Robert De Niro

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)

Silver Linings Playbook

Year: 2012
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Matthew Quick (novel) David O. Russell (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I read recently that this movie was over rated and undeserving of all the awards it amassed. I could not disagree more, if for no other reason than I think the content is important for audiences to understand. The movie comes off a bit different but it reflects what the characters are going through and what they are going through is an increasingly prevalent problem in our society. This day and age more and more people are being diagnosed with mental problems and the answer seems to always be the same. Take this pill or that pill. To the point that we have heavily sedated the person and populous.

In this movie we see that Pat doesn’t want to take his pills because of the way they make him feel. He spends eight months in a mental health facility after a violent incident brings light to an undiagnosed case of bi-polar disorder. He needs those pills and it’s more obvious than ever in the scene when he can’t find his wedding video. Pat prefers different methods in his quest to find a Silver Linings and I think he is on the right track. Keeping to a schedule, staying physically active, and rediscovering who he

is are all great ways in which Pat works to overcome his issues. I think that while medication is necessary we can still all learn something from Pat and get our own lives in order by practicing some of his techniques.

The truth to it is that the way Pat does things are the harder way. Yeah he’s totally unhinged and a little bit crazy but he’s working as hard as a person can to better himself. His ultimate goal is a blinded effort at something unrealistic but it keeps him working to get better. It’s an easy out to simply take pills and forget about what’s really in front of us. So many have problems and it’s just too easy to swallow those problems away with medication. How often would exercise turn things around before it came to medication? Who knows but I like the way Pat does things and I take joy in how his story ends.

This movie was the one that won me over on Jennifer Lawrence. I had stubbornly avoided The Hunger Games, often joking that “I had seen The Running Man before.” I also really didn’t like her portrayal of Mystique in X-Men: First Class. So I hadn’t given her the time of day as an actress but in this movie my opinion changed dramatically. She is fantastic in this movie and I specifically love the scene when she confronts Pat about missing their dance practice and argues with his father. While I still prefer Rebecca Romijn as Mystique I have since watched The Hunger Games and agree that it is a good movie too. I will watch anything that Lawrence does now and I think we have a lot to look forward to from the young actress.

I’ve always loved Robert De Niro but his career has dropped off so much in the last decade or so. He is really quick to do just about anything these days despite his prestige. Yet I think this movie offers one of his finest performances ever. He is so emotionally captivating as Patrizio and proves to be capable of the magic he delivered in his youth. He had terrific chemistry with his costars and I specifically liked his relationship with Jacki Weaver. I think under the direction of David O. Russell that De Niro is as good as he was under the direction of Martin Scorsese.

I used to be such a fan of Chris Tucker, and then he got into the Rush Hour movies and just fell off the map after that. I liked him before his collaborations with Jackie Chan when he was playing parts like we saw in Dead PresidentsMoney Talks, or The Fifth Element He has a wildly funny personality and showed so much promise in his youth. I caught his stand up routine on Netflix last year and thought it was awful. He didn’t sound funny at all but seemed depressed and desperate instead. In this movie I just think it is cool that he is involved and he has a really funny part the way he just shows up and gets taken away again later.

The article I read recently said that this movie was great but that didn’t make it a good movie to watch. Having just finished it I kinda agree but mostly disagree with the statement. It suggested that the way the movie was shot reflected the feelings of the characters and that it took away from the movie. I feel like it gives you such a better insight into these characters and actually enhances the film. I find this movie to be so uplifting because Pat and Tiffany are such sad characters who manage to overcome so much. When they dance at the end it’s so much fun as a prelude to their moment of understanding when they accept that they are in love with one another.

I think this a a great movie that was well deserving of all it’s awards. David O. Russell has collaborated with many of these actors multiple times now and they obviously work really well together. This is the type of movie that can turn your spirits around and influence you to do things differently. I think it is an excellent movie that is easily worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: The Simpsons Movie (2007)

 

Ronin

Year: 1998
Directed By: John Frankenheimer
Written By: J.D. Zeik and David Mamet

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had my entire post for this film nearly finished when I had an unfortunate snafu that erased everything I had done. That is as about as frustrating as an evening with this film has been.

