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219 reviews in total 
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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Shocking, intense and terrifying, 30 August 2016

Remember that hilarious film about a kid outwitting burglars in Home Alone? Now get a load of Don't Breathe, a clever twist on the home invasion genre that will have you quivering in fear instead of laughing out loud.

There's a significant twist too but before this is revealed, director and co-writer Fede Alvarez wastes no time in unleashing a truckload of terror. A quick introduction tells us that petty thieves Rocky, her boyfriend Money and Alex are down on their luck until they receive a tipoff about an old man who received a cash settlement after his daughter was killed in a car accident. To their pleasant surprise, the old man is blind and he lives alone in an abandoned neighborhood. But once they break into his house, there awaits more surprises that are not so pleasant, and as it turns out, shockingly nasty for us too.

Deeply rooted in the horror-thriller genre, Don't Breathe spans at just under 90 minutes, but don't underestimate its relatively short running time or its skimpy production budget. In just his second offering since the Evil Dead reboot, Alvarez delivers with almost Hitchcockian precision by using suspense and shock like a one-two punch combo. And although these are his principal tools to induce primal fear in the audience, there's plenty more at work to have viewers peeping through their fingers. Technical aspects like deft camera-work and sound mixing amplifies the fear factor to discomforting claustrophobia, owing to which the mounting peril on screen becomes directly proportional to increasing stress levels experienced by the viewer.

While the actors playing the burglars are virtually unknown, Jane Levy as Rocky and Daniel Zovatto as Money aren't new to horror, having previously starred in Evil Dead and It Follows (2015) respectively. As the script dictates, they don't have to say much yet successfully depict the outright horror of facing a superior and deadly antagonist known simply as 'The Blind Man' (Stephen Lang). If you thought Lang was a menacing villain in Avatar, nothing but nerves of steel can prepare you for his terrifying delivery in this film; and that's before his character turns off the lights.

Don't Breathe isn't the kind of gimmicky horror film made for cheap thrills. And if one cares to notice, there's even subtle social commentary on the failing economy in parallel to an unstable justice system. But that's just the film at its lightest. At its best, this is a horror film that is wickedly dark and for some viewers even nerve-wrecking to the point of suffocation. But then the title is already an apt warning – watch with bated breath.

Decent at best, The Shallows might just stand out in a summer crowded with unremarkable films., 11 August 2016

'So close yet so far' might be an apt irony to describe The Shallows, a B-movie horror-thriller that just manages to stay afloat. Just about, because the setup is quite ridiculous to begin with, yet visually arresting when required. It doesn't help either that the story is a no-brainer where almost every situation is force-fed via exposition. It gets to a point where the main character Nancy (bikini clad Blake Lively) says exactly what she is about to do, to let us know exactly what is about to happen. And we do.

The situation has Nancy - a surfer babe on holiday at a Mexican beach – stalked by a great white shark. The shark is both psychotic and very, very hungry. Amongst the many ironies in this film, the most obvious is the fact that she is just two hundred yards from shore. That's a short distance for her athletic abilities but also the death zone and probably where the film gets its title. Between the shark and the shore, Nancy finds herself stranded on a rock with time running out before the tide comes in. We know this because every ticking minute is flashed on screen thanks to her Casio Baby-G. Her watch, her knowledge as a medical student and memories of her mother fighting cancer sets the stage for what turns out to be survival against all odds.

If this was a Spielberg film someone would have suggested a bigger boat, instead director Jaume Collet-Serra is content with staging all the action and terror in limited space and without lavish visual effects. Having previously directed that little 2009 thriller Orphan, Collect-Serra isn't new to the horror genre and it shows. There are some gorgeous underwater scenes, a lot of blood, tense moments of suspense leading to jump scares, and even a joke about a wounded seagull, but is that enough? Call it a fluke, and however middling The Shallows might seem at times, it could still prove a tad bit better than the horde of unremarkable films this summer. And like the title says, there isn't much depth but watching lively Lively is worth the time it takes to sink your teeth into this one; or the shark - whichever bites first.

Bad Moms (2016)
3 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Crude yet hilarious, Bad Moms is immensely watchable thanks to its supporting cast., 3 August 2016

Who needs Cyndi Lauper when you have Kathryn Hahn – the main reason why Bad Moms is a fun film for women of all ages. These girls have a lot of fun, as do we, but make no mistake; this isn't a chick flick in the conventional sense.

