16 December 2013

Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco 1997
  • Director: Mike Newell
  • Based on book: by Joseph D. Pistone
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Anne Heche
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Al Pacino – 88 Minutes, The Merchant of Venice, Looking for Richard, Angels in America, Insomnia, The Devil’s Advocate, City Hall, Heat, Carlito’s Way, The Scent of a Woman, Glengarry Glen Ross, Frankie and Johnny, Sea of Love, Author Author, And Justice for All, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Panic in Needle Park
    • Michael Madsen - Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Thelma and Louise, Mulholland Falls, The Doors, Racing with the Moon
    • Bruno Kirby – A Slipping Down Life, The Basketball Diaries, When Harry Met Sally, Good Morning Vietnam, This Is Spinal Tap
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Thirteenth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Three times.  Now: December 15, 2013.

        Al Pacino is a pathetic, scared, big mouth mafia small fry.  Johnny Depp is an undercover cop trying to juggle the dangerous double life of apprentice Mafioso and suburban husband and father.
       We expect the best from these two actors.  We get even better than that.  Their performance is nothing less than phenomenal.
       Lefty (Pacino) wants out. It’s a lousy life, he’s unappreciated, passed over.  He has cancer and a drug addict son and a lovely girlfriend he’d like to just be with. Donnie (JD) wants out. He can’t help liking Lefty and feels guilty about the old man’s loving loyalty to him but he has to keep setting him up in the operation. He finds himself turning into the kind of violent brutal criminal he’s trying to put in prison. And he’s losing his family in the process.
       It’s a very sad film.
       There are only two things wrong with it.  It’s too long.  And it’s a mafia movie. I don’t like mafia movies.
      

4 * of 5


       

Elizabeth the Golden Age

Elizabeth – The Golden Age 2007
  • Director: Shekhar Kapur
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Eddie Redmayne, Adam Godley
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Cate Blanchett  Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Heaven, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried, Elizabeth
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Clive Owen – Children of Men, Derailed, Closer, King Arthur, The Bourne Identity, Gosford Park, Croupier,
    • Samantha Morton – The Libertine, In America, Jane Eyre, Morvern Callar
    • Abbey Cornish – Bright Star, A Good Year
    • Eddie Redmayne – My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables
    • Adam Godley – Case Histories, Merlin, Son of Rambow, Nanny McPhee, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Love Actually
  • Why? Good cast. History. Part two of two
  • Seen: Twice. Now: December 14, 2013.

 Lavish like the first, but slow. It’s hard to get involved in either the story or the characters.
       It’s visually stunning, but boring.  The cast is good but the roles they are asked to play are…silly.  The romantic vibes between the Queen and the dashing Walter Raleigh don’t convince.
       And the title is wrong! The Golden Age came after this period.
       The Armada was exciting though. And the film is a beautiful sight.

2 ½ * of 5
      

       

9 December 2013

Elizabeth

Elizabeth 1998
  • Director: Shekhar Kapur
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, Richard Attenborough, Fanny Ardent, Kathy Burke, Emily Mortimer, John Gielgud, Eric Cantona, Vincent Cassel, Kelly McDonald, Kenny Doughty, Daniel Craig
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Cate Blanchett  Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Heaven, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried,
    • Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean 1-4, The King’s Speech, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Intolerable Cruelty, Ned Kelly, The Banger Sisters, Frida, Lantana, Shakespeare in Love, Les Miserables, Shine, Twelfth Night
    • Joseph Fiennes – Good-bye Bafana, The Darwin Awards, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare in Love,
    • Christopher Eccleston – Twenty-Eight Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Shallow Grave
    • Richard Attenborough – Hamlet, Jurassic Park, Dr. Doolittle, The Great Escape, Whistle Down the Wind
    • Fanny Ardent – Paris je t’aime, Ridicule
    • Kathy Burke – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Nil by Mouth, Absolutely Fabulous, Sid and Nancy
    • Emily Mortimer – Hugo, Shutter Island, Paris je t’aime, Dear Frankie, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Notting Hill
    • John Gielgud – Hamlet, Arthur and many others
    • Vincent Cassel – Black Swan, Derailed, Birthday Girl
    • Kelly McDomald – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, No Country for Old Men, Nanny McPhee, Tristram Shandy, The Girl in the Café, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Finding Neverland, Gosford Park, My Life So Far, Trainspotting
    • Kenny Doughty - Titus
    • Daniel Craig – Defiance, Infamous, Road to Perdition (no, I have not seen the James Bond movies, but we just ordered the box…)
  • Why? Good cast. History
  • Seen: Three times. Now: December 8, 2013.


       Having recently read The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer, Hal and I were in the mood to take a trip of our own back to Elizabeth’s era.
       The film doesn’t exactly take us there, i.e. not to the England we would see. I don’t think they’d admit us commoners into their midst, these royal folks.
       Fortunately! I wouldn’t want to be a part of this gang. Clever Shakespeare to have survived all the intrigues and executions.
       Actually he mainly survived because he managed to not be born yet when the intrigues in this film take place. By the time he came around, Elizabeth had reigned a long time and though intrigues abounded then too, the ones of this film were long past.
       And intrigues there certainly are. This is the third time I’ve seen this film, I’ve read countless books on the subject and I’m still confused. The first three quarters of the film are actually rather boring in spite of all the lavishness but it pulls together to become strong in the end.
       The cast is top notch.  Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes are always a pleasure to see as are many of the others.  But it’s not really worth all of the Oscar nominations.

