Sunday, 12 January 2014



Stock XXX-Change

179 Minutes. Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley & Matthew McConaughey. Director: Martin Scorsese

Money, money, money. They say it's what makes the world go round, certainly the Hollywood movie one and surely that of it's leading man and best actor. An actor that has played anyone and everyone en route to being able to afford those Jack Nicholson courtside seats for the NBA's storied Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers franchise on a game to night basis. Wait...STOP! Not Leonardo DiCaprio. The same Leo Dicaprio that dedicates his down time into saving the environment and other philanthropic ventures like he invests his work one into capturing and creating complex characters in all their conflicted dark depths and inward insecurities. The same DiCaprio named after an artist that here we see getting wasted and high, while throwing money into a wastepaper basket like a basketball and flying helicopters into his front lawn like he was trying to cut the grass. With sex, drugs, cocks and money rolls on the cocktail menu there seems to be mo' money, mo' problems as the dollars and debauchery rings up. Now, just who could bring this reckless and arrogant side out of the reclusive and humble floppy haired kid from 'Titanic'? Only Martin Scorsese who follows the epic battle royale 'Gangs of New York', the anxiety inducing complexion of the grounding 'Aviator', the Boston legal drama of 'The Departed' and the hauntingly harrowing and horrifically bold, bleak and brilliant 'Shutter Island' as Marty and Leo collaborate on their fifth feature, proving their the perfect partnership to tell the story of Jordan Belfort and the madcap, moulah memoirs of 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' set to co- 'Boardwalk Empires' Terrence Winters sensational script. 

A stockbroker as bullish as they come in all his security fraud and corruption in the 1990's that saw his Stratton Oakmont company rob everybody in their homes as they where standing on the other line by the kitchen sink. As this Gordon Gekko and his 'Boiler Room' like team worked everyone over hard, that's when they partied the same too, to receipts that will split your sides to telephone bills with hookers on the line. Between all the booze, boobs and blow (in all forms of the word) however there's always going to be a hangover. Divorce, debt and of course cops as the FBI are hot on the tail of the man chasing exactly that. Sometimes all the money in the world can't stop the rain and this is what makes this success story so sobering. The dark side of the American dream is presented here in all it's trapping of wealth and greed. Part 'Wall Street' with a 'Greed is a Mother$#$#$#' moral to this story, part 'Boiler Room' boiling and simmering, perplexingly, proud passion, with 'Aviator' corrupting themes of human nature and the matters that madden the mind. Scorsese in the company of wolves has barely directed better with his pack leaving us hyena howling and this old dog has been in 'Casinos' and with 'Taxi Drivers' for his bag of tricks. The world highest financial and critical earning actor hasn't invested in much better either. Even if you thought 'Inception' was the mainstream making of this amazing actor with 'Catch Me If You Can', 'Blood Diamond', 'Basketball Diaries', 'Romeo + Juliet', 'What's Eating Gilberts Grape', and so many more savings in his account. Now following 365 days that saw him play it really bad but truly great for 'Django Unchained', while being the only one to really put a face to F. Scott Fitzgeralds 'The Great Gatsby' name this stars stock is rising even further and what better way to cap off his year then with this? Playing someone so cocksure of himself that he let's what his money can afford do the talking, this might be the best performance of his classic career that might finally see some Academy accreditation. Talking to the camera first-hand in first-person like Zach Morris, saved by the stock buzzer, between throwing peeled off bank rolls at federal agents and dwarfs at velcro targets, whilst giving 'Independence Day'/'Pacific Rim' stirring speeches of inspired corruption, you'd have to send the national guard to take this lone wolf of Hollywood out, because he 'aint going nowhere. 