That's the imprint any male member of the audience will walk away with. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, Bad Moms isn't a soapy sitcom, nor a romantic comedy or a date movie. There are plenty of other films catering to that need (Me Before You being the recent most popular girlie movie). Instead, the approach is in its sincere message that there's no such thing as a perfect family. And spinning this message into a hilarious farce is the second reason – the fact that the story was scripted by Jon Lucas and Scott More, the same guys who first wrote The Hangover, an outrageous guys-only comedy. Surprisingly, and as men writing this story, their insight echoes the plight of struggling soccer moms as the hardest job in the world. One such case is that of Amy (Mila Kunis), a young mom living out of her minivan while juggling work, kids, and marriage. Making things worse are the so called 'perfect moms' led by super rich PTA president Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and her sidekick Stacy (Jada Pinkett Smith). A good thirty minutes goes by where Amy wears the face of almost every mom watching this film. Then, buckled by the weight of her world crumbling down, and increasing harassment from Gwendolyn and crew, Amy finally snaps. Enter Hahn and Kristen Bell, fellow moms to Amy's rescue.

What follows is an infinite assortment of gags, both whimsy and slapstick, but squarely rooted in crude comic territory. While the premise isn't really original (Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher comes to mind), and the shenanigans they get up to are reminiscent of previous films, the payoff is in the well-earned laughs. We owe this in no small part to Hahn, who once again steals the show every time she is on screen and the main reason why Bad Moms is immensely watchable. Prepare for loose-lipped one-liners, frequent F-bombs, multiple references to other films and TV shows (don't miss the short but hilarious stab at Creed), and before you know it, you end up watching a raunchy film about motherhood; If that makes any sense. Even so, the icing on the cake is the ensuing sorority row between Gwendolyn and Amy, resulting in the latter running for PTA president. After Hahn's promiscuous antics, Applegate is the exact opposite but the icy itch with a capital B that we all love to hate.

More coarse language and an outrageous party later, and you get the notion that this may have never been intended as a chick flick. Sure, this is one wild film for a girl's night out but not one to be underestimated by the discerning male audience. There's plenty to keep everyone knee-slapped yet it never gets overly gross to the point that even Martha Stewart would find tasteless. So ditch those fictitious superhero films for a change and watch this film instead, for no other reason than that the fact that Bad Moms ,in the end, is nothing but real superheroes disguised as mothers.

18 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
NYSM2 is a literal and fatal misdirection with little in the way of fresh excitement., 15 June 2016

Anyone who has seen Christopher Nolan's cerebral masterwork in The Prestige will recall that a magic trick consists of three acts. Typically, this involves the 'setup' where the nature of the trick is explained, the 'performance' where the magician applies misdirection to fool the audience, and finally the 'effect' of the illusion on said audience. At no point will a magician reveal the secret behind the effect. So despite its critical consensus of style over substance, 2013's Now You See Me turned out to be a popular hit precisely due to the performance and misdirection applied. It was cheesy fun and at times nail bitingly good but we wanted to be fooled and we were.

Picking up roughly a year after the events of the first film, Now You See me 2 seeks to bring back the pizazz of its predecessor with more twists, turns, noise and nonsense. That's not necessarily a bad thing and while it's fairly traditional to harvest the merit of an original, NYSM2 as a sequel suffers in continuity owing to a poorly conceived setup. A result of which has the returning A-list cast embroiled in a save-the-world technology heist, ala international espionage styled thriller. With the inclusion of Lizzy Caplan (replacing Isla Fisher), the Horsemen are now required to pull off a high security job reserved for the likes of Ethan Hunt. And as absurd as that sounds, the idea of a hi-tech heist using street magic is quickly overrun by expository plot points in the form of flashbacks. No surprise then that however baffling a trick might seem, Morgan Freeman's celestial voice talent is always ready to narrate the secret. It doesn't help either that most of the other actors struggle with characters that lack any semblance to the previous film; Jesse Eisenberg included. Also lacking, albeit severely, is the on-stage showmanship of the Horsemen that made them famous in the first place.

Instead, new director Jon M. Chu's outlandish approach is in laying the foundation for a trilogy – much like the Oceans 11, 12, 13 franchise but with smoke, shadow, mirrors and identical twins. In part, this plays out by pitting head Horsemen Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) against Freeman's Thaddeus Bradley, a magic debunker with ulterior motives. While this incubates a backstory of tragedy and vengeance, it also detracts from the central theme of magic and those show stopping illusions that we actually came to see. To its merit, the inclusion of Daniel Radcliffe adds a whimsy twist to this sequel. Radcliffe is no stranger to magic but we get to see him play a creepy Bond-like villain in a bizarre father-son relationship with main villain Tressler (Michael Caine). Other developments include Woody Harrelson in a double role with equally bizarre if not intended comic interjections. And poof! Everything else goes out the window, rabbit and hat in tow.

