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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Harvey Keitel

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

It’s like they say, “Your best movies, are the ones that come close to killing you.” Even though, yeah, they don’t.

After making not just the Godfather Part I, but Part II in the span of a nearly two years, Francis Ford Coppola could basically do whatever the hell it is that he wanted, with as much money, with whomever, and wherever. That’s when he decides to take up adapting Heart of Darkness, the novella that had been a long passion-project of Coppola’s, but needed some extra push to get off the ground. Eventually, he got it, but in this case, it wasn’t what he, or anyone else was expecting. Needless to say, without saying too much, one lead actor gets a heart-attack, another gets recast about halfway through, one is filmed in a drunken-stooper, one lies about his age to get in the movie. But then, if you go past the usual actor stuff, you’ve also got the fact that the budget is running up the bill way more than it was supposed to, the Vietnam locals are getting pissed, the weather was absolutely awful and practically unlivable, and oh yeah, Coppola himself literally lost his mind.

Was it “method”?

The biggest joke about Hearts of Darkness would be that the resulting film of all this mayhem and madness, Apocalypse Now, turned out to be a bunch of crap that people put way too much of an effort into, for no other reason because they had to, or they thought what was right. But that’s what’s funny, because the movie turned out, dare I say it, almost perfect. All of the years spent filming, editing, and putting money into it, guess what?

At the end of the day, everyone went home happy.

But Hearts of Darkness isn’t a movie about what the final product ended up becoming, nor is it really about what everyone else thought about the movie, it’s mostly about the behind-the-scenes of everything that happened on, as well as off the set, and yeah, it’s just about as candid and as eye-opening as you can get with a documentary about so many big names and faces in Hollywood. With the assistance from Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper, believe it or not, Eleanor Coppola, Francis’ wife, is actually the perfect one to bring this table of absolute craziness to the big screen; she was, after all, there for it all, and her insight, while sometimes silly, focuses on things that probably mattered the most. While Francis was off worrying about how much fire was burning the trees down, Eleanor was worried that her husband was going to have a stroke and possibly die from all of the tension and turmoil in his life.

It’s not like she wants us to feel bad for her husband, but at the same time, she also wants to see it from more of a film-nerd’s perspective, where the control-freak director is always right for themselves, the movie, and everyone else around them. But still, just watching what happens behind-the-scenes here, and the things that we only hear small instances of, are truly insane, but draw you in even closer to the mind of Coppola, how he worked, and why he slaved away for so long to get this picture of his made and up on the big screen, for all the world to see and hopefully feast their eyes on.

It was the 70’s and it was hot, so maybe he wasn’t totally crazy.

And really, it all comes back to Coppola, someone who has become a pretty infamous figure in movie-making, only because it appears like his career has taken a huge turn downwards after he was put into debt for this project, as well as the many others to follow. For one, it’s interesting to see Coppola talk about this project, but also not think of him as a total ass; sure, he loves himself and his work, but can you blame him? The man has literally just made two of the greatest movies of all-time and was onto making another, so maybe he’s allowed to kiss his own ass, eh?

If so, it still brings up the question: How much is too much?

Eleanor and the movie as a whole, brings this point up many times and makes us think, whether we’re on his side for going so far as he did, to make sure that this movie was complete and actually worked to his vision, or, if he was just way too artistically-driven in the first place? See, it would be a problem if the movie didn’t turn out to be such a classic, but it somehow did and it makes us not just think, but wonder: Where has that same artistic integrity gone? And hell, when is it coming back?

Consensus: Eye-opening and thrilling to watch, especially if you’re a film-nerd, Hearts of Darkness will surely show you everything you need to see, hear, and understand about all of the craziness that went into making sure the final product turned into what it is seen as today.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Cast and crew getting the hell out of Coppola’s rage.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

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The Comedian (2017)

Isn’t stand-up comedy supposed to be funny?

Jackie Burke (Robert De Niro) has seen better days. He was once the star of a much-loved sitcom from the 70’s, hit the stand-up circuit as one of the biggest, loudest and meanest shock-comics out there on the scene, and yeah, he had a whole bunch of love and adoration from people in his world. However, time went on and eventually, the rest of the world sort of forgot about Jackie. Nowadays, he’s forced to work for the nostalgia circuits, playing to small crowds, filled with either hapless teens, or barely-there senior citizens. Jackie realizes this and because of that reason alone, tension builds up within him, more and more. One event goes bad when Jackie beats up an audience-member filming and heckling him, leaving Jackie to have to serve out a some jail time and community service. While on community service, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), a troubled gal who gravitates towards Jackie and his ways. But she doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of the jokes, and he doesn’t really know what’s underneath all of her beauty, either.

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

Ladies love those has-beens! Especially the ones without money, right?

The Comedian is a perfect example for what happens when you have a good cast, and that’s about it. The plot, the jokes, the heart, the humor, the meaning – just about everything about it is odd and doesn’t quite work. But man oh man, whenever they’re given the chance to do so, the ensemble here tries with every bone, every fiber, and every material of their body to make this material work.

And because of their effort, and because they’re all good, yes, they do help the Comedian out a whole bunch. Does that mean it’s a good movie? No, it does not. But it does help make a very bad movie, slightly less worse than it could have been, with less talented and committed people involved.

And this doesn’t just go to the cast, either – behind the cameras is director Taylor Hackford, who hasn’t always had the best track record, but does have more hits than misses, and four writers, Art Linson, Jeff Ross, Richard LaGravenese, Lewis Friedman, all of whom seem to know what they’re doing in their own, respective projects. But for some reason, they just didn’t quite know what to do here; it’s as if they signed on to do a movie about comedians and late-aged ones, but ended up just telling one too many dick, fart and sex jokes.

And oh yeah, the jokes themselves are pretty lame, too.

If there’s one big no-no in movies about comedians, it’s that the comedy you’re selling us on, in the first place, has to be funny. Like, does anyone remember that subplot in Mother’s Day where the British dude wanted to be a comedian and strutted his stuff out on the stage, told really awful jokes, and everyone in the movie was laughing at him, as if he was some sort of godsend? Well, if not, don’t worry, because you didn’t miss much. But if you did see that, then you get an idea of just how the Comedian is – not really funny, even though no one seems to have told it so.

There are the occasional moments of actual humor, but it’s mostly because of Jackie’s brand of comedy – he’s the kind comedian who Stern would have had on his show every day, just going as deep and as far into the dirty talk as either of them could. If that’s your brand of humor, then yeah, a lot of De Niro’s jokes will work perfectly for you and hit the mark, but if not, well then the jokes will just continue to be more and more grating as they go on. De Niro’s character gets grosser, meaner, and far more idiotic, making us wonder whether anyone involved knew what actual humor was in the first place?

"Get it? Fart!"

“Get it? Fart!”

Or, at the very least, just how stand-up comedy worked?

And then it goes on. The movie then tries to deal with romance, drama, and almost attack the showbiz industry itself, but it just never makes sense, mostly because a good portion of it can be unbelievable. Jackie goes viral at least three times, none of them ever making sense, or seeming as if they could happen in the real world that the Comedian seems to inhabit. It’s odd because it seems like everyone involved behind the cameras are so out-of-touch, you almost wonder just how long this script was sitting around on the shelf for, never got looked at, and collected up dust.

Probably a lot and yeah, it shows.

But like I said, the cast really does help this movie out, a great bunch. De Niro does what he can in the lead role; he’s deliciously mean and cruel when he wants to be and it works, but the jokes just ruin him. De Niro’s line-delivery feels awfully too stilted to make it sound like we’re hearing an actual comedian on the stage, and not just an actor reading lines and forgetting where the punchline is. Still, when he’s off the stage, De Niro is compelling, as we get to see a sad, old man for what he is: Sad, old and kind of miserable. This character and this performance deserve a way better movie, which is why it’s hard to just accept this one for what it is, as poorly-written as it can sometimes be.

