Joe Pesci

Once Upon a Time in America

Year: 1984
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Harry Grey (novel) six different men are credited with the screenplay including Sergio Leone.

RYAN’S REVIEW

One of my favorite things to do in the past was browse the movie sections of stores or stroll through a video store to look at all that was available. I loved looking at all the options and picking out something I wanted to buy or something to rent. Sadly as time has moved on this is something I have lost the opportunity to do. Movie sections in stores are shrinking at an incredible rate and video stores are all but nonexistent these days. The closest anything comes now is the recommendations suggested to me on Amazon. I find myself sometimes just scrolling through the images presented to me looking for something I want. I rarely find an older movie that I want and don’t already own but sometimes I see something that I think I should have seen and never did. That’s how this movie came into the collection. I was eventually worn down by Amazon and clicked that order button one day just taking a chance. It was a mob movie and it starred Robert De Niro, James Woods, William Forsythe, and Joe Pesci. Throw in Sergio Leone as director and I found myself wondering how I had managed to miss this one over the years.

Now, after spending three days to watch this movie that has a running time of 3 hours and 40 minutes I came away with only one thought in mind. If you want a looooonnngg and confusing mobster film then this movie is head and shoulders above The Godfather II. I’ll admit that after watching this movie I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. That’s due in part to the fact I tried to watch it in three different viewings and truthfully when I was sitting down to watch it my attention wavered frequently because the movie is so slow. Nevertheless, even without knowing the ins and outs of the plot I still felt like this movie was better than De Niro’s more famous mob movie from ten years earlier.

I had never seen a Sergio Leone film. His trilogy of spaghetti westerns has long been on my to-do list and I have known his name and reputation for quite a while. When his name popped out to me on the Amazon image I thought it was high time I actually see one of his films. I found his film quite impressive truthfully. Far too drawn out at times and the story telling could have been better but all that was made up for in spades with savage and exciting action. I don’t care for the portrayal of rape in the film because it seems altogether too casual to me. Not necessarily the rape of De Niro’s true love Deborah but of the woman in the bank more so. What he did really offended me, and I specifically didn’t like how everyone was so nonchalant about it as the film went on.

De Niro is a great actor who does incredible in this movie playing varying ages but I don’t like how rapey he is. It was a bit of a shock to me to see De Niro raping women like he does in this movie. I don’t know why because over the years I have seen him do so many violent things in films but this seemed like a line I hadn’t seen him cross before. That’s not all that makes his opium smoking Jewish gangster an unsavory character among all the others he has played in his career, but it is what bothered me the most.

I specifically liked James Woods’ portrayal of Max and wish he had taken more mobster roles in the past. I like James Woods but more often than not he is playing the wrong character. The immediate parts that come to mind are the pimp he plays in Casino and the trainer he plays in Any Given Sunday. Not his fault because both of those characters were specifically written to be disliked. There are plenty of his films I have yet to see and roles like the one he had in this movie give me reason to look forward to them.

I was partially sold on this movie by presence of Joe Pesci in the cast. I am a huge Pesci fan and feel like I haven’t seen enough of him in his career. The opportunity to see him in another mob film was so appetizing but I have to report that I was let down. Pesci is awesome as ever in this movie but his role is merely a cameo. He is only in the movie for maybe 5, 10 minutes tops. A big disappointment but I’ll take anything I can get from Joe Pesci because he isn’t like to make more movies in the future.

I only bring up The Godfather II because so many people have the audacity to call it great. I call it confusing, slow, a weak story, and practically absent of anything exciting. This movie can be a bit confusing too as it is all over the place in both time and tone. However where this movie makes up for all its faults is in the action. When the fire gets lit in this movie explosions happen and it’s hard to predict what might happen next. The action in this film is graphic and worthy of praise. The movie sets the tone early by starting with a bang before it drags out hopelessly but when things do happen they happen in a big and exciting way.

