Shutter Island

Man, have I been the biggest slacker as of late as far as keeping up with reviews. It is really tough sometimes to find the time to write your thoughts on a particular movie, especially as many as I watch. I will try to do a better job, especially with all the good movies that seem to be headed our way, and some already here.

Lets’s get started with a film that I have been looking forward to for a very long time, one that I wanted to see since the trailer came out, and one I would see anyway just because it is the GREAT Martin Scorsese! (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Departed…lot to live up to huh!) Maybe some of this review is my very high expectations and maybe some of it has to do with the film making itself, but this turned out to be a very average film.

The film stars Leonardo Dicaprio (Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Aviator) as the lead investigator trying to solve the disappearance of a woman from an asylum for the criminally insane. Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac) plays his partner Chuck and they begin to dive into interviewing staff, patients and doctors of the asylum to locate the missing woman. During their investigation Dicaprio’s character experiences flashbacks, some intriguing and some stilted and very out of place. Ben Kingsley  (Best Actor Gandhi) plays Dr Cawley and is suspicious from the beginning. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain), Jackie Earl Haley (Little Children) and Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) are all in this film as well, but are rather disappointing with not much character development. So there really wasn’t that much to work with.

Martin Scorsese does a great job as a film maker and shows his craft with very artful scenes, but that is about it. I think as far as a director telling this story he missed some chances to make this movie very memorable. This is not a horror story or a ghost story as you might think from the trailer, it is a psychological thriller. Not to give anything away, but when the mystery is solved, the way they reveal it is very weak, again missing the chance to really have this film pay off in a big way at the end, instead it just limps along and things are revealed in about the only way information is given to the viewer, through a seemingly forced interview.

It may sound like I absolutely hated this film. It did have a few highlights, but on the whole, for me, a let down from what I was expecting. If you want my advice, just wait for this one on dvd and just rent it on a rainy Sunday afternoon, when there is no football on.

Analyze This

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Mobster Paul Vitti is having problems after surviving an assassination attempt. It just so happens that hit man “Jelly” has run into (literally rear-ended while driving) a therapist, Ben Sobel. Vitti shows up in Sobel’s office, and before the session is over, Vitti has a therapist. The only problem is, Dr. Ben Sobel is getting married and you never know when a mobster is going to show up and need a quick session. 

This is a wonderful comedy that plays off of the typical gangster cliches, to the point of  discussing who is Fredo in Dr. Sobel’s dream. A mobster in therapy just sets up nice for so many comedic opporotunities. Mob Boss Paul Vitti is played by Hollywood heavyweight Robert DeNiro (Best Actor Raging Bull, Best Supporting Actor Godfather II).  I am glad DeNiro didn’t stay typecast as a too tough crime character after playing in so many of those roles, because he certainly does play well in comedies, especially this role and as the CIA Dad in Meet the Parents. Deniro’s performance and facial expressions are absolutely great in this film, a real treat to watch.

Dr. Ben Sobel played by comedian Billy Crystal (City Slickers, When Harry Met Sally), and is a perfect match to DeNiro. Crystal is great at subtle lines,  very quick witted lines that are wonderful. The underated performance has to go to Joe Viterelli (Mickey Blue Eyes)who plays Jelly. He is the ultimate lovable thug.

This film is directed by Harold Ramis (Caddyshack), and is a much better representation of his work than the junk he spit out earlier this year in Year One. In all, this is a very entertaining film and is worth catching when you are in the mood for something light hearted that will make you laugh.Check it out for sure!

Once Upon A Time In America

Once Upon a Time in America

Everyone’s first thoughts seem to be to compare this film with the Godfather. Everyone knows Godfather I and II as great masterpieces in film history and as well they should be. But don’t cheat yourself out of seeing this film, because you would be doing just that, only cheating yourself.

Believe it or not, I have never seen the American cut of this film, which I understand was hacked and put into chronological order. I guess American studios don’t have that much faith in American movie fans to follow anything a bit different or actually thinking for themselves. Directed by Sergio Leone who was known best for the spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), directs this film. When taking in a film by Leone, just be ready for a drawn out, mood setting scenes which are very well crafted. Being drawn out isn’t a bad thing, just as the water pump knocks back and forth endlessly at the beginning of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, a telephone rings for what seems 5 minutes, setting the mood, increasing tension and peaking curiosity.

Of course accompanying Leone is Ennio Morricone. (who also scored the famous and highly recognizable The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly score….you know you’re singing it in your head right now!) Morricone does the usual masterful almost haunting score for which he won a Golden Globe for. Leone and Morricone are a wonderful team and seems to be meant for each other.

This film stars Robert DeNiro (Best Actor Raging Bull) plays Noodles. The film follows his character and Noodles only knows one thing, never sell out your friends. James Woods plays his friend Max. Woods is wonderful as the flying by the seat of his pants, high strung friend. Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) and Burt Young (Pauly in Rocky) give good performances as well. And if you think you kind of recognize the little girl dancing in the beginning, you probably do know her. This is Jennifer Connelly’s (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) very first feature film.

This is a wonderful film, and I highly recommend it. I didn’t want to give too much away in this review, for those that want to see it. Remember Sergio Leone is a wonderful storyteller, but tells it his way at his pace, which just adds color and drama to his films. Settle in with a bucket of popcorn or some good red wine…this is good movie making!