Then, there’s everybody else. Leslie Mann is charming, despite her character having some awfully weird baggage going on that’s never fully explained; Harvey Keitel plays her controlling and generally creepy father who is way too over-the-top, but has some fun scenes with De Niro; Patti LuPone shows up as De Niro’s sister-in-law to yell at him and get in his face, which is fun; Danny DeVito plays his brother who basically does the same thing; Edie Falco plays his manager and has nice chemistry with him; Charles Grodin shows up as a rival who’s barely around; Cloris Leachman shows up as this sort of aging Lucille Ball character and is fine; and yeah, there’s many, many more cameos from all sorts of real life, well-known comedians. It makes you wish there was more of them and less of the scripted jokes, because lord knows the Comedian would have been, well, funnier.

Consensus: Try as it might, the Comedian just doesn’t have enough juice to make itself funny, relevant, sad, important and interesting enough, even with the talented ensemble helping out as much as they humanly can.

4.5 / 10

"So yeah, when's Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?"

“So yeah, when’s Marty going to get going on this Irishman movie, so we can stop doing stuff like this?”

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Sometimes, you just need to start anew five times straight.

After her husband dies, Alice (Ellen Burstyn) and her son, Tommy (Alfred Lutter), leave their small New Mexico town for California. There, Alice is hopeful that she’ll be able to make it big there achieving her one true dream: Singing. However, the town is so small and dry, that there’s hardly any work for a bartender, let alone for a singer. So eventually, Alice and Tommy end up settling for Arizona instead, where she takes a job as waitress in a small diner and Tommy is left to make friends with some mischievous locals. She intends to stay in Arizona just long enough to make the money needed to head back out on the road, but her plans change when she begins to fall for a rancher named David (Kris Kristofferson), someone she can’t help but be drawn to, even if he’s got his own problems going for him as well.

Seeing Martin Scorsese’s name attached to this flick may seem odd, until you actually see the movie and totally get it. For one, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore has the same type of free-spirit, wild and rather chaotic energy that all of Scorsese’s movies seem to have, not to mention that the movie itself hardly ever seems to let-up. It’s part road movie, part romantic-comedy, but altogether, it’s an entertaining piece that would soon show the world what Scorsese could do out of wheelhouse.

alice1

Look out, world! Here’s Alice!

Which isn’t to say that this movie’s perfect, but it’s the first sure sign of Scorsese taking a risk and seeing it pay-off quite well. While I’m most definitely in the minority of feeling like Mean Streets is incredibly overrated, it’s still an enjoyable movie, considering that it’s showing-off what Scorsese could do with a story about crooks, gangsters, cops and all sorts of hectic violence – something that we would see him continue to make movies about for the next many decades. That’s why a movie like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, while seeming like an unabashed and boring chick-flick on paper, moves like a fast-paced thriller, but still doesn’t forget that characters do matter here and they are what make the bulk of the flick so damn good.

That is to say that Ellen Burstyn, in her Oscar-winning role of course, is great.

Then again, when isn’t the gal?

Burstyn’s great here, but it does help that she has such a meaty character to work and play around with; Alice is a very challenging character because she doesn’t always make the right decisions, nor does she seem to apologize for them, either. Scorsese and Burstyn both present this woman as someone who knows that whatever move she makes next, probably won’t be ideal, but she’s constantly thinking about what’s best for her and her son, meaning that every once and awhile, she’s got to make a sacrifice and suck up the stupidity. Even the smart decisions that Alice seems to make, still end-up biting her in the rump by the end, making you wonder whether or not this woman should be trusted with the care of a pre-adolescent boy in the first place. But still, there’s something compelling about this woman, flaws, warts and all that junk, as well as Burstyn’s performance that make it all the more watchable.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

The happiest diner in the world it seems.

And it’s actually very interesting to see this movie and think about it in retrospect, as we’ve come to see Scorsese’s career grow further and further away from female-led stories, making us wonder one simple thing, “Why?” After all, he handles this story with such delicate care, never shying away from showing this woman for all of who she is, that he not just respects her as much as we do, but he loves her, even. It’s a rare sign that even though Scorsese’s movies tend to gain all sorts of controversy for their violence, drugs and crime, mostly all involving and/or against women, there’s still this small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was curious of taking this road even further.

It makes you wonder, really.

Regardless, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, all things considered, may be a bit too long for its own good, but in a way, that’s okay. We get to see and learn about more characters throughout Alice’s journey, some of whom are really fun and exciting to watch. Harvey Keitel shows up as a slimy dude Alice starts hooking up with; Kris Kristofferson’s is interesting enough of a dramatic-lead to make you want to see more of him around; Jodi Foster shows up in a very early role as one of Tommy’s friends and is very good; Diane Ladd steals just about every scene she’s in as Alice’s co-worker/best friend; and even as a young kid here, Alfred Lutter does a nice job as Tommy, mostly due to the fact that the kid’s not annoyingly written. He’s a little too smart for his britches at certain points, but that’s mostly because his mom makes him that way; there’s quite a few scenes where the two have heart-to-heart conversations about all things in life and while they may seem a little tacked-on, the chemistry between Lutter and Burstyn is so good, that you sort of believe in it.

Consensus: Not his best by any means, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore still presents a very bright and entertaining picture for the whole cast, especially Burstyn, and Scorsese, and the many years to come.

8 / 10

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You'll get that Oscar.

Keep on smiling, Ellen. You’ll get that Oscar.

Photos Courtesy of: The Soul of the Plot

Get Shorty (1995)

Be cool. Not the sequel. Just be cool in general.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami mobster who gets sent by his boss, “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), to collect a bad debt from someone who Bones a whole lot of money. However, Chili’s not just going out and roughing up any normal dude, he’s going out to meet the one, the only Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a Hollywood producer who specializes in all sorts of flicks, but most importantly, horror flicks. And Chili meets Harry’s leading lady (Rene Russo), he can’t help but fall a little head over heels for her. So of course Chili wants to join up in the film-business and eventually sells his life story to Harry, and a few others in Hollywood. Sooner than later, Chili finds out that being a mobster and being a Hollywood producer really aren’t all that different, even if one does concern more ass-kicking than the other. Oh and while this is all going down, Bones is still out there looking for his money – something he will not let go of until it is in his hands.

Don't get too close, Rene. You have yet to be "audited".

Don’t get too close, Rene. You have yet to be “audited”.

It’s easy to do a Hollywood satire. All one really has to do is find some sort of way to say that “Hollywood is a sick, evil and cruel place where people with barely any talent flourish, and those who actually do possess a certain level of said talent, don’t.” It’s that simple and honestly, it’s why so many showbiz satires can sometimes feel tired, even if they are funny; Birdman was the latest showbiz satire that actually had a bite and sting to it that worked and made me laugh, beyond just being mean.

And yeah, Get Shorty‘s got a lot of bite to it, too. However, by the same token, it’s not trying to pass itself off as a Hollywood satire, through and through. If anything, it’s a fun, sleek, and cool crime-comedy, that also just so happens to take place in Hollywood, with actors, actresses, producers, directors, screen-writers, dolly-grips, interns, and etc. But it’s not as silly as it sounds – somehow, writer Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld find the perfect combo of action, comedy, drama, romance, and satire that, yeah, may not always make perfect sense, but still works out smoothly.

Which is more than I can say for some other Hollywood satires who really try to take on too much, without ever realizing that they have a story to continue with beside their mean-spiritedness. But really, underneath all of this, Get Shorty is just a fun movie that’s hard not to be entertained by. Frank’s script, when he isn’t riffing on any of the mechanisms of Hollywood or the film-business in general, is funny and features a great list of colorful characters that more than make up for some of the dull moments in the movie’s languid pace.

John Travolta, when he actually seemed to give a total damn, did a great job as Chili Palmer. There’s a sense of coolness about Travolta that, despite current controversies, we tend to forget actually exists, but here as Chili Palmer, he showed that off perfectly. At some points, he’s supposed to be this mean and tense figure, but then, he changes into being someone nicer and more charming. Some people may not believe both of the sides to this character, but it works, because Travolta could somehow be both menacing, as well as likable at the same time.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Where all of that has gone, is totally beyond me.

