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January 10, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, January 10, 2014 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, January 10, 2014 - 5

"It has to smell like roses ... and garbage"

Did I leave my curling iron on?
'Smaug' fumbles until
its burning climax

'American Hustle'
set for Oscar success
Senior Arts Editor
It's easy to get lost in the
showiness of "American Hustle."
The gravity-defying hairstyles,
thy Long
Island accents
and distract- American
ing cleavage
overwhelm HuStle
the senses. At The Michigan
But to focus Theater, Quality
on the sudsy 16 and Rave
would do the Columbia
brilliant, self-
aware film a
disservice. Written and directed
by David O. Russell, the master-
mind behind 2012's acclaimed
"Silver Linings Playbook," "Hus-
tle" defies genre by simultane-
ously being heavy and hilarious,
outrageous and emotionallypres-
ent, kitschy and thought-provok,
ing. The film risks ridiculousness,
but grounds itself in nuanced and
powerful performances from the
entire cast.
Cinema has a classic love of
corrupt couples: the Bonnie and
Clydes, the Scarletts and Rhetts.
Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney
Prosser (Christian Bale, "Out of
the Furnace" and Amy Adams,
"Her") have now entered that
hallowed hall of dangerous lov-
ers. Irving is a small time but
successful conman who falls in
love with Sydney, a forceful yet
reserved rationalist played to
perfection by Adams. Sydney
assumes the persona of Edith

Greensley, an aristocratic Eng-
lishwoman with contacts in Brit-
ish banks, in order to deceive
small-business owners into buy-
ing loans that will never be paid
off. Though perhaps the least
flashy in a blindingly bright
cast, Adams deftly portrays
Sydney's deep insecurities and
all-consuming ambition with
quiet grace. The jig seems to be
up when Irving and Sydney are
caught by second-rate FBI Agent
Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper,
"The Hangover Part III") until
he offers a get-out-of-jail free
card Irving can't resist: if they
help him catch four other con
artists, they won't be sent away.
In a world divided between
good and bad, the irony is that
the conmen perhaps have more
of a conscience than the sup-
posed innocents that surround
them; DiMaso looks for crime
with such zest that he is willing
to frame an innocent man. Rosa-
lyn, Irving's bi-polar stay-at-
home wife (Jennifer Lawrence,
"The Hunger Games: Catching
Fire"), is egoistic and negligent,
lighting the kitchen on fire twice
and forgetting to pick her son up
because she has a date. Richie
and Rosalyn blow through life,
ignoring the wreckage behind
them, while Irving and Sydney
carefully weigh each decision,
especially the ones that affect
others, even though these deci-
sions are often dishonest.
Because of this dichotomy, in a
film stuffed with award-winning
actors, it's Bale and Adams who
supply the emotional weight.
The contrast between them and
their overblown counterparts is
ripe with humor, which is both
superficial (Bradley Cooper in
'70s style hair curlers is a sight to
behold), and an important part of

the caricatures they feed into.
As the story continues and
the scam snowballs uncontrol-
laby, growing to implicate a faux
sheikh, a coterie of Congressmen
and a casino kingpin, the film
becomes murky and at times dis-
tractingly complex. This confu-
sion is not an effect of a flurried
plot, but instead Russell's honor-
able attempt at adeptly portray-
ing the thoughts and motivations
of all the different characters,
people who often don't know
what they really want.
Without a doubt, "Hustle" is
an excellent film - worthy of the
Oscar buzz surrounding it. It has
a talented cast and an interesting
plot; it's a period piece and is also
visually transformative (Bale
is nearly unrecognizable with
his slimy hairpiece and extra 50
pounds). But unlike many awards
contenders, "Hustle" is plain fun.
It's a zany, over-the-top portrayal
of a fascinating time and place in
the United States, and it really
is enjoyable to watch. The music
is upbeat and period relevant,
the script sharp and ironic, the
clothing glamorous; it doesn't get
bogged down in details or scenes
meant to shock or scare. "Hustle"
is a joy to watch and a fantastic
piece of art - a film worth sitting
in a theater and buying a $10 pop-
corn for.
"Hustle" could have been a
cheap cop drama, a 1970s sleaze-
fest or a serious quasi-documen-
tary - but through transcendent
performances from the leads
and Russell's brilliantly wacky
script, is instead a forceful and
uproarious story that defies
genre. At its heart, this is a love
story and a tale of the passion
(not just between people) that
makes us act in inexplicable

