Film Review: The Departed (2006)

Release Date: September 26th, 2006 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: William Monahan
Based on: Infernal Affairs by Alan Mak, Felix Chong
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Anthony Anderson, Kevin Corrigan, Mark Rolston, Robert Wahlberg

Media Asia Films, Vertigo Entertainment, Initial Entertainment Group, Plan B Entertainment, Warner Bros., 151 Minutes

Review:

“My theory on Feds is that they’re like mushrooms, feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark” – Dignam

I probably would’ve enjoyed this movie a lot more had I not seen the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs first. Reason being, this is an American remake of that film and frankly, it’s nowhere near as good but I’ll explain why.

To start, the acting is superb as fuck and really, that should go without saying if you look over the cast list. And really, I think that’s the one part of this film that possibly exceeds the original. DiCaprio is solid. Damon is solid. Nicholson is solid. Frankly, so is everyone else and there isn’t really a weak link in this chain of talent.

I think that for the lesser known actors and those with smaller parts, working with these other legends really helped them rise to the occasion. But some credit for that obviously has to go to Martin Scorsese’s direction. Scorsese, time and time again, always pulls the very best out of his actors from top-to-bottom in every production.

But this doesn’t discredit the acting in the Hong Kong film, which was also top notch and pretty damn close to this one even with the language barrier and having to experience it through subtitles.

One thing I’m not super keen on about this version is that it feels like the least Martin Scorsese film that the man has ever made… or, at least, that I’ve seen. It’s like Scorsese really wanted to replicate the tone and style of the original and while he did a fine job in replicating it, it sort of loses his patented touch. I would’ve rather seen him really take this story and make it his own.

Speaking of the story, I found this harder to follow than its source material. The Hong Kong film developed the characters better, especially the backstories. This movie lacked a lot of the extra context we got in the original between the Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon characters. I think that context was pretty important and maybe those scenes were filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor.

What’s strange is that this movie is a whopping fifty minutes longer… fifty! Yet it feels like it has less story and the story that is present is a bit complicated. I feel like they tried to add extra layers into this where they didn’t need to be. While I don’t remember every detail of Infernal Affairs, as it’s been four years since I’ve seen it, but it did feel more streamlined and focused in spite of all the characters it had to balance.

It may seem like I’m shitting on The Departed but I don’t mean to. It’s just that I found a lot more value in the original.

This is still a damn engaging movie with characters you like, even the bad ones. It mostly moves at a brisk pace and as I’ve already stated, it’s a movie that’s greatly enhanced by its performances.

It was kind of cool seeing guys like DiCaprio, Nicholson and Damon come together in the same picture. It truly feels like a once-in-a-lifetime team-up and these guys worked together wonderfully.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Wall Street (1987)

Release Date: December 11th, 1987
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, Terence Stamp, John C. McGinley, James Karen, Sean Young, James Spader, Saul Rubinek, Sylvia Miles

Amercent Films, American Entertainment Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 126 Minutes

Review:

“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” – Lou Mannheim

I wrote pretty extensively on this film several years ago for a politics and economics site that I used to run. That article also made it into one of the books I published. That article was called Gordon Gekko, the Hero?

I won’t spend too much time rambling on about the morality, themes and messages within this film, as that lengthy article already does. This is a movie review, so I’ll focus on the things that make it great beyond just the story and my interpretation of its core characters and their real motivations.

To start, this is hands down one of my favorite Oliver Stone movies. It may, in fact, be my favorite but it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen Platoon and JFK.

This is also one of Charlie Sheen’s best performances and he held his own and wasn’t overshadowed by the stupendous cast around him, especially Michael Douglas, one of the greatest actors of his generation.

I did find Daryl Hannah to be kind of weak, though. I don’t necessarily blame her for that, as her character barely got time to develop or to allow you to care for her. I feel as if she was more than a predatory gold-digging shark but that’s pretty much all we got to see from her.

Additionally, I felt like Sean Young was really underutilized and honestly, the women just seemed like they were put on the backburner. Also, this wasn’t really their story but it felt like their efforts were a bit wasted for what they potentially could’ve brought to the film.