To sum up what I had said before this movie is vague and hard to follow. Literally ten minutes pass in the beginning before you have any idea as to the direction of the movie. The sound quality is all screwed up where the dialogue is hard to hear and the action is explosive on your speakers and ears. This is a cool action movie but not in the Die Hard style I prefer.

This movie made it into the collection for one real reason and that is how awesome the car chase scenes are. The scene in which they steal the mysterious box features one of the greatest car chase scenes I have ever seen. The only other thing worth mentioning is how cool De Niro is as the American badass, Jean Reno as the French badass, and Stellan Skarsgard as the creepy European bad guy.

There is little else I had to say about this movie and I care even less now if this is a well put together post. I am disappointed to have lost my original copy but this was more or less what I had to say. This movie does have its moments but there are certainly better things you can do with your time.

NEXT MOVIE: The Royal Tenebaums (2001)

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)

 

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.

MV5BNjkxMTc0MDc4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUyNTI1MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

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!

 

Cop Land

Year: 1997
Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: James Mangold

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was a Christmas present to myself.  I got a little carried away Christmas shopping online a couple of weeks ago and bought a few movies for myself for good measure. I had seen this movie for the first time recently and was thoroughly surprised by how much I liked it.  I remember when it came out and can’t figure out why it took me so long to see.  Nevertheless this is a really interesting story with a great cast, all of whom delivered excellent performances.

You can say what you want about Sylvester Stallone but I have always been a fan.  The thing I like most about this movie is that I think for the first time I watched him in a movie and was really impressed by his performance as an actor.  This role got him out of his comfort zone and for once he did something drastically different.  I thought it was a really compelling performance and gives us an idea of the potential Stallone had if he had ever branched out more. His career could easily be targeted for plenty of criticism but I grew up with many of his movies and some are dear to me.  I think he is often reaching too far in his efforts to stay in the lime light but I can’t help but admire him on some level.  He has really overcome quite a bit to be an actor and to enjoy the success he has achieved.  When Stallone was born he got stuck in the birthing canal and had to be pulled out by forceps.  In the effort to get him out the doctor accidentally caused paralysis to his face and within his mouth. It’s the reason Stallone has such a difficulty speaking and has that awkward movement with his mouth.  When he initially wrote the film Rocky he specifically wrote it with minimal dialogue from his character to attempt to mask the disability.  If I am not mistaken he has had many operations to try and fix the problem that met with moderate success.  He is capable of much more than he was forty years ago when he was working on the first Rocky. So whatever you think about Stallone keep in mind that the guy overcame quite a bit to get where he is today.

This movie came out as the Stallone/Schwarzenegger power years were becoming more and more distant in the past.  During the 80s and early 90s there was a time when these guys were on top of the world but by 1995 their time seemed to be over.  They have both made efforts to get back into the game over the past several years with some success but things will never be liked they used to be for these guys.  When Stallone made this movie he went against the norm.  He actually gained weight to play the part (40 pounds) and while he does have his moment in the end it’s still not a role that compares to all the other action roles he has played in the past.  He received great reviews for the role but Stallone has actually claimed that the role hurt his career because the weak box office results made it difficult for him to get parts for the next eight years.  I don’t think that is the case, his career was already dragging and in truth he always had his ups and downs.  Anytime Stallone had trouble in his acting career he just went back to the basics, doing another sequel for either Rocky or Rambo.  In the end that is what he did again as nine years after this film he went back to both franchises with a 6th and 4th film for each.  I happen to think Rocky Balboa was one of the worst movies I have ever seen but Rambo wasn’t as bad.  Stallone has found new success with the Expendables of late but the time for a movie like that has passed and I’m not down with those anymore.  As a lifelong fan of Stallone I take the guy for the good and bad but most of the good is long behind him now.  Personally I would like to see him accept his age and go after more roles like the one we saw in this film.  Of all of his films I literally think this was the best he ever did acting and believe that he is capable of doing it again.

