AMERICAN HUSTLE REVIEW

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A great ensemble could only hustle my attention away from the messy story and lengthy pace for so long. A mixed bag, to say the least.

A con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.

Performance wise, this film was a perfect showcase for one of the best ensembles going. Normally with a David O’Russell movie, you’re either going to get something brilliant (The Fighter) or enjoyable but flawed (Silver Linings Playbook). American Hustle didn’t quite hit the mark. It seemed to struggle with what tone to take. Torn between being a comical crime caper and a tense mafia thriller. Not quite succeeding on either.

The main issue for me was the 138 minute length. Like the pace, I could feel my attention dipping in and out. This could have easily been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been better for it. The hustling was entertaining enough BUT the agonizing build up was too much.

The story was hardly original and far too predictable. I’ve seen better stories in BBC’s hit TV show Hustle (Even the weaker series). You always know that there’s a bigger play in motion and the BIG REVEAL was hardly a revelation as the closing act reached it’s chaotic climax.

David O’Russell grabbed all his regulars for this one. Bale was very good. However, the main problem I had with Rosenfeld’s character was that he didn’t do as much as I thought. He became more passive as the film progressed. He only really got to shine in the last 20 minutes.

My future wife Jennifer Lawrence (What?) was fantastic as the neurotic Rosalyn. She stole every scene. Only she could make (an unnecessary) supporting character funny, watchable and entertaining. Her angry spring clean to Paul McCartney &Wings’ Live and Let Die had me in stitches.

Amy Adams was superb as Irving’s partner in crime, Sydney Prosser. The only thing that irritated me was her hammy ‘English accent’. She just talked in a slower and more patronizing fashion. That’s it. When she reveals she’s not English to a character later on, he’s completely baffled. Even though in the previous scene, she was talking in her normal one. Bad continuity? Maybe.

The main plaudits have to go to Bradley Cooper. It’s great to see how far he has progressed from his Hangover days. His performance as the relentless and ridiculously permed Richie DiMaso was fantastic. He spurred this lacklustre effort along with humour and suspense.

Linus Sandgren’s cinematography was superb. Capturing the glossy look of the old 70s flicks. The props and clothes really brought that authentic 70s feel. You could always bank on Danny Elfman to provide a cracking soundtrack to fit the era. So many belters!

When AH was funny, it was a hoot. BUT O’Russell had the tendency to bleed those gags dry. A gag involving Bale adjusting his horrendous comb-over with clumps of hair soon overstayed its welcome. We get it, he’s bald!

There were so many missed opportunities. A tense encounter with the Mafia (and a surprise cameo from DeNiro himself) could have been so much more and was breezed over far too quickly. Thankfully, the closing act did deliver moments of genuine suspense.

Performances can’t be faltered. Where AH lacked in originality and pace, it made up with humour and energy but it still couldn’t hide a very mediocre movie. It was watchable BUT far too patchy and predictable. Certainly worth a gander BUT I’d be scamming you if I said it was any better.

3/5 (Just)

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*THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS REVIEW*

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What’s this, what’s this? (See what I did there).

A brilliant Halloween/Christmas film? Or both.

Yeah, I’ll get my coat.

24 years? Really? Well, despite that shocking revelation, The Nightmare Before Christmas is still a beautifully creepy, macabre (get me with the fancy words), musical masterpiece that I would happily watch again and again. And again. You get the idea.

It had been a while since I last viewed this with the family, but as soon as the opening song began, my feet were tapping and I was singing along, much to my parents’ annoyance. Once I got over the depressing fact that this film is as old as my little bro. Yikes.

I’m surprised that the West End or Broadway haven’t adapted this to the stage. I’m sure they did something at Disney for the 20th anniversary? BUT I digress . . .

We join Jack Skellington in the wonderfully gruesome Halloween Town as he battles the growing anxiety that something is missing in his life. Unhappy, he stumbles across doors that open portals to other towns, one being Christmas Town.

Elated that he may have found that missing link, Skellington tries to explain the concept of Christmas to the ghastly town with eerily hilarious consequences. A particular highlight being a little boy unwrapping a shrunken head, a very hungry Christmas wreath and toys that don’t quite gasp the concept of “play time”.

It may be a little frightening for children of a younger age. Saying that, my brother’s nearly 24 and it still freaks him out! Funny enough, this never did for me. (As a side note, the one that did was Toy Story. I know, right? Sid and Scud scared me and oh God, Babyface. Still shudder now, just typing the name).

Understandable that this world could only be brought to the screen by none other than Tim ‘Beetlejuice’ Burton and Henry ‘Coraline’ Selick.

BUT the pair fill these delicately creepy characters with such life and heart that make them so funny and entertaining from the delightfully satirical two faced Mayor (Glenn Shadix) to the (appropriately titled) Evil Scientist (William Hickey) with an abnormally sized cranium.

Packed with a wonderfully musical soundtrack by, one on the Burton checklist, Danny Elfman (who actually sang for Skellington. Sorry, Chris Sarandon fans).

I always use the excuse that this is a seasonal film just to watch it. Well it does feature Halloween, Christmas and Easter (well it’s got the Easter Bunny in it!) and . . . It doesn’t matter a film like this can be watched anytime.

Beautifully haunting, great songs, great story, just a great film.

5/5 (Whatttt?)

Oh, a little parting gift as I can’t get this out of my head now . . .