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williamweiss

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Not so great, 28 July 2002

In this highly touted film, Paul Newman (at his most geezerish) plays John Rooney, a big-time Midwestern mob boss in 1931 who's a father figure to Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), his absolutely loyal gunman and collector. Sullivan is a stern, respectable husband and father until Rooney's jealous son Connor (Daniel Craig) sets him up for a fall, in the process killing Sullivan's wife and one of his two sons. Sullivan and Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) take it on the lam, with father teaching son how to be an accomplice in robbing banks, which he needs in order to get his revenge. This activity attracts the attention of Frank Nitti, boss of the Chicago Outfit (ever-suave Stanley Tucci in a typically fine performance), and a paid assassin, Harlan "The Reporter" Maguire (Jude Law), a most unlikely killer. This film attempts to succeed at several levels, doesn't at any, except for the period design, though it does provide a fair amount of entertainment. Director Sam Mendes simply doesn't spend enough time and caring to develop the many themes--including father/son with Rooney and Sullivan, father/son with Sullivan and Sullivan, guilt/innocence with Sullivan and Sullivan, little guy vs. The Organization, bank robber as Robin Hood, to name a few. Violence is considerable, although the biggest shootout is ridiculously stylized. The big question for everyone is: Is Tom Hanks credible as a mob killer? The answer is Yes, but in a limited way. Hanks deals with this anomaly by maintaining a single expression--sullen, unbending seriousness--for more than half the film. Even when he finds his wife and son murdered, he screams off-screen. Once he and his son take it on the lam, he unbends a little and gets a tiny bit closer to Michael Jr. But it's soon clear that Jr. is really just his accomplice. I won't give away the ending, but you'll soon enough figure it out. Not bad, but I can't see why so many are so leaped up about it. 7 out of 10.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
A brilliant film, 13 March 2001

"Cavalleria Rusticana" reflects a timeless Sicilian conflict between love and honor, justice and violence. Mascagni's opera also has a conflict: a truly ugly theme with some of the most beautiful music ever written and performed in opera. Zefferelli's production does justice to all sides. It's not staged--instead, it's filmed on location in Sicily, which adds greatly to the power and beauty of the story and performances. Zefferelli is almost the equal of Francis Coppola in his fanatical attention to detail and to quality. The Easter procession, "Ineggiamo il Signore e Risorto," combines a cast of hundreds in late 19th century period costume with some of the most awesome music in opera to create a scene of transcendent power and authenticity--I bet the procession is performed just that way, every year, in the town that Zefferelli filmed (trust him to find it). Placido Domingo is in splendid voice as Turiddu, and Elena Obratszova sings Santuzza in a steely, authoritative soprano. She's supported by the great Fedora Barbieri as Mamma Lucia. This is a peerless, definitive production of a great opera experience that never fails to move me.

Fail Safe (2000) (TV)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Big disappointment, 21 June 2000

Give George Clooney great credit for recognizing the excellence of "Fail Safe," and for putting it on TV, live in b&w, with a world-beating cast. That said, his version is a big disappointment. It lacks the harrowing tension that Sidney Lumet's direction provided the movie, and the razor-edged camera work. And, except for Brian Dennehy (always good), the cast was mostly leaden and unconvincing.