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Taxi Driver (1976)
Not as good as I expected...
I received the two-disc special edition DVD of Taxi Driver for a Christmas present and was delighted to get it as I have never watched this much-heralded movie. I knew all about it from the whole 'You talking to me' comment by De Niro and when I saw it was number 40 in the IMDb top 250 - my appetite was truly whetted.
But it was not satisfied.
I watched the film and was impressed with the acting of De Niro - he really does live the character. However, the storyline for me was weak. The whole 'returning vet going mad' bit I got, but the process in which the story was unveiled to us was poor in my opinion. Maybe, I am not high-brow enough to understand all the various levels of loneliness, sub-conscious inward pain but the whole thing for me just did not hang together well. It drifted towards boring at some times and nonsense at other times. I'll try to back up these acidic comments by some examples (in no specific order):
1. Why was Bickle targeting Palantine? After meeting him in his cab, he seemed to think that he was a good, solid guy. Yet it looked like he was trying to kill him later on. Why?
2. As Bickle tries to clean up some of the scum - i.e. a good, almost heroic act - it seemed to clash with his general behaviour. He wasn't a very nice person but yet he carries out a good deed in relation to humanity.
3. Why did Bickle bring Betsy to a dirty movie for a date? Is he that stupid that he didn't realise that it would more than likely be offensive?
4. What was the point of the scene with Martin Scorsese in the taxi as a passenger telling Bickle about his plans to kill his wife? Meaningless if you ask me.
5. The secret service scene also is ridiculous. Bickle is a veteran army guy - why does he blatantly 'out' himself as an obvious weirdo to these guys? Acting strange, giving a wrong address. Why?
There are other issues with this film - the grating, overbearing score, the washed out (censor influenced) ending, De Niro's ever-growing/receding hairstyle. So as a movie, I personally feel a little let down. There was nothing to bring me in to this fan club here. Foster's portrayal as a 12 year old prostitute is okay (good for a 12 year old, but nothing spectacular), Keitel was only okay as the pimp (over-pimping it in my opinion) and Shepard did nothing for me (I might have a little bias towards her as I never warmed to her as an actress).
It's one of those films that if done by anyone else then it would be rubbished. But because it's Scorsese and De Niro - everyone loves it. A little like The Deer Hunter if you ask me - another overblown, overrated flick.
First off, I am a great fan of The Hitcher (Director Robert Harmon's best film in my view) and Jim Caviezel (superb actor). So you would think Highwaymen was made especially for me. I saw the trailer a while back and it looked right down my street. However - it was quite hard to get here in Ireland but eventually I picked it up in GameStop for 8 Euro - good value. Or so I thought.
The start was great - straight in, no messing around. Caviezel's wife is killed by a hit and run in a thrilling opening scene. The fact that not one word is uttered for the first 8 minutes of screen time but yet the effect on the audience is not diminished is testament to the director's handling. In fact 15 minutes go by before Caviezel says his first words - not bad work for a 77 minute film.
However, things go downhill from the beginning.
The tunnel crash seemed a little lethargic and contrived for me. Full marks to what seems like a non-CGI aided stunt but the action was a little stunted (excuse the pun) and looked like slow motion. then we start getting into the realms on unbelievability. 1. Macklin has to show ID as a cop to get through a cordon of cops outside the tunnel. Who is already inside? Wandering around untroubled? Caviezel. How did he get in?
2. Caviezel then proceeds to look at the crash scene and pick up vital evidence from the road while a hundred cops / medics / firemen etc. swarm the area. And not only that but Macklin spots him and then lets him away with it.
3. Then Macklin sees Rhona Mitra's character huddled 8 feet off the ground. What? None of the other 100 cops/medics/firemen etc. saw her sitting in plain view up there? Come on?
4. Mitra is then in a hospital bed and guess who is standing beside her? Yep - Caviezel. Again, this guy seems to be able to pop up anywhere he likes without been stopped by anyone.
