Posts Tagged ‘bradley cooper’

guardians of the galaxy 2

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the Guardians, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) Drax (Dave Bautista) Rocket  (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are tasked by the Sovereign to protect space age batteries from alien monsters who want to steal them.  The Guardians fend off the monsters, and Gamora is set to collect a bounty on her sister, Nebula, (Karen Gillan) but Rocket steals some of the batteries for himself, and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debecki) leader of the Sovereign orders an attack on the Guardians.  The Guardians barely escape to the nearest inhabitable planet.  A ship follows Peter and lands on the planet, the pilot of the ship is Ego, (Kurt Russell) and he claims to be Peter’s dad. Ego takes Peter to Ego’s planet, Gamora and Drax tag along with Peter, while Groot and Rocket stay behind.

Ayesha,  still angry that her batteries were stolen, hires Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.  Yondu captures Rocket and Baby Groot and then ends up in jail himself after a mutiny by Taserface. (Chris Sullivan)  Yondu Rocket and Baby Groot manage to escape with Nebula’s help, but Taserface tips off the Sovereign, who chase after the two Guardians, while they try to find Peter on Ego’s planet.  Nebula just wants revenge on Gamora.  Is Peter convinced of his lineage by Ego?  Do Gamora and Nebula bury the hatchet?  Does Ayesha get her revenge?

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 works very well as a comedy, but then the script calls for everyone to get in touch with their feelings, and this is where the movie descends into an Oprah stained hell.  Peter has daddy issues, Gamora has sibling rivalry issues with Nebula, and Rocket the snarkiest character if all is made to confront deep seated feelings of inadequacy.  When a summer popcorn film wades into the nature vs nurture debate, it’s gone a bridge too far. The ending is predictable, even the post ending credits are predictable.   The comedy was better than the first movie, the family drama was wholly unnecessary.

The acting varies wildly in this film.  Chris Pratt will never be a leading man, no matter how hard Hollywood tries to foist him on an unsuspecting public.  He is ill-equipped to handle the more emotional scenes in the movie.  Zoe Saldana is a good actress, but she wan’t given enough to do, she is pushed into a romance with Pratt, and she battles her sister literally and figuratively in the movie.  Bradley Cooper is a great actor, but they made him emote as a CGI raccoon, that doesn’t work for me.  I wish he was playing Peter Quill and Pratt was playing the raccoon, I think that would have worked out better.  Dave Bautista is surprisingly funny as Drax, and is just sullen when not laughing insanely. Karen Gillan was also very good as Nebula, her intensity never relents, in a difficult role.  She plays a villain, with sympathetic touches. Kurt Russell hams it up relentlessly as Ego, an aptly named character if ever there was one. The only performance worse than Russell’s  was Sylvester Stallone’s performance as Stakar Ogord.  He is barely intelligible.  He had more trouble with the English language than Korean actress Pom Klementieff.  Her acting was better than Stallone’s but not by much.

Director James Gunn does a pretty good job as a director, the pacing is good, the special effects are good, without being overwhelming, he gets some good performances, but he also gets overwhelmed by subplots and lengeth, and that drags the pacing down to a crawl by the second half of the movie, by the end of the film I was looking at my watch, never a good sign.  Gunn also gets points off as writer for overindulging in melodrama.  I walked into a sci-fi movie, and a Tyler Perry movie broke out.That’s Gunn’s fault, for not keeping the drama to a minimum.

The Star Lord burns out.

 

joy

Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) has been inventing things since she was a child, but family drama threatens to crush her dreams before she can ever pursue them. Joy gets demoted from a daytime shift to a nighttime shift at an airline ticket counter.  Her father Rudy (Robert DeNiro) show up at her door after an ex-girlfriend dumps him.  He rebounds quickly, and starts dating an Italian woman named Trudy. (Isabella Rosselini) Her mother, Terry (Virginia Madsen) won’t leave her room, or stop watching daytime dramas.   To complicate matters, Joy’s ex-husband Tony, (Edgar Ramirez) is living in Joy’s basement.  Tony swept Joy off her feet in college with his promises to be “the next Tom Jones.”

