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Posts Tagged ‘ Robert De Niro ’

Late To The Party: Raging Bull

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Biopics are a huge source of internal conflict for me. While a large proportion of them are great films (at least comparative to other genres), I still don’t consider myself a fan. Firstly when the person is so iconic, such as Abraham Lincoln, it’s hard for me to remain invested in a plot I know the outcome of. I was never on the edge of my seat waiting to see if slavery was abolished or not when I went to see Lincoln. Also, some bio-pics are guilty of glorifying their namesakes and fail in giving a sufficiently unbiased portrayal. So, for me at least, biopics work best when they feature less iconic people (Oskar Schindler for example) and/or when they present their protagonist in as honest a light as possible (Billy Hayes from Midnight Express). With that being said, Raging Bull, the tragic life story of the vicious middle-weight boxer Jake La Motta, is undoubtedly my favourite biopic of all time.

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Top 10: Movie Psychopaths

Off the heels of my review of Psycho  where I went in depth about my love of movie psychopaths I thought it could be interesting to do my top 10 movie psychopaths list. The criteria are they have to have appeared in a movie but can have appeared in other media and must conform to this definition of a psychopath “a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behaviour without empathy or remorse”. With all those formalities out of the way lats kick it off! (Warning spoilers) Continue reading

Late To The Party: Mean Streets

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First off, some clarity for those confused by the title. Even though I am a huge film fan there are many great, iconic and cult films I just have not gotten around to seeing. So I thought it would be interesting to start reviewing them as I tick them off my bucket list. These are all going to be movies I have just seen but would not be considered recent movies and I feel the added factor of the movie’s reputation affecting my expectations should make for some interesting results. The first film I’m reviewing is Mean Streets (1973) which is a Martin Scorsese crime drama and his first foray into the subject matter he would soon be the king of. It also stars two Hollywood legends in Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel during the very early stages of their careers. Continue reading

Silver Linings Playbook…

15A, general release, 122 minutes.

Director: David O’Russell

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver.

Director of 2010s Oscar winning The Fighter which told the story of “Irish” boxer Mickey Ward and the brother who helped train him before going pro in the in the mid 1980s David O Russell is back only this time he has something a little different to offer. Having always been what one would refer to as an eclectic filmmaker this hardly comes as a surprise after all he is the same man who gave us Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. This time around instead of focusing on the gritty true story of a working class hero he has something altogether more cerebral, uplifting and witty to offer eager audiences in the form of Silver Linings Playbook which is based on acclaimed novelist Matthew Quick’s book of the same name.

Despite being a much easier watch than The Fighter it is important to note that Silver Linings Playbook does in fact have its darker moments. When we first meet Pat Solitano (Cooper) he is dodging his medication in a Philadelphia mental institution. Naturally, it’s not long before we find out how he got there. Turns out Pat has quite the temper. Not only that but the doctors treating Pat have decided he is suffering from bi-polar disorder. All of this was originally discovered when Pat, a former high school teacher, returned home from work one day to find his beloved wife Nikki indulging in a shower with another man. As you can imagine Pat was not best pleased and proceeded to beat the guy half to death, and has been locked up ever since.

Refusing to give up on her troubled son is Pats saint-like mother Dolores (Weaver) who fights relentlessly (as only a mammy can) to persuade doctors to let him come home after eight months of incarceration. Eventually she manages to do so and Pat who is still avoiding his medication, is still dangerously unstable, and still cannot manage to get along with his equally obsessive and gambling addicted father Pat Senior (De Niro) returns to his family home. It is here that Pat becomes manically optimistic and convinces himself that his estranged wife Nikki will have no problem taking him back if he only works hard enough.

Pat as he himself puts it does not “have a filter.” So when he talks he does so with purpose and just what is his purpose? Why to tell it as it is of course. While this is a joy to watch and I often find myself envying his rather um refreshing honesty others who have to deal with Pat clearly do not feel the same way. However, when he is introduced to Tiffany (Lawrence) the younger sister of his best friend Ronnie’s wife it’s clear from the very start that he has finally met his match. Tiffany, you see has problems of her own: her husband has recently been killed in a horrific car crash a tragedy which has left her fragile and ever so slightly erratic. She also has as Pat so kindly informs her “poor social skills” which is true in fact they are just about as poor as his own.