I specifically liked the scene in which the gangster pulled the old switcheroo on the Police Chief’s baby. The whole scene is incredible. Danny Aiello is so good in the role as a father of four daughters who has had his first son. I love how excited he is to have finally had a son and how much of an ass he is in explaining to his daughters that they now more or less don’t matter because a boy has been born. The shock on his face when he opens up the diaper to see a vagina staring right back at him is hilarious. When De Niro calls with demands it is the easiest thing in the world to get done because he has all the leverage in the world against this man. The real punch line comes after De Niro hangs up the phone and his associate tells him he actually lost the list of baby numbers they used to switch the kids around. Even funnier, and horrible as the same time, is how De Niro just shrugs it off and they decide that any random baby boy will do.

Buying this movie was a shot in the dark for me. In the purchase I’ll call it a swing and a miss but it wasn’t a complete waste. I didn’t really like this movie but I liked enough about it. I am glad to have seen it if for no other reason than that one scene with Danny Aiello was awesome. I also love any opportunity to bash The Godfather II and this movie offers the opportunity to do so. I sincerely think that film is awful despite what anybody says. I loved the first one, it’s one of my favorites of all time but the sequel is garbage. The third film is even worse. There are parts of The Godfather II that are cool. The flashback scenes of a young Vito Corleone that were part of the original book were cool but as I said in my review, everything that happens at present time is awful. If you want a movie like The Godfather II that is better then check this one out. Otherwise I can’t say it is worth any of your time. However, there are few films that are this long that I will ever suggest are worth anyone’s time.

NEXT MOVIE: Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

 

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Lethal Weapon 2

Year: 1989
Directed By: Richard Donner
Written By: Jeffrey Boam, Shane Black, and Warren Murphy

RYAN’S REVIEW

I couldn’t even begin to think where I would start with this review before starting the movie but holy shit that’s Dean Norris! I am a big fan of Norris from his role on Breaking Bad but was under the impression that was the only thing I had ever seen him in.  I never thought about how much he had aged and it turns out he was in the background of a few beloved action movies from the late 80s and early 90s.  In addition to this film he played small parts in Total Recall and Terminator 2This might seem silly but it has certainly brightened a bad day to realize this for the first time.  Without even looking I can clearly see in my mind who he played in Total Recall; he played a mutant who fights for the resistance and has some large growth or thing on his face.

images (1) This is the only picture I could find from the movie that showed the character he played.  He’s that guy to the very left who has a little more hair than the version we have now on Under the Dome and Breaking Bad. Exciting right?

As for this movie I think it is a pretty cool sequel.  Not quite the same exact thing as the first film and the heat was turned up quite a bit. This has everything a good sequel to an action movie should have: More action, more profanity, and more nudity.  Not only that but this film had the addition of Joe Pesci, and I’m under the impression that any movie is instantly better the minute Pesci steps on set. This wasn’t his best role granted, but still, you can’t go wrong with Joe Pesci.  The beauty of this movie was that it didn’t have to really be anything special. It only had to be more of what people already loved and that’s exactly what it was.

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had terrific chemistry and they only got better a second time around.  This movie took everything from the first film a step further and in truth may have taken a step too far.  Far too often second films can be so good that they raise the bar too high, so high that a third film can’t hope to achieve the same success.  Off the top of my head I’m thinking specifically about Terminator 2, X-Men 2and The Dark Knight.  I didn’t dislike the third film in this franchise but I didn’t like it either.  It was all wrong really, everything from the PG-13 rating to the sub par story line.   

We do not own the third or fourth film in this franchise and I never intend to.  I cannot stress enough how asinine I think it is to take a franchise built on an R rating and soften it up to make it PG-13.  I get why they do it because it’s all about money and kids spend money on movies.  Nevertheless I think as adults we deserve movies that are made just for us and this franchise wasn’t for the kids, neither was the Die Hard franchise for that matter.  I don’t care what anybody says, action heroes and their enemies are just much cooler and more believable when they are letting the fucks fly.  Die Hard going to PG-13 was much worse than this was though, at least Riggs didn’t have a catch phrase he couldn’t say anymore because of the new rating.  Murtaugh’s “I’m too old for this shit,” was still acceptable to get the rating but I can’t help but think Die Hard lost something when Willis couldn’t say his tagline anymore because it ended with motherfucker. Not only that but I can’t fathom how John McClane goes from saying fuck every other word to a dialogue absent of the word altogether.

