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).
A small-time hood aspires to work his way up the ranks of a local mob. (IMDb)
Aesthetically, the rawness (complimented by a rocking soundtrack) is refreshing and captivating (aside from the jarringly rough-around-the-edges sound editing), as dynamic, intimate, and largely handheld camerawork follows our characters around and lends the whole thing an air of stark realism. It doesn’t work as well with the script; occasional moments of brilliance (see Johnny Boy’s initial string of excuses) are overshadowed by an amateurish story filled with inconsequential scenes.
The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City police officers slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption. (IMDb)
Well-acted, and that includes action-star Stallone in a softer, more subtle role than I’ve ever seen him in. A simple crime plot is still engaging, and allows the characters to shine (De Niro’s IA agent still feels mostly inconsequential, but Liotta’s complex and volatile Figgis is a perfect complement to the more straight-forward duo of Freddy and Ray), but ultimately feels undercooked, with the issues underlying the initial point of conflict left untouched and the conclusion a little too neat.
Family-patriarch Jack Byrnes wants to appoint a successor. Does his son-in-law, the male nurse Greg Focker, have what it takes? (IMDb)
A little old and tired, just like its characters, with a dumb plot pulled out of thin air (“Godfocker”? Really?) and over-the-top body/sex humour trying desperately but failing to get some laughs (see the finger-cutting; erection incident). Elsewhere, there are a few funny moments (Dern’s small part is a highlight; Wilson’s Spacey Kevin is always good), and the marriage/family drama probably would have been decent if the film didn’t try and make it funny (see the uncomfortable hospital scene).
All hell breaks loose when the Byrnes family meets the Focker family for the first time. (IMDb)
A most minimal of plots is saved by the excellent cast, who play off their characters’ striking contrasts (to DeNiro’s no-fun Jack and Stiller’s awkward Greg is added Hoffman’s delightfully exuberant Bernie and Streisand’s free-spirited Roz) with natural ease and to hilarious results, as the script takes the chaotic tension impressively far (even deep) before the heartwarming payoff (see Jack’s “we’re family now”). Given the film’s length though, the silly son sub-story could have been cut.
70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin. (IMDb)
With his easygoing disposition, old-school work habits (“can’t leave til the boss leaves”), and wisdom overflowing, De Niro’s Ben is beyond adorable, heading a generation comparison that focuses on more than just easy cultural contrasts (still good; see his attache case), crafting dynamic relationships that bridge the age gap in hilarious (see the Ocean’s heist adventure) and moving ways (see the hotel scene with an excellent Hathaway). Matt’s cliche apology was an out-of-place climax though.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
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.
A comedy about a psychiatrist whose number one-patient is an insecure mob boss. (IMDb)
The mob boss vs. average Joe therapist, brawn vs. brains quirky dynamic generates lots of laughs (see the wedding crash[es], the endless hug at the funeral), with the Italian gangster trope being milked for all its worth (Crystal’s impression near the end is a riot). Elsewhere, Kudrow is forgettable, Viterelli is fun, and the basic plot just serves as a framework for the central odd couple and its culture clash situational comedy. It’s not particularly brilliant but it’s consistently funny.