In this dark comedy drama if you thought our lead in a three-piece and hair mould that only the slick Michael Douglas or Pat Riley of the eighties would be proud of is the only one that suits up here you forgot the rest of the tie. There's a new king of comedy on this hill and his name is Jonah. Still if you thought this 'Superbad' and '21 Jump Street' star was all about the one-liner gags then you forgot how much he has behind that expanding waistline of talent. After his 'Moneyball' Oscar strike Jonah Hill just maybe the best sidekick in this superhero movie world, let alone supporting actor around today. A seriously great talent, after backing up one of Hollywood's hottest leading men in Brad Pitt, he does it again for Leo behind some horn-rimmed glasses, curly hair and bleached teeth that could even blind David Schwimmer's Ross in 'Friends'. Movie new best best friend is about to show the industry just how much of a star soul-mate he is with the heart of his performances from the wrenching gut of laugh now, cry later amazing acting. If that wasn't enough than 'Super 8' exposed Kyle Chandler shows he was born to play people on the right, do-good side of the law, while Mad Max furious Rob Reiner is a true father figure of uneasy smiles and hard frowns, think a take no prisoners Uncle Phil off the 'Fresh Prince'. Need a princess? Than the beautiful Margot Robbie shows she's more than just a Barbie doll as Leo's latest on-screen lady. While there's even room for the figure of Jon Favreau and the slimmed down buddy of that guy named Earl (Ethan Suplee) to go along with a complex and classy cast that even features a true 'Artist' in Frenchmen Jean Dujardin who is breaking his sensational silence and about to become a monumental man and an 'Absolutely Fabulous' cameo from Joanna Lumley of all people. I mean this film really is crazy darling.

'Hmmm, hmm. Hmm, hmm.' Beat your chest to the tune of the best cameo you'll see all year however with Matthew McConaughey and the short but sensational, you wish he had more screen-time, scene stealing presence. After the legacy lasting 'The Lincoln Lawyer' made the case of passing the 'A Time To Kill'/'Amistad' acting bar and the quick buck of the ghost of rom-coms past, the divine drawl of the southern star has made a couple of years of 'Mud', 'Killer Joe's', 'Magic Mikes', 'Paperboys' and 'Dallas Buyers Clubs' the biggest and brilliant best of his changing career. Now the skinny of this muscle man in between slimming down for new roles and pairing alongside and partnering up with another vocally versatile actor in Woody Harrelson for T.V.'s raw and revealing 'True Detective', shows the industry on one spot of lunch debating money and masturbation how there needs to be a separate award category for classic cameos. You wish they had something more for a man who made this film something else. Still, you know how great this film is when one of the hottest, rising redemptive actors has to fight for screen-time with some of the other biggest names is the biz. That's just what DiCaprio and Scorsese films do together, just ask Alec Baldwin. This is one stock tip of stock dicks that everyone can appreciate. The hype of those exciting 'Black Skinhead' Kanye West and 'Hang You From The Heavens' Dead Weather laced trailers where justified in this buzz of bucks. The soundtrack to this movie is how money talks, but the real score is the underlying tone and teaching of corrupting power and sinful greed that is shouting out from underneath. Beneath all that weekend made pool partying that makes its way to work before the designated break time and believe it or not true stories is a lesson learned that's harder and more sobering than 9 to 5. A methodology that Marty and Leo perform for people so perfectly well that even their previous subjects find it hard to make the grade in comparison. With this gang of wall street agents shy of Staten Island showing the dearly debt departed real financial aviation, you'd have never thought these two or the millions watching would love a film where Popeye and his Spinach is used for some 'Pulp Fiction' in reverse eqsue, cocaine, life-saving motivation. This story and movie is just that random and crazy. Even ludes of drug-taking references to diseases that are just so wrong, somehow make it all right in the end. This is just what these three-hour, epic Marty/DiCaprio films find after all this time. It's this no-holes barred look of the worlds most powerful drug money and all the brutality and betrayal it brings that truly makes this films message pay off. The stock is hot and these millionaires soaring. Now that's a lot of bang for your buck. Buy, buy, buy! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Saturday, 4 January 2014



A Long Road To Freedom.

134 Minutes. Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson & Brad Pitt. Director: Steve McQueen.

Slavery, one of the worst and most vile, unjust abominations to man. A product of racism, one of the most callous and cruel, discriminatory and prejudice things that has caused worldwide suffering and pain. Born from hatred, in its nature the worst thing in this world. A thing that can only be cured by love if it is pure in the heart and soul. When we remember once again in loving memory of the teachings of Nelson Mandela in this weeks 'Long Road To Freedom' film that is portrayed perfectly by Idris Elba, we need to look to another successful British actor who has broken America. A man who has also now broken the boundaries of a time that can still be ignorant to exactly the ignorance of the past that brought the scars on human history that may heal but can never be removed. In a time where the movie world is replacing the Hollywood shine with the rough truth its time for another history lesson. Sure this time last year Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained' was a fun, Western ride that looked at slavery through the eyes of Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and a hell of a lot of violence, but there was method behind that madness too. Just like his and Christophe Waltz's 'Inglorious Basterds' look at Hitler and World War II. Still, in this day and age that looks at social media more than social commentary we need more films that truly document what happened in terrible times for better or worse, so we can learn and move on from the worse for better. It's not's only right. Sure like Spielberg's historical Holocaust drama 'Schindler's List' you can't really call this enjoyable, but you can't really say anything less or take anything away from it's pure power and accuracy. As one of the stars says in this film "it's an amazing story...and I don't mean that in a good way". With only his third film you can put this work of Steve McQueen in the classic library of films alongside his acting namesakes career. The Oscars are waiting too, because in 12 months you'd be hard pressed to find anything better, more brutal or brilliant than '12 Years A Slave'. Quite simply one of the most powerful films of all-time.