This was a cool follow up to a really cool movie and if you liked the first one there is little doubt you will be satisfied with this one as well.  I like that the bad guys were from South Africa because it is so easy to hate Afrikaners whether they are breaking the law under the shield of diplomatic immunity or simply being racist assholes.  I don’t know if the diplomatic immunity thing is accurate but feel like anybody that would take something from this movie as fact and accurate should probably stand up and bang his head against the wall. Certainly it may exist in some small form but I seriously doubt diplomats from foreign nations are simply allowed carte blanche while they are here.  Nevertheless I do not know and won’t lower myself to researching the accuracy of something from an 80s action sequel.  Regardless, this is an awesome movie that is a lot of fun.  It’s a must see for action fans and it’s without doubt worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

JFK

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone and Zachary Skylar.  Based on books by Jim Garrison and Jim Marrs.

RYAN’S REVIEW

In my early years of being a serious movie fan Oliver Stone was my absolute and unopposed favorite filmmaker. There were others I loved but none I thought had the talent or brilliance of Stone.  He had made the movie that today still stands as my favorite of all time and his body of work was impeccable as far as I was concerned.  Stone did more than make great movies; he made epic stories that were woven together with great acting, intelligent scripts, and incredible editing.  This movie was part of what I thought made him so great.  This movie is perfectly put together and will undoubtedly convince any unaware viewer that Lee Harvey Oswald was not only not an assassin but possibly some very important man involved in the greater and deadlier game of high end politics and conspiracy.  Having done extensive research on the matter I can all but guarantee that is not the case but that does not take anything away from this movie.  This movie is 100% fiction, but that does not change the fact that it is both a significant film and a true work of art.

First and foremost, as far as any conspiracy theory goes, it is important to know two things.  Number one being that Jim Garrison was not the character Kevin Costner portrayed in the film.  He was a bully and borderline madman who was not fighting for justice but simply stirring up trouble.  Secondly, Lee Harvey Oswald was neither a government agent, nor any kind of patriot as the movie will lead you to believe.  He was not a patsy; he was a nobody that changed the world by doing something big.  Oswald was a sad and pathetic man that hated this country as much as he hated his life.  What he did he did on his own, and there is enough evidence to that effect to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt. Oswald was an interesting person, as all sad and slightly unhinged people are but the fact of the matter was he was a nut job.  Plain and simple crazy is all he was and anybody that thinks otherwise simply needs to do their own research and quit listening to conspiracy buffs. Yes the circumstances of his life, and death, can easily lead people to the conclusion that there must be more to the story but there isn’t.  He did it, we know he did it, and a conspiracy on the level this movie implies is simply not possible.  Michael Rooker’s character said it best in the movie when he pointed out they were building an investigation into a conspiracy involving all levels of government, the mob, and military yet they could not keep a secret among 12 people in their own office.  People talk, a secret on this level could never be kept. Especially 50 years later.  I know there are undoubtedly many secrets the government has from us as citizens but one thing to keep in mind is that we learn many of them as time goes on.  Today we know who Deep Throat was, we know FDR secretly manipulated events to lead us into WWII, we know that the U.S.S. Maine wasn’t sunk by enemies; we know that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was overblown to lead us into war, and the list goes on and on.  These secrets are revealed when the history books are written yet conspiracy buffs will have you believe that this major conglomerate of conspirators have managed to keep this one secret even until today.  I am simply telling you it isn’t there.  Occam’s razor applies in this case.  Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, and things are not as dramatic and exciting as we would like to build them up in our mind.

