Bradley Cooper

February 1, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 37) February 2015


FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

In this Super Bowl Edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, we…um…don’t talk about the Super Bowl.  We do talk to Dan Clark from The Talking In Circles Podcast.  Dan gives us his take on Pratt possibly being cast as Indiana Jones. In exchange for his well thought out analysis the boys force him to share deep dark secrets about himself on a segment we like to call Simply Ashamed.  DJ reveals how he lost his one true love, Matt reveals a hidden musical talent, and all three of them take great pleasure in the absurdity of the film Lean On Me.  All this and more on this Super Bowl/Non Super Bowl Edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast

SHOW NOTES
MUSIC NOTES
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August 2, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy (DJ’s Take)

REWARDING

The road to Guardians Of The Galaxy has a been a strange one if you think about it.  When Marvel’s cinematic universe potentate Kevin Feige announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con that the next big film coming down the pipeline was going to be Guardians, many were floored.  It was supposed to be a victory lap for Marvel after The Avengers changed the comic book movie genre forever…but they decided to come out with Guardians Of The Galaxy next?

Most didn’t even know who the hell the Guardians Of The Galaxy were.  I, being a comic book reader since I was seven, knew who they were and still was confused.  The balls on Marvel.  The balls indeed.  This WAS their victory lap.  The Avengers success allowed them to take a chance on a property that no one knew, and have it fly under the radar pressure free.  And it did.  Until that trailer came out.  A trailer that played up the film’s unfamiliarity with audience for a laugh.  A trailer that showed us why Feige was so confident in the property to begin with.  Guardians Of The Galaxy looked like it was going to capitalize greatly on one of the strengths of Marvel.  That strength being their films are fun.  It also looked as though Guardians was going to take advantage of the growing desire for a lighthearted sci-fi space adventure before even their Disney brother Star Wars Episode VII could.  I mean look at this poster

If Only Serenity Came Out Now

Trailer after trailer came out, each looking better than the last.  Excitement grew.  Critics fawned.  DC pouted.  Then about two weeks before release…rumblings of worry began about Guardians Of The Galaxy possibly not living up to the hype.  A film about characters no one knew four years ago was now being thought of as too good to be true.  The whole thing reminds me of another risky venture that Marvel took back in 2008.  And we remember how that turned out don’t we?

THE TANK = COMIC BOOK FANBOYS’ MINDS

Guardians Of The Galaxy is merely another risky venture by Feige and the boys at Marvel.  The verdict?  Not only does it live up to the recent hype you’ve been hearing, it is possibly the most REWARDING experience you’ll have in the theater all year. 

So, what is Guardians about?  It’s about a group of emotionally scarred kindred spirits coming together to become a family.  What?  It is.  The kindred spirits just happen to be raccoon, a tree, an earthling, a deadly alien chic, and a crazed warrior.   Sure there is a plot revolving around the retrieval of a mysterious macguffin (A Favorite Trope For Marvel) and various quests for revenge.  However, this is really about the unity of these characters amidst their differences and obstacles.

You may think that I am crapping on the plot of Guardians, but I’m not.  I merely want to bring attention to the real accomplishment of this film.  That accomplishment is the quality of these characters themselves.  Each one of them are so rich and fleshed out, the story almost feels inconsequential.  You’ll fall in love with them equally and so deeply that you’d be willing to watch them regardless of their journey.  The Guardians are as uniquely lovable as Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2 or Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, River, Book, Kaylee, Simon, and Inara.  And that is just on paper.  You still gotta cast the thing.  Thankfully Gunn and Feige knocked that out of the park as well.

Matthew McConaughey is an actor that has taken a meteoric rise over the past few years.  However, his McConaugh-sance has smoke screened most from the arrival of Chris Pratt.  This guy has been in projects ranging from Parks and Rec, Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Lego Movie and has crushed his performance each time.  Peter Quill now might very well be Pratt’s Han Solo role, while his part in the new Jurassic Park might be his Indiana Jones.  Pratt is that magnetic and the magnetically charming throughline for this entire film.  Quill could soon become a Marvel favorite after audiences get a glimpse of Star-Lord, even with Robert Downey Jr. still walking the earth as Tony Stark.  It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this character from his very first frame on screen, much like how we did with Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is not as entertainingly devilish as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  However, she has the tough task of being the film’s straight man or woman as it were.  Saldana is solid in the role and has undeniable chemistry with Pratt.  Whenever she is given a scene to carry, she delivers.  Dave Bautista was the one character that I was worried about.  He essentially plays the Thor role of the team, which could be bad if done poorly.  However, Gunn plays into any stilt and stiffness that Bautista could of have had and uses it as a character trait.  A decision that makes Drax possibly the most humorous characters in the film.  A stroke of genius if you think about.  Bautista’s acting, which is still quite good in this, is now nearly immune from criticism.

