Month: July 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

I will start by saying that I really did enjoy this film and there is plenty to like about it.  However, at the same time there are plenty of fundamental problems with it and I think the original was the better film.  I have been following the development of this movie for some time and had mixed feeling throughout.  My opinion of the movie swayed into its favor when the previews began coming because it did look awesome.  When we went to see it today I tried to approach it with an open mind and surprisingly walked away both delighted and disappointed.

I think the biggest problem with this film is that it was too much too soon.  A reboot wasn’t necessary for the highest grossing franchise of all time and I was really interested in everything I was reading about Spiderman 4.  All the main people had come back; they had John Malkovich in talks to play the villain, presumably the Vulture.  It all seemed gravy until suddenly the whole thing came crashing down like a house of cards.  The studio pulled the plug and decided to start from scratch. The problem had to do with the studio forcing the hand of Sam Raimi if I remember correctly. The reboot had worked in spades with the Batman franchise so why not try it with Spiderman?  Well the problem is an origin story for Spiderman had already been done and everyone loved it.  With Batman they had never done that.  Tim Burton’s Batman started with Bruce Wayne already doing his thing as Batman so when they made Batman Begins  it was a new and fresh idea.  For those of us that already loved the first Spiderman franchise it is nearly impossible to sit through a movie like this without comparing and contrasting.  This wasn’t a bad movie but it was an inappropriate movie, and I think its box office results reflect that because it has been a big disappointment.

Excuse this quick tangent about box office statistics but it is a hobby of mine.  This movie, as far as I’m concerned, bombed despite netting $140 million in its opening week ($140 was the estimate I remember and not the actual number).  That may be a lot of money, but it was not enough.  Not only did it fail to outmatch any of its predecessors but it had an entire holiday week and it couldn’t even come close to what The Avengers did in only three days. I think by and large these kinds of results prove that it was a horrible decision to reboot this very successful franchise.  As I said before though, this box office performance does not reflect the value of the movie, I did enjoy it.

This movie may not be as good as the original but it doesn’t have to be.  It is a completely different retelling and had to do things differently to set it apart from the others.  I think the story would have been considerably better if we didn’t revisit his origin story.  Had the movie started with him already into his Spiderman adventure as a teenager and the origin simply been conveyed through flashbacks I think the story would have been much better.  Andrew Garfield did a great job and I really like his different approach to the character.  I have to go with Tobey Maguire being a better fit though and I’ll explain why.  Tobey is just so much more the hopeless loser and that is what Peter Parker really was. Garfield is much too hipster cool to be considered a lonely loser.  Skateboarding in his free time and getting the attention of hot girls by standing up to bullies isn’t the Peter I remember. I liked Garfield a lot though; he really captured the witty aspect of the Spiderman character. Although he does come across as a douche from time to time.

Emma Stone looked incredible in those knee high stockings she kept wearing.  When she is the unlikely 17 year old high school girl high up in a mega company I thought it was really interesting how she had the shortest lab coat in the room.  Stone has been building a great career and I think she was a really bright spot in this movie.  Rhys Ifans was great as the Dr. Curt Connors but I think his descent into madness was a bit too quick.  I thought Martin Sheen was great as Uncle Ben but his part was much too large.  I think the movie was a little heavy on the sentimental moments at times. I think Sally Field is great but I have to say she is miscast in this movie and underutilized to boot.  She just doesn’t look the part, and she should when following in the footsteps of Rosemary Parker. I think Denis Leary brought a lot to the movie; I grew to love him during his time on Rescue Me and just like seeing him in something now. Especially when he plays such an endearing character.  As Captain Stacy he showed good judgment and heroism in the face of danger.

I don’t think this movie was “Amazing” but I did like it and would recommend anybody on the fence give it a shot.  I think the movie will really relate to younger generations and serve in bonding them to the character.  That’s a smart move too. Spiderman will live on forever no matter what happens because he is awesome but it can’t hurt to get proactive in making teenagers today love him. I don’t love this movie but I don’t regret taking my time to see it either.  Personally, part of me hopes this movie fails miserably so studios get a message about why it is a bad idea to jump right into a reboot.  I am really afraid that Warner Bros will immediately reboot the Batman franchise before the dust settles on The Dark Knight.  In fact I have already heard talk of that happening and that they already have an actor in mind to play the part.  It was Ryan Reynolds specifically, which has to be simply a rumor because that would be the biggest mistake of all time, he is already the Green Lantern and not so great at that.