This movie makes a really big deal about the “magic bullet” and that is what I hear most people mention when they insist there had to be a conspiracy.  The “magic bullet” does present a convincing argument but only because the facts are never all on the table.  This bullet didn’t make dramatic turns in midair or stop and start again.  It was simply one shot that traveled on a straight line and passed through both Kennedy and Connally.  What you don’t see in this movie or hear from conspiracy buffs is that the vehicle Kennedy and Connally were riding in was not typical.  It was built differently than most in which the front seat was lower and to the left of the back.  The bullet was a post Geneva Convention bullet that was specifically designed to pass through the body. There are plenty of diagrams online and in conspiracy books that will show you this strange pattern that no bullet could possible travel but they never take into account how the car was built or the exact positions of the passengers.  I have seen the true diagram in both the Warren Report, and in a very good book by Gerald Posner  called “Case Closed.” It’s not as dramatic as some would have you believe and it doesn’t leave much room for doubt if you understand the true circumstances of the shot.

Another important part of the conspiracy theory to consider is Jack Ruby, played incredibly in this film by Brian Doyle-Murray, brother of Bill Murray.  There is absolutely no room for Jack Ruby to have been involved in any conspiracy.  Not only is there documented evidence that proves his crossing paths with Oswald before he killed him was coincidental, but Ruby did not attempt to kill Oswald. This movie would have you believe that Ruby was a button man for the mob making a hit on Oswald when he shot him but that simply isn’t the case.  Ruby is on record saying that he never actually intended to kill Oswald, only hurt him badly and this is obvious.  If Ruby was in fact out to kill Oswald why shoot him in the stomach? He shot him in the stomach in an effort to put him in a world of pain, but if he had truly intended to kill him he would have shot him in the head or chest.  Ruby was a small time nightclub owner/snitch who would not have been the choice for this type of kill if it was a planned hit.  Ruby was deeply upset over the death of JFK and the effect it would have on his beautiful wife and children.  When he coincidentally showed up right as Oswald was being led out he saw a smirk on his face he couldn’t live with. Pulling his gun and shooting Oswald was nothing more than a simple crime of passion.  I said that Ruby crossing paths with Oswald was coincidental because it was.  There is documented evidence that proves Ruby was across the street wiring money by way of Western Union only minutes before he shot Oswald.  He literally only had enough time to walk back across the street and be there at the right moment.  Had it been a planned hit this is not how it would have happened.  Not only that, but Oswald should have been long gone by the time Ruby reached the parking garage anyway.  He wanted a different sweater or something before being led out and in the time it took to get one Ruby had wired his money and was coming back.  Executions aren’t done this way and if it was set up then Jack Ruby was the luckiest assassin of all time, and that just isn’t the case.

What this movie does a great job of is convincing you that there absolutely had to be a conspiracy.  Oliver Stone may have been a great filmmaker but he has always had something personal invested in his movies.  He has an agenda and in this case it was to convince us that there was a conspiracy regardless of whether there was any truth to it.  In fact many of the things that Stone has in this movie aren’t false, yet they aren’t based on any credible evidence.  Most of the interviews taken and quoted were from people who either changed their story later or eventually came out with the truth of the matter.  For example, the character played by Kevin Bacon, Willie O’Keefe.  There was no Willie O’Keefe; he is based off a combination of real life people who had no credibility.  Most notably he is based on a man named Perry Russo, one of the key witnesses against Claw Shaw in the real trial.  Russo was lying though, and in order to get the testimony he wanted Jim Garrison in real life both drugged and hypnotized Russo. As I said earlier though, the real Jim Garrison was not the person we saw Kevin Costner play in the movie.  The real Jim Garrison was a bit unhinged and a little crazy.  In the case of David Ferrie, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci in the film, the movie would have us believe he was murdered to keep him quiet.  In real life things were much different.  David Ferrie was a sickly man already, and it is said that the pressure put on him by the offices of Jim Garrison was what finally put him on his death bed.  He was hounded day and night by the offices of Garrison and became very paranoid and apprehensive.  The stress proved to be more than he could handle, he died shortly after the news of his involvement in Garrison’s investigation broke. There have been reports that he was in the CIA but all reports have been conflicting. The conspiracy theories that sprang up in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination eventually took on a life of their own.  It’s a school of thought that is still growing today and it has always called all kinds of people out of the wood work seeking their five minutes of fame with “new information.”