While on a trip on Trudy’s boat, Joy spills red wine on the boat’s deck, and has to mop up the mess.   Joy cuts up her hands, but comes up with an idea for a self-wringing mop.  Joy sketches the idea with her daughter’s colored pencils, and talks Trudy into investing in it.  Joy puts a prototype together in her father’s factory, and tries demonstrating it in a K-Mart, which leads to her arrest, for attempting to sell the mop without a permit.  Tony has one last Hail Mary idea, he introduces Joy to Neil Walker, (Bradley Cooper) an executive at a fledgling home shopping network called QVC.  Does Joy’s mop sell on QVC?

It’s appropriate that Joy starts with a scene from a fake soap opera, because the whole movie plays like a soap opera.  First there’s Joy’s sketchy father, a businessman dumped on Joy’s doorstep by an ex-girlfriend, and who ends up with an Italian wife or girlfriend, then there’s Joy’s mother, who for some reason won’t leave her bedroom, then there’s Joy’s ex-husband, who’s still living in her basement, two years after their divorce. By the time all the dysfunction is disposed of, the writers finally get around to Joy’s invention, and guess what?  I didn’t care.  It’s only a stupid mop, it’s not a cure for cancer, it’s not a self-driving car, it’s a stupid mop, on a channel that sells cheap plastic crap day and night. For some reason, Joy is singing when she meets Tony.  Why was this scene necessary?  It wasn’t. This movie is supposed to be about how difficult it is to be a female entrepreneur, but all the family drama and impromptu singing actually detract from the central theme.  The ending is much too neat for such a messy story.

The acting is subpar.  Jennifer Lawrence got an Academy Award nomination for this role, God knows why.  I never believed for a second that she was a struggling suburban housewife, trying to make ends meet.  A good performance makes the viewer lose themselves in the character. That doesn’t happen here, she is much too attractive to be a character actress.  Bradley Cooper’s performance is similar, I never believed that he was part of QVC, he just seemed like a very handsome guy playing a role.  Robert DeNiro seems to have lost his touch as a character actor, and seems to be interested in making Rudy into a semi-comic character. Isabella Rossalini doesn’t have much to add to her role besides her Italian accent.

The direction is not good either.  David O. Russell wrote and directed this movie, so naturally he thinks every detail is important in telling the story, hence the pacing struggles, it’s a half an hour into the movie before, the viewer even hears about the mop.  An hour before Cooper is introduced.  Frankly, Russell needs to break up this little company of three actors that he’s got in every movie.  Stars appearing in big Hollywood movies worked in the 1940’s, because Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were great actors for one, and they made a very specific type of movie, the screwball comedy, which they were very good at. DeNiro’s the best actor of the three, Cooper is good, not great, and Lawrence is not that great an actress.  She is not mature enough to play these character roles.  Russell doesn’t really get great performances from any of the three, and so the movie suffers. Russell also tries visual flourishes, like sudden zooms of the camera, crane shots, silhouette shots, and lots of snow but that hardly breaks up the monotony of a very long film.

Joy:  J-Law and Bradley can’t mop up this mess.

american sniper

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was a Texan who dreamed of being a cowboy, but shortly after the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, Kyle signs up for the Navy Seals, and becomes a sniper.  Kyle is deployed to Iraq in Fallujah, a hotbed of insurgent activity.  He becomes legendary as a sniper, but yearns to join the Marines on the ground.  Soon Kyle is chasing after a man called the “Butcher” (Mido Hamada) Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s right hand man, and an Iraqi sniper named Mustafa. (Sammy Sheik) But after four tours in Iraq, Kyle’s wife, Taya, (Sienna Miller) wants Chris home, and mentally and emotionally whole.  Does Kyle achieve his missions, does he make it back home?

I was willing to give this movie a chance and it got off to a pretty good start, but soon it got into propaganda territory.  The problem is, that Kyle is portrayed as not only a hero, but a superhero, he is written as flawless, and that makes for a dull character, he beats up a bully to protect his little brother, he’s a sharpshooter from the time he is a 12 or 13 year old.  When in Iraq, he can do no wrong, every person he shoots is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.  Where’s the conflict, where are the flaws? Moreover, the Iraqis are all portrayed as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, even kids are carrying rocket launchers in this movie, that’s an overly simplistic worldview.  A few scenes of Kyle’s PTSD, are shown, but that seems like mere window dressing. The writer of this movie has done nothing of note, and this screenplay should not be lauded.

