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'American Hustle'  3.5stars

Whatever the ratio of truth to fanciful invention, "American Hustle" is a thoroughly entertaining and zany trip back to the late 1970s.

Director David O. Russell reunites with actors who won Oscars or were nominated under his direction, notably Christian Bale and Amy Adams ("The Fighter"), Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper ("Silver Linings Playbook"), and brings Jeremy Renner into the fold.

Mr. Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld, a con man who has been playing fast and loose with the law since he was a boy who drummed up customers for his father's glass-replacement business by breaking windows. He eventually inherited that outfit, runs a chain of dry cleaners and adds dealing in stolen or forged artwork and bilking loan seekers to his portfolio.

He gains a partner and a mistress in onetime stripper Sydney Prosser (Ms. Adams), who pretends to be an Englishwoman with London banking connections. But she takes money from the wrong man and lands the pair in the clutches of ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Mr. Cooper, with permed hair).

"American Hustle" fictionalizes Abscam and uses it to explore larger questions and issues. Mr. Russell injects the story with comedy, tension, surprise and sympathy for the characters. It's exhilarating and energetic, and the acting is terrific across the board.

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.

Extras include a making-of featurette, deleted and extended scenes.

-- Post-Gazette

"Frozen"  3.5stars

"Frozen," featuring not one but two princesses, is reminiscent of "The Little Mermaid" thanks to songs performed by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell.

Very loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," the animated movie opens with young Elsa (voice of Ms. Menzel) turning the inside of the girls' palatial home into a winter wonderland. She has the magical ability to create snow and ice.

She adheres to their father's advice to "Conceal it, don't feel it" until she is forced into the spotlight for her coronation and unwittingly unleashes a torrent of ice and snow on the Norwegian-style kingdom. One guest brands her a monster.

After Elsa flees, Anna joins forces with a mountain man, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and his reindeer in an effort to track and find her.

The heroines are spunky and motivated, in different ways, by sisterly love although it's snowman Olaf with the voice of Carnegie Mellon University grad Josh Gad, who provides comic, scene-stealing relief.

"Frozen," directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, boasts a fresh backdrop, sense of adventure and bursts of humor.

Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. Extras include deleted scenes, Oscar-nominated animated short, "Get a Horse," and music videos.

-- Post-Gazette

"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" 3stars

"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" tracks the freedom fighter from herd boy in rural Transkei to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

London-born Idris Elba plays Mandela from roughly age 23 to 76. He seems more robust than Mandela in his later years but helps the illusion by copying the leader's famous accent and enunciation to uncanny effect. It's an ambitious amount of time, and the story sometimes suffers for it.

"Mandela," also featuring Naomie Harris from "Skyfall," hits the high points and tells us what, who and where events transpired but not always the why and how. It's a good introduction, dramatization or reminder of a long walk to freedom, but even at 141 minutes, it seems somewhat inadequate.

Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and disturbing images, sexual content and brief strong language.

-- Post-Gazette


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