Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

SilverLiningsPlaybookAKA Happiness Therapy

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Paul Herman, Dash Mihok

Directed by David O. Russell

Expectations: High.


I almost didn’t see David O. Russel’s previous film, The Fighter, because I thought I didn’t need to see another boxing movie. I was wrong. Even with this in mind, I wasn’t all that fired up when I first heard about Silver Linings Playbook, Russell’s latest film. Over time, the hype machine built it up enough so I felt like I had to see it, and I’m glad I did, as I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook quite a lot. My girlfriend seemed less than impressed, remarking that the song over the end credits “is upbeat to make you think it was a great movie,” and I don’t necessarily disagree. While Silver Linings Playbook is easily one of the best films of 2012, I don’t think it’s one that will stand out as a classic as the years roll on.

The film is a very interesting mix of mental illness and “boy meets girl,” making the film transcend its romantic roots and feel like more of a quirky indie drama than a romantic film. The romantic angle is always there, though, brewing under the surface in the electric, honest scenes between Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) and Pat (Bradley Cooper). But by the time the film reaches its climax it can’t hold itself back any longer, embracing its true nature and delivering an ending that is nice, while clichéd and obvious. I guess there’s only so many ways for a romantic story to end.

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X-Men: First Class (2011)

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Oliver Platt, Ray Wise, Zoë Kravitz, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Jason Flemyng, Álex González

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Expectations: Super low. These X-Men movies just don’t sit right with me, and the trailer for this looked awful.

Maybe I’m getting too old for this shit. Maybe X-Men was always this juvenile. Maybe I just don’t care about the equality struggle of the mutants anymore. These are thoughts I’ve had over the last few years while soldiering through the mediocre series of X-Men films. After hearing nothing but outstanding stuff about this new & retro take on the X-Men, I hopefully decided to give it a shot in spite of the initial feelings and reservations the trailer brought to my mind’s surface. I kept my expectations as low as humanly possible, but as the X-Men have always held a special place in my heart, I’ll admit I was excited to finally see this one.

The film opens with what looks to be the same footage that opens the first X-Men film, but it’s been several years since I last saw that one, so maybe they re-shot it. In any case, it’s the same scene: a teenage Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) residing in a German concentration camp, exhibiting his magnetic abilities by bending a metal gate when the guards pull him away from his mother. Next we are introduced to a grade-school aged Professor Xavier, walking downstairs to thwart a would-be burglar with a baseball bat. Turns out it’s Mystique. For whatever reason, Hollywood has a hard-on for putting Mystique in every X-Men movie… oh right, it’s the blue skin-tight bodysuit on the beautiful girl, that’s why. Anyway, the rest of the film follows these mutants and the path they take to achieve their place in society as the mutants they are. Sound familiar?

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Mini-Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Shelley Waggener, Kevin Breznahan, Ashlee Thompson, Tate Taylor, Sheryl Lee, Cody Shiloh Brown, Isaiah Stone, Ronnie Hall

Directed by Debra Granik

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good things.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt this conflicted about my feelings for a movie. The film ended and I was at a loss for words. I had to recount the entire narrative in my head to see if I had missed anything, if there was some missing link hidden in the frost for me to uncover. I pondered the film for a while after viewing, trying to wrap my head around why things were the way they were. Once I came to terms with these facts, I respected the film more for what it was, but I can’t say that watching Winter’s Bone was a pleasant experience.

Plainly put, it’s boring. The pace is very slow, which fits the location and the characters perfectly, but everything is so muted and calm that it becomes easy to miss key information and lose track of the plot line. This is definitely a movie in the camp of films that expect the viewer to meet it halfway. That all being said, Winter’s Bone is a very well-made film technically. The color scheme never strays too far from the cold gray and blue world of a snowy winter, but somehow director Debra Granik is able to make every shot interesting and emotive of the situation. The acting from the entire cast is excellent as well, with John Hawkes standing out as the best of the bunch. The characters are an interesting bunch for sure, skillfully blending intelligence with a backwoods mafia vibe. They never seem like the stupid hillbillies that usually inhabit these types of movies, instead echoing real people with real lives. While I think the script has a few logic jumps that don’t make sense (could just be my boredom), overall it must be commended for its realistic characters. I do wonder how much of this comes from the novel it is based on.

At the end of the day though, Winter’s Bone remains a boring movie that I can’t really recommend, but it’s not a bad movie either.

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