Anyway, he also has wonderful chemistry with Rene Russo who, as usual, is great here. The movie does kind of deal with the fact that her character is an aging actress in Hollywood, but doesn’t seem to be getting on her case – if anything, it makes her more sympathetic and makes us want to see her and Chili run off into the sunset at the end. Why she wasn’t around for the second movie, is totally beyond me, but then again, it may be more of a blessing than a curse.

Everybody else is pretty great, too. Gene Hackman seems to be having a lot of fun as the perfectly-named Harry Zimm, someone who is actually quite infatuated with the lifestyle that Chili seems to live; Danny DeVito is pitch perfect as Martin Weir; Dennis Farina gets plenty of chances to curse and act psycho, which is always a treat; Delroy Lindo shows up and he’s always good; and there’s even a few, oddly surprising cameos that seem to come out of nowhere, yet, still work.

Get Shorty is the kind of movie that may seem dated, considering it’s over a decade old, but it still works. The breezy pace helps a lot of the movie’s heavy-lifting and moving, feel as if we’re spending a lot of time with characters that we can learn to love, forgive and forget that they can sometimes be evil human beings. They may not be as lovely to learn about as they were in Elmore Leonard’s original book, but hey, they’re still fine as is.

Heck, they’re way better than whatever happened in the sequel.

Seriously, stay away from that movie.

Consensus: With a smart script and charming performances from the solid cast, Get Shorty is more than just another satire with jokes aimed at Hollywood for giggles, and it’s what matters most.

8 / 10

"I've got this great idea. How about a sequel?"

“I’ve got this great idea. How about a sequel?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Qwipster

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Wait, what’s “Like a Virgin” actually about?

A group of small-time criminals gang together to perform, what appears to be, a pretty easy and simple jewel heist. However, the situation goes awry for many reasons, leaving the plan to go to crap, some men dead, and suspicions to rise through the roof. One of the main suspicions is that one of the guys involved with the crew, as well as with the heist, is a cop; while Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) disputes this fact, even he too is feeling a bit odd about what had just transpired and where to go from here. This is when the rest of the crew comes into the picture, where everybody’s getting over just what the hell had happened at the heist and who is to be blamed for it – some react more eccentrically than others, of course. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) wants to get right down to the bottom of who caused this whole mess; Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) just wants to sit around and hurt people for the heck of it; “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn) wants to know who screwed-up his daddy’s plan; and while this is all happening, Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is coming closer and closer to death, as each and every second goes by, what with his gunshot wound and all.

Who does Quentin like more?

Who does Quentin like more?

So yeah, Reservoir Dogs is the sole film that put Quentin Tarantino on the map and for that reason alone, it deserves to be preserved, praise and adored for many years to come. It’s not just that since this was his debut and all that makes it worth talking about 20+ years later, but the fact that it’s still a great movie that deserves to stand alongside the rest of his other creations he’s made in the years since – which is obviously saying a whole lot. But what always keeps me coming back to Reservoir Dogs is the fact that no matter how many times I see it, it never gets old, boring, or annoying.

In fact, it just gets better and better, as mostly everyone of Tarantino’s films do.

However, having now seen this for what appears to be the umpteenth time, I will say if there was one qualm I had with the movie, it’s that it seems like Mr. Orange’s backstory runs on too long. It’s fine to see where he came from and why he matters to the story, but the whole segment concerning him, the story he has to tell to get these violent heavies to like him, and the whole visualization of said story, just feels over-done. It’s like when people complain about Tarantino’s movies nowadays being “too excessive”, as well as “overly-stylized” (both are reservations I understand, but never actually said), I totally understand; it just adds more filler-time to a movie that, quite frankly, doesn’t need it.

Because, for as short as it runs (just under 100 minutes), Reservoir Dogs is a pretty spectacular movie. What Tarantino does best with just about everything he touches, is that he gives his characters their own distinct personalities that matter when you hear them talk to one another, how they relate, and just what it is that they do when handling a heavy situation such as this. Even from the very beginning in the diner, Tarantino lays out all of the cards of which person has what kind of personality, and why they’re worth paying attention to; obviously, once everything gets heated and tense, the movie starts to show more shades of these characters, but it’s always believable and fun, if only because Tarantino sets everything up so perfectly.

And yeah, playing these characters, each and every person is great, showing that they’re clearly capable of handling the “Tarantino speak“, which is probably why most of them have appeared in his films since this.

As an actor himself, Tarantino isn’t anything special, but he’s less in-your-face this time around, so it works when we see him just delivering dialogue that, yes, he wrote, but clearly seems to be fine with letting others deliver as well. Even though it’s not hard to imagine that practically every member of this cast had no idea what they were reading when they picked this script up, it still does not show a single bit, as each member seems ready-to-go and accepting of where this movie takes them. Which is saying something because, for those who have seen Reservoir Dogs, it goes into some pretty crazy and wild places – all of which work and are just as exciting as the last maneuver Tarantino made.

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

But plot mechanics aside, it’s always about the characterizations with Tarantino that works best and it shows especially so with Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink. Of course, it’s no surprise to anyone that Buscemi’s a great actor who can appear in anything and still work, but here, he gets a chance to really show his true colors as a character who, for the most part, seems to be the voice of reason. While everyone else is on one side of the room, screaming, yelling and emoting loud enough for aliens on Mars to hear, Mr. Pink is just wondering to himself how the hell he’s going to get out of this situation and who is to blame. In that aspect, Mr. Pink is probably the funniest character of the bunch, which isn’t because he says anything funny, really – it’s just because Buscemi is so great at this kind of high-strung, take-no-crap character, that it’s just a joy to watch.

This isn’t to take away from everyone else here, obviously, but yeah, Buscemi’s the one I continue to think about after seeing this.

Keitel’s White is the more seasoned pro of the cast and clearly seems to be the heart and soul of the story, even when you start to feel even worse for him as the situation continues to loosen-up and get more screwy; Michael Madsen has that cool charm about him that even despite the fact that he’s playing a total and complete psychopath, you still kind of like him; Roth does a lot of yelling and crying, but is good at it enough that, in a way, it’s more fun to listen to than actually poke fun at; Lawrence Tierney’s Joe is always grumpy, but it’s hard not to like; and Chris Penn, playing Joe’s son, makes you feel like he’s a lot more of an a-hole, just because, yeah, Penn’s playing him.

Gosh. Wish that guy was still around.

Consensus: Over twenty years later, Reservoir Dogs reminds us all that Tarantino can write wonderful characters, a punchy script, and keep the violent tension running throughout.

9 / 10

Every group of dudes think they look like this. They're never right.

Every group of dudes think they look like this. They’re never right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Youth (2015)

Hope I die before I get old. Or probably not.

At a fancy health spa located somewhere in Switzerland, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) walks around aimlessly, thinking about life, love and his career that he’s had. During one point in his life, Ballinger was a renowned conductor/composer who has, for personal reasons, lost the will to record, or better yet, live. Granted, he doesn’t want to kill himself, but he doesn’t really appreciate life quite as well as his dear best buddy, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), does. Boyle’s different from Ballinger in that he thinks that he’s got some of his best work ahead of him, which is why he’s currently stationed in this spa with four younger confidantes, working on what he pledges to be “a testament to cinema”. However, while together in this spa, the both realize that not only has life passed them by, but that they’ve also got to do something with the last couple good years of their lives they have left. This means that they do a lot more walking, talking, swimming, sun-bathing, and oh yeah, ogling at hot chicks.

Just as old men tend to do.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

No matter what problems persist in Youth, there’s no denying that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has an eye for beauty. Every shot in Youth, feels as perfectly calculated and put-together as you’d expect a Renaissance portrait to be, but instead of feeling as if he’s just being showy, it just somehow works and you get used to it. That Sorrentino set the movie, first and foremost, in the lovely countryside of Sweden, already allows for him to shoot any scene, whichever way he wants and it’s hard to take your eyes off. Of course, this is perhaps best seen on the big screen, but no matter what screen or aspect-ratio it’s seen on, Youth is a beautiful movie.

Which is a shame that it’s script is a bit annoying.

