Scorsese Month Review: The Departed

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: William Monahan
Release Date: October 6, 2006
Run Time: 151 Minuets
Rating: R
Score: 4.5/5

While I can’t call this my favorite Scorsese movie I can say I think it’s his best (at lest from the ones i’ve seen). It’s as well acted, well directed and well scored as we’ve all come to expect from Scorsese, but what pushes this over the edge into “best of” territory is the script. “The Departed” is nothing less that a master class in dramatic irony. For those who skipped English class, dramatic irony is when we, the audience, are privy to knowledge that most of if not all the cast isn’t aware of. For example: in “Romeo and Juliet”, Romeo awakes near the end of the play to find Juliet dead, but we know that she is only sleeping. And no, I’m not adding a spoiler warning to a 400+ year old play you all should have read by now.
Getting back on topic, “The Departed” is about a group of Massachusetts police trying to take down the Costello crime family. Unbeknownst to the police, Costello has a man on the inside, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who’s not just on the inside but a high ranking official. But that’s not all: what Costello doesn’t know is that the police have their own mole, Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio). Both groups end up finding out they’ve been infiltrated, and the moles are then tasked with finding each other. .
What makes this so good is, again, the dramatic irony. Dicaprio’s Costigan is constantly getting the crap beat out of him, while not much goes wrong in the life of Sullivan. Maybe I have a dark sense of humor, or maybe i’m just a bad person, but I constantly found this set up to rather funny. There’s a part where Dicaprio’s character has a broken arm, only to have it constantly smashed on a pool-table in order to break of the cast that I couldn’t stop laughing at. Is the scene meant to be funny? Probably not, but that doesn’t change the fact. It’s not all laughs though. There are a few scenes that are genuinely puls pounding, like when both moles are either close to each other or on different sides of an operation, each trying to inform their real owners on what’s going on. I can’t really say a whole lot more with out spoiling the movie, and in the case it really is better to go in as cold as possible.
What I can talk about is just how good the cast was. Damon and Dicaprio both did great, but you already knew that (or you should if you’ve ever watched a movie with either of them), but there wasn’t a single bad performance here. Hell, I even like Mark Wahlberg in this, and I normally don’t like him as an actor (granted, this isn’t as impressive as David Fincher making me like Tyler Perry in “Gone Girl”, but it’s impressive none the less). And then there’s Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello. Again, if you’ve ever seen a movie with Jack Nicholson then you already knew going into this that he was going to be good, he may be one of the best things in the movie. While he makes Costello intimidating, he also makes the character a lot of fun. There’s a scene with him and Damon in a theater that just cracked me up when I saw it. Out of ever Nicholson film i’ve seen, this has got to be one of the best from him. And when you take in to consideration that he’s been in both “Chinatown” and “the Shining” that says a lot.
Going back to Scorsese for a minuet, I said at the end of last weeks review that this was the film that landed him his first Oscar, for both best director and best picture. The question is: should it have won, and was does it should the academy have give him an award before hand. Personally, I think this was a group trying to make up for a looot of mistakes by not giving him an Oscar be for then. And yes, I think he should have won. I just wish he won in a better yeah. The 2007 nominees for best picture were lacking in my opinion. Sure, I liked “Bable” and “Little Miss Sunshine”, but winning over them and the other nominees is kind of like a sports star winning over a middle school team, and it’s this kind of thing that makes me not trust the oscars all that much (well, that and the fact that both “The English Patient” and “The Artist” also both won best picture). I mean, was “Dancing with Wolves” really better than “Goodfellas”? Was “Rocky” really better than “Taxi Driver”? In the end, while I think the award is pretty pointless, it was about time for Scorsese’s talent to be recognized, and they couldn’t have found a better movie to do it with. In the end, that’s really all there is to say. In the end that’s all that needs to be said. This is a fantastic movie and if you haven’t seen it you should go do that. Now. Like, right now. Stop reading and go. Why are you still here, get going.