I could go on like this through the whole film to be honest but it would become tiresome in this review....as it was while watching. Plot wasn't one of the strong points in this film as things just happen for the sake of moving the story along - there is no explanation or even reason for these things. Tasting oil, pressure guaging a radiator, Caviezel appearing at a counseling session out of the blue, finding the killer's stopover garage in the middle of nowhere etc. etc.
Some of the camera work is good - helicopter scene following the car through a mountainous river scene is sumptuous in the extreme - beautiful. But some of it is downright bad - interior shots in the same scene by mountains are simply lazy.
Some stunts are good and inventive - chain pulling the car upside down - but a lot lack real tension (tunnel, ending). The music was good and creepy. In the end - a poor storyline really let's the whole project down.
The DVD's scene navigation was great and far superior to some of the main film's work - which is never a good sign.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
I saw this film on DVD the other night and had great expectations for it. I know the reviews were not great but neither were they too damning - so I was hopeful I would see a real gem. Alas - it was not to be. I cannot say it was bad movie but neither can I saw it was a really good either. The main problems with it were as follows:
1. Story. It was a bit muddled and at times a little hard to follow. Certain things happen during the film to maybe imagine that Balian (played by Orlando Bloom) just may be a little special. He survives a boat sinking, he turns arid land into fertile land, his horse suddenly appears to him when he is almost dead from exhaustion, he deflects swords in battle when he truly should have been killed. And as I watched this I was prepared to go along with the whole 'protected by God' element but in the end - there was nothing about it.
2. Dialogue. The words the actors were asked to speak at every turn were preachy, prophetic, always full of meaning and wise. It was a little like reciting Shakespeare instead of true interaction with other people. I suppose the makers were trying to imbue a higher sense of gravitas into the film but it comes off a tad annoying after a while.
3. Acting. I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings films where Bloom first made his name so I cannot comment on his acting ability in those pictures. However - I did see him in Troy, and thought his performance was embarrassingly bad. Still, he has that kind of demeanour about him that you want to see him succeed - so I still had high hopes for him in this film. He was better than Troy but still way off what you require from a leading man. It seemed a deliberate ploy from the writer/director to have Bloom gazing somewhere just off camera but not say anything. His lines were very few and far between and maybe the rumours of Scott not wanting Bloom in the first place have some credence. Norton has an unplayable part but does his best with it. Irons and Neeson come out of it reasonably well also. Bloom though - for all his posturing and good-looks - just needs something else to elevate his career. I'm sure he will go on from this to be better and better but as things stand now - he needs to improve.
There are enough good qualities in the film to push its rating to an average level - great cinematography, lush production values (nothing is cheap or skimpy here), good battle scenes.
But in the end it could all have been far better and in my humble opinion would have been if the storyline had been more concentrated on Bloom's character only - letting the bigger Christian/Islam battle aside.
A Prayer for the Dying (1987)
Mickey Rourke is enjoying a renaissance at the moment... and fair play to him. I always liked his image and his acting ability in such fare as Angel Heart and Johnny Handsome. You know what you are going to get with Rourke - mean, moody, dirty. But this film gives you much more - and you don't want most of it.
First and foremost - this whole thing just doesn't make sense. Rourke is a hardened IRA killer who after killing a bus-load of schoolchildren flees Ireland for London. He is on the run from the cops and from his own Army comrades. He has also vowed to never kill again. It looks like the bus full of kids finally did it for him.
However, when he gets to London he is tracked down by a local mobster (Bates - looking like his eyebrows and hair came straight off a Burton's dummy) to kill his main competitor in turn for £50,000 and a boat trip to the US. Rourke reluctantly agrees to do it but is seen by a priest (Hoskins) and confesses the crime to him in the confessional in order to keep the priest's mouth shut. He figures it is better than killing him.
