Posts Tagged ‘best movies of all-time’

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Revisiting 1990: Darkman

September 26, 2010

“Don’t look at me.”

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

Plot: Scientist Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is in the midst of developing technology to duplicate healthy skin for burn victims when he is brutally scarred and left for dead by a crime lord (Larry Drake) looking for an incriminating memo in possession of Westlake’s girlfriend (Frances McDormand). Westlake uses his skin process to return as Darkman and seek revenge against those that ruined him.

I imagine in my quest to find the best guilty pleasure in various years I’m going to run across some true stinkers. Despite a solid crew that features respected actors (Neeson and Oscar nominee McDormand) and the director that brought us the Evil Dead trilogy and Spider-Man, Darkman still manages to suck. Even if you can look past the ridiculous plot, the number of holes in the script are enormous and laughable. In the beginning of the film, Westlake discovers that his created skin will only hold for 99 minutes in the light, but can maintain its composure infinitely in the dark. You’d think this discovery, combined with a film title of Darkman would indicate our vigilante would do most of his work at night, but Darkman operates during the day time. In fact, rather than using this knowledge to his advantage, our brilliant scientist finds himself wearing a mask, sitting on a bench in broad daylight, and acting shocked when he realizes his 99 minutes are up any second. Seriously? How stupid is this character? If you have a mission you can only carry out in the daylight, plan ahead! If you know it’s going to take more than 99 minutes, bring a second mask (that’s all it is anyways, right?), store it in a bag that keeps out the sunlight, and switch faces at a convenient time that doesn’t jeopardize your task. But seriously, you can be whoever you want, however long you want at night, so why are you even fucking with daylight hours? Also, did anyone ever notice how fucked up Darkman’s hands are? We see that the faces Darkman wears are simply masks, so I’d have to assume the hands he wears are merely gloves and there is no way he’s fitting his mutilated paws into those things without getting some double takes.

Darkman has some solid actors and is mildly entertaining at times, but the writing in this movie is terrible. Definitely the worst movie I’ve watched in a while.

Grade: D
Viewings: 2+
Replay Value: Very limited
Sequel Potential: Spawned two sequels that I imagine are equally as bad, and probably worse.
Oscars?: None
Nudity?: None

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Revisiting 1990: Dick Tracy

September 13, 2010

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

“The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.”

Plot: Popular detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) tries to put a stop to a mob headed by Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) while maintaining a healthy relationship with girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headley). Matters are complicated when he becomes a father figure for an orphaned boy and faces the seduction of a sultry singer named Breathless Mahoney (Madonna).

Dick Tracy was actually a pretty fun film. It reminded me a lot of Tim Burton’s Batman, released a year prior. The art direction definitely has a comic book feel to it and the make up of the villains is certainly campy. However, when comparing the two films, it’s not difficult to realize which one is superior. Batman has a much better story and looks waaaaaaaaaaay cooler, despite a lesser budget. I never read any Dick Tracy comics, so I don’t know anything about the mythology, but Warren Beatty couldn’t have been the best actor for this role. Sure, he directed the film, but his portrayal of Dick Tracy didn’t strike me as very suave or heroic… and maybe he’s not supposed to be. Al Pacino stole the show in this movie as Big Boy Caprice. It’s hard to believe he gave a performance as animated as this in the same calender year that he was so boring in The Godfather: Part III. It doesn’t even seem like the same person, which I guess is a testament to his range as an actor. He deserved his Oscar nomination for the role. Madonna channels her inner Marilyn Monroe as Breathless Mahoney, giving a sexy performance that combined solid acting with dainty singing. She is definitely a uniquely talented woman. The story here isn’t particularly interesting and the main conflict essentially boils down to Tracy deciding what’s more important to him: his career or his woman? Dick Tracy could easily have been a complete failure, but Pacino, Madonna, and interesting sets make it a movie worth remembering.

Grade: B
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: There’s a twist at the end that might make a second viewing worthwhile… or maybe not.
Sequel Potential: It grossed $100 million at a time when that was considered a blockbuster, but never got a sequel… the potential is there though.
Oscars?: Nominated for seven Oscars with wins for Best Make-Up, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Song. Pacino got a Supporting Actor nom.
Nudity?: You’d think not, considering the movie is rated PG, but you can clearly see Madonna’s nipples in one scene.