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The Godfather: Part III

Year: 1990
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an awful movie plain and simple.  It is stupid for a number of reasons and mainly because it does not even remotely correlate with the original story.  It was a desperate attempt to make bank on a popular franchise and they blew it.  I am perfectly aware of how many awards it was nominated for and all I can say is that those people were lying.  It’s The Godfather and after more than 15 years of waiting for it to be made they were all going to gush over how great it was whether it was true or not.  This is a stupid movie and I will not even waste my time with it now by suffering through the two hours and forty-two minutes of monotony.

I will tell you why this is a stupid movie that doesn’t correlate with the original story.  Lucy Mancini did not have a son by Sonny Corleone and that is specifically covered in the book. After Sonny was killed Don Corleone personally went to see Lucy Mancini if I’m not mistaken, although he may have sent Tom Hagen.  It doesn’t matter though because she was specifically asked if she was pregnant and was not.  She then went on to be part of the staff at the family owned hotel in Las Vegas where she met and fell in love with a doctor employed by the family owned hospital in Vegas.  So to create a story that revolves around a character that clearly didn’t exist is stupid. Sonny had two legitimate sons and I think the story would have been better had they just used one of them. Of course that is assuming they didn’t have them enter a sexual relationship with their cousin. Secondly, and I know this started in the second film, but Michael Corleone did not have a daughter.  In the first book it specifically mentioned that Kay had given Michael two sons.  Although because of the films the sequels to the novels include the Mary character.  Thirdly, this movie is stupid because it is BORING as hell, and because there is no Tom Hagen.  Robert Duvall was supposed to be in it but demanded the same amount of money Pacino was getting and was simply written out of the script.  That was a bad idea and a serious part of why this movie was so bad.  All the Godfather characters are gone here, with the exception of Connie and Al Neri.  The problem with including Al Neri in such a large part is that none of the movies clearly explain who he is.  Neither the first film nor the second clearly explain who Neri is and until I had read the book I had no idea why Vincent seemed to value his opinion so much.  Now to the biggest reason this is a stupid movie.

INCEST does not belong in such a great franchise and I think the man who put forth that idea should be beaten, and then the man that allowed it to be part of the movie should be beaten.  It was an awful idea and I can’t believe somebody approved it.  Granted they are simply cousins, but when did “simply being cousins” not cause offense? I don’t care what anybody says, it was incest, and it was stupid.  Not only that but the whole point of legitimizing the family only makes for a boring story.  Yeah it makes sense because that was always Michael’s dream but it still makes for a story that sucks.  People watch mob movies to see the crimes, to see the killing, to see the great power and manipulation.  When they are trying to turn into legitimate people then they are no different than Spiderman deciding he doesn’t want to be a hero anymore.  What good is he if he isn’t the hero anymore? Why even pay attention to his story?  That goes double for a beloved mafia franchise trying to not be in the mafia anymore.  It’s lame and who cares?

Since I have mentioned that Al Neri is never really properly introduced in the movies I will explain who he is.  Al Neri was a Sicilian police officer in New York who had a real mean streak to him. He did not take bribes and took his job very seriously. On one call he went too far and killed a criminal in his efforts to subdue him.  Despite his good police record he was imprisoned and let go from the police force.  It was Michael who found him, took care of his troubles, and offered him a position in the family. Al Neri is more or less Michael’s version of Luca Brasi.  Luca was a true killer that Don Corleone feared but had bent to his own will nonetheless.  The Don tells Michael about the importance of having a man like this, a man without fear that can be counted on.  Al becomes this man for Michael and is always at his side throughout the novel sequels. Al’s role is head of security for the Corleones in Vegas but he operates as Michael’s main enforcer. In the first film we see Al Neri dressed in his police uniform and he is the man that shoots Don Barzini. He doesn’t say a single word in the movie and his name is never mentioned. We see him many times throughout the second movie but I don’t think he was ever properly introduced there either.  He is seen on the big board in the courtroom as a high ranking family member and he is the man that executes Fredo.  Still we never really find out who he is in either of these movies as it is never explained.

