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