It’s not long before Pat finds out that Ronnie and his wife Victoria (Julia Stiles – nice to see her back) still see Nikki on a regular basis. Knowing that he has very few people he can ask this favour of Pat soon asks Tiffany if she will deliver a love letter to Nikki on his behalf. She agrees but under one condition, Pat must train with her to enter a ballroom dancing competition and the rest as they say is history folks, well… sort of!

As you would expect it all becomes a little soppy in the last half hour but do not write this one off as a romantic comedy, it is way too good for that. This is a beautiful, smart, grounded and well put together film. Perhaps most impressive is the way Russell manages to mix so well the light with the dark. He does not, like so many others, shy away from the issue that is mental health. Instead he portrays characters who are complex and at times scarily relatable. Cooper, who I was worried for after his part in The Hangover 2 and Limitless is absolutely brilliant in this and it’s just great to finally see Robert De Niro taking on a role that is worthy of his talents – I cannot tell you how sick I was getting of Jack Byrne’s, honestly they should stopped after the first Meet The Parents. When it comes to Lawrence I’m sure you already know what I’m going to say in fact to sum up her performance all you need is one word and that is, sublime. In years to come I think we’ll look at Lawrence’s career and compare her to Hollywood’s finest leading lady; Meryl Streep.

After winning The Audience Award at this years Toronto Film Festival critics everywhere are saying Silver Linings Playbook will surely be in line for an Oscar with certain Oscar “locks” predicted including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay so why not go take in a must see tonight?

Kerrie Mitchell.

Irish-American Gangster Henry Hill Dies Aged 69

Henry Hill, the Irish-American mobster who became the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Goodfellas’ has died, peacefully in bed in a Los Angeles hospital, the day after his 69th birthday, finally succumbing to years of heavy smoking and Italian food.

Born on June 11, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, Hill was an associate of New York City’s Lucchese crime family from the 1960s into the 1980s. As his father was Irish, he couldn’t become a fully- fledged wiseguy but that didn’t stop his life of crime and violence.

He participated in the 1967 Air France robbery in which $420,000 was stolen from the airline’s terminal at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, and later spent six years in prison for extortion although he continued his criminal activities while behind bars.

In December 1978, months after he was released from prison, along with James Burke, Thomas Anthony DeSimone and others stole $5m from Lufthansa Airlines at JFK airport which at the time was the largest robbery on American soil.

Following the robbery, Burke became paranoid about the publicity surrounding the crime, and murdered several of those who took part.

Two years later Hill was arrested drug trafficking, and fearing for his life from Burke, he decided to become an FBI informant. Along with his wife Karen, and their children Gregg and Gina, he entered the government’s witness protection programme and later testified against his former associates and crime bosses, including Burke and Paulie Vario, the head of the Lucchese crime family.

In 1986, Nicholas Pileggi wrote Wiseguy, the book which became the basis for Goodfellas – starring Liotta, Robert De Niro, as Jimmy ‘The Gent’  Conway, based on Burke,  Joe Pesci  as ‘Two Gun Tommy’ based on DeSimone and Paul Sorvino, based on Vario.

Hill and his wife were expelled from the programme in the early 1990s after he was arrested on drugs charges, and he went back to living under his own name. The couple divorced in 1989.

In the book and the film Hill talks about how hard it was to lead an ordinary life after years steeped in gangster glamour.

“I had paper bags filled with jewellery stashed in the kitchen. I had a sugar bowl full of coke next to the bed. Anything I wanted was a phone call away,” Hill says in the film.

“Today, everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. Right after I got here I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

Instead of being a ‘schnook’ however, Hill spent the remainder of his life as a celebrity mobster in California, selling paintings, giving lectures and appearing as an occasional host of an Italian cooking show. He also released ‘The WiseGuy Cookbook’ with a signature brand of pasta sauce.

The rest of the Goodfellas didn’t have that luxury as Vario died in 1988 in Fort Worth Federal Prison in Texas whilst serving a 10-12 year sentence after being convicted mainly on the evidence of Hill. Burke died in prison of cancer in 1996 whilst DeSimone went missing in January 1979. He was believed to have been executed in revenge for the murder of William ‘Billy Batts’ Devino which featured in the opening scene of the film.

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