With legendary illusionist David Copperfield serving as production consultant, NYSM2 should have turned out better than the first film. But on its own there is little in the way of fresh excitement, let alone not more than two main illusions. And undermining the entire concept of films about magic, at no point are we fooled into believing what we see either. Ultimately it all comes down to the arduous task of direction, or in this case, a literal and fatal misdirection but without the intended effect. Fans of the first film might find themselves in a giddy bag of tricks. For the rest, it's like watching a street magician perform with Parkinson's disease.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Breathtaking and true to the animated classic, The Jungle Book is a fun reincarnation for the new generation., 12 April 2016

There's no question about it. Well almost. The new Jungle Book film is one of Disney's most ambitious production in years. Fluid with lush detail, the entire film is a concoction of sights and sounds just waiting to take the audience on an epic journey. There's action and excitement, awe and serenity and altogether very engaging. But there's also a caveat, owing to which a vast majority of the audience might overlook a fundamental question - Is this really a live-action film?

It's almost 50 years since Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name was adapted into an instant Disney classic. That's a huge generation gap to fill considering children who watched the original now have children of their own. In order to satisfy both generations and still remain on par with sister concern and industry leading Pixar, I expect Disney has pushed its creative expertise to the limits. As a result over 90 percent of the film is CGI rendered. If that's what viewers want, then the experience is bound to be aesthetically astounding. But that also means that very little of what we see is actually 'live' footage.

This wouldn't be the first time though and precisely why the visual effects and production design are not really groundbreaking. Life of Pie in the jungle? You bet. While that film was made in a swimming pool, The Jungle Book is entirely 'filmed' in a studio, much like Zack Snyder's 300. The only thing real is Mowgli, a feral child adorably played by newcomer Neel Sethi. Now here's where it gets really interesting and it doesn't matter whether viewers have seen the animated original. Director Jon Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have paired the story with fleshed-out characters, each played to perfection with exceptional voice acting. These are Mowgli's friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther, opposite gangster-like orangutan King Loui, Kaa the hypnotic python and Shere Khan the vicious tiger. And because it was such a pleasure matching these animals to the actors lending their voices, I leave the audience to discover who plays who. That being said, the biggest triumph in this film IS the casting from the legendary three - Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and Bill Murray, to equally outstanding voice overs from Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o and Idris Elba. Add to fact that at least four of them are Oscar nominated actors and it becomes an understatement to their delivery in this film.

So to answer the question, The Jungle Book remake is technically still an animated film given the production is almost entirely 'added-in' using computer generated motion capture technology. Like it or not, this is the future of cinema but none of this really matters as most viewers wouldn't know the difference. That's because the end result is seamless when viewed on a large screen and absolutely breathtaking. Visual quality aside, the film is a heart-warming story that remains faithful to the 1967 original and Kipling's coming-of-age tale of a child raised by wolves in the heart of an Indian jungle. It's an adventure for the whole family, and although some moments are startling and dark, this remake is still a fun reincarnation for the new generation. Forget about your worries, the new Jungle Book is packed with Mother Nature's recipes, and that's the bare necessities to enjoying this film.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Although clichéd, Eddie the Eagle is an uplifting biopic and an equally whimsical sports dramedy., 30 March 2016

When it comes to sports biopics, there is no greater joy than watching athletes overcome unsurmountable odds. It's the very reason why everyone loves the underdog – that an unassuming nobody can become a legend by achieving the impossible. But what if that nobody never becomes a real legend?

Take the case of Michael 'Eddie' Edwards, a name that faded away as soon as it had the slightest chance of making headlines. Edwards did something no one else did in sporting history. At the age of 22 and on a whim, he went from amateur ski-jumping to qualifying for the 1988 Winter Olympics in less than two years, and with barely any formal training. At that time he was the only British ski-jumper to reach the Olympics but getting there wasn't easy. From his parents to the British sports committee to competing against athletes having trained since they were toddlers, the odds were vastly against Edwards. In the end, what really mattered was his determination to succeed, but if it weren't for this film no one would know who Edwards was and what he did to become a hometown hero.

