This week, this paper’s film critics Alan Scherstul, Amy Nicholson and Stephanie Zacharek discuss David O. Russell’s American Hustle, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. They also recommend Despicable Me 2, the late Paul Walker’s Hours and Compliance.
“I wouldn’t call it the movie of the year, but I had an amazingly good time at it” says Voice film critic Stephanie Zacharek. “Just watching these actors was just such great fun as well as watching David O. Russell just cut loose for a change.”
“It’s Amy Adams who is the start of this movie and Jennifer Lawrence steals it from her. They are both spectacular, I really adored them,” says Voice film editor Alan Scherstuhl.
“There’s something about the way [David O. Russell] sweats so hard to make stuff interesting but the more he tries, the less I like his films,” says L.A. Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson. “I think he’s just a sloppy director.”
Saving Mr. Banks
“This film is about the two weeks the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, spent in Burbank working on the script with the people Walt Disney hired to actually write the film,” Nicholson says of Saving Mr. Banks. “[Travers] hates everything he’s doing with it.
“The weird thing about this film is we all know [Disney] wins,” Nicholson says. “It’s a weird little trick this film plays on you, because you’re kind of forced to be on Walt’s side.”
“The best things for me were the writing scenes because at that point the film becomes one about process,” Zacharek says. “I actually thought those scenes were really well done.”
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
“This has much to do with Tolkien as fruit snacks have to do with fruit,” says Scherstuhl. “This feels to me like if the Fast and the Furious 6 were set in Middle Earth and their hobbit feet were the cars. I didn’t find this one slow and ponderous at all — unlike [The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey].
“I”m attacking the movie in every way, but I really did adore it,” Scherstul says.
“It is a ridiculous video-game, fan-fiction, cosplay iteration of Tolkien-flavored stuff.”
Zacharek says that Tolkien’s books — once known as “hippie books” — have been commodified to an extent: “We’ve gotten to the point where we have to take these stories so damn seriously, especially with The Hobbit, which is this slight, fun little book that has been so pumped full of air, to the point that we have to buy three tickets to three separate movies.”
Zacharek recommends Despicable Me 2, out on Bluray and DVD this week. “I think Despicable Me 2 is just pure genius. This movie just makes me laugh and it’s just so delightfully disreputable, which I find is missing from so much contemporary animation.”
Scherstuhl recommends Hours, a movie starring the late Paul Walker, which is available on demand. “In [Hours] Paul Walker plays a man who’s stuck in a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina with his newborn child who is attached to a respirator, and will have to be attached to that respirator for 48 hours or the child will not live.”
Nicholson recommends Compliance (trailer above), which is now on Netflix streaming. It’s based on a true story of a man pretending to be a police officer who calls a fast food joint and asks about a female employee he says has been stealing money from a customer. He tells the manager to take the employee to the back room and strip search her, which bizarrely, she does.
“It’s just chilling,” Nicholson says.