning of award season. I think this was an excellent movie with great writing, directing, and exquisite acting! It could really be a heavy hitter for awards, but the release date makes me concerned it will be forgotten about by the time awards come around in 2014.

The first positive of this film is the writing and directing. This is a action flick about battling for justice, but there is a great amount of humor mixed in. I never expected to hear the entire audience laughing during a gangster movie, but it created perfect moments and provided just the right mix of action and laughs! I believe this came about from a collaboration between writing and directing.

The best part of this film, however, was the acting! This is a loaded cast including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone. Each of these actors brings an exceptional performance and plays a part in creating this amazing movie! First, Sean Penn can transform himself better than almost any actor I have seen. He has the voice, the facial expression, and the mannerisms of a serious gangster. He perfectly portrays a man who takes joy in seeing others suffer and loses control when things don't go his way. I was amazed by his performance! Josh Brolin supplements Penn's performance as the good guy cop leading this squad of misfits to bring justice for their city. He fits into this late 40's time period very well and is perfect as the stand up, by the book cop. Ryan Gosling may convince you that he was actually living during this time period by his performance in this film. I believe that he might have been born in the wrong era, because his voice and his actions fit perfectly into this type of character. He is the pretty boy, slacker, and tough guy all wrapped into one as he also sweeps the damsel in distress off her feet! His body of work is becoming more and more impressive with each film he makes. Emma Stone is another person who fits into this time period perfectly. She plays the damsel in the arms of the evil mobster that needs a good guy to save her. She is sexy and independent while also showing the weakness a woman of this time had. This only begins to scratch the surface of the plethora of talented actors in Gangster Squad, but each of these had to be mentioned.

Overall, Gangster Squad was excellently written and directed. The casting was perfect to create a believable time period film. The acting takes this excellency to another level. The loaded cast makes this a great film.


November 27, 2012


Lincoln tells the story of President Abraham Lincoln as he tries to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. It is a very interesting historical story with excellent acting and just the right amount of humor mixed in. This is a classic historic film that tells a story about a very important time in the history of the United States. If you're looking for an action-packed thriller, this might not be the film for you. For any history buff, it is a must see! If you're in between, like me, it's worth checking out.

The highlight of Lincoln is definitely the acting. There is a lot of actual acting required. There were multiple scenes when a look or a gesture was used to convey important information and feelings. This requires strong actors who can make a statement with the slightest movement. Steven Spielberg and the casting director managed to find a plethora of actors who can REALLY act! At the forefront is Daniel Day-Lewis  as Lincoln. From the voice, to the stature, to the walk, Day-Lewis manages to bring to life every imagined picture you might have of this beloved president. Sally Field brings in some extra humor and strength as Mrs. Lincoln. The all-star cast is rounded out by David Strathairn, James Spader, and Tommy Lee Jones, to name a few. The cast as a whole did an excellent job creating the emotion of this significant time period and perfectly acted out the humor written by a group of clever writers. Among the civil war and political banter was just the right amount of humor to completely surprise the audience.  I would not be surprised if Lincoln was on the short list for acting and writing awards when awards season comes around!

While the acting and writing were expertly executed, I found myself checking the clock frequently throughout the film, the biggest no-no for any film. This is still a historically-based film, which means it isn't aiming for romance or action. This can create somewhat of a lull at times. I think Lincoln could have been improved slightly if it was shortened. The film runs about two hours and thirty minutes, which is fairly long for any film. This epic story could have been condensed slightly to keep the audience attention a little better. For this reason, I doubt there will be much buzz about the overall film for big time awards.

Even with some extra length and not quite fully keeping my attention, I would highly recommend this film. The acting is impeccable and memorable. Again, for any history buff, this is a must see. If you're not, this is probably best as a rental. Either way, find the time when you are in the right mindset to check out this fantastic movie!

For most people I'd say..... REDBOX/NETFLIX IT!!

November 19, 2012

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

As a huge fan of the Twilight books I have had a slightly biased view of the films in this saga; however, I have also had very high expectations. I have felt that the films have improved greatly over the course of the series. Breaking Dawn Part 2 continues in this pattern. Even though the first few films were not winning any awards based on acting or production abilities, you cannot deny that this series has been elevated to fan-favorite blockbuster status. I am not going to say that Part 2 is going to be on the Oscar short list for next year, but it did end the series on a high note. There was some definite surprises even for those avid book readers and some great closure for those fans who have anxiously awaited the arrival of each film.

I am not going to start singing praises for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, but the overall acting in this film was a great improvement from where it began. I was very anxious to see how Stewart would portray her character post-transformation. Her quirkiness suited this transition perfectly. This was clearly seen in one scene where Bella tries to control her new vampire speed and perfection to act human and talk with her father. Stewart made the feelings and humor of this scene come through effortlessly. Pattinson was much less annoying since his character was no longer resisting the urge to suck his bride's blood. The two had great chemistry on screen to fully bring together the ending to this love story.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 meets expectations to bring this epic saga to an end. It have the token battle scene, plenty of romance, and some drama too. The most talked about part will probably be the surprises that come towards the end. (Sorry I'm going to keep those to myself to avoid any spoilers!) After the audience receives just a glimpse into the future for the new Edward Cullen family, the producers included a montage of all the characters from the entire series. This provided the perfect closing reminding the fans of all the characters they have loved throughout the past four years. Overall, I give two thumbs up for a fantastic ending to a blockbuster series. Many times concluding films like this do not measure up, but I think these producers did it right!