A wealth of things arise here which just don't add up : 1. Why pick Rourke to off your competition? As is illustrated by a scene whereby an employee is pinned to a wall by a couple of heavies with what look like awls - these London guys are tough enough anyway to do their own killing. 2. Not only that but the Mobster gets a guy to follow Rourke and witness the killing with his own eyes. Why didn't that guy simply kill the competitor and save all the hassle of dealing with Rourke? 3. Hoskins sees the murder take place and the police let him go off - without protection, I may add - to take confession? No way. 4. Rourke hangs around the church (right next to where he carried out the murder ) immediately after the crime takes place to go to confession. Why aren't the cops checking the place out? 5. Rourke hangs around the church and Hoskin's blind niece in particular, for days afterwards without anybody bothering him. What? He's on the run and he stays put by the very place where he committed another murder? Stupid. 6. The cops actually meet Rourke in the church "fixing" the organ and have no idea who he is. Do they not know he is on the run for the school bus bombing? They don't even check up on him? 7. Why get Rourke to kill for you, and then tell him to wait around for a few days to get on the boat? You'd think you'd want to get rid of him immediately. Or kill him. One or the other? 8. Why does Bates' brother suddenly decide to rape the blind niece in the midst of all the waiting? Could he not restrain himself for a few days? At least until Rourke has been safely offed to the States? Ridiculous. 9. Rourke suddenly has inner turmoil after all his years of killing and wins over the blind niece immediately - even after she knows he is a killer, she still loves him? Again - utterly ludicrous. And besides - she falls in "love" with him in record time - a few days !!!! 10. The whole bomb thing at the end is just plain silly from Bates point of view. 11. Things happen in parts of this film that just do not make sense or are simply in there to help the storyline (and I say that in jest) along. Bates' houses Rourke in a whorehouse until the boat is ready to sail and Rourke suddenly displays a moral high ground to respect the whore in the house - but yet will bed a blind girl. 12. Rourke asks a henchman on the boat where Bates is - and the henchman practically spurts out the entire movements of his boss in less than 10 seconds. It was embarrassing - the guy was telling Rourke far more than he even asked. 13. Hoskin's priest is an ex-army guy and we see him beat up three henchmen behind a pub. Totally uncalled-for and yet another cringe-worthy scene.
I'm gonna stop there at unlucky 13 without mentioning Rourke's hair (so falsely red it is laughable), his accent (which to be fair is not too bad sometimes but deteriorates to a barely heard mumble at other times), his clothes, walk, looks to the heavens etc. Nor will I mention the music and the choppy editing style.
Oooppps - I have just mentioned them.
Overall - a disaster of a film with some obvious religious imagery thrown in (Rourke on the cross, preaching from a pulpit) which would embarrass a first year film student never mind a top star and director.
Teen Wolf (1985)
Fox makes this movie
I first saw Teen Wolf when it came out in 1985 / 86 and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I can remember correctly it flowed on from the phenomenal success of Back to the Future and Fox's star was shining bright at that time. Nonetheless - for a cheap, budget flick of questionable storyline - this film actually comes across well.
I recently bought the DVD (with Teen Wolf Too on it also) to see if my rose coloured memories stood the test of time. They did. The first hour of Teen Wolf (if you ignore some basic editing mistakes and clumsy cutting) is superb. The story deteriorates a tad from the school dance to it's inevitable ending - but it is still good enough for its time.
Fox is brilliant in this - funny, natural and a star in the making. The beach boys music is good too. And my boyhood crush on Boof hasn't abated one little bit through the years.
My two sons picked up the DVD about a week ago and loved it just as much as I did (even though they are only half the age of when I saw it - kids are just more advanced these days). They already know scenes off by heart.
Nice, feel-good film - 7/10.
Great start..... poor ending.....
Where do I start with this one ???
Cast : John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet - small parts by John McGinley, Jake Busey, Rebecca De Mornay. I like Cusack and Liotta - and Peet is very easy on the eye if nothing else. So far so good.
Director : James Mangold - did CopLand which I also liked.
