Tag Archives: John Turturro

Fear X (2003) Review

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Fear X

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
John Turturro as Harry
Deborah Kara Unger as Kate
Stephen McIntyre as Phil
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Harry Caine (John Turturro) is a mild-mannered mall cop whose pregnant wife is killed in the underground parking lot where he works. It seems it may have been a contract killing, and Harry becomes obsessed with finding out the details. His investigation eventually takes him to a Montana town, where reality becomes unhinged for him, and he remains disturbingly unfazed by the wintry conditions and eccentric characters. In the end, he’s not looking for revenge, just for the reason behind it all.

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I knew some things about Fear X going into it. First of all, it was the first English language movie from Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon director Nicolas Winding Refn, and its an experimental crime thriller starring John Turturro which flopped, causing Refn to direct two sequels to his debut film Pusher. I’ve also noticed it’s been referred to as Refn’s worst movie, so I went in cautiously optimistic. While I think it is quite possibly his worst movie, I still liked it.

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Fear X is a psychological thriller which initially appears to have a simple plot. It does have a conventional premise about someone looking for the person who killed his wife, however it is definitely not a mainstream movie. Refn takes this premise and applies his own storytelling style to it, subverting the tropes of the revenge thriller. In some ways, you could say that this is a revenge story without the revenge. I like this concept, you get a typical noir film which happens to mix surrealism and murder mystery together, and it is eerie and strange the way it is presented. In fact, many scenes of dialogue and style choices can be compared to David Lynch’s work. It is riveting, tense and unsettling throughout. The film is definitely slow and takes its time, and this will definitely turn some people off from the movie. The atmosphere isn’t strong enough to make this approach work as well as some of Refn’s other slow burners, but I liked the build up over the course of the movie. The other reason a lot of people won’t like this movie is the ambiguity, and in fact it might be too ambiguous for its own good. This is especially in the case of the ending, which really isn’t much of an ending. It leaves you feeling empty and lacks a conventional conclusion. I do admire the decision and it is bold to deliberately leave things without closure and the audience with more questions than before. I also get that it’s deliberately leaving itself to be heavily interpreted. However, I don’t think it quite sticks the landing, and I get people not liking the movie because of the ending.

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The acting from everyone is pretty good but really the highlight out of all of them is John Turturro in the lead role of the mall cop who’s trying to find his wife’s killer. Turturro is pretty much a perfect fit in the lead role. He and everyone else don’t have a whole lot to say, much of the acting comes from facial expressions and emoting. However, Turturro gives a really nuanced performance and was a solid casting choice for what Refn was going for.

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This is another film from Nicolas Winding Refn, and as expected his work on a technical level is great. I expect amazing visuals from his movies and Fear X is no exception. The use of colour is striking, the cinematography is immaculate and it’s shot with a style which would be more prominent in his later movies, especially when it comes to hallway scenes. The sound design is also amazing, complimenting the mood perfectly, helped by the haunting score from Brian Eno. All these elements come together to create an eerie and foreboding atmosphere throughout the entirety of the film.

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I do get why Fear X bombed to a degree, it was a departure from Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous movies, and it is one of his stranger films (which is saying a lot). However it does have some strengths, I liked Refn’s different take on a revenge thriller with all its ambiguity, John Turturro gave a great performance, and it is directed and shot beautifully. At the very least, it did help Refn figure out his filmmaking voice and style. I do think it is worth watching if you liked some of NWR’s other work, but it’s probably best you do so with a good idea of what kind of movie you’re in for.

Transformers (2007) Review

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Transformers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Tyrese Gibson as Sgt. Robert Epps
Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lennox
Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitmann
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Rachael Taylor as Maggie Madsen
John Turturro as Agt. Seymour Simmons
Jon Voight as John Keller
Director: Michael Bay

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can save the world from total destruction.

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It’s been ages since I’ve seen the Transformers movies, I’ve only watched up to the third movie in addition to watching Bumblebee back in 2018. I remember enjoying Bay’s Transformers movies when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them now. They have a reputation of being mindless large scale action flicks, however the first movie is still somewhat well received, and so I decided to check it out again. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, overlong and full of flaws, but nonetheless pretty entertaining.

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The writing of the first Transformers movies is a very mixed bag. The plot itself is passable, but the actual script has its issues. It takes a while for the movie to really pick up with the Transformers, it starts with Shia LaBeouf and him eventually realising that he has a car that’s not just a car. It doesn’t really do much to keep you genuinely interested. Even when Shia meets up with Optimus Prime it doesn’t really grab your interest. It certainly doesn’t help that Transformers is a very long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It’s really the third act where it excels, as Bay does what Bay does best with all the action. However the movie shouldn’t need to be just an action filled one to be good. For such a straight forward plot, there is just too much going on in the movie. The comedy is also very hit or miss but it at least works better than in the later movies (from what I remember). At least the racial stereotypes are kept to a minimum of 1 in this movie. I’ll say this much, if some of the plot elements in this movie bothers you, definitely don’t check out the other Bay Transformers movies.

