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Serena

It’s 1929, and George Pemberton (played by Bradley Cooper) is ambitious, but he’s a risk taker in business – he’ll do anything for money. He sets his sights on making a fortune and invests in plantations and saw-milling. He invests his mounting wealth in a venture in South America. His plan is firmly on track until the day his world turns upside down … he’s in Boston when he meets Serena (by Jennifer Lawrence). She is like no other woman he’s ever seen – beautiful, charming, impeccably stylish and aptly named … she is truly serene. They are instantly attracted, so the pair quickly marry and head back to his plantation in the mountains of North Carolina. Serena has sawmilling in her blood, her father ran his own lumber company and she knows how things are done – they both dream of building a logging empire. But they both have history too – George is no sooner back in town than he discovers he’s fathered a son with another woman in town. Although he never says so, Serena can sense it and it’s a growing irritation for her. She puts it aside and follows her ambition, quickly becoming a powerful leader of the logging crews – female notwithstanding, she’s good and the men come to respect her. Try as they might, the couple can’t seem to have their own child and this is a growing problem between them. It turns their blissful insular world into a crazy, unpredictable nightmare. Can they get things back together, or will it run totally off the rails …..?

This movie starts very strongly. As George Pemberton, Bradley Cooper is well cast – he’s moody, intense and deliberate in his movements and demeanour. He does this well. As Serena, Jennifer Lawrence is like I have never seen her before. She’s totally luminous – she shines out of every scene and she is styled marvellously. Even though her hair and clothes are totally misplaced in the timber settlement, this doesn’t seem wrong as her character is just to enigmatic. However, as the movie progresses her strong character slowly dishevels into almost a circus freak, which is disappointing. However, there are several strong other roles in this that are worth seeing – Rhys Iffans is marvellous as the brooding and frightening Galloway. Also, Toby Jones makes a great Sheriff McDowell. The movie is fine to pass the time – but it doesn’t maintain its intensity and momentum to the end unfortunately.

Made in 2014. Directed by Susanne Bier.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Movies

 

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Burnt

If there’s one thing Chef Adam Jones (played by Bradley Cooper) wants more than anything else in the entire world … it’s another Michelin star. Once he had the world at his feet – two Michelin stars to his name already, head chef in a top French restaurant and an astronomically successful career ahead of him. But his hard-working lifestyle involved hard living too – he cared little for anything except his next exquisite culinary creation, so his friends, his career and his morals all left him … with his reputation following soon after. Now … after two years of drug detox and rehabilitation, he’s back – this time to take London by storm with his own restaurant. But will he be able to break free of his sins of the past – and the people who still have unpaid debts and grudges to settle? … will he finally get that elusive third star?

This movie is not one of Bradley Cooper’s best … the story is basically “a self-absorbed, badly behaved, bratty and selfish Chef tries to build his reputation in a business where he rubs everyone up the wrong way and gets nowhere – but then he eventually grows up” … It’s not the most memorable of movies.  Sienna Miller plays a very talented chef, Helene, which she does well. Emma  Thompson’s character,  therapist Dr Rosshilde, is horrendously awful and the only reason she is there is that the scriptwriter couldn’t find another way to introduce key concepts to the story. Daniel Bruhl’s character, restaurant owner Tony,  at least has a point. For several of the cast though – Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl and Uma Thurman – you will see them far better in other roles.

Made in 2015. Directed by John Wells.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Movies

 

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American Sniper

Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) dreams of being a Cowboy – that’s all he’s ever wanted to do. He’s a born Texan, he’s grown up in a religious family in Texas and he lives for the Cowboy lifestyle. When he’s just a boy of 8 years old, his daddy Wayne, (by Ben Reed) teaches him to hunt and shoot. He loves it and he’s a natural … a real “dead-eye”. As an adult, he gives the Rodeo a go for a while, but he gets injured and retires too early from it, feeling totally unfulfilled. His life lacks something – he needs a way to really use his talent. In September 2001, he watches as the Twin Towers fall in New York City and he decides he can put his talent to good use by helping America in the global fight against terrorism. He joins the Navy and trains as a SEAL. While he’s at training camp, he meets Taya (by Sienna Miller) and they marry just as he’s called to his first Tour of Duty in Iraq. He soon gets a name for himself as the best sniper in the military. He gallantly serves his country over four Tours and he receives several commendations for his actions and heroism. Throughout the conflict, he observes the horrors of this warfare and watches with utter disbelief and sadness as his squad buddies are wounded or killed. Between Tours, although he thinks he’s doing fine, his wife can see he’s changing and starting to withdraw. He never speaks of his experiences and she can’t get through to him. In 2009, he is honourably discharged and he writes a memoir about his experiences. He finds solace through helping other returned servicemen work through their own emotions – until one day in 2013 when he attends a shooting range near Chalk Mountain in Texas and is shot dead by a veteran Marine.

