Tag Archives: Harvey Keitel

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Review

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sexual references & nudity
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H.
Tony Revolori as Zero Moustafa
F. Murray Abraham as Mr. Moustafa
Adrien Brody as Dmitri
Willem Dafoe as J. G. Jopling
Saoirse Ronan as Agatha
Tilda Swinton as Madame D.
Edward Norton as Albert Henckels
Mathieu Amalric as Serge X
Jeff Goldblum as Kovacs
Harvey Keitel as Ludwig
Tom Wilkinson as Author
Jude Law as the Young Writer
Bill Murray as M. Ivan
Jason Schwartzman as M. Jean
Léa Seydoux as Clotilde
Owen Wilson as M. Chuck
Director: Wes Anderson

Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge, is wrongly framed for murder at the Grand Budapest Hotel. In the process of proving his innocence, he befriends a lobby boy (Tony Revolori).

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I remember The Grand Budapest Hotel as being one of the earlier movies I saw from Wes Anderson, and it was the first movie from him I watched in the cinema. I had previously seen Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom and while I liked them when I saw them for the first time, I wasn’t really into his work that much. I remember the experience in the cinema back in 2014 watching it because I found myself surprised at just how much I loved it. A rewatch upon watching all of Wes’s movies only confirms to me that it is his best, an unbelievably delightful and charming movie that entertains from beginning to end.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel’s screenplay is again written by Wes Anderson, and I have to say that it has to be one of his most polished and complete works, if not his most. This movie is one of the select number of films which I can say I found genuinely enthralling. Wes Anderson’s strongest movies with the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore had me interested generally throughout. However, The Grand Budapest Hotel had me invested from beginning to end and was endlessly entertaining. The movie feels completely original, and the story is heartfelt and endearing, features quirky and entertaining characters, and some unique and hilarious comedy. The dialogue was great, quick witted and memorable, and it’s perfectly paced across its 100 minute runtime. The plot itself is intricate but never confusing, and is also the largest scale movie from Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel really gives you a sense of adventure and escapism, while also having melancholic and darker qualities and themes that you don’t expect at first.

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Wes Anderson is known for his massive and talented ensemble cast, but this may well be his biggest cast to date, and that’s saying a lot. Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H. gives not only one of his best performances of his career, but one of the best performances from a Wes Anderson movie. He’s charismatic, his line delivery is absolutely perfect, he really does handle the dry humour perfectly and fully portrays his well written and memorable character. Tony Revolori is also one of the leads and shouldn’t be overlooked, he’s really great too and shares great on screen chemistry with Fiennes. There was quite a supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux and Owen Wilson. Everyone is great in their parts and make themselves stand out in their respective scenes, even if they are in just 1 or 2 scenes.

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Wes Anderson’s direction is phenomenal, even when compared to all his past work. His style is instantly recognisable once the movie begins. The cinematography is beautiful and vibrant. It is said with some movies that every shot could be framed as a painting, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those movies. The changing of the aspect ratios was also effective, moving to 4:3 for most of the film. The production design and costume design were outstanding too. The score by Alexandre Desplat is unique and amazing, and it really fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is an enthralling and delightful adventure, perfectly written and directed by Wes Anderson, and features an outstanding ensemble of great performances. It’s like he took everything great from his past movies and put it all in here with this one. Having gone through his entire filmography, I can say with confidence that this may well be his magnum opus. It is also firmly one of my favourite movies, especially from the 2010s. It’s an essential watch for sure, and also a great place to start with Wes Anderson if you haven’t seen any of his movies before.

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.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) Review

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Willem Dafoe as Jesus
Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot
Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene
Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul of Tarsus
David Bowie as Pontius Pilate
Director: Martin Scorsese

Jesus (Willem Dafoe), a humble Judean carpenter beginning to see that he is the son of God, is drawn into revolutionary action against the Roman occupiers by Judas (Harvey Keitel) — despite his protestations that love, not violence, is the path to salvation. The burden of being the savior of mankind torments Jesus throughout his life, leading him to doubt. As he is put to death on the cross, Jesus is tempted by visions of an ordinary life married to Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey).