For one, a lot of the visuals that Sorrentino sets up here only seem to exist for the sole purpose that they’re metaphors and that’s it. While I have no problem with the visual-imagery here being displayed as shiny and bright metaphors, the issue with Youth is that the screenplay itself starts drive home the same kinds of points that the visuals are trying to get across, so after awhile, it just feels like over-kill. It’s almost as if the movie didn’t trust having a scene in which Michael Caine’s character went out into the middle of the woods and started imagining a piece of music he would create using only nature’s sounds to drive home the point of getting old and losing one’s mojo, that they had to have him constantly go on and discuss with just about everyone he comes into contact with.

And honestly, this wouldn’t have been too bad to listen to, except for the fact that what these characters all talk about, only serve one purpose and one purpose only: To preach. It’s hard to listen to characters talk about their own mortality and aging-process, when it seems like they’re reading free-form poetry; had more of the dialogue been a tad bit more naturalistic, the conversations these characters have probably wouldn’t have been so nauseating at certain points. It’s obvious from the very start that these characters are all going to be sad about getting old and realizing their time has come, but give us more reasons to care for that and not just go, “Oh, well it’s sad. But hey, look at this pretty bird and how Michael Caine so adoringly gazes at it.”

Perhaps less navel-gazing would have helped Youth in the long-run, but really, I’m not sure.

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

All I do know is that what Youth benefits from the most, aside from Sorrentino’s keen eye for detail, is that the ensemble here is just terrific. Of course, Michael Caine plays Fred Ballinger to near-perfection, as it genuinely seems like he’s touched by this character’s willingness to keep his career on-halt, even though there’s much more demand for him to come back to the stage and continue making music. There’s one scene in particular that shows Caine’s true connection to this character, when he lets loose on why he doesn’t want to perform any of his old material for and in front of the Queen, and it’s quite emotional, but well-done as well. While not much of Youth is subtle, Caine still finds a way to peak underneath the cracks and slip a little piece of it every now and then.

While it’s weird to see Harvey Keitel being cast as Michael Caine’s best friend here, surprisingly, it works. Because Ballinger and Mick Boyle are so different in ways, it’s fun and interesting to hear them go on and on about their careers, their interests, women they’ve slept with, and their history together. It’s hard to imagine that Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine would ever sit down and have a fully-functioning conversation, let alone, be besties, but still, the two make it work and it was also nice to see Keitel dig hard and deep into a meaty role that we haven’t seen him get for quite some time. And yeah, Paul Dano shows up as a “serious actor” working in Switzerland, whereas Rachel Weisz plays Ballinger’s heart-broken and pissed-off daughter, and both do good work here and it’s nice to see them round it all out.

However, the one who probably walks away with the whole show, is Jane Fonda showing up in nearly two scenes as Brenda Morel, a friend and co-worker of Mick Boyle.

Though Fonda appears seemingly out of nowhere, she takes over the whole movie by showing that her Brenda Morel character is, most importantly, the exact kind of worker in the biz that Youth seems so obsessed with focusing on. Even though her best years have gone past her and, quite frankly, she’s holding on to her career and fame by a thread, Morel’s still trying to keep herself busy and relevant, even in a world that could probably care less about her. She won’t give up and won’t let anybody stand in her way, which is why her scene, while hilarious and exciting (something the rest of Youth really isn’t), is probably the most heart-breaking. Fonda’s terrific in this role because even though she gets maybe only 15 minutes of screen-time, she delivers us everything we need to know about this character, from the very first second we get with her, to the last and it’s hard not to stop and think about her when all is said and done.

Consensus: As pretentious as it can occasionally be, Youth still offers up some wonderful visuals, as well as a great couple of performances from both veterans and stars alike, that all give a little extra to the sad, but true message of the movie.

7 / 10

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor.

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Bugsy (1991)

BugsyposterBig-time gangsters need a little lovin’ too, people!

Benjamin “Don’t-Call-Me-Bugsy” Siegel was notorious for being one of the more profitable and powerful gangsters of his time. However, no matter how shady dealings he got involved with, no matter how many women he slept with, no matter how many people he killed, and no matter how much money he was able to gain, he still wanted to settle for a normal life, where he’d be able to come home to a loving, relaxing home where his kids, his wife, and their many nannies would be around, all having a great time. But it was a lot easier said then done, because of who Bugsy got in bed with – both literally and figuratively. On one hand, Bugsy was in business with the likes of Mickey Cohen (Harvey Keitel) and Meyer Lansky (Ben Kingsley), two notorious figures in the mob world, and on the other hand, had a lady that he could not stop falling head-over-heels for in Virginia (Annette Bening). Eventually though, Bugsy decides that he wants to open up a casino in Las Vegas, but because of the mess that is his personal life, it starts to leak into his professional one, which ends up impacting his life and putting his name in the history books.

"I ain't cryin'!"

“I ain’t cryin’!”

Ever since Goodfellas came around and hit the big screens, the gangster film sub genre shook up quite a bit. No longer did we have these slow-burning, dramatic stories about gangsters’ plight and emotional problems that they constantly have to get through. Now, the stories were quick-as-a-button, fast, and always compelling, even if the characters themselves weren’t the most morally responsible people around. That’s not to say that in the time from the Godfather, to 1990, that there weren’t any solid gangster flicks being produced – it’s just that most of them seemed to be rolling the same way, without any one’s in particular identity being singled-out from the rest of the group.

Bugsy is, despite coming out nearly a year after Goodfellas, feels like that same step back.

Which, I guess, is sort of the point. Director Barry Levinson and writer James Toback seem to want to adapt Bugsy Siegel’s story in the same vein as a film would have been made back in the 1920’s. That is to say, everything looks great, sounds great, and feels great, but really, at the center of it all, isn’t all that much to really get involved with. It’s as if Levinson and Toback set out to make a party-of-a-flick and just like an actual party, when the alcohol dries up, the band ceases, and everybody leaves to get on with their real lives, there’s nothing really worth holding onto other than the good time everyone just had.

Bugsy, the movie, feels like the party ended awhile back and now we have some dude moping around and whining about he doesn’t get the respect he deserves because, well, he’s a gangster. However, he’s not just any gangster; he’s the violent one who goes around, shooting and killing people for supposedly robbing him, in front of dozens of others. And this isn’t a problem; that Bugsy is a bad guy who goes around, making shady dealings with all the more shady people, killing whoever he needs to kill, screwing whatever dames he sees fit, and earning as much money as humanly possible, makes the film something of an enjoyable watch.

But the fact that the movie tries to make Bugsy out as some sort of sympathetic figure, doesn’t really work. Not because it’s a disservice to this character in the first place, but because it never feels right or genuine. It’s as if Levinson and Toback were so entranced with the legend of Busgy, that they forgot that maybe all of those people he killed, probably didn’t always deserve it. Still though, we hardly ever see the movie trying to make an actual flawed human being out of Bugsy – he’s still just a dude who makes a lot of money, cheats on his wife, and kills whoever gets in his way of more money.

You know, what we always want with our nice guys.

This is all to say that because Bugsy himself is so unlikable and morally reprehensible, no matter how hard he tries to go “legit”, makes the movie feel like a bit of a slog. We get countless scenes where Bugsy seems to be doing certain things that only benefit himself and honestly, it’s hard to ever care; though we know how the story ends, there’s still no tension or anticipation in how he makes these deals come to fruition. We’re just sitting around in our underwear and Cheetos-covered t-shirts, watching as some handsome ladies-man make more money than we can ever dream of.

Just pull the trigger already! Make things interesting!

Just pull the trigger already! Make things interesting!

Is it ever fun to watch? No.

Should it be? Well, as Scorsese showed us, it sure as hell can be.

And even despite the cast’s many attempts, Bugsy never materializes to being much other than just a biopic with limited heart and humanity. Warren Beatty fits perfectly as Bugsy, but also seems like he’s doing the same kind of role he’s inhabited before, except this time, just as a notorious figure in mob history. Annette Bening seems to be having fun as Virginia, Bugsy’s lover, and actually steals a few scenes away from the rest of the dudes around her. It’s probably no surprise that Beatty and Bening share wonderful chemistry here, but really, they’re what saves this movie; you believe every second that they have together. Whether it’s fighting, banging, loving, and/or talking, you believe that these two would fine one another, fall in love and try to make ends meet for the rest of their days together.

