Tag Archives: Ray Romano

Bad Education (2020) Review

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Bad Education

Time: 108 Minutes
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone
Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin
Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel Bhargava
Alex Wolff as Nick Fleischman
Rafael Casal as Kyle Contreras
Stephen Spinella as Tom Tuggiero
Annaleigh Ashford as Jenny Aquila
Ray Romano as Big Bob Spicer
Director: Cory Finley

The beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district (Hugh Jackman) and his staff, friends and relatives become the prime suspects in the unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.

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I heard of Bad Education a little while ago, it is an HBO movie about an embezzlement scandal that takes place at a school with a cast featuring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano. However, what really got my attention of this movie is that it was directed by Cory Finley, who made the great Thoroughbreds some years ago. Bad Education didn’t disappoint, it was greatly written and directed and everyone performed their parts well.

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Bad Education is based off a true story, and while I wasn’t familiar with the real-life details, it definitely was an intriguing story which made for an interesting and entertaining movie to watch. The script from Mike Makowsky was great and felt quite fresh, with some naturalistic dialogue, the tension being raised over the course of the movie, and the third act really delivering. The movie also does feel quite grounded and real, which worked to its benefit. It’s darkly comic too, balancing comedy and drama with its distinct tone. On top of showing things going on behind the scenes at the school with the teachers involved, it also shows it from the perspective of a student (played well by Geraldine Viswanathan) who exposed the embezzlement scandal publicly, and I thought that aspect was handled well too. We do get a little bit of her home life and motivations but it does feel like they could’ve afforded shown more of it. Speaking of things they could’ve added, for as great as it was, I think the third act could’ve been a bit longer and less rushed. Additionally, some storylines could’ve had a little more time spent with them so they felt a little more complete (especially Allison Janney’s who mostly vanishes from the movie once her story is done in like the first half). Bad Education is just under an hour and 50 minutes, and while it’s generally paced well, I think an additional 5-10 minutes would’ve made it a little better. These are minor complaints however.

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The performances are great and really carry this movie, everyone brought their A game to their parts. Leading Bad Education is Hugh Jackman, who is truly outstanding in this movie. He was perfect for this sort of role as a beloved and likable superintendent of the school, and he actually sort of gets you to root for him even though he’s doing illegal things in the movie. You can really understand his perspective and why he does what he does. All in all, I’d say that it’s one of Jackman’s all time best performances, and given his career that is saying a lot. The supporting cast all perform greatly too, including Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, and Rafael Casal.

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Bad Education is directed well by Cory Finley, with this and Thoroughbreds, he’s shown himself to be a more than capable filmmaker. His new movie isn’t quite as overtly stylised as his first movie, but it’s nonetheless filmed very well, especially considering that it is a TV movie. It’s shot very well, the visual presentation added a lot to the general feel of it. I liked the use of music too, especially the score from Michael Abels.

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Bad Education was a really solid and grounded crime drama. It’s directed well, the script is great, and there’s some great acting from its talented cast. Definitely watch it when you get a chance. I’m really looking forward to seeing more movies from Cory Finley, he’s shown himself to be a real talent to watch with his two films.

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 Big Sick (2017) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast
Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail (based on himself)
Zoe Kazan as Emily Gardner (based on Emily V. Gordon)
Holly Hunter as Beth
Ray Romano as Terry
Adeel Akhtar as Naveed
Zenobia Shroff as Sharmeen
Anupam Kher as Azmat
Director: Pete Travis

Kumail Nanjiani is a Pakistani comic who meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows. As their relationship blossoms, he soon becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of her. When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, Kumail finds himself developing a bond with her deeply concerned mother (Holly Hunter) and father (Ray Romano).

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The Big Sick was a movie I heard about only recently, I heard that it was a romantic comedy that a lot of people really loved. I really didn’t know what to expect, the trailer was funny and looked like it had potential, so I was cautiously optimistic before seeing it. The Big Sick surprised me on many levels, it surprised me how funny it was, it surprised me how emotional it was, and it also surprised me how great it was overall, this is probably one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen (then again it’s not saying a lot).

I won’t lie, I really am not a fan of romantic comedies, save for a few like 500 Days of Summer. In order for a romantic comedy to really get me to like them, they have to really be well written and something different from all the countless generic romantic comedies that are dumped out every year, and it really does. The Big Sick is a very unconventional romantic comedy. This movie is written so incredibly well, the movie is absolutely hilarious with every joke hitting hard, the dialogue fantastically written. At the same time though you actually care about what’s going on with these characters. It felt so real and genuine and not fake at all. To summarise, this movie isn’t pretentious, it doesn’t succumb to any typical lines or moments that are in typical romantic comedies movies. Like don’t expect a montage of someone being sad with a cheesy sad song, when the film is emotional, it feels earned. The Big Sick also has some social commentary about many things including interracial relationships and religion, especially with Kumail’s family, and how Kumail has to abide by his family’s rules, as otherwise he might be removed from the family and never spoken to again. The drama and comedy are balanced out very well. If there are any potential flaws with the movie, the 3rd act does go on for a little too long. As for how accurate it is (as it’s based on a true story) I can’t comment, but given the people who wrote this movie, I’ll just say that it’s highly likely that its true.

The acting overall was really good for the movie. Kumail Nanjiani was hilarious and likable in his role (as himself), but also handles the dramatic scene very well, you really care about him. Equally as great is Zoe Kazan as Emily, Kumail’s girlfriend. The chemistry between the two is perfect, they are so likable and fun to watch. The supporting actors are also great, particularly the parents of Emily, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. They were also so entertaining and also have some great moments.

I am truly surprised at how much I loved The Big Sick. It is fantastically written, hilarious, emotional, real, unpretentious and its just so great overall. If you don’t like romantic comedies, I still recommend seeing it, as someone who doesn’t like romantic comedies either, I thoroughly loved this movie, it is a lot different than you’d think this movie would be. The Big Sick is one of the best films of 2017 and is definitely worth checking out.