All posts by Annie Tao

Russell Takes a Joy Ride

While anticipating its release back in November, I awarded Joy’s trailer an uninspiring D on our P/D/F scale. Following the success of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, I assumed that lackluster promotional content must have done a poor job of portraying yet another winning effort by Mr. David O. Russell. Unfortunately, it seems I was quite mistaken.

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The (Pretty) Good Dinosaur

Passing judgment on Pixar movies can be a dangerous task. Almost inevitably, any unforgiving critique will encounter strident challenges from Pixar enthusiasts. I can say quite confidently, however, that The Good Dinosaur may very well be the most under-hyped film Pixar has ever released. This dearth of publicity is the product of several factors, not the least of which is a release in the shadow of the highly-anticipated and much-appreciated Inside Out, also by Pixar, earlier in June. Throw in a rocky production processwith one change of director, a huge story and cast overhaul, and two revised release datesand you have yourself a box-office flop in the making. Whatever the causes, the general awareness of The Good Dinosaur, directed by Peter Sohn (Partly Cloudy, Ponyo), remains astonishingly low, and its overall reception astoundingly tepid. While some might suggest that Pixar has overreached in its attempt to deliver two big animated films in one year, I beg to differ.

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Joy Meets World

Have you been wondering when someone would finally make a film about the inventor of the Miracle Mop? This reviewer certainly hasn’t. A comedy-drama loosely based on the life of single mother and entrepreneur Joy Mangano, David O. Russell’s third and most recent collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence tackles a subject few, if any, would consider prime material for a big-budget Christmas film. While I remain somewhat skeptical of her ability to believably portray a mother of three in her late thirties, Lawrence is predictably charming and magnetic as she introduces the film via monologue. For all the enigmatic appeal of its principal actor, however, Joy’s trailer commits the familiar fault of dragging on a little too long and giving away a little too much. Upon watching the trailer one may as well have seen an abridged highlights reel of the film, complete with the most memorable lines and moralizing subtext. If only for a strong performance by Lawrence already receiving Oscar buzz, Joy will likely still be worth your time. That said, the choice to not only cast but purposefully create roles for Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro alongside one another again so soon seems questionable at best. With Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle both fresh in recent memory, a palate cleanser may have been in order. 

Grade: D

Joy’s trailer is no masterpiece, but it doesn’t have to be. People will watch the film for its star-studded cast even if Russell can’t seem to move on.

Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

The first season of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s new comedy series Master of None has just premiered in its entirety on Netflix for your binge-watching convenience. And binge watch you will. Following the misadventures of Dev Shah (Ansari), a thirty-something small-time actor struggling to make the leap from Go-gurt commercials to feature films, the offbeat comedy addresses the idiosyncrasies of millennial love and life in the Big Apple. In a pilot aptly titled “Plan B,” we watch as Dev holds priceless conversations with friends (single and otherwise) in a desperate effort to confront the existential crisis of his generation: to breed, or not to breed. In a series of stylized silent film montages, we become privy to Dev’s hilariously absurd imaginings of life as a family man, both idyllic and nightmarish. Ultimately, we come to suspect, as Dev does, that the reality probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. Continue reading Master of None Is a Jack of All Trades

How to Get Away with Melodrama? Hire Viola Davis

After spending the equivalent of a semester under the brilliant—if somewhat terrifying—tutelage of Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), you might think it was about time you graduated to How To Get Away With Murder 201, or at least 102. You’d be mistaken. The Season 2 premiere of Shonda Rhimes’ latest hit brings us right into the thick of the mess we left behind in the Season 1 finale. Continue reading How to Get Away with Melodrama? Hire Viola Davis