Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Blu-ray: Jennifer Lawrence is ‘Joy’

Joy15David O. Russell wrote (or rather, rewrote) Joy (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD, 4K UltraHD) for Jennifer Lawrence, who he directed to an Academy Award in Silver Linings Playbook(2012) and an Oscar nomination in American Hustle. Lawrence score another nomination for Joy, based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the divorced single mother turned entrepreneur who invented the Miracle Mop, the first of more than 100 patents in her name. It’s an inspiring true life story and a great showcase for Lawrence, who evolves from overwhelmed mother and unappreciated foundation holding up a dysfunctional extended family to ferocious businesswoman and beloved on-air pitchwoman on the shopping network QVC to self-made mogul over the course of the film.

Also reuniting with Russell and Lawrence are Robert De Niro, who plays Joy’s blue collar father, and Bradley Cooper in a smaller role as a QVC executive with sparkling blues eyes suggests romance even as the script makes him strictly a mentor. This businessman is one of the few allies in Joy’s life. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) dropped out after being abandoned by husband De Niro to lay in bed all day watching soap operas (the same show seems to play 24-7) and her dad moves back into the family basement, where Joy’s ex-husband (Édgar Ramírez) is also camping out between gigs as an underemployed singer. They demand more attention than Joy’s own school-age children, and she juggles it all with a full-time job at an airline counter. When she comes up with the design for the Miracle Mop, which she engineers herself and has produced on a small scale, every step is beset with obstacles, from bad advice to crooked manufacturers to a disinterested QVC pitchman, which sends Joy in front of the camera to sell it herself: the working class everywoman selling the American Dream directly into homes across the country.

Read More “Blu-ray: Jennifer Lawrence is ‘Joy’”

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Liberator’

Édgar Ramírez

The Great Man school of biography is alive—if not particularly well—in The Liberator. A quick glimpse of unloving parents, a tragic lost love, reluctant heroism, sweeping battle scenes, and of course a charismatic international star: All are part of the once-over-lightly treatment.

The great man in question is Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), the George Washington of South America; the star is Édgar Ramírez, whose dashing performance as the Jackal in the three-part Carlos bagged him roles in Hollywood projects like Clash of the Titans and Deliver Us From Evil. Because the Venezuelan-born Bolívar’s goal was nothing less than the liberation of an entire continent from colonial rule, there’s a lot to cram into a two-hour movie. This means historical complexity is sidelined in favor of scenes in which Bolívar is nobly seated on the back of a charging horse, or clutched in the embrace of a beautiful woman while assassins lurk outside the hacienda. The images are handsome, but they don’t make much sense.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

DVD/Blu-ray: ‘Carlos’ – The Making of a Terrorist Superstar

Carlos (Criterion), Olivier Assayass’ epic account of the life and myth of real-life terrorist Carlos the Jackal, is a mesmerizing portrait of committed activist who transforms himself into a media-hungry rock star of an international terrorist.

Édgar Ramírez plays Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka Carlos the Jackal (a name he appropriates after the Fredrick Forsythe nove), as a bundle of contradictions, a self-professed revolutionary out to destroy the capitalist system and champion the oppressed, and a man whose love of luxury grows in direct relation to his notoriety, from fine clothes and liquor to gifting himself with a Mercedes for his 30th birthday. He imagines himself Che Guevara, a charismatic and revered leader spouting off revolutionary philosophy and giving orders that are obeyed without question by his own followers, but to him it’s all about the cult of personality and feeding his ego. By the end, it’s hard to tell if he’s at all committed to his politics or merely to himself: the outlaw superstar.

Olivier Assayass packs the film with incident and energy, trailing after his globe-hopping journey all over Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East and watching the characters to blow through his story, and directs with a pace that suggests the runaway drive of the numerous missions yet pauses for us to get to know, if only briefly, all these characters and places. He takes the camera to the streets with handheld flexibility reigned in by stylistic discipline. It’s not about mock-documentary realism and exaggerated wobble but getting in, getting out, getting the shot with an immediacy that his jumped-up editing drives to a run. And yet it never feels rushed, even when missions spiral out of control. At almost six hours over three parts I was still ready for more, even as the once-sleek figure of outlaw style succumbs to gluttony and self-indulgence, physically and emotionally.

Continue  reading on Videodrone