Despite any truth or accuracy as to the content of this film it is still one worth your time.  It’s a significant movie because it convinced so many people with its message that the case was actually re-opened by the government.  What did the government find in that investigation? Nothing, new evidence was released and scheduled for eventual release but nothing was uncovered to change what we already know.  Still, when a movie is powerful enough to call for government action it’s something worth remembering.

So while its message is way off base it’s still an incredible movie.  The cast is so large it would take me forever to go through everybody involved but I will say they all did a terrific job.  Gary Oldman might as well have actually been Lee Harvey Oswald he fit the part so well.  Joe Pesci was on the spot as usual, nobody brings intensity to a role quite like him.  Tommy Lee Jones plays a great part but I don’t think it was his best role in an Oliver Stone movie.  John Candy has an incredible cameo that shows he had the potential to be much more than simply a funny guy.  Brian Doyle-Murray was a great choice to play Jack Ruby and he did great. Kevin Costner was a big draw when this movie came out having hit it big the year before with Dances with Wolves.  I have never been a big fan though, and I don’t think he was great in this movie, merely OK.  I probably like him less though because of his obviously forced accent and the fact he played a guy who was quite a bit crazier than he made him out to be.  Sissy Spacek, Wayne Knight, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Ed Asner, Michael Rooker, and Laurie Metcalf also should be mentioned because each of them brought something to the film on their own.  I also liked seeing both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the movie as well, the men were both legends and it is unfortunate that they are not with us today.

I need to stop myself now because I have already said much more than I intended to in this review.  I have of course been very critical of the content of this film and I understand how controversial those opinions may be to the “believers.” Feel free to argue with me if you like but I encourage anybody unsure to simply do their own research and ignore all the people that would have you believe they know something about something that proves there had to be a conspiracy.  Nevertheless this is still an incredible film despite any objections I may have to the conspiracy theory and I can certify that the movie is still well worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thought this movie was so amazing and intriguing the first time I watched it. I think we were in college, and being young and naive I believed it for true history. You know the ol’ conspiracy theory stuff. But then, my incredibly smart husband wrote an in depth paper on the assassination of JFK. I listened to him talk about it, watched him read these massive sized books about it until he finally came to the conclusion that there never was a conspiracy at all it a lone gunman doing something crazy and succeeding. Having said all of that, I don’t believe there was a conspiracy, but I do think this a great movie. He sure can make you believe there may have been one.

JFK

NEXT MOVIE: Judgment Night (1993)

Home Alone

Year: 1990
Directed By: Chris Columbus
Written By: John Hughes

When we reached this movie in the collection months ago we tried to watch and review it but it just didn’t feel right.  It can be difficult to get into a Christmas movie as Halloween season approaches so we decided to postpone this review.  The season has arrived now and with Christmas just days away the time to review this movie has finally come.  This movie has everything needed to set the tone for the holiday.  Family frustration, lights, snow, Christmas songs, and a smoking Santa are all on board here.  What gives this one an edge over others is that it also has bandits, and the most bad ass kid of all time.

I was six years old when this movie came out and at my age Kevin McCallister was practically a God.  He did something that all kids around my age dreamed of but in reality would never be able to handle.  I specifically remember my mother telling me one time that could never do this after pointing out a major mess Kevin had made and then telling me I would never have cleaned it up as he appears to have done later in the film.  To that I now say “Ha! Yeah, that’s the thing I couldn’t have handled….” Kevin McCallister was a kid with the where with all to not only survive on his own and keep his house clean, but he also thwarted criminals. They may have been two of the dumbest criminals in the world but that just made the movie more fun. The criminals may have been stupid, but Kevin had some master planning skills when it came to setting booby traps.  Something else I think all kids at my age strived for in the early 90s.  The Goonies had seen to that.

When this movie came out it was an instant hit and went on to gross over $285 million. It topped Ghostbusters as the highest grossing comedy of all time. I don’t know that this movie was better than Ghostbusters but it is a pretty awesome movie in a completely different way.  John Hughes was a great filmmaker and had a knack for making movies that made their mark on society.  What I think is interesting in this movie is how you can see John Hughes in it.  The scene where Kevin is looking at himself in the mirror and talking is so similar to the one we saw in Ferris Bueller when Ferris is getting ready. Specifically the combing of his hair while giving a monologue to himself, and singing with the comb as a microphone. It was really unfortunate to lose Hughes back in 2009, but he left us plenty to remember him for and this movie is high up on that list.

