Review: Joy



DIR/WRI: David O. Russell • PRO: John Davis, Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Ken Mok, David O. Russell • DOP: Linus Sandgren • ED: Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Tom Cross, Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Yohei Taneda • MUS: David Campbell, West Dylan Thordson • CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro

When an award-winning writer/director and an A-List cast work together on a good old rags-to-riches tale inspired by self-made millionaire Joy Mangano’s life, what could possibly go wrong? What indeed?

Alas, there was no joy in David O. Russell’s Joy for me.

The movie centres around Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), a washed-out separated Mom struggling to keep on top of her job and take care of three generations of her family in a very unattractive home.

So downstairs we have Tony (Édgar Ramírez) the Venezuelan crooner of an ex-husband below in the basement who, within minutes, is engaged in an acrimonious turf war with his ex-father-in-law Rudy (Robert de Niro) also in the basement having being returned as ‘damaged goods’ by his third wife.

On the ground floor, we have Joy’s dysfunctional mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), whose lifelong addiction to a particular daytime soap along with a bad case of agoraphobia prevents her from getting off the bed or engaging in conversations outside the comings and goings of the show.

Upstairs, we have her two children and Grandma Mimi (Dianne Ladd), the only person that both supports and believes in her potential having noticed what a dab hand Joy was at Origami as a child. Next door we have the nasty half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm) and soon enough we meet Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) – Rudy’s latest squeeze who is instantly absorbed into this Italian American family.

For fear the audience don’t do nuance, we’re presented with way too many examples of just how harried poor Joy’s life is, which include flashbacks to her glory days of childhood origami, a very nasty divorce (during which some Origami gets damaged) and some dream sequences involving both her family and the cast on the set of mother’s favourite daytime show.

And that’s all before Joy starts her own business with and taking some particularly poor business advice from the very same circle of people that have been running her ragged for seventeen years. The blow-by-blow product design, inner mechanics and 300 feet of continuous loop cotton of her miracle mop were lost on me but was soon awoken by the hard knocks of zero sales. Enter snake oil salesman and QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), who promises to raise her back to life but not before a few more knocks and a second mortgage on the house.

I must have been taking off my coat at the beginning of the movie and missed the timeline but it was only in this first scene at the QVC shopping channel set was I given an indication of the era. Neil the futurologist made some predictions about the future of retail and home computing whilst giving Joy a tour of their very shabby premises.

You have to be tough for business is a key theme of the movie but you too join the club with a bad hairdo, a raised voice and some finger pointing.

So, anyway, Joy does make it, there’s no spoiler as it’s a biopic of a self-made millionaire but not before encountering more stress and disappointment.

So what’s not to like?  I’m not quite sure what went wrong. Any-rags-to-riches journey to the top is always a good yarn, the acting solid, the characters and their side stories quirky and fun yet together it hung uncomfortably accentuated by the inane voiceover from Grandma Mimi with platitudes like ‘that day Joy was not to know that in ten years …’

The closing scene sort of sealed the deal for me with the present day successful Joy now ‘arrived’ in her mock tudor mansion replete with very bad hairdo, dressed and behaving like Princess Diana offering alms to peasant inventors that had been waiting their turn for an audience with Joy. The happy ending was the silent reappearance of her son who must have been abducted as a toddler only to be returned as a teenager in the final scene, having been cut out and upstaged by his big sister throughout the movie.

Watching interviews with the real Joy Mangano about the movie, she hopes it will be an inspiration to other women and people out there with ideas to just do it. As a Joy myself and self employed, I couldn’t agree more and first on my not to-do list is to spend 124 minutes watching inferior quality movies. From the crew and cast behind classics such as The Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, we’d expect a little more joy,

Joy Redmond

167 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Joy is released 1st January 2016

Joy – Official Website



Cinema Review: Grudge Match



DIR: Peter Segal WRI: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman PRO: Michael Ewing, Bill Gerber, Mark Steven Johnson, Ravi D Mehta, Peter Segal DOP: Dean Semler  ED: William Kerr DES: Wynn Thomas  Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J

For a number of years, debate has raged as to which film is most deserving of the ‘best boxing movie of all-time’ mantle. For instance, whenever a new entry to the genre is greeted with some form of critical acclaim (such as David O. Russell’s 2011 awards favourite The Fighter), it is often described as the ‘best boxing film since Rocky’. Often, this seems like a heightened case of hyperbole, especially when you consider that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull was released back in 1980, a full four years after Sylvester Stallone’s career-making turn as the ‘Italian Stallion’.

