Saturday, December 26, 2015

Released December 25th, 2015
2 hr 4 mins
Rated PG-13
Comedy, Drama


Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell

Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano
Isabella Crovetti-Cramp as young Joy
Robert De Niro as Rudy Mangano
Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker
Édgar Ramírez as Tony Miranda
Diane Ladd as Mimi
Virginia Madsen as Terry Mangano
Isabella Rossellini as Trudy
Elisabeth Röhm as Peggy Mangano
Madison Wolfe as young Peggy
Dascha Polanco as Jackie
Emily Nunez as young Jackie
Melissa Rivers as Joan Rivers
Donna Mills as Priscilla
Susan Lucci as Danica
Maurice Benard as Jared
Laura Wright as Clarinda
Alexander Cook as Bartholomew
Jimmy Jean-Louis as Touissant
Drena De Niro as Cindy

Review by Mister Goodfella's Reviews

David O Russel is back and brings us some holiday cheer in a nice follow up to his last film "American Hustle". "Joy" is by far one of my least favorite David O Russel films however when you boil it down to the last few fantastic film Russel has made, it's his "Jackie Brown".  What I mean by my previous statement is that this film is fantastic, but in terms of a good follow up or even in terms of showing style "Joy" plays it safe. Aside from the pressure of following up well behind two other academy award nominated films, "Joy" does thrill you with a very courageous story that sell leaves us wondering how Russel is capable of elevating these topics. I felt as though "Joy" had more of a blander style and story than what I'm used to from David O Russel however, the performance given by Jennifer Lawrence really carries this film. 

    "Joy" is the story of a woman's fall and rise to success in a family created business across four generations. Jennifer Lawrence reprises yet again in David O Russell’s latest work, leading an ensemble cast consisting of more Russell regulars like Robert Deniro, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Edgar Ramirez, and Isabella Rossellini. I've always been fond of Jennifer Lawrence's acting range and always knew from the moment I saw her emerge in Debra Granik 's "Winters Bone", she had huge potential. Many don't agree that Jennifer deserved her "Oscar" for David O Russell’s previous film "Silver Linings Playbook", however its not just her performance in the film but rather how she embodies her character onscreen so much so we can't remember who the real Jennifer Lawrence is. "Joy" is definitely another role in which Jennifer Lawrence once again proves that she can embody even the most random characters and make them shine like diamonds. 

     Within the first 10 minute of "Joy" I knew that this wasn't going to be told generically, instead we feel as though we are watching the most dysfunctional family in America onscreen. Virginia Madsen gave a great transformative performance although her screen time was very short, but the chemistry between a mother in fear of the outside world and her over worked daughter feels so natural thanks to her. As we watch "Joy" we wonder how a family like this doesn't go nuts and kill each other or better yet how Joy herself doesn't just jump in front of traffic, but it's the teamwork of all cast members who make "Joy" bearable to watch. I admit going into this film I had heard very mixed things, people either walked away very happy or not happy at all but fortunately I had the pleasure of leaving happy. David O Russell made a serious comeback to filmmaking a few years back with his phenomenal film "The Fighter", and he only continues to tell us with his films that he has something to say. 

    I've always perceive film making as an art and when you step back with each directors filmography and dissect their films, they either all embody a specific way that person sees the world or you're just watching a brilliant person that just wanted to make a movie.  Russell in this case is a director who sees the world of today as if it had a backdrop of the 70's and 80's. Russell makes "Joy" as flashy as he thought it needed to be with very moderate costume designs and sets.  However for me he could have went further. As previously stated "Joy" is one of Russell’s tamest stories yet, and for me the screenplay just wasn't as strong as it needed to be. You examine David O Russell’s other work and screenplay's and you see he doesn't hold back, but for some reason the story of "Joy" maybe didn't blend with his style. It was very refreshing to see Isabella Rossellini onscreen as well, delivering some powerful lines and granting her character a title of "Short And Sweet". 

