January 11th, 2016 — 6:31pm
This is movie is based on the real life of Joy Mangano who went from “rags to riches” as an inventor and entrepreneur who sells her products on the television shopping networks. Jennifer Lawrence carries this movie with an outstanding performance, as she shows a wide range of emotion and understanding of her character.
We meet Joy, a young struggling mother with a dysfunctional family who invents a mop with great features. She cobbles together the resources to make a model of it and convinces shopping network executive, Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) to consider this product to be pitched on live TV. She has to borrow money and mortgage her home to have the funds to make the inventory needed to be available. There are exciting moments about impending success but some behind-the-scenes patent and manufacturing shenanigans make it seem like bankruptcy is looming and Joy has to decide whether to give up her dream.
We have not really spoiled the film for you because it is much more than this brief outline of the plot. The essence of this story is not about the outcome because this is known since it is touted as a true story. The reason that this movie will resonate with many viewers is because it shows how important childhood relationships can make a big difference in a person’s life. We see early on in the film the dysfunctional family environment, in which Joy is living. She struggles to make ends meet working during the day as an airline reservations clerk, and then moonlights helping out with the business books for her father’s (Robert Di Niro) auto parts business. She lives with her divorced mother (Virginia Madsen) who sits around all day watching soap operas. Her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez) is a second rate singer who lives in the basement of her small house practicing his music most of the time. Along comes her father who just broke up with a girlfriend and needs a place to live, so he moves into the basement with her ex-husband. The father has a new girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) who has her own place but mainly hangs around in Joy’s house also. There is her young daughter, Christie (played by Aundrea and Gia Gadsby) who seems to idolize Joy. One more person lives in the house and that is the grandmother (Diane Ladd) who is actually the narrator for a good part of the film.
Director/writer, David O. Russell (known for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) along with screenwriter, Annie Mumolo (who wrote Bridesmaids and contributed to the TV series, Modern Family and Transparent) have chosen to tell the story of this determined self-made woman. But in our opinion the real story which is shown here is how Joy was molded by her grandmother who encouraged her to believe in her own creativity as a small girl. The voice of the grandmother as the narrator is the voice in Joy’s head, which allowed her to have the confidence to persist in her goals. There is also a similar identification being acted out by the next generation in the person of her daughter, Christie. We frequently see Christie’s eyes glued to her mother’s face as her mother struggles with her challenges. In one scene when Joy is desperately trying to interest people in her mop by doing a demonstration in the supermarket parking lot, we see the daughter doing the same thing in the background with a toy mop. It is the transmission of confidence to young children from a loved cherished figure that can make all the difference in the world. This can supersede poverty and hardships and lead to success in so many aspects of life. We believe that this is the underlying emotional message of this very fine movie. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama
January 31st, 2015 — 10:57pm
American Sniper –rm After being shut out at the box office last week because it was sold out we finally got in to see this film. It has already grossed over 217 million dollars (so they really didn’t need our money) on a budget of 59 million dollars to make it. The film has been nominated for an Oscar as best picture and Bradley Cooper as best actor as well as receiving nominations for sound, sound editing and best adapted screenplay by Jason Hall. (It was adapted from the book by the sniper himself Chris Kyle) It is directed by Clint Eastwood. We tend to side with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who decided that this film didn’t make the grade for any Golden Globe Awards. In our opinion we just didn’t make any emotional connection with the character as depicted in the movie. Yes, we were genuinely touched at the end of the film when there were actual movie clips of the funeral tributes to this war hero who died as a civilian in 2013. (Sorry about the spoiler but you probably knew this already and it won’t take away from the movie). He had an unusual skill with a long range rifle and he cared about his buddies. Chris Kyle had more than 160 “kills” which is the most by far in the history of the United States military. He volunteered for extra tours of duty (actually having 4 tours and he had over 1000 days in a combat zone) despite the pleading of his wife (played by Sienna Miller) that she and their children needed him. He could have spent more time at home training other soldiers. Perhaps the writers and filmmakers try too hard to stick to the exact story presented to them and don’t use the poetic license that a good fictional drama can explore when they develop a character. It was interesting to us that we felt the same way about the movie Unbroken (see our review) which was another recent movie about a real life war hero which stayed close to the facts without very much depth.. It also didn’t move us although our admiration for the man especially as shown in the book was tremendous. Compare this to what we think is one of the greatest war films to come out in a long time, The Hurt Locker (see our review). This was fictional drama perhaps based on real events, but the main character is a composite. In our opinion this allowed the writers and director to explore subtle themes and find ways of bringing about an emotional attachment with the audience. In the the American Sniper, as in most war movies today, the combat scenes were very realistic. The sound was fantastic (does deserve the potential Oscar acclaim ) and the music with a lot of drums and included one composition credited to “the man of all seasons,” the director Clint Eastwood, was quite effective. There were the requisite expensive special effects, which likely made it just like it would really be if we were there. Sometimes all the smoke made it hard to see who was shooting who and we couldn’t tell the bad guys from the good guys but maybe that is the way it is in some combat situations. But without a strong connection to the main character we can’t put this film near the top of our list. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Thriller, War
