Martin Scorsese

Taxi Driver

Year: 1967
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Paul Schrader

RYAN’S REVIEW

This diary of a mad man is a bonafide classic. Lauded and considered by many to be one of the greatest of all time. I’ll admit I spent a lot of time with it as a teenager studying film and thought very highly of it. After not watching it for more than ten years I sat down to it again last night and I can’t say I found the experience to be a great one.

Truth is, I just don’t love this movie. It’s a rare movie I once owned in the original movie collection but never made it to the next generation. Once upon a time before the turn of the century I had a fledgling movie collection of VHS tapes. I had about 20 something movies on tape before buying my first DVD, which was Se7en incidentally. I would say at least 90% of those movies made it quickly into the new collection on DVD but back then DVDs were expensive and I was selective. This movie didn’t make it because even being the junior movie buff I was then I only wanted it because I felt like I was supposed to own it. Truth was I didn’t like it enough to buy it on DVD and after watching it again I see why.

Taxi Driver made its way into the collection a few months ago as I was nearing where it would sit on the shelf. I again felt that compulsive impulse that I needed to own it. Whether I like it or not it’s a classic film that somehow gives validation to the collection as a whole. So I added it via Amazon as I rounded the Rs and entered the S section of the collection. When I finally reached it as the first T movie I was optimistic about watching it again but can’t say now that the optimism was rewarded.

I watch this movie and I get it, but I just don’t like it. I understand what the big deal is but still don’t buy into it. Maybe if I was watching it in the 70s or had some knowledge of New York City I would feel differently but this one just isn’t for me. I understand what it is supposed to be and is, but I think it is all just ugly. I think it’s an ugly story about an ugly character in an ugly world.

I have heard this hailed as Scorsese’s best work but I strongly disagree. I think it’s a fine example of his skill as a director but I don’t think it’s as good as Casino or Goodfellas. My favorite Scorsese film is actually Gangs of New York and that’s his best movie as far as I’m concerned. He’s made so many great movies at this point in his career it’s really hard to suggest any as his specific best. He made a statement in 1976 with this movie but I prefer the newer stuff. The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, the Dicaprio era as opposed to the De Niro years.

Robert De Niro is great as Travis Bickle but his slow descent into madness wouldn’t be described by anybody as exciting. This movie drags along for almost two hours as the title character grows more disgusted with society and more unhinged in general. De Niro may be great in the part but I hate seeing him play such an unlikable character. He is so awkward as Travis Bickle, even before he starts to drifts into madness. Travis is a sad and lonely guy. Such a fool he doesn’t realize it’s weird to take a nice girl out to a porno flick. Not at all the type of guy anybody should be comfortable with packing heat, much less an entire arsenal of firepower. Despite the “heroics” at the end I don’t think Travis is a protagonist. Was he being heroic in trying to save Jodie Foster in the end or did he really just want to kill some people and settled after he couldn’t kill the politician?

I remember from film class that there was a lot open to interpretation at the end of this movie. We see Travis redeemed and praised as a hero for his actions, even sharing a moment with Cybil Shepard who had dissed him earlier. It’s been suggested that this ending might be a dream sequence. That Travis actually died in the shootout and what we see at the end of the film represents his dying thoughts or something. Personally, I think people over think the whole thing when they ask this question. I see this movie as pretty cut and dry. To the point and very direct. I think for there to be a vague ending that makes you think is just out of line with the rest of the movie. I do find it odd that this mad man is perceived as a good guy and everything works out in the end but I don’t think it’s open to interpretation. I feel like such a question is like trying to squeeze orange juice out of an apple. The movie just isn’t that type of film and I don’t think it has the imagination to be open ended.

Travis is a character disgusted by how much is wrong with the world. He spends his time catering to the worst elements of society and its ugliness rubs off on him. I think the ending where he is the hero is simply ironic and another example of what was wrong with the world. Travis was just a lonely and deranged man. He was angry and needed an outlet for that anger. When his plan to make a big show of killing a politician fell through he went after the only other target he could think of and unleashed that pent up anger and frustration. Does that make him a hero? Two wrongs don’t make a right and vigilantes still go to jail.

