War Dogs Review: Bros in arms


Director: Todd Phillips

Writer: Todd Phillips, Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic

Stars: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Ana de Armas, Bradley Cooper

War-Dogs-poster


Release date: August 18th, 2016

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 114 minutes


2½/5

Best part: Hill and Teller’s chemistry.

Worst part: The derivative structure.

Director Todd Phillips exists in the same realm as Michael Bay and Zack Snyder. He began his career with adult-comedies Old School and Road Trip before delivering smash hit The Hangover. However, with the Hangover sequels and Due Date, his career fell over. Now, he’s back with something completely different and exactly the same.

War Dogs provides more meat to chew on than his earlier works. This docudrama, black comedy, war, crime flick chronicles one of the 21st Century’s most baffling true stories. Based on Guy Lawson’s Rolling Stone article and book – Arms and the Dudes – its follows twenty-something layabout David Packouz (Miles Teller) being put through the ringer. David is a disappointment – spending maximum time smoking pot and tending to rich clients as a massage therapist. After quitting his job, his one-man bed sheet business fails spectacularly. At an old friend’s funeral, he reunites with former partner in crime Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill). Diveroli is also a pot-smoking loud mouth. However, he is also a gunrunner/arms contractor for start-up AEY with ties to the US Government and troops overseas.

War Dogs resembles a blender with all-too-familiar ingredients thrown together. This sloppy and inconsistent mess is slow-moving-car-crash fascinating. Phillips, evidently, idolises Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers. Similarly to Bay’s 2013 sleeper hit Pain and Gain, it’s an assortment of excessive visual flourishes and questionable decisions. With any docudrama, ethics and moral quandaries come into play. Phillips – along with two other screenwriters – beef everything up for cinema purposes. The frat-boy humour and serious material never congeal. It follows the rise and fall narrative structure at every turn. Of course, the first half depicts the dynamic duo’s transformation from slackers to successes. Phillips becomes indulgent, even borrowing whole sequences from The Wolf of Wall Street, Goodfellas and Boiler Room.

Compared to the genre’s aforementioned big-hitters, War Dogs struggles to keep up. Phillips floats between admiring and despising the lead characters. Seriously, what does his movie say about these events? Does it salute young entrepreneurs slipping through the cracks? Or condemn Cheney’s America and the military-industrial complex? Nevertheless, he makes no apologies for their behaviour. Packouz, despite being the audience avatar, starts off as an unlikable schmuck and gets worse. He either blindly follows his crazy business partner or lies to his pregnant girlfriend, Iz (Ana de Armas). Despite the first half’s many fun moments, the second trudges towards the predictable dénouement. If anything, it proves Teller and Hill are charismatic enough to escape with their reputations in tact.

War Dogs is the gym junkie of rise-and-fall movies – tough and mean with little depth. Phillips’ latest places him on thin ice. This, essentially his version of a ‘serious’ effort, is The Social Network and The Big Short evil, immature brother.

Verdict: A middling docudrama.

10 Cloverfield Lane Audio Review: Who’s the Real Monster?


Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Writers: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher, Jr., Bradley Cooper

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Release date: March 10th, 2016

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 103 minutes


4/5

Review:

Joy Audio Review: J-Law & Order


Director: David O. Russell

Writer: David O. Russell

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Bradley Cooper

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Release date: December 26th, 2015

Distributor: 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 124 minutes


 

2½/5

Review:

Burnt Audio Review: Bradley’s Kitchen Nightmares


Director: John Wells

Writer: Steven Knight

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Omar Sy

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Release date: October 30th, 2015

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Country: USA

Running time: 101 minutes


 

2½/5

Review:

Aloha Review: Barren Paradise


Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray

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Release date: May 29th, 2015

Distributors: Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 105 minutes


 

2/5

Review: Aloha

American Sniper Audio Review: Straight-ish Shot


Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Jason Hall (screenplay), Chris Kyle, Scott McEwan, Jim DeFelice (book)

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes

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Release date: December 25th, 2014

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 132 minutes


 

3½/5

Review:

Serena Review – Mountainous Mishap


Director: Susanne Bier

Writers: Christopher Kyle (screenplay), Ron Rash (novel)

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Sean Harris


Release date: November 27th, 2014

Distributors: StudioCanal, Magnolia Pictures

Countries: USA, France

Running time: 109 minutes


 

 

1½/5

Best part: The scenery.