Film : Through a series of accidents, bad luck, bad weather - 10 people end up in a Motel stranded. All strangers. Then they start to die. Great premise, nicely staged scenes at the motel where the viewer is left wondering who the hell is killing these guys. There are a few cliché characters but overall, the thing works for me. I enjoyed the paranoia in the rain-swept building as people begin to get bumped off one by one. There are also a few "clues" scattered in the early scenes which make you crease your eyebrows a little in a "what the hell does that mean" manner. Then it transpires that the apparent strangers are in fact linked- they all have the same birthday and all their last names represent a state in America - Maine/Rhodes/Dakota etc. By this stage I am about 70 minutes into the film and I too am intrigued as to how they will finish this - hoping they won't cop out and throw in a flimsy finish.
I was disappointed.
Suddenly, we flash to John Cusack in a chair in a room full of lawyers / doctors etc. and alternating between his own body and another fat guy's body by some quick camera cuts. What ??? We did see an earlier scene with this guy - who is trying to get off an electric chair sentence by some clever doctor talk - but the way it was presented was that this guy somehow killed all the people in the motel. At least that's how I picked it up. But in actuality - and this is a cop out if ever I saw one - John Cusack, the fat psycho and all the other people in the Motel are actually all figments of the fat guy's imagination, all different identities but only one of the identities is the real killer. So by getting them all together through the doc's talking - and getting them to kill each other off, he hopes to kill the killer's identity thus leaving the fat guy a harmless gimp. POOR !! POOR !! POOR !!
The film went from being a thinking man's movie - to a downright cheap, second-rate cash-in on the psychos fare !!!!
Great promise but it degraded to a shallow jump-out...
Runaway Jury (2003)
An enjoyable yarn ....
Saw Runaway Jury on Saturday night and I admit it I really enjoyed it. There's probably a bit of bias with me as regards this film as I like Grisham to start with. I also like Cusack and Hackman. So a good start there then. I watched the film with a sense of confusion for the first ten minutes or so as I tried to get to grips with what exactly was going on. But once I accepted the premise of jury selection and the big operation being put in behind the scenes it was okay.
There was a few `Ah come on !!!' unbelievable scenes where Cusack gets the jury a meal in a fancy restaurant, manages to sneak out of the supposedly guarded jury room / motel. Plus the whole premise of why the trial was taking place in the first instance a widow suing the gun manufacturers for her husband's killing is a tad flaky to say the least.
As with all Grisham films / novels ideals are well represented. The idealistic lawyer, the audience always rooting for the good guy and the bad guy is comically bad.
But Hackman for me is the best thing in the movie over the top yes but excellent also. He had a few scenes with Hoffman and made that guy look like a first year beginner. It was embarrassing for Hoffman to be so comprehensively acted out of a scene by one of his contemporaries. Cusack was good too nice actor this guy. There's a sense of the Everyman in him he just seems like a normal guy. Rachael Weiss also pops up as Cusack's partner in crime. She did okay. Hoffman was the weak point for me but then again I'm not a fan of his so I could be a little hard on the guy.
As for the story not bad, you could see the ending a mile off but still it was entertaining enough all the way through. A few gaps here and there but overall a good movie. I'd recommend it.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Weird but not wonderful....
My wife brought home this DVD last night from the video store on the premise that "Adam Sandler is in it so it must be funny". Wow... was that a wrong statement or what.
Now, I have to admit - I'm not the greatest fan of Sandler (He seems to play himself in every movie : yes including "The Water Boy" : and has a bland charisma on screen all the time) and because of this I was at least willing to give this film the benefit of the doubt to begin with. My wife did not rubbishing the movie with the statement: "The worst film I've ever seen".
However - let me approach this methodically and go through the pros and cons :
Pros : 1. Sandler - Amazingly, he does a very good job of Barry Egan. His acting was top-drawer, the nervous twitches, the shy almost embarrassed body movements epitomised his character down to the ground. Well done. 2. Cinematography - the handling of the camera was impressive with some nice one-track shots (especially of Sandler in his apartment ringing the sex line) and good wide angle, slow-mo zoom shots.
