Sunday, December 22, 2013

"American Hustle" (2013)

Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper
Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Directed by David O. Russell
Rated R - Strong language, brief nudity, sexual situations
Running Time: 138 Minutes

In the late 1970s, Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) has found a sort of happy balance in his life. Sure, he's not really happy, but he's moderately successful at his business that allows him to live a fairly comfortable life with his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and adopted son Daniel. What is that business? Well, Irving owns a chain of dry cleaning businesses in New York and New Jersey, but his real business is conning people.

Irving makes a good living selling and trading fake or stolen art, in addition to sharking $5,000 at a time from desperate people looking for a loan. All this changes, however, when he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a young woman, like him, looking to get a leg up in the world. Prosser is desperate to reinvent herself, and Irving gives her the perfect opportunity. Together, they expand Irving's loan-con business and things start to go pretty well.

Until they get ensnared in the grasp of ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie threatens to toss Sydney (now going by the name 'Edith' and speaking regularly with an atrocious British accent as part of her new identity) in prison unless she and Irving help him snare some bigger fish.

That fish is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), family man and beloved mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Carmine's big ambition is to revitalize Atlantic City, which, despite the recent passage of gambling laws that would allow for massive casino resorts, is a total dump. Soon enough, Irving, Richie and Syd have their hooks in Carmine and the sting is on.

But that's not enough for Richie. When Carmine hangs even bigger and bigger fish in front of him, Irving, Sydney and Rosalyn find themselves falling deeper and deeper into a more complicated, dangerous game they might not even get out of alive.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013)

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, frightening images
Running Time: 146 Minutes

After surviving the 74th Hunger Games, the tributes from District 12, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), return to a world in turmoil. Both suffer from nightmares after their traumatic experiences, but they're forced to relive it when they must go on a Victory Tour of the 12 districts. Worse, the two are forced to continue their sham romance for the cameras, something Katniss knows causes deep pain for Peeta. He loves her, but her affections are for Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

But what Katniss and Peeta find on the tour shocks them even more: the people appear to be resisting the forces of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). They see Katniss as a symbol of hope and rebellion, a symbol Snow is eager to wipe away. Together with the new master of the Hunger Games, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Snow plots Katniss' downfall. To turn the people against Katniss, Heavensbee suggests, they must make them hate her.

But with each attempt to discredit her, the people rally more and more for the cause of freedom. And so now the game is on: Katniss is called back into the Hunger Games for a special all-stars edition, where she and Peeta will face off against the ruthless winners of previous years.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Red Dawn" (2012)

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Adrianne Palicki and Josh Peck
Written by Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore
Directed by Dan Bradley
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is a US Marine on leave, going home to Spokane, Washington, to visit his father, police sergeant Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen) and younger brother Matt (Josh Peck). He finds that Matt, now quarterback of the high school football team the Wolverines, is a cocky, selfish young man who thinks little of others.

That night, the power in town goes out, forcing Tom to go back on duty and leave Jed and Matt alone. When they awake, they find the world has changed around them: North Korean soldiers are parachuting from the skies, rounding up the townspeople. Jed and Matt escape to their father's cabin along with several of Matt's friends, including Robert (Josh Hutcherson), Daryl (Connor Cruise) the son of the mayor, and Toni Walsh (Adrianne Palicki) a friend of Matt's girlfriend, and a few strangers.

But after a fight with Jed, one of the  youngsters betrays their location to Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee) who leads the North Korean contingent in Spokane. Cho brings Tom Eckert and Mayor Jenkins (Michael Beach) to the cabin to force the kids' surrender. But Jed and the others hold strong. Their father asks them to go to war, just before Cho shoots him in the head.

Now, the Eckert boys see themselves forming a resistance. Using Jed's military training and calling themselves the Wolverines, the group of youngsters fights back against the invaders, rallying the people of Spokane to the cause of freedom.