3* of 5
      

       

Nick of Time

Nick of Time 1995
  • Director: John Badham
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Christopher Walken, Charles S. Dutton, Roma Maffia, Marsha Mason, Peter Strauss, Gloria Rueben
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Christopher Walken – Romance and Cigarettes, Catch Me If You Can, Sleepy Hollow, Suicide Kings, Blast from the Past, The Addiction, Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Sarah Plain and Tall, Deer Hunter
    • Charles S. Dutton - Honeydripper, Secret Window, Homicide Life on the Street, Alien 3
    • Roma Maffia – Holes, Double Jeopardy
    • Marsh Mason – The Good-bye Girl
    • Peter Strauss – Rich Man Poor Man
    • Gloria Rueben – Homicide Life on the Streets
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Twelfth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice.  Now: December 6, 2013.

        The story is not altogether likely but it is pretty exciting.
       Our mild-mannered hero, JD himself, again an accountant, is blackmailed through the kidnapping of his small daughter into assassinating the governor. He has one hour to do it or his daughter dies.  He’s watched constantly so getting help is not an option.
       JD as a dad in a suit, wire-rimmed glasses and a dorky haircut is not as enthralling as his Edward, Gilbert, Sam, Don Juan or Bill Blake but he’s convincingly shocked, incredulous, scared, rebellious and calculative.
       The star of the show though – I have to admit it – is not JD in spite of his top billing. It’s Christopher Walken. No one can just stand around staring and be as creepy as Walken.  Here he’s just a normal, easy-going, smooth-talking killer and he’s terrifying.
       Roma Maffia as his partner, cool street smart, gum-cracking (does she actually chew gum or is my memory just adding this for effect?), is so laid back that the kidnapped little kid doesn’t suspect a thing.
       This is good Friday evening excitement. But not more.

2 ½  * of 5


       

Every Day

Every Day 2010
  • Director: Richard Levine
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Eddie Izzard, Brian Dennehy, Ezra Miller, Skyler Fortgang
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Liev Schreiber  Hamlet, Repo Men, Taking Woodstock, Defiance, Kate and Leopold
    • Helen Hunt – Then She Found Me, Cast Away, As Good As It Gets, Twister, Peggy Sue Got Married
    • Carla Gugino – somehow I seem to have missed everything, though she’s been in a lot
    • Eddie Izzard – Valkyrie, Across the Universe, Romance and Cigarettes, Velvet Goldmine
    • Brian Dennehy – The Exonerated, Romeo & Juliet, The Stars Fell on Henrietta, Presumed Innocent and various TV series
  • Why? Cheap. Good cast
  • Seen: December 1, 2013

        The cast is really good.  Every single one is really good.  But the movie is so filled with clichés that I wonder why they wanted to be in it.  In fact it’s too boring to even write about but here’s a hint: bourgeois family drama where it all works out in the end. Cute kids. Regretted adultery. Horrible old grandfather who’s good-hearted, really.
       Sorry. Don’t bother with this one. Watch all these people’s other movies instead.

1 ½  * of 5


2 December 2013

Dead Man

Dead Man 1995
  • Director: Jim Jarmusch
  • Based on book: no.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne, Mili Avital, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Gary Farmer – Adaption, Swing Vote, Smoke Signals, Skins
    • Crispin Glover - Alice in Wonderland, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Wild at Heart, Racing with the Moon
    • John Hurt – Merlin, I Claudius, Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brighton Rock, Melancholia, V for Vendetta, Hellboy, Dogville, Manderlay, King Lear, Rob Roy, Elephant Man, Alien
    • Robert Mitchum – who knows? A bunch of old ones probably. He’s just been around for a long time.
    • Iggy Pop – Well, Iggy Pop is Iggy Pop and eternally recognizable but he’s been in a few movies too: The Crow, Trainspotting, Cry-Baby, Sid and Nancy
    • Gabriel Byrne – Jindabyne, Wah-Wah, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Usual Suspects, Little Women, Miller’s Crossing, Gothic, Excalibur
    • Mili Avital – The Human Stain
    • Billy Bob Thornton – Love Actually, Intolerable Cruelty, Levity, Monster’s Ball, The Man Who Wasn’t There, A Simple Plan, Sling Blade, The Stars Fell on Henrietta
    • Alfred Molina - An Education, Chocolat, Frida, As You Like It, Prick Up Your Ears
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Eleventh movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Three times.  Now: November 15, 2013.


      Poor nerdy, uncool JD. Or William Blake as he’s called here.  That suit!  Those soulful bespectacled eyes. He’s so pathetic.
       But he makes a pretty cool killer. Poor guy. He’s just a simple accountant from Cleveland trying to survive the Wild West. It isn’t easy. Crooked industrial tycoon. Vicious bounty hunters. Vengeful lawmen. Everyone wants him dead except the mysterious Nobody in full Indian regalia spouting the poetry of the other William Blake and a lot of “Indian malarkey,” to quote the JD version of Bill Blake.
       It can’t get much more absurd than that but it does. It’s a road movie on horseback through summer deserts and forests and bleak winter mountains with touches of cannibalism and head squishing. To quote Hal: “This is so grotesque.”
       That it is.  It’s also fascinating, beautifully filmed in black and white and scored with Neil Young’s twangy guitar.
       Superstars (at least in my listings) pop up all over the place: John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne, Crispan Glover, Iggy Pop, and that’s always fun.  Gary Farmer is known to me mainly through the dad in Smoke Signals, one of the world’s best movies which I’ve seen about ten times (yet to be reviewed on this blog however).
       JD. Yes.  If not his best, then this one is right there at the top.  He, and the film, must be seen. Repeatedly.

5 * of 5