Can we give a hand for Chiwetel Ejiofor please? Who without doubt will lead this Academy class of talent and should really be guaranteed his 'Best Actor' moment. From 'Four Brothers' to 'Inside Man' and 'American Gangster' he made his mark in the Hollywood movie-world of the new millennium alongside greats like Denzel and seemingly every other film that was released, but now today like Elba's Mandela this is this actors lasting legend and legacy. Playing Solomon Northup and based on the book of a free man and beautiful violin player who was wrongly kidnapped and sold into slavery you couldn't ask for a more real and raw performance that shows both respect to the man he played, but enough diligent responsibility to present the whole truth to a desensitized audience that somewhat craves violence in a throwaway, entertainment video-game way but will turn away from the real injustices that have happened to people over the course of history. Some scenes are so harrowing they'll haunt conscious minds for as many decades as those who have ignored have forgotten. Ejiofor makes us sit up and take notice to this. There's little we can say for how great this speaks for itself. Still like the man he's portraying, as Ejiofor shows strength, humility and survival in the face of oppression it truly and literally speaks volumes for his character. Whenever he does break down emotionally, whether with tears or rage its something that's more than just acting. It's the passion of a man whose living for those who survived for him. It's a man speaking out to the mainstream about an dark issue that needs to be brought to the light. Mr. Northup would be proud of how Chiwetel has honored him. If any actor could show just how bad things where but in a positive spirit over suffering way, than wait until you see the other side of this on the hands of the abuser. After 'Hunger' and 'Shame', Michael Fassbender collaborates again with McQueen on his third movie with a truly sinister and strong performance of the most shame. You wouldn't think this evil 'First Class', 'X-Men' and 'Basterd' cameo guy could be so cruel and callous. Still with dangerous methods this is why this is one of his best performances of his career. You would never think you could hate the hardest working actor that everyone loves not called Cumberbatch.

Speaking of Benedict...yes he's in this movie too. If outdoing his 'Star Trek-Into Darkness' Khan best villain of the year himself with a bleeding fire breathing dragon for 'The Hobbit-The Desolation Of Smaug', to go along with him and Bilbo 'Martin Freeman/Dr. Watson' Baggins teaming up for the new 'Sherlock' series wasn't enough then he's only winning over even more fans by actually playing a nice slave-owner. OK such a thing clearly doesn't exist, but bound by morals and conflict of what is right Benedict is brilliant here as always. In his busiest 'Fifth Estate' year his part here is small like his trip to 'August: Osage County' but that doesn't make it any less greater. In fact all the supporting parts here are small and of a certain time much like all the presidents men, singer and television hosts behind Forest Whitaker's service as 'The Butler'. Just like this historical film of a time, race and the overcoming of prejudice, those who contribute no matter the cost or cameo do so rightly and with their own dynamic distinction that furthers development. Here we have Paul Dano whose 'Ruby Sparks', 'Looper' geek calling card was given some weirder, dark and disturbing turns in the arresting 'Prisoners', another one of 2013's best and brutal. Now here however he's just weird and horrible in the perfect performance kind of way. The kid just has the goods to go with that look that makes him truly something else in the acting ranks. One differently great Paul deserves another and inbetween small roles of significance on 'Saving Mr. Banks' and heading back the way Mary Poppins came to England's 'Downtown Abbey', Mr. Giamatti is here too. Too bad he's only here for one scene to sell a bunch of slaves in such a despicable and horrible way. Yet again though between all the physical and mental intimidation between playing it up like a sickly slick salesman for the's just the sign of a great actor. Like the atrocities of 'Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip' (that should have never been cancelled by the way that's another atrocity) star Sarah Paulson who acts revolting. You want the realest acting though to match even the leading man? Then look no further then Lupita Nyong'o whose about to turn as many critical heads towards her with every turn away scene of harrowing brutality she portrays in all its strength over suffering necessity. The education that McQueen and Ejiofor teach is brought to a whole new class by Nyong'o.