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I heard about The Last Temptation of Christ for some time, mainly that Martin Scorsese directed it and that it was really controversial when it was released. I really had no clue what to expect going in. I like Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel, and of course I’m a fan of Martin Scorsese. However with the story that has already been done many times before, I didn’t really know what Scorsese would really do with it. I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but it really was fantastic.

The Last Temptation of Christ was actually based on a novel of the same name, which in itself was already pretty controversial. There have been plenty of movies about Jesus, so I wondered what would make this one stand out. The film actually begins with a preface that it’s not based on the gospels and not necessarily biblically based, so you should probably know that going in. The thing that immediately got my interest was the more human take on Jesus, he’s even started out not really sure if he’s truly the son of god, and he’s very much a flawed person, like most people are. I can tell that for some people that would be a deal breaker but if anything for me, that’s what got me on board with the movie from the beginning. This whole movie is a character study following him, and I was invested throughout. Then there’s the last 30 minutes to an hour of the movie which was probably the most controversial part to a lot of religious people at the time. For those who don’t know about that section, I won’t reveal it, but it’s not like The Passion of the Christ where it’s from a bunch of endlessly violent scenes (even though this movie does have some violent scenes). It also never feels like it’s being controversial for the sake of controversy. It’s mainly the exploration of Jesus as a human being, and I found that compelling. This is quite a long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes, so you have to prepare yourself for that. Thankfully I was wrapped up with what was happening, but if you aren’t invested early on, it might be a bit of a chore to get through.

Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ does seem like an odd casting for many reasons, but I have to say that his performance here as the conflicted Jesus is amongst his best work. He’s the main lead of the movie, and the movie relied heavily on him working, and thankfully he brought this performance to life and really anchors the whole movie. The most prominent supporting actor is Harvey Keitel who plays Judas, and it’s a different portrayal of him than most are used to. Yes, Keitel is playing the only Brooklyn Judas (and he keeps his accent) and with that he seems a little out of place at times, but he acts his part really well. The rest of the cast do well, including Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, Harry Dean Stanton as Saul/Paul of Tarsus, and David Bowie in a surprise one scene appearance as Pontius Pilate. Now there comes the obvious when it comes to the casting, the Romans sound like Brits and the Hebrews like New Yorkers. While that’s definitely distracting at first, it’s definitely an intentional choice that paid off in the end.

Martin Scorsese directed this excellently as he usually does. For a budget of 7 million dollars, this movie really looks outstanding and still holds up over 3 decades later. The cinematography is stunning, and the production design and costume design is fantastic. Overall on a technical level, it’s really great.

The Last Temptation of Christ is outstanding and one of Martin Scorsese’s finest films. Scorsese’s direction was excellent, the acting was great (particularly Willem Dafoe), and Scorsese’s take on the story is thought provoking and effectively emotional. Even if you’re not interested in religion or the topics, I think there’s a lot that you can appreciate about it, even if it’s just on a technical and acting level. However there’s a compelling story at the heart of it that I’m sure most people can connect with.

Taxi Driver (1976) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensma
Cybill Shepherd as Betsy
Harvey Keitel as Charles “Sport” Rain/”Matthew”
Albert Brooks as Tom
Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine
Peter Boyle as “Wizard”
Director: Martin Scorsese

Taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. In nearly every phase of his life, he remains a complete outsider, failing to make emotional contact with anyone. He’s a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy (Cybil Shepherd), a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Sport (Harvey Keitel).

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Martin Scorsese at this point in his career had shown himself to be quite a good director, after his first two movies with him starting off, he then progressed a lot more to deliver some very good films with Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here. After those movies however came Martin Scorsese’s first masterpiece with Taxi Driver. Over 4 decades later it’s still an absolute classic and absolutely holds up.