That's because the Eddie in this film is portrayed as an oddball rather than a real Olympian. Albeit based on actual events, obvious tweaking in the screenplay modulates the narrative from a serious sports drama to a whimsical sports comedy. It works both ways as safe play from the makers and probably why many of the clichés are forgivable. Even so, the real reason to watch this film is Taron Egerton as the titular hero. From the underdog in 2015's sleeper hit Kingsman: The Secret Service to the underdog in this film, Egerton is an instant charm magnet and one of few reasons that make us want to care for a person sidelined in sports history. The other reason is Hugh Jackman as Eddie's mentor and reluctant coach. Although fictional, the turnaround in Jackman's character from a former ski-jumper turned binge-drinking jerk to Eddie's first real admirer and subsequent bonding elevates the film to crowd pleasing levels. And Jackman, reminiscent of a very similar role in Real Steal, pulls it off with sheer screen presence.

By the time Edwards earns the titular moniker Eddie the Eagle, there is little left to be cynical about. Even if this story is only half true and riddled with feel-good clichés and hokey moments, it is still pleasantly watchable thanks to typical British humour, upbeat period music, and the lovable goofiness of its main characters. This is precisely what sets apart Eddie the Eagle from hundreds of other underdog films. That, and the fact that this film isn't about winning, rather, how epic failure can still make a legend out of a determined sportsman. It's the same reason that made Cool Runnings such an uplifting film. The similarities are there and if you watch closely, so is the reference.

7 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Bland and chaotic, Batman V Superman is another example reiterating just how inferior DC is to Marvel films., 24 March 2016

For the hordes of comic book fans and the millions that will swarm multiplexes this weekend, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has a lot to offer but perhaps a little too much. That's the biggest problem with this film – the problem of plenty; and there are plenty of problems.

Starting with that mixed message in the title, the entire film feels like an array of events that doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. So to establish the first part of that title, the narrative takes a long time setting up a ferocious enmity between two of the most popular superheroes in the DC Comics universe. But before they start pummeling each other, prepare to spend over two hours trying to figure out exactly what the heck is going on. It doesn't help that the story, up until that point, is a patchwork of incoherence in time and place. Part of that problem is how serious this film tries to be. Look no further than the recent and exceptionally well made Deadpool, Marvel's game changer in superhero films. As a stark comparison, there is absolutely no humour or joy to be found in this film, owing to which, returning director Zack Snyder's offering is a visual and tonal bleach, and as captivating as a black and white photo of a rainbow. Now throw in Snyder's penchant for slow motion shots (I counted three scenes of shell casings hitting the ground in slomo), annoying lens flare and the shaky cam effect, in addition to watching this in 3D and you can expect no less than a disorienting headache.

Equally futile is the writing and how this is edited into the storyline. Chronologically, Batman V Superman begins during the final battle between Superman and General Zod in Man of Steel. We see this from the perspective of Bruce Wayne, and he's furious that civilians are caught up in the ensuing collateral damage. Or is he jealous that he is no longer the only superhero in town? That's an important question and we'll get to that later. Meanwhile, what should have been a seamless continuation from the previous film begins with an introduction to Wayne's childhood tragedy. This is how the film opens, yet the intent is not meant to be a refresher to Batman's origins. Since we already know how his parents died, the only other reason I can think of is how his mother's name is used to determine the outcome of the titular battle. Right off the bat (excuse the pun) I'll say that this is the pinnacle of all that is dumb in the film and one of several face-palm moments.

Dumbing it down further, Batman V Superman has a lot of characters and instances that are absolutely vague. Additionally, a lot of the running time is used to telegraph upcoming spin off films. This is evident when Wayne acquires classified information on metahumans (DC's version of mutants), one of which is the age defying Wonder Woman squeezed in as eye candy. Several more appear in single scenes but their inclusion is nothing more than a heads-up to kick start 2017's Justice League films; in other words, DC's lobbying to Marvel's Avengers. Therein lies the second part of the title – Dawn of Justice. DC's struggle to play catchup is as evident as the bland delivery from everyone in the film. Henry Cavill looks great in the Superman suit. That's it. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luther is never the super villain he is meant to be (try a cross between the Joker and the psychotic Penguin). Amy Adams as Lame (or is it Lois) Lane walks around with a mystery bullet for two- thirds of the film. And Ben Affleck as the new Batman…well maybe there's scope for a better written spin off. Until then it suffices to say that Ben was better when he was blind as a bat.