Anyway, the story is solid but the pacing can drag a bit, here and there, and I think that’s the main reason why I don’t see this as more of a masterpiece. That’s not to say it’s dull but a lot of scenes felt like padding, as if Stone wanted to hit a two hour mark on the running time.

The film is also full of so many great character actors in smaller roles and it’s sort of like a who’s who of cool ’80s dudes that were in everything. I especially liked James Karen and Hal Holbrook in this. John C. McGinley also stole the show in the scenes he was in.

Being an Oliver Stone picture, one should expect this to be technically sound and beautiful and it is. Wall Street doesn’t disappoint and it features some stellar cinematography and a few iconic shots that have been burned into my memory since I first watched this picture as a kid in the late ’80s.

Also, the music is perfect from the film’s score by Stewart Copeland and the pop music tracks sprinkled throughout. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen this that I forgot how much I loved that motorcycle sequence to Brian Eno’s “Mea Culpa”.

All in all, this is still a fantastic motion picture where just about everything goes right. There are those few minor flaws but they hardly detract from how great this movie is, as a whole.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel, as well as Boiler RoomThe Wolf of Wall Street and Rogue Trader.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Release Date: June 13th, 2012 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Based on: The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, C. Thomas Howell

Marvel Entertainment, Arad Production Inc., Matt Tolmach Productions, Laura Ziskin Productions, Inc., Columbia Pictures, 136 Minutes

Review:

“Peter? I know things have been difficult lately and I’m sorry about that. I think I know what you’re feeling. Ever since you were a little boy, you’ve been living with so many unresolved things. Well, take it from an old man. Those things send us down a road… they make us who we are. And if anyone’s destined for greatness, it’s you, son. You owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them and know that wherever they take you, we’ll always be here. So, come on home, Peter. You’re my hero… and I love you!” – Ben Parker

I never had much urge to re-watch this. However, I hadn’t yet reviewed it and a lot of time had passed. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to revisit it with somewhat fresh eyes and little memory of it, other than I didn’t particularly like it.

Almost from the get go, though, I realized that this would be a real slog to get through.

I was immediately reminded of how much I don’t like Andrew Garfield. While I’ve only really seen him in these Spider-Man movies and The Social Network, he does smarmy, self-impressed douchebag so well, I can’t see him as anything but that. His Spider-Man is terrible and his Peter Parker is even worse. Granted, he probably looks the part better than anyone else.

This film is also wrecked by atrocious, cookie cutter dialogue, the overabundance of superhero movie tropes and not actually understanding its source material and characters. All the Flash Thompson stuff is garbage and that’s not the actor’s fault, it’s the way the character is written and presented. He’s not a lowest common denominator asshole bully from an ’80s movie with a hip-hop makeover. He’s actually a guy that didn’t like Peter Parker looking at his girl but actually used to try and include him despite that friction. He was a complex character that often times showed that he wasn’t some jack off meathead.

The film also alters some of the key parts of Spider-Man’s origin and pales in comparison to the 2002 Spider-Man film’s ability to adapt those elements. Also, this film, for some reason, just makes up a bunch of random shit and has to make Peter’s dad some special somebody tied to all the villain shit.

Beyond that, even the action is crap. The CGI is shit and the look of The Lizard is so underwhelming and disappointing that fans of that character will feel immensely cheated.

The villain’s plot is dumb, run of the mill schlock that just made me scratch my head and audibly say, “Really?” even though I was alone in my room.

The only high point in this film is Emma Stone but she’s Emma fucking Stone. She has a beauty and natural charm that other modern actresses just can’t compete with. Well, except for a select few. She’s just likable in everything and she, at least, brightens up the film when she’s in it.

I also mostly liked Denis Leary, Sally Field and Martin Sheen in this but the bad script didn’t do them any favors.

Ultimately, this is a dud. I like it better than its deplorable sequel but even then, this picture was a huge misstep in just about every way.

Rating: 4.25/10