Worst part: The misjudged direction.

Review: Serena

Verdict: A Laughable and dull western-drama.

American Hustle Review – ABSCAM Anarchy


Director: David O. Russell 

Writers: Eric Singer, David O. Russell 

Stars: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner


Release date: December 13th, 2013

Distributors: Columbia Pictures, Entertainment Film Distributors, Roadshow Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 138 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: The entertaining performances. 

Worst part: The alienating plot turns.

In one of American Hustle‘s more pivotal scenes, Christian Bale’s Character Irving Rosenfeld asks Bradley Cooper’s character Richie DiMaso the movie’s most important question: “Who’s the master? The Painter? Or the forger?”. Despite being the trailer’s most valuable moment, the query still efficiently sums up this crime-drama’s raw edginess. American Hustle, safely landing into Academy-Award-contention territory, is one of 2013’s most puzzling yet entertaining movies. Its top-flight cast, enigmatic plot, and dizzying set pieces deliver multiple rewards.

Christian Bale & Bradley Cooper.

Despite presenting itself as a “For Your Consideration…” Oscar trap, American Hustle is an honest and adept crime-drama. Today, we rarely become witness to such ground-breaking yet kinetic movies. Despite facing stiff competition in this year’s Oscar race, American Hustle wouldn’t care if it won, lost, or drew. Acclaimed director David O. Russell (The FighterSilver Linings Playbook) is obviously his own man. Given his fiery on-set temper and inspiring talent, O. Russell achieves the near impossible – delivering a stylish, convoluted, and enlightening crime drama free from pretentiousness and overblown moments. Despite my glowing recommendation of American Hustle, I understand the movie’s already-discomforting-yet-minor backlash. It’s certainly not for everyone. At least, I can try to win people over by describing the movie’s terrific yet dicey plot. Rosenfeld (Bale) is a despicable businessman running several companies within New Jersey. With his dry-cleaning and glass-installation businesses in tip-top condition, he becomes a slimy yet clever small-town hero. However, Rosenfeld’s world is rocked by seductive beauty Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). With Prosser becoming Rosenfeld’s mistress/business partner, their greatest plans kick into gear. Embezzling large funds from gullible investors, the terrible twosome expand their vast riches. Thanks to Prosser’s alter ego ‘Lady Edith Greensly’, their schemes and romance blossom into something dreadfully beautiful (or beautifully dreadful, it’s difficult to tell). However, Rosenfeld is bewitched by his bi-polar wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and adrenaline-and-cocaine-fuelled FBI agent DiMaso (Cooper). Forced into the FBI’s clutches, Rosenfeld, Prosser, and DiMaso forcefully work together to take down corrupt yet well-meaning Camden Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Amy Adams.

Amy Adams.

From there, allegiances, plans, and ideologies are warped, tortured, and eviscerated. It may seem diabolical, but the dramatic beats liven up this talky crime-drama. Depicting the late-70s’ ABSCAM scandal, American Hustle delves into the true story’s intricate webbing and most enigmatic elements. With its opening title card saying: “Some of this actually happened”, the movie pokes fun at Hollywood’s stranglehold over inspirational yet unbelievable true stories. After biting into ABSCAM’s saucy yet dangerous secrets, the movie sporadically delves into its own fantastical and larger-than-life adventure. I’ll admit, the convoluted plot-strands and alienating exposition become this cognitive structure’s most problematic elements. However, these inane moments hurriedly brush past the audience. Its most memorable moments are worth the admission cost. Here, ABSCAM’s most confusing aspects are insignificant titbits stuck in an increasingly formidable conflict. Before and after the scandal is brought up then brushed aside, the characters take control of the movie’s electrifying and alarming narrative. Within the first ten minutes, American Hustle takes us on a discomforting, sexually appealing, and comedic journey. Thanks to Rosenfeld and Prosser’s shared narration, these characters introduce and describe themselves. O. Russell, continually choosing controversy over convention, makes several brave choices within the first act. Beyond the schizophrenic narration, the narrative jumps from one influence to another. Despite the movie’s overt self-indulgence, O. Russell displays a glowing affection for such influential crime-drama directors as Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Sidney Lumet. The tonal shifts, ever-changing perspectives, and debilitating plot-turns are derived from Goodfellas and Casino. In fact, like those pulsating movies, American Hustle graciously explores the criminal mind’s most fascinating intricacies.

