Quiet Regrets (The Irishman, 2019)

The_Irishman_PosterMartin Scorsese has given us countless cinematic classics. It stunned the world of film when it was announced his next film, the Irishman, would be a Netflix original.

The Irishman follows the life of Frank Sheeran, a mid level mafia type who…well, when all is said and done, loses the important things in his dedication to the empty life being offered by the family.

Like Goodfellas or Casino, we see lives of toxic masculine bravado and the damage it does to families. But this time, Scorsese opts for a more quiet and lamenting approach. Less focused on the brutality, this film is about a man who tries hard to not acknowledge his faults. It ruins his relationship with his daughters, yet he is unwilling to truly take the steps to fix the situation. He has regrets, but not the will to become a truly responsible man.

With a three and half hour runtime, I suspect that it may not be as effective for casual viewers.  This is a good film, though not Scorsese’s best.  It boasts strong performances, with this being one of Joe Pesci’s finest moments of his career.

The film makes big use of de-aging technology.  When characters are sitting around? It is really good. Screen shots look fine. But when there is action and a lot of movement required…well, it may *look* like 35 year old De Niro…but he moves like 76 year old De Niro and that is hard to ignore.

As I said, this is good, but not a great Scorsese film.  I am glad he made it, I liked it.  But outside of Scorsese die hards, I am not sure this film will garner near the appreciation.

Fading Glories (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, 2019)

Once_Upon_A_Time_In_Hollywood_PosterAnd so here we are at Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film (Apparently Death Proof does not count?).  A pretty loving homage to the Hollywood of the 60’s, Tarantino weaves a tale of fading actor Rick Dalton and his best friend Cliff Booth and their place in it all.  Cliff is less bothered, content to help out his friend and then spend the evening sitting in front the TV with his dog. But after a meeting with producer Marvin Schwarz, Rick is realizing he is becoming…well obsolete…and it scares him.

I suspect Dalton’s crisis is not uncommon in Hollywood…but does it make for a great story?

Yeah.  It turns out that here? It sure does.

Now, of course, this is in part, due to the performances of both DiCaprio and Pitt as Dalton and Booth respectively. DeCaprio’s portrayal is both hilarious and endearing. Pitt gives Booth a real sense of casual cool.

Once_Upon_A_Time_In_Hollywood_Alt_PosterThe writing is both the cleverness we expect from Tarantino matched with compelling characters (there is a bit of a question if Cliff is maybe a darker guy, but the film leaves the door open on just how dark). I would say the weakest link in the main characters is Robbie’s Sharon Tate. Not because Robbie is a bad actress. She is charming and kind as Tate.  There is a sequence where we see Robbie express insecurity turning to joy as she watches a movie she is in with an audience. Robbie sells this moment. But she feels so incidental to the story for much of the time.

The cast is just full of great talent… Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant and a pretty endless group bringing their A-game.

Visually, the film feels it is of another time, truly like a creature of the 60’s. And the soundtrack is darn near perfect.

My only real criticism is a somewhat lazy time jump that glosses over six months. But, admittedly, had they shown all of it, the film would be, like five hours long. And I do like listening to the Kurt Russell narration.

I found Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood great fun.  Bear in mind, this is a Tarantino film…if you hate his previous work, I don’t think this will change your mind. But fans will appreciate this one for sure.

The Devil You Know (The Devil’s Advocate, 1997)

The_Devils_Advocate_PosterKevin Lomax is a hotshot lawyer in a small Florida town. He has never lost a cost, until it seems, he finds himself unable to defend a school teacher accused of molesting young girls. He manages to undermine and humiliate the accuser and win the case after all. This brings him to the attention of a large New York firm.

Skeptical at first, Kevin and Mary Ann Lomax are soon swept away by the lavish lifestyle afforded them. But the more time passes, the more Kevin’s ambition starts causing him to turn a blind eye to the darker aspects of this world.

At the same time, Mary Ann is drowning in this new world, her confidence constantly being undermined by supposed friend Jackie.

It all leads to the discovery that…well, the head of the law firm is Satan. And Satan has big plans for Kevin.

The film is not a metaphor, I mean, Al Pacino’s John Milton (subtle) is definitely the devil, there is all sorts of supernatural moments…Kevin is the young man tempted by his own lusts for achievement.  At one point, when Mary Ann is seemingly lost, Milton offers Kevin an opportunity to step back, devote time to helping his wife work back to health. But Kevin justifies not doing so out of “concern” that if she got better, he would resent her for it.

I have always had a soft spot for this film. I think Pacino has a lot of fun, and some great over the top dialog.  It has a really solid cast (Craig T. Nelson plays an obvious trump analog).

It can, however, be a bit ham-fisted, and it can be really hard to want Kevin to succeed in the film watching him constantly make the most awful choices. And what is really annoying? The cheat of the end of the film. It makes almost the entire story feel like there were no lessons to be learned. There is also some really terrible digital compositing…in scenes where there should not have been that big of a challenge (the cityscape behind Reeves and Connie Nielsen in one scene where they are on a balcony is just…embarrassingly bad, especially post Jurassic Park).

But, again, Pacino is fun to watch (his massive speech at the end is a pretty fair indictment of humanity, all done with that Pacino flair) and this is one of those Keanu roles where he is kind of clueless, which seems to allow him to deliver some of his best performances. Charlize Theron is sweet and sympathetic pretty much all through the film, and her descent into the mouth of madness is heartbreaking.  The Devil’s Advocate is a mostly fun watch with even a few moments of insight.

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