Diesel and Cooper make icons of their two CGI characters.  Cooper especially lends something to Rocket that I never expected.  He is the fan favorite master of wisecracking, of course.  However, there is a very terrific and subtle thread of emotional trauma that Cooper brings to Rocket.  Just one of the many examples of the detail and time that went into creating these characters.  A feat completed through the writing and directing of James Gunn.

I think Gunn might be Marvel’s new golden boy.  I understand why there were rumors of him taking over Avengers after Joss Whedon.  Gunn and Whedon’s thematic voices are different, but they seem to approach the material in a similar way.  They both never forget to service their characters first.  They both embrace fun without letting it get too silly.  And they both seem to love the material they are working with.  (Trust me…that is not always a guarantee…ahem…Marc Webb…ahem…Michael Bay)  Gunn brings so much life to this world, I’m amazed the budget was as low as it was. ($170 million)
With the freedom Marvel seemed to have given Gunn with Guardians and the success that I think it will be, I can only imagine what we will be in store for in the sequel.

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a high risk, but ended up becoming a high REWARD.  We should all go out and claim this REWARD, and by doing so, prove that strange and different is not automatically box office poison.  Hop aboard the Milano…grab a prosthetic leg…never call Drax a thesaurus…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  And if you don’t…Peter Quill has a message for you.

December 6, 2013

Early Returns: American Hustle

SILKY

American Hustle – Silky

The name David O. Russell can evoke a lot of emotions, especially if you talk to either George Clooney or Lily Tomlin.  The man has the special talent to bring both the best, and worst, out in people.  While there is no doubt Russell can be called a total prick, there is also no doubt that the guy has been putting out quality films since “Spanking the Monkey” all the way back in 1994.  Almost 20 years later, Russell has released his most refined, and silky, film to date in “American Hustle,” starring the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Russell’s newest muse, Jennifer Lawrence.

“Hustle” is the tale of two con artists (Bale and Adams) who are forced to join forces with an FBI Agent (Bradley Cooper) who has entirely too much to prove. The unlikely trio set out to uncover corruption that involves a fake sheik, members of Congress, the Mafia, and a local mayor of Camden, New Jersey, played by Jeremy Renner.  Throw in a nagging wife, played wonderfully by Lawrence, and those are the basics of “Hustle.”

While I might have just simplified the plot for spoiler’s-sake above, the film is much more than your standard grifters-on-the-run-from-the-law story.  I’d liken “Hustle” very much to “Goodfellas” in it’s storytelling and use of the 1970s as the backdrop.  I also mention “Goodfellas” in it’s use of a very interesting cameo that I won’t mention, again, for spoiler’s-sake.

While I will commend Russell for his direction and vision, the acting really shines in “Hustle.”  I have no doubt in my mind that all four main actors, Adams, Bale, Cooper, and Lawrence, will be up for Oscars come February.  I’ll even go as far as saying that this will be Adams’ Oscar year.  Her turn as Sydney Prosser is magical, and proves that Adams is one of the best actresses in the business that still seems to be overlooked.  Lawrence steals the show in the scenes she’s in, and the same goes for Cooper.  Bale is the rock of the film however, and provides a calming cool to the insanity that seems to swirl around him.  Renner is fine in his role as Mayor Carmine Polito, but one of the best unsung performances will go to Louis C.K, who plays the brow-beaten boss of Cooper’s unhinged FBI Agent.

Like I mentioned before, this is Russell’s “Goodfellas.”  Loosely based on actual events, Russell weaves a story that has you guessing until the very end, and much like Martin Scorsese does in most of his films, music plays a major part.  Russell picks some of the best music from 70’s, and makes Duke Ellington, and his music, one of the points of attraction between Bale and Adams’ characters, and it makes sense in the scheme, no pun intended, of things.  Jazz artists like Ellington had to improve all the time, it’s the heartbeat of jazz, improvisation, and you can say the same thing for people running cons; constant improvisation.  The allegory is fantastic, if you catch it, but it’s not entirely relevant to the overall plot, just a cute little thing that Russell throws into his film.

At it’s core, “Hustle” is a caper film in the spirit of “Jackie Brown” and “Catch Me If You Can.”  It has spunk, heart, and like I said before, is silky smooth, with plenty of style to spare.  Best film of the year?  Let’s not quite go there yet, but if “Hustle” is any inclination of the films to come the rest of 2013, we should be in store for plenty of treats the rest of the month of December.  Christmas comes early with “American Hustle.”

