Robert De Niro

November 26, 2013

The Family

The Family: Fluff

2013/Crime/111Mins

Well was it entertaining?

Yeah a little bit but most was just…

Fluff

I’ve said this before, if your looking down at your phone more then the movie your watching, then the movie isn’t doing its job. So whats this film about…

The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

Sure it was fun to watch the “Mafia” De Niro back on the screen. But that’s not enough to save a whole movie. I think this film could of been more. It just felt like there wasn’t much to do with this film and so some Fluff got thrown in. I like Michelle Pfeiffer and her children played by Dianna Agron and John D’Leo. They were good, acting and side stories where fun. Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones. The story isn’t bad, I liked it but it could of been better. Luc Besson directed this and it kinda doesn’t show.  Compared to his masterpiece Léon: The Professional and the extremely entertaining The Fifth Element. The Family is missing the fun he brings to his films and I think that’s what really killed it for me. I was expecting more from Besson.

So, it’s a bit entertaining but mostly boring fluff added in to what could’ve been a fun film.

And that’s it…Oh wait yeah Goodfellas.

This might be spoiler like, so I’m warning you.

Yes Goodfellas pops up in this film. The first part is the outdoor barbecue scene shot and block just like Goodfellas was. I noticed this off the start, I figured okay that’s a cool little egg. Was that it? Nope. In fact De Niro brings Tommy Lee Jones to a showing of a movie.

And that movie was?

Yep Goodfellas.  So De Niro in a film is watching a movie De Niro was in.  And then talks about how close movies and real life are on the subject of The Mafia.  Ugh!  This is just a bit odd for me.  Maybe walking past a poster or something, but no, he does watch it, it’s in the movie.  So is this needed?

To me again it felt like more Fluff.


January 13, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Silver Linings Playbook

CRAZY

And I mean that in a good way.  Silver Linings Playbook, besides having one of the strangest titles for a film ever, is probably the CRAZIEST love story I’ve seen since Punch Drunk Love.  From the very beginning, it snatches you up on a manic roller coaster ride of mental disorder, football, ballroom dancing and strangely enough, romance.  And it completely knocked me over.  We’ve had a pretty great year when it comes to great films and great performances.  Silver Linings Playbook has the distinction of possessing both of those traits.

The film is a Matthew Quick novel adaptation from director David O. Russell.  It centers around Bradley Cooper’s character Pat.  A man with a bi-polar disorder who is desperately trying to better himself in order to get back with his estranged wife.  More than that though, it is a film about acceptance.  Whether that be acceptance of one’s fate or acceptance of one’s illness.  Now, this is not slow burn psychological study.  The film is handled much differently.  The pacing of this film is noticeably frenetic.  The veracity really puts you in the head of someone who has bi-polar disorder.  You are immediately thrust into this world with these characters and barely have time to react to each strange fit of rage or absurd situation.  And it is completely captivating to watch.

It must suck to be Bradley Cooper.  Well, not really.  Ladies love him, his films do well, and he seems to be pretty well liked by his peers.  However, he’s just now starting to get recognized and rewarded for his acting ability.  Pretty boy douchebag roles are now being replaced by roles like this on his resume.  He portrays his disorder in such a realistic and grounded way.  A misconception for playing someone with a mental disorder is to do it over the top.  But its actually the subtleties that really sell it.  And while Cooper has his share of over the top outburst, he nails the small moments where his illness tortures him.  For as good as Cooper is, Jennifer Lawrence steals this film from him.  Its a welcome change to see an actress who can do the schlocky youth fueled films like Hunger Games and X-Men, but also have the range to do deeper, meaningful films like this.  YOU HEAR ME KRISTEN STEWART!?!  CLOSE YOUR MOUTH!  Lawrence is amazing, her chemistry with Cooper is magical, and she pretty much eats Robert De Niro’s lunch acting-wise in a climactic scene.  And not a lazy Rocky & Bullwinkle Robert De Niro.  A trying, solid performing Robert De Niro.  I’d hold up the performances by Silver Linings Playbook’s ensemble cast to every film it’ll be nominated against.  Even Django.

David O. Russell is infamous for being a bit of a hard ass to work for.  However, his abilities as a director are unquestionable.  Especially directing films like this.  Films where the main characters are severely flawed.  Realistically flawed.  But still likable characters all the same.  The way he lets his scenes just play out must be catnip for actors.

Silver Linings Playbook might be lost in the CRAZY award season mix because it isn’t as fun or escapist as its competition.  But I think it will stand the test of time because it is well made, well performed and just a feel good movie.  Slap on a DeSean Jackson jersey…put some money on the Eagles…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

October 14, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, Red Lights

INTERESTING

The fun part of Halloween is embracing and being caught up in the frightening lore, eerie superstitions, and wild hocus pocus of the holiday.  The INTERESTING part of Halloween is if you really begin dissecting some of those paranormal activities we take for granted as innocent fun.  Do things actually go bump in the night?  Is there something under your bed?  Are there powers at work that are actually supernatural?  Red Lights is a film that delves into these questions head on.

I had first heard that Red Lights was like watching a serious take on Ghostbusters.  And though, the irony of having Sigourney Weaver play the lead in such a film is not lost on me, Red Lights is not really Ghostbusting.  Its mythbusting.  Deconstructing the paranormal and determining whether strange phenomena and psychic prophets are just a bunch of explainable coincidences and con artists, or if other worldly spirits are truly at play.

I first heard of director Rodrigo Cortes after I watched and swooned over his previous film Buried with Ryan Reynolds.  I marveled at how much tension he filled into a two hour film with only one actor, a cell phone and a dark casket.  One could only imagine what he could do with multiple locations, multiple great actors, and a budget.  Red Lights, though dealing with very INTERESTING subject matter, ultimately comes off as only a great tv pilot.  Cortes had an opportunity to do some really creative things visually with this film, but he unfortunately plays it really safe.  Something, I think, that causes Red Lights to fade into the background of films of this genre instead of shining brightly.

I was surprised by the quality of the cast in Red Lights.  De Niro’s mug is the only one on the poster, so I was not expecting Sigourney to be the lead.  I also wasn’t expecting the very talented Cillian Murphy to carry a lot of this film.  Even Toby Jones sticks his head in at at times.  They all do a really good job, especially Murphy.  A lot of attention and build up is given to De Niro in this, but you’ll be more captivated by Murphy.  He rarely gets to play a part that isn’t…well…Scarecrow.  But there is something about his commitment and intensity in all the parts he plays that makes it hard to keep your eyes off him.

Red Lights squanders its potential by not entirely pushing the envelope as far as it could.  However, it still is a film that is worth a watch entirely on the concept alone.  Don’t be a skeptic….watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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