Everybody’s Hustling Hustling American Style

American Hustle - Cast

Some of this actually happened.  In 1978.

Irving Rosenfeld (an overweight and badly combed-over Christian Bale in total method mode) is a con man with a heart of gold from the Bronx.  He got into the con game as a kid as a way to help his dad’s glass business by breaking windows to drum up customers (awww).  He runs a series of dry cleaners while selling fraudulent knock-off art and running loan schemes.  He fell hard for a young passive aggressive sassy lass named Rosalyn (a delightfully scenery-chewing Jennifer Lawrence with full-on Long Island accent and big hair), married her and adopted her cute baseball card loving little boy (double awww).   But Irving can never show his true self and feels trapped emotionally and financially to his overbearing wife who uses the kid as collateral against Irving jetting off to fantasy land with his new red-headed saucy mistress, Sydney (a never sexier Amy Adams).  You see, Sydney is like Irving’s soul mate or something, a woman who reinvents herself to survive and is now his fully fledged partner in crime posing as a British Lady with banking ties to take the loan schemes to the next level.  This set-up is presented to the audience in crisscrossing voice-overs full of lies, back-handed insults and memoir-esque longing between Irving and Sydney, whose beautiful dry cleaning chemical soaked romance comes to a screeching halt when curly-haired hot-shot FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, hilariously pent-up) entraps them.

And then the fun starts.  To get immunity, our lovers are forced to bring in more marks for take down to the feds.  And what starts out as “just take down four more guys” explodes with DiMaso’s wacky ambitions and crooked nice-guy Camden Mayor Carmine Polito’s (Jeremy Renner, doing a great South Jersey Italian accent) connections into…you guessed it!  ABSCAM! Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Farewell Daddy Blues

Boardwalk Empire - Jack Huston Farewell

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Farewell Daddy Blues

Season Four: Episode Twelve (Season Finale)

Directed by: Tim Van Patten

Written by: Terence Winter and Howard Korder

The Spin: The title of the fourth season finale may have been “Farewell Daddy Blues” (and Daughter Maitland blesses us with down-and-out moody blues over the signature closing montage) but “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” could’ve easily been an alternate title.  If the penultimate episode was a prime example of tight focus on just a few characters, the finale proved how effortlessly Winter and Korder are able to pack so much into a single hour, and how unpredictable their Empire can be.  This hour was a doozy.

Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Marriage and Hunting

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Marriage and Hunting

Season Four: Episode Nine

Directed by: Ed Bianchi

Written by: David Matthews, Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner

The Spin:  With the help of Roy (Ron Livingston) acting as her lover and confidant, Gillian (Gretchen Mol) has cleaned herself in her attempt to win the Tommy custody battle, but a shady phone call hints at Roy not being so forthcoming.  Meanwhile, Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) suspects her father’s terminal illness and gets married to Harrow (John Huston), who now comes crawling back to Nucky looking for steady work to support his family.

In other marital news, Muller (Michael Shannon) gets tired of being berated by his wife and bullied by Capone and regains some of his old Van Alden bad-assery.  Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: The North Star

Boarwalk Empire - Patricia Arquette

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – The North Star

Season Four: Episode Six

Directed by: Allen Coulter

Written by: Howard Korder and Eric Overmyer

The Spin:  Symbolically characters in tonight’s episode were searching for their “north star” which often came in the form of women and families.   Eli (Shea Whigham) wondered how Eddie could take his life like that, leaving children behind, while that crafty double agent Fed insinuated his way into the lesser Thompson’s confidence.  Harrow (Jack Huston) made his way back to Atlantic City to find the elder Sargorsky diagnosed with cirossis and Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) making a sincere plea that she can’t raise little Tommy (now obsessed with star-gazing and mapping his way home) alone.  Then there’s Chalky (Michael K. Williams) falling under the spell of Narcisse’s songstress, who gives a mesmerizing performance of “St. Louis Blues” at the Onyx Club.

Before venturing off down south, Nucky, seemingly directionless without Eddie, stopped in New York to deliver a belated birthday present and the personal news of Eddie’s demise to Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) in a sad attempt to weasel his way back into her life.

Meanwhile, down in Tampa, things are getting soupier than a hopped-up alligator wrestling match. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Acres of Diamonds

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Promo1

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Acres of Diamonds

Season Four: Episode Three

Directed by: Allen Coulter

Written by: Terence Winter

The Spin:  Series creator Terence Winter takes the reign and finally puts up the first episode this season worth talking about.  Wisely he chooses to ignore the Midwest shenanigans of Muller the dope and Capone the cliché, and somehow even manages to make the otherwise dull-as-dishwater plotline involving Eli’s son at Temple worth watching.

But what was really interesting was the display of ladies tonight: a pawn, a lost soul, a hero, and a Sally saucy as all get out.

After getting into the heroin business with Rothstein, the increasingly crafty Narcisse (the incomparable Jeffrey Wright) uses a beautiful jazz chanteuse as bait to make it seem like he’s smoothing things over with Chalky (Michael K. Williams).  Little does Chalky know, Narcisse is about to turn his man Dunn against him.

