Posts Tagged ‘martin scorsese’

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April 2020 Movie Reviews

May 2, 2020

Check out my profile on Letterboxd if you want to follow along as I write my reviews throughout the month and also because the site/app is amazing for film lovers. April was a pretty sad month because of the pandemic. Theaters are closed all throughout the United States and movie studios are pulling all their films from their original release dates. Even when theaters reopen to the public, they are talking about selling out at 50% capacity and what studio is going to want to release their tent pole films in a climate like that? I’m really curious when the next time I watch a new film in theaters will be.

Onward (2020, Disney+)

Pretty cool of Disney to release this on their streaming platform less than a month after it came out in theaters (shoutout to Covid-19). I can’t say Onward is top tier Pixar, but it was plenty good and managed to tug at my emotions like pretty much all their movies do. Amazing animation, solid voice work from Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, and enough laughs to keep me entertained the whole time. Not Pixar’s strongest work, but their middle tier is still really good stuff.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (2020, Netflix, Documentary)

Crazy stuff, but wildly entertaining. I don’t think it’s an all-time great documentary, but it was definitely a lot of fun. All the major players are scummy though. Does anyone that watched this actually think that Carol Baskins is an animal rights hero?

Probably a must see documentary, but I’m going to rate it just a notch below that.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Bombshell (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

I’m not even remotely into politics and I spend none of my time watching news coverage, so my knowledge of the FOX News infrastructure and its relationship to the various political parties is nonexistent, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Bombshell. This movie is more about sexual harassment than politics anyways. In fact, these women bringing down FOX CEO Roger Ailes was the first domino in what eventually became a movement that sparked the Me Too hashtag. I think that story is well told here and shows the struggle of fearing those in power and wanting to protect your career or… calling a public figure a monster.

Looking at pictures of Megyn Kelly on Google images, I can see why Bombshell won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling. Theron is virtually unrecognizable here, but she looks exactly like Megyn Kelly. It’s uncanny. John Lithgow also looks like he spent a lot of time in the makeup chair.

This movie had some great acting from pretty much everyone. Theron and Robbie were both Oscar-nominated with Robbie giving the best performance of the movie, in my opinion. Lithgow is also at his slimy best and I’m a bit surprised his role didn’t get more attention. This movie has a strong supporting cast as well.

Bombshell is well acted and entertaining and definitely worth a watch.

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019, Netflix Blu-Ray rental)

This review may contain spoilers.

Well, this series jumped the shark pretty quick. I actually liked the first reboot sequel and was pleasantly surprised by it. I thought it was a fresh, modern take and I liked the cast. But this? I was tuned out within 30 minutes, already wishing it was over, and there was 90 minutes left! Why is a Jumanji movie 2+ hours??

Anyways, the climax of this movie takes place on an ice fortress… and there’s a blimp… and a flying horse. Remember when Jumanji was a board game about jungle animals? I guess the more sequels you make to something like this, the further away from the original concept you have to get to keep things interesting. Well, consider me uninterested.

There are a couple of funny parts in this, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t painful for me to watch.

3/10 (Bad)

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Personal Shopper (2016, iTunes Store digital rental)

This is another one of those times where I go into a movie knowing nothing about it except that at some point in time something sparked me to put it on my watchlist… probably some best films of 2016 lists. A movie about mediums, the afterlife, and ghosts was about the last thing I was expecting and the content kind of knocked my socks off. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Personal Shopper riveting, but it was compelling and never lost my interest despite the fact that it is a really slow burn and Kristen Stewart’s character spends a good portion of the running time shopping, trying on clothes, and sending text messages. Speaking of which, did it drive anyone else nuts that she put a space in between her sentence and the question mark ? Like that ? Every single time.

I am not a Kristen Stewart fan at all. Prior to watching this, I had seen seven movies she’s been in and five of them have been part of the miserable Twilight franchise – movies I’ve seen because my wife wanted me to watch them with her. I’m on record calling Bella Swan one of the worst characters of all-time, so my distaste for Kristen Stewart is not much of a surprise and probably not even fair to her as I’ve seen less than 20% of her filmography. Well, this is easily the best work I’ve seen from her. She’s good in this movie!