I love the cast for this movie.  Macaulay Culkin was incredible in the role of Kevin McCallister.  He had a lot on his shoulders as the center of the film and the kid handled it with what looked like all the potential in the world.  America fell in love with him in this role but things never really panned out for him.  I am aware he has an unfortunate story to his career but I do not know enough to write about it.  I do remember once hearing that My Girl was what destroyed his career.  In that movie he played a part in which he died and I remember hearing somewhere that dying in that movie turned the audience off of him.  I don’t know if that is true or not but I think it sucks that things worked out for him the way they did. I saw a couple of his efforts to come back years ago in the movie Saved and the show Kings but those didn’t get him anywhere.  No matter what happens though he will always be remembered for this film and the role he played.  He is the biggest reason for how successful this movie was really.  I honestly couldn’t imagine any other kid playing this part and having the same kind of charisma and comedy that Macaulay Culkin had.

He wasn’t alone in being great in this movie.  I think Catherine O’Hara was terrific as the mother.  She has graced so many movies I loved and given the influence this movie had on me I always tend to think of her as a mother.  That same influence made me always think fondly of John Heard as a father too but the only other thing I have seen him in was The Sopranos and his role in the show killed that image. I think Joe Pesci is awesome and respect the fact that he can star in a family comedy like this.  That man has played some of the most savage characters ever and he drops the F-bomb like nobody else, except maybe Billy Bob Thorton. Pesci was great in this movie but Daniel Stern should not go unmentioned.  He is the goofier of the two idiot criminals and he was very funny in the role.  Speaking of people who shouldn’t go unmentioned, John Candy had a role in this film.  John Candy was a great actor and a very funny personality.  He died when I was a teenager and every time I see him now I wish he had lived longer and given us more movies.

This is not my favorite Christmas movie but nevertheless it is one of the best.  I think it is right up there with A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard. All of those movies are really old now and that says something about the Christmas movies they make these days.  If you are looking for a movie to get you into the spirit of the holidays I strongly suggest this one, or any of the others I just mentioned.  It takes a special movie to get you in the spirit for this holiday and this one does that in spades.  This was a movie that set the tone for the decade to follow and it will be remembered for all time. You don’t need me to tell you this movie is worth your time because you undoubtedly already know.  I hear that the younger generation is confused by the movie because today we are all so connected through technology that it would never happen and that is a shame.  I hope today’s youth can still find something to appreciate about this movie because it is awesome and deserves to be appreciated.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I have always loved this movie. This is the first film I remember watching when I was a little girl and I remember laughing the hardest that I had ever laughed at the time. This is a classic Christmas movie and very close to my heart, along with almost every other person my age.

homealoneI actually really like this poster. It has the window in the back, with the robbers peeking through, and then Kevin is front and center in his signature hands-to-the-face scream pose. They even created a very recognizable logo for this movie. That doesn’t always happen, but I do like when it happens and it works.

Goodfellas

Year: 1990
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi

RYAN’S REVIEW

After The Godfather, this is far and away the next greatest mafia movie that has ever been made.  Nothing can and will ever touch The Godfather but this film is the standard I set all other modern mob movies against. I was only six years old when this movie came out so I don’t remember the reaction it got when it was released.  I wish I could have been around for it. It came out the same year as The Godfather Part III and must have completely blown it away. The Godfather III was actually nominated for more Academy Awards that year but so was Dick Tracy and neither are even half as good as this film. This is one of Scorsese’s best films and it has always been one of my favorite mafia movies.

The opening scene in this movie does a great job setting the tone for the film.  Everything is all cool but brace yourself because at any moment you might be subject to sudden and savage violence.  The movie begins with three legendary actors riding in a car, they look to have been doing some partying.  Then suddenly there is a noise and it turns out they have a body in the trunk, and the guy is still alive.  Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro brutally finish him off and that is what sends Ray Liotta into a voice over about how he always wanted to be a mobster. I think this is the kind of film that really satisfies the latent desires we all have to look into the world of the bad guys. We see this kind of ferocity all of a sudden and somehow it makes sense that he says that line right at that moment.