In closing I just want to again express how bad this movie is.  IT HAS INCEST IN IT! That says it all, incest is gross and dangerous.  It has no place in a franchise about such a famous family that is loved by all.  I haven’t even mentioned how bad casting was when they called on names like Andy Garcia and Joe Mantegna for key roles.  I know that Garcia was nominated for his role in the film but like I mentioned earlier, these decision makers were lying to themselves.  They nominated this film for Best Picture of the year for Christ’s sake, if that’s not a move made for political purposes I don’t know what is.  This movie is specifically a waste of your time, and I would almost go as far to say the second one is practically a waste of your time as well. If you want a truly fulfilling continuation of the first film then read the books by Mark Winegadner.  The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge are both exciting and well written books that are actually worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Goodfellas (1990)

The Godfather: Part II

Year: 1974
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo

This is NOT the greatest sequel of all time, in fact I find myself at times having a hard time even saying that it is a good movie.  I think this movie shows many characteristics of sequels gone horribly wrong.  For example the Clemenza character having to be written out of the story because Richard Castellano decided to be an asshole. Sometimes when a movie is really successful certain people get it in their heads that they have more power than they really do and unfortunately Castellano fell victim to that. This is a movie of great length, too great if you ask me.  In fact, when people ask me about this movie I tell them that this is one of the worst ones I have ever seen and it is so long and boring that I want to scratch my eyes out.

This movie checks in at 200 minutes. That’s three hours and twenty minutes….My question to you is “who the hell has that kind of time?” This is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, are you kidding me? This movie is unbearably long and all events at the present time were so relentlessly BORING. The Michael story doesn’t even make much sense if you ask me and I am a mafia fanatic.  If I can’t sit through this movie as the movie/mafia fanatic I am then I have to believe all those other people out there claiming it is so great are just lying to themselves. This movie isn’t epic; it’s the apocalypse of sequels.

OK, it’s not that bad and I do love the flashback scenes because they were part of the original book and they were great. I just think the continuation of the story in the present was awful.  It would have been better had the Clemenza character still been part of the story, but not if he turned informant. Unfortunately Richard Castellano, who played the part in the first film, proved too difficult to work with early in production so his character was cut entirely. If I remember correctly it had something to do with him wanting a different writer for his role specifically, a completely unrealistic request for a small time actor. The replacement part of Frank Pentangeli was awful in my opinion, and I hope it doesn’t mirror anything they actually had in mind for the Clemenza part.  The bad impression he gives starts early when he is completely hammered at the party for Anthony’s coronation and then drunkenly belligerent to Michael. He doesn’t get much better after that and it just seems stupid for the all powerful Corleone family to have such an incompetent person at such a high level. A guy in his position should never be the kind of guy that would become a government witness.  A guy in that position would be too proud to kill himself and he would never be allowed to do so, the mob would make an example of him.  Suicide is too easy of a way out for a man who breaks Omerta. His death in the end is anticlimactic and a waste of what should have been an important figure in the family.

For some reason when I think about this movie I only see Al Pacino sitting there, doing nothing but working on that Godfather gaze. He is great in the role but this time around he bores the hell out of me more than anything.  Al Pacino is Michael Corleone but he is so secretive in this film that it is annoying. He tells nobody what he is actually doing and his actions are so vague it’s hard to tell who exactly the bad guy is. To this day I still don’t know who the old guy that shadows Michael the whole movie is, the fact that they never explain that drives me crazy. If anything the man who shadowed him should have been Al Neri and we should have known who he was.  After nearly being killed in his own home I think it is a bit ridiculous that Michael travels with only one bodyguard who looks old enough to be his grandfather.

I also specifically have a problem with the execution of Hyman Roth. Roth wasn’t a bad character and he is based on real life Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, which is really cool. His execution was stupid because Michael’s Capo Rocco Lampone is gunned down after the hit.  This is just stupid, that isn’t how it should have been handled and I think it was a waste of an important character in the Godfather world.  The mob wouldn’t entrust a suicide mission to such a high level guy, that kind of thing is passed down to the Button Men. Had he not been killed it wouldn’t matter, but I liked the Rocco character. Clemenza may have made a hit in the first film as a Capo but that was different.  Michael was the new Don with one Capo who had already betrayed him; it was an opportunity to prove his loyalty in that case. The Capos are high ranking men in the organization and one of the many buffers for the Don.  These guys generally don’t do the hits; they pass them down making more buffers that keep the Don from getting in trouble.

I didn’t always have such strong feelings about this movie but having read both sequels to the novel by Mark Winegardner I think this sequel fails by comparison.  Winegardner did an incredible job mimicking Mario Puzo‘s style and tone.  He wrote a really interesting story about the Corleone family and I think it was just so much better than what they did with the films.  Winegardner’s book picks up immediately after the first film ends and covers the years before and after this film.  It just kind of bypasses the film and incorporates it into the story.  It parallels history very well by going farther with the Fontane/Sinatra character and a new group of characters obviously based on the Kennedys.  It goes deep into the mafia world and the dynamics of the Corleone family as well as several other major families throughout the U.S.  I wasn’t high on this movie before reading those books, but afterwards I can barely stand to watch it.