Paul Schrader’s script for Taxi Driver is fantastic, with some great dialogue and overall is just really well constructed. The movie is just under a couple hours long, I guess it slowed down in parts, but I was invested throughout the entire runtime. The thing that really drives the movie is the main character, and his journey and descent; it’s much more of a character driven sort of movie than a plot focussed one. The lead character of Travis Bickle is one of the most fascinating protagonists I’ve seen in a movie. One of the things that make him so compelling especially with discussions of the movie is that everyone has their own thoughts about him. Some see him as a flawed anti-hero that is trying his best to do the right thing, others see him as an unstable psychopath and a time bomb waiting to go off. Taxi Driver puts you really inside his head and it really is seen through his perspective, and it made me uncomfortable being stuck there, so I think it did it’s job. The movie is definitely not necessarily endorsing his actions, even if there’s not active character saying that they are wrong. It’s a cautionary tale about violence, and thematically it really was ahead of its time, it’s still quite relevant today even. The most recent viewing was the 3rd time I saw it, and there are plenty of details that I picked up on repeat viewings. This film can be seen in many different ways, especially the final scenes. The ending definitely leaves room for many different interpretations, as this is definitely a movie with an unreliable narrator.

Robert De Niro is at his best here, embodying the character of Travis Bickle completely. He does well at being very deranged and unstable in an effectively subtle way. The narration throughout the movie could’ve just been exposition and an easy way for audiences to hear his thoughts, but it really works here as it’s like we’re trapped in his head with him, as this dialogue is what he’s writing in his diary. No matter what Bickle does, you can’t stop watching him. Personally I think it’s best for you to go into the movie and decide for yourself what you think of him. A fantastic performance and character. The supporting cast don’t get a ton of screentime, but they nonetheless do add quite a lot to the movie. Jodie Foster here is in one of her early roles as the underage prostitute that Travis eventually comes across, and she is really good. Other actors like Cybil Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Harvey Keitel also do great in their parts. Even Martin Scorsese is effectively unsettling (intentionally) in a one scene role, as a very disturbed passenger that Travis Bickle encounters during his job.

It’s no surprise that Martin Scorsese’s direction is fantastic, his work here on this movie is timeless. It’s got such a great look throughout but it really shines during the night time moments, I really can’t get over the use of colour. Scorsese perfectly captures New York City, really giving it a dirty feel throughout the movie. Throughout the movie you really get this feeling of disconnection and loneliness, just like how Travis Bickle is feeling throughout. Overall this movie has been really well put together. The score by Bernard Hermann (which is also worth noting is his final score) is great, ranging from calm and jazzy to intense and screeching, and had a bit of a sleezy tone that fits perfectly with the film.

Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie and still holds up extremely well today. Martin Scorsese’s direction is pretty much perfect, Paul Schrader’s screenplay is very well written and constructed, and Robert De Niro is absolutely outstanding here. There’s honestly not much more that I can say that hasn’t been said already, hence why this review isn’t longer or more in depth. Much of the gratness must be experienced for yourself. Absolute essential viewing.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ellen Burstyn as Alice Hyatt
Alfred Lutter as Tommy Hyatt
Kris Kristofferson as David
Diane Ladd as Florence Jean Castleberry
Jodie Foster as Audrey
Harvey Keitel as Ben
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) is suddenly widowed after years of domesticity, she decides to travel to Monterey, California with her 11-year-old son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) to resume a singing career. In Phoenix, Arizona she gets a job singing at a piano bar and begins a relationship with Ben (Harvey Keitel), who turns out to be married and a spouse abuser. In Tucson, she puts her dream of singing on hold and becomes a waitress. She meets a farmer, David (Kris Kristofferson), and begins to think about a new life of domesticity.

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Fresh off the success with Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese would take on a different kind of movie that he’s not typically known for with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. It’s a genuine family drama that’s well written and directed, with the excellent lead performance from Ellen Burstyn that ties it all together and makes it all work.