Bradley Cooper does a masterful job as Chris Kyle, he inhabits this role and makes it his own.  The Texas accent was subtle and not overdone.  Cooper put on weight and muscle ad grew a beard for the role, and so as he grew physically to resemble Kyle, it must have been easier to play him.  Coper is limited by the one dimensional characterization of Kyle, so he can’t really show much of an emotional range, but he does well with what he’s given.   Sienna Miller has one good scene, and again it’s her first one where Taya meets Chris.  After that she plays an alternately weepy, sometimes hectoring girlfriend/wife, that grated on my nerves.Both American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty seem politically motivated and are therefore unlikely to go down as great war movies, like The Great Escape or Stalag 17.

Clint Eastwood directs an incredibly gripping scene in American Sniper, but unfortunately, it’s the first scene of the movie, and the direction gradually devolves from there.  Eastwood juxtaposes the scenes  in such a way that he seems to be conflating Iraq and 9/11, and also Al Qaeda and Iraq.  Furthermore, the dramatic tension of the first few sniper targets, is lost later in the film, and the shooting sequences feel more like a video game, and these visualizations, as well as a poorly written script make war seem appealing to the uninitiated.   Eastwood is an incredibly talented director, it’s hard to believe he didn’t have an agenda here.

American Sniper:  Shoots itself in the foot.

american-hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) runs a dry cleaner’s store in the Bronx.  Irving then branches out into making loans, where he doesn’t loan any money but is guaranteed a non-refundable payment of 5,000 dollars.  Irving also dabbles in selling forged art.  Irving is basically a con man. He meets a woman named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and the two all in love with each other.  Sidney adopts an English accent and becomes Lady Edith, and they con more local businessmen of their money.  One day, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) walks in to Irving’s establishment and asks for a loan.  Richie is really an FBI agent, looking to root out local corruption.  He will let Irving and Lady Edith walk if they give him four corruption convictions.  Irving gets Carl Elway (Shea Whigham) convicted, but DiMaso has his eyes on a much bigger target, the mayor of Camden New Jersey, Carmine Polito. (Jeremy Renner)  Richie is planning on a scam to trap Polito using a fake Arab Sheik, Sheik Abdullah (Michael Pena) to provide one million dollars in funding to renovate Atlantic City, using Polito as an intermediary. Richie has a suitcase of money waiting to give Polito as a kickback, but Polito gets squeamish, and it’s up to Irving to close the deal.  Does he succeed?

I like American Hustle, but it’s largely because it does a good job approximating the 1970’s and because of strong performances by Bale, Cooper, and Renner.  For all the good in this movie, I’ve noticed a troubling trend.  Movies are taking scandalous behavior and making it seem frivolous and lighthearted.  ABSCAM was a serious scandal in the late 70’s, many politicians went to jail for bribery, ABSCAM was another example of the dysfunction between government and the governed in the wake of Watergate.  But writer/director David O. Russell chooses to fictionalize ABSCAM, and make it seem like the FBI is running amok and it portrays Polto as a hero.  Russell uses the word entrapment several times in his script .  Frankly, that is editorializing and that is something a fictional movie should never do.  Russell trivialized mental illness in Silver Linings Playbook and that bothered me, now he trivializes political corruption, and that is too much, because now he is dealing with reality and not just a fictional story.  Russell is not the only one who is guilty of this, Martin Scorsese does much the same in the Wolf of Wall Street.

The acting by the male leads is superb.  There are three aspects of the characterization of Irving that made it stand out.  The first is the comb-over, Irving’s comb over becomes a metaphor for the character. Irving goes to great lengths to hide that he’s bald, just like Irving goes to great lengths to hide the fact that he’s a con-man.  In the end both the fact that he’s bald and a con-man become glaringly obvious.  Second is Bale’s weight gain, call it method acting or whatever you want to call it, the weight gain was effective, it helped the viewer forget that this was Christian Bale, and put the focus back on the character.  Third, Bale’s Bronx accent was impeccable, it’s a very easy accent to get wrong, and he nailed it, further adding to the believability of the character.