Jeremy Renner.

Despite the engaging narrative, the plot occasionally gets away from O. Russell and co-writer Eric Singer. Highlighting the true story’s most baffling parts, the movie locks onto its comical and distasteful characters. Despite this, the movie’s sickening comedic touches quickly launch into overdrive. With the wild characters embracing this pressing situation’s absurdity, the biting and ironic humour comes thick and fast. Stuck between rocks and hard places, these dim-witted heroes and villains bumble, wine, and cuss through every dangerous conflict. With lives and reputations at risk, insults fly across each swanky setting. In particular, Rosalyn’s nasty insults and abrasive attitude hit with gut-punch-like effect. Credit, obviously, belongs to O. Russell for the movie’s pitch-black humour and cynical outlook. Despite the punchy tone and zippy pacing, O. Russell’s work hurriedly descends into darkness and chaos. With his filmography covering the gulf war, mental illness, and fallen sporting heroes, his misanthropic perspective casts a detailed shadow over each unique project. American Hustle, his most violent and zany effort yet, illuminates similarities between 70s, post-Vietnam USA and post-economic-crisis Earth. O. Russell, giving fraudulent miscreants second chances whist looking down upon important government agencies, develops several truthful yet misguided opinions. Like Catch Me if You Can and The InformantAmerican Hustle‘s criminal/lawman conflict supports the anti-hero and flips-off the villainous yet untouchable government fat-cats. At least, O. Russell’s work says what we are all thinking. Beyond that, O. Russell bravely pokes fun at the American Dream. Deliberating on race, gender, and class, the movie makes middle class, suburban living seem like a torturous adventure. Setting household appliances, inventive schemes, and aspirations alight, American Hustle is not for the faint-hearted or ignorant.

“Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, *but* you had to survive?” (Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), American Hustle).

Jennifer Lawrence.

Jennifer Lawrence.

Thankfully, for less-opinionated viewers, the visuals develop a kinetic and entertaining sensory experience. Sporting elaborate costumes, hair-dos, and personalities, each character sustains exterior and interior quirks. With these characters’ schemes as outlandish as their skin-flashing outfits, the costume design lends American Hustle a pulsating and tangible sheen. In addition, each character – whether they be rich, poor, innocent or slimy – balances stupefying hair-dos atop their attractive facades. DiMaso’s perm, Rosalyn’s beehive, and Polito’s road-kill-like hairstyle are enlightening distractions. Opening with Rosenfeld pasting a bizarre toupee atop his bulbous scalp, American Hustle‘s characters are defined by styles and substance. The mis-en-scene, plastering ugly colours, swanky interior designs, and elaborate patterns across every frame, lends verisimilitude to this otherwise sketchy and kooky narrative. O. Russell, infatuated by overt 70s icons, pumps up the catchy soundtrack at opportune moments. Wings, Steely Dan, The Bee Gees, and Elton John elevate certain tension-inducing sequences. However, credit belongs to the A-list actors draped across every sizzling frame. Their determination and courageousness, tested by O. Russell’s punishing direction, pushes them through each discomforting scene. Like O. Russell’s previous efforts, the shouting matches develop each puzzle piece and flawed character. Swiftly increasing each interior setting’s temperature, the pithy dialogue and loud voices reveal each character’s ugliest qualities. Bale, carrying a belly and comb-over, transforms into a seedy, depraved, and quick-witted figure. Cooper steals his scenes as the incessant and manic agent. Adams, falling boob-first into every scene, is revelatory as the slinky yet tough mistress. Renner and Lawrence provide big laughs and immaculate performances. Meanwhile, Robert De Niro, Louis CK, Alessandro Nivola, Jack Huston, and Michael Pena contribute commendably.