    The style in directing was very tame and I wouldn't be so quick as to call this "American Hustle 2". The angles and cinematography again just play it safe but for some reason I still can't help but love "Joy". There’s some charm that stays with you after watching "Joy" that I don't feel as often after seeing a biography drama. I'm usually left with a very dark tone or a tone that I have to just run with because the film is trying to stay factual to the actual events. All in all I recommend "Joy" to be a great way to spend 2 hours though don't be surprised if you come out unsettled, you'll either adore David O Russell’s "Joy" or you'll just walk away.

Rating: 3 Out Of 4

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Hateful Eight
Releases December 25, 2015
3 hr 7 mins
Rated R
Action, Adventure


Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren
Kurt Russell as John Ruth
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue
Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix
Demián Bichir as Bob
Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray
Michael Madsen as Joe Gage
Bruce Dern as General Sanford "Sandy" Smithers
James Parks as O. B. Jackson
Dana Gourrier as Minnie Mink
Zoë Bell as Six-Horse Judy
Lee Horsley as Ed
Gene Jones as Sweet Dave
Keith Jefferson as Charlie
Craig Stark as Chester Smithers
Belinda Owino as Gemma

Channing Tatum as Jody

Review by Mister Goodfella's Reviews

Quentin Tarantino returns to the screen in glorious 70mm Panavision to bring you his true western masterpiece "The Hateful Eight." Quentin Tarantino is by far my favorite filmmaker and one of the greatest to ever live.  Having said that "The Hateful Eight" is his true western installment separating itself from his previous western "Django Unchained". For months I've heard people protest the fact that Quentin decided to take on another western instead of going his usual way and switching up his genre, and now I'm seeing people who protested feel horrible because they underestimated what another Tarantino western would be like. Admittingly I was disappointed when I first learned the news about another western, but then when I heard what Quentin wanted to do with that genre in order to blend his style in I immediately got on board. "The Hateful Eight" in my opinion insists "Reservoir Dogs" married "Django Unchained" and had been sheltered in a Sergio Leone household. 

    The simplicity of this idea was just enough to let Quentin really take hold of his dream of making a real western, by surrounding his stylish techniques with grand and glorious shots of western wildlife and landscape. The plot of this grand western follows bounty hunters, a sheriff, a hangman, a prisoner and a drifter all brought together to take shelter from a blizzard however one of them is not who they appear to be. The plot takes so much inspiration from Quentin's first feature film "Reservoir Dogs" which follows a group of thieves who take shelter in an abandoned warehouse to take shelter from law enforcement after a daring heist. This inspiration felt unique all over again to me due to the fact that it’s a story I felt I’ve seen before but it takes place in a time I’ve never lived in before so it’s already an intriguing adventure to take. This film features an ensemble cast consisting of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, Demian Bichir and also features some Tarantino regulars such as Kurt Russel, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. 

    This is the best cast performance I’ve seen this year, with performances that feel completely natural and that complement each other. Jennifer Jason Leigh as well as Kurt Russel gave phenomenal performances in particular that wouldn’t surprise me if “Oscar” nominations or wins were to follow. The other grand feature that "The Hateful Eight" has over any other film releasing this year or any other Tarantino film that's released is that this film was shot on 70mm Panavision film. The Panavision 70mm showcase is one that's rarely ever used but was used in this case to inspire other filmmakers to release their films this way. Film as we've known for a long time now is dying, being torn apart by digital projection. Most viewers in this generation don't understand the difference in 35mm, 70mm or digital but true film followers can tell right off the bat. 