Ok, I wrote everything above this before re-watching the film.  I am watching it now and at only 25 minutes in I can clearly see that I was far too critical of it.  It does deserve a certain level of respect, but I do stand by most of what I said.

I have finished the movie now, and it took me nearly all freaking day to do so.  This movie isn’t as bad as I make it out to be, but it is long to the point of being a flaw.  This movie should have been split into two pieces and released as a sequel and prequel. It is so long that boredom is inevitable and to be honest the climax in this one just doesn’t deliver like the first one.  I implore all Godfather fans to read The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge if you want some excitement from this series. If you think this movie is worth the 3 hours and 20 minutes it takes to watch it then by all means please leave a comment and argue your position.  I am interested in the thoughts of someone who thinks it is, but I don’t know that I will ever give it that much time again. It will take longer to read the books, but you will get a lot more out of the time you invest.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather: Part III

The Godfather

Year: 1972
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Mario Puzo

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of if not the best film adaptation of a book ever.  Watching this movie is like getting little snippets from the book perfectly crafted into a condensed version of a larger story.  I love the book that this film is based off of and I think the movie is incredible.  I love this movie and book on a different level than most. Every time I watch the movie or read the book I find myself so immersed in the story.  It has proved to have a great influence on my life and I have learned many lessons from it.  The movie was legendary when it came out forty years ago and since then the legend has only grown.  For FORTY years this film has been considered one of the best, and in many cases it is called the best. It is an excellent movie that I always encourage anybody to see, and then I suggest they read the book.

About three or four years ago Amber picked this book up for me on the spur of the moment.  She knew I liked the movie and thought that I would like it.  I did not do very much reading at the time and really wasn’t interested in taking the time to read any book.  To humor her I gave it a shot, but I was barely through the first page before I was hooked.  Mario Puzo put words together in a way that spoke to me and I found myself having difficulty putting the book down.  When I finished reading I went on to read most of Puzo’s books, and then The Godfather sequels written by Mark Winegardner. I have never stopped reading since and to this day read constantly and as much as I can.  I credit all I have learned in that time to Mario Puzo and his awesome story, The Godfather for showing me that reading can be so interesting. I cannot even begin to estimate how much I have learned from all the reading that started with that book.  It has had a significant impact on my life, and because of that the film is very important to me.

One of the things I have found so interesting about this film is how successful it turned out to be despite serious problems all through production.  Francis Ford Coppola had a really rocky relationship with Paramount pictures and was nearly fired multiple times.  The studio also specifically hated the casting of both Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.  Literally just about everyone involved in this film met enormous success once the film was released, but it wasn’t really an easy journey getting there. The film won the Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Best Actor for Brando, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay for Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.  Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Francis Ford Coppola (for direction) were all nominated as well.  This movie became the highest grossing film of all time when it was released and remains the highest grossing film of 1972 earning over $134 million domestically. Its domestic grosses equal to over $625 million once ticket prices are adjusted by today’s rate.

I have never been a big fan of Brando despite how great he was.  I do think he was incredible in this film and this is how I like to remember him.  He got so pathetic later in life; he ballooned into a serious weight problem and became quite the recluse in his old age.  He was great in his youth, and he has a very interesting life that is worth looking into sometime.  Despite all that, I really haven’t ever been a big fan with an exception of this movie and a few others.  He is great in this role, and I have read before that he actually met with real life mafia Dons to learn mannerisms and other character traits he could mimic.  His performance reflected his research too and it will be remembered for all time.  As Don Vito Corleone Marlon Brando became a legend.  He looked the part so much and he had such a great and memorable voice as the Godfather. He spoke with such patience and power, and when he spoke wisdom rolled out of his mouth that could be either insightful or dangerous.

Al Pacino is great as the reluctant Michael Corleone, the family rebel that would prove to be the most cunning and most ruthless of them all.   What I have always found so interesting about his role in this movie is how different he looks.  He looks younger and better looking in this movie, for nearly the rest of his career he has both looked and sounded dramatically different.  I grew up seeing Pacino in films but he was always the older guy.  He was the guy that in any given movie got that crazy look in his eyes and started screaming about something. Pacino loves to raise his voice and does so frequently.  I have heard that Pacino is a really heavy smoker and I assume that the habit has wreaked havoc on both his looks and sound over the years. I like to make a joke occasionally that I tried to “Pacino” my voice by smoking for a few years so I wouldn’t sound exactly like my dad. Pacino, if nothing else, has had a long and significant career in the movie industry.  He has played many legendary and iconic characters over the years and it all started with this film.  Pacino turned out to be perfect for the part and it gave him the opportunity to go on and do so much.