With his energetic direction, elegant screenplay, and Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook alumni, O. Russell has pulled off a stunning hat-trick. Despite minor quarrels, American Hustle peels back several purposeful layers over its 2+ hour run-time. Unlike American Gangster, American Psycho, and American Pie, this crime-drama discovers that particular word’s immense ironic twang.

Verdict: A funny, scintillating, and engaging crime-drama. 

The Place Beyond the Pines Review – Crime & Commiseration


Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder

Stars: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan


Release date: March 29th, 2013

Distributor: Focus Features

Country: USA

Running time: 140 minutes


4/5

Best part: The Oscar-calibre performances.

Worst part: The final third.

A man’s greatest influence, and fear, should be his father. Many brilliant movies have bared their characters’ souls to convey this theme (the Godfather trilogy). In The Place Beyond the Pines, this moral is valuable to every character skulking through its grungy settings. The film is a touching and brutal look at how ideologies, passed down from father to son, can still be affected by everything and everyone around us.

Ryan Gosling.

This movie is unlike any other coming out in the next couple of months. It requires a significant amount of attention and thought. The film is a sprawling mix of three profound stories – looking at the cops and criminals of Middle America. The first tale is one of regret and alienation. Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a stunt motorcyclist for a travelling carnival, finds out that his womanising ways have paid a price. His old flame Romina (Eva Mendes), to Glanton’s shock, has been looking after a child they conceived a year beforehand. Glanton quits the carnival to look after their child. Unable to find a job, he and Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) rob banks to provide for everyone involved. In the next story, heroic cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is struggling to cope with both his newfound notoriety and the force. Pressured by both shady cops, such as Deluca (Ray Liotta), and his wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne), Cross begins to manipulate people to elevate his reputation and rank. The third story is based on the consequences of Glanton and Cross’ actions. With Cross running for Attorney General, his troublesome son AJ (Emory Cohen) is doing him no favours. AJ’s friendship with similarly disturbed teen Jason (Dane DeHaan) could yield major problems.

Bradley Cooper.

Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) is a talented independent film-maker. The Place Beyond the Pines is essentially three indie-dramas in one. The subject matter and tone are polarising aspects of this heartening crime-thriller. Throughout its exhaustive run-time, there are a plethora of emotions and decisions affecting each character. The story is divided in an intricate yet disjointed way. These stories divide the movie much like a play; containing their own messages and sub-plots which affect the course of nature. The power of masculinity is conveyed in light of the film’s many shocking developments. For example, the first third separates the men from the boys (figuratively and literally). However, I couldn’t detect a significant idea relevant to all three stories. Each third says something completely different to the others. By placing the most enthralling story in the first third, the following two seem uncomfortable and anti-climactic. It’s rare to see a film with such originality and yet so many noticeable influences. Glanton’s rotten journey contains shades of East of Eden and The Town. The second third contains elements of crime-thrillers like Copland and L.A. Confidential. While the final third is a disturbed concoction of Boyz n the Hood and Stand By Me. However, Cianfrance removes any trace of ‘Hollywood’ so as not to stick too close to those referential movies. Cianfrance’s style lifts what could’ve been a tired and convoluted drama. In fact, Cianfrance proves he can handle intense crime material similarly to James Mangold and Ben Affleck. The first act weaves itself seamlessly into the second. This is done via an eclectic motor-bike/car chase through the tired streets of Scynecdoche, New York. One unbroken, shaky-cam sequence provides a 90 second thrill-ride that tests the nerves of both the characters and audience.

“If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.” (Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), The Place Beyond the Pines).

Eva Mendes.

