Tag Archives: Robert De Niro

Jackie Brown (1997) Review

Time: 154 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster as Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston
Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette
Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
Director: Quentin Tarantino

When flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is busted smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) want her help to bring down Robbie. Facing jail time for her silence or death for her cooperation, Brown decides instead to double-cross both parties and make off with the smuggled money. Meanwhile, she enlists the help of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a man who loves her.

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Jackie Brown is typically known by most as one of the weaker Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s such an odd movie for him to make, but after the unbelievable success of Pulp Fiction, he wanted to try something very different. When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know what to think, it was fine and I didn’t dislike it by any means, it’s just that compared to his other movies, it just wasn’t on that same level. I wanted to watch it again to be sure of how I felt about it, and thankfully I liked it a lot more than I did before.

Jackie Brown is the only script by Tarantino that’s not completely original, as he’s adapting an Elmore Leonard’s book titled Rum Punch. I’ve never read the book myself or looked up the similarities and differences between the two, but Quentin no doubt made the movie its own thing. Jackie Brown is a much more lowkey and subtle movie compared to his others. While his movies are generally better experienced when you are actually fully focussed on it, you actually really need to pay attention to everything that’s going on with this movie, it’s very much story driven. It’s surprisingly a noir movie, with the characters, the slow pacing, and the way a lot of the plot points are set up. The dialogue is pure Tarantino, making most of the main characters as 3 dimensional as possible. As far as writing for characters go, this is one of his best. There are a lot of details and subtleties that make the movie one that you have to be fully paying attention to. The movie is 2 hours and a half long and it can drag a little bit towards the middle, but not enough to make the experience tedious (unless you’re expecting a much more flashy and fast paced movie).

There’s a pretty talented cast in Jackie Brown, and they all do a good job with it. Pam Grier is in the lead role of the titular character and she was really great at really brining this character to life, seemed to be a perfect casting choice considering how Jackie Brown is definitely paying homage to a lot of Blaxploitation movies. Robert Forster was one of the standouts, with him and Grier sharing some great chemistry, among the highlights of the film. This is probably one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most overlooked roles as an arms dealer, looking at the dialogue it really seemed like a role that Tarantino specifically wrote for Jackson (in fact at certain points I think he went overboard). While you get the feeling that Tarantino didn’t really take advantage of Robert de Niro as much as he could’ve, he acts here like he hasn’t before, it’s such a lowkey and different performance from him. Other supporting players like Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda also work well in their roles.

Quentin Tarantino’s direction is also quite lowkey, yet from his style and cinematography you can still tell that it’s his movie, it’s just not as flashy as you’d expect it to be. Some people might accuse him of often having ‘style over substance’ (a very flawed criticism in general I find), but I’m not quite sure how you’d be able to say that about Jackie Brown. Unlike most of his movies, there really isn’t much violence, and when it is present it’s about as graphic as those typically seen in a PG-13/M rated movie. The music is also great, Tarantino typically finds a solid line-up of songs for the movie, Jackie Brown’s is among his best soundtracks for his films, and that’s saying a lot.

Jackie Brown may not rank among Quentin Tarantino’s all time best movies, but is still very solid. The performances from the large cast are good, and Tarantino’s direction and more story-driven script make it all work. Even if you generally don’t like Tarantino’s movies, I’d recommend checking it out, for some it’s even considered to be his best film.

Joy (2015) Review

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Joy

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano
Robert De Niro as Rudy Mangano
Edgar Ramirez as Tony Miranne
Diane Ladd as Mimi
Virginia Madsen as Terri Mangano
Isabella Rossellini as Trudy
Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker
Director: David O. Russell

A story of a family across four generations, centred on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Facing betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, Joy becomes a true boss of family and enterprise. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.