With all this talent and all this film time you could almost forget that Brad Pitt was in this despite those controversial big billboard posters. Still this crucial cameo has more to it then "hey look we got Hollywood's biggest star", or Pitt's Plan B production scoring their next big hit after the undead awakening of the amazing 'World War Z'. From what he says to what he does Brad's character is the perfect cast. Even with a spare swing this is the industries leading man, but yet one of actings most underrated, most inspiring hit since 'Moneyball'. A million miles from the slots of 'Oceans', growing his hair and beard like he can and has done for so many American folklore tales, here is one account of history that his weary look and weathered work adds to wonderfully. Even 'The Wire's' Michael K. Williams pops up for a moment of significance and clarity that shows us more than just how good Steve McQueen's list of Lee Daniels like contacts is. All of this classically crafted casting to go along with just the strongest yet sincere story is backed up by the soaring score of 'Dark Knight'/Nolan and every other films soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer. Here he experiments with even more harsh violin for some harrowing and haunting sounds to match the horror of some of this films most heinous documented moments of abhorrent abuse. This all adds to telling the story the right way with nothing left behind or ignored, but everything presented with grounding but not gratuitous effects. In one strung up scene a black man is left hanging for hours on end as whites pass by minding their own business, literally without a care in the world. Presented to us over the course of several minutes, its another drawn out scene pictured to us to show just how some back then and some today will ignore injustice even if its slumping right there in front of them. It's a literal look but also a moving metaphor of changing times that still need some more compassion. Even if it is much better today and some of it is wrongfully in jest or even worse acceptance, racism is still alive today and you don't have to go too far to see it in its worst forms. To think as well that it all came from things like this. Now what does that tell you? Something that Solomon's story will keep telling through the decades and ages thanks to his book and now McQueen and his Ejiofor led team until everyone understands. From slavery to the teachings of the words of Nelson Mandela these are what these films are about. The long walk to freedom isn't over yet...but its down the road. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 3 January 2014



In Loving Memory.

146 Minutes. Starring: Idris Elba & Naomie Harris. Director: Justin Chadwick.

Where do I begin this? I've been thinking of how to write this and pay my respects to Madiba the right way ever since the dearly departed left us to close last year. With all the social-media tributes to late celebrities from everyone from Paul Walker to James Avery I wanted to do something more than just a hash-tag trend or 'like' attraction for one of the greatest men the world has ever known. We all have our stories and memories of South Africa and the worlds Nelson Mandela. Mine takes me back almost a decade, where down in debt and depression I picked up stacks of books I brought and never read in order to finally turn a page of inspiration and intention. There was everything from autobiographies to novels from all walks of life, but it was words from inspiring figures that captured and sat me down the most from Basketball hero Magic Johnson to life's inspiration Martin Luther King Jnr. Still, when I started with Mandela's epic 750 page autobiography it all changed. Part way through reading this book slowly, he ended a chapter with the beginning of his 27 year imprisonment. Even if it was half 3 in the A.M. I wasn't putting this book down now. Quickly finishing this long read of insight and inspiration I was moved to read more and more and pick up the pen and start writing myself. Almost 10 years, countless articles, songs to the tune of everyday work and some publishing success later and I haven't put down the pen or books since. See the inspiration? See what it all means? This is just one small, insignificant story that leads me today to write about this film based on the same autobiography, 'Mandela: Long Road To Freedom', that tells the story of a man that has done so much more for the world in the name of peace like men like Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and even entertainers like Ali, Dylan or Lennon. Nobody has ended race-wars and pure hatred with acts of love and kindness however like the redemption, unforgettable forgiveness and peaceful revolution of Madiba himself Nelson Mandela. That is how simple but life changing his legacy is and the legend of that is told here in this monumental movie for this age.