Cianfrance brings an earthy aesthetic to this already grim spectacle. From the opening scene, the camera never stays still – capturing the inherent poignancy of this narrative. The opening is a seemingly unending shot of Glanton’s broad shoulders (Gosling certainly has an enviable physique). The shot illuminates his debilitating situation and existential angst. The editing has a poetic beauty that immerses you in these vastly different stories. While the soundtrack, by alternative singer-songwriter Mike Patton, lends the film a nuanced and affecting twang. However, Cianfrance’s style doesn’t specifically reside in the film’s aesthetic quality. He pulls back far enough to let the nuanced performances do the talking. Cianfrance significantly develops every important character. The top cop vs. greasy criminal conflict is presented as a gruelling fight for survival. Cianfrance puts a different spin on character types seen in movies like American Gangster and Mystic River. Despite the overt type-casting, the moody and breathtaking performances stand out. Gosling and Cooper strip away their ‘pretty-boy’ personas to deliver disgustingly affecting turns. Gosling brings brevity to his ‘loveable criminal’ role. Despite his many distracting tattoos, Glanton’s calm and creepy personality is mesmerising and strangely potent. Cooper proves that he is one of the best actors working today. His character’s journey is both frustrating and entertaining – allowing him to see the forest through the trees. Cross’ questionable methods convey a character who will stop at nothing to reap the rewards he was promised. Liotta, Byrne, Mendes, and Mendelsohn deliver the crackling dialogue in ways that lend dimension to their archetypal roles. Bruce Greenwood also delivers an engaging performance as the irritable police commissioner. Cohen, on the other hand, delivers an unconvincing Tom Hardy impression.

The Place Beyond the Pines is about the obvious and subtle differences between Gen-X and Gen-Y. The movie delivers a heartening and profound statement about how our actions in the past, present, and future may intertwine. With this tense and well-performed crime-thriller, Cianfrance proves he is one of the best indie-drama directors working today.

Verdict: A moody, scintillating, and visceral crime/drama-thriller.

The Hangover Part 3 Review – Never Drinking Again!


Director: Todd Phillips

Writers: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong


Release date: May 23rd, 2013

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 100 minutes


2/5

Best part: John Goodman as a sadistic mob boss.

Worst part: Jeong and Galifianakis.

Some film series’ rely entirely on an absence of logic. Much like John McClane in the Die Hard series, the main characters in the Hangover series continually get into disastrous and confusing situations. Hollywood has now sucked both these series’ dry for a quick profit. Much like this year’s Die Hard instalment, The Hangover Part 3 is one of the most unnecessary, repetitive, and preposterous sequels ever made.

Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms.

Part 3 is a stupid and unfunny action-comedy. It’s not terrible, but it needed something special to separate it from the other Hollywood comedies of its type. In this latest adventure, confused and pathetic layabout Alan (Zach Galifianakis) causes a stir when his new pet Giraffe is decapitated on a freeway, causing an epic car crash. As a result, his family and the other ‘Wolf Pack’ members, Doug (Justin Bartha), Phil (Bradley Cooper), and Stu (Ed Helms), stage an intervention, believing that rehab is Alan’s best hope. Their plans are soon cut short by an angry mobster, Marshall (John Goodman). Marshall is looking for Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), the same man the Wolf Pack has run into on previous adventures. Taking Doug hostage, Marshall orders the Wolf Pack to find Chow and the money he stole from him.

Ken Jeong.

This set up promises that the following events will be climactic and enjoyable. However, from this point on, the film rapidly descends into being awkward and unfunny. This is the biggest disappointment of 2013 so far (and that’s really saying something!). Please don’t think of me as a cynic when it comes to Hollywood comedies. I fell in love with The Hangover upon its release back in 2009. Its bursts of energy and hysterical gross-out jokes helped it become one of the biggest box-office success stories of the last decade. However, in 2011, a carbon-copy sequel took away the series’ enjoyability and thrills. The stench of laziness festering in that sequel is also apparent in this one. I suspect that the public may wish to avoid this new instalment after its predecessor (or at least go into it with extremely low expectations). This cynical sequel is proof that worthwhile ‘R-rated’ comedies are difficult to pull off. This sequel may have deviated, story-wise, from the first two instalments, but it’s still as uninteresting as the second film. It feels like this sequel was made by someone with little to no knowledge of gross-out comedy logistics. Director Todd Phillips (Old School, Starsky & Hutch) has gone from being the king of gross-out comedies and road trip films (Road Trip), to pumping out one disappointing farce after another (Due Date).

