Daniel Day-Lewis

The Last of the Mohicans

Year: 1992
Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: James Fenimore Cooper (novel) and then many people worked on the adaptation, including Mann.

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have long since loved this movie.  It had great production, costume design, and action.  More than anything else this movie taught me the significance of music in a film.  I don’t know what it is about it but the score is just so powerful in this film. It brings so much emotion into the film and I have always felt that the score was what took it to the next level.  This isn’t just a good film but a great one and the musical score is a significant part of that.  Considering that the movie is also well cast and directed by a fantastic film maker it’s easy to understand why I have always liked it.  While based off a book I never read it is set during a historical time and I studied history in college.  I think that has always played a part in why I like this film so much because for some reason I have never been able to get Amber on board with the film.  She hates this movie and I can never understand why.  In the climax I can feel the pain of the characters and am truly moved by the movie but I will look over to my wife and find her sleeping.  She is missing out, and if you watch this film I think you will see what I am talking about.

There are two men credited with original music in this movie, Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones.  Looking through their track record I didn’t see anything really significant from either of them.  Yet somehow they collaborated to make an incredible score for this film.  I find the music in this film to be very moving, and it has always been a significant factor in what drew me in when I saw it for the first time. It brings such an intensity and passion to the action.  I don’t know that I have ever seen any other film in which the music synced so well with the action and brought it to life in such a powerful way. It’s unusual really because the reason two different men were credited with the score was because production got so messed up the first guy quit and a second had to be brought in.  Things apparently got real mixed up while this movie was in production and it’s amazing that I think what they ultimately put together was so good.

This is a story about badasses and know-it-alls who can’t comprehend inferiority. I’m not saying the English or French were inferior to the Native Americans, but they had an arrogance that skewered their better judgment during this time and in this film. Every time the English have to face the Native Americans they are so hopelessly unprepared.  They form into battle arrangement as the Indians rush them and slaughter them.  I don’t know the accuracy of these battles specifically but I suspect it is pretty close to how it happened.  Guerrilla warfare was born and bred in this country but it didn’t start with the colonials.  It started with the natives who didn’t fight by the same rules as the white people who had shown up and tried to establish authority. However, in the end the only Englishman that really matter is Duncan who gives a bad impression at first but gives up the ultimate sacrifice in the end to win us over.  Duncan knew he was going to be burned alive but chose to do it anyway for the right reasons; he martyred himself and became something of a hero in doing so.

I know that Daniel Day-Lewis plays the hero of this film, but let’s be honest.  The best performance goes to Wes Studi as Magua, one of the greatest badass antagonists ever.  When Magua makes his first kill in the movie his victim is actually smiling at him as he approaches.  Magua doesn’t care, he slices that guy right in the neck and kills the shit out of him, stone cold killer to the core. Magua is ultimately dispatched in the end by the actual last Mohican but it doesn’t matter then.  Magua not only defeated his greatest enemy in the field (the grayhair, Colonel Munro) but he later beat the shit out of the second to last Mohican with seeming ease.  He had lived a warrior’s life and it doesn’t matter that he was defeated, he had already achieved enough. Daniel Day-Lewis is probably one of the greatest actors to ever get behind camera, but still I feel he was showed up by Studi in this movie.  Magua was awesome and Day-Lewis’s Natty Bumppo doesn’t hold a candle to him.  The character of Natty Bumppo’s name was changed for the movie, for obvious reasons.  In the film our hero is Nathaniel Poe simply because the name Natty Bumppo doesn’t inspire anything from an audience other than laughter.  To prepare for this role Daniel Day-Lewis actually went into the wild to live for a time to get into character, living off the land and hunting for his food.  That’s the kind of dedication that has made him one of the greatest actors ever and it has paid off for him time and time again.  I think his performance as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York was one of the greatest roles I have ever seen.

The main thing I think that brings this movie down is the romantic element that was obviously pushed in by the studio who needs such a thing to make money.  Madeleine Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis were acceptable but when they made a thing between Uncas and Alice they were reaching.  There was actually a scene intended for Uncas and Alice to show off the love that otherwise we don’t really see but the actress’s mother was on set during filming and wouldn’t have it.  That’s what makes it stupid though, not only would it have been dumb to do it, it was even dumber not to do it.  In the end of the movie Uncas, the last remaining hope for a dying Native American race rushes into his death for a girl he simply saw from afar.  Had they actually engaged in some kind of romance it would have made more sense but I still maintain that the relationship in general was just unlikely and simply Hollywood story line crap(unless of course it happened in the book which I did not read, I could be completely wrong about this). Nevertheless, the way it is portrayed in the final cut of the film makes it all seem foolish.