Though I think Bening and Beatty’s real life love story will have a better ending than it does here.

Consensus: Despite it looking, sounding and featuring pretty people, Bugsy never makes a strong enough case for giving its subject a two-hour-long biopic with the heart and compassion of a rock.

5.5 / 10

Nice car. Nice guy. Nice, aw who cares.

Nice car. Nice guy. Nice, aw who cares.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

That guy pulling you over on the freeway? Yeah, he’s totally high on coke.

Terence McDonough (Nicolas Cage) is not the type of cop you want to mess with. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a dangerous dude that will practically throw the book at you if you go past a stop sign and give him lip. Nope, I mean it in the way that he’s as crooked as a squiggly-line, is always perked-up on coke, oxy, heroin, whatever the hell he can find, and never seems to be in the right state of mind. Yeah, he’s that type of cop and the one that nobody wants to be around, nor be on the opposite end of the law with, hence why most of them just stay out of his way and let him do his thing, as insane as it may be. However, all of McDonough’s wild times of drugs, sex, alcohol, hookers, and all sorts of other debauchery finally begins to catch up with him once he has to get involved with the brutal murder of local family. Almost too involved, one could say.

Yes, I know. If any of you are long time readers out there reading this now, you will most likely come to know that I have indeed reviewed this back in the day when it first came out, four years ago. However, times have changed for me and this movie since those years ago, and I’ll tell you exactly what:

1.) For starters, I’ve become more in-tune with what makes a good film, actually considered “good” and all of the other essential parts here and there.

2.) I’ve seen more and more Nicolas Cage performances that I not only like, but came so far as to loving.

3.) I’ve seen more and more Werner Herzog movies, both documentaries and narrative-films that I not only like, but also came so far as to loving.

4.) And last, but sure as hell not least is the fact that I’ve actually seen the original, Abel Ferarra’s Bad Lieutenant, and needless to say, this movie swims laps, and then some, around that one.

"Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!"

Pimp My Ride sucked. Hahahaahahahah!!”

I know that the original and this remake don’t really share so much in common, except for the general plot-line and a tad bit of the name, but overall, the two flicks seem to have some sort of connection that goes further than just same characters and plot-outlines; it’s more that the flicks show their directors, and their main stars at the peak of their game, with one combination doing better than the other. The one combination that really worked to it’s ability was this movie, and no cheap shots at the original or Harvey Keitel’s penis, but this movie is a lot better and a lot more worth watching, especially if you’re in a happy, average mood. If you’re a deep, dark, depressing, and spiritually-thoughtful mood, then give the original a shot and see how many times you never look at Harvey Keitel the same again.

Where this movie works the best in, is not through its conventional plot, or through the twists and turns it sometimes throws at us, it’s more how the movie paces itself and makes this more than just a standard, police-procedural where we see a cop who’s obviously battling some inner-demons of his own creation, also come to terms with the harsh realities of the world outside of him. Some of those ideas are scattered throughout this movie, but most importantly, it’s a movie that shows one man’s descent from hell, to total purgatory. It’s also about every step he takes closer and closer towards crime and paying-off his debts, he gets further and further away from what makes a person considered “moral” or “good”. Plenty of those discussions come up, but they never seem to be used in a heavy-handed way like we’re used to seeing. Herzog’s better than that and so is Cage.

Together, these two compliment each other a whole lot better the second time on seeing them. With Herzog, everything new, cool, or fun that he brings to this story and the screen, he runs with and never lets anybody, or anything get in the way of it. It doesn’t matter what people are used to seeing with plots like these; if Herzog has an idea in his head that he wants to use, he’s going to use it and you better be happy with it. Sometimes, the decisions he takes are a little goofy, and take away from what the movie’s whole “message” is supposed to be, but they’re never anything too far-out to the point of where I lost any idea of just what I was watching. Despite all of the P-O-V shots from iguanas, alligators, and fishes, the movie still makes sense and builds up to a cohesive, understandable story that’s not hard to follow along with, nor is it any less compelling to watch. You don’t need some slick twist or turns to juice up a story like this, all you need is an interesting enough central character to really keep your eyes glued, and with the character of Terence McDonough, and Nicolas Cage playing him, you couldn’t have asked for anyone better.

Most of you may already know this around, but I’m a Nicolas Cage fan through-and-through. No matter how many bombs the guy has made in the past; no matter how many random chicks he’s dated; and especially, no matter how many times he’s tried to be cool and just hasn’t let it work for him, the guy always gets a pass from me because of those one-in-a-million shots he gets, to where he is able to prove to us that he is indeed not just a talented actor, but one of the best working today. That’s what I love so much about the guy in everything he does, especially in this. He’s insane, nutso, bonkers-as-hell, high all of the time, and is always on the verge of a mental breakdown, whether it be the Nic Cage I’m talking about on-screen or off.

He and Herzog work well with one another because they do things together, that you’d never expect them to be able to pull-off, and do it so successfully.

Don't be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

Don’t be so quick to judge, they were talking shit on Knowing.

For instance, there are plenty of long, tracking-shots where it’s just Nic Cage’s face going through all sorts of emotions, and not a single one of them are here to be put in here. Even with lines like “Keep shooting! His soul’s still dancing!”, or “I’ll kill you all to the break of dawn”, where Cage’s sense of being off-kilter is almost ridiculous, you never lose respect for this character, nor for Cage and his ability as an actor either. Still, you laugh your ass off at him, but also with him as it’s made pretty clear to us that not only does Cage know what type of performance he’s giving, but so does the rest of the cast and crew involved. They are all just there to have a little bit of fun, and watch the master at work.

Once Herzog eventually gets back to filming actual movies with a narrative in force, I hope to see more of Cage get involved with them, because not only does Herzog know what to do with him, but he also allows him to run the show with total faith and trust thrown firmly in the dude’s grasps.

Even though it is totally Cage’s show from start to finish, the supporting cast actually helps him out as well. Eva Mendes is playing it surprisingly straight-laced as his coke-addled, hooker girlfriend that loves him, but also can’t stop whoring around to protect her life for the hell of it; Xzibit is surprisingly intense as the main drug-lord of New Orleans that Terence takes a liking to; Val Kilmer is fun and entertaining to watch, just because he always finds a way to bring out that pitch perfect comedic-timing of his; it’s always a joy to see Fairuza Balk back on the big-screen, especially with her supporting some pretty fine, sexy lingerie; and even Brad Dourif gets to have some fun as the exasperated bookie who just wants his freakin’ money, man!

Overall, everybody’s good, but it’s Nic Cage’s show, and you can’t ever fuck with that.

Consensus: Though it’s a very odd, very strange experience to go through, Herzog, Cage, and the rest of the cast and crew keep Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans surprisingly grounded in a sense of emotional-reality where drugs is more than just a reliance for people; it’s practically life.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider."

“Told ya life would get better after Ghost Rider.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

All that I take away is that Jesus, plain and simply, knew how to charm the ladies. That is all.

I don’t think that I’m jumping too far by assuming that just about all of us know the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God, right? Well, if you need some reminding because you skipped CCD or were like me, and just cheated your way through Theology class in high school, then here’s a short synopsis for ya: Here is the story of Jesus Christ (Willem Dafoe). He’s the son of the almighty God that only he, and few other loyal and dedicated followers believe in, however, daddy’s been on his nerves a bit as of late. Not only does God keep pushing his son to do things he doesn’t really want to do, like going out in the world, saving people’s lives and preaching the gospel, but he’s ruining practically any bit of social, or personal life the guy could, or would want to have. But, being that Jesus’ daddy is in fact, the almighty Lord himself, he decides that it’s best he listen, get out there in the world, start speaking his mind, letting people know what’s up and ruffle a few feathers, if at all possible. Jesus does in fact, do that, and pays the ultimate price for doing so. However, there’s a small twist here that dodges away from what the Gospel would have you believe as “truth”.

Because see: When you’re working with Marty Scorsese, you’re working with a guy who doesn’t play by the rules, no matter how set-in-stone or followed those rules may be.

