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The Big Short

The_Big_Short

The Oscar race is getting close and a new frontrunner has been found in Adam McKay’s comedy drama The Big Short. But can a movie about the 2008 recession possibly win best picture?

In 2005 Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager realises that the housing market is unstable and bets against it. His clients are irrate but a few groups of oddballs and outsiders hear about Burry’s theory and place their own bets. However over the next couple of years they realise the financial situation is much worse than they even imagined.

I admit I can get very confused when people try to explain how the housing crisis started. As much as I would like to understand it better I didn’t think a big Hollywood movie would give me the answers or if it did it wouldn’t be an entertaining film to watch. However The Big Shot not only manages to do this, it gives us quite possibly the film of the year (or technically the film of last year when it was released in the States).

If someone had said last year that the director of Anchorman would give us an intelligent, well made and funny film about the recession I would think you were as crazy as the bankers who were behind the housing crisis. But McKay gives us a film that breaks down to the average filmgoer how this all came to be. To achieve this characters like Ryan Gosling’s slippery trader break the fourth role to describe the situation in more detail or we get random celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie, who appear to explain words like sub prime to us (basically if you hear that word it’s not good). I admit some of it still went over my head but it was much clearer than any other explanation I’ve heard.

As well as being a very smart film it’s also very funny at times, although the laughs soon turned into a terrified, incredulous laugh by the end as the reality hits home. These events did actually happen. Bankers were that stupid and the banks engaged in illegal activity that they still haven’t been held accountable for. And it could all happen again so easily. That’s scarier than any horror movie.

There is a stunning ensemble cast here and no one is slouching on the job. It seems unfair to pick a favourite as everyone is so good but my stand out would probably be Steve Farrell as the foul mouth, grumpy Baum. Shame he didn’t get the Oscar nod although Christian Bale is a worthy best supporting actor nominee. At the beginning it’s thrilling watching these small groups of oddballs bet against the system and you almost want them to win. Until the realisation hits that by them winning we all lose. They may not be the villains but as likeable or as funny as they are they’re not heroes either. I’m glad the film didn’t shy away from showing that.

I found little wrong with The Big Short although it’s a bit light on substantial female roles, especially disappointing as there were women involved in the story as shown in book of the same name. Minor quibbles aside this is probably the best film I’ve seen in a long time and I have liked a lot of movies recently. I couldn’t recommend this enough.

Rating 5/5 – I wouldn’t want to bet against The Big Short come Oscar night

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American Hustle

Combining key cast members from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook director David O’Russell brings us this crime comedy drama  based partly on a true story.

When con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they strike a deal that they won’t get prosecuted if they assist Di Maso with four additional arrests. Things get complicated when a politican Mayor Carmine Polito comes on the scene and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets herself involved.

As a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook I was excited to see this movie. However the experience left me rather cold. It may have been that I was expecting to see a different type of film. I thought it would a fun heist flick  with some great twists up its sleeves and although American Hustle has its moment it’s more a case of style over substance. I’m not sure what enticed a cast this talented to be a part of the movie-I guess they enjoyed working with O’Russell on his previous projects. 

The performances however are great. Bale, Cooper and Renner are all convincing in their respective roles but it the women who really shine in this film. Ever since I saw Adams in Enchanted I’ve been a huge fan of hers and she is fantastic as hustler Sydney, a woman who will do whatever she has to in order to survive. She’s tough, intelligent and more than a match for the men around her. She’s already bagged a Golden Globe and Bafta nomination for this role and I expect an Oscar nom will also be on the horizon. Lawrence also gives another amazing performance as Irving’s boozy, wildcard wife Rosalyn. A whirlwind mess of big blonde hair and ballsy attitude, she manages to be funny, hideous and vunerable often within the same scene. Another possible Oscar nomination should be within her sight.

Good performances aside the story is just not as strong. The plot rumbles on well enough but fails to captivate or intrigue as a good crime drama should do. I guess I was waiting for a really great plot twist or character reveal to come. However I just found myself not caring what happened to anyone in the film or how things would work out. It looks great and the cast perform well but all in all it’s not the modern classic I thought it would be.

Rating 3/5-a great cast elvates an otherwise average movie

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The Dark Knight Rises

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There aren’t many movie sequels that live up to the original. There are even fewer trilogies that make the grade. Seriously, I can only think of The Bourne series and the Indiana Jones films as examples where the quality has been maintained the whole way through. Can Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman film join that elusive list?

For those who don’t know The Dark Knight Rises is set 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. After Harvey Kent’s death has been blamed on Batman, Gotham has been relatively crime free, while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up his cape and is living like a recluse. Threatening Gotham’s new found peace is Anne Hathaway’s morally ambiguous Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although she’s never called that on screen) and Tom Hardy’s villainous Bane.

I’m a big fan of Nolan’s work as a director. As with Inception and the previous Batman films Nolan isn’t afraid to mix intelligent films with high entertainment value, and The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t disappoint. Nolan gives us dramatic car chases, fights and most memorably Gotham’s football stadium imploding on itself. But the audience is also treated to discussions on state responsibility and tensions between the haves-and have not’s.

Whereas most trilogy fail by introducing too many new characters to the mix (looking at you Spiderman 3) the characters slip effortlessly into Nolan’s world and serve a purpose to the plot instead of feeling shoehorned in. Finally Nolan gives us a strong female character in Selina Kyle, she brings a sense of fun sometimes missing in the Batman series and her quips bring plenty of laughs to the screen. Also making a great debute to the Batman series is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as police officer John Blake who gives the film heart as he encourages Bruce Wayne to come back into action.

The film’s main antagonist Bane is a good opponent for Batman to end his trilogy with. He is a mix of brawn and brains, showing he is more than a match for Bruce Wayne as shown in their brutal first fight together. Wayne has been out of the crime fighting game for a while and having gathered various injuries, Bane knows how to use those weakness against him and comes across as a credible threat to Gotham’s stability.

There are a few downsides to the film. Michael Cane’s Alfred doesn’t have as much screen times as in the earlier films, and the romance between Bruce Wayne and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate is dull with little chemistry between the two. There’s much more spark in his encounters with Catwoman. Although Tom Hardy is great as Bane, he has a distracting and sometimes inaudible voice that’s almost as irritating as the voice Bale puts on for Batman. Was there a secret bet going on as to who had the more ridiculous voice?

There is more I want to comment on in this film but it does involve huge spoilers which I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone else. But there were moments in this film which made my inner fan girl scream with delight. A good film to end on.

4/5

About as brutal and serious as a blockbuster gets, Nolan’s Dark Crusader will be missed.

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