“Captain America: Civil War” Fears

marvel_s_captain_america__civil_war___re_logo_by_mrsteiners-d84h9nyWarning: In order for me to talk about this, I have to talk about the end of “Age of Ultron”. It’s not a huge story spoiler, but it was meant to be a reveal to the audience. If you haven’t seen the film, this wont ruin it for you, but it may take out some of the impact of the last scene.
So, at the end of “Age of Ultron” the original Avengers Team breaks up. Bruce Banner is in hiding, Tony quits the team, and from the looks of things Thor is going to be too busy in Asgard to continue the partnership (but I may be wrong on this). In the last scene of the movie we meet our new team:

Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans)

Natasha Romanova/ Black Widdow (Scarlett Johansson)

Rhodey Rhodes/ War Machine (Don Cheadle)

Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie)

Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

and The Vision (Paul Bettany)

no good pics online yet sorry.

no good pics online yet sorry.

This Team switch has managed to address a major issue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Diversity. While I am sad to see Robert Downy Jr. and Mark Ruffalo leave, I think this is a welcome change. So, what’s the issue? In short, “Civil War”. While i’m sure the movie will be on par with the rest of the MCU so far, I’m worried about that the film may undermine this step towards better representation.
For those who are unaware, the story of “Civil War” will revolve around this new team of Avengers getting a lot of people hurt while on a job. This causes The government to try an regulate the Avengers, telling them when they can and cannot intervene. This course of action doesn’t sit well with everyone on the team and soon in fighting breaks out. At the same time a new villain comes into the fold, and the Avengers have to deal with them too.
While i’m not too sure just how much this will barrow from the 2006/2007 comic arch of the same name, my major concerns revolve around what this can mean for the new team. This is all speculation as of right now, but this is just what’s been on my mind.
The first thing that’s on my mind: why now? In both Avengers movies the team Manages to save as many people as they could and keep the battle as contained as possible. But now with the team is showing more diversity, they go the “we can’t save everyone” rout. Now, i’m sure this was planed before they made the decision to switch the team around, so I can’t be too mad about this one, but it is something that made me stop and think.
The bigger issue is, what will this mean for the team? In the comic the superheros are split pretty evenly among those who agree and disagree with the proposed actions. And if I remember correctly, a lot of heroes died in that arch. So we could potentially be seeing half the team leave in there first outing, or get killed. If the movie goes this rout that means that the diversity so many of us had wanted, and seems to have gotten, could be gone just as soon as it came.
“Captain America: Civil War” comes out next year, so we have some time to wait before we get any idea if these fears are rational or not, but as for now, i’m just going to sit here, rocking back and forth chanting “please don’t screw this up” to my self nonstop.

Scorsese Month Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: Terence Winter
Release Date: December 25, 2013
Run Time: 180 minutes
Rating: R