I can see how people would like to think the ending was nothing but the product of his imagination. He wanted to be a hero and in his dying thoughts he imagined he had achieved this goal. I think the movie lacks that kind of creativity and it’d simply be a break in continuity to change it all up for the ending. Travis broke the law and wreaked some havoc but all he did was kill bad guys and save a preteen prostitute. On paper it makes for a good story, a reporter can take that and run with it. Nobody knows the guy is actually a psycho and had it not been bad guys it’d have been the man running for President. I think it’s an ironic ending and an example of how ridiculous life can be. Now, his moment with Cybil Sheppard is different, I don’t know what to make of that. Can’t see the poor woman taken out to a porno theater suddenly has a change of heart after reading the paper. More likely she would assume the pervert she once went on a date with had an outburst while visiting the prostitute as a customer.

It was Roger Ebert I think who started the whole theory that the end might be a dream and is one of the people who propped this movie up on a pedestal by calling it great. I don’t agree with him but who am I to argue with arguably one of the most famous critics of all time. I think the whole irony behind Taxi Driver is that like Travis being considered a hero in the end this movie is considered a classic. De Niro is a great actor and Scorsese is a great director but I for one don’t think this collaboration is all it’s cracked up to be. Is it worth your time? Of course it is, because it’s a classic. Despite my opinion of the film it’s too important for my discouragement to matter.

NEXT MOVIE: Team America: World Police (2004)

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American Hustle

Year: 2013
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

RYAN’S REVIEW

When we watched this movie for the first time it immediately had me with the initial caption: “Some of this actually happened.” This movie goes against the grain and doesn’t claim to be based on a true story but simply admits “some” of it actually happened.  That’s incredible because nothing annoys me more than a movie that promotes itself as “based on a true story” despite how many several liberties that were taken with the truth.  So right off the bat this movie makes a statement.  It’s honest and that says a lot about the type of filmmaker David O. Russell is.  This is another stellar movie added to his already impressive resume.

I don’t know what parts of this movie are true and what parts are fiction.  In truth I don’t care and won’t look it up to find out on principle.  I don’t think it matters what really happened in this story.  All that matters is this story.  This story is awesome and it is brought to life by some actors that turn in some really impressive performances.  I think this movie looks and feels like David O. Russell’s version of Goodfellas. Christian Bale reminds me so much of Robert De Niro in this movie both by his mannerisms and voice.  The content may be different but the way these two stories are told are similar with the voice over and biographical feeling.  Nevertheless, I’m not criticizing, when something is great it is great and there is no disputing this one.  Both films are great and I can’t think of any scenario in which the two of them being similar is a bad thing.

I wasn’t a fan of Bradley Cooper when he first came around. I remember seeing him for the first time, in the days before The Hangover, playing Aiden in one of the later seasons of Nip/Tuck. The show had really gotten awful by that point and his character didn’t leave a good impression with me.  Despite the initial impression I received this guy has never ceased to distinguish himself, especially in collaborations with David O. Russell. I really like the character dynamic Cooper brings to this film. He is kind of brilliant but kind of stupid at the same time.  He is a goofy looking guy with his curls but he might snap and go a little crazy at any moment. Men who get into cocaine are like that, spur of the moment insanity. They start slow but over time it goes to their head before they know it. Cooper pulls it all off nicely. Great performance from an actor who has earned my respect over time.

Amy Adams continues to be flawless and incredible.  She is a beautiful woman who brings true talent to all her performances.  She has specifically shined in David O. Russell films as she was also great in The Fighter. She fits into his films so deftly, and brings it each and every time. In this film she looks so incredible in those dresses. She plays such a dominant female role and I specifically like that about her.  She isn’t just a pretty face in this movie she is another badass in a film about badasses.  She plays Bradley Cooper for a chump and owns him at every turn.  She is a strong female lead and she should have won the Academy Award for the part.