Robert Duvall was so young in this movie too. I had always associated him with being one of those old actors who still had a lot to offer and I was surprised to see him so young.  He is great as Tom Hagen and always stays true to the character.  Hagen is clever and resourceful.  He blends in and knows the importance of remaining anonymous or unnoticed. Hagen is one of the strengths of the family but it wasn’t until I read the book that I realized he was one of the most significant problems for the family.  Hagen was dear to the Corleones and undeniably talented but he was Irish-German.  Having him held in such high regard within the Sicilian mafia family weakened the power the Corleones had in the eyes of the other five families of New York.  It was Hagen’s appointment as Consigliere that even made the possibility of taking out Don Corleone a topic for discussion. When the character of Sollozzo talks to Michael at the restaurant in Sicilian he mentions this. He mentions how the Don was a legend but is being unreasonable over the situation at hand.  He suggests that the Don, as great as he was, is slipping a little and that the appointment of an Irish Consigliere proves as much. If you are interested in what he said specifically read the book because everything is written in English. Nevertheless Hagen remained an important part of the Corleone family and never wavered in his loyalty.  Duvall embodied everything that Hagen was in my eyes and I think he was great in the part.

When I saw this movie for the first time I didn’t really like it.  I was young and too immature to recognize the value and quality of the film.  I was however quite taken with the Sonny Corleone character as a teenager.  I loved his reckless and violent behavior. I remember thinking that this movie sucked because they killed off the best character but I was wrong.  James Caan did do an awesome job portraying the character.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when he goes nuts and beats his brother-in-law on the street in front of everyone.  Sonny was a wild and viscous character who met an unfortunate end much too early, but he managed to make quite an impression with the time available to him.  I like James Caan quite a bit and think he has been great in several films.

John Cazale plays a smaller role in this movie but represents a character very important to the Godfather universe.  As Fredo Corleone I think he really looks the part, the character of Fredo goes on to be very interesting in the books by Mark Winegardner.  John Cazale was Al Pacino’s best friend in the 70s and they appeared in a few other films together.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the late 70s but continued acting despite the diagnosis.  He died in 1978 shortly after completing work on Deer Hunter. Cazale was a very interesting man who is worth looking into.  In this film he did an excellent job and I liked him quite a bit as Fredo.

Diane Keaton, Richard Castellano, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, and Talia Shire all played great roles in this movie too. I got so immersed into the story at one point that I really got to know all of the characters pretty well.  I think that all these actors did an excellent job playing their parts.  I think they not only look the part but became the characters that they played, at least in my imagination.  I do tend to think too highly of everything in this movie because I think it was really really well made.  I am not really a big fan of most of Francis Ford Coppola’s work, but he got everything right in this one.  He has always been significant and has a name that commands power because he made this film.  Nothing else he has ever done mattered because he was the man that made The Godfather, so we all owe him mad respect.

This story is the classic example of the romanticized mafia. I sometimes feel like a cliché for falling for it because I am one of those people that are somewhat obsessed with the organized crime world.  I have researched not only the Italian Mafia but several other factions of organized crime syndicates.  They are not like we see in the movies; they are violent and ruthless people that will stop at nothing to get what they want.  They usually do not have honor in the ways that we see in the movies but they are still fascinating. They live interesting lives that draw the attention of everyone because if nothing else, we do love the drama in this country and these are dramatic people.  There is a small part of all of us that wants to root for the bad guy sometimes, and these kind of bad guys offer a good opportunity to do so.

I said this movie and book made quite an impression on me and it has.  This movie taught me the importance of cunning, and I try to be cunning in every aspect of life.  The men in this movie are cold and calculating.  They have serious issues to deal with and they come up with elaborate plans to resolve them.  I am the kind of person that plans for everything, and this story taught me a thing or two about planning.  This movie also got through to me the importance of honor, and respect.  In the mafia world the people that don’t know how to show respect get killed, and I suppose there is something appealing about that part of their world.  Couldn’t we all do with a little less of the disrespectful idiots out there in the world?

