Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Cooper’

Beautiful Bernstein

Maestro

Director: Bradley Cooper

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Sarah Silverman, Vincenzo Amato, Maya Hawke, Matt Bomer

Running Time: 2 hours and 9 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Please note this film is only available on Netflix

With acclaimed directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg acting as executive producers, Bradley Cooper’s Maestro about the extraordinary life of American composer Leonard Bernstein features a deftly performed triple act with multiple Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, A Star is Born, Silver Linings Playbook) acting as director, writer and as the leading man, ably assisted with Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education, Promising Young Woman) as Bernstein’s long suffering wife Felicia Montealegre.

Both Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are absolutely superb in Maestro, binding this film together as they perfectly portray the complex façade of a marriage that the Bernstein’s had, particularly Felicia’s artistic and sacrificial decision to turn a blind eye to her husband’s rampant homosexuality often bringing lover’s home and entertaining them in front of their children.

There is a particularly brilliant scene towards the end of Maestro whereby Leonard and Felicia have a terrible fight in a New York apartment which is overlooking the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, in which the marital veneer is cracked and all the resentment and anger boils over.

Bradley Cooper literally disappears into the role of Leonard Bernstein thanks to the extraordinary makeup by Japanese American prosthetic make up artist Kazo Hiro who won Oscars for Bombshell and Darkest Hour.

Mulligan is excellent as a broadway actress Felicia who takes a decision to put her career on hold while Leonard Bernstein’s musical career flourishes during the 1960’s as he is made musical director for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein is an icon in the classical and theatrical music world having penned the music for the Stephen Sondheim hit musical West Side Story and the film score for the Marlon Brando film On The Waterfront.

Bernstein’s sexual relationship with David Oppenheim flamboyantly played by out gay actor Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart, Boys in the Band, The Nice Guys) is comfortably portrayed in Maestro as Bernstein feels nothing at introducing his beloved wife Felicia to his starry eyed gay lover.

At the heart of this complex artistically compatible marriage is the toll that two creative and volatile parents have on their three children particularly their oldest daughter Jamie Bernstein played by the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, Maya Hawke (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Asteroid City) who often has to discover through gossip the sexual indiscretions of her father, the world famous conductor Leonard Bernstein.

Essentially, Maestro is an art film and it is filled with beautiful music, talented people and a toweringly famous artistic conductor who was passionate about classical music, conducting and leaving an indelible mark on the canon of America’s 20th century contribution to the history of music.

Maestro shot in black and white and colour, is a complex and slightly off kilter biopic about an extremely charismatic conductor whose sexual proclivities detonated the marriage in which Felicia was the main casualty. Fortunately, Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are both excellent as husband and wife in a film which re-examines their relationship in the context of Bernstein’s massive fame and creative contribution, which was both controversial and significant.

Maestro is Bradley Cooper’s languid love letter to Leonard Bernstein, a formidable task to encapsulate in a unconventional biopic which should have been released in theatrical cinemas to attain the full effect.

Featuring highly skilled acting, cinematography and direction, Maestro gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is recommended for viewers that love the music of Leonard Bernstein.

Source material: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Bernstein

Champions of Failure and Fortune

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Directors: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein

Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Rege-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head, Bradley Cooper

Running time: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Thank you to UIP for the invitation for the Film Premiere held at Suncoast Cinemas on Tuesday 28th March 2023

Spiderman: Homecoming screenwriting duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein take on the director’s chair in the big screen adaptation of the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons in a lavish fantasy adaptation entitled Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves which premiered at the South by South West Film Festival in Austin, Texas in early March 2023 https://www.sxsw.com/ .

What the directing duo perfect at the beginning is the casting in Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves which features a gorgeous but funny male lead, Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Wonder Woman) as Edgin, the manipulative hero and as the villainous and vain enemy, Forge wonderfully played with a British panache by Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Florence Foster Jenkins).

In between the villain and the hero is a host of sidekicks characters including action woman Michelle Rodriguez taking a break from the Fast and Furious franchise to star as Holga, Chloe Colman to star as Edgin’s daughter Kira, screen newcomer Rege-Jean Page as the mysterious fighter Xenk, Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) as the young wizard Simon and the beautiful Sophia Lillis as the changeling Doric.

