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Archive for the tag “Jennifer Lawrence”

“Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) Review and Second Opinion

Silver Linings Playbook poster

Silver Linings Playbook was off my radar for a while. Then, I heard some good things about the film, saw it got nominated for a list of Oscars and other awards, and saw my fiance had an interest in seeing it. This caused Silver Linings to quickly jump up to the top of my Netflix queue. I have to say that I was legitimately looking forward to seeing it. However, once I popped in the film and sat through its two-hour run time, I was sorely disappointed. I honestly can’t even say I liked Silver Linings Playbook – it just really wasn’t good. The only thing I was left thinking about the film about mental illness, romance, and the Philadelphia Eagles was where all the praise came from.

I might as well start with the main redeeming quality of the film – the acting. Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro both give great performances as expected – the surprise is Bradley Cooper who delivers an excellent performance. Cooper and Lawrence play well off each other and some of their back and forth banter is genuinely well acted. The supporting cast also does a great job of enhancing the central characters’ performances. Despite my negative opinion of the film as a whole, one thing I have to give Silver Linings credit for is its high quality acting. Still, while I say the acting is high quality, I want to clarify that I didn’t think it was award-winning – as such I don’t think Lawrence deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress (while I may be biased toward the incredible performance given by the young Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild, I still think other actresses were better than Lawrence last year).

So, sure, Silver Linings has a positive in its acting. Unfortunately, this positive is quickly wasted on poorly designed characters and asinine dialogue. Don’t get me wrong – I know Silver Linings is a film with a heavy theme of mental illness. But, throughout the whole film, it felt like every single character had some kind of mental issues, bouncing unbelievably back and forth between emotions, changing moods multiple times within a scene, and carrying out some very unnatural interactions. This causes the characters, as a collective group, to bring down the film despite the cast doing the best they can with what they are given.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence work quite well together and both give great performances in the film. It's a shame that that's about all the film has going for it.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence work quite well together and both give great performances in the film. It’s a shame that that’s about all the film has going for it.

To make matters worse, the dialogue is quite poor. Personally, I’d classify the dialogue into three categories – writing that is genuinely smart, writing that tries to act smart, and writing that almost seems schizophrenic (no pun intended) to the point where all the characters’ lines become a jumbled mess of words that are totally incompatible with each other. The majority of dialogue falls into the latter two categories, while the few scenes that fall into the first are pretty enjoyable.

Outside of the above, the rest of film is generally underwhelming. The central plot feels like nothing more than a clichéd romance drama with a heavy dose of insanity and some obsessive Eagles fanaticism thrown in. The cinematography is not bad, but not great. Even the soundtrack is virtually non-existent for most of the film, and when it does appear, is mainly just licensed songs layered in.

I really expected more out of Silver Linings Playbook. As a multiple award nominee and having received much critical acclaim, I was looking forward to seeing this drama/black comedy. Having seen it now, I can say that I don’t understand the reason for the praise. The film feels shaky and inconsistent in its execution with some poor dialogue and characterization. In the end, Silver Linings has so many flaws that the wonderful acting by the cast cannot save it.

Final Score: 4.6/10

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Second Opinion:

Silver Linings Playbook was a big hit last year among critics and fans alike, but after finally seeing the film for myself, I cannot jump on the bandwagon. The movie’s main plot, focused around mental illness, seems so forced that almost every single character ends up acting like they have some sort of illness. The love story between Cooper and Lawrence gets lost in a flat story line, forced acting, terrible dialogue and just a lack of many qualities that make you connect with a film.  

