A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa. (IMDb)
Patient direction, slick dialogue, solid turns, and impeccable production design and cinematography bring forth an engaging if unspectacular first half glimpse into mob life, marred only by de-aged De Niro’s unnerving eyes. The second half really shines though, as friendships/tensions and trust/suspicion grow, the flashbacks catch up to the driving narrative in devastating fashion (see the hotel breakfast convo), and what’s sowed is reaped (see the phone call to Jo; the meaningful final shot).
One year after Kevin McCallister was left home alone and had to defeat a pair of bumbling burglars, he accidentally finds himself stranded in New York City – and the same criminals are not far behind. (IMDb)
I’ve never seen a sequel so blatantly and blandly recycle the plot movement and motifs of the original. Some of it is given new life by the different setting (who wasn’t living vicariously through Kevin when he’s gorging on room service?) but most of it’s not. A couple funny new characters (Curry and Schneider’s hotel staff) are cancelled out by the now-comedically-flat Marv and Harry. Meanwhile, Kevin’s new batch of booby-traps cross the line from humorously harsh to just plain disturbing.
An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. (IMDb)
Culkin’s cute and clever Kevin confidently carries this kooky Christmas classic, with help from Pesci and Stern’s easy-to-laugh-at bungling burglars. The slapstick comedy of the third act is the obvious highlight (“Why the hell did you take off your shoes?” “Why the hell are you dressed like a chicken?”) but solid writing engages you until then (see the grocery store scene; the subplot with Marley). The redemptive arc with the family didn’t hit home though (poor Kevin didn’t need to feel sorry).
An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it. (IMDb)
The beautiful black and white gives this compelling character study-led by a dominating De Niro turn-a uniquely natural tone, making its drama all the more devastating, from the brutal boxing bouts (“You didn’t get me down, Ray”) to the dangerous domestic paranoia. A brilliant final act in which LaMotta’s underlying insecurity comes to the forefront (see the bookending green room clips, painful jail scene) mostly overshadows the at-times frustrating pacing (post-retirement came very suddenly).
Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy. (IMDb)
Magnificent in its epic scope, as seen both in its decades-long timeline and its lengthy, immersive scenes, thoughtfully written with loads of dialogue that goes beyond just plot-driving, building instead an authentic, enveloping world that yanks you along with Liotta’s engaging lead to every boisterous dinner party, roadside grave-digging, and mistress’ apartment (the coke-fueled adventures near the end are particularly wild). Great music and cool audio scene overlaps are also notable here.
Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobster best friends and a trophy wife over a gambling empire. (IMDb)
Remarkably fast-paced for its length: Engaging narration (a great juxtaposition of De Niro’s calm, calculated reflection with Pesci’s hilarious expletive-laden commentary), a wild soundtrack, and a script packed with the intricacies of casino mob life (it does get a bit confusing at points) keeps it fresh throughout and sucks you right in to seedy 70s Vegas. The plot is no slouch though, with the wild Ginger (Stone is excellent) spicing up the gangster goings-on with some feisty personal drama.
The slow and brooding nature of the movie is in itself attractive, but it drags down the film when paired with a plot that is consistently difficult to latch onto. Damon is excellent, and his character’s uncomfortable family drama provides some engaging moments, but the central CIA birth-story fails to connect on a character level (despite a good cast) or a story level (despite an intriguing premise), making the film a chore to get through, especially considering its lengthy run time.