American Hustle (2013)
One Line Description: Two con artists are forced to work undercover for the FBI.
A period piece from the late 1970s, two con artists (played by Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to go undercover by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to try and entrap important politicians. Jennifer Lawrence also stars as Bale’s wife. This movie had spectacular performances from the four principles, all of whom should get Oscar nominations. Adams’ was the strongest, and is out of this world sexy in this movie. The movie dragged a bit at times, and, like most movies these days, could have been 20 minutes shorter. Even still, the story is good enough, and carried so well by the performances, and very well directed, that it’s good enough. Bradley Cooper plays an unstable federal agent very well, and Bale put on a bunch of weight to play this role. The cat and mouse game played by Adams was just perfect, and it’s hard to tell at any point exactly what angle she is playing. Deserving of the hype, especially for the individual performances.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
One Line Description: The rise and fall of a Wall Street mogul in the late 1980s.
Another period piece, this one felt like Goodfellas meets Boiler Room. The former mostly due to the style, time period, narration and the direction of Martin Scorsese. The trailer makes this movie seem crazy and over-the-top, but they don’t come close to doing it justice. Drugs, sex and money flow freely throughout, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays a role unlike most he has played recently. I continue to believe he is the best actor of our generation and plays this role exceptionally well. That’s important because the movie is nearly 3 hours long and he is on screen for almost all of it. Jonah Hill continues to prove he will do almost anything on screen and provides some excellent one-liners throughout. He and DiCaprio share a qualude-induced scene late in the movie that literally had me on the verge of wetting myself. This probably isn’t a movie most women would like, since the women of the film are not treated all that well, and it’s very much a male fantasy of a movie. At 2 hours and 45 minute, it’s an entertaining ride, but one that probably could have been a bit shorter. It is still one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in years1, and depending on how it holds up on re-watch, could be one of my favorite movies of the last decade.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
One Line Description: A politician installs a black sheriff in an attempt to get a town abandoned so he can build a railroad.
One of Mel Brooks’ most well known movies, this movie’s humor really fits the era it was made in. It still holds up well and is funny at times, but like most comedies, what was “risque” 30 years ago is mundane now, and so much of the line crossing this movie had does not seem like a big deal. Cleavon Little is really good as the lead character and I was left to wonder why I didn’t know him from other things. He died in 1992 at 53, so it’s likely that he just didn’t make it far enough for me to know who he was. Alex Karras punching a horse is still funny now, and there are other moments that at least warrant an audible chuckle. I doubt I would go out of my way to see it again, but if it was on, I wouldn’t object.
Get Low (2009)
One Line Description: A mysterious hermit throws his own funeral in the 1930s.
Robert Duvall and Bill Murray was all I needed to hear to see this one. Unfortunately, it missed big time. It’s easy to forget that Duvall was in his late 70s for this one and he just doesn’t have a fastball anymore. He does an OK job playing the character he is playing, but the movie is just not that interesting. Murray does what he can, but doesn’t really have much room to spread his wings. Overall I was just bored with this one.
Batman Returns (1992)
One Line Description: Batman battles the Penguin as he tries to take over Gotham City.
It has probably been almost 20 years since I saw this movie. I remember not liking it as much as the first Michael Keaton version, or the next iteration Batman Forever. That ended up being accurate. Danny DeVito is great as the Penguin, so much so that at times you can’t even tell it’s him. Michelle Pfieffer has never really done it for me though, and her performance just didn’t work2. This fit very much in the style of the first one, but was nowhere near as good. I guess that is expected when you replace Jack Nicholson with Danny DeVito. Michael Keaton was good though. And as Grantland’s Bill Simmons has pointed out, you forget how good he was in the early 1990s, and how close he was to being what Tom Hanks eventually ended up becoming. Another movie I can’t even imagine seeing again, but maybe 20 years from now I will have forgotten what my feelings were and watch it again.