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Loosely based on the life of entrepreneur Joy Mangano, David O. Russell’s Joy is a bit of a mess on the surface. It has such great ideas centered around a riveting main character, yet getting there is a bit sloppy. While the performances are riveting like always – we’d expect no less from Russell – the plot suffers from an over reliance on exposition. The result is a mixed bag of underdeveloped and overdeveloped emotions, but it’s nothing the Miracle Mop can’t clean up.

The structure of the film is as unorthodoxly ‘biopic’ as they come. While the film is technically based on the life of a real woman, the film is dedicated to the ‘true stories of daring women,’ Joy herself is an amalgamation of the creative spirit women like her possess. She’s a thinker, a dreamer, and the film makes that known to us since the beginning. The exposition and narration from Joy’s grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) helps ease us into her world and introduces us to her unpredictable family. But this is a misstep from Russell, breaking the “show, don’t tell” rule. It works in some ways, as Joy and Mimi are the only normal members of the clan, adding a unique perspective to the mix, but at other time it’s an overbearing device that doesn’t treat its audience like adults.

The beginning of Joy gets us acquainted with Joy and her family, including her two children, father Rudy (Robert DeNiro), mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), and sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm). They’re an interesting bunch, Russell is no stranger to these kinds of family dynamics, and the characters work well as foils for Joy. Joy’s a doer, always thinking and making things with her hands, but her dreams have been sidelined by her family. Her father Rudy’s new girlfriend Trudy, the effervescent Isabella Rossellini, helps Joy get her invention off the ground, and from here the film begins to gain traction.

Joy isn’t known as the “Miracle Mop” movie, as it’s neither a biopic nor a prestige drama. Joy’s invention is groundbreaking, to be sure, but the film isn’t interested in exploring angles related to product development or business strategy. It’s Joy’s film at its core – the supporting characters are mostly background noise – and the film gets most of its emotional mileage from the decisions she makes towards making her dream a reality at her personal and professional expense.

The film’s highlights take place at QVC, when Joy takes her product to executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and pitches it to the station. It’s here where the film really delivers, both thematically and creatively. The beautifully shot scenes of Joy presenting at QVC put Lawrence to the test, as she must lay it all on the line in such a vulnerable situation. She goes through an array of emotions so complex in this short time that it cements the Lawrence-Russell partnerships as one of the best in the business. The colors of the studio are contrasted with the brights of the kitchen set itself, and it sings.

From here until the finale, Joy settles back into its not-so-interesting role of a murky story about a woman of ideas. Most of the conflict revolves around problems with her manufacturer in Texas, another patent owner of a similar mop, and her family who keeps bailing her out of debt. If Joy had taken more risks thematically and relied less on small random bursts of plot development to keep up the pace, we could have been looking at something special. Joy is still a good film, but it could have been a great one. Inspiring performances (one of Lawrence’s best) and well-developed characters keep the film aloft, and Russell’s direction has never been better, but a murky script holds Joy back from being the hot item this Christmas.

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Posted by on December 26, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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American Hustle Review

American_Hustle_2013_posterAmerican Hustle is a lot of things. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It’s cool. It’s intimate. It’s thrilling. But most of all, it’s genius. Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) once again hits a home run, delivering a movie chock full of thrills, humor, and inventiveness. With a cast that includes such names as Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams, American Hustle serves up a fresh and fun dramedy, loosely based on the 1970s sting known as ABSCAM. It’s a fun and unique film that shouldn’t be passed up.

American Hustle stars Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time businessman turned con artist. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), and the two become business partners under a fake name, despite Irving’s marriage to Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence). The two are approached by Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent who fell for one of their scams. He is willing to offer them a free pass if he helps them arrest four notorious con artists. Thus begins American Hustle, as the characters are thrust into a city full of crime, parties, and politics. They do business with a wide variety of faces, from New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) to mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert DeNiro). As Di Maso draws them in, Rosenfeld’s relationship with Prosser as well as his wife turns out to be his biggest demon, turning the film into a dark personal drama.

American Hustle manages to tell both a complicated story, as well as a captivating one. At times I was a little confused as to what was happening, but O. Russell manages to make you feel smart and engaged in the film, all while answering your questions for you. He has been on quite a roll lately with hits, and American Hustle is just another brick in that wall of fame. Where Hustle really shines is its eccentric cast of characters, over saturated with 70s style and oozing with personality.