For fanboys, it doesn't matter which T-shirt you wear to the cinema. DC's acronym might as well read 'Disappointment Continues'. That's ample reason to lose your shirt.

92 out of 191 people found the following review useful:
Dull, incoherent and predictable, The 5th Wave is a futile undertaking in an already crowded genre., 14 January 2016

Survival besieged by sentimentality in an end-of-world scenario seems to be the driving theme in an ever increasing list of young adult films. Joining that list, rather late in the race, is The 5th Wave – a pointless save the world mishmash that feels like the retarded offspring between Independence Day and Red Dawn, but without any redeeming qualities from the parents.

Going from normal high schooler to gun-toting survivalist, Chloe Grace Moretz's Cassie Sullivan is both the heroine and narrator of this alien invasion for the new generation. The onslaught of the invasion, as explained by Cassie, is unleashed in a series of attacks beginning with power outage (Wave 1), natural disasters (Wave 2), fatal epidemics (Wave 3), followed by parasitic possession of humans as hosts (Wave 4). The first three waves are narrated in short flashbacks, thankfully, as the special effects employed are modest, and that's putting it politely. This leaves us, and Cassie, trying to figure out who's really who, before we arrive at the film's haphazardly written twist reserved as the titular Wave 5.

Part of that twist involves a group of child soldiers led by the capable Maika Monroe from last year's sleeper hit It Follows. Monroe's role is an interesting inclusion considering her forthcoming appearance in this year's tent pole offering of the Independence Day sequel. Written as polar opposites, Monroe and Moretz are tasked with shouldering the story from different perspectives. While both deliver, it is the latter's character who reminds us that this is nothing more than a YA film. Cassie's involvement with Evan, an Edward Cullen like mystery figure, not only adds to the overall corniness, their romantic interlude weighs down the story when it is already trying to stay afloat. But even this, although expected in a YA film, is put to use in the most cringe-worthy way possible. You'll know it when you see it.

With The Hunger Games laid to rest, and both Maze Runner and Divergent series following suit, all The 5th Wave manages to do is bring left overs to the table in an already crowed pound party. Low key and already lacking in originality, shoddy writing further adds to incoherence and chaos. If that's not bad enough, spoon feeding the narrative dissolves what little mystery there is, resulting in a telegraphed ending. This becomes even more disappointing with the inclusion of seasoned actors like Liev Schreiber and Maria Bello whose only role is authoritative figures. But even they can't save a film as absurd as the idea that only kids can save humanity from total annihilation. By the numbers? It sure is, and as thrilling as hearing someone count from one to five.

1 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Hateful Eight is Tarantino going back to his roots – Verbose, violent, and thoroughly unpredictable., 12 January 2016

Molasses is a word used more than once in The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino's cleverly titled eighth film. When you first hear the word spoken you don't think much of it. It's when you hear it again that you start to draw on its literal and figurative meaning. Chronologically, this is his ninth film (Tarantino considers Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 as one film) but the one common aspect in all his films is the known fact that as the writer and director, Tarantino is in no rush to tell his story. Just as viscid as molasses is the narrative, but also as concentrated, making this one of his most verbose, bloody and thoroughly unpredictable films. And binding everything together is an even more concentrated dose of tongue-in-cheek humour that is an absolute treat for every Tarantino fan.

It takes "patience" to get there though, another word used overtly to tell the audience that the wait is worth the reward. Told as a post- Civil War era western in whiteout Wyoming, The Hateful Eight is essentially a tightly wound potboiler seamlessly knitted into a whodunit murder mystery. And although the story seems like a Tarantino original, the plot summary appears to have germinated from the same nucleus that made And Then There Were None Agatha Christie's magnum opus. The similarities are there, yet somehow Tarantino's masterstrokes feel intimately traditional, like a nuanced director returning to his roots.

That tradition is felt almost entirely through the film, beginning with his signature approach to compartmentalising the narrative into chapters. Crossing over one-third the length of the film, Chapters one, two and three serve as the introduction to eight characters so eclectic that the film could have also been titled 'The Fateful Eight'. Leading the pack are bounty hunters Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) a former Union army soldier, and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) on the way to the town of Red Rock to hang his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for a bounty of $10,000. After picking up a fourth passenger, Red Rock's newly appointed Sheriff Mannix (Walton Goggins), their stagecoach stops for the night at a desolate cabin called Minnie's Haberdashery. Here's where they (and we) meet the remaining four – Red Rock's Hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), retired Confederate army General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a cowboy working on his autobiography, and Bob the Mexican, the cabin's caretaker. Trapped by a terrible blizzard on the outside and confined to suspicious strangers on the inside, tensions rise when most are not who they claim to be. Thus begins Chapters four, five and six, and traditionally where Tarantino lets the proverbial 'shit hit the fan'.