You can't tell me you wouldn't want to hang with that guy!?!?

You can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to hang with that guy!?!?

But you got to chalk it up to Marty’s willingness to take something like this head-on, as controversial as it may have been. Sure, Marty was, is, and never will be a stranger to controversy, but taking on the story of Jesus, our savior, and making a movie about him where he not only is painted as a human, but even has “temptations”, is just downright blasphemous. Of course, not in my eyes though. Many heavy-duty Christians would have you believe that anything that differs from their script of Christ’s life is not only false, but downright evil and should be broken in two, before it causes any more damage to the fragile, God-worshiping minds of our youth.

As you can probably tell, I’m clearly not a huge believer in my faith, despite going to Catholic school for all 12 years of my general-education, but that’s not what matters here. What does matter here is that Marty Scorsese, a guy we all know and love for painting some harsh, violent and brutal pics about the rusty, ragged streets of New York City, for one reason or another, decided it was his time to go in full-on “Christ mode” and start giving us the story of the Bible. Although, as he notes early-on, Marty does not adapt this story from the Gospel so many Christians hold so near and dear to their hearts; rather, Marty adapts the novel that this is based-off of and gives us what some might definitely say is a “humane-approach” to the story of Jesus Christ, and what we may have known him as.

Sure, this is downright despicable in the eyes of the Christians to paint Jesus, our lord and savior as anything else as a man who was more than willing to do and listen to whatever his powerful daddy told him to do, but when you take into context what Scorsese is really doing with this well-known story and “character”, then you wonder why they bitched and complained at all. Surely they couldn’t have not watched a film and got pissed-off about it because the words “temptation” and “Christ” were featured in the same sentence, right?

I mean, they definitely had to have seen this movie, therefore justifying their angry thoughts and complaints about its material, right?

They wouldn’t just jump to conclusions and automatically think that the said “temptations” that the title was referring to was those of the known-prostitute Mary Magdalene, now would they?

Anyway, I think you all know what I’m doing here, and I promise you, I’ll stop my snarky ways sooner than later, but think about it: Had most of those Christians who were originally upset with this movie being made and released to the general-public, actually decided to shell-out some gold and give this movie a watch, they would have probably been happy, since it doesn’t do much to either offend them, nor tell them that they are wrong in their thought-process of believing that Jesus Christ, God and all of that stuff is real and did in fact happen (snarkiness hasn’t ended yet, sorry). Because what Scorsese does here, is that he shows us that Jesus, despite being pushed and pulled this way and that by his daddy and everybody else in his life, really just wanted to break free, live a life, get a job, have a family, tap some fine ladies’ behinds and be like everybody else around him, while also still maintaining his title as “The Son of Christ”. In all honesty, I don’t find anything wrong or even “sacrilegious” about that, do you?

And that’s exactly why Scorsese’s movie works as well as it does; it goes through the tale as old as time that we know of Jesus Christ, and gives us a chance to see just exactly who he was a person, rather than what he was, as a symbol for religion. And though it may have been extremely odd that somebody who is so attuned to gangsters getting their heads popped-off as Scorsese is, to do a movie about Jesus Christ, when looking into the subject-matter, it actually isn’t. Like most of Scorsese’s characters, Christ goes through problems like guilt, repression, evil confusion, temptation and coming to terms with his own identity, and just figuring out who the hell he is. It’s exactly what all of us feel as humans, on a day-to-day basis, and it’s what makes Jesus Christ, in here, seem like such a real person that we could have cracked a few cold ones and shot the shit with, and even dare to ask that girl at the end of the bar’s number.

Okay, maybe he’s not that cool, but he’s pretty damn human, dammit!

"You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar."

“You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar.”

But while the whole “humane-element” surrounding Jesus Christ and practically everybody else around him works for them in believing them as people, the performances don’t do much to help out. Which, yes, is a total surprise considering the amount of talent on-display here, however, I feel like it’s not entirely all their faults. What separates this flick from most of the same skin, is the use of its anachronistic dialogue, where just about everybody here, speaks and acts like you or I would today in the present-day. Yeah, it makes it easier for those to understand just who is saying what, for what reason and to whom, but it makes everybody here seem like they just showed-up for dress-rehearsal, went over some of their lines and had no idea that Marty would be rolling the camera as they spoke in their natural, modern-dialect. At first, it’s a bit weird, but after awhile, it becomes totally distracting.

Instead, what ultimately happens is that we mostly just see Willem Dafoe playing and dressing-up as a Jesus-like figure, although doing a very good job at doing so; Harvey Keitel who isn’t even hiding his New York accent as the ultimate betrayer of the big JC, Judas, who has more homoerotic undertones added to him than I ever caught notice of in Vacation Bible School; Harry Dean Stanton gets to be, as usual, lovely to see show-up as Saul, even though his character is barely given much, or any time to develop at all; and randomly, David Bowie shows up as Pontius Pilate, making Jesus feel like a huge, steaming pile of shit, while walking-off and, more than likely, continuing his large, extravagant party of sex, grapes and togas.

The only one out of this whole bunch that really seems to be on their A-game and totally attuned to what Scorsese has given her is Barbara Hershey, playing the very grimy, very sexual Mary Magdalene that Jesus takes a liking to, if only because he wants her to make her feel better about herself (yeah, right!). She seems to be the only one who finds a way to mix the modern-day sound of her voice, to the old way in which people would have talked back then, without ever seeming like she’s stretching too hard. Not that anybody else does either (or in the case of Keitel, not at all), but she actually felt like the only one who could have lived, breathed, banged and been around during that period.

At the end of the day though, I think where Scorsese really hits his mark with this feature is that he ends it all on a positive, uplifting note. I won’t dare spoil it here, but when you see it, you’ll wonder just exactly why those devoted Christians were so pissed in the first place.

Oh wait, I know why: Because they’re Christians! End of snarkiness, I swear!

Consensus: Though the idea of a movie devoted solely to Jesus Christ and his humane-like ways, may be a sore-spot for some more faith-based viewers out there, for the rest of us, the Last Temptation of Christ ends up being an honest, wonderful and insightful look at the life Jesus himself may have wanted to live, had he been real, or, had he been real, would have liked to do when his daddy wasn’t looking or pushing him.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The end. Or so we think......

The end. Or so we think……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson’s mind is finally a fun place to be at again.

Moonrise Kingdom centers on two 12 year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who fall in love and decide run away together into the wilderness. Naturally, the local community frantically scrambles to find them before a violent storm hits shore.

For awhile now, it seems like Wes Anderson has really started losing any credit he’s ever gotten since his debut, Bottle Rocket. Mainly, the reason for that is because his style is just overly-quirky, to the point of where you don’t feel like you’re actually watching real-life human beings, you’re just watching a bunch of twee characters made from Anderson’s sketches. However, that all changes here but at the same time, doesn’t change all that much. Which is very strange considering it’s probably my favorite from him since The Royal Tenenbaums.

This is probably Anderson’s best-looking flick he has ever done but it’s also with the same style he’s been using for his whole career, it’s just that it works so well with the story. All of the trademarks from Anderson’s direction are here in this flick, but the difference here that sets it apart from all of his other, beautiful-looking movies is that this one is set in the 60’s. The bright colors, sets, costumes, and camera-tricks that Anderson pulls out of his pocket all work rather than just seeming like another hipster attempt at being “cool” because of how he sets it in the 60’s. 60’s was a time for fun, relaxing, and being yourself and Anderson totally taps into that mind-set with just how gorgeous he makes this film look and even if you don’t like Anderson films (and trust me, there are plenty out there who absolutely despise the hell out of him), you can still sit there and just gaze at the beautiful portrait Anderson has on-display here.

Anderson always has beautiful films, no surprise there, but what makes this one so different is that he has a great script to give us something else to sink our teeth into. Anderson has a very dead-pan way of comedic timing but it’s put to great use here just because the film is so damn funny. As usual, you have to look out for little sight gags here and there but it’s the fact that this film continues to get more and more goofy as it goes on, that makes you feel like you’re having the time of your life. There’s a certain unabashed “fun” feel to this film that had me entertained so much but it’s more about how the story made me feel, rather than what it made me do.

