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Joy: Russel, Lawrence, De Niro & Cooper Back Together for Quirky Drama
Even though David O. Russell's latest project is not completely without its faults and flaws, Joy - co-scripted by O. Russell and Annie Mumolo - offers just enough quirkiness and off-beat charm to make this occasionally confusing, yet inspiring, story about hope, dreams and a magic mop.
As a young girl, Joy Mangano (Lawrence) enjoyed spending her days inventing and creating various versions of common household items. However, as an adult, her life as a divorced mother of two hasn't really given her the freedom to explore her creativity, having put her dreams on hold so that she can take care of her dysfunctional family.
She now spends her days looking after her soap-opera-obsessed mom, Terry (Madsen), her dad, Rudy (De Niro) – an emotionally unsteady and a severely impatient man who runs a local auto-shop – and her ex-husband, Tony (Ramirez), who, despite their divorce from two years prior, is still living in her basement. Things soon take a change when she is unexpectedly inspired to design and put together a more effective type of cleaning mop, turning to Rudy's girlfriend, Trudy (Rossellini), for the much-needed financial support. Hitting numerous embarrassments and setbacks, Joy's determination eventually leads her to Neil Walker (Cooper); a savvy executive working for a television shopping network, who is sold on the idea of selling her invention to the masses.
Joy brings together Russel, Lawrence, De Niro and Cooper together again after the unexpected success of 2012 surprise hit, Silver Linings Playbook, and is painted in a similarly raw quirkiness. However, many viewers will find details of the plot a little too unconventional or even perhaps downright strange for their liking and, sure, the setup is a little out there and the pacing seems a bit off, but there are still plenty of qualities to be found. Things begin with a shaky start and getting connected - and emotionally invested - to the storyline does prove a little challenging; however, once the story finds its footing and once the rise of the Miracle Mop takes centre-stage, this is where the story comes alive.
Anchored by yet another beautifully committed and natural performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who has managed to embrace and capture her character's strength, determination and vulnerability to a great effect, it's pretty safe to say that she is the glue that keeps it all together and without here there, it would be awfully difficult to get swept up in the Miracle Mop's magic and madness.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.