Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Cinema Review)

12A – 136mins – 2017 – 3D


 

STILL HOOKED ON A FEELING

Formerly feared to be comic and movie franchise giants Marvel’s unknown quantity, James The Belko Experiment Gunn’s 2014 mega-hit established that even lesser known superheroes can find adoration, form meme-worthy catchphrases (“I am Groot!”) and sell retro-flavoured mixtapes by the bucket-load.

… Keep Scuttling!

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War Dogs (DVD Review)

Image result for war dogs 2016

15 – 109mins – 2016


 

ARMS AND THE DUDES

“This isn’t about being pro-war… this is about being pro-money.”

It is 2005 and the War in Iraq is ongoing. Struggling to support his girlfriend (Knock Knock’s Ana de Armas) and incoming new addition, 20-something Miami Beach masseur David Packouz (Allegiant’s Miles Teller) is persuaded into the morally murky waters of online international arms dealing when he reconnects with old childhood friend Efraim Diveroli (Sausage Party’s Jonah Hill) at a hometown funeral.

… Keep Scuttling!

Joy (DVD Review)

12 – 124mins – 2016 


 

THROUGH THE WRINGER

“You can’t let the practical get you down…”

Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell reunites his hot-right-now headliners Jennifer Hunger Games Lawrence and Bradley Burnt Cooper for the third time in this enlightening biographical drama about a struggling single mother who overcomes the obstacles of her humdrum domestic existence to become a self-made millionaire in command of her own business empire.

I baulked at the horrendously slap-dash DVD cover when I first saw it on Amazon. For an Academy Award nominated film – for which J-Law won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – of this calibre to receive such a sloppy, lacklustre third-rate effort (it honestly looks like it was flung together in MS Paint in five minutes) scrambled my mind. However, such a cheap, no-nonsense aesthetic does in fact – whether coincidentally or not – perfectly reflect the humble homemade beginnings of Joy Mangano’s (Lawrence) Miracle Mop invention.

“I don’t want to end up like my family.”

But as inspirational as Joy’s determination to succeed in the face of constant upheaval, rejection and negativity is, Joy tries almost too hard to glamorise this very everyday industry success story. This is the “true story of a daring woman,” but Russell and fellow story-writer Annie Mumolo consistently inject Hollywood conventions into the narrative to spruce things up. So we have narration from Joy’s deceased grandmother (Diane Ladd), a non-linear plot structure (“Time moves forward, time moves backwards, time stands still”) and surreal soap-opera induced nightmare sequences.

While the road to commerce Queen is rocky, including back-stabbing, a personal meltdown and bankruptcy (“The world destroys your opportunity and breaks your heart”), the end result is a happy one. However the film delays its happily ever after until a brief epilogue reveal, instead choosing to focus on the negative, with the downtrodden mop-maker forced to reinvent herself like a phoenix from the flames following her lowest ebb.

“When you’re hiding you’re safe, because people can’t see you… But you’re also hiding from yourself.”

In outgrowing commerce giant QVC, Ms Mangano’s journey is certainly a motivational kick-up-the-arse for all those moaning layabouts who blame the world for their woes while sponging off of it. And yet, I still can’t completely scrub away the niggling smudge of doubt in my mind that maybe such a humble story isn’t powerful or dramatic enough to justify such sparkling, A-list treatment? It sounds harsh, I grant you, but then as Joy teaches us: so is business.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Burnt (DVD Review)

15 – 96mins – 2015


DISASTERCHEF

“It’s going to be a long, hard road, but slowly… I hope to gain everyone’s respect.”

Amiable Bradley Cooper dominates an impressive – but largely underused – supporting cast in this foodie drama about a 2 Michelin-starred chef who returns to the London restaurant scene after a wild sojourn in Paris which nearly ruined him as well as his career.

As “ogre in the kitchen” Adam Jones, Cooper occupies the well-worn cliché of the troubled genius (think Steve Jobs’ less than shining personality) who has made a lot of enemies and struggles to move on from the mistakes which haunt his every service – no matter how many oysters he has shucked in penance.

“I fucked it up a long time ago.”

From the very beginning I admired Adam’s determined search for perfection (“We need to be dealing in culinary orgasms.”), even if his darker edges made him less easy to associate with. However, in keeping his murky drug past at arms length, Steven Knight’s screenplay fails to endow Adam’s struggle with adequate ballast, leaving a lot of his moping and incendiary tantrums to come across as merely overly-sentimental.

That being said, his meltdown following a spicy sabotage did hit hard, and I do think that Burnt eventually succeeds in winning the audience over due to Bradley Cooper’s vulnerable portrayal of an honest and redemptive man.

Finally, as shameful as it was to waste A-listers Uma Thurman and Emma Thompson in minor roles (the former is little more than a cameo), it was a pleasant surprise to see Alicia Ex_Machina Vikander give a brief but tender performance as an unwelcome but well-meaning blast from Adam’s past.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars