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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Saving Mr. Banks & American Hustle

Dearest Blog, yesterday I braved the holiday throngs for a couple movies I hoped would prove worth it, Saving Mr. Banks and American Hustle.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

First on my agenda was Saving Mr. Banks, the story behind the story of Mary Poppins, and of Walt Disney's struggle to bring the beloved classic to the big screen.

If ever one of my reviews required a disclaimer, it's this one, so here it is: I HATE Mary Poppins. I hate the character, I hate the story, and if you start singing one of those stupid songs within my earshot, I will pull out your vocal cords through your eye sockets. I was recently scarred by an attempt to watch I'm Not There despite the fact I despise Bob Dylan, so, if I feared my distaste for the subject matter might leave me unable to enjoy this film on its own merits, it's understandable. As it turns out, I needn't have worried.

Saving Mr. Banks is a glorious piece of filmmaking, carried squarely on the shoulders of its magnificent leads, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. The two so thoroughly embody P.L. Travers and Walt Disney that it's almost jarring when the old photos used in the end credits don't have their faces. Thompson makes Travers a sympathetic character, even at her stiffest and most difficult, and Hanks...well, if Mr. Disney and Captain Phillips land him two spots on the "Best Actor" lists come year end, that's fair. The supporting cast is also pretty special, with standout performances from Ruth Wilson, Colin Farrell, and Paul Giamatti.The story-within-the-story flows smoothly between flashbacks and present-day happenings, and the costumes and scenery effectively dictate the feel of each sequence and scene. "Nice" is so vanilla that it almost doesn't seem like a compliment even when it's meant as one, but Saving Mr. Banks is just a nice movie that I think pretty much anyone will enjoy. If the film is sentimental, it's in a good way, rather than the eye-rolling way of some of the unfortunate trailers running with it. I cried so much I had to sneak out the back door of the cinema because I was embarrassed to walk through the lobby! If it had that effect on someone so utterly UNsentimental about Mary Poppins, those who love the book and/or the movie had better bring a whole box of Kleenex with them!

Saving Mr. Banks runs 125 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic elements including some unsettling images."

Young or old, Mary Poppins fan or not, I don't think a person could help but enjoy this movie. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Saving Mr. Banks gets eight.

Next up was my birthday present from Hollywood, American Hustle.

When a pair of con-artists is busted, they're forced to work with the FBI in an attempt to hook some bigger fish.

It will come as no surprise to anyone when I say awards season movies aren't necessarily my cup of tea. That's not to say I don't often enjoy them, but my taste generally runs more summer blockbuster than Oscar bait. When I start seeing "Academy Award Nominee" and "Golden Globe Winner" before all the names in the trailers, that's exactly what I'm looking for in those movies, performances that knock my socks off. I am pleased to report American Hustle delivers more than a few of those in a fun, exciting ride that will hold your undivided attention from start to finish.

Christian Bale is terrific in the lead, the formerly cut Bruce Wayne barely recognizable as a paunchy fashion nightmare with a bad combover. Bale gained 40 pounds for the role, and, sadly, this movie makes more of a point of showing off his flabby bare belly than the last Batman did of his six pack. His performance is extraordinary, smart and subtle when it needs to be, over the top when it has to be, just all-around perfect. Bradley Cooper is terrific as the FBI agent slowly losing his grip as he tries to make his name on the case, as is my beloved Jeremy Renner as a politician trying to do the right thing in perhaps not quite the right way. On the ladies' side, Amy Adams is fantastic, but can't help be overshadowed by another stellar showing from Jennifer Lawrence. If you were harboring any inexplicable, lingering doubts as to whether Lawrence is actually the most perfect human being in existence, well, this should erase them for good. Finally, I was absolutely delighted to see two of my Boardwalk Empire favorites, Jack Huston and Shea Whigham, who are both great in smaller roles.

American Hustle begins with the warning: "Some of this actually happened." Like Pain & Gain, these people's behavior is sometimes too stupid to believe, and yet...there it is. The movie goes from serious as a heart attack to laugh-out-loud funny in the blink of an eye, the plot zigging and zagging to keep you on the edge of your seat, without getting muddled or confusing. The awesome 70s soundtrack is bound to bring back fond memories for those who remember the era, even if the hairstyles and fashions do not!

American Hustle clocks in at 138 minutes and is rated R for "pervasive language, some sexual content, and brief violence."

For all the time I spend at the cinema, I think I deserved a really great movie for my birthday and, with American Hustle, I got it. Of a possible nine Weasleys, American Hustle gets eight and a half.

So, dear Blog, that's all the news that's fit to print for now. If time and the listings cooperate, and if I can manage to make myself see something besides The Hobbit, I've got a half-dozen new releases to squeeze in over the next seven days before I can finalize my year-end top ten. Fingers crossed!

Until next time...

Would you believe me if I said these are three of Hollywood's hottest leading men??

1 comment:

  1. I loved both American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks. I am cramming in a lot of films over the holiday break as well, Cindy. My top ten is still in the works though.


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