Cons : Everything else.. The storyline was simplistic, muddled, juvenile - and these are the kindest words I can give it. Pathetic would be more accurate. The opening sequences involves an empty warehouse, a pre-cognitive Sandler, A car crash, a taxi and a small piano. A start that piques the viewer's interest but one that is never explained. Emily Watson had an unplayable part. The music was included to generate the feeling of claustrophobia but instead gives the viewer ire trying to hear the conversation happening behind it.
A word of advice for Sandler is that if he wants to branch out to other forms of acting then fine....but just pick your scripts carefully. As for Paul Thomas Anderson - well you either love him or you hate him.... let's put it this way : I don't love him.
Great Pilot....but slowly the quality is dwindling........
I'm not big into watching TV shows in general but this one intrigued me. The billboard ads and the fact that Donnie Wahlberg (ex NKOTB and The Sixth Sense) was in it pushed me to watch the pilot. I must say it was fantastic. The quality of the acting, the storyline, the sub-plots, the whole premise itself was great.
That first show got me hooked and I made a conscious decision to keep watching the series.
But then it all started to go wrong.....
Admittedly, here in Ireland, we are a little behind our US counterparts and I have only seen six episodes so far but the freshness and quality of the initial show has been ditched for a more mundane, run-of-the-mill, cops/robbers show which makes you think why they bothered to be different in the first place.
The episode where Fearless goes on a mad Rambo-like rampage killing off, what seemed like, the entire Russian mafia and destroying a motel into the bargain to "save" a little girl was the most embarrassing piece of television I have seen in a long time. That particular episode was topped and tailed but a ridiculous sub-plot where a dead body gets fired from a circus cannon !!! Come on !!!!
Wahlberg, in particular, is superb in this. His gritty style and not-so-pretty-boy looks makes him a more believable character. Better than his whispering brother by miles.
However the cast do as best they can with a deteriorating script which seems to get worse week after week. Less of the theatric cop stuff and more of the characters private lives might rescue this show yet. I hope it does because this is the only show I watch regularly on TV and I don't want to ditch it......
Gangs of New York (2002)
chopped look for an ordinary film
I had heard that this film had been cut from 4 hours 30 minutes to a less back-aching 3 hours before I ever stepped inside the cinema to see it. But it was painfully obvious after only 15 minutes in, that this was the case. Scenes jumped (literally) from situation to situation. One famous one where Leo is holding a bag over his shoulder from his POV / down by his side from Henry Thomas' POV and so on and so on ..... It was such an obvious editing mistake that I don't know how anyone could possibly miss it ..... unless of course their head was fried from cutting an hour and half out of a film and still trying to make it look seamless.
It didn't work.
The film suspended belief right from the off... but I was willing to go into that mode in the hope that I would get swept along with the story. I did - just about - for the first 2 hours but then it descended into farce.
The final hour where everything comes together on one day - riots / final confrontation with Bill the Butcher and Amsterdam Vallon / cannonball attacks / friends ratting you up - just does not hold water. The film smacks of "we're running out of money so let's wrap this up as soon as possible". There is absolutely no sense of drama in the final showdown - no build up, no suspense, nothing. Just simply bang-bang you're dead. Roll the credits.
The message it is trying to deliver is of the futility of war but the necessity to fight for what you have. A paradox if ever there was one.
As for the actors - Day-Lewis (as usual) is superb / Leo does well as does Diaz and Gleeson. The sets - okay but not as grandiose as I was made to believe by the glossy Film mags. The violence - well there's certainly enough of it and graphic too (the head-butting scene is especially stomach-churning). The storyline - if Scorcese had kept it as a simple, straight-forward boy-comes-back-to-avenge-father's-killing story it would have worked better. The whole issue of the politics / the draft / riots just muddled things up and lengthened the film unnecessarily.
It's no epic and will not remain long in people's memories. However - the DVD release should be interesting to see if a director's cut is given and for all those deleted scenes.