Posts Tagged ‘Amy Adams’

Director: Zack Snyder

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

As a comics reader, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan. The same is true of the movies… for the most part. There have been exceptions to that rule, of course, notably with DC’s adaptations of Alan Moore classics V for Vendetta and Watchmen. The big-screen escapades of DC’s two most popular characters, Batman and Superman, have also piqued my interest on occasion. Of the two, Batman, being a man who has no superpowers to fall back on, is infinitely more relatable than the Last Son of Krypton.  So, of course, when it comes to a showdown between the two, I would always choose the side of the Caped Crusader. Not to mention the fact that I can count seeing Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman at the age of 7 as the event which changed me from a casual viewer to full-blown fan of movies. From 1978 to the present day, each hero’s cinematic ride has experienced the highest of highs, and (extremely) lowest of lows. 2016’s Batman v. Superman falls into neither category.

After a brief opening credits sequence which features what feels like the millionth depiction of the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne (played by “The Walking Dead” co-stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan), the action moves to the climactic battle sequence from the end of 2013’s Man of Steel, where Superman (Henry Cavill) winds up causing more destruction in Metropolis than he is able to prevent in battling General Zod (Michael Shannon). Only, this time, we witness the battle from the perspective of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

One cannot watch this sequence without automatically thinking of 9/11, and that’s what makes this the most effective part of the movie. It also helps to establish a motive for Bruce Wayne/Batman to see Superman not as a guardian of Earth, but as a threat against it. Bruce, who has been at this superhero gig for a while now, is using a much more harshly defined sense of justice these days, which provides Clark Kent/Superman with reason to voice his opinion on the matter via Daily Planet articles.

Unlike the Superman of the 1980s, who somehow was able to convince the leaders of the world to allow him to rid the Earth of nuclear weapons, this version of Superman has a hard time assuring the U.S. government that he has our best interests at heart. He is even compelled to appear before a Senate committee hearing on the subject. Unfortunately, the hearing is interrupted by a suicide bomb, which kills everyone in attendance, including Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter). Everyone, that is, except for Superman. As it happens, this event, along with the seeds of doubt pitting Batman and Superman on opposing sides, have all been orchestrated by the unhinged head of LexCorp, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg).

Behind the scenes, Luthor has been very busy, collecting a Kryptonite sample, acquiring both Zod’s corpse and his spaceship, and also investigating the existence of metahumans. Bruce Wayne acquires both the Kryptonite and the info on meta-humans, the former to be used as a deterrent against Superman. The latter reveals to him four individuals with extraordinary gifts: the super-speedy Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), the underwater-dwelling Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the part man, part machine Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), as well as Amazonian Princess and daughter of Zeus, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Bruce is already familiar with Diana, having bumped into her at a party at LexCorp. He only needs the one meeting to be able to sense that there is more to her than most men would notice.

Diana is also interested in the meta-human file, though only for a specific photo which she claims belongs to her. Bruce shares the file via e-mail, noting that this grainy black & white image from a century ago is not merely her possession, but is in fact a record of her involvement in the events of World War I. I reserve any further commentary on the matter, as the movie does, for 2017’s Wonder Woman.

The film’s promised fight finally gets underway thanks to Lex’s maneuverings, the final piece of which is the kidnapping of Martha Kent (Diane Lane), which will ensure that Superman fights Batman at Lex’s bidding, lest Martha meet a fiery end. So the two heroes fight, with Batman using Kryptonite as a means to level the playing field. Eventually, Batman gains the upper hand, but is startled by the notion that Superman’s adoptive mother and his own dead mother share the same first name. For most who have seen this movie, this scene is one of the most heavily scrutinized. It’s the jarring transition from beating the hell out of each other to suddenly being best buds which earns that criticism.

So, Batman volunteers to save Martha while Superman goes to confront Luthor. Unable to accept defeat, Luthor unveils his Plan B: the Kryptonian abomination known as Doomsday. It takes the combined efforts of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to provide adequate defense against the monster, but only Kryptonite can kill it, and the only fragment left was used by Batman to form a spear. It falls to Superman to find and use the spear, but because of his own weakness to the shiny green rock it leaves him just as vulnerable, and thus Superman and Doomsday simultaneously kill one another.

An epilogue, which is mainly a teaser for the forthcoming Justice League movie, shows Batman confronting a deranged Luthor in prison, who warns of the imminent arrival of supervillain Steppenwolf (whose actual name is never mentioned), leaving Bruce Wayne with the sense that, soon, the meta-humans will be compelled to answer the call to battle. Meanwhile, a funeral is held for Superman, who is recognized in death as the hero he was never fully appreciated as in life. But there are indications that he may not be totally dead just yet…

Batman v. Superman is a fundamentally flawed movie, which is pretty much par for the course with Batman and Superman’s movies (except for 2008’s The Dark Knight). It gives us a terrific Bruce Wayne/Batman (not to mention a decent Alfred as performed by Jeremy Irons), and a not-so-great Superman. The battle scenes are great, but character behavior/motivation is a problem. Particularly depressing is the portrayal of Superman not as the ray of hope he’s been known as through the majority of his existence since 1938, but as a dark, brooding character. That’s supposed to be Batman’s territory! The whole point is for them to have two wildly contrasting outlooks on the world and life in general.