Christian Bale, second greatest Batman after the first, never fails to be incredible no matter what he does. Despite not having an upper lip the man has done well for himself. As I mentioned earlier, in this film he reminds me implicitly of one of the greatest. I do not know if it was intentional or not but it is so spot on that I feel like it had to be. It’s amazing the things he does to his body for his roles.  We have seen him on each edge of the spectrum and in between.  He has been anorexic in The Machinist and The Fighter, he has shown the in between as a muscular Batman, and we have seen him put on the weight for this film. He put on over 40 pounds for this film. Bale continues to build what has already been an impressive career.

Jennifer Lawrence is phenomenal, plain and simple.  I wanted to be on the edge, I’m weird when it comes to trendy things and nobody has been trendier than Jennifer Lawrence for the last several years.  Nevertheless her performance speaks for itself.  Her accent is what shocks me so much in this film, it’s incredible.  Not only that but I refuse to acknowledge how hot she is because when she first came around I thought she was too much younger than me. I’m weird about that and it’s different as the years have passed. Nevertheless she makes it hard not to notice with this performance and I doubt anybody did. She plays the kind of woman that all men and women fear alike.  The unpredictable kind that can pretty much get whatever she wants and knows it.  She is intimidating in all the ways that only a beautiful woman can be.

For this whole film I kept telling Amber how much Christian Bale reminded me of De Niro.  Imagine my surprise when he actually showed up in the film.  I didn’t know prior to this although I should have.  I love his part in this movie and I love what he brings to this film.  Nobody does mobster like De Niro and I am happy to see how exceedingly well he can still pull it off. De Niro is just one of many gems playing a smaller role in this film. I remember an episode of Louie that was all about how uncomfortable Louis C.K. was acting in films.  I thought there was something to that episode and I had seen something into his real persona.  I doubt that now because he brings so much to this film with his performance.

The only thing that got Jeremy Renner on the poster for this film was that hairdo.  Otherwise I think his role in the film isn’t all that different than the ones turned in by De Niro and Louis C.K. and maybe they could have just as easily been that fifth person headlines for the film. Now don’t get me wrong, that hairdo is a thing of awesome and maybe he deserved that listing. Not only that but he is in the now, really hot at the moment and he does bring something significant to the film.

It’s not lost on me that two significant actors from Boardwalk Empire are in this film about Atlantic City. Shea Whignam, who plays Nucky Thompson’s brother Eli, and Jack Huston, who plays the assassin with no face Richard Harrow, both appear in the film.  That is another connection between Martin Scorsese, who serves as Executive Producer of the HBO series, and David O. Russell.  I am now inclined to think that Russell may be the second coming of Scorsese and if that is true then this man is only getting started.  We have a lot to look forward to from him and the actors he has drawn to himself.  In a time where marketable drives the movie industry it is nice to know that there are still men out there making art.  Making films that are more than just about making money and about lasting forever.  That is what we have in David O. Russell, a director that will make something unique and exceptional no matter what he has decided to do.  I have faith that he will continue to make the great films of the future and I can’t wait to see them.

This isn’t a movie that I need to recommend because it’s too recent to have been overlooked. It was a great film that received a lot of well deserved attention and respect.  It has no real connection to the 4th of July theme I suggested earlier other than having “American” in the title.  It might be a bit of a stretch but I was just looking for any excuse to watch this movie again and write a review about it.  I love it and I think it is proof that extraordinary films are still being made. This movie is worth your time to see.  If you somehow missed the boat then it’s never too late to climb aboard and see what you were missing.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I really, really enjoyed this movie. It is put together in such a beautiful, artistic way. Everything about this movie is beautiful. I think the entire cast was incredibly on point and the story keeps you interested until the end.

