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One of Scorsese's Weakest, although still creditable
The Last Temptation of Christ, the film boomed out at me on my amazon recommended list and I had of course heard plenty about it since I am a huge fan of Scorsese so I scooped it up and a few days later it arrived through the mail, yay. I watched it last night and was instantly struck by the first 20 minutes which I thought was pretty painful if I am going to tell the truth, it just had no plot and everything just seemed to jump from place to place. This film dragged on greatly and let me tell you this, a film that is 2 and a half hours but feels like 5 hours has something wrong with it. Now I do not think that that little or big thing wrong with the film was Scorsese. Scorsese is one of the finest directors around today, he has made brilliant films from Taxi Driver to Raging Bull to Mean Streets to Goodfellas, and his camera work here was wonderful, this film was beautifully shot and felt so atmospheric, especially scenes in the desert which did, admittedly captivate me. Dafoe as Jesus was Oscar worthy and certainly played his part with sheer conviction and brilliance, it was a powerhouse and mammoth performance back then and still holds up now. But his supporting cast were no where near the brilliance of Dafoe. Harvey Keitel who can, at times, be one of the best actors around, gives a performance that earned it's razzi nomination. There was no conviction in the acting and it all felt just, wrong. His accent played horribly with the whole scene and I did not think he was a good casting choice at all. The rest of the cast was palpable, with some minor but poorly acted roles from Barbara Hershey and David Bowie, who has no business in the film industry. The Last Temptation of Christ is a one man show as far as acting goes and Dafoe manages to take acting very far. This film had an element of schoolchild-ness to it, it felt like the kind of thing you would watch in an RS lesson on a lazy summer afternoon when the term is drawing to a close. It just felt very long and overplayed, there was very very little entertainment factor to this film and I have doubts that I will ever want to watch it again. I would recommend this is watched by Scorsese fans like me or if you like long biblical films. 2 1/2 Stars.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
The most ambiguous story ever told, and it is true!
My dad had seen Picnic at Hanging Rock at its first release and he said how much he loved it so he brought it for me to watch on blu-ray. I was expecting a quite light hearted story that was not too intense, it is rated PG after all but I was shocked. I must say this is the scariest film I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few films on peoples top 20 scariest.
I am not going to review the overall film like I normally would because there are enough reviews on this film already about how brilliant the acting is (it really is) and how great the directing by Peter Weir is but I will discuss and get out everything I am feeling straight after watching this film.
The story of this film, the first 30 minutes scared me so much, the eerie atmosphere that was created by the three girls and then the fat girl screaming when the other three girls wouldn't listen. Brrr... it was like the three girls were in a trance (which I believe they are) and the other fat girl is sensing something, she can see or feel something that is so horrifying that she cannot stay there any longer. The numerous searches on the rock are so tense and scary that I could hardly bear it and when the servant, I can't remember his name, found the man on the rock it made me jump so much. The way the fat girl describes her encounter of her teacher who is never found got visions in my head that stayed with me and it was so vivid, so horrifying. I am really not a fan of horror movies at all, in fact I generally hate them except for a select few, this was something else and it chilled me so much.
So the first hour earns this film a 10/10 but I am afraid that I found the last section of the film very boring and a bit pointless. I know that it was all meant to show the effect the whole incident had on the college and the town but this certainly did not make the whole atmosphere any scarier and certainly lightened the mood.
To conclude, I would say that Picnic on Hanging Rock is nearly a masterpiece and the first hour is an experience I will never forget and it scared me so much. After watching this me and my dad discussed what maybe could have happened but every time we suggested something the other would come back and say how that could not be possible. The story is so scary and scarring and definitely would not be recommended to anyone who can get very easily scared. One of the best Australian films of all time, probably the best.
The King of Comedy (1982)
The King of underrated movies
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have teamed up to make great films eight times. This is one of them and in my opinion is the most underrated and the most complex (tied with Taxi Driver). The story follows Rupert Pupkin, an aspiring comedian who wants to get onto a talk show to perform his comedy act. In essence, as you will see as the film progresses, Rupert is a saddo and a moron, making for an interesting and diverse character. Robert De Niro gives his most underrated performance as Rupert Pupkin with such difference from his normal roles that you hardly recognise the rough tough gangster actor. De Niro's character clearly stands out because of his personality, dress and difference from other people, in fact, he faintly reminded me of Travis Bickle. Watching Jerry Lewis was a pleasure, he brought such an aura to the movie that his performance seemed effortless, although I can good and well tell it was not. Scorsese brought a side to the film with his directing that I found fascinating, the way the story was told was quite mesmerising and brilliant to see, like in many of his films he actually had a brief cameo, watch out for that. Set and costumes were great in this, especially the costume of Rupert Pupkin which definitely showed the flamboyance of the character (reminding me ever so slightly of Johnny Boy's costume in Mean Streets). Also Jerry's house set was great and really showed and emphasised his characters personality, the way of showing character in this movie was very different to how it is done in say, The Deer Hunter in which it takes a full hour of rather boring film making to introduce each characters, whereas in this film you are learning things about all of the characters immediately with clever dialogue and clear and for the most part brilliant acting. Overall this is a brilliant film and is probably one of the best collaborations between Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, although it must be noted that the casual movie watcher may think that this film is a comedy but it is by no means a comedy, it is a dark and complex drama and although it is a PG is still quite disturbing. A great film to watch when you want something that will stick, for a long time. 10/10
Mean Streets (1973)