While “The Wolf of Wall Street” isn’t Scorsese’s best movie (that in no way is to say that the film is bad) it is probably the smartest thing he’s done. Smart in that it is trying to make a real, relevant point yes, but more importantly it’s smart in that it is a perfect update to the Scorsese formula. Scorsese made his name telling stories about the mafia and gangsters. So when making a movie like that for the modern age. Who do you focus on? The answer: Wall Street,The Modern Day Gangsters and Crime Lords.
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young up and coming Stock Broker who gained the attention of his boss when he tries to sell a stock at his interview. So much so that on his first day Belfort’s boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) offers to take him to lunch. Here Hanna tells Belfort how to make it in the stock market. The most important peace of advise Hanna gives Belfort is…kind of a heavy handed summery of the movies thesis: the free market is bullshit, the stock market is a fraud and as long as you can work it to you advantage who cares about the people you rip off. While I do agree with the over all left of center political views Scorsese is endorsing in the film, having one of the characters basically look top the camera and say “capitalism is inherently wrong and stockbrokers are scum” is a little on the lazy side. The scene isn’t bad, it’s just a little too obvious.
Anyways: the story continues as Belfort takes and passes his setion 7’s and finally becomes a real stockbroker instead of a cold caller. The only problem? His first real day is the same day of a massive market crash. Belfort promptly losses his job and goes to work for another broker company. This particular company sells “pink sheets” or penny stocks. For those who know less than I do about the stock market (and I don’t know much), here is a brief summery: At the time of this writing stock in Disney sells for $90.33. If you bought 1 share and tomorrow the stock went up to $100, you could sell the stock and make $9. 67 profit. The stocks Belfort is selling now sell for around $0.10 each.
However, there is an upside for Belfort: here he gets a 50% commission instead of 1%. So, if he can get some one to buy $4000 dollars worth of stock, he makes $2000. Were as with the other company hes only be making $40. And if nothing else, Belfort is a very good salesman.
As he continues to sell these crap stocks to people he meats who will soon become his best friend and partner (in both stock broking and crime), Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). At around this same time Belfort’s wife gives him an idea: sell these cheap stocks to wealthier people. See, were for some one like me, buying $4000 worth of stocks is out of my range, for the 1%, they could buy millions worth of these stocks and not even notice the loss. So Belfort and Donnie start their own broker agency, and Belfort teaches some of the lowlifes he used to hang around with how to come off as respectable stockbrokers. The name of this company? Stratton Oakmont. Doesn’t that just sound like the name of a company made to take as much of your money as possible?
As time goes on things are really begin to look up for Belfort and Stratton Oakmont. Every one is making more money that they know what to do with and they are constantly looking for bigger offices. But as a wise man once told me “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. With the company growning as fast and doing as well as it was, the FBI begin to ask if Stratton Oakmont’s success was too good to be true. Once Belfort leans about this the movies switches focus on to how he manages to avoids being caught while still doing copious amounts of drugs (and prostitutes), making more money that god and tiring to protect it all. So much happens that I honestly can’t go through everything (the film is 3 hours long). But it is all really good and you should watch it. However, with this movie the one thing I want to talk about the most have nothing to do with the actual movie.
See, when the movie first came out a lot of people were saying that Belfort wasn’t portrayed to be evil enough. With how Belfort is portrayed in the movie that is almost like saying a “Power Ranger” villain isn’t “evil” enough. You literally watch this man steal money hand over fist, cheat on his first wife abuse his second and do enough drugs to stock a small hospital. However, I think the real issue is that Belfort never really pays for his crime. He never gets his comeuppance, so to say. And if you are one of those people, let me just explain this as calmly as possible: THAT WAS THE GOD DAMN POINT. The fact that this man could do what he did and pay so little of a price for it because he was rich was a part of the point the movie was making. If he had paid for everything he did the movie would lose it’s impact. The message would have gone from “we need to end this culture that allows the wealthy to get away with this kind of shit” to “everyone gets what’s coming to them” and that just isn’t true. So yeah, the “controversy” of this movie is soooooo off base with anything even resembling reality that it honestly make me angry to think about.
So, to end this Scorsese Month let’s look at how this movie compares to the other movies I looked at. The first thing I noticed what that the last three movies were all based in either non-fiction or something people believe to be non-fiction. The stories of “Goodfellas” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” are both the stories of real people, while the story of Jesus is…believed by many to have really happened. I’m not sure if that means anything, but it is an interesting discovery. With the first three movies I watched I could see continual growth in Scorsese ability as a story tell. This shows itself in how much better the music is in “The Last Temptation of Christ”, and how much better the over all plot is in “Goodfellas”. In “The Wolf of Wall Street” there isn’t all that much evolution in his directing. However, after making movies for over 40 years, it makes since that he starts to rely on his “persona” as a filmmaker.
If I remember right Scorsese’s next film is going to be a biopic on the punk rock group “The Romans”. I don’t know much about the history of the band, so I can’t say if I find this an “appropriate” use of Scorsese’s talents or not, but they are a great band and Scorsese is a great director, so i’m pretty sure the movie will still be pretty sweet.
And that concludes Scorsese Month 2014. I hope you enjoyed this look at one of my favorite film makers of all time and one of the best working today.

