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Archive for the tag “Robert De Niro”

“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
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“Jackie Brown” (1997) Movie Review

Jackie Brown Movie Poster

As I mentioned previously in my review of “Django Unchained”, I am a Quentin Tarantino fan. He is an extremely talented director, with many of his films having spots in my personal film collection. Yet, for some reason, I had never known about or heard of “Jackie Brown”. Releasing between “Pulp Fiction” and the “Kill Bill” films, “Jackie Brown” is an easily overlooked, under-the-radar Tarantino film about an airline flight attendant, a gun-runner, a recently released convict, drugs, guns, cash, and some members of law enforcement. Classic set-up for a Tarantino film right? Then why is this film always overlooked when it comes to discussions on Tarantino’s works? I don’t have an answer to that, but I can tell you about my viewing experience.

To begin, “Jackie Brown” is classic Tarantino. It fits perfectly right next to “Pulp Fiction” and before “Kill Bill” as you have a similar style to the former, with a female protagonist like the latter. Within that framework, and with the aforementioned characters and items, Tarantino crafts a slick crime thriller whose plot is constantly engaging. The twists and turns that the film takes over its 2.5 hour running time are entertaining to the point that you don’t always quite know what to expect from this group of characters. Further, the film moves at a fairly steady pace, never really getting bogged down, nor moving too quickly. Sure, there are some scenes that run a little long, but Tarantino loves his dialogue, and that makes some of those scenes.

Speaking of which, the film is just as well-written as any other Tarantino film is. He has always been lauded for his clever and quality scripts, and this one is no exception. Sure, some characters are a little eccentric, which Samuel L. Jackson always does right with his character having a dialogue that consists of 40% f-bombs, 30% racial slurs, and 30% of everything else. This is where Tarantino always succeeds – crafting humorous dialogue across serious scenes that still manages to make the viewer attached to each character’s fate, and “Jackie Brown” is a perfect example.

As always, Tarantino puts together a phenomenal cast, with Pam Grier putting in a great performance in the lead role.

As always, Tarantino puts together a phenomenal cast, with Pam Grier putting in a great performance in the lead role.

In mentioning characters, I will again give credit to Tarantino for bringing together an immensely talented cast. From Samuel L. Jackson, to Robert De Niro, to Robert Forester, there is a star-filled cast that performs to a high level (even down to its minor characters – Chris Tucker makes a nice comedic appearance). Still, I have to give a special mention to Pam Grier, who delivers a perfect performance as “Jackie Brown” and really revitalized her career (she was in “Mars Attacks” the year before). With such a great cast, the film really feels authentic in its execution.

Lastly, I just need to quickly mention the soundtrack for the film. Once again, Tarantino is often noted for his soundtrack choices and implementation. Here, “Jackie Brown” has become one of my favorites amongst all of Tarantino’s works. The soundtrack is exceptional in its selection and use throughout the film, and adds another layer of style to the film.

Overall, “Jackie Brown” is a great film. It doesn’t quite top the like of “Pulp Fiction” or “Inglorious Basterds” (my two Tarantino favorites), but it should easily be in the conversation next to any other Tarantino film. I am still amazed at how I was unaware of this film, and how unknown it is compared to Tarantino’s other works. I know I, for one, will be recommending it to anyone who enjoys Tarantino, or to any crime thriller fan (or even just a general film fan). Has anyone else seen “Jackie Brown” – what did you think? Where does is rank among Tarantino’s film library for you?

Final Score – 9.0/10

“Red Lights” (2012) Review

Red Lights poster

In viewing the trailer for “Red Lights”, I was instantly hooked. Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, and Robert De Niro together in a thriller focused around psychic activity is a combination I could not refuse. That being said, I still didn’t know what to expect from the film. Would Cortes take a horror-style approach, or make it more of a mystery thriller? In the end, I was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome of his film, as “Red Lights” is an outstanding thriller.