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro begin with a bang
Mean Streets is a film that is constantly overshadowed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Casino, GoodFellas, and rightly so because it is technically not as good as those but is must be respected for the fact that it practically made the careers of three great names in film, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel. Mean Streets follows the story of Charlie (Harvey Keitel) and his two brothers Micahel and Tony. They meet Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) who is the guy who is in debt to every loan shark in town. Then the story goes on from there. The film is told with a spot of narration here and there but it is mainly pure dialogue. I must say that I did find that although the film is only 2 hours it does feel a bit draggy at times and that is why I did not give it a 10/10. The acting in this film was quite simply superb. Robert De Niro gives one of the best performances of his career as the flamboyant Johnny Boy and Harvey Keitel gives what is probably his career best as Charlie. Not often credited with this movie as much as they should are the roles of Charlie's two brothers, Tony and Michael. I think that these two do not quite compare to the acting of Robert De Niro but certainly do a wonderful and under credited job in my opinion. The other thing that was particularly noticeable about Mean Streets was the costume design, particularly on Johnny Boy who dresses exactly how you would expect a character of his personality to dress. Charlie, Michael and Tony also dress very appropriate to character and very much feed the fact that they mean business. This was Martin Scorsese's breakthrough as a director and I can perfectly see why. I hear you ask, why not Boxcar Bertha, well here is the answer, the camera angles, the telling of the story, everything mounts up to what is possibly Martin Scorsese's finest job as a director. As in many films of Scorsese's there is a lot of popular music played and I found that this little add on was very enjoyable and added to the 70s New York mood of the film and I think that it was not overdone, like it maybe was slightly in Casino. I thought that the movie captured the spirit of New York very well and seeing as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro both grew up in New York, in the same neighbourhood in fact, they obviously had a special connection with the setting of the film. For any gangster or crime genre lover this is a definite must see and includes some unforgettable performances and a directorial masterclass on the side, BRAVO 9/10
Casino, at cut above most
Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese collide in their eighth and final (to date) film in their partnership in this true story about gangster who get it all wrong. Based on the true story of Frank Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro this was bound to be good and by geez it delivered. Voiceovers, constant background music and also constant swearing (423 f-bombs!) result to make a very powerful film that is very well acted and also is told brilliantly. Scorsese uses a method which he also used in Raging Bull where he begins from near the end. The first voice-over really gets you interested, as soon as Robert De Niro's character says this you know the film is going to be good: 'When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And for a while, I believed, that's the kind of love I had'. This first line got me interested immediately and I am sure it will make most viewers want to watch for the whole three hour period. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci come together in a film for the third time and once again they click instantly, De Niro the successful guy who runs the casino, Pesci the man who stops anyone get in De Niro's way, it really is great stuff and you really start to believe that they are the characters and are not just acting. Sharon Stone showcased her talent like no one thought she could in this film and certainly deserved her Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast are also brilliant and get you into the film with such ease it seems like you can't see or hear all the carnage that is going down on screen. Music plays a huge part in the film and in fact there are 61 different songs used in this film, most of them actually being proper songs that are not soundtrack songs. The one criticism for the film is that sometimes the music was on at unnecessary times and you could occasionally not hear as well as you might. To compare this to other Robert De Niro-Martin Scorsese films would (in my opinion) put it third on the list and this was certainly an amazing film. Comparing it to other gangster films is a bit different but I would still say it it up there with such masterpieces as The Godfather, if not possibly better. Watch this if you are not disturbed by scenes of ultra-violence and world record swearing, it will be damn well worth it.
Cape Fear (1991)
Unforgettable and Horrifying, De Niro and Scorsese strike again
Cape Fear was originally made in 1962 and was adapted from John D. Macdonald's novel The Executioners. The story follows a rapist who has been released from prison after 14 years and is out to find the lawyer who was supposed to represent him. Already, after hearing the summary the constant film-goer is enthralled into what will happen, I for one was, and by God, I was pleased. The film is strikingly original and fresh, and plays out like a horror story but turns out to be a thriller of many complexities. Robert De Niro stuns again as the horrible Max Cady and he definitely packs a wallop with a very well executed performance. He is supported by a good performance by Nick Nolte who plays the cheating lawyer Sam Bowden. It is a shame to say that Juliette Lewis was awful and had no apparent connection with the rest of the cast who I thought all brought in good, solid performances. Martin Scorsese directed this film after much reluctance but was eventually persuaded to direct and once again with Robert De Niro he did a great job, this being his penultimate partnership with De Niro, they always seem to have a chemistry that no other partnership of actor and director have. The score for Cape Fear is very haunting and fits in well with the suspenseful atmosphere, and holds in your head for a long while afterwards, reminding you of the encounters between Cady and Bowden. The set design was well done and is very real, especially at the end when they actually shot on location, the fact that the most part of the movie is set in a very normal place makes it all the more creepy. Overall, this movie, compared to other De Niro and Scorsese films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Casino, is not as good but it is still a supremely good achievement and stays with a long time, although I would not recommend that this film is watched by anyone who is very disturbed by violence and scary characters or is easily creeped out as it is not a very nice film and is certainly very scary, although it is not a horror. A must watch for Robert De Niro or Martin Scorsese fans, or any film buff like me! 9/10