While Stallone makes the easiest talking point for this movie there is plenty to be said about the film as well as the rest of the cast.  It’s a mob movie about cops and that’s an interesting dynamic.  Those charged with serving and protecting the rest of us are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard but sadly this is often not the case.  The men who are supposed to be the good guys are often in the position to be as bad as they want if they choose and plenty of them choose to do just that.  It’s a low paying and thankless job that makes the decision easy on men with low morals to begin with.  The cops we see in this film are as dirty as they come and they have all gathered together to live in the same neighborhood, Cop Land if you will.  They run the town themselves while the introverted sheriff is more than willing to turned a blind eye and what is really going on. The sheriff has had an unlucky life in which he was never able to accomplish what he really wanted.  He turns the blind eye because he wants so badly to be part of this group of men he oversees.  He had always wanted to be one of them but couldn’t pass the test due to his hearing disability.  They know what he wanted out of life and it gives them an opportunity to sweet talk him into anything they want simply by including him from time to time.  When the sheriff’s eyes are finally open he rises to his station in life and does the right thing against all odds.  It was a great role for Stallone and he did an excellent job playing it.  It’s really a pity he isn’t proud of it himself.

This is a star studded cast featuring many men regularly cast as mafia men playing the same type of part only in a blue uniform.  Robert De Niro checks in as the dreaded IA officer who polices the other cops.  Harvey Keitel is the big dog leading the corrupt police officers in his crew.  Ray Liotta is the wild card who used to be in with Keitel but now operates on the outside so to speak.  Michael Rapaport has never been an exceptional actor but he has played many exceptional parts.  In this movie he is the officer who screws up royally and becomes a liability for the others.  Robert Patrick is an awesome actor who brings a great presence to any role he plays, in this film he looks ridiculous in that mustache but still manages to pull it off as the enforcer type for Keitel.  Janeane Garofalo really goes against the norm in this one playing a cop and doesn’t bring the same type of character we usually see from her on screen. Making this a true mob movie about cops we also have several cast members in small roles that would go on to play parts on The Sopranos such as Pauly Walnuts, Phil Leotardo, Carlo Gervasi, and Carmela Soprano just to name a few.

I really enjoyed this movie and felt I was at a loss for not having seen it over all these years.  One of the things I liked about it personally, aside from how great Stallone played the part, is that the part of the sheriff reminds me hands down of a guy that I work with.  The Sheriff had this shy awkwardness to him and his mannerisms that are just spot on with a man I work with.  The guy I work with is a character.  For reasons nobody can remember we call him “the Juice” and sometime he comes in flavors.  Depending on his garb, style of hair, or simply something strange that he does we have a variety of names that apply to him.  Such as G.I. Juice, Dr. Juice, The Juicelhoff, Papa Stache Juice, Grizzly Juice, Dapper Juice, and the list goes on and on.  The guy is really one of a kind and he is good humored when we pick around with him.  I can’t stress enough how much Stallone reminds me of our Juice in this movie and that makes it specifically special to me.

photo (10)

Here is an image of the Juice.  This guy is truly one of a kind.  He is the Juicelhoff flavor of Juice in this image.  If you notice the chest hair he exposes us to in this garb you might understand why we call him the Juicelhoff on a day like this.  (We just merged his name with Hasselhoff).  This guy may be different but he has a heart of gold and he brings an interesting character into our lives at work.  I always appreciate the characters in life, because we all have a role to play in the stories we create in our lives.  In our work place this guy is a character that brings a quality we all find endearing and he is a valuable member of our work family.