At center stage is Irving Rosenfeld. Christian Bale commands the role with the urgency it demands, and he gives one of his best performances to date. With his combover hair and his Atlantic accent, Rosenfeld is an unforgettable character. Amy Adams also shines as Sydney. She is cunning, sexy, and will do whatever it takes to make this deal. But the best female role goes to Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife. She has some of the best lines in the film, from her dealings with her son to her improper use of a microwave oven (“science oven,” she calls it). Lawrence is a bonafide actress, playing such a mature character at such a young age, and she is a frontrunner for another Academy Award. Bradley Cooper also delivers as Di Maso. He’s shady, but quite a presence on screen, as he tricks his way in and out of situations. With a memorable perm hairstyle, he’s hard to forget. A small supporting cast of Jeremy Renner as the mayor and Robert DeNiro as a mob boss help round out this goofy cast of characters in the gritty world of white-collar crime.

Where American Hustle really radiates is in its juxtaposition of the two genres, comedy and drama. While the Golden Globes classified it as “comedy,” American Hustle straddles the line quite equally. A deep personal drama between Rosenfeld and his wife is played up against some laugh out loud party scenes with Di Maso and Polito. It’s a tight balance that American Hustle plays well. These brief moments of comedy keep you interested in the plot while the drama plays out, allowing you to feel like an active participant in the film.

Everything in American Hustle is coated in that 1970s style, cool and groovy and stylish. The production value was off the charts, and everything from the set design to the ridiculous costumes to the outlandish hairstyles is just brimming with fashion. The soundtrack features such classics like “Live and Let Die,” and other ’70s hits, while the score fits the mood just nice.

American Hustle is a strange kind of masterpiece. Part comedy, part drama, but director David O. Russell puts it all together with his seal of quality, with a fantastic cast and an unforgettable story.

Overall: 4 stars out of 4

Buy American Hustle Today!

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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Joey’s Top 10 Movies of 2012

2012 is behind us now, and I’ve finally had a chance to see all the films that I’ve wanted to from last year. We’ve had quite a few gems and many big blockbusters last year, ranging from The Avengers to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and now I’m going to compile them into what I think were the top 10 movies from 2012.

10. 21 Jump Street

I’m not one for raunchy comedies like this, but something about 21 Jump Street caught me off guard. It had a lot of charm for an R-rated comedy, similar to Bridesmaids in 2011, and the leads (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) were great choices for a buddy comedy. It’s consistently funny, and, unlike Ted, doesn’t rely on stupid visual gags to work. It’s the best comedy of 2012, and a sequel is do out in a few years.

9. The Dark Knight Rises

I didn’t like The Dark Knight. Now that that is out of the way, Nolan’s finale to the epic Batman trilogy that spanned 7 years is a fitting and exciting conclusion. The new characters are excellent, especially Catwoman and Lieutenant Blake, and Christian Bale is back in top form. Bane didn’t have the same effect that The Joker did, mainly because hardly anything can top Heath Ledger, but he still was an exciting villain nonetheless. I never got confused, and the plot wasn’t contrived, unlike in The Dark Knight, where I had no idea what the hell was going on.

8. Wreck It Ralph

I love animated films, and Disney has had a few missteps after the great 90s Disney Renaissance. Thankfully, Wreck-It Ralph was not one of them. It’s a very funny, very smart animated film, with a lot of easter eggs for retro gamers who grew up with characters like these in arcades. The lesson in Wreck-It Ralph is great, and families will love it.

7. Lincoln

Lincoln was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Steven Spielberg has done an excellent job bringing our 16th president to life on the big screen. Lincoln teleports you back to the 1860s, when a crucial decision about slavery fell into the hands of our congressmen, and Spielberg brings this era to life. Great set pieces and beautiful costumes make you feel like you are there, and you get swept up in all of it. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Abraham Lincoln himself, and the supporting characters are also stellar.

6. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This one is a bit lesser-known, but everyone should see this film. Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley star as two offbeat pals who try to reunite Carell with the girl of his dreams, all while the apocalypse is among them. The end of the world backdrop provides an interesting narrative push, and there is a great sense of urgency, as you begin to know and love the two lead characters. It is funny in one scene and heart-wrenching in the next, and though the finale of the film is not unexpected, the ride was definitely worth it.

5. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s bloody, violent action film about a slave-turned bounty hunter is one of the reasons I love cinema. No where else can a story this well-told be presented, and Tarantino does it best. Jamie Foxx stars as Django and Christoph Waltz as his mentor in this salute to spaghetti westerns. It’s bloody, it’s funny, and it’s one hell of a good time. Leonardo DiCaprio provides us with one of the best and most interesting villains this year, and Django should definitely be seen by cinephiles and action movie lovers alike.

