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The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

X-Men The Last Stand (2006) Review

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X-Men The Last Stand

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix/Dark Phoenix
Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue
Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce/Pyro
Vinnie Jones as Cain Marko/Juggernaut
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Director: Brett Ratner

The discovery of a cure for mutations leads to a turning point for Mutants (Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Kelsey Grammer). They may now choose to give up their powers and become fully human or retain their uniqueness and remain isolated. War looms between the followers of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who preaches tolerance, and those of Magneto (Ian McKellen), who advocates survival of the fittest.

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X Men: The Last Stand has gotten the reputation of being the worst X Men movie and I think that’s a little ridiculous (X-Men: Origins Wolverine was clearly much worse). But even if it is one of the worse X-Men movies, it’s still not as bad as many others are making it out to be. The main flaw was aspects of the story and direction, it could’ve been so much more and Bryan Singer’s absence can be definitely noticed. However I still think there’s still enough aspects that make it an above average movie.

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One thing that this film does is raise the stakes, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. An example of the latter is when the film does kill off characters, I’ve noticed a lot of complaints are aimed towards those moments. While I didn’t feel anything when these deaths happened (which is probably a flaw in the X Men movies as a whole), these deaths felt unnecessary. I guess it was because Fox thought that this would be the last X Men movie, so they tried to raise the stakes. But it felt so forced and unnecessary. A big complaint that many had was the execution of the Phoenix storyline, as I haven’t read the comics I don’t really know the differences. So I can’t really comment on that. I will say that I thought it was fine but it didn’t reach its fullest potential. The final act of the movie is a big mutants against mutants fight and I personally thought that was enjoyable to see.

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The cast was again good in their role, with Hugh Jackman of course stealing the show. Some of the additions to the cast were great, for example I loved what they did with Kelsey Grammer’s Beast. One flaw that I have acknowledged was the fact that so many new mutants are introduced and nothing is done with them. Vinnie Jones for example plays the Juggernaut, he was really entertaining (in a funny way, not in a badass way) in his 2 scenes but didn’t add anything. Ben Foster’s Angel didn’t do much either, his character was in the first scene of the movie but he’s only in a few scenes.

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The special effects are as usual good, they are on the same level as the other X Men movies. Even if you don’t like the movie, there’s no denying that there are many visually great moments. One example is in the final act involving the Golden Gate Bridge. The final action scenes was great and after seeing small groups of mutants fighting other groups of mutants (or in the case of X2, human soldiers) it felt so exciting and refreshing to see a great mutant on mutant war.

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I don’t really get a whole lot of the hate for X Men 3. Sure it doesn’t hold up to the previous movies but it still holds up as a decent movie. The action is still good, the actors do reasonably well and I liked aspects of the direction in the story. The main flaw is in the story, there are so many parts of the movie that could’ve been improved. I felt like Brett Ratner might’ve been the main flaw, Bryan Singer skipped this movie for Superman Returns (great choice by the way), and given Ratner’s track record, it’s easy to see why this movie would fail. The Last Stand is by no means a great movie but it isn’t a bad movie either.

X2: X Men United (2003) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn as Raven Darkholme/Mystique
Brian Cox as Col. William Stryker
Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison as Sen. Robert Kelly
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce/Pyro
Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama/Lady Deathstrike
Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue
Director: Bryan Singer

After the events on Liberty Island, everyone at Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) School for Gifted Youngsters is settling in. Magneto (Ian McKellen) is locked up in a plastic cell, Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) have finally gotten together, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has set off to find his origins. But it won’t stay quiet for long. After a mutant attack on the President, everyone starts to fear any type of mutant. William Stryker (Brian Cox), who plans to stop all mutants, takes over the school, causing Wolverine and his team of mutants to go into hiding. Stryker has managed to capture Xavier and will use him to create another version of Cerebro. Wolverine and the team must now team up with their enemy, Magneto, to stop Stryker before it’s too late.

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X Men was a pretty good movie and was one of the movies that brought back the superhero genre. Director Bryan Singer returns to deliver an even better X Men movie. With more characters, more development of the characters and a plot which isn’t just a rehash of the original, X Men 2 proves to be even better than the original. It’s still not the best X Men movie but it is the best of the original trilogy.