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Revisiting 1990: The Godfather: Part III

August 22, 2010

Considered For: Top 5, Best Sequel

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Here are some interesting facts: I own three movies that were released in the year 1990; all of them are sequels; and until last night, I had owned one of them for at least eight years and had never seen it. That movie would be Francis Ford Coppola’s conclusion to his The Godfather trilogy (the other two 1990 movies I own are Die Hard 2 and Child’s Play 2). There are a couple of reasons why I never bothered to watch The Godfather: Part III even though it is a sequel to two of the best films ever made. One, it was released sixteen years after The Godfather: Part II, which is a bad omen in itself. Two, when people talk about the best movies ever made, they always mention the first two Godfather films, but never the last one; it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. Lastly, I’ve heard a lot of talk over the years that Sofia Coppola’s performance in the movie completely ruined it.

I finally forced myself into watching the last Godfather movie because of this column and after noticing that it actually was nominated for Best Picture, which surprised me because I’ve long thought it was a universally hated film. It was nominated for seven Oscars in total and even has a respectable 7.6 rating on IMDB.com. For all the negative energy surrounding this movie, when I blew the dust off the cover, I discovered that it was actually somewhat critically acclaimed and probably worthy of viewing for my Revisiting 1990 column.

Oh my God, wake me up when it’s over. That pretty much sums up my thoughts on The Godfather: Part III. You have to ask yourself: was that really necessary? It’s been sixteen years… your two Godfather films have been widely accepted as two of the five best films ever made… Mr. Coppola, why are you revisiting this franchise? Did this story really need to be told? After watching it, I’m going to say NO. Unlike the first two films, which have many memorable and iconic characters, this movie doesn’t really make much of an impression. Al Pacino doesn’t even seem like he’s playing the same person. He reminds me nothing of the Michael Corleone I remember and he looks sixty years older. With the exception of Kay (Diane Keaton) and Connie (Talia Shire), and some verbal and visual references to the first two films, this movie might as well have nothing to do with them.

It’s kind of hard to say what the story was here. I honestly had a hard time following it. I don’t know if it was actually confusing or if I just was having difficulty because I didn’t care about it. From what I did manage to retain, Michael Corleone is trying to legitimize his business. He has become estranged from Kay and his children, Mary (Sophia Coppola) and Anthony (Franc D’Ambrosio), and is reunited with them in this film. He’s displeased to hear that his son would rather sing opera than finish his degree in law. His son also wishes to have no part of Michael’s business. Michael is introduced to Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), who is apparently Michael’s brother Sonny’s illegitimate son and Vincent is more than happy to carry on the family business. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Seriously, who cares? What annoys me the most about this film is that it simply did not have to be made. The story here isn’t nearly strong enough to bring the franchise out of retirement after a sixteen year slumber. Mr. Coppola, you already made two of the greatest films ever, please don’t spoil it with a convoluted third installment. If there was a story dying to be told here, then I’d understand, but in my opinion, the script is the worst part about this movie. It’s not like the extremely belated sequel can’t be done. Toy Story 3 did it extremely well as recently as this year.

While the script was by far the biggest offender for me, the casting of Sofia Coppola is deservedly panned. She honestly does a laughably bad job in this movie. While the immensely talented actors around her naturally deliver their lines, she’s sounds like she’s doing an imitation of bad dialogue. Something about the way she says her lines screams that there is someone in this movie that doesn’t belong. Kudos to Coppola not letting this role ruin her self-esteem and growing up to become a pretty talented filmmaker in her own right. As if the casting of his own daughter wasn’t suspect enough the role called for an incestuous relationship. Sleeping with your first cousin is still considered incest, right? Seriously? Your own daughter? In her first major acting role? Good job, buddy.

While it might seem like I hated everything about The Godfather: Part III, I did enjoy Andy Garcia’s performance as Vincent Mancini. He’s the lone character that seemed like he would’ve been at home in the world created in the first two films and thus, is the really the only character I liked in this movie. He gets to shine in a quite a few scenes, particularly when a couple of would-be hit me break into his apartment and find themselves in an interrogation. I also enjoyed his line to Mary Corleone: “Love someone else.” Garcia was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise cloudy movie.

I don’t really understand how The Godfather: Part III received seven Academy Award nominations. It makes me wonder if these people saw the same film I did. Could they really tell me today, with a straight face, that they would rather watch this movie instead of Miller’s Crossing? I’ll give them credit for recognizing Andy Garcia’s performance, but Best Picture and Best Director for one of the more disappointing sequels of all-time? Really? While Coppola might have gotten a pass based on past credentials at the 1991 Academy Awards, my recommendation to everyone else is to skip this movie (or pretend like it doesn’t exist) and remember the first two Godfather films as the great pillars of film excellence that they are and not let this last entry tarnish their memory.