John Goodman.

His latest Hangover is more agonising and annoying than an actual hangover. The intrigue and zaniness promised in the fun trailers is missing. The screenplay is one of this sequel’s biggest problems. The original’s witty yet shocking jokes have been replaced with cheap references to the first two films and mean-spirited insults. The comedy consists almost entirely of animal murder and physical violence. Chickens, dogs, and the aforementioned Giraffe are needlessly slaughtered for a quick laugh. Phillips is obviously a big fan of crass/black/frat-boy humour of this type (hence the tranquillised tiger and drug-dealing monkey in the previous instalments). However, the audience I saw it with wasn’t impressed. Jokes fell flat on regular basis, while the strange lack of gross-out gags was alarmingly noticeable. I wouldn’t have minded all this if the movie had a quick pace and some mindlessly fun moments, but these elements are also sorely absent. The negative aspects of this instalment don’t stop there. It inorganically transitions from a gross-out comedy, to an Ocean’s 11-style heist flick, to a trip back to where it all began for the Wolf Pack. Whereas the original seamlessly mixed elements of gross-out comedy and film noir, this instalment has no original or innovative surprises at all. It came to a point where I was inexplicably clamouring for another Mike Tyson cameo!

“My name’s Allan and I bought a giraffe! Oh, my life’s perfect!” (Alan (Zach Galifianakis), The Hangover Part 3).

The Wolf Pack.

The characters here spend their whole time repeating lines and yelling at one another. These characters, that we once found hysterical and endearing, have been reduced to one dimensional caricatures. I will say that I chuckled during the film’s first third. the characters’ charming re-introductions almost convinced me that this instalment would be a breath of fresh air compared to Part 2. However, my hopes were quickly dashed when Chow eats dog food and sniffs Stu’s butt (I wish I was joking!). Worst of all is the sub-plot involving a bromance between Alan and Chow. Galifianakis and Jeong hit the big time after their hilarious performances in the original. However, their crazy antics, seen in this and many other movies, have become increasingly tiresome. Their shtick also becomes repetitive rather quickly. Galifianakis’ character has gone from a well-meaning weirdo to a narcissistic and mean-spirited moron who refuses to change. Alan, Chow’s infuriating Asian stereotype, and Melissa McCarthy’s tough-chick persona are as tolerable as three car alarms going off at once! Cooper and Helms look extremely bored throughout the entire film. Meanwhile, Heather Graham makes a pointless cameo as Stu’s ex-Vegas wife. The only tolerable performance here is from Goodman, acting like he’s in a Coen Brothers’ crime-comedy.

The original set the bar extremely high for Hollywood comedy. However, the sequels have taken that bar, lowered it, then snapped it in half, and used it to mix the crazy alcoholic drinks the Wolf Pack would’ve guzzled down during their wild drunken adventures. I can safely say that I would rather suffer an actual hangover than suffer through Parts 2 and 3 again. Sorry, frat-boys.

Verdict: An irritating, offensive, and disappointing end to the Hangover trilogy.

Silver Linings Playbook Review – Dancing with Disaster


Director: David O. Russell

Writer: David O. Russell (screenplay), Matthew Quick (novel)

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker


Release date: November 16th, 2012

Distributor: The Weinstein Company 

Country: USA

Running time: 122 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Dynamic performances from Cooper and Lawrence.

Worst part: De Niro’s slightly obnoxious character.

They say that “every cloud has a silver lining”. This metaphor illuminates the good moments in an otherwise dark existence. This idea is what Silver Linings Playbook explores in great detail. Positivity is the basis of this rewarding and genuine romantic comedy. Rom-coms are normally never this in-depth. But this film is worthy of its Academy Award nominations. Its charismatic performances and solid messages prove that Hollywood rom-coms with real heart and laughs can still be made.

Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence.