Before that happens, suspense driven buildup takes precedence by way of character driven performances and spitfire dialogue from everyone including whimsy cameo appearances. With Jackson in the lead and at his profane best, the remaining ensemble offer concrete support, each equipped with electrifying delivery and nestled surprises. But none more than the film's most concealed character - with a constant smirk on her face, Leigh's Daisy is perhaps Tarantino's biggest Easter egg with an unpredictable outcome. Equally delectable is the heavy dosage of dark humour, both witty and outrageous, and at an all-time high for a Tarantino film. So is the racial slur, which peaks in the form of an epic sex gag between Warren and the N-bombing Smithers.

While Django Unchained proved to be homage to the 60s era of Sergio Leone westerns, The Hateful Eight feels more like Tarantino's first real thriller. Shot in 70mm Panavision with the legendary Ennio Morricone (who invented the Spaghetti Western genre with Leone) providing a tense and menacing soundtrack, this could not only prove to revive the western but also Tarantino outdoing his own brand of wickedly entertaining audacity. And lauded more for his screen writing than his diabolical exploitation, this is probably his fastest film to get through even though it's over three hours long with a plot that thickens with each passing minute. Perhaps even thicker than molasses.

Joy (2015/I)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
As an inspirational true story, Joy works almost entirely because of the absolute and commanding delivery from Jennifer Lawrence., 7 January 2016

To a certain extent, Joy can be construed as a follow up to 2012's Best Picture nominee, Silver Linings Playbook. That's because almost everyone from the latter film is back, including director David O. Russell. Does it work as a worthy follow up? Yes and no. And at the risk of sounding sexist (albeit unintentionally), I might even add that Joy is best appreciated by the fairer sex. But that doesn't necessarily mean the male audience is in for a snooze fest either.

Evident right from the monochromatic prologue, Russell's narrative is a reverence for head-strong women with the heart to match. It's a pitch Russell has been honing for some time now, and after last year's American Hustle (also nominated for Best Picture), this would be his third consecutive film featuring the highly gifted Jennifer Lawrence. In a befitting parallel, Lawrence plays the titular Joy Mangano, a Long-Island based single mother who invented the Miracle Mop in the 1990s. Russell's story is narrated by Joy's grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), the only person who believes that her granddaughter is special. A divorcée herself, Joy has to deal with bickering from her divorced parents (Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen), raising her kids in a rickety house, and her Tom Jones wannabe ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) living in the basement. Russell's nuance for dysfunctional family farce forms a bulk of the narrative before Joy comes up with the idea of a self-wringing mop. Designing and inventing the mop was the easy part. Selling it to the American public turns out to be a nightmare, made worse by betrayal and jealously from her family.

That Joy went on to become a wealthy entrepreneur with over 100 patented products is barely touched upon. Instead, Russell's main focus is on Joy's struggles, and then a tonal shift through her determination to overcome a series of obstacles. Quite literally, Joy is initially on her hands and knees, mopping up after her deranged family, before a faceoff in Texas turns her into an overnight success story. In retrospect this might seem predictable, but the film's appeal is in its rags to riches underdog factor. It's a modern day Cinderella story without the need of a prince, and therein lies Russell's pro feminist plot device. As such, there isn't a male lead and the film is almost entirely anchored by Lawrence with gravitas much beyond her age. Reminiscent of her commanding tenacity in Winter's Bone, Lawrence is not only worthy of another Oscar nomination, her delivery here suggests that she could be in for the long-haul as a true blue Hollywood sweetheart. Meanwhile, De Niro is at his sarcastic best opposite Isabella Rossellini as Rudy and Trudy, hopeless romantics with a bizarre twist. Also returning is Bradley Cooper but late in the film. Although his character plays an important role, Cooper's inclusion is more of a submissive nod to previous collaborations with the director.

In a year that produced quite a few films based on true stories, Joy works as an inspirational biopic owing to Russell's aptitude for minefield dramedies. Once again, characters punctuate the story with screwball mayhem but unlike Silver Linings Playbook, spontaneous hilarity is quickly replaced by an emotional backdrop that peaks towards the end. Like Erin Brockovich before, the heart of the film is highly inspiring in saying that if one woman could, any woman can. With or without a man.

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