There have been compelling arguments for either film being the very best of its kind, while some have stated that Rocky is ‘the greatest boxing movie’, whereas Raging Bull is ‘the greatest movie about boxing’, which does offer a vague (if nonetheless significant) distinction. What is generally accepted, though, is that both films have set a benchmark that has proven to be extremely difficult to follow.

Although, Stallone’s Balboa is a fictional creation, and Raging Bull’s protagonist (Jake LaMotta) was a real-life World Middleweight Champion, many have wondered who exactly would win in a fight between the two, and with the release of the Peter Segal-directed Grudge Match, we are given some form of answer to that quandary.

Eight years after he last donned a pair of red gloves for the nostalgic Rocky Balboa, 67-year-old Stallone is Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp, while Robert De Niro (who won the second of two Oscars for his portrayal of LaMotta) is his long-time adversary, Bill ‘The Kid’ McDonnen. During their prestigious careers, Sharp and McDonnen fought each other twice, with McDonnen winning the first duel, before Sharp gained revenge in their second bout.

A final grudge match between the two was anticipated, but when Razor unexpectedly announced his retirement, the opportunity for a definitive confrontation had passed. Some 30 years later, they come to blows once again during the production of a computer game, and when the recorded incident goes viral, a young up-and-coming boxing promoter (Kevin Hart) begins to sell the idea of a third fight between the pair (billed as “Grudgement Day”).

Drawing on the exhibition fight motif of Rocky’s sixth cinematic outing, much of the film details the arduous preparation that the two elder statesman have to engage in as they aim to be in tip-top shape for their elongated return to the ring. While Razor hooks up with his former trainer Lightning (Alan Arkin, in typical scene-stealing form), Kid finds himself working alongside his long-lost son (Jon Bernthal) from a brief relationship with Kim Basinger’s Sally Rose, a former flame of Razor.

Certainly, with two heavyweights like De Niro and Stallone, and dependable supporting players like Arkin, Basinger and Bernthal (who can currently be seen sporting a handlebar moustache in The Wolf Of Wall Street), there is enough of a pedigree to make Grudge Match a worthwhile endeavour. The major problem it faces, however, relates to the tone of the film.

Whereas Rocky and Raging Bull were dramatic pieces, Grudge Match is very much played for laughs, with more than a fair share of references to the back catalogue of the principle stars. In the form of Segal, the film certainly has a helmer who is comfortable directing comedy, but despite enjoying great success throughout his career, much of his recent output has been workmanlike at best.

Indeed, much of the time Grudge Match seems overly reliant on the easy charm of its cast, and although the key players do their level best, they can only sustain momentum for so long. Having set-up the trajectory of the story within the opening half-hour, the script also appears to lack some much-needed inspiration, in spite of the input by Entourage creator Doug Ellin.

It also becomes more and more clichéd during the final act, and it is disappointing to see the nature of the relationship between Razor and Kid changing when it would seem more appropriate for the levels of hostility to grow.

That said, there is still some pleasure in seeing two veterans of the screen (De Niro has now reached the septuagenarian stage of his life) meeting face-to-face in an intense, and physically-exhausting battle, and when the titular ‘grudge match’ finally takes place, it does provide a satisfactory climax to the action.

The use of stock footage and digital trickery at the start of the film to show how Razor and Kid developed their rivalry over the years is also rather impressive, and there are some fleetingly funny moments throughout, most of them involving Arkin and Hart – a very popular stand-up comedian on Stateside.