Silver Linings Playbook‘s story picks up with Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) in a mental  institution. He seems fine, yet the doctors and courts insist that he has a problem. That doesn’t stop his stern and comforting mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver) from taking him out of the asylum and putting him in her and Pat Sr.(Robert De Niro)’s home. His rehabilitation crumbles as he discovers and is re-introduced to several problems under their roof. Trying to get his marriage back on track, Pat seeks to become a better person and live every day to the fullest. His plans, however, are disrupted by promiscuous young widow Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). Her mysterious and intimidating personality attracts him. However, her husband’s death has caused her own severely debilitating mental issues. With Pat’s family and friends, and Tiffany, by his side, he may hopefully find that desirable silver lining.

Robert De Niro & Jacki Weaver.

Whether it’s Jack Nicholson rising up against injustice in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder befriending one another in Girl, Interrupted, instability and rehabilitation prove to be Profound topics to put on celluloid. Much like this year’s hit indie-drama Smashed, a controversial yet painful topic has been discussed with a balance of sorrow and comedy. The humour here comes from a quirky sense of irony and awkwardness. The supporting characters react to Pat and Tiffany with a conflicting array of emotions. Between each psychotic episode, Pat and Tiffany relieve the tension by discovering the positives of everyday life. Silver Linings Playbook is an intimate and detailed examination of the effects of mental instability. It discusses Pat’s mental issues with a warming sincerity. Sidelined with mood swings and multiple restraining orders, Pat’s journey to success and happiness isn’t easy. Pat himself is an unpredictable yet heartfelt human being. His love for his unfaithful wife is what put him away. Unable to feel joy or comfort in things he used to embellish, his freeing quest to find happiness turns his conflicted personality into something worth cherishing.

Cooper & Chris Tucker.

Cooper & Chris Tucker.

The film delves deeply into his life, as multiple sources of his condition are discovered. He wears a garbage bag while jogging through the neighbourhood and throws acclaimed novels through windows. This erratic behaviour promptly alerts the viewer to Pat’s burgeoning diagnosis. Pat still is, however, an inspirational character. Interacting with his family while balancing a keen intellect and bright personality, he soon becomes the silver lining of many people’s lives. David O. Russell wrote and directed this uplifting story. His acclaimed works, including Three Kings and The Fighter, have received deserved attention and multiple Academy Awards. Known for on-set shouting matches with his actors, O. Russell is definitely one of the most keen-eyed and determined directors working in Hollywood today. His delicate direction and witty screen-writing bring life to a predictable story. It’s a story of boy-meets-girl, but peppered with several alarming nuances along the way. O. Russell clearly loves heated arguments (watch The Fighter for a definitive example). Here, every character’s realistic and dangerous problems collide at once. This leads to several breath-taking punches and insults being thrown across the Solitano’s house.

“I do this! Time after time after time! I do all this shit for other people! And then I wake up and I’m empty! I have nothing!” (Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), Silver Linings Playbook). 

Cooper & Lawrence.

Cooper & Lawrence.

Having directed Christian Bale’s outstanding turn in The Fighter, O. Russell is a masterful actor-director. He is able to draw remarkable performances out of actors far outside their comfort zones. Cooper, known as the ‘pretty boy’ in films such The Hangover and The A-Team, deserves every bit of praise for his performance here. Cooper’s facial twitches, wide smile and charismatic personality bring this difficult role to life. Lawrence proves, both here and in The Hunger Games, that she is currently the best young actress in Hollywood. Her enthralling persona, sarcastic tone and inherent sexuality add multiple layers to Tiffany’s damaged psyche. The chemistry between her and Cooper is electric and provides the best on-screen couple since (500) Days of Summer. Recovering from a disastrous run of poor material over the past decade, De Niro is back to his intense best. He proudly and distinctly embodies an irritating character. His character’s obsessive love of the Philadelphia Eagles NFL team is irrationally crazy in itself.

The film is as naturalistic and comforting as its Philadelphia setting. O. Russell proves once again that he can create truly affecting material. Credit also goes to Cooper and Lawrence for proving their Oscar-worthy talents.

Verdict: An enlightening and unique rom-com.