In rating movies about mobsters, Goodfellas is right up there with The Godfather. Martin Scorsese took everything he knew about Italians and gangsters and New York and created one of the finest pieces of American cinema ever made. Goodfellas could really be called “Everything You Wanted To Know About Being In The Mob But Were Afraid To Ask.” The main character, Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, is a half-Irish, half-Italian Brooklyn kid who wants nothing more out of like than to be a gangster. He watches mobsters as a kid and knows…just knows…that one day, that will be him. And, sure enough, when he gets older, he gets in with the “right” crowd, and bada-boom, he’s a “made” man. The fascinating part is how Scorsese’s camera follows around Henry Hill, capturing his rise (where he can walk into a nightclub and get any seat he wants, etc.) to his downfall (the breakup of his marriage, etc.). It almost feels like every moment of Hill’s life is being recorded…as if this is more a documentary on Henry Hill, as opposed to a feature film with him as a character. Well, that last part might not be far from the truth…Goodfellas is based on the nonfiction book Wiseguys by Nicholas Pileggi. Yes, nonfiction. Hill is a real person. So, in a way, Scorsese making a documentary here is not that far from the truth. Though, I don’t want to give the impression that this film is a dry, boring look at one man. It most definitely is not that…it is a fast-paced, realistic look into the inner-workings of a crime organization, the men who run it, and the women who suffer the consequences. Given how common Mafia movies (and television shows) are, skip the rest and watch this one. Trust me.

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As critics and audiences alike call this their favorite James Bond film, I guess I am no longer alone in thinking this is one of the best spy films ever made. There is very little wrong with Goldfinger and what is wrong is very easily overlooked because of the strong plot and even stronger characters. With many series, the filmmakers begin to wane and rest on their successes when number three (or so) comes along. But, this is the case where the third film truly is the charm. Number one in the series Dr. No and two (From Russia with Love) just seem like practice in order to get to this third installment in the Bond series. Bond creator and author Ian Fleming got the title Goldfinger from the villain’s name…a man who is obsessed with gold. Truly. And the actor who plays the man-in-gold (Gert Fröbe) fits the bill perfectly. Sean Connery’s Bond also comes into his own in this film. In Dr. No he seemed a little unsure of himself and in From Russia with Love, it was the opposite…he seems TOO confident as the super-spy. Here, Connery shows the right tone of power, control and fear. And the plot is also one of the best ever in a Bond film…with Frobe’s Goldfinger trying to destroy the gold in Fort Knox so his mass amounts of gold increase considerably in value. But, for Bond films, plot always seems to take a back seat to the gadgets, romance and action. Here, at least, they made an attempt at a story…and did a great job in the process. No worries, though. There are lots of gadgets, action and romance. Promise.

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For Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 outing, he sure picked a fun ride. This is a James Bond film with bite…one that was perfect for Bond’s reemergence in theaters after a six-year break (the previous Bond film, License to Kill with Timothy Dalton, was produced in 1989). It also is a good film for the end of the 20th Century…no more Cold War doesn’t mean the former Soviet Union countries cannot be used as adequate threats. This story deals with a former MI-6 agent who went over to the other side in order to avenge his past (his Russian parents were Cossacks who were sent home by the British to be executed by Stalin) and cause World chaos. There are MAJOR parts of this film that are outlandish and unbelievable. But, remember, this is a Bond film. Unbelievable is a requirement. Brosnan fits into Bond’s tux perfectly…he mixes the right combination of Connery’s suaveness and Moore’s wit and Dalton’s fierceness. The series lagged with the two Dalton films (License and 1987’s The Living Daylights) mostly because many of the Bond-isms were gone. Yes, Dalton’s 007 was still asking for his Vodka Martini’s “shaken not stirred” but the quips and especially the romances were practically nonexistent…the latter probably because of the 1980s “safe sex” era. Enter Brosnan who brings it all back with gusto! Ian Fleming would be proud.

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Hugh Grant playing Frederic Chopin??? When I found this out, I had to watch this film. And, Grant surprised me by pulling off the role of the fragile pianist with considerable ease. I bought him as Chopin, just as I bought the other characters in this subtly lavish film. Judy Davis plays unconventional 19th Century novelist George Sand, of whom then film revolves. Her relationships with men, especially Chopin, are chronicles here in a semi-farcical/semi-serious way. Knowing nothing about Sand’s personal life, I was fascinated by her character. She is a true rebel for the day…wearing men’s clothes and having open affairs with a variety of different men. The way the movie tells her story is by not exactly taking it all seriously and, on the same taken, not exactly poking fun of it. All in all, Sand, Chopin and all of the other 19th Century characters make this a fun, interesting look at the France in the mid-1800s.