Perhaps it would have been more advantageous for Grudge Match to have been made back in the mid-1980s, when both Stallone and De Niro were able to convince as genuine contenders for a World Championship crown. However, for those who are still looking to answer the immortal Balboa or LaMotta conundrum, then Grudge Match will have to make do.

Daire Walsh

12A (See IFCO for details)
113  mins
Grudge Match is released on 24th January 2014

Grudge Match  – Official Website


Cinema Review: Last Vegas


Dir: Jon Turteltaub  Wri: Dan Fogelman • Pro: Amy Baer, Joseph Drake, Laurence Mark • DOP: David Hennings • ED: David Rennie • DES: David J. Bomba • MUS: Mark Mothersbaugh • CAST: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline

Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline: these men are near death, relatively speaking. Sorry to ruin Last Vegas for you, but that’s supposed to be the punchline. How hard you take it depends on a couple of factors – your age, your IQ, whether or not you sat through those Hangover sequels. As with said sequels, what’s missing here is a plot structure as convincing or enjoyable as the blackout whodunnit of the original.

The men are in is Las Vegas to celebrate Billy’s (Douglas) engagement to a much younger woman. Having been friends since childhood, Billy and Paddy (De Niro) are no longer speaking, and the other two hope to save the friendship. From then on it’s just like a golden wedding anniversary down the local; someone sticks a drink in your hand and insists that you enjoy the supposed incongruity of senescent debauchery. Meanwhile, Mark Mothersbaugh’s score will give anyone who hasn’t experienced it a solid idea of what it’s like to spend time in one of those glass-bottomed Las Vegas elevators.

The thing is, these actors have been around for a while for a reason – they’re really good at what they do. Every time the film wants us to laugh at Morgan Freeman’s dodgy hip or whatever, some internal reflex of actorly dignity kicks in and the joke is tossed back – at the audience, usually. Even with Kline, whose comportment doesn’t quite have the gravitas of the others’, the fact that he’s in Bob’s Burgers is enough to let us know that he gets the joke. And anyway, everyone looks far too physically fit to really be identifiable with the sorts of old men we know and just-about tolerate. So the MTV-circa-1998-style bikini-wearing competition, the 50 Cent cameo, the younger women they all improbably tangle with, none of it is plausible enough to be funny. Encourage the septuagenarians you know to spend their golden years a little more wisely than these guys.

 Darragh John McCabe

12A (See IFCO for details)

105  mins

Last Vegas is released on 3rd January 2014

Last Vegas – Official Website


Cinema Review: The Family


DIR:Luc Besson • WRI: Luc Besson, Michael Caleo • PRO: Luc Besson, Ryan Kavanaugh, Virginie Silla • DOP: Thierry Arbogast• ED: Julien Rey •  DES: Hugues Tissandier MUS: Evgueni Galperine,  Sacha Galperine • CAST: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo


The Family is the story of Fred (Robert De Niro), a former big-cheese in the New York mob, now turned state’s witness. We pick up just after Fred and his family have been forced to relocate yet again after blowing their cover because despite being hunted by mob hitmen, Fred and company just can’t get a handle on civilian living after so many years of living the idealised life of what cinema has taught us a mobster’s existence looks like. With the mob closing in and their handler (Tommy Lee Jones) telling them this is their last chance (as it must always be), can they finally learn to settle in or is a violent showdown with Fred’s former buddies in the mob looming on the horizon? Well, it’s a Luc Besson film so take a wild guess.

The Family seems on paper like one of those great ideas that will almost inevitably be undone by the sanitisation that comes from being such a mainstream production. So it’s surprising then that this isn’t in fact where the film falls down. Coming from Luc Besson the film has no qualms about violence, language and an instance of truly dark (and uncomfortably out of place) implied sexual abuse. The problem is that all of this never amounts to being more than token; token violence, token swearing and a token action-climax. With the freedom they were clearly afforded, this film should be over-the-top in its violence (especially given that it’s being marketed as ‘From the Producer of Taken’) but lacks any ambition. The big action set-piece which the plot has been clearly building toward is disappointingly perfunctory. Just at the point where it seems to be getting into the rhythm of a big, chaotic action scene, where everyone is in place and the titular family should join together for the final push, it’s over.