Personal Shopper is unique, with a strong performance from Stewart and some surprisingly cool visual effects. I enjoyed it quite a bit and recommend to anyone that’s into ghost stories and doesn’t mind a deliberate pace.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tusk (2014, Netflix)

I’m trying to think of anything at all that I liked about this movie and I’m coming up empty. I guess the, uhm, “walrus” makeup/costume was… interesting? Also grotesque. Possibly appalling. Kevin Smith just sucks now. I was a pretty big fan up through Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be impressed with that movie in 2020 and the only film I’ve enjoyed of his over the last 20 years was Zack and Miri Make a Porno. That’s a long stretch of crap. Granted, I’ve skipped almost all of it, but I trust the word of mouth. Still, Red State comes to a streaming service in April 2020 and I have the Jay and Silent Bob reboot on my watchlist, so I’ll probably watch both of those eventually. This is the kind of stuff I throw on late at night when I feel like I can stay up for another 20 minutes or so and then I watch it over the course of a few days because I don’t want to show that kind of disrespect to a movie I actually want to see.

One more thing, Johnny Depp is brutal. What happened to him? There was a point in time where I thought he was one of my favorite actors working and now I can’t stand the guy. He tries so hard to create unique and weird characters and lately he’s been failing miserably. His character here seems like something Sacha Baron Cohen would try to make a movie out of and Hollywood is like, “uhm, no.” Depp is no longer a draw for me… he’s an autoskip.

2/10 (Horrible)

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013, YouTube)

I rated this documentary higher than any film in the actual franchise, but I guess it makes sense. This is 5+ hours of awesome interviews, behind-the-scenes stories, and unreleased (and cut due to MPAA wimpiness) footage from a franchise I’ve loved since I was… wait, let me look up when Jason Lives was released… 5 or 6 years old? I remember my first exposure to Jason Vorhees being that opening scene from Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives when he’s brought back from the grave (literally) and maggots and worms are crawling around on his face. I watched it on home video… at a neighbor’s house… so I’m guessing it was probably a year or two after its theatrical release. I’ve been in love with the franchise ever since and I still watch them periodically and hope they never stop making them, no matter how bad some of them are.

This is a must see for anyone that’s a fan of the Friday the 13th franchise. It’s super long, but if you’re like me, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Not recommended for non-fans obv.

The only place I could find this documentary was on YouTube. Check it out.

8/10 (Must See)

Locke (2013, Netflix)

98% of this movie is Tom Hardy driving in a car and talking on his mobile phone via bluetooth. If that sounds awesome to you, well… you’d be right! Ivan Locke is a construction foreman on the eve of the biggest cement pour in European history when he receives a voicemail from a woman he had a one night affair with and learns that she is giving birth to his child. The rest of the movie is Hardy talking in an amazing Welsh accent while trying to coordinate the job he won’t be attending the next day and telling his wife the bad news.

For a film with one actor that takes place entirely in a car, I was kind of blown away. It doesn’t hurt that Tom Hardy is that actor because he can be absolutely brilliant and I think he’s on that level in Locke. The movie actually has some top level supporting talent in Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, and Tom Holland, but they all phone it in. Literally.

I wish Tom Hardy wasn’t doing Venom. I wish he was doing more stuff like this. He is elite.

8/10 (Must See)

Watchmen (2009, personal collection, third viewing)

I already posted a review for this over ten years ago, but the HBO series has made me revisit both the graphic novel and this 2009 film adaptation. I heard I would appreciate the HBO series substantially more if the graphic novel was fresh in my mind and I decided I might as well watch this movie for the third time.

I actually don’t think the acting is as bad as I thought it was a decade ago. For instance, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson are actually pretty good casting as The Comedian and Nite Owl, respectively. The only choice I truly didn’t like was Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt. I just don’t buy him as “The Smartest Man in the World” and his confidence just comes across as phony to me. Jackie Earle Haley is great as Rorschach. Not only is his portrayal top notch, but when he’s unmasked, he really does look exactly like the Walter Kovacs from the graphic novel.

This is such a faithful adaptation. It’s basically a scene-for-scene translation and so much of the dialogue is lifted unaltered directly from the comic. And yet… something is off. I said in my previous review that this movie has a bit of a “hokey” feel to it. I don’t know if I can explain it any better now, but I just watched the first episode of the HBO series (which I will write about when I’m done watching all of it) and the difference in quality is stark. This movie is cheesy by comparison. Maybe I just hate Zack Snyder’s style?

Fans of the graphic novel shouldn’t be too disappointed with this movie – it’s definitely enjoyable – but I’m much more interested in what the HBO series has to offer myself.

6/10 (Recommended)

Out of Sight (1998, HBONOW, second viewing)

I’ll probably end up doing a run through of Steven Soderbergh’s entire filmography at some point, as I’m doing with Scorsese now, but I’ve been itching to rewatch Out of Sight and it’s leaving HBO NOW at the end of the month.

This is a really fun movie. The sharp banter and charismatic characters – especially George Clooney’s Jack Foley – make watching it a really enjoyable experience. You can see the Soderbergh style that became so popular in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Speaking of which, I’ve missed Clooney. He’s underrated as a leading man and I haven’t seen a new movie he’s starred in since Gravity in 2013. J-Lo and Clooney have great chemistry in this movie and I think that’s probably the biggest reason this film works so well.

I only remembered one thing about Out of Sight: the scene where something really surprising happens to a rather minor character. I’m sure if you’ve seen the movie, you would know what I’m talking about. Maybe that scene has stuck with me all these years because I referenced it in my music some twenty years ago.

Smart, funny, and fast-paced, with strong lead performances from Clooney and Lopez, Out of Sight was a solid revisit and one of the better films in Soderbergh’s catalog.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Tootsie (1982, Netflix)

Tootsie got an astounding 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Sydney Pollack, Best Writing and acting noms for Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, and Teri Garr. Alas, only Lange was able to take home a statue for her supporting role.

I thought this was great. Dustin Hoffman is wonderful in one of the best performances of his career. I’ve only seen Jessica Lange’s later work, but she oozed natural charisma in the early 80s also. You watch a movie like Sleepaway Camp and see all this horribly corny acting and think that it’s just a reflection of the times (and the genre), but then you watch something like Tootsie – also released in 1982 – and, well, there was probably plenty of great acting happening back then. It’s probably not fair to compare a campy slasher flick with one of the most highly touted movies of 1982, but the contrast is so stark that it makes me wonder if I was just watching all the wrong movies while I was growing up. I just find a lot of the acting from the 80s really cheesy and the performances in this movie are just all so good.

Hoffman’s character gets in really deep pretending to be a woman, finding huge success on a popular soap and becoming extremely close with Lange’s character. I kept wondering how he was going to get out of this pickle and I have to say this film’s resolution was outstanding. I absolutely loved the ending.

Tootsie is a must see film from almost four decades ago. Check it out if you never have!

8/10 (Must See)

Mean Streets (1973, iTunes Store digital rental)

I liked Mean Streets a lot, but I think it falls short of greatness. I do love the soundtrack in this movie though. The song selection is elite and I love how The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” plays during the awesome fight scene in the bar. The soundtrack feels like a great use of classic old school songs, but every song in this movie was 40 years fresher when it came out! Robert De Niro is absolutely fantastic in this movie. He’s completely unhinged as the wild and constantly disrespectful Johnny Boy. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen De Niro so loose in his whole career, but it’s been a while since I watched Taxi Driver. He’s just wonderful and you have to wonder how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. I’m tempted to watch all the roles that got nominated over him and see how wrong they got it (I actually did add 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly – also starring De Niro – to my watchlist).

Mean Streets was a lot of fun. You can see Scorsese getting his feet wet here with the mafioso type content he would eventually become famous for with Goodfellas and Casino. The characters and story are just so much better in those later films. This is a good movie though and I actually strongly considered watching it again before my 48 rental period expired. I can see myself revisiting it when I get through the rest of Marty’s filmography. Mean Streets is a huge leap forward from Scorsese’s first two films, but I’m still hesitating to call it his first great one. Maybe I’ll change my mind the second time I watch it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Boxcar Bertha (1972, iTunes Store digital rental)

Martin Scorsese’s second feature film doesn’t establish him as a future great, but I thought it was fun, despite some issues I had with it – mostly what seems to be a serious passage of time that goes almost entirely unaddressed. I’m not sure what kind of movie this is. A western? Reviews I’ve read have called it an exploitation film. There’s a lot of harmonica in it. It’s also supposed to be a revenge movie, but I’m not sure how well that revenge was realized. David Carradine (the future Bill of Kill Bill) is charming in his role. Barbara Hershey is naked a lot in this movie which is kind of weird because she looks 15 years old (she was 23 or 24). She does a fine job acting though.

I don’t think Boxcar Bertha was necessarily a good movie, but I enjoyed watching it. This film is not one you have to see in Scorsese’s catalog unless you want to watch them all… like I do.

5/10 (Decent)

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March 2020 Movie Reviews

April 2, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020, theaters)

I had no expectations this could be good. The first trailer was so bad it got sent back to the lab for a full reconfiguration of Sonic’s look. I’ll say this much, Sonic looks a hell of a lot better now. But the trailers leading up to the movie’s release made it look unwatchable.

And then something weird happened: the critics didn’t crucify it. Even now, Sonic the Hedgehog is sitting at a very kind 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. I get that it’s a pretty binary rating system, but over half of all critics gave this movie a favorable review?!

I wasn’t expecting that.

I guess it’s somewhat better than I was anticipating but I can’t, in good faith, say this was a good movie. I’m not even sure it was enjoyable. Of course, making a good live action Sonic movie was a colossal task and it goes about as you’d expect.

I don’t think Jim Carrey does it for me anymore. Maybe I would have loved this movie and his performance if I was ten, but I’ve grown out of whatever this schtick is. He’s doing his Ace Ventura/Riddler overacting bit and while it can be funny at times (he had a great line about being an orphan), it’s mostly just exhausting.

Has there ever been a more ridiculous antagonist than the main character’s sister-in-law? I mean… she LOATHED this man and as far as the audience is concerned he’s a solid dude with a good heart that treats his wife with respect and worked two extra jobs so she could go to school… and this woman just despises him… because why? For laughs? Ugh.

This was better than I thought it’d be but that’s not saying much. Just add Sonic the Hedgehog to a long list of video game adaptations that aren’t good. It’s probably a fine family movie, but I wouldn’t recommend seeing it by yourself if you’re a 37yo man.

4/10 (Blah)

Miss Americana (2020, Netflix)

A somewhat interesting look into the pressures of being one of the most famous singers of our time. I don’t dislike Taylor Swift, but I’m also not really into her music, so my interest level here wasn’t too high and this documentary didn’t really increase my appreciation of her work. You know who I do love as an artist? Kanye West. You know who I don’t love as a person? Kanye West. I hate how he interrupted her speech. Dude is a clown, but goodness does he make some amazing music. Wait, who was this about again?

Just kidding. Worth a watch, even if you’re not a big fan, but i’m sure megafans will go bonkers for Miss Americana.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Lost Girls (2020, Netflix)

This was fine, but I’ve already forgotten almost everything about it. I couldn’t help but feel like Amy Ryan already went down this road in the far superior Gone Baby Gone.

5/10 (Decent)

Honey Boy (2019, Amazon Prime)

A largely biographical film written by Shia LaBeouf when he was in rehab in which he plays his own father and gives what is probably the best performance of his career. Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe are also both good in this.

I liked Honey Boy but I remember thinking the ending was a bit abrupt and the story skips completely over Shia’s teenage years and I would have liked to see what his life was like during that time also.

6/10 (Enjoyable)

Ash is Purest White (2018, Amazon Prime)

It took a bit for this movie to pull me in, but when it did, I was thoroughly entranced. It starts off looking like a film about organized crime in a poor Chinese community. We are introduced to Bin (Liao Fan), who seems to be some sort of mob-type capo, and his girlfriend Qiao (Tao Zhao), as they go about town acting like they run shit in between gambling and dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA” – you know, standard mafioso stuff.

What’s really happening though is the film developing Qiao’s ride-or-die relationship for her man and when an altercation leads to the police discovering Bin’s illegal firearm, Qiao has to decide if she’s going to take the fall and do the time herself or say it was his gun.

Shes does the time. All five years of it.

And that’s when we get into the meat of this picture. The rest of the movie focuses on her journey to reconnect with Bin after making the ultimate sacrifice for him.

Tao Zhao absolutely carries this movie. She gives an incredible performance that naturally received basically zero notice from American awards. However, she did get some wins in Asia and won Best Actress at the Chicago International Film Festival. Her performance alone makes this movie worth watching.

I feel like the relationship between Bin and Qiao could have been more developed in the early stages of the film. We see loyalty, sure, but there’s no passion and little physical love between them. This lack of connection somewhat weakens the epic storyline to follow.

Regardless, I really enjoyed this movie and give it a strong recommendation.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

I, Tonya (2017, Hulu, second viewing)

Not quite the Must See film I thought it was the first time I saw it, but still very good.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Swiss Army Man (2016, Netflix)

I remember thinking the trailer for this looked super interesting and then it sat on my watchlist forever and I could just never pull the trigger on it even though it’s been streaming on Netflix for what seems like years now.

I finally got around to it and it was as weird as it looks and, honestly, my feelings were pretty mixed on it. The trailer makes this look like a fun and silly movie, but it’s actually pretty depressing and I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. Perhaps this is merely a consequence of misguided expectations, but when you’re in the mood for a light comedy and you get this instead, well, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Daniel Radcliffe was my favorite part of the movie. He’s rather brilliant in what has to be one of the strangest roles I’ve ever seen.

I should probably give this another shot now that I have a better idea about its tone, but I can’t see myself getting around to that any time soon.

5/10 (Decent)

Young Adult (2011, Netflix)

This review may contain spoilers.

I guess I enjoyed my viewing of Young Adult, but I’m honestly not sure if the good outweighed the bad. The good are the performances from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt… and to a lesser degree, Patrick Wilson. The bad… well, I can’t really discuss that too much without somewhat spoiling things, so beware.

Theron plays a depressed divorcee in her mid-30s that returns to her hometown to steal her old high school boyfriend (Wilson) away from his current wife after she gets an email announcing that he’s having a baby. While Theron is excellent, the character she plays never has any redeeming qualities and never develops any either. She goes on this midlife crisis adventure and comes out of it… pretty much the same person she was beforehand. It makes you wonder what the point of it all is? To show us that some people never grow up? I guess, but if that’s supposed to leave me feeling satisfied, well, it did not. And while some great films have depressing endings, they usually wow in multiple other ways. For instance, I doubt anyone felt good about things at the end of Requiem For A Dream, but Darren Aronofsky put on a masterclass in filmmaking and his soul-crushing film is an all-time classic in my book.

Young Adult? Not so much. For a movie that’s loosely labelled as a comedy, it’s not particularly funny. Theron is generally great in everything and that trend continued in this movie and Patton Oswalt surprised me here. I found Young Adult mildly amusing while watching it, but this is one that I’ll probably sour on the more I think about it.

5/10 (Decent)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, Netflix, third viewing)

This has to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen more than twice as an adult. Why do I do this to myself? It’s not much of a secret that I have a soft spot for horror movies – particularly the ones starring genre icons like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers – but I don’t even like this movie. It is truly trash. There’s just not a single thing about this film that feels like a Freddy Krueger movie. I know they went for a more realistic burn victim look here, but I absolutely hate it. Freddy looks terrible and if Freddy looks terrible, you’re already drawing dead on making a watchable A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I just put this on as I was going to sleep and watched it over the course of six nights or so.

2/10 (Horrible)

Bringing Out The Dead (1999, Amazon Prime)

Geez. I just didn’t like anything about it. Like, during its two hour run time, the only time I thought I’m enjoying this was the scene with the drug dealer/pimp “stuck” on the balcony. That was a cool sequence. The rest of the movie? Not so much. A struggle.

I’ve been reading reviews trying to figure out why these is rated so high and plenty are claiming it’s one of Scorsese’s most underrated films. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m proving that point right now.

We are given a glimpse into the life of an overworked and burnt out paramedic in New York City during the early 90s. It’s bleak. Our “hero” is worn down by the hours and the emotional tax of the job. He’s seen too many people die and now he can’t stop seeing their ghosts all over the city. He’s ready to walk out, but no matter how many times he shows up late or flips an ambulance on its back while drinking with his partner, the department is understaffed and the demand for emergency medical staff is high. This movie is basically a journey with this man as he reaches his breaking point on a job that never lets up.

I didn’t particularly like any of the performances in the movie, but Nic Cage does get to say a couple funny lines (“they are saying ‘kill Marcus!’”).

This is the second movie I’ve seen since I started my Scorsese Challenge, but 13th overall, and I am ranking it 13th for now. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Aviator, but that’s the only other Scorsese film I’ve seen that I’m pretty sure I didn’t like.

4/10 (Forgettable/Did Not Like)

Hoop Dreams (1994, HBO Now)

“I’ve seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight.” -Jay-Z

When I was going through films on Letterboxd, I actually marked this off as something I’ve seen before. I’m not sure when I realized I had never watched it, but I think after seeing that its running time was around three hours, I knew for sure I never sat through a basketball documentary that was that long. And then I had that Jay-Z lyric stuck in my head for days and figured the only way I could get rid of it was to finally watch what is largely considered one of the greatest sports films of all-time and somehow, due to some magic from the movie gods, it was streaming on HBO Now when I needed it most.

Considering how lauded this film is, I was expecting to see something uplifting with multiple success stories. Hoop Dreams is actually quite the opposite. That Jay lyric is on point and relevant. William Gates dazzles as a freshman and then basically nothing good happens to him. It’s hard to watch. Our other protege, Arthur Ashe, has a happier story, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration either.

But struggle can be riveting also and I guess that’s part of what makes this movie an all-time classic. I can see myself revisiting this again in the near future. At worst, this is a must see sports documentary and if you somehow missed it these last 25 years like I did, put on your list immediately.

8/10 (Must See)

Hook (1991, Netflix, fifth viewing)

Still a fun take on Peter Pan. My wife loved it and that doesn’t surprise me at all. Dustin Hoffman is excellent as Captain Hook. This movie is a bit cheesy, but otherwise I think it holds up pretty well.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Netflix)

I’m not sure what I thought this movie was but an epic spanning 20+ years was not it. Driving Miss Daisy is set in Georgia during the 1940s right around the time Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in baseball and stretches to the late 60s when Martin Luther King Jr. was helping make huge changes in how black folk are treated in America. And during these two decades, we see an affluent white woman (but don’t call her rich) develop a friendship with the black man her son hired to drive her around after she crashes her car backing out of her driveway.

It’s touching and funny enough to get multiple chuckles out of me. Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy was great in an Oscar-winning role – the only movie I’ve ever seen of hers! Morgan Freeman was also good in an Oscar-nominated role as her driver Hoke Colburn. Dan Akroyd was also Oscar-nominated for his role as Miss Daisy’s son and that’s pretty insane because he didn’t do anything special in this movie that I saw.

Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture Oscar for 1989 films and while I liked it, I think 1989 would have to be a pretty weak year if this was the best film. Just looking at some other movies that came out in 1989, I liked Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Say Anything, and Batman more. Plus notable films like Do The Right Thing and Dead Poet’s Society also came out in 1989 – films I’m not positive I’ve ever seen.