Filmed mostly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the directing duo definitely take inspiration from HBO’s Game of Thrones and created a similar slightly medieval allegorical universe complete with dragons, both fat and vicious, mazes with strange creatures in it and wizardry galore but to make this pure fantasy epic work so brilliantly is the superb on screen chemistry between all the cast and particularly between Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez and of course between Hugh Grant and the rest of the cast as he tries to fool everyone into believing that Forge is a benevolent dictator, when in fact he is just a conman.

At 2 hours and 15 minutes, viewers will get their money’s worth in a dazzling and lavish fantasy epic which will suitably satisfy fans of the D and D games and its superb reincarnation as a cinema franchise. Most definitely the scriptwriters and directing duo had to make an impressive franchise debut which will attract fans of fantasy films and they have cleverly pivoted the storyline to attract younger viewers as they also hint at a potential sequel.

By far the funniest scene in the film is when Edgin and the gang visit the graves of dead soldiers as they try and resurrect the dead to question them about a vastly powerful helmet which can protect the wearer from pervading evil sorcery.

The film’s middle section could have been edited, but overall, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor among Thieves is a fantastic family action film bound to keep fans enthralled with its spectacular visual effects. For its pure fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor among Thieves gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly recommended for fans of this genre.

Some Viking Space Magic

Thor: Love and Thunder

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Chris Pratt, Jaimie Alexander, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillen, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn

Running Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

New Zealand director Taika Waititi follows up his success of Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 with a sequel entitled Thor: Love and Thunder featuring Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as Thor and Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) reprise her role as Jane Foster with the villain being an evil God killer Gorr played by Oscar winner Christian Bale (The Fighter). This time Thor has some initial assistance from The Guardians of the Galaxy crowd led by Peter Quill played again by Chris Pratt.

However, when the evil Gorr steals all the innocent children from New Asgard, Thor calls on the assistance of King Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson and Dr Jane Foster who suddenly appears in New Asgard to soak up some Viking Space Magic as she calls it.

The trio travel to the omniscient city to steal the lightning bolt from Zeus, played with a bizarre panache by Oscar winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator). The scene whereby Thor faces Zeus is literally stripped of all significance as Thor lands up butt naked much to the pleasure of Jane and Valkyrie while Zeus’s muses all faint simultaneously in the background.

Basically the storyline of Thor: Love and Thunder is utterly bizarre co-written by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kayten Robinson making Chris Hemsworth struggle through the film in terms of acting while thankfully Natalie Portman and Christian Bale are strong enough actors to highlight the significance of loss, revenge and love lost, as their character’s arc is more prominent and filled with depth and motivation.

There are some uniquely funny moments in Thor: Love and Thunder and while the first half of the film battles to find its tone, it’s really in the second half and particularly the ending that the narrative settles down to a rather interesting compromise concerning the evil Gorr superbly played by Christian Bale and the ravishing Natalie Portman as The Mighty Thor aka Jane Grey who adds a strong feminine quality to an essentially male centric film.

While not as good as Venom: Let There be Carnage or The Batman, Thor: Love and Thunder is wacky entertainment, psychedelic and fascinating but equally bizarre which is what you would expect from the director Taika Waititi who achieved international fame with his Oscar winning skit on Nazism in 2019’s JoJo Rabbit.

Audiences should look out for an uncredited cameo by Matt Damon as one of the mock Viking players in New Asgard. Thor: Love and Thunder gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is strictly for fans of the original three films. Viewers can catch some Viking Space Magic in Cinemas now.

This isn’t a Carnival Trick

Nightmare Alley

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Toni Colette, David Strathairn, Ron Perlman, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Anderson, Holt McCallany, Clifton Collins Jr

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Based upon the pulp fiction novel by William Lindsay Graham, Nightmare Alley, Oscar winning director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) turns his deft hand to the genre of film noir in this 1941 American thriller featuring brilliant performances by Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett.