So desperate was DC to compete with Marvel Studios that it got a little too greedy. It’s never a good idea to cross pollinate two completely different comic storylines into one movie. 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand did the same thing. So did 2007’s Spider-Man 3. All it does is undermine both arcs. If you’re gonna throw in “The Death of Superman” right after his first meeting with Batman, that’s fine. A little weird, but okay. What you shouldn’t do is pass off their chronologically final confrontation from the comics (“The Dark Knight Returns”) as their first in this movie. It’s rather jarring.

This movie is neither fantastic, nor fantastically awful, although it is clear that this wasn’t the best way to introduce the DCEU (DC Expanded Universe). One thing that Batman v. Superman got fantastically right is its portrayal of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Even her theme music is badass! The scene-stealing Gal Gadot’s performance is spot-on; so much so that, by herself, Wonder Woman gave hope that her own adventure might just give DC the boost it needed after this misstep. But that, as I said, is a subject best left for another film review.

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American Hustle (2013)

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence

I personally hate it when movies claim to be “based on a true story.” Starting off with an outright lie is a bad first impression to make on your audience. Then along comes “American Hustle.” While the plot does take certain inspirations from actual historical events, never is the dreaded phrase used. Instead, it is substituted by “Some of these events actually happened.” Emphasis on the word “some.” It’s one of those “names were changed” type of movies. So what if that’s technically a different way of saying the same thing? By admitting that only some of what they’re showing you should be regarded as an adaptation of fact, the filmmakers are treating you with the honesty that the main characters in the story likely never would.

It’s 1978. By this time. the United States as a country had been through some serious shit. Suffering through the horrors of the Vietnam War, the Richard Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal, is it any wonder why some of the Baby Boomer generation turned to heavy drugs, disco and questionable fashion choices? The lead character and narrator, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a talented con artist with a flabby belly and a comb-over hiding a receding hairline which Irving should have given up on a long time ago. Joining him in the game of scamming the gullible is Sydney Prosser, who adopts an English accent when posing as Lady Edith Greensly. Having fallen in love with Sydney, Irving finds himself in a bit of a pickle, because he’s also married to the unstable and accident-prone Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a bond he’d rather not break in particular because of her son, whom Irving has also adopted. He’s also not fond of the idea of Rosalyn going to the police to report his criminal activities, of which she is well aware, should he ever leave her.

But Irving and Sydney face bigger problems once they attempt to scam the wrong guy, who reveals himself to be FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie has in mind a scam of his own, a sting operation designed to take down corrupt New Jersey politicians. With Irving and Sydney’s cooperation in this plot, they are promised their freedom. One of his intended targets is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) the beloved mayor of Camden, N.J. Carmine almost walks out on their meeting when Richie tries to pressure him into accepting a briefcase full of money, all so he can get the moment recorded on a hidden FBI camera. Irving persuades Carmine not to walk away, softening the man up by confessing his very real disdain for the young, impulsive federal agent. This is a decision Irving will later come to regret after developing a friendship with the Mayor.

As the story progresses, the stakes get higher with Richie’s growing ambitions. A chance meeting with notorious mobster Victor Tellegio leads to Richie forming a strategy to take him down, as well. This draws ire from Irving, and from Richie’s FBI superior (Louis C.K.). Not to mention the fact that it puts everyone, even Rosalyn and her son, in mortal jeopardy. It’s a dangerous game that only the most devious among them can win.

Now, I’m an educated man, but even I can’t understand how an entertaining movie filled with a cast of immensely talented actors can be nominated for ten Oscars… including all four acting categories… and come away from Awards night with a big fat goose egg. But that’s the fate which befell “American Hustle.” C’est la vie. I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Jennifer Lawrence in particular. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the fact that she is, for once, not the best thing about a movie she stars in. Instead, the standout performance of the film is delivered by Amy Adams. As Sydney, she often upstages Irving with her natural ability to scheme and plot. Sydney also stands out as the only character in the film with a keen fashion sense. Part of her game includes occasionally leading on the men she intends to dupe. Even as Richie is using her and Irving in his bid to achieve fame, Sydney in turn is playing on his growing infatuation with her.

For any movie to be truly memorable, you need to be able to point to certain scenes or key pieces of dialogue which stick with you long after it’s over. There are a few I could point to, such as the big reveal of the uncredited Robert De Niro as Victor Tellegio, or the moment when Sydney decides to reveal to Richie that she’s been faking the English accent the whole time. Richie’s reaction is priceless. But the part of the movie I think about most is when Carmine gives Irving a microwave oven as a token of friendship. He calls it the “science oven.” Comically, the gift doesn’t last very long. Despite being told not to, Rosalyn puts a tray wrapped in aluminum foil into the “science oven.” Oops. Sure, they can always get another one, but it wouldn’t mean as much to Irving as the one Carmine gave to him.

The movie is based in part on the FBI operation known as ABSCAM, which involved the investigation of some 31 political figures. Each of the main characters are based on participants in ABSCAM, with different names and other certain alterations for dramatic effect. Among the resulting convictions included six members of the House of Representatives and one U.S. Senator.

Director David O. Russell has really impressed the hell out of me so far. I like that he, as with most directors, has found a core group of actors he likes to work with and has stuck with them. Especially when it’s these people. The superhero fan in me can’t help but look at that movie poster and see (from left to right) Rocket Raccoon, Lois Lane, Batman, Mystique and Hawkeye. But the film enthusiast in me recognizes “American Hustle” as another work of art from the people who brought us “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”