    There's a gritty timeless illusion that's created by film grain and just the overall experience of seeing a film in Panavision, which I would call the old school "IMAX". Panavision 70mm makes you feel as if you were in "The Hateful Eight" and in spite of the grand format there is also a homage to westerns of the old days by using an "Overture" at the beginning of the film and a 12 minute "Intermission" halfway through the film. Ever since seeing the film on 70mm and having the intermission, I've thought to myself that other filmmakers would truly benefit off of using this tactic. Not only is an intermission a refreshing break, it also gives the director an opportunity to give an enormous cliffhanger making the audience want to return after intermission to finish off the film. Aside from all of Tarantino's grand treats in this installment his directing is at its peak and I see the bar only rising higher with his next film. 

    The classic dialogue sequences in which Tarantino is known for is strong here as well as the cartoon like violence and the intense buildup to the violence. The film is also followed by a grand score courtesy of the legendary Ennio Morricone who has scored his fair share of westerns. "The Hateful Eight" is an operatic western, a gritty film that surpasses "Django Unchained" in every way finally proving Tarantino is no stranger to the "The Western" genre. One of my top five favorite Quentin Tarantino films.

Rating: 4 out of 4 Stars

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Released December 17th, 2015
2 hrs 16 mins
Rated PG-13
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action


Director: J. J. Abrams
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Stormtrooper FN-2187 / Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson[8] as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka

Review by Stephen M.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the epic space adventure that you would have hoped for when the last trilogy came out.  J. J. Abrams who has shown that he is more than capable in handling Sci-Fi franchises with huge fan bases pays homage to the original trilogy perhaps a bit too much.  With many similar themes taken out of The Empire Strikes Back, he does make it his own that is still well worth watching on the big screen especially if you are a fan of the franchise.

First thing that stood for me are the new characters from John Boyega's Finn to the new droid B-88. The characters each stand out well on their own with a sense of humor and realism in the middle of a galactic war.  J. J. Abrams creates a strong female lead in Rey played brilliantly by Daisy Ridley which can be seen as him catering to girls.  Think of her as Princess Leia but with more kick ass.

Besides the characters from the special effects to the settings and the soundtrack, J. J. Abrams foray into Star Wars is beautifully done.   So why do I consider the latest installment very good and not great?   While the film introduces many new elements and characters, you can't help but feel a sense of deja vu from the (Some may consider this a spoiler, though I try to keep it vague. Highlight to read the rest of the sentence.) father and son issues to bombing run of a weapon of the enemy to droid delivering a message, they're themes we have seen before in the first three original films.  Besides that, though the original films suffer through this as well and that is parts of the film tends switch to a plodding pace that lulls you to sleep until the next action scene.  Some of these scenes are more so that you can enjoy the amazing CGI and some in which you would think that J. J. was just padding up the run time.  Lastly, Kylo Ren, interesting villain in several ways but at the same time a bit disappointing with the way the character turns out and Adam Driver as a choice actually.  It wasn't necessarily that his performance was poor but I guess I am just use to him in comedy roles like the movie What If with Daniel Radcliffe.

Overall, the movie will be a delight for new and old fans.  However as I have mentioned the film borrows a lot of themes from the past movies which may or may not be a good thing depending on your view.  From the trailers, you should already know Harrison Ford is back as Han which along with him, Chewbecca and the Millennium Falcon as well as others from the original trilogy will have you cheering.  While Finn, Rey and B-88 put their stamp as the new kids on the block showing that there is still a lot of stories left to tell.  The film with its flaws will still be an enjoyable time on the big screen if you are not one of the many throng that have seen it on opening day already.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Watch the first trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse here! Releases May 27th 2016.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea
Releases December 11th 2015
2 hr 2 mins
Rated PG-13
Drama, Action


Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Charles Leavitt (based on novel by Nathaniel Philbrick)

Chris Hemsworth as Owen Chase
Benjamin Walker as Captain George Pollard, Jr.
Cillian Murphy as Matthew Joy
Tom Holland as young Thomas Nickerson
Brendan Gleeson as old Thomas Nickerson
Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville
Michelle Fairley as Mrs. Nickerson
Gary Beadle as William Bond
Frank Dillane as Owen Coffin
Charlotte Riley as Peggy
Donald Sumpter as Paul Macy
Brooke Dimmock as Phoebe Chase
Jamie Sives as Isaac Cole