This lack of interest in its own action centrepiece would seem to indicate the film is more preoccupied with the actual family dynamic and the comedy which makes up the backbone of the screenplay. Sadly, these often strong scenes of the family’s interactions with one another are undone by the film’s constant need to cut away and remind us of the larger plot involving the hitmen and thus sacrificing where its strength lies in order to set up and build toward its damp squib of a finale. This naturally makes for a frustratingly unfocused viewing experience. This isn’t helped by the non-hitmen portion of the plot involving the family being itself an attempt to combine four separate films in such a truncated fashion that each ultimately feels unnecessary. The most poorly executed of these being the daughter, Belle’s (Dianna Argon) story.

Her character is a shallow, almost self-conscious attempt to create a stock ‘strong female character’ (complete with a ‘respect women’ speech delivered practically at the camera) while simultaneously embodying anachronistically old-fashioned values about sex, virginity and love. This leads to a truly strange scene of her threatening to throw herself from a church tower while wearing a white dress in the name of true love. A more cynically minded viewer might even say that this second half of her personality only exists as a lazy contrivance to get her to that church tower at that exact moment so that she can conveniently see the hitmen arriving.

It is a pity that the hitmen plot ends up dominating so much screen time as the performances across the board are a delight to watch. Despite the bizarre writing of her character, Argon remains convincing in her portrayal especially in her interactions with De Niro and Pfeiffer. Indeed, given that both of the young actors playing the kids are performing opposite two industry giants it is truly impressive how naturalistic and believable the overall family dynamic feels. De Niro, who has been phoning it in a lot in recent years, is refreshingly animated here. Even Tommy Lee Jones *almost* displays an emotion at one point.

Pfeiffer is the standout though. Even if her Boston accent occasionally drops in and out her chemistry with De Niro is undeniable as their relationship feels genuinely lived-in. Additionally, her interactions with the kids feel effortless and funny and when the appropriate moments arise, she exudes a quiet, threatening intensity befitting of her status as a matriarchal, gangster’s wife. She may not deadpan a ‘meow’ before she does it this time but watching Pfeiffer calmly blow up a store is still as much fun to watch as it was in the nineties.

There is a very enjoyable film to be found in The Family, just nowhere near enough of it. With its great performances, occasionally smart writing and glimpses of inventive or entertaining violence it’s certainly a very watchable movie. However, the film could really have been elevated by taking its jokes, its violence and its action just that bit further instead of playing it as relatively safe as it did. It’s also an added pity that the soundtrack is so good; its song choice blending an eclectic mix of genres and eras only to use them (for the most part) in quite safe scenes. The only moment where the film does decide to take a bit of a risk (a scene involving Goodfellas) is borderline fourth wall-breaking and almost irredeemable in its self-indulgence. If only more of the film had been so self-indulgent in other aspects, such as its violence or humour, that didn’t involve ego-massaging its own Executive Producer.

Wasted potential.

Richard Drumm

15A  (See IFCO for details)

111 mins

The Family is released on 22nd November 2013



Cinema Review: Red Lights


DIR: Rodrigo Cortés • WRI: Andrew Steele • PRO: Rodrigo Cortés, Adrián Guerra • DOP: Xavi Giménez • ED: Rodrigo Cortés • DES: Antón Laguna • Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy

In 2010, director Rodrigo Cortes burst into our radar with Buried, an insanely tense and unique thriller which put him firmly on our ‘One To Watch’ list. For his follow up, he’s gathered quite an impressive cast (Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones), as well as doing scripting duties himself, conjuring up an interesting premise.

