Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

When it comes to Silver Linings Playbook, both on-screen leads (Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence) step into roles that really do showcase both of their talents for being able to effectively play two unstable counterparts, each coming to terms with their lives and all the pitfalls thrown their way. The supporting cast is great, the set pieces and locations feel like another character in of itself (Philadelphia specifically), and the direction moves the story along very well. The film is a darkly funny and harrowing tale centered around dysfunctional families and their love for one another, all the while overcoming obstacles in the face of emotional immaturity and mental insecurity… so what’s wrong with it?

My first thought after viewing this was, “haven’t we seen this done by Hollywood way too many times in the past?”

Especially in terms of following the magic recipe for making funny/ emotional dramas that are meant to pull at your heartstrings and create lots of Oscar buzz – i.e. The Blind Side, The Descendants, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc., etc. I’m not knocking any of those movies, just saying that story isn’t that original: Boy meets girl, boy and girl pretend to just be friends for a while, boy and girl get thrown into a situation where they have intense prolonged contact, boy and girl fall in love and end up together. YAWN. This is what’s getting so much hype?

I don’t want to completely tear this film down, because it is put together well and has its good moments (aside from the clichés). It just felt like a movie that is too predictable at times and leaves you not really contemplating much about it afterwards. I left the theater thinking, “That was a decent movie, but nothing special – now what’s for dinner?” That about sums up it up for me – it’s a notch or two above any standard rom-com fare that’s produced by the droves these days, mainly because of the high-caliber acting. And even though the story is fine, the script is emotional, and the acting is genuinely real – I do think that this movie is overrated. There was way too much hype surrounding it from the get go – and when that happens to films, people tend to build up expectations for what they are going to take away from it. For me, perhaps I went in expecting too much, and left thinking that I have seen it all before – but sometimes, if you don’t go in expecting the world, then the end result isn’t necessarily that bad.

Recommendation

It’s definitely worth checking out a time or two, but don’t expect to be blown away by it.

THREE GOLD STARS

Ganster Squad (2013)

ganster

Gangster Squad (2013)

When I first saw the trailer for Gangster Squad back in the fall of 2012, it seemed like it had all the makings of a great film: an up-and-coming director (Ruben Fleischer), set in the ever-fascinating neo-noir crime genre, and it has loads of great actors like Josh Brolin, Giovanni Ribisi, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte – the list of a great supporting cast goes on and on. But then something happened that made me think twice about the quality of this movie – the release date was pushed back to the dreaded early-in-the-year January release date instead of late fall. When that happens, I always know two things for those movies:

  1. Movie execs all probably had mini strokes after they saw the shabby reactions from the pre-screening results, so they decided to push the movie release date to January – which everybody knows is the time where bad new movies go to die (less of course they’re late year entries for Oscar nominations, i.e. Zero Dark Thirty).
  2. The hype for the movie wasn’t as big as originally expected (or budgeted for), so the marketing efforts shifts focus; the trailer is rebooted, and the movie is all but forgotten by the studios.

This all spelled bad news for the movie and my own expectations. Despite these setbacks, I buried that inner voice that told me this movie may be a let down, and I decided to see it in theaters regardless, thinking maybe this movie would be different and beat that typical January slump. Ahhhh…ignorance is bliss!

Gangster Squad isn’t a bad movie – in fact, if you go into it with zero expectations, and you’re willing to let yourself go and hang on for the quirky, tongue-in-cheek ride, it can be enjoyable. However, if you watch it with a serious mindset and preconceived notions like I did – you’ll hate it. It just didn’t gel for me, and I couldn’t quite put a finger on why it didn’t work: bad pacing? poor script? poor direction? I honestly don’t know. I suppose with a name like Gangster Squad, you can’t expect something of substance like The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Road to Perdition etc. But Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and the likes surely wouldn’t pick a film that is so poor and brain-dead if it were to be taken seriously would they? I wanted to like this movie so badly, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

Recommendation

I still have a hard time distinguishing whether this is a legitimate film that was just poorly executed that contained more style than substance or a tongue-in-cheek film brilliantly executed… you’ll have to decide for yourself, because either way, it’s at least worth one viewing.

THREE GOLD STARS

The Edge (1997)

The Edge Movie
They were fighting over a woman when the plane went down. Now, their only chance for survival is each other.

The Edge (1997)

Being that this is my first review, I’ll talk a bit about why I decided to review it:

This is a movie I’ve seen dozens of times over the course of 15 years. I’ve liked it since the first time I saw it as a 13 year-old. Granted, at that age, I was very much into survival stories and adventures – I had just finished reading “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, which, by the way, is a life changing book for any red-blooded American boy that’s coming of age.

But just last night, my wife and I were deciding on what to watch – we had a few hours to kill before we were going to hit the sack, so we figured let’s explore the vast (and sometimes downright terrible) choices of Netflix. After running out of luck of finding anything worthwhile (not an uncommon occurence), we fell upon The Edge. Now granted, both my wife and I have already seen this movie, but she hasn’t seen it nearly as many times as myself. It’s also been years since she’s seen it, and from her memory of that last viewing session, she recalled that she didn’t like it much.

Appalled and taken aback by this news, I quickly went into a verbal frenzy of the greatest traits of this movie – the quality acting by both Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins, the spectacular scenery, the age-old tale of men vs. nature and their whits – and not to mention the appearance of Elle Macpherson :). These convincing points aside, she decided to give it another chance – which I was thrilled about.

Halfway into the movie, my wife did two things, only one of which surprised me.

1) she told me she likes the movie more than she remembered and/or thought she would, and

2) she fell asleep in the chair

I’ll let you figure out which of these two occurences surprised me (hint: it was only 8:30pm – but that isn’t anything unusual for anyone who knows my wife.)

Something else happened though – I began to analyze and nit pick every little scene and detail from the movie after my wife had fallen asleep, since that gave me more time to focus on the movie itself rather than trying to win over her approval by gleefully looking over at her at each pivotal scene with a grin with hopes that she would confirm my admiration of the wonderment that was taking place on the TV.

Usually with movies that I “grew up with,” I rarely over-analyze and critique those as an adult because I am somewhat sentimental and enjoy reminiscing of times earlier in my life when I enjoyed those movies for sometimes completely different reasons than why I enjoy them now. So this was somewhat of a strange occurrence for me, because I don’t nit pick these types of movies that I grew up with. But I find that the older I get, the more my choices change in what I look for in a movie.

As a young adolescent, I admired this movie because of the action, the thrill of being lost in the woods, and the shared thrill agony with the characters of running for their lives from a Kodiak bear. Now, as I looked at this movie with “new eyes,” I thought to myself, ‘the dialogue in this movie is way too corny at times and campy to really be taken seriously.’ Granted this is a 1990’s action/adventure flick, so I give movie makers some leeway there because most from that time period and genre had to have their own share of “corny dialogue.” However, any filmmaker that is supposed to fool me into thinking that these lines are comic gold (and are supposed to genuinely think this is a laugh riot, because everybody else in the scene is dying of laughter, needs to rewrite some of the script),

Robert – “Ya, dual times zones (his watch), tells time in two places”
Ginny – “What For”
Robert – “So if I’m in L.A. and want to know the time in New York I don’t have to go through the anguish of adding three.”

Corny dialogue aside, I could count out three specific scenes that added nothing to the story or character development at all and were completely a waste of time. What was happening to me? Suddenly this childhood treasure was being seen in a whole new light – an older, wiser, and more cynical light perhaps, but it was enlightening nonetheless.

Recommendation

Overall, from a 13 year-old’s point of view – this movie is awesome!

From a man who is closer to 30 than 20 – this movie is ok.