Review by Mister Goodfella's Reviews

Ron Howard returns the big screen to bring us his new sea epic "In The Heart Of The Sea". Reuniting with Ron Howard is Chris Hemsworth who has also starred in Howard's last film "Rush". Along Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Benjamin Walker, Brendan Gleeson And Ben Bishaw share the screen for this adventurous tale. The plot is centered on Herman Melville (Ben Bishaw) who tracks down Thomas Nickerson (Gleeson) so that he may recount his endeavor at sea that he has not shared with anyone since returning from his journey. The journey recounted is centered on the "Essex Nantucket" ship that was lost at sea while its crew was preyed upon by a sperm whale. 

Going into "In The Heart Of The Sea" I thought this was going to be a "Moby Dick" centered film, seeing as how all of the elements of Melville's novel were there. However "In The Heart Of The Sea" focuses more on the actual journey that inspired "Moby Dick". This immediately sparked my interest so I was very eager to see how the story unraveled with this fine cast. Usually for me Ron Howard is one of those directors who don't really have much to say but want to still leave you with the impression that they can still make good movies, so I had an open mind. 

I was very impressed by how entertaining "In The heart Of The Sea" is and how fast the pacing feels at times. Usually for this time period, directors like to mimic the story by slowing down the pacing to really sink in the illusion. Ron Howard really works hard here to keep the interest there by speeding up the 1st and 3rd acts of the film but steadily slowing down for the film's 2nd act.  The 2nd act of the film centered more around the voyage at sea and the hunt for whale oil, so it's only fitting that we get to spend a decent amount of time enjoying this aspect. 

Hemsworth doesn't quite steal the show but he does a great job at convincing us that he could be a first mate on a ship. I think everyone in the film shared the screen time very decently but I was very disappointed that one of my favorites, Cillian Murphy got very little. However for the moments that Murphy is onscreen his performance is authentic and feels very natural. Tom Holland however very much intrigued me since I had never seen him act before and now he is the center focus due to "Marvel" casting him as "Spiderman". Holland did a great job even though he had very few lines and pretty much complimented everyone else's performance. 

Above all I think the writing was solid but it wasn't magnificent, I was really waiting for that shining moment in which I could pick out the one actor I could see as the show stealer but it never happened. While "In The Heart Of The Sea" does have some writing issues, the visuals at sea or on the whales themselves look great. Howard really tries to fuse his sense of directing into the visuals by strapping the camera in places that really give a nice touch to the scene. In particular one scene involving the men in the water looking above as a whale's fluke is towering above. This scene looked so gorgeous I had to acknowledge it; Howard really knows how to dress a scene up. 

Everything was there for me to like this film, however I can see how some will dislike it. You could pick apart the writing or maybe just the pacing but in my opinion this really intrigued me and since that doesn't come often for me in Ron Howard's work I’m very impressed. Another great thing about "In The Heart Of The Sea" is the makeup and costumes, everything looked authentic and the makeup to have the actors appear weaker and brittle was phenomenal. "In The Heart Of The Sea" is not going to be your "Oscar" movie and it's not going to be for everyone, however if you like Ron Howard and the story of "Moby Dick" at least interests you, give it a shot. 