The film lost my attention multiple times, which is a rare thing when I am the one who was genuinely interested in seeing the film. I was truly disappointed in the result. As mentioned in the main review, the cast does their best in trying to make the film the best it can be, but the great acting jobs of the cast could not redeem the clichéd, forced plot line of this film. As a romance, it lacked the emotional connection that many films can easily create to intrigue at least the female audience and as a drama, the story line was so two-dimensional that you become easily uninterested. I just could not get myself to enjoy this film one bit, which I really thought I would, given the widespread praise and award nominations. Better luck on the next film I choose. 
Second Opinion Score: 4/10

Thoughts on the 85th Annual Academy Awards

85th Academy Awards

Now that the 85th Annual Academy Awards have come to a close, I want to take a quick look back at tonight’s ceremony. On the whole, the show was better than I had anticipated, though I can’t say I agree with some of the awards (everyone has their own favorites). That being said, I’d like to share my thoughts that I had throughout tonight’s show. As these are disjointed, this will be more of a list than a flowing post. Here goes:

    • Starting off, a solid win for Christoph Waltz, an extremely talented actor.
    • I like the move to the “Jaws” theme as the wrap-it-up queue. Idea for next year – keep the music and bring in a “Jaws” recreation that pops out of the stage at the award recipient scaring them off the stage once they ramble a decent amount into the theme song.
    • How did Helen Hunt get nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar, but John Hawkes didn’t get a Best Actor nod?
    • Also, how did Dwight Henry not get a Best Supporting Actor nod?
    • While I’m on a roll, why is “Cloud Atlas” missing from the nominees, especially in the make-up department? And one nomination for “Moonrise Kingdom”? Seriously?
    • Shirley Bassey nailed “Goldfinger”, even now, so many years after her original Bond recordings. Enjoyed her much more than Adele (who still did a decent job with the vocally underwhelming “Skyfall” theme)
    • Speaking of singing, the cast of “Les Miserables” did a nice job live….. Russell Crowe, not so much (please, Russell, stop singing)
    • A tie for sound editing? How does the Academy not pick one winner. If there was a tie vote, then I think they should have a second vote removing the other nominees. If that still ends in a tie, or all else fails, have the two nominees have an on-stage contest of some sort to decide who wins – joust, rock-paper-scissors, something…
    • I’m glad “Lincoln” didn’t sweep the awards like I was anticipating. Personally, I am not a fan of Daniel Day Lewis’ voice, nor Tommy Lee Jones’ completely fake-looking hairstyle.
    • And yet, for some reason, “Life of Pi” played the role I thought “Lincoln” would have occupied in receiving a bombardment of awards. I still don’t understand why the film received so much praise.
    • Seth MacFarlane was actually a decent host. With the downhill slope “Family Guy” has been on for a while, I was unsure how he would do, but I really didn’t mind him.
    • Nothing against Jennifer Lawrence (a talented actress), but I’d take any other nominee in that category before her to win Best Actress for their roles.
    • Continuing on the leading roles, I have to say that the group of nominees for Best Actor was weak this year (in my opinion). Out of the given group, I’d take Jackman easily…. Still, this was Hawkes’ award.
    • Jack Nicholson is crazy, as always.
    • Finally, at least “Argo” won Best Picture ahead of “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi”. Still would’ve taken “Beasts of the Southern Wild” any day, but not bad, Academy.

There you have some of my random thoughts on the Oscar ceremony. I hope you enjoyed the show, and hopefully, some of your favorite films won. Let me know which of your favorites won and who you thought should have won in the comments.

“The Hunger Games” (2012) Mini-Review

I have been avoiding “The Hunger Games” for as long as possible – mainly due to my appreciation for “Battle Royale” and a belief that “The Hunger Games” is highly unoriginal next to that work. Yet, the time came that I had to be exposed to the film. I had low hopes going in, and the film itself did little to raise my opinion.

The Good:

  • The Cast (Part 1) – Jennifer Lawrence is a talented actress (she surprised me with her talent in “Winter’s Bone”), and she certainly made the most out of what she was given in this film. The writing and plot were both “meh”, but Lawrence uses her talent to put forth as good of a performance as possible with the material she was given. Woody Harrelson, as well, does a good job as usual. The inclusion of Lenny Kravitz gave me a laugh as well (maybe that’s not a good thing).
  • The Plot (Part 1) – I know I just mentioned that the plot was “meh”, but there were some pieces that had some promise. The idea of “sponsors” for the event was an interesting idea, and I think the economy behind the games was worth exploring deeper (though that didn’t happen).