This is probably Anderson’s most innocent piece of work to date, and with good reason because when you have a story about two runaway, little kids being together and falling in love, how can you not get a little cutesy? There are so many moments here that are so pleasant to watch because you really feel something for these two kids whenever they are together, and you want them to be happy, you want them to never grow-up and be old, angry people like Suzy’s parents, and you just want them to live their lives together, forever. I know it all sounds uber cheesy and lame, but this story really bring you into to its sweetness and Anderson takes full advantage of that showing us that the outside world for these two, is just not a fun or happy place to be, especially together. It was a story that actually reminded me a lot of my little crushes I had on some chickity-doo-da’s when I was little tike and made me feel young again, just watching how happy they were being able to connect to somebody in their lives. It’s some great stuff to see up on-screen and it’s a real surprise that Wes Anderson almost had me close to tears by the end of it all. “Close to tears” is what I said, people! Don’t worry, he didn’t get me just yet.

The reason why you love these kids together so much, is because the performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are so damn good that I was even surprised to hear that this was their first film-roles ever. Gilman has this nerdy, but endearing look to him that makes him easy to like especially when he starts acting all cool and tough, while he’s trying to protect his “girl” from the cruel outside world. While Hayward is absolutely great as this somewhat disturbed girl, that seems like she would most likely be one of those emo freaks, had she been born 30 years later. They both seem so natural with each other, which really shocked me because they have to do some pretty “intimate things” together that would more than likely have some kids turn their heads and go, “ewwww coootieeeeesss!!”. However, that’s not either of these kids and they’re definitely a perfect fit for one another and I hope that they both get some real, bright futures for themselves because I think they deserve it with the work they put out here.

They’re the real stars of this flick, but everybody else is pretty damn good, too. Bill Murray is great as the dead-pan, always sad daddy of Suzy; Frances McDormand is fun to watch as the very messed-up mom of Suzie (also, Hayward looked a little bit like a younger version of McDormand, just a little bit though); Edward Norton is a whole lot of fun as the cheesy Scout Master Ward, and totally had me by surprise by how spot-on his comedic timing was considering this was the guy who got nominated for an Oscar where he actually curb stomped some dude (doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would have me really laughing at all); Tilda Swinton is evil and bitchy as Social Services, then again, what other kind of character would she play; and Jason Schwartzman also pops-up for about 5 minutes as Cousin Ben, but is still a lot of fun.

Actually, the most surprising piece of good work here was probably done by Bruce Willis as the sad and lonely guy that searches all over for these kids, Captain Sharp. Willis has been so many damn action roles as of late that so many people almost forget about how great of a “dramatic” actor this guy can be at times and he totally surprised me with the depth he was able to go through with this sad-sack of a character. He’s not really all that tough, he’s not really all that happy, and he’s really not at all like John McClane in the least bit. All of which, are a great thing and I hope this shows that Willis has more to him than just shouting out “Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker!”.

If there was one complaint I had to throw out from this whole movie it would have to be Bob Balaban as the narrator. The guy opens up the film and is a funny joke, but every time he comes on, for some reason just bothered the hell out of me and it seemed like it was a joke that went on too long. Not a huge problem by any means, but any time the guy showed up, I seemed to have gotten more annoyed.

Consensus: Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s welcome back to being a top-notch writer/director, and with good reason. The ensemble all bring out great work, including the little kiddie leads, the writing is hilarious in its subtle, dead-pan way, and the story itself will drag you in with its sweet innocence. Classic Anderson and I hope he’s back to stay for good.

9/10=Full Price!!

Clockers (1995)

I was so pissed to see how the poster for this film, totally ripped-off Anatomy of a Murder. But my temper soon calmed down as soon as I saw this movie.

Strike (Mekhi Phifer) is from the mean streets, working his way up in the drug rackets. When a local kingpin (Delroy Lindo) tips him off to an opportunity for advancement, a rival dealer is killed, and Strike gets caught between two homicide detectives (Harvey Keitel and John Turturro).

I have always been very very mixed with some of Spike Lee’s work. Sometimes, their just way too racy and themed that I can’t stand them, other times the amazing to watch, fully gripping your attention almost every second of the way. This is one of those films.

I have to say Lee does direct this to his fullest. In the beginning, the film seems like its going to fall underneath the tracks of a racial hood film. However, totally turns the other chick into being a character-driven thriller film about, well, the hood. The thing that Lee does is make this film about something, not what you see much in Hollywood today. The bullet holes in the bodies of the black men in the beginning of the film, are resurrected and given some sort of individuality, rather than just some broke-ass bluff from the street. Thank you for that Boyz N the Hood.

The film is slighlty fair-minded with its script. The script shows how all of these people are human, and not just a bunch of stupid stereotypes you see in many other hood films. You see these people for what they are, human just like you and me. The whole film shows how all these people are blocked into one world, where they have no idead what’s going on, on the outside. And the ending proves, that there is another block of the world to see. Hope I didn’t give too much away there.

However, the problem with this movie is that there are many other times where Lee depends his looks on the urban enviroment these people live in. I knew that they lived in a shitty hood, where drug deals were always going down, and people were getting constantly locked up, and I they showed that way too many times. There was a little sub-plot with another detective, trying to nab this little yuppie for drugs. Totally random, and a pointless story.

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the film, O, starring Clocker’s own, Mekhi Phifer. I said that he is one of the most underrated actors of all-time, and doesn’t get enough rep because he’s known for like two performances. And I will stand by that statemeant until the day I die. He gives a knock-out performance, in his first performance, I may add. Showing so much anger, but also remorse for the things that he has done, and giving us, the viewer, a great protagonist we can root for. Keitel and Turturro are great s the two detectives, and although I think their could have been more scenes dedicated to the both of them together, ehh they were good just for being in the film. Delroy Lindo is also one scary-ass dude in this film, showing that even though you don’t look like a pimp, you can be one just by the way you act. Isaiah Washington, is also quite something to talk about, since he hasn’t been for the last couple of years due to his big mouth. But he does show some great emotionally tied-down scenes here, and shows that he does have a lot of talent and heart, he just can’t stop from saying that “word”.

Consensus: Lee’s script gets a little messy, but still has great performances the wonderful cast, that can handle Lee’s direction, character-driven script, and plot twists and turns.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Cop Land (1997)

I highly doubt any of these guys would be cops at all.

When a local patrolman is implicated in a controversial shooting in a small New Jersey town, put-upon sheriff Freddy Heflin teams up with Lt. Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) to investigate a connection between the mob and the NYPD officers who live in the town. Sylvester Stallone delivers a dramatic performance in this arresting crime thriller as Freddy. Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta also star.

Cop Land is a cop drama that is filled with a lot of those cliches that always rid every single cop film like this. The us vs them mentality, dirty cops, and most of all down-on-his luck cop. I mean I have seen this story plenty and plenty of times, and I just wish a bit more was added on to this film to make its story seem more and more fresh.

But the real reason for seeing this film is its rich plot. The story has plenty of twists and turns that actually keep you interested. The film doesn’t try to act like Goodfellas or The Godfather with its mob tie-ins, it more of acts like itself with some really nice set-up suspenseful scenes.

I liked how the film didn’t just try to show one story and just leave it at that. No, it had all these three exciting stories all having to do something with crime and justice, and putting them all together at the end. It actually felt like three NYPD Blues episodes put into one long film but it didn’t feel like a TV show and actually had a lot of depth added to it.

Sylvester Stallone totally gets rid of his macho action star look that he has done for so long in this rare but effective dramatic role. He gives this down-and-out cop we have seen time and time again, but adds an extra dimension to this character as we understand who he used to be and who he is now. The only problem I had with this huge ensemble cast is that not all of them were quite used as well as Stallone. I mean each does get a considerable amount of screen-time, but they aren’t as focused on as Stallone and I would have liked to see more of these characters lives instead of just one part of them.

The problem with this film by the end actually kind of killed the momentum it had going for it. I think the ending as predictable as it was, should have been made in a different far more realistic way. I mean its very very sappy, and doesn’t quite feel right in the film.

