“We have a question: Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop? It’s an honest question.”
So Scorsese directed another gangster film. After Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, Mean Streets, and more, you’d think this would be old hat. But this movie is brilliantly conceived, masterfully executed, and thoroughly enjoyable. Martin Scorsese takes the helm, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson deliver incredible performances. The art direction, from the cinematography to the soundtrack, are perfect for this movie. It’s not The Godfather (but, really, what is?); but I’ll admit, I had more fun watching The Departed than I’ve had watching any other gangster movie.
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“The following is my explanation. Well, more of an account of what happened. I’d been on my own for a while and getting kind of lonely… and bored… nothing to do all day. And that’s when I started shadowing.”
It’s fun looking at an artist’s early work and seeing the ideas and themes that will play out the rest of their careers. Legendary writer and director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception) got his start with the low-budget indie film Following, and you can see in it the beginnings of ideas that would play out in Memento and even Inception. Though not quite as impressive as his later films, the plot and writing are still a head above most other movies and carry that trademark complexity that Nolan is famous for, and it’s amazing what Nolan was able to do on such a limited budget (estimated at $6,000, most of which was spent on film). In addition to being historically important, the film is also interesting to watch for its mystery and neo-noir elements.
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“Don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.”
Truth be told, I’m a little nervous about reviewing The Godfather. What more can I say about one of the most famous movies of all time? Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, and, come on, he directed The Godfather) and starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, this is considered not only the best crime movie of all time, but it’s also in the top three picks for best movie of all time (along with Citizen Kane and Casablanca). It’s so iconic and classic that it’s been referenced and parodied countless times, and phrases like “sleeping with the fishes” are now part of the common lexicon. And I had never seen it until this week. Did it live up to the hype? Yes, absolutely.
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“All right, Popeye’s here! Get your hands on your heads, get off the bar, and get on the wall!”
The gritty police movie is familiar now; but when The French Connection came out in 1971, this was a pretty novel concept. Directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, Rules of Engagement) and starring Roy Scheider and a young Gene Hackman, this is a police movie more real than even most today. It’s actually based on real-life events and characters. Scheider and Hackman went on patrol with the real-life policemen who inspired the movie, learning the ins and outs of the real work they did. The NYPD was also involved in the movie, making script edits and even working with the film crew to help capture a car chase without getting the proper permits from the city. This is not the typical Hollywood police good guys versus evil criminals, where good ultimately triumphs in the end. Truth be told, I was a little shocked with the ending, although it fit the movie perfectly. All in all, this is a well-written police thriller with plenty of realism and bite.
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“Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.”
Taxi Driver, directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed) and starring Robert De Niro, is a snapshot of Travis Bickle, a disturbed and lonely Vietnam War veteran who works as a taxi driver in New York City. The story and the man are conflicted: wanting to do the right thing, but not equipped to handle the intricacies of every-day life, vacillating between right and wrong. Travis’s growing hopelessness and descent into madness are poignant and sympathetic, leaving the viewer wondering where to draw the line between good and evil.
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