December 22nd, 2013 — 11:29pm
American Hustle- rm The opening words on the screen states something like “Some of this actually happened”. This refers to what is known as the Abscam Scandal, which occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the FBI ran a sting operation where several members of the House of Representatives and a US Senator were offered bribes from a fake Arab sheikh. Most of the story in this movie probably didn’t actually happen but it is somewhat entertaining, has very good acting, but is arguably overdone. The wide span that the title suggests is quite fitting because just about all the characters are hustling each other in some manner. We initially meet Irving Rosenfeld (played by a slightly overweight balding Christian Bale with a glued on comb over) who is a con man who owns a bunch of dry cleaning stores and runs a scheme where he extracts a non refundable fee of about $5000 from people looking for a deal by promising to put them in touch with a way to make several times that amount of money but the deals never materialize. He also sells phony art to people eager to own what they think are originals. He meets his match in a young woman with a moniker of Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who assumes the persona of a sexy British aristocrat. Although she was a down and out American girl, she wins him over and they become a team. They were “busted” by an eager FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), who then enlisted them in running scams to catch bigger fish, in order to save their own skins. The plot thickens and the other characters complicate the situation including Rosenfeld’s unhappy sexy wife (Jennifer Lawrence), Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Remmer), a really good honest caring person who truly wants rebuild Atlantic City but gets ensnarled in the sting and there is Victor Tellegio (Robert di Niro) the most feared gangster who when he kills, he never hides the body in order to intimidate everyone else. Everybody is conning everyone else. The FBI is carrying on like a bunch of keystone cops fighting among each other. The maestro here was the director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) who co-wrote the script with Eric Singer. Yes, there were unexpected twists and turns. However, the characters and situations didn’t seem very real to us and we didn’t really care about most of them. The comedy and action may have held our attention most of the time but in the end we felt that we were hustled. (2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime
November 16th, 2012 — 3:29am
Silver Linings Playbook-sp
We are always sensitive when there is humor presented at the expense of people with mental illness. This is what seemed to be the case when at the beginning of the film we meet Pat (Bradley Cooper ) who is about to be released from a mental hospital. He is being picked up by his mom ( Jacki Weaver ) and we see that he has Bipolar Disorder , flies off the handle very easily and fools the nurse into thinking that takes his medication when he really cheeks it and throws it away. The humor continues as we meet his father, Pat Sr. (Robert DiNiro) who has an obsessive disorder and is a superstitious gambler who always bets on the Philadelphia Eagles. From finding ourselves unhappy that we are laughing at these dysfunctional characters, we then become aware of the great pain that they are suffering which early on shows in the sensitive performances of Weaver and DeNiro. The storyline then reveals the circumstances of Pat Jr’s hospitalization and his trauma in regard to his wife’s behavior. Bradley ‘s performance is tremendous as he plays mentally disturbed , determined and very smart. However the real stand out and maybe even Oscar performance is by Jennifer Lawrence who plays Tiffany a beautiful. dysfunctional , quirky , vulnerable and very intense woman. She is recently widowed, who becomes entwined with Pat as he is trying find a way to recapture his wife. The photography, mostly single camera fast moving as is the directing by David O. Russell, the editing by Jay Cassidy and the music by Danny Elfman which includes Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis at the appropriate times with a little “ dancing with the stars” thrown in. In the end what makes this movie a winner is that it is a real love story, complete with sentimentality all around ( think Frank Capra and It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas lights and all . (2012)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
September 19th, 2012 — 6:14am
You probably know about the controversy over whether Shakespeare wrote the well known works attributed to him Well imagine for a minute that William Shakespeare was a very good writer but couldn’t really get his first play published. For the sake of this argument, let us imagine that a man by the name of William Stanley writes just one story which is a great masterpiece but he loses the manuscript. Shakespeare, somehow found the manuscript and it is accepted for publication in his name. He then gets great acclaim and everyone wanted more writings. Since in fact he really was a good writer he produces a lot more stuff which is received very well although he didn’t write the first piece. In our imaginative story, Shakespeare goes on to fame and fortune and Stanley the writer of the first great piece, that opened the door for Shakespeare lives a mediocre life. The movie we are reviewing has nothing to do with Shakespeare or Stanley but the above situation is the essence of the fascinating plot of this movie.
Bradley Cooper plays Rory Jansen, a struggling young writer, who gets great praise by a literary agent for his first novel but he is told it isn’t really publishable. Dora (Zoe Saldena) is his girl friend who stands behind him and believes he will some day make it. Dennis Quaid plays the same writer at an older age maybe 10-15 years after he finally came up with that first great novel which set him on the path as a great writer. He is now on tour with his second or third novel. Jeremy Irons plays an old man who we see reaching out to this successful writer and confronting him with some very true but bad news for him about who really wrote his first novel. Nora Amerzaler plays the girl friend of the old man when he was a young man. They had a wonderful romance in France after the War which went on the rocks when she lost his novel in a briefcase on a train when coming to visit him.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is really a story within a story. It presents the audience with the ethical dilemma of what one should do if one had chosen to publish a found manuscript in your own name and then found out who really wrote it. What would the consequences be to you, your agent, your publisher and others if you came clean with what you did years ago when you lied. What should you do now, especially if the original author isn’t demanding that you acknowledge him?
