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Hammerle On…'American Hustle,' 'Inside Llewyn Davis,' 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,' 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Robert Hammerle
January 1, 2014
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bob hammerle movie reviewsAmerican Hustle

Don’t be surprised if David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” wins Oscar’s top prize. After all, his “Silver Linings Playbook” got hustled last year.

What makes “American Hustle” a masterpiece is its raw ability to show how the art of hustling permeates our society. Christian Bale and Amy Adams, playing Bale’s mistress, are con artists who know how to bamboozle with style. Jennifer Lawrence, playing Bale’s boozy, beleaguered wife, knows how to play the game to keep her marriage together.
hammerle_hustle.jpg Bale is a sight to behold with his Donald Trump comb-over and 60-pound weight gain. As the master at the art of the hustle, he commands everyone’s attention, including yours.
Additionally, Jeremy Renner is both endearing and dynamic as a New Jersey state senator who wants to play by the rules, but knows that helping your constituents requires more than just pressing the flesh. And Bradley Cooper is a standout as an FBI agent trying to bring down everyone from Miami mob bosses to congressmen in what is called the “Abscam” scandal. Revealingly, he may be the biggest hustler of them all.
Yet it is Adams and Lawrence who steal this movie whenever they appear. They both are hot and sultry in revealing dresses ala 1978, and the moment when the aggrieved Lawrence plants a drunken, wet kiss on Adams’ lips will not soon be forgotten.

Everything works in this movie from the script to the music. It is poignant, sexy and not to be missed.

Inside Llewyn Davis

I think the world of the Coen brothers, and I wouldn’t miss any of their films. However, I must confess that “Inside Llewyn Davis” is both an extraordinarily good yet untethered film.

A folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961, Oscar Isaac is quite beguiling as Davis, and you were left wishing that the Coen brothers would have allowed him to be more than a hopeless mess. He has a career that is going nowhere, and he is left dead broke with few clothes and no place to call home. There is a good reason for his obvious depression, but he loses your sympathy right when you start to care for him.

hammerle_llewyn.jpgThe best parts of the film involve small roles by Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, playing friends of Davis who occasionally sing with him. However, it also becomes clear that Davis and Mulligan’s Jean have a well-kept secret, and it dances on the edge of destroying both of them.

On the other hand, Mulligan is superb as a caustic young woman hiding a pregnancy, and her fluent use of vulgarity is laugh out loud hysterical. She will help you forget John Goodman, appearing as a forgettable heroin addict for no identifiable purpose.

Though the film has undeniable hits and misses, you have to see it simply for the music. The songs are wonderful, and Isaac is a powerful singer. And watch for his performance with Timberlake, as it makes a confusing film memorable.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

While Will Ferrell can be very funny in lewd and crude films like “Talladega Nights” (2006) and “Campaign” (2012), he fails in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” It is demeaning, insulting, consistently offensive and tragically devoid of any humor.

What is so profoundly shocking about “Anchorman 2” is the total abandonment of any form of moral principle. This encompasses multiple scenes, not the least of which was partially displayed in the previews where Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy is sitting at a table surrounded by black relatives of a young, smart supervisor he was banging with glee.

What follows is a sadistic attempt at gutter humor as he tries to impersonate his version of a black man sitting with relatives. No matter how you slice it, it is one of the most wretched moments ever to appear on film.hammerle_anchorman.jpg

To make things even more abysmal, all of the supporting actors play dismally mentally challenged characters. As an example, Steve Carell plays Brick Tamland, a weatherman who seems to be born on another planet. You are supposed to believe that pathetic is funny, yet Carell and his colleagues become little more than a sad, one-joke mess. At times I turned my head to hide my shame.

On the upside, Christina Applegate appears as Burgandy’s beleaguered wife, the only person in the film who has a modicum of decency and common sense. Regardless, if I haven’t made it clear, I hated this movie from the very beginning.

You may laugh, but is that worth losing your pride?

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Once again, director Peter Jackson has struck gold bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s memorable novel to the silver screen. With “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” we follow Gandalf (the incomparable Ian McKellen) and his 13 dwarfs as they battle their way to recapture a lost kingdom now ruled by a dragon with a very nasty attitude.

The cinematography is a masterpiece from beginning to end. The settings are as breathtaking as the scenery from Jackson’s native New Zealand, and the movie is worth watching on that level alone.

hammerle_hobbit.jpgIt is important to note that evil haunts our battling dwarfs, and it soon becomes apparent that Saruman has re-emerged as the leader of the dark forces. However, reappearing to help our bedraggled little people is Orlando Bloom as the elf warrior Legolas.

While I sense that many women find themselves a bit enamored of this blond-haired hero, he more than meets his match by the performance of Evangeline Lilly. Here she plays Tauriel, an elf version of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. As hard as it is to believe, she is even better with a bow and arrow than Katniss, and her budding romance with one of the wounded dwarfs is central to the entire film.

Martin Freeman continues to shine as the beleaguered Bilbo, and Richard Armitage also holds his own as Thorin, the leader of our dwarf crusaders. The villains are a nasty crew, and Benedict Cumberbatch makes the hateful Smaug a villain to be feared.

The end is near, so hang on.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  2. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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