Starting in the mid-west, we follow a low life con artist Stanton Carlisle expertly played by Cooper who gets off a train and follows a dwarf into a Carnival where he meets an assortment of weird and equally morally subversive characters from the sultry Tarot Card reader Zeena played by Toni Colette to Clem Hoatley played by Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Shadow of a Vampire, The Florida Project, At Eternity’s Gate) who controls a man in a cage who eats live chickens.

The first half of the spooky Carnival scenario is vividly captured on film by del Toro as Cooper’s character proves that he is a fast talker and a suave mentalist, easing gullible folk out of their money but he has bigger dreams. He yearns for the big grift: the wealthy clients of the urban metropolis.

Dragging his equally suspicious girlfriend Molly Cahill wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) along to Chicago, they decide to turn their glamourous tricks on wealthy city folk until he is caught in the cross hairs of psychiatrist Dr Lillith Ritter, the ultimate femme fatale in a brilliant and sassy turn by double Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Aviator), who wears brilliant red lipstick and carries an ivory handled pistol in her evening gown.

Dr Ritter psychoanalyses the suave Stanton skilfully manipulating him into going after some wealthy clients including the eccentric recluse Ezra Grindle superbly played by Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water, The Visitor) who is paying him a fortune to conjure up the image of his dead wife.

From the authentic production design, to the expert pace and tension of the film, director Guillermo del Toro delivers a first rate film noir thriller about the rise and spectacular fall of mentalist and trickster Carlisle played by Bradley Cooper in his career best performance.

Cooper does a superb job of holding this entire film together from the seedy Mid-Western Carnival scenes, which are both dazzling and daunting to the exquisite scene between himself and Dr Ritter in one of the best scenes in the film, in which the dialogue crackles with manipulation, seduction and desire amidst temptation and cigarette smoke.

Nightmare Alley is a long film, in which the first half entirely foreshadows the second half but the talented ensemble support the two stars of the show in this riveting, psychological thriller which eventually leaves blood on the passageways. From the gorgeous golden Art Deco interiors, to the beautiful costumes, Nightmare Alley leaves nothing to chance.

This isn’t a carnival trick, it’s authentic cinematic entertainment which the supremely talented director Guillermo del Toro excels at delivering. In this case, it’s a pure cinematic homage to the original 1947 film starring Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell and Helen Walker.

Strictly for sophisticated cinema goers, soak up the atmosphere of sinister intentions in 1941 America and watch the film noir Nightmare Alley, which gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Definite Oscar nominations for Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and David Strathairn as the drunkard trickster Pete.

The Ultimate Time Heist

Avengers: Endgame

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillen, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Tessa Thompson, Rene Russo, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Letitia Wright, John Slattery, Jon Favreau, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Marisa Tomei, Angela Bassett, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Linda Cardellini, Frank Grillo, Hiroyuki Sanada, James D’Arcy, Bradley Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, Ty Simpkins    

Ironman

Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with the highly anticipated sequel to Avengers: Infinity War with Avengers: Endgame featuring all the famous superheroes that fans have grown to love including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Antman, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel as they band together to go back in time to retrieve the infinity stones to reverse the evil Thanos’s ultimate revenge at the end of Infinity War where he made half the population vanish including such beloved heroes as Spiderman, Black Panther and Doctor Strange.

Thor

As Endgame starts, Ironman is stuck in space, Thor takes to drink in the New Asgard and Captain America is despondent that the Avengers are at their lowest point ever.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel played by Brie Larson rallies the troops along with Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Jeremy Renner returns sporting a fantastic haircut as Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye to assist the remaining Avengers as they devise a time travel device to allow them to go back in time to three separate intergalactic locations to retrieve the highly precious and powerful Infinity Stones. It’s the ultimate Time Heist as Antman points out.

Hawkeye

What follows is a fantastic feast of Superheroes which directors Anthony and Joe Russo will have hard core Marvel fans both laughing and crying at the deluge of their cinematic idols as they all band together to destroy the evil Thanos.

Black Widow

While some of the plot points in this three hour long superhero extravaganza don’t all get resolved, it certainly opens up a whole lot of new possibilities such a possible separate Hawkeye film? Sequels to the hugely successful Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy are both on the cards as well as another Spiderman film. So there is no shortage of geek fan crushing that will occur in Avengers: Endgame and the subsequent films to follow. Once again Marvel knocks it out of the park judging by the lucrative response at the international box office.