The script by Robert Getchell was really great. The plot follows Alice and her son as they go from place to place. The plot meanders for sure, and occasionally it may have the odd section not being that interesting but otherwise I was generally invested throughout. There is plenty of emotion packed into this movie, but it’s delivered in a way that feels gritty and genuinely real. The more humorous moments bar a number of gags surrounding one character also fit in well with the movie. It is a movie where you just watch the main characters live their lives, and most of it held my attention.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is really Ellen Burstyn’s movie as the titular character. She is great and although I haven’t seen a ton from her, I think it would have to be one of her best performances. The film gives Alice a ton of depth throughout the plot, and she’s very easy to like and understand over the course of the whole movie, especially given everything she has to handle and deal with. This remains the only female led Scorsese film to date, and given how well this turned out, I’d like to see him do another. Alfred Lutter is Alice’s son Tommy, and I’ll just go ahead and say that he’s one of the most annoying child characters I’ve seen, but I guess he was intentionally annoying. They are convincing as mother and son and share great chemistry together. The rest of the cast play much smaller roles but their strong and memorable and work well in the movie. Diane Ladd plays a waitress who provided a lot of effective comic relief whenever she was on screen. Harvey Keitel also has a small role as a man who Alice becomes interested in at an early point, he’s good as always and especially great and very intense in his last scene. Kris Kristofferson also added a lot to the movie when he came on screen in the latter half of the movie. You even get Jodie Foster in a minor role here before she starred in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. There are only couple of weak links when it comes to the characters. One is the husband character at the start of the movie, you don’t really like anything about him and then he just dies. I know that Scorsese originally had a longer cut where it fleshed him out more beforehand, but given that the movie is about the mother and son dynamic really, I guess maybe it’s just better how it is. There’s also another waitress character used for comedy in Valerie Curtin’s character, but she’s just used as the butt of so many jokes and it just really didn’t work. She didn’t even really feel like a character and they could’ve done without creating so many unfunny jokes scenarios surrounding her, it distracted more than anything and belonged in a way worse movie than this.

With this movie being a family drama, Martin Scorsese’s direction doesn’t really provide many opportunities to be showy, but it’s still great and fittingly restrained. There were even some shots, camera movements and editing choices at times that you really noticed and helped make the scenes even better. He really captured the story very well.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a solid family drama, with the performances being the highlights, especially from Ellen Burstyn. Now if you were starting off with the aim of watching a bunch of Martin Scorsese movies, I wouldn’t necessarily say to start with this one. However in any circumstance, I do think it’s worth watching, even just on its own. It’s one of his overlooked movies that definitely should be getting a lot more attention.

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.

Who’s that Knocking at My Door (1967) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Cast:
Zina Bethune as Girl
Harvey Keitel as J.R.
Director: Martin Scorsese

Exploring themes of Catholic guilt similar to those in Martin Scorsese’s later film Mean Streets, the story follows Italian-American J.R. (Harvey Keitel) as he struggles to accept the secret hidden by his independent and free-spirited girlfriend (Zina Bethune).

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With The Irishman coming soon, I wanted to watch/re-watch many of director Martin Scorsese’s movies, including his feature films that I haven’t seen yet. Who’s that Knocking at My Door is his first ever movie, and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I decided to start from there. I wasn’t expecting much going into it, and indeed I guess you could call it one of his ’weakest’ movies, but there’s still a lot of solid parts to it.

I guess one of the problems of Who’s that Knocking at My Door is that it’s a little unfocussed, it wasn’t too much of a problem for me as for much of the movie I could follow along with where it was going. However occasionally, there were portions of the movie which weren’t really going anywhere. With that said, this movie is an hour and a half long, so it doesn’t really overstay it’s welcome. The big turn of the movie happens in like last third of the movie, so if you heard what the plot is really about and the big ‘reveal’, you may just be sitting around waiting for that moment to come. I was just watching Keitel’s character interacting with his friends and with his girlfriend, and I was fine enough with that. You need to know that first and foremost that this film is dialogue driven. Thankfully the dialogue works really well, it feels very realistic, and indeed the script was written by Scorsese himself. Characters are often talking about things that aren’t necessarily relevant to the plot or anything that furthers it, whether it be about movies, John Wayne or whatever, but it makes them feel more real and naturalistic. The highlights were of course the interactions between the two main leads, especially their first scene feeling particularly authentic. Even the scenes of R.J. (Harvey Keitel) with his friends felt very genuine. The movie also involves Catholic guilt as one of the main themes, which is something that would appear quite a lot in Scorsese’s other movies. Without revealing too much (who don’t know about them already), some of the themes explored later in the movie might not be impressive by today’s standard, but for 1967 the subject matter is actually handled quite well and ahead of its time really.