Fun Fact:  The story of “American Hustle” is loosely based on the events of ABSCAM, in the late 1970s and 1980s.    

May 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines: Powerful

‎2hr 20min‎ – ‎Rated R‎ – ‎Drama‎

Going into this film I wasn’t really expecting much but that default Ryan Gosling film we seem to get anymore. The silent romantic killer type, which I don’t mind. He does a good job in his films and yes this is another one, but it’s damn good. The story is simple, Guy sees a girl he had a past with. Guy finds out he has a child, guy has no money but wants to help. This is mostly the first hour of the film. Ryan and (in real life girlfriend) Eva Mendes are a great onscreen couple. They play off of each other nicely. The film also is shoot beautifully and the film as a whole just feels tight and well made. There are these shots with Ryan on his bike that are not anything special but it comes off just fantastic.

The only real issue with this film is the running time. For a 140min film the first hr and a half go quite fast, its the last 50mins of what kills the film for me. 

Look at the film like this, its 3 in 1. The first film is all Ryan. The second is with Bradley Cooper, the third-well lets keep that under wraps.  If I told you any of it, I would spoil something that you should find out when watching the film. Bradley Cooper does a great job as well with his screen time  I think I was more impressed with him here then his past films. He also shares the screen with Ray Liotta, who, yep you guessed it plays… a baddie.

There is this “silver lining” (If I can) throughout the film which helps this film wrap up nicely. But like I said earlier could of been a bit shorter. The ending could of lost a solid 20mins. The whole film is nicely packaged till this point. But then feels as if they jammed every idea they had and couldn’t let any of it go. Otherwise it’s a lovely film, one I think a lot of people will like.

Acting is great. Directing and DP are great. Running time just needs to be shorten a bit.

January 13, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Silver Linings Playbook

CRAZY

And I mean that in a good way.  Silver Linings Playbook, besides having one of the strangest titles for a film ever, is probably the CRAZIEST love story I’ve seen since Punch Drunk Love.  From the very beginning, it snatches you up on a manic roller coaster ride of mental disorder, football, ballroom dancing and strangely enough, romance.  And it completely knocked me over.  We’ve had a pretty great year when it comes to great films and great performances.  Silver Linings Playbook has the distinction of possessing both of those traits.

The film is a Matthew Quick novel adaptation from director David O. Russell.  It centers around Bradley Cooper’s character Pat.  A man with a bi-polar disorder who is desperately trying to better himself in order to get back with his estranged wife.  More than that though, it is a film about acceptance.  Whether that be acceptance of one’s fate or acceptance of one’s illness.  Now, this is not slow burn psychological study.  The film is handled much differently.  The pacing of this film is noticeably frenetic.  The veracity really puts you in the head of someone who has bi-polar disorder.  You are immediately thrust into this world with these characters and barely have time to react to each strange fit of rage or absurd situation.  And it is completely captivating to watch.

It must suck to be Bradley Cooper.  Well, not really.  Ladies love him, his films do well, and he seems to be pretty well liked by his peers.  However, he’s just now starting to get recognized and rewarded for his acting ability.  Pretty boy douchebag roles are now being replaced by roles like this on his resume.  He portrays his disorder in such a realistic and grounded way.  A misconception for playing someone with a mental disorder is to do it over the top.  But its actually the subtleties that really sell it.  And while Cooper has his share of over the top outburst, he nails the small moments where his illness tortures him.  For as good as Cooper is, Jennifer Lawrence steals this film from him.  Its a welcome change to see an actress who can do the schlocky youth fueled films like Hunger Games and X-Men, but also have the range to do deeper, meaningful films like this.  YOU HEAR ME KRISTEN STEWART!?!  CLOSE YOUR MOUTH!  Lawrence is amazing, her chemistry with Cooper is magical, and she pretty much eats Robert De Niro’s lunch acting-wise in a climactic scene.  And not a lazy Rocky & Bullwinkle Robert De Niro.  A trying, solid performing Robert De Niro.  I’d hold up the performances by Silver Linings Playbook’s ensemble cast to every film it’ll be nominated against.  Even Django.

David O. Russell is infamous for being a bit of a hard ass to work for.  However, his abilities as a director are unquestionable.  Especially directing films like this.  Films where the main characters are severely flawed.  Realistically flawed.  But still likable characters all the same.  The way he lets his scenes just play out must be catnip for actors.

Silver Linings Playbook might be lost in the CRAZY award season mix because it isn’t as fun or escapist as its competition.  But I think it will stand the test of time because it is well made, well performed and just a feel good movie.  Slap on a DeSean Jackson jersey…put some money on the Eagles…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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