Now who could even do justice to this great man by even trying to portray him? Well, thankfully we have some incredible acting talent who can at least do justice with their just talents. Morgan Freeman was the perfect lookalike and mannerism, genuine intention act-a-like for Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus', Rugby World Cup game changer with Matt Damon, that is an underrated classic in all these legends filmography and biography history films in themselves. Still with 'The Other Boleyn Girl' director Justin Chadwick's formidable framework he directs the right man and next great actor regardless of race or nationality (the separation of acting talent into race categories (e.g. "the next Denzel") needs to stop) in the British intelligence (yeah, okay I said it) of Idris Elba. A small-screen movie masquerading hit-maker that has made his way to the big time and blockbuster big-screen, by breaking America like fellow Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is about to inspire history lessons even further with his all-star, all-essential '12 Years As A Slave' viewing that looks to be even more moving from audiences to Academies. From the drug-dealing grittiness of Baltimore in 'The Wire' to policing the other side of the law in a bleak and cold London in 'Luther', Elba has helped this new generation of television being like movies that has earned him the right to act in things like the 'Thor' franchise and 'Prometheus', all while building quite the hip soul signing career on the side himself as Driis. This is a guy who this year was rumored to turn the page and flip the script and at one time be both the new James Bond and Doctor Who for British fans...I guess he'll just have to settle for one of the worlds most iconic figures in history instead. Tooodaaay however if you thought it couldn't get more inspiring than the 'Independence Day' like speech of 'Pacific Rim', then wait until you see him cancel all those notions here. Delivering some of Mandela's most powerful prose with dignity and distinction this performance of the ages by Idris is as subtlety strong as the man Mandela himself. This, right now is the rising actors legacy even in his incredible and diverse range of accepted scripts. As a young Madiba Idris stands out in his own right for a just cause, but as make-up and more movingly mannerisms match the voice and the age of the later years you can hardly tell it's one of the hottest actors in Hollywood anymore...and that's a good thing. Even Mandela himself watching the iconic mountain scene before his passing, thought he was watching himself. That's not just good "shirt" acting as my father said, that's a legendary capturing of perfection. Like Will Smith as Ali, or Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles it's more than an impression, it's inspiration.

Still there was more to Mandela than just himself and there is more than Idris Elba that makes this picture perfect. If our lead ever does manage to keep it shaken and stirred as 007 than he can count on his Moneypenny as Naomie Harris is incredible as Winnie Mandela. After years of being picked up by Hollywood for things like 'Miami Vice' and 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' this British hot property has really returned to form and home with last years 'Skyfall'. Now however just like her on-screen partner-who she has also been a part of the '28 Later' franchise (albeit different films) this is her moment. She is incredible as Winnie with a real, raw unflinching look at exactly what this woman did for the movement and her own revolution. The darker side of the Mandela fight for freedom is shown through her eyes here as Nelson's ideals of turning all the hatred into love is not shared by his opposite-thinking wife, much like the M.L.K/Malcolm X distinction divide. Winnie's violent response to violence was wrong in unbearable and unthinkable ways but what Harris and this film does is present and put it all on the plate without judgement or celebration like a true, historical, account of the facts should. This is even mirrored in Mr. Mandela's own raw and redemptive road to freedom from prison to politics. This is no half Nelson but instead a full term of how it all happened regardless of opinion or omission. Fact for fact this is as real and raw as it gets and there is not better testimonial or tribute to the man himself than this. This is just right. With no Hollywood gloss or fluff the dark days of a man who saw the light are unflinchingly delivered. It's the kind of true honoring that goes beyond anything else and puts this film and its performances right there with the unquestionable all-too-real, unfairly all-too-forgotten 'Hotel Rwanda' Don Cheadle classic career moment. As necessarily harrowing and haunting as that or a 12 certificate film can be this is a crucial education on the history of  a man who has just left this generation and whose teaching needs the right lesson if he is to be remembered correctly and rightly.