Weaver is a university lecturer, with Murphy as her assistant. They teach classes about the world of parapsychology, and in their spare time they drive around, demystifying all manner of psychics and haunted houses. De Niro is a world famous psychic who is coming out of a 30-year hiatus, after his most avid disbeliever died of a heart-attack at his last show. Murphy decides De Niro should be next to debunk, but Weaver warns him off, claiming him to be too dangerous a target. And pretty soon some weird and scary things start to happen, things that cannot be explained by science…

This interesting set-up, along with some pretty good performances from all of the leads (including, thankfully, De Niro) makes for a solid first 30 minutes. However, once some of the more outlandish plot pieces begin to fall into the place, the film slowly starts to fall apart. Huge sections of the story are just left dangling in the wind, along with Elizabeth Olsen as Murphy’s girlfriend and Toby Jones as Weaver’s rival lecturer, two excellent actors both completely wasted.

Being touted as this year’s equivalent of The Sixth Sense, this too comes with a ‘twist ending’ which isn’t so much a surprise as it is 100% completely unguessable, as well as destroying pretty much destroying the entire story that had gone before. A significant disappointment.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Red Lights is released on 22nd June 2012




Dir: Neil Burger • WRI: Leslie Dixon • PRO: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf • DOP: Jo Willems • ED: Tracy Adams Naomi Geraghty • DES: Patrizia von Brandenstein • CAST: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish

Limitless, based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, imagines a kind of mind that’s perfectly designed to thrive in the modern world. A kind of mind that can actually process all of the information we’re presented with in our everyday lives. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) becomes the owner-occupant of this mind when he takes a drug called NZT which enables him to access the untapped potential of his brain. The result is an ability to receive and understand vast amounts of information almost instantaneously. A struggling writer, Eddie on NZT finishes his book in a matter of days and then makes a fortune on the stock market before it’s even published.

The subject material is, in many, ways perfect for cinema. A director like Edgar Wright would have made a fantastic film. The combination of sound and imagery, quick fire editing and graphics, all intelligently applied, would have done a terrific job conveying the ceaseless synaptic fire in Eddie’s brain. Not to mention cranking up the tension on what should have been a terrifying series of blackouts that Eddie experiences as a side effect of the drug. But Neil Burger is not the man for the job. He’s going for a similar effect with a lot of graphics popping up on screen, but he uses these techniques injudiciously (giving us an X-Ray image of Eddie swallowing the first pill just seems silly) so it dilutes the impact they should have had when used at more suitable moments.

Like all high concept sci-fi thrillers the central premise is not without its flaws. (As anyone who has actually taken a class in kung-fu, dance, or music will tell you, knowing what to do and getting your body to do it are two very different things.) The problem for Limitless is that these flaws will occur to you while you’re watching the film and not twenty minutes after you’ve left like they’re supposed to. The film fails as a thriller too simply because having a man come round every now and again to chase the main character and his girlfriend for a bit does not automatically make a film into a thriller. It soon becomes clear that this story line has nowhere to go and the escape plans that their NZT fuelled brains come up with are ridiculous.

Without this key element the movie grinds to a halt half way through and it offers us instead a series of montages on the glamourous lives of America’s super-rich, ignoring the real dramatic potential of the secret behind Eddie’s success. Eddie has NZT, but what dark pacts have these people around him made for their success? In fact one of the best scenes in the movie comes near the end when the Wall Street giant Carl van Loon (Robert De Niro) tells Eddie exactly what it takes to make it in this world. It’s the only time De Niro comes alive in the role and the only time the film touches on something truly dark. It’s a pity then that this too is undermined by the weak ending.

A very disappointing movie.

Geoff McEvoy

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
is released on 25th March 2011

Limitless – Official Website


Little Fockers

Little Fockers

DIR: Paul Weitz • WRI: John Hamburg, Larry Stuckey • PRO: Robert De Niro, John Hamburg, Jay Roach, Jane Rosenthal • DOP: Remi Adefarasin • ED: Greg Hayden, Leslie Jones, Myron I. Kerstein • DES: William Arnold • CAST: Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro

The first thing that caught my attention upon sitting down to Little Fockers was, naturally, the IFCO certificate. Instead of the customary 12A or even PG I was greeted by a suspicious 15A. Jay Roach directed the first two entertaining installments of this series while Paul Weitz takes the reins here. That Little Fockers is reminiscent of the toilet humour in films such as American Pie suddenly makes perfect sense considering that was Weitz’s directorial debut.