Grade: C-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much. I would watch it again someday to see if I can better follow the story.
Sequel Potential? Has it been sixteen years yet? God, let’s hope not.
Oscars: Undeserved nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. Five more nominations, including a deserved nom for Andy Garcia in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Nudity? Bridget Fonda has a decent scene. Not sure if you actually see anything though.

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Revisiting 1990: Goodfellas

August 20, 2010

Considered For: Top 5

“What are you, a fuckin’ sick maniac?”

Interesting. I’ve long thought of Goodfellas as the top film of 1990, but after watching it last night, I realize that I may have never even seen it. I was positive that I had, but nothing about this movie seemed familiar and I know damn well I haven’t seen Lorraine Bracco in a movie since I’ve started watching The Sopranos. I really felt that I’ve seen this movie before, but last night I felt like I was watching it for the first time.

Goodfellas is an epic story, based on a true story, about the Italian mob in New York City from the 1950s through the 1970s. Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, our “hero,” a kid that grows up wanting nothing more than to be a gangster. He starts off as a delivery boy for respected mob figures Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and works his way up the ranks with friend Tommy DeVito (later played by Joe Pesci) and they both wind up integral parts of the organization by their early 20s (although Pesci was nearly 50 when this movie filmed… LOL). Henry eventually meets Karen (Bracco), they marry, and together they become enraptured and victimized by the ways of the organized crime business and the financial freedom and social dominance it offers.

I hate to say it, but I think Goodfellas might be a tad overrated. For one, I didn’t like it as much as Miller’s Crossing, another 1990 film focused on organized crime. I’ll take Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan over Liotta’s Henry Hill any day, in terms of both character and acting. For two, a #17 of all-time ranking on IMDB’s greatest movies ever list seems overboard. With that said, Goodfellas is still a very good movie and probably deserved more acclaim than 1990’s most highly lauded film Dances With Wolves, a movie noticeably absent from IMDB’s same list.

Goodfellas does feature a stellar cast. I knew before watching that Lorraine Bracco was Oscar-nominated, but watching the film, I kept thinking of what a great job Joe Pesci was doing as the outlandishly violent and explosive Tommy DeVito. When I researched the Oscars after the movie, I was pleased to find out that not only was Pesci nominated, but he took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Very deserved. Bracco was also outstanding as Henry’s wife, Karen, dealing with the loose morals of a wiseguy husband, a man that thinks it’s okay to have multiple girlfriends in addition to a wife. She does a great job walking the line between jealous, vengeful wife and drug-addled woman addicted to the life of crime, quick money and supposedly easy living. I find it astonish that in the 9 years between Goodfellas and her role as Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos, the biggest movie she was in was Hackers. Robert De Niro offers a good performance, but it wasn’t much of a stretch for him and I wouldn’t rank it amongst the top five of his career or even his best of the year (check out Awakenings). I’m not sure Ray Liotta was the best choice for Henry Hill. Apparently, Liotta turned down the role of Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s Batman in order to star in Goodfellas, a good move considering no one remembers Harvey Dent in the original Batman and Goodfellas is by far the best film Liotta’s ever worked in. Liotta does a decent enough job, but some of his scenes, mostly when he is laughing hysterically, made me cringe a little bit. Liotta has never really gone on to do anything worthwhile for his career and I wonder if Goodfellas could have been even better with a more capable actor in the lead role.

It would be a fair argument to say that Martin Scorsese should have won his first Best Director Oscar in 1991 for Goodfellas. While Dances With Wolves might have been an easier film for the Academy to swallow, I can’t imagine someone saying with a straight face that it’s a better film, particularly in the directing department. There’s a great scene in Goodfellas where the camera follows Henry and Karen through the back entrance of a restaurant, through the kitchen, and into the dining room where a table is immediately set for them, not once breaking for a separate take. Simply put, Goodfellas was better than Dances With Wolves and Scorsese, long overlooked by the Academy, was robbed.

I don’t want you to come away from this review with the impression that I didn’t like Goodfellas that much. I loved it. Yes, maybe Ray Liotta wasn’t the best choice for Henry Hill; yes, I liked Miller’s Crossing more; but Goodfellas was still a GREAT film, just maybe not as great as some people have made it out to be. If you haven’t ever seen Goodfellas, I’d bump it to the top of your Must Rent list and if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, it’s worth revisiting.

Grade: A
Viewings: maybe 2?
Replay Value: A must for the DVD collection.
Oscars: A Best Supporting Actor win for Pesci. Nominations for Bracco, Scorsese, Best Picture, Film Editing, and Adapted Screenplay.
Sequel Potential: None. Based on a true story.
Nudity? Amazingly, no. Lots of sexual references, but no nudity that I can remember.