You could say “Red Lights” is broken up into two parts. Those would be a foundational story about the two main protagonists, Murphy and Weaver, and the struggle between the protagonists and the central antagonist, De Niro. The first section is quite interesting as the pair of psychologists investigate various people involved with psychic phenomena or powers. This dissection of the paranormal is wonderfully executed and each investigation, no matter how short, has the viewer trying to figure out the mystery along with the psychologists. The second act takes a different turn, as the movie becomes more of a thriller. A tense battle takes place between the rational stance taken by Murphy and Weaver and the sense of the unknown in the form of De Niro’s character. This challenge to prove/disprove De Niro’s “powers” becomes quite enthralling and is made even more interesting when you see the ending. The ending, though, is where the film really comes together and becomes even more compelling, despite what some have said.

Prior to seeing the film, I had personally not heard anything about the film outside of what I saw in the trailer. After seeing “Red Lights”, I noticed how many people were completely turned off by the ending. I absolutely do not want to spoil anything (and, as such, I recommend going into the film without looking at too many articles to avoid any spoilers), but the ending makes perfect sense, and in the context of the whole film’s themes, is fitting (paying close attention throughout the film allows you to see the many hints and development toward the final conclusion).

With these two captivating acts and divisive ending, the overarching plot of “Red Lights” becomes even better due to the clever use of colored themes throughout the film. The heavy use of black and white plays nicely amidst the “gray” area of psychic powers, and is used in some really interesting ways. Also, there is a recurrent use of the color red, which has its own symbolic meaning here (one I don’t want to delve into to avoid spoilers). I will say that it is smartly used and together with the play on black and white, really enhance the story being told.

Weaver and Murphy work wonderfully together, both continuing their penchants for great performances.

Weaver and Murphy work wonderfully together, both continuing their penchants for great performances.

In addition to the story, the other pieces that make up “Red Lights” are all successful in enhancing the movie as a whole. The performances by Weaver, Murphy, and De Niro are all top notch, something to be assumed given their collectively amazing careers. Each performer plays very nicely off each other, and every interaction feels natural, right down to the monologue delivery. Further, even the small roles have some decent performances. On a side note, Cillian Murphy remains one of my favorite active actors (if you have not seen “Peacock“, do yourself a favor and check out his outstanding  performance as a character with a split personality).

The film also gets high marks for its sound design. Its effects, mixing, and soundtrack all mesh nicely together making each confrontation intense and able to be felt. This complements the cinematography nicely, as the soundtrack matches the changing visuals (including the recurrent black/white theme).

With all of these positives, “Red Lights” manages to have very few downsides. With its shocking ending, the film feels the need to go back and show one of those “here’s everything you just saw, but now everything has a different meaning now that you know the ending” montages. I am not a big fan of these kinds of recaps, as it seems as though the director is trying to dumb the ending down. Those who pay attention to details in films likely put everything together without being shown it. Also, some of the scenes have a feeling of being a little too contrived. Still, these negatives don’t really detract from the overall film.

“Red Lights” is a wonderful film that really took me by surprise. Rodrigo Cortes has created a unique story, and combined with a talented cast, produced a great thriller. At no point does your interest wane, or the film feel drawn out. Those interested in a rational approach to psychic activity should really enjoy this, along with fans of thrillers in general. Overall, this is a sleeper hit waiting to be discovered.

Final Score: 9.0/10

Second Opinion (Jamie):

I must agree whole-heartedly with the above review.  “Red Lights” in a wonderful film with a unique storyline. It only takes the first few minutes of the film to really get you hooked and wanting to denounce the other “psychics” and various other “powers’ these individuals claim to have.

The storyline is very fluid, never too rush or dragged out. The acting is phenomenal as well, by all three main characters of the film. The only negative of the film, if you can call it that, is the likelihood that you will need to watch it twice to really catch all the meaningful scenes and actions that take place throughout the movie. The ending is a wonderful surprise and really makes you think again about what you just watched. At that time you start to connect the black, whites, greys and reds used meaningfully throughout the movie as well as other small details that now have much more meaning.

With that said, I also truly enjoyed “Red Lights” and loved the psychological thriller theme to it and how unique of a film it was. I can’t wait to watch it again and truly capture all the tiny details the director put into making the film the wonderful masterpiece that it is.  

Final: 8.5/10

Watch this film for yourself and let us know if you agree with our reviews in the comments! We’d love to hear your opinions!

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