There isn’t a huge cast, but the acting is pretty good. Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune are the leads, and they are believable in their roles. It is definitely helped by the naturalistic dialogue, but they delivered it so well and are very convincing. For Keitel, his lead character of J.R. almost sets up the kind of archetypical character that Scorsese would create and explore in films like Mean Streets, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. Bethune was also really good in here too as the unnamed girlfriend, and some of the decisions made with her character in the latter part of the movie I thought were done well.

It’s Martin Scorsese’s first film, so you’re definitely not going to expect him at the top of his game here, but he nonetheless does a solid job. Definitely low budget ($75,000 to be exact) but for a student film it’s actually pretty good, and the black and white seemed to fit the rest of the movie. Interesting fact, Scorsese could only get the distribution by someone who worked with exploitation movies by agreeing to the condition to feature a sex scene to give the film sex exploitation angles for marketing purposes. Indeed there is a gratuitous sex scene here but he managed to film it well as a fantasy sequence that fitted into the movie perfectly here, even if the movie is perfectly functional without it. Something that Scorsese demonstrated with his debut was his excellent use of songs and fitting them perfectly with scenes. From the opening of Jenny Take a Ride to The Doors’ The End being played over the aforementioned exploitation sex scenes, all of the music choices added a ton to the scenes that they were placed in. The editing was also pretty solid by Thelma Schoonmaker, and you can see why she and Scorsese would continue to work together for quite a long time. A lot of the transitions and cuts just feel perfect for the moments. The movie definitely has an experimental feel to it, and while it is very rough, it does make it interesting to watch.

Who’s that Knocking at My Door is a decent debut, despite how unfocussed it can be, Scorsese even from this first movie showed himself to be a real talent and Keitel and Bethune ultimately carry much of the movie. I guess it’s not really essential viewing by any means, but if you’re a fan of Scorsese I’d say that it might be worth checking out.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Review

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence
Cast:
George Clooney as Seth Gecko
Quentin Tarantino as Richard “Richie” Gecko
Harvey Keitel as Jacob Fuller
Juliette Lewis as Katherine Fuller
Ernest Liu as Scott Fuller
Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium
Cheech Marin as Border Guard/Chet Pussy/Carlos
Danny Trejo as Razor Charlie
Tom Savini as Sex Machine
Director: Robert Rodriguez

On the run from a bank robbery that left several police officers dead, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his paranoid, loose-cannon brother, Richard (Quentin Tarantino), hightail it to the Mexican border. Kidnapping preacher Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his kids, the criminals sneak across the border in the family’s RV and hole up in a topless bar. Unfortunately, the bar also happens to be home base for a gang of vampires, and the brothers and their hostages have to fight their way out.

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I remember watching From Dusk Till Dawn years ago, it had a big reputation for starting off as a crime movie and then halfway through turns into a bloodbath of a vampire movie. It wasn’t that much of a surprise to me, I knew that going in. And in knowing that, it really worked for me and was a very entertaining movie. It’s a violent and bloody grindhouse/B movie that’s a lot of fun.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a very B movie and it wholeheartedly embraces that. As I said, From Dusk Till Dawn is known for basically being two halves of very different movies. The first half is a violent crime movie (probably a typical Tarantino crime film) following the Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) as they take a family hostage. The second half is a bloodbath of a vampire movie. I guess I would hide this as for some it was an absolute surprise but its practically a well known fact at this point that it’s not really worth it. As for which half you’ll prefer, I don’t really know. I will say that going in I was more expecting the vampire movie, so I was kind of waiting for that section to come up for a while. Quentin Tarantino wrote the script and you can really feel like it’s his writing throughout, especially with the dialogue. In a way, Tarantino’s writing and Rodriguez’s direction were a perfect match for this kind of story.

The cast for the most part does well. George Clooney gives quite possibly my favourite performance of his. Gone is the charismatic and charming Clooney that would be appear in even his criminal roles like Danny Ocean, here he is a straight up ruthless criminal who still remains likable despite it. Quentin Tarantino despite being a very talented writer and director does get a bit of a bad wrap when it comes to his acting, especially in this movie. I personally think he was actually alright here, no he’s not really that great of an actor but his character Richard Gecko who’s an unstable psychopath, he pulls it off well enough. Maybe other actors could play the part and do it better but he does the job okay. The hostage family is played by Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu, who really play the only redeemable characters in the whole movie, and they did quite well (although Liu is a cut below Keitel and Lewis). We do get some other actors in smaller roles but do their part to stand out, with Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin and Tom Savini being some of them. And of course we have Salma Hayek, who is only in a couple scenes but is one of the most memorable parts of the movie (granted its mostly because of a dance she does around the halfway point but still).