This movie is based on a true story but like all movies based on a true story it has to be taken with a grain of salt.  I have researched before how close this movie was to the truth but that was years ago.  If I remember correctly it isn’t completely accurate but isn’t that far off either.  What I found most compelling about that research was that Henry Hill, the character Ray Liotta plays, was still alive and not in hiding.  Not only was he not in hiding but he was a regular guest on The Howard Stern radio show.  Something about that crushed my ideas about the  mob because not only had they done nothing to the traitor that sent so many to jail but he was bold enough to live out in the open with no repercussions.  Henry Hill actually did die recently, of natural causes and I think that proves we all have unrealistic ideas about the power of the mafia.  They are not super powerful or the threat that we like to think they are.  If Henry Hill, who betrayed and then cashed in on his experiences in the mafia, can die of natural causes then what makes the mob any better than any other petty criminal? The truth is they aren’t, in reality they are just uneducated and often idiot men who gain their power through brutality and taking advantage of weaker people.

Joe Pesci won the Academy Award for his role in this movie beating out the likes of Al Pacino (nominated for Dick Tracy) and Andy Garcia (nominated for The Godfather III).  I don’t think that he was actually aware he was going to win because he wasn’t prepared.  Unless it has been broken now, he holds the record for the shortest acceptance speech for a winner of his award.  All he said was “Thank you, it’s an honor” if I remember correctly.  I think that was awesome though, I have always really liked Joe Pesci and the fact that he just took the award and walked off makes me like him even more.  Pesci is a little guy but in all his mob movies he tends to be the most violent and dangerous one.  He is savage in this movie, and possibly even more brutal in CasinoYet he can still be so funny in a movie like Home Alone or My Cousin VinnyPesci played many memorable and awesome characters during his career but I have always wanted more of him.  He is almost 70 years old now and doesn’t seem to be as interested in staying in the limelight as guys like Anthony Hopkins or Michael Caine.  It’s unfortunate but we will always have his greatest movies like this one to enjoy.

I have never really been a big fan of Ray Liotta but he owns it in this movie.  As Henry Hill he gave his greatest performance.  He was the centerpiece of this movies standing next to much more notable actors like De Niro and Pesci but he holds up well and delivers. I love when he attacks the neighbor that came onto to his girlfriend.  The ferocious way he beat the guys face in leaves quite an impression.  I also love that in the very next scene Liotta and Bracco are getting married. Robert De Niro is great in this movie, outside of his role as Vito Corleone I think this is his best mobster part.  De Niro has always been great though and it is really hard to pick and choose when discussing what was his best.  In this movie De Niro is cool, ruthless, and unpredictable.  He was great in this movie and he continues to be great as an actor even today.  I also like Paul Sorvino in this film but little else he has done over his career has impressed me.

As with for the rest of the cast I think they were all great. I have also found it interesting how The Sopranos seemed to take so many of the supporting cast from this movie for their series. That starts with Lorraine Bracco who had the largest role of all of them in this film.  She is great in this film and was incredible as Dr. Melfi.  Showing a beauty that was ageless so many years later.  Other Sopranos cast members from this movie include Paulie Walnuts, Big Pussy, Christopher Moltisanti, Larry Boy Barese, Phil Leotardo, and Carmela’s mother.  Those are just the ones I noticed this time around and I’m sure there might be more.  I think it says something about the influence this movie had on the genre that so many people from the film were used in the series though.  Like many people, I was a huge fan of the HBO series and wish it had never ended.