The fall and rise of this incredible man that fought war with peace is what makes him so influential and what makes this story so inspirational. This is a man that overcame 27 long and guard brutality years of imprisonment on an island to setting everybody free. A change really did come from a man whose heart and soul overcame all the hurt and sorrow that come with a lonely walk to decades drawn and down emancipation. There's even more incredible support in this film from 'Blood Diamond' and coincidentally 'Hotel Rwanda' actor Tony Kgoroge, as Madiba's closest ally Walter Sisulu. Kgoroge is so underrated it's almost criminal, his experience also appeared differently and dynamically in the other Mandela biopic 'Invictus', that stands next to this one differently but with it's own distinction. In fact Freeman's walk of freedom picks up where Elba's emancipation leaves off, making these two brilliant biopics the perfect story-tellers side-by-side. There's no competition here just compassion for a man whose incredible long life's work and journey is too much to fit in one almost two and a half hour film or 750 page book (no matter how hard this one make-up and tries) which is why there are more 'Conversations', books and biopics I'm sure to come. As iconic and decades made influential Idris Elba's perfect and pleasing yet powerful performance is, it's all about the work of the man they are honoring. A film that if you would say has come at the right time if you looked at it through the really wrong eyes of the over-marketing and saturating cinema money-making campaigning has in actual fact a different vision. A vision of tribute that was long created and crafted before this great man was sick. A vision of testimony that now starts and raises the bar for the biopics that will come next, but one that should remain with 'Invictus' as just that, one-of-a-kind movies that are done out of respect and our dignified to not be duplicated by others in their own right. As this film shows the rise and walk of a man whose feet where torn through the years of tension and toil, but paves the way for Freeman and Eastwood's sporting shot and the actual real-life work of the man himself that should be studied by the book, this and Mandela's life is so much more. Rightfully so this is all done in the right way for a man whose life's work and legacy shouts louder and walks taller than this script or any one speech or movement can or has done. It's why you can sit next to your friend of a different creed and just have a conversation without conflict. It's as simple as that but means so much more and it's why although this film won't change the world, it gives hope to the ongoing teachings of a man that actually did...and that is what is best for the people. That is what is best for everybody. TIM DAVID HARVEY

Thursday, 2 January 2014



Hustle & Go.

138 Minutes. Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena & Louis C.K. Director: David O. Russell.

The con is on. Now we don't need any convincing however with confidence that David O. Russell is one of the best working directors in the game today on top of his hustle. After his classic 'Three Kings' the past couple of years have seen him deal quite a pair and now with this hand he has something for the ages. The late 70's giving way to the 80's ages that is. As there's a lot of cans of hairspray and rollers between these comb-overs and perms giving some of Hollywood's best looking male and female, A-list pin-ups hairstyles as bad as this writers barnet (and yes the Bee Gee's are playing too, thank you). It's all part of the amazing aesthetic of this picture however from it's classic cars (an automobile extravaganza) to it's sublime soundtrack (from Zeppelin to Duke Ellington) that takes you back to the good old days when suits didn't fit you right and microwaves where the "science ovens" of the future. It's hustle plays like this that make Russell's latest gamble pay off. With the blockbuster Summer and fall season officially over in this New Year it's time for the more human Scorsese/DiCaprio 'Wolf Of Wall Street' type films to give more depth and darkness to the cold Winter and with some 'Casino' hallmarks here's another roll. From the safe suburbs of New Jersey to the blinding big city lights of New York City in it's defining decades this film is a rag to riches and all the way back again affair of money, sex and power all wrapped up in some of the most awful ties this side of your geography teachers wardrobe. If this and Batman and Hawkeye singing along to 'Delilah' by Tom Jones is your sort of bag then baby this is for you. As following the Oscar winning talents of 'The Fighter' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' Russell brings his third king to the Academy season pack with all his old friends on deck.

It doesn't matter if you're Ben Affleck, everybody wants to be Batman...and everybody wants Christian Bale in their movie, but boy has Bruce Wayne let himself go. After losing pounds and pounds of 'Machinist' style weight for 'The Fighter' and picking up Oscar gold in the process, Bale goes the opposite way of his fantastic fast and eats and eats like a 'Raging Bull' for this out of shape part that rounds out to some of the best (and probably gorging enjoyable) method-acting of his career complete with a hair-piece as well worked as his cons. The skinny on the man in the velvet suits and shaded, thick framed glasses is more than just the look of a 60's porn-star. It's one of a man still ahead of his time and crime with his sense in other peoples dollars. A veteran of this game with as much weary experience as wonderful skill this is Bale and his characters movie. No matter how many stars or wannabe hustlers try and outshine, he shines bright even if covered up by more hair and bifocals than 'Napoleon Dynamite'. Even with the depressing end of 'The Dark Knight' and some patterned baldness beneath that hung-up cowl it's great to have Bale back even if he does get his Jesus quotes classically confused. Strangely enough Batman needs his Lois Lane and fellow 'Fighter' co-star however as Mark Wahlberg's former boxing muse Amy Adams gives this film it's femme fatale in an amazing, at times accented Academy attracting performance. Quietly building herself quite the career filmography with last years biggest superhero film and now this one right out of the gates of 2014, fitting as perfectly as her old eighties dresses, this is a cocktail of style and substance that goes down smoother than Burgundy scotch. If anyone is keeping it classy here it's 'Anchorman' producer David O. The Ferrell season of mustaches, newsmen, Hobbit's and Cumberbatch's finally has some competition.