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Joy was a movie which didn’t initially interest me because its premise wasn’t very interesting but its cast and its director made me curious about it. Before watching it, I noticed it hadn’t gotten quite the praise that David O. Russell’s previous films have received and had mixed reviews. After seeing it I can say that while it’s not a bad movie, Joy was a little disappointing. The performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence was good, the direction was decent and the writing for the character of Joy is good. But the writing for the overall story wasn’t always strong and the supporting characters were too two dimensional, which really brought the movie down.

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The plot for this movie was fine, it wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t invested in what was going on as much as I should’ve. The movie is also a little shaky at the start, it didn’t really know how to start off the movie. Eventually the movie did fix itself over time and it knew what sort of movie it was going for. The writing for the character of Joy is great (which elevated Jennifer Lawrence’s performance), the same can’t be said for the other characters. These supporting characters felt too much like movie characters and never did feel like real people, which is a real shame since David O. Russell is usually great at having interesting characters. A lot of the time, many of the scenes with these supporting characters got annoying as they really were just generic movie characters with no real rhyme or reason for their actions.

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Jennifer Lawrence as Joy is definitely the best part of the whole movie and she had the benefit of having the best interesting writing. Joy is the most complex, interesting, entertaining and likable character in the movie, in fact she’s probably the only likable character in this movie. Even though I had issues with the writing of the characters, the supporting actors like Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper gave good performances with what they have. It’s just a shame that their characters aren’t as well written as they should be.

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Even with all its flaws, one thing I can say is that this film is well directed and the technical side of the movie is pretty good. The look was great and the style was also pretty good and worked for the film, which I think is something that David O. Russell is great at, it’s strange that he couldn’t do that with everything else.

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Joy isn’t by any means a bad movie. It does have some good performances, most notably from Jennifer Lawrence but the writing was quite flawed, not as interesting as it should be and had very underdeveloped and surprisingly one dimensional supporting characters. It is a little disappointing considering that I loved Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, both of them previous David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro collaborations. I will say that if you’re going to see this movie watch it for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, because the movie on the whole is quite flawed.

Goodfellas (1990)

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Goodfellas

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway
Joe Pesci as Tommy Devito
Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill
Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero
Director: Martin Scorsese

This film views the mob lives of three pivotal figures in the 1960’s and 70’s New York. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a local boy turned gangster in a neighbourhood full of the roughest and toughest. Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci) is a pure bred gangster, who turns out to be Henry’s best friend. Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) puts the two of them together, and runs some of the biggest hijacks and burglaries the town has ever seen. As he makes his way from strapping young petty criminal, to big-time thief, to middle-aged cocaine addict and dealer, the film explores in detail the rules and traditions of organized crime.

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Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces; from beginning to end, Goodfellas is compelling as it displays Henry Hill’s 3 decades in the life of the mob. Entertaining, interesting and fascinating, Goodfellas is a classic that draws the audience into watching the lives that these people lived.

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The narration in Goodfellas adds a lot to the movie, some movies use it as a gimmick but this is not the case here; we can almost understand Henry with these narrations. With the narrations that he gives throughout, it really feels like you are following Henry on his adventure as a gangster. The film is often compared with The Godfather but they have some differences, one being that this film doesn’t have many likable characters; despite the lifestyles that these gangsters lived, the film doesn’t condone them. Also while The Godfather seems to be about a dysfunctional family who happen to be in crime, Goodfellas presents the gangster characters more realistically and more raw. Despite there being brutal violence here, Martin Scorsese doesn’t glorify it; he puts it on screen and shows it in its’ true form. The differences between the two films are why I like Goodfellas more than The Godfather; the more realistic look on the characters made me more interested in the movie.

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Ray Liotta is really good in this movie; because he narrates throughout the movie, you really feel like you know him as you hear the details of how the mob works. The film mostly is around him and Liotta masterfully embodies Henry as we follow this man through his life as a gangster. Robert De Niro also brings a presence to this movie; Jimmy is someone who has been in the mob a while and you can really get that from De Niro’s performance. Stealing the show however is Joe Pesci, representing a hot tempered person who manages to be funny and intimating at the same time.