This is an incredible movie and I can’t say enough about how much I love it.  It made me fall in love with the mafia more than any other film before it.  As a teen I was so entranced by the lifestyle they lived and at that juvenile age wanted to grow up and do the same thing.  Those were foolish thoughts that fortunately I grew out of, but I imagine many people that see this movie feel the same way regardless of age. The really great movies leave a lasting impression on the people that watch them and I think this movie had that effect.  It is a great movie that I recommend to anyone I meet who hasn’t seen it, which it rare.  This one is worth your time but you don’t need me to tell you that, everyone else will tell you the same.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I remember the first time that Ryan made me watch this movie. I loved it then and I love it now. I think this movie is different from the regular cliche mobster movies. This one is told from the actual point of view of an actual ex mobster. When you know that already going in it makes the movie a lot more interesting. I am sure that Ryan wrote all about the movie’s intricate details so I will go ahead and skip to the design.

Goodfellas Movie

This is an image of the DVD cover. I have to admit that I am not crazy about this. I do like the three main actors on the front and how the stark values and shadows allow them to fade into the black background. I feel like this should have taken up the entire front. Instead, there is the bottom of the cover where someone is lying dead under the bridge. I think they were trying to hard to show too much. I know what they were trying to do, but it doesn’t work for me. I do love the typography. I think it works for the movie.

NEXT MOVIE: The Goonies (1985) 

Casino

Year: 1995
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Nicholas Pileggi

RYAN’S REVIEW

Naturally, I love mafia movies.  This isn’t the greatest mafia movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great.  It’s a movie made by people made to make mafia movies and that’s what makes it great.  This movie might remind people too much of Goodfellas but I can’t really see how that is a bad thing.  Goodfellas was a great movie and I for one really enjoy any opportunity to see more of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together, especially with Scorsese at the helm.  Goodfellas and Casino were both based on books written by Nicholas Pileggi, who also served as screenwriter for both films.  I have not read either of the two books but have researched Goodfellas to some degree and it’s not that far off  as far as accuracy goes but there is plenty of insight available into that one. Henry Hill is still very much in the public eye but as a celebrity instead of a criminal.  A celebrity for being a criminal.  Casino is loosely based on real events and people in Las Vegas but all the names were changed, including the name of the main hotel.

De Niro may have been the headliner in this film but it was Joe Pesci who stole the show.  I mean Pesci was scary as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas but he turned up the heat in Casino.  He was so violent and sadistic, and he is so good with the F word. I am a really big fan of Joe Pesci, he showed remarkable range throughout his career.  Pesci’s performance was great but that doesn’t belittle De Niro’s performance.  This was De Niro’s eighth collaboration with Scorsese, they knew how to get it done at this point. De Niro is an incredibly versatile actor and he can do anything but it is in this genre that he is really in his element.  At the end of the day he will always be the Godfather and he belongs in mafia movies. In the same notion Scorsese belongs behind the camera of mafia movies.  Scorsese is a fantastic director and I have always admired his films.  Scorsese has never been shy about violence and gore throughout his career and he isn’t with this film either. This is a graphic movie, it can be suddenly violent but that is part of the thrill that comes with a movie like this. It’s also heavy on the language, the F bomb is dropped somewhere far past the 400 times mark, mostly by Pesci.

This movie had a very rich cast beyond Pesci and De Niro though.  Sharon Stone is great in the female lead. You could really start to see her age in this movie but she still looked beautiful. Sharon Stone is a great actress and she has had a long successful career.  James Woods, Kevin Pollack, and Frank Vincent also play their parts respectively too.  I imagine it’s easy for great actors to shine when they are working with such an interesting story.  The history of Las Vegas is as dark as this movie would lead you to believe and there is a fascinating story there to study.

This is a long movie at just under three hours but still well worth your time.  The performances are great and the story is interesting.  Watching it now has actually inspired me to read the books by Nicholas Pileggi, so hopefully by the time we get to Goodfellas I can report the historical accuracy of the film. In the meantime enjoy this film, it’s a great movie.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoy this film. It is an intriguing tale and set in a time and place that most of us don’t really know that much about. Sure, some have visited Las Vegas, but have you ever ran a casino? Anyway, the voice-overs in this film are Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. The combination of the two of them are great. It puts a dual perspective over the film. The story is really intricate and interesting, I really recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. I know they often play it on network tv, but please don’t watch it there. Movies like this should never be played on network television. You need the extras like cussing to really drive this one home.

NEXT MOVIE: Chicago (2002)