If you're a Twilight fan, this is a definite must see! If not, Redbox/Netflix it! I still think it's worth the dollar.

January 30, 2012

The Best of 2011- The Burnies!!!

I have been slacking horribly over the past few months, but this is my favorite time of year... Award season!!! As the Oscar nominations were announced, I was reminded that last year I made a list of my top picks for the year. While I haven't seen all of the heavy hitters for this year yet, I'm going to try to change that, I think I can come up with a pretty good list of my favorites from this year. So far The Golden Globes are the biggest indicator of what the big wigs think and mostly I agree. The Ides of March was a big disappointment for me. It got many noms from Hollywood Foreign Press, but I don't think it quite measured up.I am now glad to see that the Academy agrees with me, almost shafting The Ides completely.  Also, there is no animated film on my list. I think this was a very disappointing year for animated films. My guess was that Adventures of Tintin would pull away with the awards pretty handily (however, I haven't seen it), but the Academy gave it no notice.

 Anyways, here's my list in no specific order, just the top films from 2011, keep in mind these are just the ones I've seen.

The Help
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Super 8
Friends with Benefits

These are the movies I'm still DYING to see!! So please let me know if you want to see any of them!
Most of them are nominated for Academy Awards and from what I've seen they deserve it.

Iron Lady
My week with Marilyn
Girl with Dragon tatoo
War Horse
J. Edgar
Midnight in Paris
Adventures of Tintin


50/50 is the story of a 27 year old man who discovers he has cancer. It tells the story of his relationships with pretty much everyone he encounters from his mother to his therapist. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the main character spectacularly. Seth Rogen plays his best friend, and pretty much the same character he has played in every other movie he's been in. While this is a very serious topic, the film gives is a comedic spin but doesn't downplay the severity of the situation.

The biggest highlight of this film is the acting. Joseph Godon-Levitt does an amazing job. He brings the realness that is necessary to breach a tragic topic like cancer while keeping some humor mixed in with his wit. He brings a lot more sarcastic humor than Seth Rogen's character. While Rogen's character is rather shallow, it is so realistic and enlightening to see the bro-mance-type relationship deal with a life-threatening issue.

The film as a whole is very current with this cancer issue. It also has a very indie feel to it. The story line is pretty general, but it develops the relationships of the main character eloquently. It's these relationships that really  make it any story at all, without them it'd be rather boring.

Overall, the story is in line with our current society. The strengths of the film are the development of the relationships throughout  the film and Gordon-Levitt's acting. Generally the independent-type movies do not wow me. They usually just make you feel like nothing actually happened throughout the whole movie. 50/50 is definitely as step up from nothing happening, but it didn't wow me.

I didn't make the effort to see this one in theaters, so I guess I'd say.... it's definitely worth a dollar!

Redbox/Netflix It

December 17, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Thrones

This is the second Sherlock Holmes film. While I always have big concerns about sequels, this is somewhat different than other sequels. The best aspects of the first Sherlock Holmes films were kept intact for this second film. The wit and intrigue continue in The Game of Thrones.  Robert Downing Jr. and Jude Law make an excellent duo. The only complaint I have is this film did not keep me involved in the mystery.

The best part of Sherlock Holmes is the humor and wit that the main character brings to the story line. Clever disguises, laughable one liners, and some hilarious physical humor make a great comedy! Robert Downing Jr. brings them all to this movie. I even heard another viewer in the theater say, "The humor was the best part." at the end of the film. Without Robert Downing Jr. I think these films would be nothing. He perfectly portrays this meticulous and detail-oriented character. The biggest upgrade from the original film was the viewer's entrance into the mind of this crazy character. The scenes were often slowed down to show us, the regular people, what the methodical Sherlock Holmes was seeing or thinking. This was an amazing addition that was not as strong in the first film. Jude Law plays Watson, Holmes's sidekick, wonderfully also. He is so calm and collected throughout all the chaos that bestows the pair.

The only downfall of this film, especially compared to the first one, was the lack of clues for the audience to see. I did not feel like I was trying to solve a mystery at all. Holmes discovers the mastermind villain at the beginning of the film, so there's not much to solve. He was just trying to figure out what was going to happen next. This does not bring the audience into the film very well. It is the difference between watching something happen and being involved in what's happening. I felt very outside of the action rather than involved in it like an audience should be.

Overall, I loved Sherlock Holmes: Game of Thrones. It was witty and humorous with two excellent actors. I miss Rachel McAdams's character a bit, but she didn't fit into the majority of this plot. If you liked the first Sherlock Holmes film, you definitely need to see this one!