Bradley Cooper continues his strong string of performances going back to Silver Linings Playbook.  Cooper plays Richie as a megalomaniac, who puts his hair up in curlers to maintain a certain look.  Richie’s hair is also a key to understanding that character.  He’s vain and self-important and has delusions that he can root out corruption on a large scale.  Jeremy Renner plays Carmine sympathetically, a little too sympathetically, the viewer actually believes that Carmine is working for the best interests of his town and his state.  The female leads don’t fare as well.   Amy Adams has trouble switching between an American and British accents, and Jennifer Lawrence is too young to play such a mature and worldly character.  Lawrence also has trouble with the New York accent.

The direction is nothing outstanding, there are no iconic scenes or quick edits, but the pacing is good, the two hours and 18 minutes goes by quickly.

America Hustle: Bale et al. do the hustle in the 1970’s.

the place between the pines

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcycle rider in a carnival, who has a one night stand with Romina, (Eva Mendes)  which results in a son, named Jason. (Anthony Pizza, Dane DeHaan) Romina has moved on, she’s seeing another man, named Kofi.  (Mahershala Ali)  Luke still feels a sense of responsibility to support his son, monetarily.  He quits the carnival, and meets a man named Robin, (Ben Mendelsohn) who convinces Luke to be a bank robber.  Luke would steal the cash, and drive his motorcycle to Robin’s awaiting truck.  They knock over a few banks, and Robin wants to call it quits, but Luke keeps going, by himself.  Soon Robin is tracked down and shot by a rookie cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper) who also has a one year old son named A.J (Travis Jackson Campbell,, Emory Cohen) What effect does Luke’s shooting have on Avery, Jason, and A.J.?

I liked the beginning of this story, but soon it loses the intensity and focus of the story.  The scope of the story is too sweeping, not only does it cover one generation, but two.  And by the time the second generation rolls around, the intensity fades away.  This movie tries too hard to be East of Eden, but Derek Cianfrace is not John Steinbeck, although I did like Blue Valentine.  And if this is what kids are like in the next generation,  taking oxycontin by the fistful and washing it down with booze, I weep for future generations. There are too many coincidences in the script tying one generation to the next, beginning with the fact that both criminal and cop have one year old sons, and there is a wholly unnecessary subplot about police corruption and overall the movie is too long.

The acting is really good, at least by the older generation. Ryan Gosling gives his patented laconic, intense, loner performance, and this time it works, unlike Only God Forgives and the Gangster Squad. Bradley Cooper gives a mostly good performance, with some lackadaisical scenes tucked in-between. Eva Mendes is good, despite some awful makeup to make her appear older, but the younger actors, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen cannot match the intensity of their elders.  They have the elocution of bad rappers, and most of all, they really can’t act.

The direction is very good especially the scenes involving the motorcycle, but an overly long, complicated script derail what could have been a really good movie.

The Place Beyond the Pines.  Left me pining for a shorter film.

Movie Review: The Words (2012)

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Drama
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the words

An author, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) writes a book about a struggling author named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who finds an old manuscript in an antique satchel, and decides to publish it as his own,  Rory then meets the old man (Jeremy Irons) who’s book it is.  The old man tells him the sad story of his life in the army in France.  The old man meets his dream girl in France, a woman named Celia (Nora Arnezeder) they get married, have a child, lose the child, and to add insult to injury, Celia loses the old man’s manuscript.  Under the strain of losing the child and the manuscript, their marriage dissolves.  What does the old man wan want?  What is Rory willing to do for the old man with the sad life, whose manuscript he stole?

There are two good stories here, and one totally superfluous story here.  The good story is the Rory Jansen character facing a moral dilemma in stealing a manuscript and then coming face to face with the man who wrote the manuscript.  That story was interesting.  The backstory of the old man during the war is a good story.  The superfluous story is the Clay Hammond story, that is layered on top of the Rory and old man story.  The Clay Hammond story needlessly complicates things and is unnecessary, and the whole subplot of Hammond and his fan Daniela (Olivia Wilde) is also unnecessary.  The movie is only 96 minutes long, and that’s with the filler of this third story, and believe me, it feels like filler.  There  is an excellent performance by Jeremy Irons, which conveys the full weight of the loss of his daughter, and the breakup of his marriage.  Only a great actor like Irons can carry off such a complex role.  Bradley Cooper is mostly good as the conflicted author, even though he can’t really handle the heavily emotional scenes.  Dennis Quaid is wasted, playing a jerky, self-centered author.  Zoe Saldana is wasted as Rory’s alternately happy and weepy wife.  And don’t ask me what Olivia Wilde is doing here as an obsessed fan of a superfluous character, are the kids who have Olivia Wilde posters on their walls really going to see a movie about conflicted writers?  I don’t think so.