If everything seems somewhat convoluted now , it is because it really is. The screen writers and co-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal deserve to be applauded for this complex but feasible story. The execution of the film was difficult. While ambiguity is thought provoking, the film could have a been little clearer as it rolled out it’s complex story but in the end the film worked and we walked out of the theatre stimulated to have a lively discussion about it which lingers on in our thoughts .
The film does raise a burning question and that is whether the screen play was inspired by real events? In the film, the manuscript was found in store where it somehow was noted that Hemmingway had some connection. There are stories of this great writer having stored some unpublished manuscripts that have never been discovered. Perhaps they have been found and published in the finder’s name. Or maybe this script is based on a true event about some movie idea or TV show that was credited to someone who found the idea in a “cookie jar” or overheard someone discussing it at a party. In any case it is a thought provoking plot and a good film.
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance
March 21st, 2011 — 7:00am
Limitless- rm We saw this movie in a mutiplex that shows Coming Attractions which they think will have special appeal to the audience that has chosen to see the main feature that is playing in that particular theatre. Therefore we should have been alerted to the genre of this movie when the three Coming Attractions all showed people getting beaten up, bad guys being chased and one memorable clip where the police are getting ready to track down the criminals and one of them says they are dangerous, have lots of guns and whatever you do, don’t let them get into cars ( followed by many car crashes ). Now our main feature started off on a very interesting note as the main protagonist, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is shown as a writer with writer’s block who meets his ex-wife’s brother-in law in the street who just happens to have a top secret drug which when taken will free up the 80% of a person’s brain power that they never really use. When Eddie takes his first pill he not only is able to quickly write a great book much to the surprise of his agent but he also finds that he has perfect recall of anything he has ever seen, amazing powers of deduction and therefore the skills to do just about any thing he wants to do. Taking these pills on a regular basis of course give him the ability to seduce women, make money in the financial markets and figure out ways of defeating people who might be trying to hurt him. Not surprisingly there are people who are trying to hurt him, get the pills and use the powers. There is the requisite bad guy with the Russian accent (Andrew Howard) and an on again-off again girl friend (Abbie Cornish) who one time has to take a pill to thwart someone about to kill her, using her temporary boost in brain power to reverse the tables on him. There is also Carl van Loon (Robert De Niro) a Warren Buffet type character who wants to use Morra to make even more money. This relatively small role of the wise old man character seems to be a reprise of some recent DeNiro castings and is not worthy of his great talent. We will grant that a good part of this movie was entertaining and held our interest but it was not satisfying. Credit should be given to director Neil Burger and his team as they skillfully showed us in flashes the images of the fleeting memories that were now being recaptured after taking the pill and were being used for some great intellectual or physical feat. Some of these special powers may have been communicated to the audience as the ending of the film gave us the feeling that they may might be setting us up for a sequel, after all the potential of this theme is Limitless.(2011)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Action, Drama
September 8th, 2010 — 8:10am
The Hangover – nf – We know that this movie won a Golden Globe for the Best Comedy. We also know that young people ( probably mostly guys ) about to get married or those who just got married find this film really cool and quite funny. We even laughed and thought some parts were quite creative and amusing! However we can’t really recommend that you spend 96 minutes with this movie unless of course you just want to chill out and fantasize a bachelor party – out on the town in Las Vegas! The premise here is that 4 guys from LA take a car ride to Vegas because one of them is getting married in a few days. They get wasted and drugged. When three of them wake up in their hotel suite they can’t remember what happened the previous night, find a tiger and a baby in the room but the groom to be is missing. And that is not the half of it. !! The three guys ( Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper) bounce all over Las Vegas trying to find their buddy and they end up finding out a couple of other things that they have no idea had happened to them while they were whacked out of their minds.. Maybe at least one of the characters discovers something worthwhile about himself that he didn’t realize before. Unless this storyline is really up your alley, we suggest that you pass on it. 2009
Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Crime
November 7th, 2009 — 2:22am
He’s Just Not That In To You – rm – We decided to watch this movie on a recent NY-LA flight. We thought that this film with Jenifer Anisten, Ben Afflick, Drew Barrymore, Scarlet Johannson and Kevin Conolly (from Entourage) might be a light movie that would fit the bill. After seeing it, we didn’t quite agree on how to score it so we averaged or our ratings. Susan thought it was a fluffy but enjoyable movie which depicted well contemporary dating relationships of young people but in a humorous fashion, Michael thought it was a unimaginative film which wasn’t worth the time even on a boring plane trip (He should have stayed with his book). It did demonstrate how cell phone, texting, email, Facebook and MySpace (they seem to have left out Twitter) all are a crucial part of the singles scene. Maybe, Michael took it a little too seriously, but he also thought it was demeaning to women. We hope this analysis doesn’t peak your curiosity to see it. 2009
Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance