Tag Archives: 1973

Serpico (1973) Review

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Serpico

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Frank Serpico
Director: Sidney Lumet

Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is an idealistic New York City cop who refuses to take bribes, unlike the rest of the force. His actions get Frank shunned by the other officers, and often placed in dangerous situations by his partners. When his superiors ignore Frank’s accusations of corruption, he decides to go public with the allegations. Although this causes the Knapp Commission to investigate his claims, Frank has also placed a target on himself. The film is based on a true story.

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I heard a lot about Serpico going into it, it’s a highly praised movie about the real-life story of a police officer who is going up against police corruption. The film is directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Al Pacino in the lead role of Frank Serpico. The movie certainly lived up to the acclaim that its being receiving.

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This biopic covers the years of 1960 to 1972 and retraces Frank Serpico’s undercover career as he tries to clear corruption from the police force, while coming up against roadblocks and people who want him out of the way. The script is tight and absorbing, the story is told in a very real way, and it had me engaged throughout. Its actually incredible that its an biopic it doesn’t get bogged down by melodrama, its essentially a character study of a man trying his best to change a system that has no inclination to change. There is a real sense of doom and danger throughout its runtime, even when you know that Serpico is still alive by the end of the movie. His stance against police corruption made him a target for his fellow officers, and you really feel his paranoia and stress along with him. The script remained largely focussed on the real life issues at hand, and a lot of these topics are still relevant all these decades later. Serpico can be a frustrating movie to watch, but definitely in a good way, you get really invested in Serpico’s efforts. The movie can be a little slow at times, but it handles the 130 minute runtime well considering that there are multiple events, storylines and characters it has to cover and follow.

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Al Pacino is brilliant in the lead role of Frank Serpico, a good cop caught in a bad system. Despite it being a biopic about him, Serpico not portrayed as a saint or a martyr. He’s shown to be quite flawed, conflicted, and is very compelling to watch. Pacino gives a charismatic and empathetic performance here, and he really conveyed the stress and strain the character is under. His performance also doesn’t feel overplayed for dramatic effect, it feels very real and authentic. The supporting cast all do a good job in assisting Pacino, but make no mistake, he is the star of the show here.

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The direction from Sidney Lumet is fantastic as expected. It’s very well shot and edited, and it all feels very real and grounded, doing particularly well at setting itself in 1970s New York. The score also adds to the atmosphere, its quiet and mellow and really fits the movie quite well. I even like how the passage of time is conveyed through Serpico’s hair length.

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Serpico is a very well crafted biopic and crime drama. The story of its title character was compelling to watch, Sidney Lumet’s direction is great, and of course Al Pacino gives a phenomenal performance here, some of his very best work. I wouldn’t say it quite measures up to some of Lumet’s other movies like Dog Day Afternoon or 12 Angry Men, but it is still a great movie and one that is worth checking out.

Live and Let Die (1973) Review

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Live and Let Die

Time: 121 minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Roger Moore as James Bond
Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big
Jane Seymour as Solitaire
Director: Guy Hamilton

James Bond (Roger Moore) is sent to New York to investigate the mysterious deaths of British agents. On his journey he meets a voodoo master and a tarot card reader.

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After my rewatches of Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies, I’m now getting to the Roger Moore era of Bond. I remember very little about the Moore era movies outside of some distinct aspects in each, but I knew that the films definitely leaned more into camp. So I went into Live and Let Die not really sure what to expect, and I found myself rather disappointed in it.

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First of all, something you immediately notice is that Live and Let Die definitely takes advantage of the blaxploitation films of the 70s. However, it just really uses this aspect as a framework for the film, worst of all it doesn’t possess really any racial sensitivity. Pretty much every black character is done a disservice as the film struggles to not venture into racist caricatures. Definitely very outdated and questionable in its race (and gender) politics, however that’s not the main reason I’m down on Live and Let Die (though it makes it worse). Despite an initially interesting premise, the movie on the whole is rather boring and dull, with some bad pacing. I found the plot both confused and confusing, not much happens and the film feels way too long. This was surprising to me because I expected it to be consistently entertaining in its absurdity. It is certainly leaning towards camp, though there’s not as much as I thought there would be. It does have some enjoyably silly moments like Bond escaping from crocodiles and making use of gas pellets and his magnetic watch. However, there’s not enough of that to sustain my interest throughout, and not all the humour worked either. The point where I realised that I wasn’t enjoying this movie was a very long boat chase between Bond and some henchmen which was already disappointingly dull to watch. However most of that scene was following a random sheriff named J.W. Pepper who chases after them, which has to be one of the worst side characters I’ve seen in a while. It’s at that point where I realised that the film was really trying my patience.

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Live and Let Die is Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond and unfortunately he doesn’t leave much of an impression here. He is charismatic, quippy and can deliver the one liners but that’s all. He’s not believable in the part and was overall quite bland. Jane Seymour plays the main Bond girl named Solitaire, who does Tarot cards and apparently has fortune teller gifts. She works well enough in the movie and is initially intriguing. Yaphet Kotto plays the Bond villain Dr. Kananga, and he plays him very well. Unfortunately the film doesn’t do much with him despite his potential, he’s just given very little to do. With that being said, he is one of the more realistic Bond villains, given that he’s a drug lord trying to increase his business by putting more opium into the US, he’s not using his drug money to fund a death ray or anything similar. The movie makes better use of Kananga’s hook-armed henchman Tee Hee played by Julius Harris, who is quite memorable in his screentime.

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Guy Hamilton is the director and even though there are problems with the film, I think his work here is solid. There are some good action set pieces, a lot of the stunt chorography was entertaining, and the film makes great use of the locations. Also, arguably the most iconic part of the film is the main song Live and Let Die from Wings, really great song.

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Live and Let Die is unfortunately one of my least favourite Bond films. Even if you ignore the dated aspects (especially with the racial politics), the movie is just disappointingly dull despite the silliness of it. Worst of all, Roger Moore’s James Bond feels rather flat, and doesn’t leave an impression at all. There are some memorable side characters and entertaining moments, but I don’t really enjoy watching the movie altogether on the whole.

Mean Streets (1973) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as John “Johnny Boy” Civello
Harvey Keitel as Charlie Cappa
David Proval as Tony DeVienazo
Amy Robinson as Teresa Ronchelli
Richard Romanus as Michael Longo
Cesare Danova as Giovanni Cappa
Director: Martin Scorsese

A look at a group of small-time hoods and hustlers trying to make a living on the streets of New York. The story centers around Charlie (Harvey Keitel), a loan collector for a mobster named Giovanni (Cesare Danova). He can be pretty tough when he needs to but gets into trouble for cutting his friend Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) – also his girlfriend’s cousin – a bit too much slack. His girlfriend (Amy Robinson) is also a problem as she is epileptic and Giovanni, who genuinally cars about Charlie, wants him to dump her. As pressures mount, Charlie faces some difficult decisions with none of the possible outcomes to his liking.

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Although he’d film Who’s that Knocking at my Door and Boxcar Bertha beforehand, Mean Streets is the movie that got Martin Scorsese really noticed, and for very good reason. The raw yet energetic filmmaking is very impressive even today, and Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro more than shine in their roles here.

Mean Streets is Martin Scorsese’s first crime movie, and it’s not a bad first film for him to make in the genre. It feels like a very personal movie for Scorsese, the characters and the world feel real and the dialogue certainly sounded authentic. I personally wasn’t hugely invested in the characters, but I was more than willing to watch where they went next. The plot is a little loose and doesn’t have much of a focus or driving force (similar to Who’s that Knocking at My Door), but it works as that. The tension escalates slowly, culminating in a very memorable ending.

Often when it comes to people talking about Mean Streets, Harvey Keitel is overlooked by Robert De Niro but they’re equally as good. Keitel is really good as the main character Charlie, he’s pretty much in every single scene of the movie and the plot basically surrounds him and all the people he interacts with. Robert De Niro is the highlight performer however as Johnny Boy and steals every scene he’s in. He’s really volatile and filled with this chaotic unbound energy that can’t be tamed, one of the most standout performances of his career for that very reason alone. Charlie and Johnny Boy really feel like friends, while you can also feel the stress and frustration that the former feels as he keeps trying to keep the latter out of trouble (often to no avail). This was the first collaboration that De Niro had with Scorsese and it certainly wasn’t the last. The rest of the cast also work well for what they need to be but those previous two are the standouts.

Martin Scorsese’s direction even from his debut was shown to be good and he furthered that with Boxcar Bertha but he really has progressed with Mean Streets. Compared to a lot of his movies later on where the camera movement is largely smooth, some of the filming here was rough and handheld, but that actually worked for this movie. The budget was only $500,000 but he seemed to make great use of that because it’s a really good looking movie. The use of colour was also effective, especially with the prominent use of red in some scenes. The music was once again well picked, which is to be expected by Scorsese. There are just so many cinematic moments that stand out in this movie, from the opening scene of Be My Baby by The Ronettes, to Johnny Boy’s entrance into a club set to Jumping Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, to a fight in a pool hall and so on.

Mean Streets is rough around the edges, but it’s raw, full of energy, and a showcase for what Scorsese can do behind the camera. Additionally, the acting is great, with Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro really shining in their roles. Definitely essential viewing especially if you’re looking to watch a lot of his movies. Sure, it’s not one of his best movies, or even one of his best crime movies, but it is for sure one of his most important films.

The Exorcist (1973) Review

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The Exorcist

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror, Violence, Sex Scenes and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin
Jason Miller as Father/Dr. Damien Karras S.J.
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
Lee J. Cobb as Lieutenant William F. Kinderman
Jack MacGowran as Burke Dennings
Director: William Friedkin

An actress (Ellen Burstyn) calls upon Jesuit priests to try to end the demonic possession of her 12-year-old daughter (Linda Blair).

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I’ll just say this right now, there was never a moment during The Exorcist where I felt scared. To be fair though, there have been only two movies that have scared me (Sinister and The Babadook). I’m just mentioning this at the beginning of the review because despite Exorcist being crowned as the scariest movie of all time, I didn’t feel anything scary at all. With that said, The Exorcist is still worth the praise for the direction and acting. It took this possession story as seriously as possible and makes it seem somewhat possible (mostly), and it definitely has its place in cinematic history. It just seems like I’m one of the rare few people who don’t find The Exorcist to be that scary.

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When you go into The Exorcist, don’t expect a jumpscare kind of movie, this is more of a tension filled horror movie, at least in terms of the direction it was going in. This movie is quite drawn out, so also be prepared to be waiting for a little while before the actual possession and ‘scares’ start to happen. As I said earlier, the movie just flat out didn’t scare me. I don’t know why, it’s more tension filled horror, which I usually like more (like the Babadook) but I just didn’t really care much about this plot. It’s also not a good sign when this movie does have some laughable moments, particularly with possessed Regan. The pictures of her were honestly scarier than the actual scenes of her. Even though I wasn’t scared during them, I still maintain the scenes with possessed Regan are the best and when it cuts away from them, the movie is still interesting, they just weren’t as interesting as those other scenes.

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Despite my issues with the movie, I will say the acting does hold up quite well. Actors like Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller performed very well and took their roles very seriously. I think the show stealer however was Linda Blair, who did very well both when she was and wasn’t possessed, however it was obvisouly the latter aspect that impressed me the most. My issues with her character when she was possessed came mostly from the writing, and even in those ‘odd’ moments, Blair played her part magnificently.

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As I said earlier, this movie didn’t scare me but there’s no denying that the direction of this movie is excellent. The makeup, lighting and overall direction of the movie made the idea of a possessed girl seem somehow plausible. I think the look on possessed Regan was absolutely fantastic, it looked somehow realistic, much more so than most possession movies of today. All the scenes with her were beautifully directed, which is one of the reasons that I liked them more than the scenes without possessed Regan. After seeing this movie, I can at least appreciate and understand why this movie was such a hit, it was ahead of its time.

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If you are into horror movies and haven’t seen The Exorcist, you definitely should check it out as soon as possible. The fantastic direction and performances really make the viewing worth it, and the film had a tremendous effect on the horror genre in general. Even if this movie doesn’t hold up well as a horror movie today in my opinion, it should be seen for how well made it is. Just don’t go into it expecting the horror masterpiece that everyone claims it to be, or you might be a little disappointed like I was.