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I really liked the aspect of the X Men teaming up with Magneto, it would be so easy just to have them as enemies for the sequel but this time around it gives us something different. I also liked the pacing better here, while I did like the previous X Men, after watching it again I noticed that the pacing was a little slower, now that the characters are (mostly) established I think Singer could afford to have a faster pace. This also meant that more of the characters could be developed (at least a little bit). Once of the main criticisms of the first film was that aside from some characters (such as Wolverine, Rogue and Magneto) most of the characters were underdeveloped. Although I can’t call all of them fully developed (Especially Cyclops and Mystique) the film at least showed more aspects of them.

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All the actors from the previous movie return and once again are good in their roles, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and the rest of the cast are really good but Hugh Jackman as usual steals the show as Wolverine, it’s hard imagining anyone else in his role. Brian Cox I thought did a pretty good job as the main villain, who has a lot of history with Wolverine. Alan Cumming Nightcrawler was a nice addition to the X Men, I’m actually surprised that he didn’t return for the sequel. As I said before, more of the characters are given more depth and I started to like them more, with the exception of Cyclops who doesn’t show up a lot in the movie.

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The action scenes once again are well filmed and there are much more of them as there is much more going on in the story. Highlights of the film for me were the opening scenes with Nightcrawler and the fight scenes between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike at the end of the movie. The soundtrack again was really good and added to the movie.

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X Men 2 is for me a better movie than the original X Men. That film was a good set up to the X Men, while X Men 2 was a great X Men movie. It’s still not the best X Men movie but it’s the best X Men film of the original trilogy. It has the best action scenes, it has the best story and it used the characters the best. It’s not a perfect movie, looking back at it not all of the characters are fully developed but it is an improvement over the first film.

X-Men (2000)

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X-Men

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier
Ian McKellen as Eric Lensherr/Magneto
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Anna Paquin as Rogue/Marie
Tyler Mane as Sabretooth
Ray Park as Toad
Rebecca Romijn as Mystique
Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly
Director: Bryan Singer

Unique power-possessing mutants live in a world where their kind is hated by humans. Two mutants emerge: Logan (Hugh Jackman), a powerful and aggressive mutant with no past, no memories, and a girl, Rogue (Anna Paquin). Their quests for identities eventually land them in the sights of the fellow mutants and former friends, Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto (Ian McKellan), and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Xavier wants a peaceful means of stopping the hatred toward mutants, while Magneto seeks to even things out with a machine that would speed up the mutation process in all humans. Xavier brings together a special group of mutants called “X-Men” to stop him.

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Superhero movies were very successful (and are still successful today) but in the 90s, superhero movies have started going down the drain, with movies like Batman and Robin, The Phantom and many others failing miserably. In the early 2000s though, some superhero movies started to become good and helped bring the genre back to praise. X-Men is one of these movies that helped the superhero genre do this and although I wouldn’t put it among my top 10 best superhero movies, it is still a decent movie on its own.

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Unlike some of the other comic book movies at the time, X-Men manages to be grounded in reality; the only parts that you have to really suspend your disbelief are that all these mutations could lead to super powers. The story is quite simple but it is effective. I do feel that apart from some characters like Wolverine, Rouge and Magneto, there weren’t a lot of characters that had a lot of personality or depth; this is particular with the villains (with the exception of Magneto).

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The standout performance in this movie is Hugh Jackman; he manages to bring out so much of his character. Patrick Stewart is also well cast as the wise Professor X and makes his lines convincing. Anna Paquin plays Rogue, a mutant who can’t touch a human being without harming them and she is quite good in the role; I know that a lot of people don’t share the same opinion as I have heard that she’s not like how she is in the comics. Ian McKellen was really good as Magneto, he’s one of those villain characters you can understand why they do what they are doing; he seemed human. Apart from these actors, the others do pretty well in their roles with what they got, however like I said, a lot of these characters don’t have much personality traits, especially the villains. Mystique was great in her fighting and transformation scenes, Sabretooth was a brute that didn’t really say anything and Toad, I still wonder why he was chosen as one of Magneto’s henchmen, he seemed the wrong choice. They looked good on screen and in action scenes but I can’t think of any personality trait that these characters showed; their personalities are set to ‘Villain Henchmen’ mode.

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The special effects were pretty good and were well used to show the abilities of the mutants. The action was also well filmed, particularly with the fight scenes, which the film had quite a lot of. The soundtrack by John Ottman was pretty good, if not as memorable as some other scores for other superhero movies.

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X-Men isn’t the best superhero movie ever made but it is an enjoyable movie to watch. In any case, it deserves recognition for being some of the movies that brought back the superhero movies in the early 2000s. Bryan Singer successfully brought the X-Men to the big screen the best way possible. It is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.