The Words. Many wasted words, muddle what could have been a good story.

silver linings playbook

Pat Solatano Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is being driven home to Philadelphia from a mental health facility in Baltimore by his mother, Delores. (Jacki Weaver)  Par Jr. has been institutionalized for 8 months, he caught his teacher wife Nikki  (Brea Bee) cheating on him, and beat the hell out of her lover.  Pat Jr. was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and ordered to see a psychiatrist named Doctor Patel (Anupam Kher) and stay on his medication.  Pat Jr. doesn’t want any of it, he wants to go home and work on himself read classic books from Nikki’s syllabus, and jog.  That is Pat Jr.’s road to recovery.

Of course, being at home is not the most nurturing place to be.  Pat Jr.’s father Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro) is an obsessive compulsive football fan who’s lost his job, and is now making a living as a bookie.  Pat Jr.’s  wife Nikki has taken out a restraining order on him, and everyone in his neighborhood is afraid that Pat Jr. is going to have another attack and attack one of them. Pat Jr.’s self-help plan is not going so well, he’s getting into fights with his parents about the classic books he is reading, and a song My Cherie Amor, sets him off in a rage.  That was his wedding song, but also the song that was playing when he discovered his wife was cheating on him.

Pat Jr seeks solace at his friend Ronnie’s (John Ortiz) house.  At Ronnie’s house, Pat meets Tiffany.  (Jennifer Lawrence) Tiffany is a cop’s widow and she’s having trouble bouncing back from her loss. Although Pat Jr. is taken aback by Tiffany’s almost instantaneous invitation to sleep with him and refuses it, they soon become fast friends, going jogging, discussing psychotropic drugs they’ve taken, and even going on a non-date at a diner, where Pat Jr. orders Raisin Bran, because he doesn’t want it to be considered a date.

Both Pat Jr. and Tiffany have an angle.  Pat Jr. wants Tiffany to deliver a letter to his wife, Nikki, telling her how much better he’s doing, and Tiffany wants Pat Jr. to enter a dance contest to prove how much better he’s doing.  Pat Jr. agrees to learn to dance with Tiffany, and enter the contest, soon Pat Jr. finds purpose and focus in the dance lessons, but still only sees Tiffany as a stepping stone to winning back Nikki.  On the eve of the dance contest Pat Jr. gets a letter from Nikki.  What does the letter say?  Does Pat Jr. win Nikki back?  Does he go through with the dance contest?

I thoroughly enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook.  I did not think that it would be as funny as it was, but a lot of the movie was laugh out loud funny.  Sure, it plays fast and loose with the bi-polar disorder plotline, nobody thinks ballroom dancing is a treatment for bi-polar disorder. This is a movie, for entertainment purposes, not a documentary.  But it does try to make a serious point about mental health, that no one can cure mental illness by themselves, they need friends and family, and psychotherapy and pharmacology, all of it, to start down the road for a cure.

The acting is superb.  Who knew that Bradley Cooper was such a good actor?  I couldn’t tell from the Hangover, that’s for sure.  He handles both the serious and comedic scenes with equal alacrity. Jennifer Lawrence is electric, she supercharges her character with unending energy.  She is a great actress at such a young age, the major roles she’s played are so different, The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone, and this one, but she’s made the characters in each of these movies unique.  She will be a huge star.  DeNiro will win an Oscar for his role, he handles the comedy much better than his comedic movies, and handles the drama like DeNiro.

The direction is worth noting.  I noticed little things like focusing on Cooper’s hands for a shot to show how nervous he is.  The writing is good, not great, but it was entertaining, and if you want to say that it didn’t take mental illness seriously enough, that is surely a valid point.  But as entertainment, this is a great movie.

Silver Linings Playbook.  It will be golden very shortly.