Robert Rodriguez directs this movie, and as typical of (non Spy Kids) Rodriguez, the action is entertaining and really bloody. Early on, when the violence is present, its bloody but it’s kind of disturbing at the same time. In the vampire segment however, it goes really over the top with the gore and its just really entertaining to watch. There is a lot of practical effects used for the gore and its very creative and impressive. These representations of vampires aren’t the Dracula kind of vampires, these are the absolutely grotesque and monstrous kind of vampires. The reason that this movie didn’t get an NC-17 rating is that they turned the vampire blood from red to green, and I guess it worked (and made it stand apart from the other representations of vampires even more).

From Dusk Till Dawn probably isn’t for everyone. The switch from crime to horror in the halfway point did put off some people, you might end up digging one segment much more than the other, I can’t say for certain. If you’re up for a weird and violent action horror movie written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez however, I’d say give it a go.

Isle of Dogs (2018) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence and Coarse Language
Cast:
Bryan Cranston as Chief
Koyu Rankin as Atari Kobayashi
Edward Norton as Rex
Bob Balaban as King
Bill Murray as Boss
Jeff Goldblum as Duke
Kunichi Nomura as Mayor Kobayashi
Akira Takayama as Major Domo
Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker
Frances McDormand as Interpreter Nelson
Akira Ito as Professor Watanabe
Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg
Harvey Keitel as Gondo
F. Murray Abraham as Jupiter
Yoko Ono as Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono
Tilda Swinton as Oracle
Ken Watanabe as Head Surgeon
Mari Natsuki as Auntie
Fisher Stevens as Scrap
Nijiro Murakami as Editor Hiroshi
Liev Schreiber as Spots
Courtney B. Vance as the narrator
Yojiro Noda as News Anchor
Frank Wood as Simul-Translate Machine
Director: Wes Anderson

When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

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I was looking forward to Isle of Dogs, it was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. For whatever reason, I’ve been having to wait for this film to release here when it was already released a couple months prior everywhere else, however it’s finally here. I’ve seen a few films from Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom) and I liked what I’ve seen from him. With this being the second time he stop motion animated a movie (with the first being Fantastic Mr Fox), I was confident that this would be a solid movie, and that it was. It was pretty much what I expected and maybe a little bit more.

Isle of Dogs is an hour and 40 minutes long and from start to finish I was entertained. You can tell that it is definitely a Wes Anderson story. It has a very unique and original story with quirky characters, deadpan humour which is really funny and unique and is just entertaining overall. I didn’t really have too many faults with it, though there might’ve been a slight overuse of flashbacks, which does halt the story at times. Also some places and characters that the film at times cuts to (AKA characters that aren’t the main characters) really weren’t as interesting as the main storyline/characters. Isle of Dogs is kind of a kids movie, though it does go a little unexpectedly dark at times, so if you have some kids thinking that they’re going in expecting a cute film about a bunch of talking dogs, let’s just say that it won’t be what they are expecting. Aside from some minor faults, Isle of Dogs has a pretty solid story.

There is a lot of voice actors involved (Wes Anderson always seems to have a large and talented cast in his films). Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber and much more consist of the voice cast, and they all did good jobs as their characters, with Cranston being a particular standout.

