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Posts Tagged ‘Robert DeNiro’

Leslie Man, Robert DeNiro

Leslie Man, Robert DeNiro

“THE COMEDIAN”  My rating: D

119 minutes | MPAA rating: R

While I can’t definitively say that “The Comedian” is the worst film of Robert DeNiro’s career, I can safely pronounce it one of the least enjoyable.

An alternately irritating and alienating effort that threatens to trash the reputation of everyone involved — and we’re talking lots of big names — “The Comedian” finds DeNiro playing Jackie Burke, a comic whose best days are long behind him.

Jackie’s claim to fame is a ‘70s TV sitcom called “Eddie’s Home.” Nearly a half-century later he’s still besieged by fans who call him Eddie instead of Jackie.  He’s got a thin skin — which is how he comes to punch out a heckler at a regional comedy club, followed by 30 days in the hoosegow.

Jackie is a pain in the ass to be around. An insult comic on the stage, he’s not much better in his personal life. He’s combative, angry and royally pissed at the miserable state of his career.

Now that might be palatable if we thought Jackie had some real talent. But this is one of those films where the comics in the movie tell jokes that would never get them a gig in the real world. And Jackie is the least among them.

Once out of stir, Jackie must fulfill 100 days of community service in a soup kitchen. There he meets  the ditzy Harmony (Leslie Mann), who is paying off her debt to society for assaulting her ex’s new girlfriend.

Their relationship…well, it’s not exactly love, but it’ll have to do.

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 ** as Roberto Duran

Edgar Ramirez as Roberto Duran

“HANDS OF STONE” My rating: C+

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Hands of Stone” is  “Raging Bull” lite — a boxing biopic minus the genius of Martin Scorsese.

But it does have Robert DeNiro.

Written and directed by Venezuelan Jonathan Jacubowicz, the film takes on the troubled life and career of Roberto Duran, the Panamanian pugilist whose ring experiences were as much a product of his dysfunctional childhood and Third World resentments as they were of hard sweat and tremendous innate talent.

In a decade of championship fighting, Duran held the lightweight belt, engaged in a long-running war of words (and blows) with American champ Sugar Ray Leonard, and sometimes  behaved in private and in the ring like a spoiled child.

“Hands of Stone” feels like an attempt not to excuse that behavior but to put it in perspective.

Early scenes establish Roberto as the son of an American soldier who impregnated his mother and then vanished, setting  up in the future boxer a lifelong antipathy toward the United States.  That fury was only stoked by political upheaval in Panama over efforts to take back the Canal Zone from the gringos (the American-run canal, guarded by U.S. soldiers, effectively divided the country in half).

We see the young and charming (also unschooled and illiterate) Roberto (played as an adult by Edgar Ramirez) wooing a wealthy blonde schoolgirl, Felicidad (Ana de Armas), and starting a family even as his career is taking off.

In a sense “Hands of Stone” is a dual biography, its second subject being boxing trainer Ray Arcel (DeNiro).

When in 1971 he first saw Duran fight, Arcel had been out of boxing for nearly 20 years. In the early ’50s he had incurred the wrath of the mobsters (represented here by John Turturro) who ran the boxing business. He barely survived an assassination attempt and was allowed to live only if he steered clear of the fight game.

But he’s so moved by Duran’s potential that he gets the Mafia’s permission to train the kid with no pay.

Roberto is cocky and tough and at first resents the discipline Arcel demands. But slowly he begins to see his trainer’s genius, especially when it comes to mapping out the strategies that can win or lose a fight.

 

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Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) comforts her daughter, Christy, in JOY.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) comforts her daughter, Christy, in JOY.

“JOY”  My rating: B

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The rags-to-riches story, a key element  of American mythology, usually concludes with  dreams realized and a bright future ahead.

Leave it to David O. Russell and his perennial muse Jennifer Lawrence (they collaborated on “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”) to poke around in the dark aftermath of dreams that come true.

“Joy” is inspired by the true story of Joy Mangano, a single mother who rose from poverty to multimillionaire after inventing the self-wringing Miracle Mop.

But Russell uses Mangano’s “inspirational” story as a launchpad for a mostly fictional comedy of dysfunction. Then he follows it up with a near-tragic look at how success brings its own set of difficulties.

Joy (Lawrence) has a spectacularly messed-up family. For starters this young woman is perennially flirting with financial and personal disaster. She works as a ticket clerk for a big airline, a gig that results in daily insults from the flying public. And she’s about to be laid off.

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

At home she must deal with two children and a slew of bizarre relations. Her ex husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez), who aspires to be the Latino Tom Jones, lives in the basement where he endlessly plans the big break that will never come.

Joy’s mother Terry (an almost unrecognizable Virginia Madsen) refuses to leave her bedroom and spends most waking hours watching the TV soap operas she has carefully videotaped. (A running gag finds real former soap stars like Susan Lucci and  Donna Mills appearing in the absurdly awful shows to which Terry is addicted.)

Joy’s father Rudy (Robert DeNiro), operator of an auto repair shop and an Archie Bunker-ish racist, is once again on the romance market, his latest marriage having gone belly up. He is reduced to taking up an uneasy residence in Joy’s cellar with his former son-in-law.

Joy’s stepsister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) has all sorts of sibling issues.

The only person in the house who seems halfway normal is Grandma Mimi (Diane Ladd), who has always predicted greatness for Joy and narrates the story — even from the grave. (more…)

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