As with the previous two Focker films, the story follows the unending trials and tribulations of Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) as he suffers under the relentless gaze of his father-in-law Paul Byrnes (Robert De Niro). Focker is once again burdened with the arrival of his in-laws in anticipation of his twins’ birthday party and, following a health scare, Byrnes is eager to see that Focker will be able to fill his lofty shoes to become the, ahem, God-Focker.

The most irritating feature of Little Fockers is the lack of progress its characters have made in the decade since Meet the Parents. De Niro is still riding Stiller over not being worthy of his daughter whilst meeting any attempt at humour with a frown and spying on him in the rare instances when he isn’t staring him down. The best feature of the first sequel, Meet the Fockers, was the addition of Gaylord’s parents played with gusto by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. That the senior Fockers are absent for much of the film is highly disappointing and the film suffers for their loss. That their playful humour has been replaced by an escalation of the previously mild gross-out comedy is more evidence of an undercooked script and an erroneous choice of director.

The filming of Little Fockers was rumoured to be in disarray with Universal considering replacing Weitz with writer/producer John Hamburg mid-shoot. That Hoffman initially declined because he wasn’t happy with the script and was brought in for re-shoots to add some much needed laughs is entirely plausible as his brief scenes feature the majority of the films humour. Despite the name, Little Fockers is only suitable for an older and less mature audience than the family-friendly older Fockers.


Peter White

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Little Fockers is released 22nd Dec 2010

Little Fockers – Official Website


What Just Happened

DIR: Barry Levinson • WRI: Art Linson • PRO: Mark Cuban, Robert De Niro, Art Linson, Jane Rosenthal • DOP: Stéphane Fontaine • ED: Hank Corwin • DES: Stefania Cella • CAST: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, John Turturro, Bruce Willis, Micheal Wincott

Barry Levinson and Robert De Niro reunite in this complicated story, which retells two weeks in the life of a stressed and strained Hollywood producer. De Niro stars as Ben, a Hollywood producer who struggles to balance both his personal and professional life, both of which are cluttered with conflict and confrontation. At the beginning of the story, De Niro announces prophetically ‘Power. You have it, want it, or are afraid to lose it.’ This is the basic premise of the film, as Ben struggles to retain power in every relationship in which he is involved. The film features several subplots, in each of which Ben is required to fulfil another role. As a father, lover, counsellor and professional, Ben is constantly pandering to other people’s needs.

Ben’s first test of sanity comes in the guise of his latest release, Fierce, which has all the makings of a box-office flop, due to its edgy ending, which leaves test audiences in tears of pain. Studio Chief Lou (Catherine Keener) forces Ben to deal with his eccentric director (Micheal Wincott), who, along with Sean Penn (as himself), is struggling to resist conforming to generic Hollywood storylines.

On the other hand, Ben is instructed by another studio to ensure that Bruce Willis (who stars as himself) shaves his beard, which he is flatly refusing to do. These trivial and exhausting tasks take up the majority of Ben’s daily life, leaving him drained and constantly playing catch-up. On top of his confusing professional life is his personal life, where Ben has to balance two ex-wives and three kids. Ben’s life almost exhausts the viewer as much as it does him. He evokes a great deal of empathy from the viewer as he comes across as a decent and genuine man, caught up in a web of insider politics and complicated relationships. The performances are believable and strong, with Willis mocking his own stature as one of Hollywood’s most famous actors. De Niro is convincing as the seasoned producer, whose age is beginning to show some of his limitations and weaknesses.

Levinson has explored the theme of the darker side of Hollywood before, in Jimmy Hollywood (1994), but this time injects his creation with a harsh sense of reality. Ben is never recognised for all of his work, and every character we encounter suffers from some deep-rooted sense of unhappiness or longing for another life. The film does give a good impression of the less than glamorous lifestyle which is hidden by the thin veneer of Hollywood glitz and glamour. What it really comes down to is how many favours you can collect from the people with the power.