If that wasn't enough comic-book stars and friends of the director for you than we have more 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and 'X-Men' for you in this superhero age. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence made quite the Oscar nominated and winning team respectively for last years 'Silver Linings Playbook', where Russell took a classic book and turned the page on it and oft-ignored, put to the side problems of anxiety in society and turned it all into the sweetest love story. Now even with little screen time together arguably and with much nomination the sexiest man and woman in the world still look good between all the curling irons and cigarettes. We are yet to see just how 'Limitless' the talent of Bradley Cooper is from 'Hangover' to 'Wedding Crasher' douche bag comedies to the gold of a February reserved for the best of the best. Here with what looks like a bad fro and outfits only he could pull of today, Mr. GQ is more than just a cover boy. There's a lot of maddening conflict and slick overtones to a slimy under one on a cop that doesn't know if he's making it or faking it, let alone which side of the law he's on. It's an emotional ambivalence crafted in all it's anxieties and extremities perfectly by a man that showed us just how deep he cold take it with the silver linings of his last play book. Last year Cooper alongside fellow leading man of films and fan-girls Ryan Gosling gave us 2013's best film and performance in 'The Place Beyond The Pines', now with a similar feeling of rising to the top with an unsettling corruption the same may pay off here for the man of the moment. The only thing this actor is guilty of in real life however is playing conflicted characters with a DiCaprio depth over-looks conviction. Adding more sex and sass to all of this is Jennifer Lawrence, showing yet again that she has more behind those dominant 'Hunger Games' bow and arrows, 'X-Men' Mystique or even now her trophy room headed by this companies friend Oscar. At only 23 and able to look like shes married to Bale, this young actress has already done so much since 'The Winters Bone' early days beginnings. Most of all this recent Academy and attention activity is over a couple of years, give her decades and diverse films more and we may a young Streep on our hands with this streak.

Talk about people having a great couple of years and future if that wasn't enough we have an Avenger to Marvel at who is also taking over the 'Bourne' and 'Mission Impossible' franchises. The spies for the Academy Awards will have their eyes on their old pal from 'The Town' and 'The Hurt Locker' as Jeremy Renner puts on a big tie and an even bigger quiff as the do-good major of New Jersey. Possibly the only character here with a decent bone in his body, Renner is as real as he gets in some of his rawer films. Showing just how much range his Hawkeye bow has, he arrows another great role his Oscar marksman precision. He may just be the x-factor and the humanitarian-side saving grace of this picture as the odd one out with no previous experience with our director. On his own though he's leading the way and with his last couple of calenders filled up and crossed-out and 2015 looking to be re-Bourne with more franchise hits in the 'Age Of Ultron', Renner shows that even with all this and all them right now he's got it. The cheque-book extends for an even greater cast of characters from one of the best comedians going in Louis C.K., (his ice-fishing stories with Cooper and Bradley's own heckling of him make for this films stand-up moments) showing he has more behind the laughs to the ever hard-working and underrated Michael Pena showing he has more for his resume and the critics. There's also some classic gangsters off the Jersey 'Boardwalk Empire' and even more old friends and familiar faces from Russell's play book past including one classic cameo we would hate to ruin and love to have not had spoiled ourselves. That and it is just so right. All in all from some of the most taught tension to complex comedy this is a crime-caper of dark dramatic proportions that has real hustlers ambition. With a love triangle in an by-gone age now thought of that for squares it all shapes up and looks good even if  below all the style and swagger it doesn't feel so good for the characters. It's simply a woven tapestry of how we all like to con ourselves and others to hide the substance that lies beneath the style, no matter how peculiar, identifying or even better it actually is. With this theme matching the terrific tone it's clear to see there's much more behind Russell and his fighting stars silver linings than just a simple, punch for punch play book hustle. Some of this as they say at the start is true. This is America in all it's entrapping dream for better or fake. TIM DAVID HARVEY.