This movie hasn’t made any noise in the last fifteen years or so and hasn’t had the staying power that other films like it have enjoyed.  I don’t specifically know why but I think it deserves the attention that plenty of others do.  It’s a good movie with an interesting story and a great cast.  I don’t know why it took me so long to see myself but once I did I wasted little time making it part of our collection.  I think it deserves its spot on the shelf and I think it is worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I actually thoroughly liked this movie. It was the least cheesy I have ever seen Stallone. I thought the concept was interesting and the cast was well done. The poster didn’t hold up to the movie for me because…

cop_land

…it’s another montage of characters and scenery. Really the designers just can’t be blamed anymore. The clients are in control. The movie powerhouses are in control. Appeal to this x audience and put in the city. OH we can get more viewers in the theaters if we show five guys on the poster instead of one. Insert eye roll here. I just think simple is better and more intriguing. Which is kind of what you want the audience to feel right? Intrigued? It’s just my little opinion, but I think less is better. Having said all that, this one isn’t as bad as most of the montage posters that I have looked over. It’s not by far my favorite poster obviously but it’s not the worst either.

Machete

Year: 2010
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez

RYAN’S REVIEW

This film has lost its appeal on me.  I am a big fan of Robert Rodriguez and everything he does but I have to admit this one doesn’t seem as awesome to me as it did three years ago.  I thought Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse films was far and away superior in every way to the half that Tarantino did and three years ago I loved that he was taking it a step further.  His fake Machete trailer was really cool and I thought he did a great job carrying that style and intentional exaggeration into a full feature length film.  My problem now is that Rodriguez simply hasn’t done enough in the years since.  I thought this movie was great three years ago but for it to be all this talented filmmaker has worked on since has simply disappointed me.  

I thought that Sin City was incredible and loved what Robert Rodriguez did with it, but after eight years of waiting for the sequel my patience is running thin.  For me, it has created a bit of resentment towards this franchise because this franchise has continued while that one has done nothing.  I have yet to see Machete Kills but haven’t really felt compelled to either because I think this film was enough.  I love Danny Trejo and like him getting the opportunity to be an even bigger badass than he already is but I have just wanted more from Rodriguez over the years and haven’t gotten it.  The sequel to Sin City has finally been made and is set to come out next year but that will be a nine year gap between movies.  I think it’s been too long but I still look forward to it and hope it is worth the wait.

This film was an idea first conceived in 1993 when Rodriguez was making Desperado in Mexico.  When he was shooting the movie the locals had no idea what the movie was actually about or who was in it but they all gravitated toward Trejo when he was on set thinking he was the star of the film.  Rodriguez told Trejo then that he needed to start working with blades and eventually they would collaborate on this.  For the next 15 years Trejo stayed on Rodriguez about the idea to the point that Rodriguez told him he didn’t have to call about it all the time and could simply text him about it.  To this Trejo said “Machete don’t text,” a line Rodriguez thought was funny and eventually put into the film.  Robert Rodriguez has done many great things throughout his career but something I have always liked specifically about him was his propensity to use Trejo in all his films.  Danny Trejo is a badass, and I have loved him in everything from the Johnny 23 to voicing Octavio on King of the HillBeing credited with over 260 roles the man is a relentless worker and there is really no end to naming the great roles he has played either in bit parts or in larger roles.  I do really like him finally getting to play the lead and loved this film at first because it put him in the spotlight.  Having lost its appeal on me though I’ll admit he overdoes it quite a bit in this movie.  Of course that is the point of the movie, but it doesn’t do anything to make the film endearing when there are now reasons to be frustrated with it. If nothing else there is one thing I do want to mention before I move on from Trejo.  He has certainly gotten an awful lot out of one of the coolest tattoos of all time.  If you know Danny Trejo at all then you know exactly what I am talking about but if you somehow missed it here is an image:

Trejo is getting older now, approaching the age of 70 if you can believe it.  The fact that he is just now getting the spotlight and taking hold of it like a man half his age says a lot about the kind of person he is.  This guy never stops working, and while he may make more B-movies than anything else he has still made such a significant impact.  Granted this movie and its sequel technically should count as B-movies they were made like that intentionally and both received worldwide distribution like any other big budget movie.