There was apparently a lot of trouble during the making of this film.  The movie went really over budget and the studio clamped down hard on Michael Mann when they felt their efforts to break even were threatened.  From what I have read, Mann wasn’t really pleased with the final product of the film but despite that I have always like it.  I was actually shocked to find out there were so many problems during production because I have literally always thought this movie was great. From what I understand, the DVD version of the film is not the same as the one that hit theaters in 1992 and there is something like an additional 7 or 9 minutes.  Mann’s original plan for the film was about an hour longer than what it eventually got cut down to.  I really find all of this surprising because I sincerely love the film and am shocked to find that it isn’t even close to what it was originally intended to be.

Despite how things went during production I for one was really pleased with what eventually came out. I love this movie and feel even closer to it because it was filmed in my home state of North Carolina and I have been to a few of the places the film was made.  I have a fond place in my heart for these kinds of movies; I am a good American and respect the films that appropriately portray our history. This movie is without doubt worth your time, I have loved it since the first time I saw it and I will tell anybody and everybody that it is worth their time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have never liked this movie. I don’t really think there is anything fundamentally wrong with it at all, I just seem to never be able to make it all the way through the movie because I fall asleep. It really is a good story, but it is just so slow. And what the hell is up with all these movies talking about being the last one of something you aren’t. I mean this guy isn’t even a real Mohican, but he gets the title of the last one? And the same thing happens in The Last Samurai. Tom Cruise can’t possibly be considered the last Samurai right? I mean, c’mon!

lastofthemohecians

I am not a big fan of this poster either, It’s boring, believe it or not. Look at that WHITE guy running in his outfit to try and be a Mohican. I don’t like the lame sepia tone, that’s a lazy photoshop move right there. The typography isn’t nice here either because it doesn’t stand off of the background enough. I think with a  title that long you have the potential to do some really cool things, but it is wasted here in a boring centered look. Pop quiz! How many times do you think I said boring in this post?

NEXT MOVIE: The Last Samurai (2003) 

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)

The Bounty

Year: 1984
Directed By: Roger Donaldson
Written By: Richard Hough and Robert Bolt

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was in college studying history the first time I saw this movie.  So naturally I enjoyed it both because of its relation to my field and of course, the natural native nakedness.  It was not in any class that I saw this for the first time though.  I believe it was around 2004 when I saw it because it was on television all the time, and it would have fallen on a 20 anniversary.  This movie sports a great cast and an interesting story based on actual historical events.

Anthony Hopkins plays Lt. Bligh, the captain of the Bounty who lost his ship to an angry mutinous crew. Hopkins has an intensity that he brings to his characters and this movie is a great example of it. As Captain Bligh he has a temper that strikes fear and a look that will turn you cold.  His unreasonable demeanor will make you understand how he managed to lose the favor of his crew.  Mel Gibson isn’t bad in this movie, he does have his crazy Lt. Riggs moment during the mutiny though. Is it possible that the making of this movie with all the native nakedness had any influence on Mel Gibson’s decision to make Apocalypto? This wasn’t Daniel Day-Lewis’s best role, it wasn’t even particularly good, but it would be a crime to not mention him.  Liam Neeson plays a good part in the film, I have to mention him because Amber is in love with him. Not the last movie Laurence Olivier made but it was at the end of his career.

I don’t know very much as far as historical accuracy goes, I can say truthfully that no film is actually accurate despite its intentions.  I have done a little bit of research as I always do though.  The film isn’t 100% accurate, The Bounty never tried to sail around Cape Horn among other minor inaccuracies.  The film did many things right though as you can plainly see when you watch the movie.  It may be deemed inappropriate by some however, the nakedness may be of good intentions and natural but it is still aggressive nonetheless. I think many would agree that there is a lot to learn from this movie.  This is also a good movie and worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I didn’t even know we owned this movie. When we watched this the other night, I actually had to play close attention because I realized that I had never seen it before. Soon after I was completely sucked in and watched it through to the end. I really enjoyed this story line, which is surprising to me. i thought this movie looked like something I wouldn’t really be interested in, but I was wrong. This story is different and it also includes a lot of actors that we know really well now, and they looked like babies in this film. This was even pre-crazy Mel Gibson. He is skinny and young and actually quite attractive. Anthony Hopkins look super dapper in this movie, and super young. The story is great, like I said and I think it is hard for us in today’s time to think about a world where you have to travel by ship to reach different lands and learn different cultures. The British thought that the Tahitians were savages, and really after watching the movie, you in some way side with their way of life. They are all about happiness and being carefree and loving and making love. The British soon fall in love with their culture and way of life and this upsets the ship’s captain, played by Hopkins. The turmoil that happens within the crew after is what sets up the conflict.

This movie is definitely worth watching, especially if you haven’t seen it before. It is interesting and worth the time to put yourself into a different time and place.

NEXT MOVIE: The Bourne Identity (2002)