All this is to say, Driving Miss Daisy is a good but not great film that probably got a little overrated in its time. 30 years later I think most people would point to other movies first when they think about 1989, but Driving Miss Daisy is still worth checking out if you have never seen it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Robocop (1987, HBO Now, fifth viewing)

Yep. This is a sci-fi and action/adventure classic. For its time, the special effects are unreal. I remember my dad thinking the ED-209 was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. I don’t know how long it has been since I last watched Robocop – it’s been a while – but there are scenes in this movie that I’ll never forget. The absolutely brutal murder of Murphy. The ED-209 blowing away that corporate dude in front of the whole board. The toxic waste scene. Robocop is so good that even after seeing it many times over the last 3+ decades, I could’ve watched it again immediately after this rewatch and would have been happy to do so.

10/10 (Classic)

Sleepaway Camp (1983, Amazon Prime)

A horror genre cult classic that I somehow never watched? Probably because it always looked like a cheap Friday the 13th knockoff. I mean… the first sequel had a Freddy glove and Jason mask on the cover, for crying out loud. But when this movie came out there had only been three Friday the 13th movies released and only one of them had the hockey-masked Jason we know so well today. But then I was looking at some lists on Letterboxd and Sleepaway Camp was a popular choice for the best slashers of all-time, outranking basically every Jason Vorhees outing, and that made me feel like I was missing out on a must see genre film.

I can definitely see why it’s a cult classic. The kills are hilariously grotesque and often absurd. The acting is mostly laughable, but that was typical of any of these early 80’s slasher movies. I knew who the killer in this movie was immediately – despite all the misdirection – but even so, I was still surprised and shocked by the ending. For those of you that have seen and remember Sleepaway Camp, think about this: Felissa Rose, the star of this movie, was 12 or 13 when it was filmed. That’s just insane. Usually the kids in these movies playing teenagers are in their mid-20s. The last scene in this movie is something special, that’s for sure.

This is probably a must watch for genre fans, but I won’t pretend like it’s actually a good movie. If you like early 80’s slashers and missed this one, check it out. I liked it enough that I’d try at least one sequel.

6/10 (Recommended)

Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967, Netflix DVD)

This was Scorsese’s debut feature film, all the way back in 1967. That’s over 50 years ago! And this man is still one of the best filmmakers working today, getting a Best Picture nomination for The Irishman in 2019. Insane.

I had pretty mixed feelings about this movie. This was also Harvey Keitel’s debut film and he’s so young in it that I didn’t always recognize which character he was playing in the earlier parts of the film when he’s hanging out with his friends a bunch. I’m not familiar with any of the other actors and they all kind of blended together at first and things are even harder to follow because the narrative kind of jumps around and doesn’t feel linear. Also, there’s a really bizarre and really long sex scene that seems to come out of nowhere and didn’t make sense to me. It’s clearly some sort of fantasy, but I didn’t understand the purpose of it and it more than overstays its welcome.

What I did love about Who’s That Knocking at My Door was pretty much every interaction between Keitel and Zina Bethune. Their courtship is fun and interesting and they have plenty of chemistry together.

I didn’t know where this movie was going and when the big reveal happens it is rather shocking. Bethune’s character is a rape victim and Keitel’s character has a really difficult time processing this information. Imagine if you will: we live in a time where the “Me Too” movement is as recent as a few years ago. Our culture was still victim-shaming women and bullying them into silence in the 2010s. This movie came out 50 years ago! Keitel’s reaction is rather appalling but I can’t help but wonder what audiences thought of it in the late 1960s. I can see a large portion of the male population sympathizing with him at the time.

Overall, I liked this movie even though some of it was strange to me. I wouldn’t guess that the director was on his way to being an all-timer, but Roger Ebert loved this movie the first time he saw it. This is bottom tier Scorsese for me, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

6/10 (Recommended)

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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.