Tag Archives: Christian Bale

Villainous lines series

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Quick ‘n’ Dirty: January at the pictures

In a vain attempt to keep up with all the films I watch I came up with this new series of posts. The idea is to bundle up speedy reviews of the movies I saw at the cinema and at home for which I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a full critique. The posts will be distinguished in two types: “at the pictures” and “at home”. So, without further ado, here’s January selection of films:

 

The Lobster: intrigued by a quirky trailer and some good reviews, I went in with high expectations for a captivating indie movie with a great cast. I came out sorely disappointed and confused. The film starts with an engaging premise of a near future society with a little twist in its social mores but, then, it loses momentum making the plot more complicated and without a clear direction or thesis. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gives solid performances but it’s not enough. Missed opportunity —4/10

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Black Mass:  it aspires to be a new Goodfellas but doesn’t have the guts to go all the way. Irish mob in the seventies fights the competition with the help of complacent FBI agents: it sounds good on paper but it doesn’t fully deliver. Johnny Depp’s chameleonic transformation into James “Whitey” Bulger, who ascends from petty criminal in South Boston to FBI’s most wanted status, is convincing but lacks bite. Notwithstanding the efforts of a great cast, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch in particular, the film has an uneven pace and not enough tension to win me over. I wonder what Scorsese would have done… oh wait, he made The Departed! No guts, no glory —6/10

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2: typing this long title makes me already weary! First off: splitting the last part of a trilogy in two just to milk every possible dime from the audience is not cool, especially when there’s no real need for it. The story picks up exactly where it left off but a year of waiting it’s way worse than commercial breaks to get back into the rhythm and care for the characters. So Katniss and her ragtag gang of heros need to kill President Snow to finally end the civil war in Panem and it seems that they go at it all the wrong ways; I haven’t seen so many useless deaths since George Clooney’s in Gravity. Anyway, the good guys wins but there’s a price to pay…duh! It felt flat and unengaging and the multiple endings do not help.  Watch on TV —5/10

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The Big Short: Adam McKay takes on the not easy task to explain the root causes of 2008 financial crisis using as a starting point the eponymous book wrote by Michael Lewis. He takes a few liberties with the source material but he succeeds in getting through the most important facts and information with clever and funny breaking-the-forth-wall speeches and using Ryan Gosling’s character as guide for the audience. With a stellar ensemble cast at his disposal, McKay skillfully tells the story of a few individuals who saw the end of the real estate bubble coming and all the problems connected with financial derivative products. Despite the complicated and, some might say, dull subject the film is well-paced and funny with convincing performances. Special kudos to Christian Bale! Relevant and entertaining —7.5/10

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Out of the Furnace

Director: Scott Cooper, Main Cast: Christian BaleCasey AffleckZoe SaldanaWoody HarrelsonSam ShepardWillem DafoeForest Whitaker;

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A story of brotherly love and loss in a small town of America’s Rust Belt. Russell Baze (Bale) works a dead-end job at the local steel mill, takes care of his very sick father with his uncle’s (Shepard) help and his younger brother Rodney (Affleck) has been stop-lost and will soon go back to Iraq. Being a decent, hardworking man and wanting to built a life with his girlfriend (Saldana) is not something that is usually rewarded in life and Russell’s fate is only about to get worse. He ends up in prison for drinking and driving, after being involved in a car crash in which people lost their lives. When Russell has finally paid his debt to society, a few years have gone by and his world has changed: his father is dead, his girl has moved on and shacked up with Wesley Barnes (Whitaker), the chief of Braddock’s police, and his brother is broken, lost and in deep with the wrong crowd, after coming back from his tour in Iraq.  Since the audience has met early on both the town’s small-time crook Petty (Dafoe) and the ruthless, all-round criminal DeGroat (Harrelson) from up north (Bergen, NJ), it is very clear that things will end bad, at this point it is just a matter of seeing how grim the story will turn out. Rodney is using his fighting skills as bare-knuckled boxer in illegal matches, trying to earn money to pay back a debt he has with Petty and have something left. Once he goes up in the Ramapough Mountains to fight in a match organised by DeGroat, he will never come back. This sends Russell over the edge and on a path of revenge but as Confucius said: “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”, which is quite an apt description of the ending. The slow burning pace of the movie, along with the rural and desolate settings, increase very effectively the foreboding mood of the story and a good characterisation keeps the viewer engaged. Although all the cast is excellent, I’d say that this is a Bale and Harrelson film, the latter in excellent form as the villain of the piece. Relentless 7/10

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American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell, Main Cast: Christian BaleAmy AdamsBradley CooperJeremy RennerJennifer Lawrence;

American-Hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a talented swindler and, after meeting his con artist soulmate Sydney Prosser (Adams), starts to make some serious money with financial scams. She gets pinched by Richie DiMaso (Cooper), an arrogant, ambitious and a little out-of-control FBI agent, who forces the pair to work for him. DiMaso’s plan is to catch Carmine Polito (Renner), Mayor of  Camden (NJ), for bribery, along the way he realises that he can get other politicians and find ties with prominent members of the mafia as well. Irving and Sydney have no other choice but to play along and use their wits and cunning to get through their predicament. Matters are complicated by Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), who’s unpredictable, volatile and the Picasso of passive-aggressive (in Irving’s word). The great performances from the cast and the witty dialogues keep you engaged and curious to know what Irving and Sydney will come up with to save themselves. Russell has a terrific way to tell this story, partially inspired by real events, and gets back to the level of the Three Kings and The Fighter, after The Silver Linings Playbook (a glorified chick-flick). Special kudos go to Bradley Cooper for his slightly deranged DiMaso and to Jennifer Lawrence, who delivers the best lines and makes you laugh out loud. Maybe De Niro’s cameo as mobster is a little on the nose but it is quite funny. Captivating —8/10

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