4. Moonrise Kingdom

I had not been exposed to any of Wes Anderson’s works prior to seeing Moonrise Kingdom. Initially, I didn’t know what to think. Anderson’s cinematography and presentation style is very different, and this one may seem a bit too offbeat for even the regular moviegoer. Two young lovers try to reunite in this fun adventure tale that is subtly funny and never lets up. It’s highly original, and should definitely win for Best Original Screenplay.

3. Silver Linings Playbook

If you’ve read my review, you know I’m crazy over Silver Linings Playbook. Bradley Cooper’s character is fresh out of a mental institution, and as he tries to re-connect with both his family and his ex-wife, he falls in love with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and together they have a spark of their own. Playbook is a crowd-pleaser, thanks to excellent performances by both Cooper and Lawrence, and also by Robert DeNiro as his father. The film is both wickedly funny and highly emotional, and it is one of the year’s best.

2. Skyfall

James Bond’s 23rd outing is a resurrection of sorts of the franchise. It introduces many new characters, such as the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw, and the new Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris. It is a love letter to even the oldest Bond fans, and includes many callbacks to past movies in the series, that will please old and new fans alike. The villain this time around is Silva, played with wit and vigor by Javier Bardem, and he is one of the most unique and memorable villains in years. The plot has many twist and turns, and the action scenes are some of the best in the genre.

1. Argo

Ben Affleck’s political thriller about the Iranian Hostage Crisis easily tops my list. It’s a tense, heart-pounding ride that surprisingly mixes humor with political drama. Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, who is tasked with smuggling six diplomats back to the U.S, all while under the cover of a movie crew. Like last year’s The Artist, Argo makes a movie about movies work. All politics aside, it is one of the best thrillers ever made, and Affleck should be commended for his work.

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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Other


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Silver Linings Playbook Review

Silver Linings Playbook blends comedy, drama, romance, and sports and turns this all into one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Based on the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings Playbook spins a web of emotions with its characters that we actually care for, with characters that we root for, which is something that isn’t seen a lot in movies these days.

Silver Linings PlaybookThe film stars Pat (Bradley Cooper), who has just been released from a mental ward after 8 months. He moves back in with his parents, and tries to reconcile with them, especially with his football-loving father, Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro). Pat learns that his wife, Nikki, has been cheating on him with a coworker at the high school they work at, and he desperately tries to reconnect with her despite a restraining order put upon him by her. While at dinner at a friend’s house, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widowed girl with problems all her own. Through Tiffany, Pat tries to communicate with Nikki, all while maintaining a good relationship with his parents, and he and Tiffany soon become more than friends, as Pat has to make a decision and choose between Tiffany or his father.

Silver Linings Playbook is really a character-driven story. Pat is the underdog, and we want to root for him early on. His relationship with his father and mother is complicated, and can really hit home for some viewers. It’s relatable characters and dilemmas like these that really make Silver Linings Playbook shine. When Pat meets Tiffany, he has tough decisions to make, and the believable characters help make these decisions more than black and white. The film’s message is a good one, but I’ll leave it to you to see it and figure it out.

This wouldn’t be possible without the excellent efforts of the actors, starting with Bradley Cooper. I was never the biggest fan, and I always thought Cooper’s place was in raunchy comedies like The Hangover, but I was completely turned by his acting in this movie. He brings Pat to life, giving the best performance of his career by far. Not to be outdone is Jennifer Lawrence, who has had quite the year with her box office slam The Hunger Games. She plays Tiffany with an aura of confidence and self-esteem, and when Tiffany and Pat first meet, it’s hard not to notice the chemistry. She is definitely a front-runner for best actress this Oscar season. Robert DeNiro has a smaller role as Pat’s father, and his bookmaking lifestyle really fits what DeNiro has done in the past. Many supporting characters bring this film to life, such as Chris Tucker as a fellow mental patient, Jacki Weaver as Pat’s loving mother, and John Ortiz as Pat’s good friend.

Silver Linings Playbook tells an excellent story, with characters with conviction and drive, all being pulled by an excellent cast and excellent supporting roles. It’s funny, sad, and balances these two emotions well, never tipping over one side of the spectrum. This is definitely one to watch when Oscar season comes.

Overall: 5 stars out of 5

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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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