The Hulk

Avengers: Endgame is a culmination of all the Marvel films of the last decade and hints at a new start for some of the lesser known superheroes to flesh out their story lines. Let’s face it with an overcrowded universe, audiences will battle to identify with any one superhero but rather applaud and cheer at the massive team of Avengers and all their trusted sidekicks. Audiences should look out for cameos by Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier and of course Thor’s malevolent brother Loki played by Tom Hiddleston.

Antman

Avengers: Endgame is definitely for Marvel fans and trust me everyone from the previous films are in it. It’s definitely worth seeing and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

You Will Never Be Alone

A Star is Born

 

Director: Bradley Cooper

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Alec Baldwin, Ron Rifkin

Three time Oscar Nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, American Hustle) gives a superb no holds bar performance as the frequently inebriated singer Jackson Maine in the third remake of A Star is Born, which he also boldly directs.

The key to the 2018 version of A Star is Born is to fill the part played by Barbra Streisand in the 1976 version in which she starred opposite Kris Kristofferson who won a Golden Globe for Best actor Musical Comedy in the 1970’s version.

Enter pop icon and music superstar Lady Gaga who plays the significant role of aspiring singer Ally who is discovered by Jackson Maine in a Gay Bar (it’s not what audiences think!) as she enters on stage amidst a bevy of Drag Queens singing Edith Piaf.

The onscreen chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sizzles and it’s what makes the 2018 version of A Star is Born so palatable and such entertaining viewing.

Besides some fantastic cutting edge cinematography by Black Swan Oscar nominee Matthew Libatique, who really captures the chaotic energy of live music performances, the actual songs, the music and Bradley Cooper’s superb Oscar worthy acting makes this version of A Star is Born worth seeing.

As the awards season approaches, I am sure that both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will get Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor and Actress in a Musical or Comedy. As for the 2019 Oscars, it’s too early to predict, but this is without a doubt the best performance I have seen Bradley Cooper do onscreen as he inhabits the complicated role of Jackson Maine a singer whose addictive personality cannot handle the sudden and glittering fame bestowed upon his protégé Ally.

Ally is egged on at every turn in her rise to fame by a ruthless music manager Rez played by Rafi Gavron. Audiences should also watch out for a solid supporting performance by Sam Elliott as Jackson’s older brother and manager Bobby.

A Star is Born is superb viewing, fantastic singing and a brilliant film to watch ably assisted by Oscar worthy performances by its two main leads whose onscreen chemistry dazzles from the first musical number.

A Star is Born gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and is a musical treat. Highly recommended viewing.

Thanos’s Deadly Compromise

Avengers: Infinity War

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke

Following the phenomenal success of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel has capitalized on its extended cinematic universe with the new Avengers: Infinity War featuring a plethora of superheroes from Spiderman to Ironman, from Captain America to The Hulk not to mention bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for additional support.

If Avengers: Infinity War feels a bit excessive, that’s because it probably is combining the Avengers franchise with that of the more quirky Guardians of the Galaxy. Some fantastic moments occur when Spiderman played by Tom Holland meets Peter Quill aka StarLord played by Chris Pratt or when Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr disagrees with the wizard Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The snappy dialogue is sometimes lost amidst the greater quest to fight the evil universe destroyer Thanos played by Josh Brolin.

Thanos is equally conflicted about having to gather all the infinity stones including the one for Souls in which he has to make a choice between himself and his adopted daughter Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. In the meantime, his evil minions are wreaking havoc on earth in New York and in the magical technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda where Vision played by Paul Bettany along with Captain America  and Scarlett Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen seek the assistance of Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman.

Audiences have to suspend their disbelief but judging by how packed the cinemas are for Avengers Infinity War, they are quite happy to do so. This film is pure sci-fi fantasy with little of the action taking place on earth. Most of the fight sequences occur on outer galactic planets like Titan.

Thor needs his hammer back and seeks the help of Eitri played by Peter Dinklage who forges a brilliant new weapon out of a powerful star, the celestial capability of which was last seen on the forgotten kingdom of Asgard.