This true story is based on Chris Kyle’s bestselling 2012 autobiography, “American Sniper”. The director, Clint Eastwood, has depicted Kyle very well in this movie – the scenes of his work as a military sniper are particularly gripping. Bradley Cooper’s performance is compelling as the crack-shot who seems to take it all in his stride – he appears to think nothing of taking another life in defence of his brave fellow countrymen. He goes about his “business” with a steely gaze and a solid determination. It’s as if he’s born to do this and will stop at nothing as long as there’s still a person alive who threatens a US hero. At the 2015 Academy Awards presentation, the movie won the award for Best Sound Editing. It also won an AFI for Movie of the Year and received BAFTA nominations for Best Film, Screenplay and Sound. In my opinion, the movie is too long and could be told in much less time, but overall it’s an interesting piece and he’s a fascinating person.

Made in 2014. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Movies

 

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The Words

The ultimate best seller …. that’s what every writer dreams of, right? It’s no different for Rory Jansen (played by Bradley Cooper), who spends three years and every drop of his blood, sweat and tears in an effort to write the Great American Novel. His partner, Dora (by Zoe Saldana) supports him every step of the way and when it’s finished, he proudly walks it around publisher after publisher to get it into print. But he is without success. Frustrated and broke, he pleads to his father (by J. K. Simmons) one more time for some money to get by, then takes a job at a publishing house until he can see his way clear to getting the book “out there”. He feels defeated, but there’s still a writer in him deep down. Rory and Dora marry and honeymoon in Paris and while browsing through an antique store there, Dora finds the perfect gift for her writer husband, a battered leather briefcase that’s obviously seen a lot of life. This sparks Rory into another writing phase and he produces a fabulous second novel that Dora and his publisher boss can’t wait to get into print. He’s done it – he’s produced the ultimate best seller and it’s received with much acclaim around the country. At last – it’s what he’s always dreamed of … success and fame as an author! There’s only one slight hitch … Rory hasn’t written the story, it belongs to another writer and Rory’s presented it as his own. The deceit goes undiscovered until one day when Rory’s taking a break from the paparazzi in a park and an Old Man (by Jeremy Irons) happens to get chatting to him – during their chat the real truth is exposed. Now … Rory faces the ultimate decision … keep quiet and keep taking the fame and adulation he loves, but doesn’t deserve? … or come clean and face the shame and consequences?

There are layers to this movie – each one is interesting in its own right, but as an ensemble, the sum of all these interesting parts doesn’t enrich the outcome – in fact, it seems to dilute it. Here we have the interesting moral dilemma of the writer Jansen who has plagiarised another writer’s work. Then, the love story between Rory and Dora, the relationship between Rory and the Old Man in the park and not least of which the beautiful story in the “great book” itself. On their own, each of these has layers and would be fascinating to further explore – but together, it doesn’t work. Bradley Cooper does his best in this role and he is fine, Zoe Saldana is fine too. Dennis Quaid’s role is strange and he goes through the motions of this character’s involvement, but I’d say the best and most interesting performance is from Jeremy Irons as the Old Man. The actual story in the Great Novel is quite lovely too. The movie creates an interesting dilemma, but it isn’t treated any differently this time around. It has great components, but overall it’s only okay.