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Releases November 25th 2015
1 hrs 35 mins
Rated PG-13


Director: Ryan Coogler

Writer: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington


Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson Creed
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa
Tessa Thompson as Bianca
Phylicia Rashād as Mary Anne Creed
Tony Bellew as "Pretty" Ricky Conlan
Graham McTavish as Tommy Holiday
Wood Harris as Tony "Little Duke" Burton
Andre Ward as Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler
Gabriel Rosado as Leo Sporino

Review by Mister Goodfella's Review

Ryan Coogler has done what no one thought possible anymore, re-inventing the "Rocky" franchise, as we know it. "Creed" in my opinion is not a sequel of the "Rocky" franchise but it is however a spinoff that can successfully stand on its own without its predecessors help. I'm really impressed with what Coogler has done here; he's taken a concept so simple such as a boxing drama and mastered it. I'm a huge fan of directors who take simple concepts and elevate them but I know that it truly does stem from the actual passion for the project at hand, in this case Cooler was in love. I don't think you can walk out of "Creed" thinking that was just a mediocre boxing film because you'll be kicking yourself in the head afterwards thinking hard on it. 

    Ryan's spinoff centers on Adonis Johnson played by Michael B. Jordan, as he journeys to create a name for himself in the boxing community and drive that he does not live in his father's shadow. Along the way Adonis meets Rocky Balboa (Stallone) in the hopes that he can train him to become more than just Apollo Creed's son. Other cast members include Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Tony Bellew who all compliment Jordan and Stallone's performances very well. Michael B. Jordan's chemistry with Stallone onscreen has to be one of the most believable relationships between acquaintances in a boxing film I’ve seen in a long time. You really feel as though these two actors’ are great friends so much so that the performances reflect that giving you a natural flow of chemistry and not a forced one. 

Nothing-here performance wise is "Oscar Worthy", but the bar is still pretty high with Michael B. Jordan stealing the show. I've been a fan of Jordan since "Fruitvale Station", and by that performance alone I knew we had another great upcoming actor on our hands. It was also very refreshing to see Stallone returning to his boxing roots and not coming in guns blazing for once. Stallone gives a very natural performance of a man who's been through it all and is finally accepting the fact that he's older. This is the type of role that I think best fits Stallone at this point and not some drawn out mercenary guns blazing soldier in "The Expendables". 

Aside from the stellar performances, "Creed" also has fantastic directing behind it thanks to Ryan. You can truly tell that Ryan has been around the block once already and wasn't going to let this project fall into the generic boxing type film. Ryan separates "Creed" from other boxing movies by the fighting sequences alone, ranging from one of the fights in a one continuous shot motion to almost feeling like you're watching a fight on "HBO" towards its last fight. Each director who's ever filmed a boxing movie brings something unique to the table and Ryan has proved here that he can do more "Creed" sequels. One of the last things that really made "Creed" great for me was the message it left me with, it wasn't about winning a fight or losing one but more of building your own legacy.  

Sure "Creed" has its flaws but they are very minor in comparison to what this film is trying to be. I absolutely loved how simple this concept was and how brilliant it turned out to be. "Creed" is elevating boxing films to a new level in this day and age, one that I’m glad to be alive in. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Stars

The Good Dinosaur
Releases November 25th 2015
1 hr 40 mins
Rated PG


Director: Peter Sohn
Writers: Meg LeFauve

Raymond Ochoa as Arlo
Jack Bright as Spot
Sam Elliott as Butch
Anna Paquin as Ramsey
A. J. Buckley as Nash
Steve Zahn as Thunderclap
Mandy Freund as Downpour
Steven Clay Hunter as Coldfront
Jeffrey Wright as Poppa Henry
Frances McDormand as Momma Ida
Marcus Scribner as Buck
Maleah Padilla as Libby
Peter Sohn as Forrest Woodbush
Dave Boat as Bubbha
Carrie Paff as Lurleane, a Velociraptor
Calum Mackenzie Grant as Pervis
John Ratzenberger as Earl

Review by Stephen M.

The Good Dinosaur follows up a tough act in Inside Out out of Pixar.  Unfortunately the cuteness of Arlo the dinosaur (Ramond Ochoa) and Spot, his pet human (Jack Bright) isn't enough to live up to that challenge.  The Good Dinosaur along with its short film that precedes it, Sanjay's Super Team is geared toward boys unapologetically.  While Sanjay's Super Team is an interesting story of a father and son mixed in with youthfulness and culture, The Good Dinosaur is just a sad imitation of many other coming of age Disney movies albeit with a twist.  The twist which you will see in the very beginning is that an asteroid that got knock into our orbit never annihilated the dinosaurs but developed into a somewhat human-like wild west society.