Then we have our gal Gillian (the ever-fetching Gretchen Mol) gettin’ all domestic-like with the Office Space/Piggly Wiggly guy (Ron Livingston) only to have Jimmy’s murdered doppelgänger’s friend approach her at the soda shop leading her to shoot up just when things were starting to look rosy. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Resignation

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Promo3

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – Resignation

Season Four: Episode Two

Directed by: Alik Sakharov

Written by: Terence Winter, Howard Korder, Dennis Lehane

The Spin:  Jeffrey Wright makes a compelling appearance as new series regular Dr. Valentin Narcisse, the man behind the talent loaned out to Chalky’s Onyx Club, who exploits the mess Chalky’s man, Dunn, made last week to insinuate himself into Nucky’s world and get a piece of Chalky’s pie.   Though Narcisse is certainly intriguing, the writers are starting to spin their wheels with Chalky who is caught in a continuous spiral to no development where he’s trying to be a “king” only to ruled a “servant” by those around him.

The Muller formerly known as Van Alden is sent by O’Banion to spy on Capone and make sure he’s staying in Cicero and not coming back to Chicago.  Capone, though suspicious, is happy to use Muller in some voter intimidation, where Muller gets clubbed in the head, which makes one wonder is it the blows to the head that are making the Muller character dumb and dumber or is it lazy writing? Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: New York Sour (Season Four Premiere)

Thank god for Harrow.

Thank god for Harrow.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – New York Sour

Season Four: Episode One

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter, Howard Korder

The Spin:  The theme of the evening was deception: people pretending to be what they are not, or pretending to work the system better than the next person, when in fact they’re setting themselves up for their own comeuppance.

It’s the dead of winter, 1924, and Nucky is making peace with Masseria and Rothstein when Eddie Cantor introduces him to the next pretty gal, who turns out to be no Billie Kent, at Chalky’s hot new Onyx club.  Meanwhile, Gillian is embroiled in a custody battle with the Sagorskys over Tommy and pretending to sell her now empty manor when in fact she’s selling herself all doped up.  Back in Cicero, Al Capone is busy making a name for himself.

This curiously disjointed season premiere spent far too much time on a brutish subplot involving Chalky’s right-hand man getting into quite a mess with a sleazy talent agent and his slinky, kinky wife, though that wasn’t the worst of things tonight.  There was also a painfully dull cliché of a plotline involving Eli’s eldest college-age son mawkishly wanting to learn “the family business.”

I was ready to give up on the sour hour if it weren’t for the as-yet-to-be-explained cross country-killing spree of last year’s best character – Harrow – as he made his way in the last scene (SPOILER ALERT)…home…and to his estranged sister. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Margate Sands

Boardwalk Empire 3.12

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Margate Sands

Season Three: Episode Twelve (Season Finale)

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Terence Winter & Howard Korder

The Spin:  Well, the third season went off in grand style with a suspense and violence-riddled hour mixed with quiet manly heartbreak as the brains of the show –  Nucky (Steve Buscemi) –  and the heart of the show –  Harrow (Jack Huston) – closed off their story arcs in classic style.  Van Patten opened with another signature montage detailing the war on the streets of Atlantic City between Rosetti’s gang and Nucky’s thugs-for-hire that the whole season has been building to.  Meanwhile the mechanization of the plot became more twisted than a flapper’s dress in a cyclone, and to try to recap who double-crossed who would leave me with mental whiplash.  Suffice it to say, Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) appeared to be holding all the cards, until at the very last-minute… Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: A Man, A Plan…

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – A Man, A Plan…

Season Three: Episode Ten

Directed by:  Jeremy Podeswa

Written by:  David Flebotte

The Spin:  A man a plan a canal panamA…frontwards or backwards…the fate of those on the boardwalk is the same.  Not a single plan went down as planned…from Means’ double-dipping hit-turned-suicide (with Stephen Root giving a delicious performance), to Nucky’s attempt on Masseria (Ivo Nandi) involving Owen (Charlie Cox), to Owen’s own plot to flee to St. Louis with Margaret (Kelly Macdonald).  NOTHING went right.  No matter who the man or what the plan, in this world, people’s fates are sealed by the beds they’ve made and now have to lie in with the evil beside them.  In the shadows,  Gyp (Bobby Cannavale) was Gyp (and continues to find creative ways to kill those who offend him), the Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon) saw his decent into private Norwegian bootlegging lead to a brush-up with Al Capone (Stephen Graham), and Chalky (Michael K. Williams) gets rebuffed for trying to open a new club.  Women’s rights and minority rights mean nothing when bottles of (symbolic) poison wash up on the pristine shores turning everyone into smiling or hysteric drunks.  Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: The Milkmaid’s Lot

Masseria and Gyp…a not so happy couple?

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – The Milkmaid’s Lot

Season Three: Episode Nine

Directed by:  Ed Bianchi

Written by:  Rolin Jones

The Spin:  Reeling from a serious concussion, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) has a hard time dealing with the loss of Billie while trying to rally his allies to prepare for war against Joe Masseria (Ivo Nandi) and Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale) who have literally bought Tabor Heights.  In the midst of the confusion and growing threat, Owen (Charlie Cox) makes a bold proposition asking Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) to go away with him…far away…from all of this.  Meanwhile at the House of Darmody, living in a den of whores is starting to take its emotional toll on little Tommy, leaving Gillian (Gretchen Mol) to scold Harrow (Jack Huston) as he tries to have a life of his own and romance Miss Sagorsky instead of watching after the boy.  Harrow knows, though, that what the boy needs is a proper home…but can he provide it?  After a final pep talk from Margaret in her last-ditch effort to see if this “life” is worth the trouble, Nucky confronts his allies only to learn that Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) has convinced the group that being in business with Nucky certainly isn’t worth the trouble.  And so the Nuckster is left standing alone. Continue reading