Whilst directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo compile an absolute Geekfest with Avengers: Infinity War with enough alien creatures and superheroes to stockpile Comicon for the next decade, it’s a clear sign that the Marvel Universe has ambitious plans to expand even further.

That said Avengers: Infinity War has a convoluted story line weighed down by too many subplots but if viewers see it as a precursor to a second film then they will not find the surprise ending so disruptive….

Avengers: Infinity War gets a film rating 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly for Marvel comic book fans who have followed all the films from the original Iron Man 10 years ago.

The visual effects are fantastic as will be the box office receipts. See it to believe it.

 

 

Starlord’s Genealogy

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn

Director James Gunn’s second foray into the Guardians universe is not as brilliant as his original film, mainly because the quirkiness of the characters of the first Guardians of the Galaxy has worn off slightly. If viewers enjoy psychedelic action with lots of CGI then Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is for you.

All the original cast reprise their roles with a bigger screen time for Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana who both have familial issues to contend with. Pratt’s character Peter “Star Lord” Quill has to contend with unresolved father issues when he meets his dad aptly named Ego charismatically played by Kurt Russell who is definitely having a rejuvenation in his career. While Zoe Saldana’s Gamora has to contend with sibling rivalry with the unexpected arrival of her sister Nebula played by Karen Gillan.

Dave Bautista’s Drax seems to be more contented and has the best lines in the film. While Bradley Cooper who provides the voice of Rocket and Vin Diesel who does the voice of Baby Groot really just had to the star power.

The best scenes in the film are between Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt as Starlord discovers that his biological father is a slight megalomaniac with unresolved desire to consume the universe. Spoiler Alert there!

Sylvester Stallone pops up briefly as Stakar Ogord and unfortunately has too little screen time to give his character any credibility. Chameleon actress Elizabeth Debicki who was so brilliantly in the series The Night Manager and was seen in Macbeth and The Great Gatsby also unfortunately has too little screen time to really give her golden genetically enhanced character Ayesha – Ruler of the Sovereign race any menace although she does look absolutely gorgeous in all that gold.

Elizabeth Debicki should use her remarkable talents as an actress in a far better genre than psychedelic sci-fi  but then again Marvel are calling the shots. Marvel are certainly luring talented stars to play in their films. Just look at the cast of Doctor Strange.

Unlike Doctor Strange which was really well done with awesome special effects, James Gunn’s Guardians 2 with the tag line “Obviously” seems to much of the same and nothing remotely original. Strip away all the CGI and the plot is basically a father and son story about a son who slowly becomes disillusioned with the image of what his father should be, never mind the fatal legacy that Ego has install for Starlord and the rest of the gang.

Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy will certainly enjoy this hasty sequel but lets face it this version is never as innovative as the original film. Now what remains to be seen is how the Guardians will fare in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity movie scheduled for a 2018 release featuring a combination of all the Avengers, plus Spiderman and the Guardians – Should be fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is a fantastic fun-filled popcorn film but nothing more. Viewers will be dazzled by fantastic CGI that the whole universe will be dripping with neon.  Although, the Guardians films are enjoyable they are not in the league of Star Wars but then again my loyalties lie elsewhere.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10 but is strictly for the fans of the first film. Its quirky, fun, but nothing spectacular despite the presence of Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki both of whom add gravitas to an otherwise skimpy plot line. On the plus side – the music is fantastic and Baby Groot is really cute!

Bullets and Bravado

War Dogs

war_dogs

Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Pollak, Julian Sergi, Ana de Armas, Shaun Taub, Mehdi Merali, Wallace Langham

The Hangover director Todd Phillips tries to emulate Scorsese or de Palma in his latest film War Dogs about two twenty something misfits David Packouz and Ephraim Diveroli played by Miles Teller and Jonah Hill respectively, who inadvertently become arms dealers for the US. Government in the twilight of the Bush administration’s War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.

Unlike Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street or even Brian de Palma’s Scarface, War Dogs does not pack the same visceral shock value. Punctuated by a set of script markers, War Dogs plunders along with a terrible script and a director who clearly should have stuck to comedy.