This book made Mario Puzo a mega star and he went on to write several other books involving organized crime. I would recommend all of them because I did thoroughly enjoy all of them.  Puzo was an Italian American and he wrote a lot about his own experiences in life.  He also wrote quite a bit about Sicilian culture and it has always appealed to me.  Sicilians have such an interesting history and their people are so fascinating in his stories.  The Sicilian was connected to The Godfather universe and was a really excellent book; I would recommend that everybody read it. It was loosely based on a real life person and Puzo wrote a great story. There was also a movie based off of the book starring Christopher Lambert as the main character. Obviously, that movie is not worth your time. The Godfather story too was loosely based on real life and Mark Winegardner’s sequels continued that trend.  When Puzo was on set for the movie he was actually confronted by an angry and aggressive Frank Sinatra who was angry that the Johnny Fontane cried on film.  The character is and was obviously based on Sinatra but that wasn’t what bothered him, it was the fact that his character showed the weakness of crying that he got angry.  Puzo was a big fan of Sinatra, and the experience really shocked him.  It is really obvious in all of Puzo’s books that he really despised the Hollywood lifestyle.

I could literally go on forever and ever about this movie and about the entire series because for a while it was my obsession.  This is not a movie I need to validate because it was one of the greatest ever made.  It has been significantly inspiring and important to me but that should mean little to other serious movie watchers.  This is the kind of movie that means something to all of us, it has taught us all different things and there is no end to the different things we all love about it.  This film is worth your time and worth your attention.  Don’t be the fool I was as a teen when I watched it simply looking for violence.  You have to let this story suck you in and see where it takes you.  There are plenty of lessons to be offered in this one and they are just sitting there waiting to be absorbed.  I recommend this movie to everyone and scold the people who admit to having never seen it before.

Ugh, I finished this review before I finished the film and there is so much to say as the movie goes on but I have already written so much. The mafia’s involvement in Las Vegas is really fascinating.  The character of Moe Greene is based off of real life Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel who was executed by the mob for blowing too much money. This movie is loosely based off of real history, sort of a fictionalized history if you will. I would suggest anybody interested in the story first read the book.  Then find books about the true history it is based on.  All of it is really fascinating stuff.

AMBER’S REVIEW

The Godfather logo is one of the most recognizable logos in our society today. The font is completey unique and can only ever be used again to parody the typography in this logo.

The puppet hand symbolizes The Don’s power over the mob players. He holds the reins and they are at his bidding. A deeper explanation can be gathered from the following quote from the movie: “And I refused to be a fool dancing on a string held by all of those big shots.” Don Vito says this is a conversation with Michael and means that he didn’t want to be the puppet held by someone else. The ironic thing is, he turned out to be the puppeteer while making his own way in life.

This movie is great, and so is the design.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather II (1974)

Gladiator

Year: 2000
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: David Franzoni, John Logan, Willian Nicholson

RYAN’S REVIEW

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” I’ve always thought that quote was incredible and it set the tone for this movie. This movie blew everybody away in 2000 and won all the awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe. I was in high school at the time and it set quite an impression on me. It immediately became my favorite epic film of the “swords and sandals” genre as I have heard it described.  It had that effect on nearly everyone, it is a powerful movie. It’s about powerand revenge, and like all good “swords and sandals” movies it’s about courage and honor.

This movie made Russell Crowe a superstar, he had been on the rise for some time but this was what put him over the top.  I think he has made many great movies since but in my opinion this was his peak as an actor.  He might have made many great films since but none so great as this.  As Maximus he commanded respect on and off the screen.  I think people started to think that he was the great and noble character that he played in the film.  I remember when he started beating people up in the real world it was such a shocker, but I happened to think that worked well for him as it encouraged me to see his upcoming film Cinderella Man. With this film Crowe used up the last of his youth, I have always felt he looked so much older since.  I can say that he got the most out of it though, he gave a great performance that was due all the credit it got.  Crowe has worked many more times with Ridley Scott but they haven’t been able to match what they did with this movie, although they have made some good films since.

As great as Crowe was in this movie I have always thought Joaquin Phoenix brought just as much to the movie. He was terrific as Commodus and despite all his problems he is a great actor.  I am always afraid that there will suddenly be breaking news that he has died just as his brother River Phoenix did.  Phoenix obviously has had serious problems with drugs, but he has always managed to keep it together for his movie roles.  I think he thrives playing really complex characters and this film is no different.  Commodus is a child in a man’s body, a little boy that desperately wanted his father’s approval and failed to achieve it.  He is angry and cruel, he is weak but unpredictable in a way that makes him very dangerous.  He has the power and nothing is scarier than power wielded by someone like Commodus. Phoenix lost the Academy Award to Benicio Del Toro for his role in TrafficI have always thought that was a load of crap, the award should have went to Phoenix, he deserved it.  I like Del Toro but you can barely understand anything he says and I have always thought Traffic was overrated.