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The poster on the other hand, it could be better. Honestly, we like to say that everything could look better, and because I like this movie so much I am finding it hard to actually bash this one. I think it does what it needs to, but it also depicts some of the classic “no-nos” that I have been preaching to you guys for years. There is a MONTAGE of the cast. I hate to admit, but with a cast like this you almost have to put them all on the poster. Some people are going to come simply because they see Jennifer Lawrence’s name and others the same for Bradley Copper. Still, I think there were other ways they could have gone about it instead of putting them in the Mighty Ducks “flying V” and then feathering out the edges into black. The typography is intentional and it works for this period piece.

I still kinda of like it which makes me have some serious inner fighting people. I can’t decide. What do you guys think? I need your thoughts on this one!

 

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) 

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 Departed

Year: 2006
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: William Monahan

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was considered by some to be the pinnacle of Martin Scorsese‘s career after it won the Academy Awards for best direction and best picture, among others.  It won those awards honorably because this is an exceptional movie and aside from the fact that he had such a great cast to work with Scorsese has just gotten really good at what he does. I don’t think this is Scorsese’s best, as good as it is it’s still a recycled movie, and I think Scorsese has made much better films. I call it recycled because this movie is based off of a Hong Kong film that came out years earlier. I am disappointed with the idea that we have to borrow ideas from the other side of the world in order to have hits, but it’s hard to argue with such an exciting and entertaining movie.

Scorsese did do a great job making this movie but I think he had a lot to work with as far as script and talent go.  He gathered a great cast of very talented actors and some of them really distinguished themselves with this film.  Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of his generation, he outdoes himself with nearly every film and has been doing so since a young age. I think he is terrific in this film but I think he and Scorsese’s best collaboration was Gangs of New York in 2002.  I am not the biggest Jack Nicholson fan but I think he did do a great job in this movie. He was given a lot of freedom with his character in order to make him more provocative and unpredictable. He used the freedom to great benefit for the film.  Ray Winstone as his right hand man Mr. French is awesome, I am a big Winstone fan.  Matt Damon is good and well cast in his part.  Alec Baldwin is great in his small but important role.  Martin Sheen was cast when Robert De Niro had a scheduling conflict and that’s too bad. I am a fan of Anthony Anderson but I don’t know that he was appropriately cast in this film.

I think the actor that distinguishes himself the most in this film is Mark Wahlberg, who really stood out among such an elite cast.  I do not like Wahlberg but cannot deny his talent due to roles like this.  I have had a problem with Wahlberg since seeing a documentary about him a while back.  When I found out that Wahlberg had spent time in prison for what pretty much amounts to a hate crime I developed a different attitude toward him.  When he was younger he was arrested for beating a Vietnamese man almost to death with a blunt object in order to steal a six pack of beer from him while screaming racial slurs. He spent some time in jail for that and when he got out of jail his brother was part of New Kids on the Block.  He became the opening act as Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.  Later he was discovered by Calvin Klein and used as an underwear model.  He soon began an acting career and the rest is history.  Today he is not only a superstar actor but a successful producer involved with HBO.  I have to admit he is talented but I really despise a racist douche bag and hate it every time I have to accept that he was good in something. Despite all his success he has never made an effort to make amends with the man that he blinded for life.  I consider it unfortunate when that kind of person reaches the level of success that Wahlberg is at, but it happens all the time.

This was a great movie and given that it won best picture of the year plenty of people saw it and offered their opinions.  You don’t need me to tell you this was a good film because you have probably already been told.  I don’t think this movie is quite as good as everyone makes it out to be but I do think it was a really awesome movie.  It is worth your time and I would recommend it to anyone.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of those movies that will suck you into the story line. It is filled with stars that everyone knows, and it truly is an unforgettable movie. You can’t really guess what is going to happen and as soon as you think you have it figured it out, it changes and leaves you guessing again.

This movie is filled with attractive actors and seasoned pros. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it. It was very, very popular when it came out and I haven’t met anyone that has seen it that doesn’t like it.

NEXT MOVIE: Desperado (1995)

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)