As an audience member watching Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in this film, one can be forgiven for feeling slightly embarrassed for them. Both actors have produced better work especially Jonah Hill in Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, while Teller was suitably terrified opposite the superb J.K. Simmons in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar winner Whiplash.

The problem with War Dogs, as the action moves from Miami Beach to Amman to Tirana to Las Vegas and back again, is that the film starts off with so much promise, but then fails to deliver. Unlike the marginally better Andrew Niccol’s film Lord of War, War Dogs does not give up its moral compass or ask the audience to judge but merely shows two ambitious young men desperate to earn a fast million in America’s war-mongering capitalist economy prior to the financial crisis hitting in late 2008.

What War Dogs does provide is a theory that war is never about the human conflict but more about the financial business of providing weapons for soldiers fighting in foreign lands. War is a big business, less so in recent years as it has given way to sinister urban terrorism.

war_dogs_ver2

Packouz and Diveroli appear naïve about the ethical implications of the illegal arms business especially when their dangerous dealings get increasingly complicated as they try to supply the US government with Albanian bullets which are actually Chinese through a shady arms dealer Henry Girard played against type by a barely recognizable Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper, Joy, The Hangover). War Dogs also features Cuban actress Ana de Armas as Packouz’s girlfriend Iz.

Despite Jonah Hill emulating his character in The Wolf of Wall Street, his version of Ephraim Diveroli comes off as a fast talking foul-mouthed con-man with a penchant for screwing his partner and having absolutely no moral fibre.

With bullets and bravado, War Dogs fails to deliver, leaving these talented actors floundering with a bad script and a morally skewed film which could have been so much better, not to mention insightful.

Daring Women

Joy

joy_ver2

Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Bradley Cooper, Elisabeth Rohm, Dascha Polanco

Director David O. Russell’s third collaboration with Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, Joy is about a feisty daring divorced young mother of two who gambles her entire life savings on her own invention of the Miracle Mop. Loosely based on the true story of Joy Mangano who invented and patented the miracle mop back in the mid-eighties, the film version is a quirky dysfunctional tale of a family who do their best to distract Joy from her primary goal, that of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Joy’s dizzy mother Terry played by Virginia Madsen is engrossed in glossy eighties soap operas while her father Rudy and greying Casanova, wonderfully played by Robert de Niro, his second appearance in a David O. Russell film after Silver Linings Playbook. Joy’s grandmother is the rock of her world, Mimi played by the irrepressible Diane Ladd (Rambling Rose).

When Rudy starts dating a wealthy Italian widow Trudy, beautifully played Isabella Rossellini in one of her most prolific roles yet, Joy seizes upon an opportunity to ask Trudy to invest in her idea of the miracle mop. However after many unsuccessful attempts to sell her product, primarily outside K. Mart, Joy’s ex-husband, the amiable Venezuelan wanna-be singer, Tony played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break) suggests that they go and approach a Pennsylvania business man directly.

In a series of chance encounters, Joy meets the head buyer for K. Mart the suave and tough Neil Walker, underplayed by Bradley Cooper, who returns for his fourth collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence after Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and Serena. The daring Joy persuades Walker to give her a chance doing a home shopping advert where she can have the golden opportunity to sell the miracle mop to Television consumers a precursor to the Home Shopping Network. Amidst many dodgy business dealings involving elusive suppliers, Joy soon matures into a really tough business woman despite doubts by Trudy who has been her main patron and financial backer.

Joy is an uneven yet quirky film about one daring woman in particular who embraces the American dream, despite the odds and eventually through sheer tenacity succeeds into become a multi-million dollar corporate business woman who embraces the Capitalist work ethic and proves that hard work and determination certainly pays off.

As a film, Joy is by no means David O. Russell’s best work, not nearly outshining Silver Linings Playbook or American Hustle, but what makes the film so watchable and enjoyable is Jennifer Lawrence’s fantastic performance, anchoring the narrative down despite a proliferation of flighty and less reliable characters. It is also refreshing to see Robert de Niro and Isabella Rossellini share so much screen time.

Joy is recommended viewing, a fantastic feel good film with a great supporting cast and a fine truly inspiring performance by Jennifer Lawrence who as usual under the directorial guidance of David O. Russell never disappoints.

 

 

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