Scorsese Month Review: Goodfellas

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Run Time: 148 Minutes
Rating: R

I said last week that this is the film most people call Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus. And with how good this movie is, it isn’t hard to see why. This is a nearly flawless film that was enjoyable from the beginning to the end. Even better, the movie expects you to know that these are bad people who deserve whatever ends they may meet, but it never preaches at you. Instead it focuses on why the life style held its appeal, how it all went wrong and how dangerous it was once everything started to fall apart. This is a story telling choice I’ll talk about more next week, but it is also a main point of interest in this film as well.
The film fallows Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from his youth to his adult life as a high ranking gangster to his downfall as well as the fall of his crime family. We open with Henry and two other men, James Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) on their way to bury a body when they learn that the man in the trunk is still alive. They pull over and finish the job. We then go back to Henry’s childhood after he gives us one of the best opening lines in film (in my opinion of course): “as far back as i can remember i wanted to be a gangster”. Here we we get a glimpse as to why the lifestyle held such appeal for young Henry Hill. He grew up poor, with several children (one wheelchair bound) living in a small house. Across the street were the gangster. They seemed to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it and no one, not even the cops, would bother them. For a young, poor boy that life seems life the ideal. And that is coming from experience.
Young Henry soon finds himself working for the crime family doing odd jobes like selling stolen smokes. This part of his life comes to its climax when he gets pinched for the first time. He gets let off, and Paul Cicero (the head of the crime family) and the rest of them are proud of the boy as he didn’t tell the police anything.
We then cut back to the present. From here we watch as Henry goes up the ranks of Italian mob, starting with one of the first big scores. In this score Henry and someone else (I don’t remember who at the moment) steal somewhere around half a million dollars from an airport with out ever having to pullout there guns. Things are good for a while, but then three events happen that really kick the plot into overdrive. This first is when Tommy kills a “made man” and we learn what was going on in the beginning of the film before the flashback. The second is the groups second big score, this time for around 6 million dollars. The third is Henry getting out of prison and entering the drug business.
You see, up until now, watching this felt very much like watching “Mean Streets”. A good movie that lacked any real feeling of connectivity. But here we see where that comparison ends. These events have consequences and lead directly into the resolution of the film. At this point Scorsese had been making movies for nearly 20 years, and that time and practice shows through.
Anyway, the group takes another score, the largest is US history at the time. And Tommy goes kill crazy. Some of the people he kills around this time screwed up in some way, an others he kills out of pretty spite. After awhile the “made men” as forced to kill him. They say it was because he killed another one of the “made men” but it honestly feels like they were just sick of his bullshit. And then we start to see Henry’s trust in the group start to fade away.
As time goes on, Henry starts dealing in drugs, behind the back of the head boss, Paulie. Henry, his wife and his mistress all start using as well as selling and that is what ultimately leads to his down fall. He gets caught and Pauile and the others are forced to turn their backs on him. With this betrayal as well as his own growing distrust of the gang, when it comes time for the trial, Henry snitches and leads to the arrest of most the higher ups and bringing down that crime family.
This is a good movie. If you haven’t seen it you should definitely go do that. Scorsese here perfected the art of telling the story of a mans life, with all it’s chaos and randomness while still telling a great, cohesive story. This is, in my opinion, the gangster movie. If you only ever watch one movie about gangsters or the mod, let it be this one. You will not be disapointed.

Scorsese Month Review: Mean Streets

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin
Release Date: October 14, 1973
Run Time: 112 Minutes
Rating: R

We’re going to kick off Scorsese Month the same way he kicked off his career: with “Mean Streets”. As a first film, this really does paint a precise picture of what a Scorsese film will be through out most of his career: Gangs, Crime, Violence, Catholic Guilt and so on. Unfortunately, this feels like the first movie some directed as well. While Martin Scorsese is a Cinema God, this is not the work of the mastermind we all know and love, but the rookie he was, and his inexperience shows. Firstly and most blatantly in the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of plot to this movie.
The movie fallows Charlie, a low level mobster looking to clime the ranks, but his Roman Catholic believes and moronicly reckless friend Johnny Boy keep pulling getting in the way. The main issue through out the movie is Charlie seeing salvation by helping Johnny Boy be less of a dip shit. And that’s it. That’s the plot of the movie. The movie isn’t bad, but there really isn’t much to talk about in terms of plot. Out side of the few times we see Charlie trying to make Johnny Boy grow the hell up, most of the movie is about Charlie’s life as a gangster.
Now, with all my bitching about how little plot there is, think this may be the key into understanding just how good a director Martin Scorsese is. While I was waiting for something substantial to happen I was never board. Watching Charlie and Johnny Boy collecting debts, watching Charlie and his relationship with the epileptic Teresa, watching the two friends rip off a couple of kids, all of this is a lot of fun, even though it’s all ultimately irrelevant. This may not be as good a fist film is as “Reservoir Dogs” was for Quentin Tarantino, but it is still a very good movie.
So…yeah…that as great a review as I was hoping, but there really isn’t all that much to say. Well, next time we’ll see how much changes in over a decade as I take a look at “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

Welcome to Scorsese Month.