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This film is very stylistic, especially with the narration; sometimes the camera freezes and Hill explains something happening or maybe the background of a certain person. The cinematography is also excellent and fits in with the style; an example is the tracking shot from the outside to the inside of a club. (This is now often called the Copacabana shot). The shot lasted for around 3 minutes and is a very good example of the great cinematography that the film has. The soundtrack picked is excellent, especially the piano part of Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla, which is played over a montage. A lot of the style in this movie is used in a lot of great movies like Boogie Nights and American Hustle.

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Goodfellas is so many things; it compelling, engaging, interesting and results in it being one of the best movies of all time, one of the best gangster movies and is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. Even though I prefer Casino over Goodfellas, this movie is still undeniably a film for the ages. It’s one that you shouldn’t miss and you should see as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

Casino (1995) Review

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Casino

Time: 178 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna
Joe Pesci as Nicky Sontoro
James Woods as Lester Diamond
Don Rickles as Billy Sherbert
Director: Martin Scorsese

Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) are mobsters, who move to Las Vegas to make their mark, live and work in this paradoxical world. Seen through their eyes, each as a foil to the other, the details of mob involvement in the casinos of the 1970’s and ’80’s are revealed. Ace is the operator of the Tangiers casino, while Nicky is his boyhood friend and tough strongman, robbing and shaking down the locals. However, they each have a tragic flaw-Ace falls in love with a hustler, Ginger (Sharon Stone), and Nicky falls into an ever-deepening spiral of drugs and violence. This movie is based on some true events.

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A lot of movie buffs have movies that changed their viewpoint of film just being entertainment, to the idea that film is an art form. In my case, Casino is that film. It is wonderfully shot, brilliantly acted and has a style that really gets me interested in the type of world the characters are in. It unfortunately often gets overshadowed by the more well-known Goodfellas, a film that it is very similar to. Once again, Martin Scorsese has again created a masterpiece that has made a significant impact on me and many others as Casino presents the best that film has to offer.

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From the start, Casino had my attention and I couldn’t stop watching despite the movie being nearly 3 hours long. The narration is mostly done by Ace and Nicky and we really learn about how they thought, what they thought of and how things in Las Vegas worked. Regarding the characters in this movie, I didn’t feel any empathy or any kind connection to them, where as some people may be able to feel that in Goodfellas to some of the characters (even when they aren’t glorified) – this isn’t a negative; it is just something I have noticed. What is a positive is; is that by the end I felt that I learnt more about the characters in this movie more than Goodfellas. The film actually felt darker than Goodfellas, especially with the violence. Casino’s violence was much more brutal and unflinching than Goodfellas’s, especially a scene near the end that involves baseball bats in a cornfield. Overall, it doesn’t matter what movie you see first; they are both brilliant films in their own right.

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Robert De Niro is really good as always, and really fills his role here as Ace Rothstein, who is in a high position, running the casino. Joe Pesci is good here, playing someone who is quite a lot like his character in Goodfellas, a short tempered and violent person; however I actually feel that his performance here has more depth. It would be a crime to overlook Sharon Stone’s performance which would lead to the film’s only Oscar nomination. She plays her role extremely well and is on par with De Niro and Pesci. Other actors like James Woods and Don Rickles are good as well. Everyone in this movie is great but those three main actors stole every scene they were in.

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This being a Scorsese movie, is filled with a lot of energy, as most of his films are; the style was the icing on the cake that drew me into the story more, which was very similar to Goodfellas. The cinematography is great as always and has great music that fits in with the time period and the location of Las Vegas.

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Maybe it was the fact that I saw Casino before Goodfellas but this movie has made a bigger impact on me. Whatever you feel about how it holds up against Goodfellas, Casino deserves to be judged on its own. It certainly isn’t for everyone (An example being the cornfield scene) but overall, this is one of my favourite movies of all time and I owe a lot to it.