Arlo, the scrawny one of the litter of three dinosaurs is always a step behind his brother Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah Padilla).  His life changes when he meets a "critter" in the form of a little boy and they wind up miles from their home together.  The story while having very familiar elements is not necessarily poorly told or acted.  I enjoyed the performances by each of the characters though none really particularly stands out.

And as with most Disney or Pixar movies, you do expect something to stand out and unfortunately that is the biggest problem here.  The soundtrack to the humor to the plot is quite ho hum.  The film does have its moments but they are too far and few.  The moment that stands out for me in the movie which I find abhorring in a children's animation is when Arlo and Spot seems to go on a psychedelic trip after ingesting some weird fruits.  

Overall, I would recommend the film with reservation.  It's a good animation about friendship and family, but a poor Pixar one given the high expectations you have come accustomed to seeing.  Families should be warned that there is that scene where the main characters are "high" on fruits which to mean is a no no for a children film.  For a better children's animation watch Inside Out or even better, The Croods.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

We were excited to attend the New Jersey Comic Expo 2015 this weekend and besides the show being small, it was a fun time for the whole family.  From the grab bag of Dynamite comics for early ticket purchasers to the Kids section full of free books, they were serious about attracting in fans.   Also having Jim Lee headling as well as a few other first timers in New Jersey like Ivan Reis and Garth Ennis helped as well.

Because of the large space afforded to the convention and limited amount of booths and attendees compared to the likes of a New York Comic Con, it was easy to move around.  Deals were plenty even given the amount of retailers that they had, like $2 sketch cover comic books.  And if you are a fan of entertainment vehicles, they had plenty like various Bat-mobiles, as well as replica vehicles from Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and Scooby Doo.

As far as celebrities signing and doing photo-ops their two biggest names were Amy Acker (Person of Interest, Angel, Dollhouse) and Drea de Matteo (Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy).  It's unfortunate Amy was only available Saturday.  Hopefully they can get more big names next year.

As mentioned before, artist alley and the exhibitors had something for everyone.  Not too many free sketches around, but there were also deals to be had.  Walter Simonson did free sketches, though a lot of fans paid their respect in the form of tips.  I had artist C. P. Wilson III do the below Hulk vs Thor sketch below for a nominal fee.  You may know him for his art in The Stuff of Legend.


As far as Cosplayers go, there were plenty of good costumes.  A group dressed up as different members of the Justice Society of America was cool to see.

On Sunday, the big event for me was the Jim Lee VIP session.  I had paid for the second session which was the lighter attended crowd.  Even actors Tommy Walker and Peter Shinkoda, both super friendly showed off their geek side waiting for Jim Lee to sign their Uncanny X-Men comic book.

During the Jim Lee event, fans got to each ask him a question which ran the gamut from "What does a Co Producer do?" to "How do you know that she (his wife) is the love of your life?"  He drew by lottery system two winners in each session to receive a free sketch which you can see below.  Unfortunately I didn't win.  But everyone that attended did score a limited edition Superman variant as well as getting up to ten items signed and well as pictures with Jim.  The personal interaction with Jim was also very fun.

Overall, a fun experience, and I hope to see them grow more next year as far as guests and exhibitors.  The area around the convention center is pretty dead, so if they can get some food trucks over there during that week, that would be nice.  One interesting question that was posed to Jim, was why did he chose New Jersey Comic Expo, with which he replied family.  His sister lives in Jersey for which he was coming over for Thanksgivings.  As well, he has an old and close relationship with the founder of the con, Martha Donato from when she worked at Wizard magazine.