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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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