The OK:

  • Cinematography – The actual visuals of the movie varied from impressive to bland. The stark contrast between the Capitol and the Districts was captured well, and the environment for the Games was nice as well. However, the actual look of the Capitol population was off-putting, and the Games themselves were bland. To me, none of the scenes had any major emotional impact, at least nowhere near what they seemed to be trying to accomplish.
  • The Plot (Part 2) – The plot follows (or “borrows”, depending on which side of the fence you are on) many of the things that made “Battle Royale” great. This made for a successful formula for “Battle Royale”, but here, many of the pieces just don’t have the same impact. Yes, the Games themselves have some interesting pieces and twists, but the plot on the whole remains underwhelming and poorly crafted (see below).

The Bad:

  • The Plot (Part 3) – Having mentioned the better parts of the plot, I must say that those pieces never go anywhere. We are fed all this information about the absolute need for sponsors, but the whole idea is suddenly abandoned, and we are jarringly thrown into the Games, throughout which sponsors never play a part. This is not to mention the fact that for all the back story and lore that the film tries to develop, little really matters – most feels like swiss cheese, with holes in the back story that leave the viewer with more questions than answer. There is a severe lack of a cohesive back story at any point in the film. Further, the ending feels like a complete cop-out – it removes what would be the largest, most-interesting conflict in the film.
  • Soundtrack – Ummmm….. I didn’t notice a single compelling part to the music in the film – so unmemorable, that I can’t even recall if the majority of the film had any kind of musical work.
  • The Cast (Part 2) – For all the talent in the leading lady, the rest of the Tributes lack the talent of the aforementioned actors. The script may have played a role, with plenty of cheesy lines and scenes, but I still couldn’t help feeling that Josh Hutcherson and others could’ve done better.

Let’s be frank, “The Hunger Games” is no “Battle Royale”. The film looses its bearings trying to develop a back story that never becomes fully realized, and introduces what seem to be crucial parts of the story, only to abandon them like they never existed. Yet, the film remains an entertaining experience. Taken on its own, without comparisons, it can be a decent watch. Just understand that with all the interesting ideas and scenes, you get equal parts of poor plot development and sappy character interactions.

Final Score: 6/10

“Winter’s Bone” (2010) Mini-Review

Ree Dolly is a teenager who is forced to take care of her mentally ill mother, and younger sister and brother in poverty on their small land plot in the Ozarks. One day, she finds out that her father, a locally popular meth-cooker, has a trial date – a trial that he must show at or Ree loses her house and land which her father put up for bond. And thus begins Ree’s journey to find her father and unravel the mystery surrounding his location.

The Good:

  • Setting – The setting for the film is fully realized, with dreary backdrops of grays and browns, and poverty-stricken families scattered throughout the wilderness. The local area feels wholly real with even the animals showing the same level of misery as the people themselves.
  • Characters/Acting – The acting throughout the film is very natural (with a great performance by Jennifer Lawrence) and makes some grisly situations even more intense. The characters themselves are well-written, and each actor/actress does their part in making the lack of hope for some of these families feel quite real.

The OK:

  • Plot – Ree’s journey itself starts out as a plodding series of house to house visits that serve to reveal no information outside of the fact that no one seems willing to help Ree or offer any information regarding her father outside of lies. While this demonstrates the shaky relationships between the various families, it does little to help the film’s pacing. Once we get past that section, and characters begin to reveal their personalities, the plot starts moving and each . This second half of the film is quite intense (as the overall plot is quite intriguing), filled with many appalling moments.Yet, pieces of the plot remain unexplored and/or aren’t fully developed, causing some elements to feel incomplete.

Short Summary: “Winter’s Bone” is a tense drama, featuring some great acting and a grim story about an ordinary person going to great lengths to take care of her family. While the plot may be plodding at the start, stick with it and you will be involved in a dreary, earnest journey to unravel a  mystery in a drug-riddled community where bad blood runs deep.

Final Score: 7.5/10

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