Consensus: Cop Land has its obvious cliches and bad ending, but features a fun and interesting story, backed by an effective dramatic performance from Stallone, but not enough time was given to the others in my opinion.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Mean Streets (1973)

Scorsese doing what Scorsese does best.

Charlie (Harvey Keitel) deals with the pressures of working his way up the ranks of a local mob, while coping with his family’s disapproval of his epileptic girlfriend (Amy Robinson). Meanwhile, his small-time gambler friend, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), threatens to ruin Charlie’s reputation with debts to a loan shark.

So this is the third film by Scorsese, and once again he is takling the subject of mobsters in New York. This is probably his first as you can see when watching it.

The film is highly original and features a lot of Scorsese’s trademarks that would show in plenty of his later films. First of all the screenplay is so well-written and real. The way it is written as if this was real-life, the characters are serious when they want to be, even funnier when they want to be, and a lot of just all seems real and believable.

The soundtrack is great it is filled with some amazing and eclectic music ranging from orchestra, to jazz, and then to like old pop. The songs layer out all of the scenes and add a lot more style and excitement into that one particular scene.

I also liked the setting and how it basically felt like a character itself. If you want a film to see what Little Italy looked like in 1973, here it is. It is filmed with such a gritty look, that makes this film seem so real and a lot more nasty and cruel than what it tries to give us.

The only problem I had with this film was the way it was filmed. I thought that Scorsese tried to go back and forth in between scenes way too many times, to where I was kind of confused. They never really give us a chance to soak the story in, and I felt rushed to learn everything about this film and its characters right away or I was going to be lost.

The ending also felt a little too rushed and didn’t really serve any true meaning or message. It felt rushed and a little too quick for and ending.

Harvey Keitel shows off some great leading man strength in one of his earlier films here. But the best in the film is De Niro who gives this look at a guy who’s so cocky, and so dastardly, that you wanted to cheer him on, despite he was such a dick.

Consensus: Mean Streets is highly original with great acting, a wild soundtrack, and a beautiful setting, but feels a bit too rushed and not all that there with its message.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!!!!

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Mexico sure is a place full of wild crazy things, such as vampires, yeah OK!

Robbers-on-the-lam Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) take an ex-preacher (Harvey Keitel)and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are blood thirsty vampires.

The film starts out not that strong as a Hostage road drama, and then right in the middle switches gears into an vampire slaying movie. The film stars and is written by Tarantino, as Robert Rodriguez directs in what surely is to be labeled as a comedy-horror film.

From Dusk Till Dawn is basically a film that has no original content. Much of the content is taken from other films and most of it doesn’t seem original. Many of the features such as one bite and you turn into them and the conventional stab in the heart to kill are all taken from others and basically ruins an addition to the horror genre. Most of the originality starts off in the film and then ends in the middle and then it basically becomes something else we’ve already seen.

The film really does start to lose itself by the end of the film and actually started to lose me. I didn’t like the two characters, Clooney and Tarantino, and I really didn’t care what happened to these guys and they never really feel regret for what they have done in the past. When you feel like you just what the two main characters just to die then you have a problem with a film. The film by the last act starts to feel lazy and very tired and the action starts to lag into a very predictable boat.

The good things about this film are very noticeable as well. Tarantino does have a knack for a very clever written script and a fast-paced energetic directing job from Robert Rodriguez. They both have a good combination of making a very wise tongue-in-cheek horror action film. The special effects in this film are very good and don’t look like actors in costumes, although that’s what they are.

Clooney does an OK job but I will give him his credit since this is his first big movie role. The rest of the cast is pretty good and funny at showing all these opposite people who come together to face vampire’s and actually does prove some good laughs.

Consensus: The film is highly energetic filled with over-the-top action that will keep you glued, but I expected more from Tarantino and Rodriguez teaming together and didn’t feel my needs were there.

5.5/10=Rental!!!

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Now I have seen this film about 4 times but only on TV so everything was censored. Then I got the director’s cut and oh god did I miss a lot.

An inside look at a memorable community of criminals. Prizefighter Butch Coolidge has decided to stop payment on a deal he’s made with the devil. Honey Bunny and Pumpkin are a couple of young lovers and small time thieves who decide they need a change of venue. Meanwhile, two career criminals, Vincent Vega and Jules, go about their daily business of shooting up other crooks who are late on payments to their boss. While one is asked to babysit their boss’ dangerously pretty young wife, the other suddenly realizes that he must give up his life of crime.

OK let me just say this about the film it is great!!! Tarantino makes one of the greatest films of all-time right here. This is film making of an high order. This is a narrative movie that walks a long rope so complicated that if you don’t stop to think about the movie it starts to kinda double-back itself.

This is surely one of the greatest and probably on of the first that mix humor and crime together in one movie. Tarantino has made some of the most original material in the whole world of film. The stuff these characters talk about are hilarious but also very true. The topics of conversation range from foot massages, pot belly’s, double cheeseburgers, and of course crime. But all conversations are equally as funny as the last, and you don’t want these people to stop talking. Another great film from Tarantino is that he prepares us for one thing and gives us something else we weren’t expecting. The pop culture insight is surely a life of its own during this film.

The humor gets blind sided by some violence and pretty graphic violence but it’s not the violence that will make you turn away. Each story is not shown in chronological order but its still shown and well told through the stories that you don’t become confused. This is a movie you have to think about and when you do, you will love this movie even more by its cleverness.

The ensemble cast is purely amazing. There are many big name stars who don’t have huge parts but still do amazing and make their presence known on camera. The one thing I mostly loved about some of these big names is that they were sort of poking little jokes at themselves if you watch carefully. Travolta does the same walk at the end of the story that he did in Saturday Night Fever and Bruce Willis pokes fun at his character from Die Hard with the tough-nosed character that has a soft side. Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s story is probably the most entertaining and best well-acted where in which every scene with them the always steal the scene. This was a movie that made a lot of careers such as Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, and Tim Roth. Also be on the lookout for a cameo from the great Christopher Walken who is actually pretty funny in his 5 min. scene.

There basically is nothing bad about this film other than I wish there was more. I know 154 minutes is a long time but this film could’ve added so much more and been even better. But still I loved it no matter how long it was.

The greatest movie ever, ummm…maybe. But it’s clever, funny, violent, well-told, greatly acted, and surely an amazing classic for everyone to see.

10/10=Full Pricee!!!

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

We got Mr. Blue, Mr. Yellow, Mr. Pink, but no Mr. Apricot. I’m dissapointed!

Reservoir Dogs portrays what happens before and after a botched jewel heist, but not the heist itself. These guys don’t have any clue of what eachothers names are except for their color names. Through a series of flashbacks we see how this all comes together.

This is Quentin Tarantino’s debut film where basically any film that you have seen from (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), all feature his trademarks: in your face violence, pop culture references, excessive cursing, and a non-linear storyline. The way Tarantino uses these flashbacks to tell the story fully give you an idea of how these characters came to be a part of this tough guy group. This is one of the first movie’s in the crime genre that humanizes the characters and Tarantino shows what other crime films don’t show. For example, the sloppiness and most of all the humor which is unheard of from other crime films.

The riveting treatment that Tarantino gives these criminals is that they are human beings they are not always these big scary hateful guys that doesn’t like anything, no they’re actually people who pay attention to things in pop culture and still have a sense of humor.

The ensemble cast is great and features a lot of macho like men actors such as Micheal Madsen, Harvey Keitel, and Steve Buscemi. Though they were great in this film the one performance that surely sticks into my mind is the one by Tim Roth. He fully does show his energy and his gift of acting in this film.

The problem I had with this film the most was that by the end I think Tarantino starts getting too carried away with the persuasive violence that he starts to get rid of his memorable dialogue. This film didn’t bother me with all the violence I just didn’t prefer it to be taking over the whole movie and getting rid of its stronghold.

Reservoir Dogs is surely a great classic and if you have ever seen a Tarantino film well your going to love this one. Its very packed with violence that is not for the weak of heart, so be cautioned.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!