Daily Arts Writer
Movies that revolve around
J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the
Rings" have a responsibility to
be something
more than
faithful adap-
tations of leg- The Hobbit
endary works
of literature.
These films DeSolation
must entice of Smaug
the view-
ers to invest Quality 16
themselves in and Rave
a journey of
epic propor- Warner Bros.
tions, both in
scale and in importance, as the
fate of Middle Earth again hangs
in the balance.
Our journey - "The Hobbit"
trilogy - began with "An Unex-
pected Journey" and continues
with "The Desolation of Smaug."
The latest instaftinent, direct-
ed by Peter c-n, is unique
because it perform. adequately
as a stand-alone fim while func-
tioning as a great second chapter.
Much of the ensemble cast repris-
es its role, with popular char-
acters Bilbo (Martin Freeman,
"The World's End"), Gandalf (Ian
McKellen, "X-Men") and the band
of Dwarves led by Thoren Oaken-
shield (Richard Armitage, "Cap-
tain America: The First Avenger")
continuing their quest to recover
the kingdom of the Dwarves from
Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch,
"Star Trek Into Darkness") - the
last great dragon of Middle Earth.
It's not unusual for a film of this
length to start off slowly before
gathering steam and building
towards an explosive climax. This

is almost expected from a film CGI - an effect that comes off
like "Smaug," which essentially poorly, given the obvious contrast
centers on a very serious road trip in quality.
for twelve Dwarves and a Hob- Once the party of dwarves
bit, minus any sort of transport makes its way to the Lonely
on ground or air (no convenient Mountain, the film suddenly
eagles this time). However, what comes to life. There is only one
is unusual about this film is that reason for its sudden transforma-
it never really comes to life until tion: Smaug. Such is the effect of
the last half hour of its 161-min- Cumberbatch's voice and motion
ute run time. Until then, viewers capture performance that the
are treated to lots of walking and film could have easily been titled,
talking, but not much real action "Benedict Cumberbatch being
in terms of plot development and awesome ... this time in motion
dialogue. capture." The dragon, in all its
monstrous glory literally sets
fire to the screen and gives the
'Hobbit, film a much-needed sense of
urgency. You really can't get
struggles as enough of this wonderful char-
acter, as the group of Dwarves
stand-alone and Bilbo struggle to stay alive
in his presence. The dragon lifts
action film the film and tosses it towards an
extremely memorable ending,
which serves to raise excitement
levels for the final installment to
There are far too many road- a sky-high level.
blocks on this journey, such as That is wherethe credit for
a bizarre romance between a this chapter is due. As a stand-
Dwarf and an Elf - an age-oldalone film, it's just abotradequate
"star-crossed lovers" formula and a fair distance away from
that Jackson handles clumsily. great entertainment. One must
The script is often poor, and remember, however, that this
attempts at groundbreaking is not a stand-alone film; it's a
revelations are delayed to the bridge between two films with a
point when the revelation itself main purpose of building toward
seems fairly obvious. The great the final chapter. "Smaug" is a
mystery of the evil power in the film that labors and toils on its
South requires Gandalf to leave own without really getting any-
the party of the Dwarves (why where, needing its trump card to
is he always forced to abandon . pull out all the stops and really
the group?), and the wise wizard give it what it needs. The last half
is made to look unprepared and hour of the film is nothing short
helpless in the face of a very obvi- of breathtaking, which makes up
ous adversity. Even the entertain- for its lackluster opening, forcing
ing action sequences come with a you to wait with baited breath for
blemish when Jackson decides to the final movie in "The Hobbit"
use handheld footage alongside trilogy.

Netflix Pix: The films to stream

He has no hair in his armpits. As seen in every freshman girl's dorm room.
"American Psycho" "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Not a lot of people like writer
Bret Easton Ellis. His Twitter
feed is an indigestible cesspool of
hatred, he seems to enjoy defend-
ing his oftentimes borderline
misogynistic attitude, and all in
all, is the kind of guy who thinks
he's too cool to smile inphoto-ops.
He's an asshole.
Andin"AmericanPsycho," now
available for streaming on Net-
flix, that nihilistic asshole-ness
is smeared across every scene,
used masterfully by director
Mary Harron to bring to light the
twisted, materialistic world of the
hyper-rich. The film follows Pat-

rick Bateman, a Wall Street broker
who doubles as a serial killer by
night as he struggles - and fails -
to control his addiction.
At the center of the film is a
powerhouse performance by
Christian Bale, who gets his first
chance to showcase his ability to
portray an emotionally twisted
Despite the film's violence and
gore, the most memorable aspect
of "American Psycho" is Bate-
man's creepy inability to separate
himself from the sickening para-
noia of normality.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" was
only off the Netflix grid for a few
months, but it felt like a lifetime.
A dignified classic (albeit Mickey
Rooney's cartoonish parody of
any and all Japanese stereo-
types), Audrey Hepburn's depic-
tion of Holly Golightly will warm
hearts and then-unapologetically
break them. Golightly, a young
and beautiful New York socialite,
spendshertime pursuingwealthy
men and hard liquor, appear-
ing immune to her harsh reality
of despondency, loneliness and
(surprise!) alcoholism. The truth
unravels as she befriendsher new

neighbor, writer Paul Varjak. As
Golightly's past reveals itself to
Varjak, her personal life becomes
increasingly chaotic and public,
resulting in a climactic final scene
full of everything you'd hope for
in a Hollywood classic: rain, over-
dramatic kissing and the peak of
a complicated relationship that in
reality probably wouldn't func-
tion past the end credits.
A beautiful and poetic film,
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is back
on Netflix for a reason, and more
than deserving of a spot on your



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