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Another Oscar Wilde play comes to life…this time in one that is funny and charming and lively and sometimes even wicked… Set in late 19th Century London, the story revolves around an up-and-coming young politician who gets blackmailed by a “lady” into changing his opinion on an upcoming parliamentary bill. She has some evidence of how he got his early influence…and is willing and ready to use it if he doesn’t meet her demands. OK, so that’s the main plot, but as Wilde always does, the plot is only the beginning of the story. The best parts here are the supporting players and the smaller storylines about romances and the search for husbands, etc. Those are the juicy parts that offer the best snippets of Wilde-esque dialogue, innuendo and puns. One of the leaders in this smaller storylines is Rupert Everett, who plays a cad who has made it is goal in life never to marry. His story interweaves perfectly with the main storyline about the blackmail (he is friends with the politician and used to date the lady who is blackmailing him) but on its own, Everett’s story is a perfectly solid work. His entire character could be pulled out and turned into a full-length play or film, since there is so much meaty dialogue and so many stories to tell about him. If you have liked Wilde’s work in the past (such as A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windemere’s Fan’s, and most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), An Ideal Husband is guaranteed to please and if you’ve never seen anything written by Wilde, this is the one to start with. Trust me…you will want to see them all!

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Not having a sister, I’m not sure I complete understand the family dynamic in this film, but putting that aside, I feel this is a good film about love and relationships that neither gets too gooey or too preachy. It starts off like a lot of films have in the past…two siblings have more than their fair share of issues because they could not be more different. One sister is sleazy and superficial, whereas the other is brainy and slower in the “love” department. Sleazy sister likes loafing off her relatives. Brainy sister always is the responsible one who has to pick up the pieces of Sleazy sister’s life. After the Brainy sister finally gives up and kicks Sleazy sister out, the film takes an unconventional turn. Instead of having the typical resolution of “accepting each other’s faults” this one actually allows the characters to change and grow. Enter Shirley MacLaine, who plays the sisters’ estranged grandmother, and there suddenly are three intelligent female characters who are capable of transforming themselves without the help of a “good man” or constant attention from others. The three main characters use what they’ve learned from each other but on their own create their own change.

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When a 1950s housewife falls in love with her black gardener, her life that was already in shambles threatens to complete fall apart. A great, powerful drama in the same tone of the early 20th Century melodramas, especially the Douglas Sirk-directed melodrama All That Heaven Allows. In All That Heaven Allows, Jane Wyman plays a recent widow with two grown children and Rock Hudson plays her gardener. The catch, in the Sirk film from 1955, was the age difference and that he is a lowly gardener and she is a prominent widow with means. Far From Heaven takes off where the Sirk film began and uses racial tensions as the barrier between the two potential lovers. Even though they are two different films told in two totally diverse perspectives, both of these movies are worthy of being seen for their brilliant 1950s styles and their powerful messages.

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Based on true events, this sure tearjerker tells the story of an Irish father in the 1950s who loses his kids through circumstances beyond his control and fights to get them back. The subject matter itself makes this story a tough one to film…too much sappiness might drive the audience away and too little sappiness makes the story fall short of its emotional mark. With the help of Pierce Brosnan (who plays the father) and the rest of the cast, Evelyn succeeds in not being too overly syrupy while still retaining enough tenderness to give the audience both tears in their eyes or lumps in their throats (or both). A charming, feel-good film that the entire family can watch and enjoy together.

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If you just let your inhibitions go…feel them float out of your body…watch them disappear…then and only then can you watch this film. The stipulation to this rule is if you are already a Charlie Kaufman (the screenwriter of Adaptation fame), you might be able to watch this and hang on to your inhibitions. But, fans of Jim Carrey be warned…this is NOTa typical Carrey film. Even the more “serious” films the actor has done (The Truman Show, The Majestic) are no comparison to the level of seriousness and un-Carrey like behavior of this film. With all of that said, if you still want to see this one, read on. Eternal Sunshine is a hard movie to write about since I still really don’t know what it’s about or what it meant. It’s a film that brings to life a person’s imagination, intellect, and emotions and captures their essences on the screen. To pigeonhole this film and call it bizarre or weird does not give it enough justice. Though, it is remarkably bizarre and unquestionably weird, it’s also thought-provoking, sensitive, smart, and extremely innovative. One has become to expect these oddities from screenwriter Kaufman. But, unlike Adaptation’s more conventional theme and storyline, Eternal Sunshine defies all conventions…actually more like blows them away. If you are in the mood for something avant-garde yet you’re not quite ready for the French New Wave, watch this one.

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Bernardo Bertolucci continually pushes the envelope and sometimes, I feel, he does it deliberately just to stir up controversy. That is how I felt when I heard about The Dreamers . Once again, the film opening was mired in a heated uproar about the rating system (it was eventually given an NC-17 though an R-rated version was also released on DVD) and sex in motion pictures. So, when I rented it, it was just to see if Bertolucci was once again living up to the reputation I had given him as an over-hyped director. I half expected to fast forward through most of it. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. The film is a good one and deserved to get more praise than it did when it was released, rather than just notoriety over its high sexual content. Yes, the film is sexual. It has graphic erotic scenes (I’m basing this review from the R-rated version), even some incestuous sexuality, which Bertolucci has used before in his films (Luna, in particular). Aside from the sexuality, the story and characters are interesting and captivating. It is a solid, vibrant coming-of-age piece with young people searching for a life like the ones they see in their favorite classic movies. The sexuality is a side note…a distraction that does pertain to the plot but does not actually move any of the action forward. Did this film need to be as sexual as it was? No, but Bertolucci so enjoys stepping over that line and inciting controversy that I’m not sure he could make a movie without sex. And, sadly, that controversy kept some people from seeing a film that is a good story about love and friendship and should be seen.

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