This movie, like most of Rodriguez’s films, has a lengthy and impressive cast.  The flawlessly beautiful Jessica Alba has a large part and actually appears naked at one point in the movie.  Don’t be fooled however because she has a no nude clause in her acting contract. Rodriguez is a whiz with making movies simple using his computer to do things digitally.  In the shower scene where we see a nearly naked Jessica Alba she was covered while shooting and it was digitally removed later.  Michelle Rodriguez, no relation to the film’s director, is an actress I usually cannot stand.  For years she was constantly playing the exact same role over and over again but of late she has started to impress me.  I actually thought she looked smoking hot in this movie and I have never thought so before.  I haven’t really seen her play different roles of late but somehow she seems better in them.  I’m thinking specifically of this film and of Avatar when I thought she gave a great performance.

I think this was possibly one of the coolest things Steven Seagal has ever done.  I have always regarded Steven Seagal as silly and never taken him serious as an actor.  I do not think his performance in this movie, while awesome, did anything to change that perception. When Seagal comes up I don’t think of his film career first but of that show I never watched where for some reason he tagged along with police and went on busts.  I thought the concept of that show was so bizarre.  What the hell is this guy doing right? Who is Steven Seagal to ride around with police and be involved with busts?  Did the heart to heart convos he had with perps after they were busted change any of their lives? Did I miss out by not watching this show? If anybody out there watched it I would really like to know about it, leave us a comment and tell us something about it.  Somebody out there really must love Seagal and I am always curious why.  He regularly gets a specific week dedicated to him and his movies on AMC.  I’ll admit I haven’t seen enough of his films but I had seen enough as far as I was concerned. Seagal fans tell me I am wrong.  Have I just been missed out all these years and is Seagal really something special? If I have missed something that is worth my time leave me a comment and let know what I should check out.

Chris Cooper was originally offered the part of the corrupt senator but he refused the part because he thought the script was bizarre. When Robert De Niro took the part it suddenly became much easier for Rodriguez to get any other star he wanted in the film.  We see a couple of his regulars as well.  Cheech Marin reprised his role from the original trailer.  Marin appears in most of Rodriguez’s films but has really put together an impressive body of work since simply being half of a popular pothead duo.  Tom Savini is also here as an assassin and for the first time in a Rodriguez film he doesn’t die.  You can also see Rodriguez’s sisters playing two nurses who are part of “The Network.”

When we sat down to watch this movie last night I was really looking forward to it.  It had been a while since we had seen it and I loved it when it came out.  To be honest I really just couldn’t get into it and found the whole experience really disappointing. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, I don’t know but for whatever reason I just didn’t love or really even like this movie when I watched it last night.  I think the action and choreography of the fights are great, both of which are specific talents of Rodriguez.  I like most of the actors and still like the campy style of the film but the endearing quality was just lost on me this time.  I don’t want to go into the film too much because I can’t bring myself to criticize Rodriguez or Trejo.  There is still plenty to like about this movie but when you watch it you just need to understand that it does some things on purpose and take it for what it is worth. It’s meant to be over the top and when that is done on purpose it’s altogether different than the stupid films that do it honestly. This movie didn’t do it for me last night and I don’t think it’s going to be one I regularly revisit but I still think it is worth your time to see at least once.

AMBER’S REVIEW

macheteThis movie is okay. I remember really liking it the first time I watched it, but having watched it again, I just don’t know. There are some parts I love and parts I loathe.

This poster kills me. Rodriguez kills me too. He and Tarantino both think they have found this awesome way to stand out-by making their signature that looks like its straight out of the 70s era. This can be fun and a really good idea, but it only works when the movie is set in the same era. I mean seriously guys; move on with the design inspiration. The title sequences included. Their movie ideas are incredible, but the graphic design that goes into their ideas is horrible.

This poster is a montage of the characters. You all should know by now how much that kills me. At least there is a big cheesy explosion in the background. In this case cheesy works, since the whole movie is in fact very cheesy. I don’t like this poster at all. I don’t even like the typography. I have never been a fan of anything looking too much like a WordArt image. I think there was room to make this better and the opportunity was missed here.

NEXT MOVIE: Magnolia (1999)