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The human characters are widely regarded as the worst aspect of these movies. While there are bits about the actual Transformers that don’t work well, the movies would’ve benefited with them being the focus instead. I know that Shia LaBeouf gets a bad rap in these 3 movies but he’s actually alright in this movie at least. Despite how you many feel about his performances in his 3 film appearances, he’s definitely putting everything he can into his role. Megan Fox is also given a bad rap in her Transformers appearances but she isn’t that bad, she’s really not given much to work with, so it’s not really on her either. The romance that LaBeouf and Fox feels really forced and no matter how hard the two of them try, you just don’t buy it. Some of the random comedic side characters don’t really have much point, most of them are meant for comedy. The parents of Shia’s character for one are among the more annoying. John Turturro is also in this movie and is alright. He’s perfectly fine in the movie but I really have no idea why Jon Voight is in this movie, they probably could’ve cast anyone in the role.

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You can really feel that Michael Bay directed this movie, for better or for worse. The cinematography has a saturated look to it, there are many dramatic scenes of military giving some really important dialogue, slow motion shots of the American flag and helicopters flying, it’s all here. The action of this movie is generally good, the CGI effects do look a little iffy now, but given the movie is over a decade old, you can cut it some slack. Back in 2007, we hadn’t really seen anything like this before, with a bunch of action involving giant robots. Yes, a lot of the action is over the top, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming.

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Yes, Transformers is a silly action movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Transformers, I feel like they could be better than just an explosion filled action movie. Still, I had some enjoyment with it. Even if many of Bay’s more annoying clichés and style aspects make their appearance here, it is not as bad as it is in his other movies. If you haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, it’s at least worth checking out the first one.

The Color of Money (1986) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson
Tom Cruise as Vincent Lauria
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Carmen
Helen Shaver as Janelle
John Turturro as Julian
Bill Cobbs as Orvis
Forest Whitaker as Amos
Director: Martin Scorsese

Pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) finds the young, promising pool player Vincent (Tom Cruise) in a local bar and he sees in him a younger version of himself. To try to make it as in the old days, Eddie offers to teach Vincent how to be a hustler. After some hesitations, Vincent accepts and Eddie takes him and Vincent’s girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) on a your through the country to work the pool halls. However, Vincent’s tendency to show off his talent and by doing so warning off the players and losing money, soon leads to a confrontation with Eddie.

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I knew only a little bit of this movie going into it. Along with it being directed by Martin Scorsese, it involved pool games, starred Tom Cruise in one of his earlier roles, and was a sequel to a Paul Newman movie The Hustler, with him reprising his role as Fast Eddie Felson. Outside of that I didn’t know much of the movie, but because it’s a Scorsese movie I was going to check it out. I actually liked The Color of Money quite a lot, it was fast paced and entertaining, with the performances and especially the direction shining.

Having seen The Hustler the day before I saw this movie I’ll just say that you don’t need to watch that before The Color of Money, despite it being a sequel. As someone who thought The Hustler was just okay, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Even if you have no interest in pool whatsoever, the movie does such a great job in getting you really into what’s going on. It’s paced very well, never allowing for a dull moment, though I thought it really picked up significantly in the second half of the movie.

Paul Newman reprises his role of Eddie Felson from The Hustler, and you see glimpses of his character 25 years later. He gave up his career at the end of that film but 25 years later in this movie when he starts teaching Cruise’s character what he knows, he starts up pool again himself. Newman as usual is great. Tom Cruise plays Vincent, Felson’s protegee who has a real talent for pool. His performance is just full of such energy and he really does hold his own against Newman. Also someone who shouldn’t be overlooked is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Vincent’s girlfriend, she’s also quite important as part of the trio who go on the trip together. Other smaller roles work well, especially an early one scene performance from Forest Whitaker.

A large part of why this movie works so well is Martin Scorsese’s direction, that was the real star of the film for me. The camera movements and the cinematography in general was so great and really stood out. On top of that, Thelma Schoonmaker as usual delivers on an incredibly edited movie, and was a big part of way its so well paced. Both of them really infuse this movie with such an energy that keep you invested in what’s going on. Pool games have never been so tense, engaging and entertaining to watch.

The Color of Money is often placed towards the bottom area of Scorsese’s filmography, but even though I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s one of his best, I do think it’s a little overlooked. It’s performed well by Newman, Cruise and Mastrantonio, and it is sharply written, but the key ingredient is Martin Scorsese’s direction, which makes the whole movie engaging and so entertaining. So I’d say that it’s worth checking out for sure, you don’t need to have seen The Hustler beforehand and can jump right in at any time.