Made in 2012. Directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Movies

 

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The Place Beyond the Pines

Luke (played by Ryan Gosling) is a bit of a wanderer – his only real talent is riding his motorcycle and he works as a performance stunt rider in a travelling carnival. After a two year absence, his show returns to Schenectady, New York. After a show one evening, he catches up with an old flame, Romina (by Eva Mendes). She is as beautiful as ever and just as he is about to leave town with the show once again, he discovers that since his last visit she’s secretly given birth to his son, now about 2 years old. He quits the show and decides to stay around town to be near his son. Romina has moved on in her life and she and new partner Kofi (by Mahershala Ali) are raising the baby, so there is no place for Luke with her. He’s desperate to provide for his son so he gets a low paying job at a car workshop run by Robin (by Ben Mendelsohn). Soon he wants to earn more to support his son, so Luke turns to crime – he starts to rob banks, carefully at first but then he takes risks for higher returns … but he makes mistakes. A stand-off with an ambitious young police officer, Avery Cross, (by Bradley Cooper) has life-changing consequences for Luke and his baby son. After the incident with Luke, Officer Cross’s profile is raised within the police force and he wants capitalize on this to progress his career, so he makes another significant decision that means things for both Avery’s family and Luke’s will never be quite the same again. Several years later, the actions of Luke and Avery on the day of the stand-off and then the ensuing actions of these families connected by events in history have further serious consequences for everyone involved.

This movie is well made and the story is compelling. The performances of Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes are strong – and Bradley Cooper does well here also. Also excellent is Ben Mendelson as Robin – a very realistic portrayal from him – well done. However, for me the drama loses much of its edge once the first part is over and the two characters of Luke and Avery are no longer the key protagonists in the drama. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but Ryan Gosling’s character primarily features in the first half of the movie – and here is where the strength really lies – Gosling’s fantastic screen presence is intense, his silence, facial expressions and movements are quite enough to display the emotions of his character through the drama. At a point, the story shifts towards Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper’s character) and where is where the drama loses its real edge. In some ways, this movie is trying to be too much – there are several features of the story that are only explored superficially – for example, Ray Liotta’s character is not used to its full potential, he could be a whole lot more than he is here. Also, Rose Byrne is a little redundant in her role as Avery Cross’s long-suffering wife. Because there is so much in this story, the movie is neither one thing nor the other – it fails in some ways as a movie because some dramatic options are not taken – it would perhaps have been better as a television mini-series, giving it the potential to draw more out of some characters and story lines. For me, the ending is a little weak. Overall though, it’s reasonably good.

Made in 2012. Directed by Derek Cianfrance

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Silver Linings Playbook

Pat Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper) has recently been discharged from a mental institution, where he has spent the last eight months in treatment after beating up the lover of his ex-wife, Nikki. Having lost his house and his job, under the conditions of his release, Pat is now living at his parents’ home with his father, Pat Senior (by Robert De Nero) and his mother, Dolores (by Jackie Weaver). He refuses to take his medication because he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel and he is desperate to reconcile with his wife. He attends mandatory counselling sessions with a therapist (by Anupam Kher) and is convinced that he can get back on the rails, back into his job as a teacher and back with his wife – he just needs to stay positive and focus on the silver linings in his life. Pat’s parents wish everything could just get back to “normal” – but Pat Junior’s bizarre unmedicated behaviour is leading them to the end of their collective tethers.  They hope Pat is able to get back on his feet himself, but this is no easy feat. Pat Senior has his own issues to deal with … his obsessive gambling, his baseball team and his conviction that Pat Junior is his ultimate good luck charm. Dolores just tries to keep everything together. One day, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (by Jennifer Lawrence), a refreshingly direct and honest woman who must deal with her own issues. Pat and Tiffany realise that theirs can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They settle on a deal to each get the thing they most want in their lives. … but are they both being honest? … does this come at a price that’s getting too high?  Things progress well, but then start to get complicated and as their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

This movie is interesting and good. Bradley Cooper’s performance in this role takes him out of the familiar roles he has played to this point – and he is very good here. His haphazard method and his demonstration of the effects of mental illness are realistic and well done. He deserves the nomination for Best Actor for this. As usual, Robert De Niro makes acting look like second nature and his portrayal of Pat Senior is so excellent it just looks effortless. Although small, the role of Dolores is important and Jackie Weaver’s performance is strong and I agree that Jennifer Lawrence is the stand-out – she totally deserves the Academy Award (Oscar) she received for this performance. The movie is very well directed, the relatioships, dependencies, human idiosyncracies and the intricacies of human emotions are all done very well.  Great effort. The film is based on the novel by the same name by Matthew Quick.

Made in 2012. Directed by  David O Russell

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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