This film is not even remotely historically accurate but I don’t think that matters, it doesn’t in any way claim to be based on fact.  There was a real Marcus Aurelius and a real Commodus but none of this happened the way we see it in the movie, or at all. Richard Harris did a great job playing Aurelius.  He has a noble aura about him that makes him great for roles like this.  I think the Harry Potter films really suffered when he died, he was great as Dumbledore and left big shoes to fill.  Djimon Hounsou was great as Juba.  I thought bigger things were ahead of him when I saw him in this film but he hasn’t lived up to my initial expectations.  Connie Nielsen looked the part and performed admirably as the lone female role in the movie.  Oliver Reed also played an exceptional part in the role of Proximo.

This is a great movie and it will always be important to me for the lessons it taught me as a teen.  Russell Crowe’s character of Maximus sets a good example for all young men.  He is heroic and brave, he does what is right instead of simply what he is told, and he perseveres when things get difficult. Those are qualities that we should all study and take something away from.  This kind of epic movie is the type that always appeals to me so I fit nicely into the target audience.  If you like these types of movies then this is definitely worth your time, and if it isn’t your type it would still be worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Some movies really speak to people and some movies don’t. This movie speaks to Ryan. I cannot say the same. I have tried to watch this movie so many times and every single time I get bored and stop paying attention. This is yet another movie that I don’t like that makes people look at me and say, “Really?” I don’t know anyone else that doesn’t like this movie, so I know that I am the odd ball out.

The scenery looks amazing and so does Russell Crowe, but like I said, I get bored every time. The movie poster for this movie is actually quite nice, however. There is a lot of symbolism. Notice how he is large compared to The Colosseum. They are trying to portray this idea that even The Colosseum doesn’t amount to this Gladiator’s glory. He is larger than life and can’t be stopped. The costume is perfect, the color is great and the typography of  “Gladiator” is a nice serif font with an ever prevalent movie style texture to the font, which stands there just as boldly as The Gladiator himself.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather (1972) 

Gangs of New York

Year: 2002
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember when this movie first came out in theaters, it was the year I graduated high school.  I didn’t see it in the theaters but I remember running into some friends coming out of the theater when they had just seen it and I was on the way to see something else. I had been reading about this movie and knew of it for some time.  It was delayed time and time again before its release, once because of the 9/11 crisis. It was the new movie by Martin Scorsese though and the delays only made me look forward to it more.  I was a big fan of Goodfellas and Taxi Driver so I was really interested in the film despite not being at the theater to see it then.  I asked them if the movie was any good and I will never forget what they said.  They looked at me with a disappointed expression and said “It was bloody” and another said “it was really violent.” What they said was all in their tone though.  I had not seen this movie but somehow I knew, I didn’t know how but somehow I just knew that they were wrong.  These guys weren’t good friends but they were friends and somewhere deep down I never looked at any of them the same after that.  Once I actually saw the film the verdict was in, these friends had no taste and they didn’t have enough sense to appreciate something so incredible. Not to mention that I found myself wondering before and after seeing it ‘what kind of guy finds something too violent or bloody?’ I have lost touch with those friends since high school and I’m OK with it, somehow it is all because of this movie.

I remember looking forward to the DVD release of this movie quite a bit since I never ended up seeing it in the theater. Our movie collection was young at that time and DVDs were quite costly then.  Not too expensive but much more so then they are now. What I mean by that is that at the time this collection was a slower work in progress.  I didn’t buy DVDs carelessly not only because I could not afford to but because it was much more expensive to do so back then.  Yet when this movie came out on DVD I went to the store and bought it on the day it was released without having ever seen it. It was a gamble that paid off well.  This is one of my favorite movies ever from Martin Scorsese, in my opinion it might be his best film.  That is a tough thing to say because there is a lot of steep competition.  Martin Scorsese is one of the men that made film making what it is today. He has been making great movies for over forty years.  His contributions to the industry will be studied 100 years from now and then some.  One day he will leave behind a legacy that will turn him into a legend.  This film is my favorite of the ones that make the legend that is Scorsese.