As I said, this is the second time that Wes Anderson has directed a stop motion animated movie and once again he did a great job. Fantastic Mr Fox was good, but his handling of stop motion animation was even better here with Isle of Dogs, it is a great looking film. Also on top of the movie feeling like a Wes Anderson written movie, it also feels like a Wes Anderson directed movie. Everything from the framing, camera position, editing, everything here really feels like his film. Now if you’re not familiar with Wes Anderson’s style in his films, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s really difficult to describe because you can’t compare his movies to anyone else’s. If you haven’t seen any of his movies before, I do recommend giving this a go. If you can’t get into Wes Anderson’s other movies because of his style, chances are Isle of Dogs won’t win you over. There was an interesting decision made, all the dialogue from the dogs are in English, however most of the dialogue by the humans are in Japanese, and a significant amount of it isn’t translated into English. It works most of the time to show the language barrier, but I only say that it works most of the time because often times someone else has to translate what they are saying in English because some of the dialogue contains plot details that we the audience need to know. The film tries to have a mix of untranslated dialogue that we don’t hear (and yet convey the message visually so we still understand what’s going on) while having English exposition explaining everything to us and it didn’t quite work as well as I think it was intended to. I think it would’ve been better sticking with one way, whether that be all human dialogue in Japanese, Japanese dialogue with subtitles or all the dialogue in English, because it felt jarring when they kept changing their method of human dialogue. It’s not a major flaw with the movie, just something that stands out that is worth addressing.

On the whole, Isle of Dogs really worked well. It was entertaining, I could get invested in the story and I just enjoyed watching it from start to finish. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, I think you’ll definitely dig this. If you haven’t seen any of his movies before, I’d say that Isle of Dogs is a good place to start with his movies. His films may not appeal to everyone but I recommend giving it a go at the very least.

Red Dragon (2002) Review

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Red Dragon

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror Scenes and Violence
Cast:
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter
Edward Norton as Will Graham
Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde
Emily Watson as Reba McClane
Harvey Keitel as Jack Crawford
Mary-Louise Parker as Molly Graham
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Freddy Lounds
Director: Brett Ratner

A set of grisly murders brings FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) out of retirement and puts him in search of an atrocious killer (Ralph Fiennes) who’s driven by the image of a painting. Yet his only means of survival and success are to seek the help of another madman, whom he himself captured, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Marked by past scars and quickly running out of time, Graham finds himself tangled in a heap of madness, sacrificing his work, his family, and above all his own life, to put an end to pure evil.

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When people think of great Hannibal Lecter movies, most people think of Silence of the Lambs and in the case of lesser Lecter films, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. However I’ve noticed that Red Dragon has often went under the radar, I don’t know whether it’s because of director Brett Ratner’s involvement or the fact that it has competition against a great film. I have to say that in my opinion, Red Dragon is one of the most underrated movies of all time. It’s got great acting, an interesting story and the movie really should have more notice than it has.

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Brett Ratner is directing this movie and that could’ve had some cause for concern has he hadn’t made a lot of great movies but he actually did the movie quite well. I thought that the Francis Dolarhyde storyline was well handled, it showed his layers and elevated Ralph Fieness’s great performance (I’ll get to that later). I think one of the only flaws I can find in the movie is the fact that aside from his scenes with Hannibal, Will isn’t given as much depth as he should have. The film was mostly focussed on Francis Dolarhyde and while it was understandable, I felt that a lot of Will’s qualities should’ve also been shown in this movie. You don’t really see these events affecting will as much in other Will Grahams like in NBC’s Hannibal, he’s still quite in control of himself. I still do think that he was written fine, it’s just that they could’ve handled him a little better.

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Edward Norton makes for a great Will Graham, even though I said that a lot of his character’s qualities could’ve been handled better he still does good work with what he has. Ralph Fiennes also makes for an interesting and complex villain, giving him many layers and allows us to get into his character’s head. Anthony Hopkins returns to the role and as usual is great as the creepy and calculating Hannibal Lecter. I personally like the connection between Will and Hannibal in this movie more than the one between Clarice and Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs, that’s just me. Other actors like Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman do great work as well, particularly Watson, who has a major part in the Francis Dolarhyde story.

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This film is shot and directed greatly, everything has such a sleek and stylish look. The sets and production designs are fantastic and while they’re very similar to Silence of the Lambs, I thought it elevated the movie. I also love Danny Elfman’s soundtrack, it really added to all the scenes and infused all of them with suspense.

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Red Dragon has excellent acting, a great story, a pretty good story and after watching it a second time I can’t believe that it flew so under the radar. I know that this is a big thing to say but I honestly consider Red Dragon on the same level as Silence of the Lambs. If you liked Silence of the Lambs and haven’t checked out Red Dragon yet for whatever reason, do so as soon as possible, you won’t be disappointed.