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese has been making movies for over 40 years now. His first film, Mean Streets, came out in 1973 and the man still has another movie coming out. So, i’m going to be looking at about one film per decade from this cinematic legend to celebrate his 72nd birthday. So, Look for a new review every Monday throughout the month.

Focus Trailer and Impressions

My Thoughts:
I have a love hate relationship with Will Smith as an actor. He’s not bad, and i do find him likeable, but in nearly every one of his earlier films i felt like he was just playing the “fresh prince” again to some degree. Then he did “The Pursuit of Happyness” and i saw some real range from him and i was excited. How did he fallow that up? With “7 pounds” and it felt way too much like the same preference to me. Again, i never felt he was a bad actor, but it was becoming clear to me that he wasn’t exactly a “well rounded” actor. Well, now he’s back with “Focus” and it would seem like he is trying once again to show me that he can act with the best. And so far he has me convinced.
The movie itself also looks pretty good. It has an interesting set up and i would like to see more. i do have one concern though. This could too easily become more about the relationship between the two leads and not about the heist and that just wouldn’t work for me. This has a great set up for a crime movie. I don’t want to see that ruined by some shoehorned romance.

A Most Viloent Year Trailer and Impressions

My Thoughts:
I liked this trailer a lot. I thought the writing was very good and the acting complemented it perfectly. But then i saw that the film in coming out December 31 this year. That could mean one of two things. The first is that the creative team is really trying to get an Oscar. you see, the only real qualifier to be eligible for an Oscar is that your movie has to play n a few certain theaters before the end of the year. This has lead Oscar seekers to release their movies latter in the so that their movie wont be forgotten about. It’s dumb, but it is what it is. The second possibility: the movie sucks. Movies released in January tend to suck because the higher ups responsible for what movies get released know most family wont have the extra income to see movies this shortly after Christmas so they release the movies they think no one will really want to see. So, is this trying to be the last Oscar contender of 2014 or the first piece of shit of 2015? I don’t know. If this trailer is even 1/2 as good as the movie proper than i think it’s safe to say that the movie will be pretty good. But trailers have lied before, so i’m going to have to give this one a wait and see also.

Kill the Messenger Trailer and Impressions

My Thoughts:
I read a quote once (i forget who exactly said it as well as the exact quote as well, sorry) from a F.B.I. agent who said that every time he did a large scale drug investigation he would always get cut off right before he was able to make a connection between drug smuggling and the C.I.A. So this is a story that needs to be told. And so far this is looking good. However, these fictionalized tellings of real events are never quite as true as Hollywood would like us to believe, and that does temper my expectations somewhat. When it comes to films like this the film makes point of view on the subject will inform you more on what you are going to see in theaters that the subject matter of the film itself. Even if you agree with the film makers point of view i think it is still important to point that out and be aware of it. I don’t know what Michael Cuesta’s view on the subject is, so i can’t say how much it will effect the movie, but again, it is something to think about. All in all though, the movie looks good and looks like it is trying to tell an important story in a respectful manner, so i’m looking forward to it.

Felony Trailer and Impressions

My Thoughts:
This looks good, but i have to harp on the title for a bit. Could the creative team picked a lazier name? Hell, maybe Michael Bay will fallow suit and just call his next movie “BOOM”. Okay, i’m done now, but god that is lazy title. As for the film itself, like i said, i think it looks good. The whole “hero cop isn’t as clean as we thought he was” story/characters is one i really like. And with what has been going on in Ferguson, i think it’s just good (if not somewhat exploitative) to play up the “all cops are bastards” mentality a bit more. What do you think? Does this look like something you’d like to watch? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let me know.