Before this movie I had a certain impression of Leonardo DiCaprio, and it wasn’t really good. I was a teen during the time Titanic came out I came to dislike DiCaprio the same way that most young men don’t like Justin Bieber now.  He’s the guy that all the teen girls go nuts over and it is annoying to the point you find yourself disliking them.  This changed all of that in the case of Dicaprio, I saw the value that in truth had been there all along I was just too foolish and immature to admit it.  DiCaprio is the best actor in the business hands down. He is great at choosing roles and he has an ability that is impressive.  With this movie he effectively became Scorsese’s De Niro of the 21st century as well with many more collaboration to follow. He can use a wide range of dialects and he has worked with many of the greatest directors out there. It was this film that changed my impression of him and I have since looked forward to every film he has made. I imagine that DiCaprio is the kind of actor that would learn from the greats when he had a chance and during this film he got to work with one of the best of all time.

Daniel Day-Lewis had been retired before this movie came out and was persuaded out of it by direct involvement from Scorsese and I think DiCaprio too. It’s a good thing he decided to get back in the game because he gave one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in any movie. He has since remained unretired and I am grateful for that because I think he has a lot to offer. Day-Lewis is a notorious actor as far as his methods go.  He stays in character at all times during filming and that kind of dedication clearly pays off for him. He gets to know his character on a different level and I think you can see that in his work.  As Bill the Butcher he scared me.  He was so intimidating in this role that his persona came through into reality and struck fear into my soul.  He was that good.  There is so much about films that is predictable, but when I watched this for the first time I had no idea what the Butcher might do at any time and it was thrilling.  There are only a handful of characters in film that can provoke that kind of feeling, the Butcher is one of them. The intimidation that he invokes, the power that he commands, and his strange sense of honor make him a character for the ages.  I think he was robbed of the Academy Award that year and I have never felt that Daniel Day-Lewis got enough credit for this part.  His accent  was really incredible, as I understand it he spoke in that accent throughout his time working on the film.  The character that he plays Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is based on a real man named William Poole but this movie isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of who he was. He was part of the Know Nothing political party that specifically despised Irish and German immigrants coming into the country.  There is some truth here, as with the Tammany Hall parts of the film but as with all films you need to do your own research to find the truth.

Aside from those two great actors there are many other talented people that brought something to this movie.  John C Reilly didn’t have the best part to play in the role of a character that doesn’t inspire a lot of love.  I like Reilly though and think this movie is one of the many examples that show his true value.  He has great range to be both serious and funny depending on what movie he is in.  I have never been a big fan of Brendan Gleeson but I can’t quite figure out why.  He is in many movies that I love and he played a great character in this one as well.  This was the first movie I remember seeing Henry Thomas in since his role as a child in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial so it was cool to see him still acting, albeit in a role as a weakling.  Liam Neeson had quite a good role in the beginning as well.  I read once that originally his character was hacked piece by piece to death during the battle but it had to be changed to get an R rating. However during the battle, right before the butcher attacks him you can see a quick shot of his arm being hacked off that wasn’t removed from the final cut.  It just appears to be someone else being cut because you don’t see this injury on him as the Butcher kills him.

The only role that I didn’t think was great in this movie was that of Cameron Diaz.  It isn’t anything against her either I think she is a beautiful and talented actress but just not right for this role.  I think she looked too pretty for the part.  A pick-pocketing hooker during that era wouldn’t have such a perfect looking face with such pretty features.  Originally the part was to be played by Sarah Polley, who I think would have been much better in the role.  I am a fan of Polley but she isn’t an A-list actress by any means and that was the problem.  The studio wanted a more bankable star in the role and the casting was changed at the last minute.  Nothing against Cameron Diaz but this decision hurt the movie.  That’s the biggest problem in most films.  Executives think in terms of what will make them the most money and not what will make them the best movie.

This is an epic movie, a wicked and amazing epic movie. It is violent, witty, and generally top notch across the board. If you haven’t seen this movie it is worth your time, because I can assure you that you will be satisfied when it is over.  If you aren’t and you don’t like this movie then let me know why because I would really like to know. I happen to have asked a few people about this movie this past week and they didn’t know it.  I counted it as an anomaly to what most people must have seen because it is so great but in the event that I am wrong there might be more of you out there.  In that case, see this movie, it’s great but brace yourself because it is violent…there will be blood.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is great. It tells an interesting story and keeps you interested throughout. The most notable thing about this film, however is the acting. This movie is filmed with A quality actors. I am sure that Ryan already mentioned all of the names in this film, so I won’t reiterate here, but when you put this kind of talent all together in one film, the result is bound to be incredible, and I think it definitely shows in Gangs of New York.

If you like a nice blood bashing then this is for you. It’s a great movie with a lot of meat to it and I definitely recommend it.

-A

NEXT MOVIE: Ghostbusters (1984)