Film Review: GoodFellas (1990)

Release Date: September 9th, 1990 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese
Based on: Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi
Music by: various
Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Tony Darrow, Mike Starr, Frank Vincent, Chuck Low, Frank DiLeo, Henny Youngman, Gina Mastrogiacomo, Catherine Scorsese, Charles Scorsese, Suzanne Shepard, Debi Mazar, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Imperioli, Illeana Douglas, Tony Sirico, Samuel L. Jackson, Vincent Pastore, Tobin Bell, Vincent Gallo

Warner Bros., 146 Minutes

Review:

“[narrating] I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn’t. I got to admit the truth. It turned me on.” – Karen

This is a perfect movie in every way.

Motion pictures like this are hard to review because it’s just going to sound like glowing praise and lack actual objectivity. But man, this is a perfect movie and arguably Martin Scorsese’s best.

Revisiting it now, I’d have to say that it is, indeed, my personal favorite. Considering how great of a director that Scorsese is, this is a film that is in good company but still sits on the mountaintop of the auteur’s stupendous and legendary work.

The film is perfectly cast, top-to-bottom, and features a slew of iconic characters with dozens of memorable lines, which have transcended pop culture and for good reason.

The pacing of this film is perfect, as is the story structure. While I haven’t read the book it was based on and can’t compare the two, this just flows tremendously well from the early backstory part all the way to the end, which sees the main character, Henry Hill, rat out his friend and mentor, Jimmy Conway.

I love that this movie is also full of guys that would go on to star in one of the greatest television series ever made, The Sopranos. You’ve also got really small roles for other actors who would carve out nice careers for themselves like Samuel Jackson, Kevin Corrigan, Debi Mazar, Vincent Gallo, Tobin Bell and Illeana Douglas.

Additionally, one thing that really does wonders for this film is that it doesn’t have a traditional score. Instead, Scorsese filled the movie with the pop tunes of the time in which the scenes take place. The music added a lot to the movie and really made it feel more authentic and genuine.

This is also perfectly edited, never wasting a moment while also allowing you to get to know and like some of the more minor mobster characters… and there are many.

In the end, this is a fascinating crime story about a rat. It’s incredible seeing him go from being so loyal, to hitting the drugs hard and then selling out those closest to him over the course of his entire life. It’s also a true story, which just adds to the weight of it.

Goodfellas is a masterpiece, plain and simple.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Many Saints of Newark (2021)

Also known as: Newark (working title)
Release Date: September 22nd, 2021 (UK, Ireland)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: David Chase, Lawrence Konner
Based on: The Sopranos by David Chase
Music by: Peter Nashel
Cast: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga, Michela De Rossi, Joey Diaz, Michael Imperioli (narrator)

Chase Films, HBO Films, 120 Minutes

Review:

“[to Tony] Look, you want to be a civilian, I appreciate that. I’m all for it. But pay attention to me for once, okay? You take the speakers, right? At the same time, you promise yourself these speakers are it. Now, you say to yourself, “This is the last time I’m ever gonna steal something.” And you stick to it. It’s that simple.” – Richard ‘Dickie’ Moltisanti

Well, the wait is over. And it was a long wait, as talk of a prequel film (or series) to The Sopranos kicked off as soon as the show ended its lengthy run in 2007.

I’m not really sure whether or not this should’ve been a theatrical movie or just relegated to HBO like the Deadwood film was. Reason being, this feels like a television movie and plays more like a two-part pilot to a series than it does a standalone picture.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like it, I mostly did. However, it felt kind of small and contained and it just looked like a high end television production, which despite all the talent and effort of those involved, it just didn’t have that cinematic quality it needed to deserve a spot on the theatrical big screen.

Everyone was pretty excited to see James Gandolfini’s son Michael step into his late father’s most iconic role of Tony Soprano. I think that he did a pretty good job as the young Soprano. He actually doesn’t pop up until the midpoint of the movie, though, as an even younger actor played the even younger Tony Soprano in the first half. I also feel like the production was mindful in not overusing Michael Gandolfini, as this was his first big test in acting. He has a presence, sure, but this also isn’t really his story.

The film primarily follows the life of Christopher Moltisanti’s father, Richard ‘Dickie’ Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola. Overall, it’s a pretty good tale and it helps to setup things for the television series. Most importantly, through the events that happen in and around Dickie’s life, you learn the real story about what happened, as opposed to the events that were told to us in The Sopranos, many of which were never given full context because some details, as we know now, were secrets certain characters took to their graves.

I guess the one big thing that this movie does, is that it will now give you a different lens to look through when you revisit The Sopranos and see certain characters or hear the family history.

In the end, this was good but it didn’t quite live up to the hype. But then again, that’s a hard thing to live up to when fans have been begging for more stories for nearly a decade and a half and the source material was so good that it transformed television forever.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Hannibal (2001)

Also known as: The Silence of the Lambs 2 (working title)
Release Date: February 9th, 2001
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: David Mamet, Steven Zaillian
Based on: Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Frankie R. Faison, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Gary Oldman, Željko Ivanek, Mark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Leonardo Cimino (scenes deleted)

Dino De Laurentiis Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal Pictures, 131 Minutes

Review:

“People don’t always tell you what they are thinking. They just see to it that you don’t advance in life.” – Hannibal Lecter

As much as I just came off of loving Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs in their reviews, a part of me was dreading having to sit through Hannibal again, as my original assessment of it was pretty poor. Granted, that assessment came in 2001, the last time I saw the film, which was on the big screen, opening night.

I have never had much urge to go back and revisit this and honestly, it kind of soured me on the franchise, including the masterpiece that is this movie’s direct predecessor, The Silence of the Lambs.

Watching this, almost exactly twenty years later, didn’t help the film.

Sometimes, I don’t like a movie but when I give it another shot, years later, I find things in it worth appreciating. This especially happens nowadays when modern movies are mostly just corporate, unartistic shit. Hannibal still failed and the only real positive is the performances from the core cast members.

Julianne Moore was fine but it’s still odd watching this and seeing someone else as Clarice when Anthony Hopkins is still playing Hannibal Lecter. Frankie Faison even returns in his smaller role but Jodie Foster wanted nothing to do with this. I know that she hated how this story ended but they changed the ending in the script and the final film to appease her. Still, she couldn’t be lured back. If she actually read the script, I can understand why.

Reason being, the script is terrible but then, so is the story. Granted, I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure if that was bad too or if the script was just a really poor adaptation of it. Either way, this was predictable as hell for the most part and it was also incredibly dull.

I just didn’t care about the story, the people in it and the big changes to the ending felt off. Honestly, though, I know how the novel ends and I’ve always thought of its ending as really uncharacteristic of the Clarice character. But then who am I to argue with the author that created the characters in the first place.

Anyway, this also had some intense gross out moments. There’s one where a character uses a piece of a broken mirror to skin his own face. There’s another scene where Hannibal is cutting morsels out of the exposed brain of a human man and then feeding it to him.

The thing is, these moments were pretty gratuitous for cheap shock value. While The Silence of the Lambs was dark as fuck and had some gross out parts, it wasn’t done for shock and it wasn’t over the top schlock like it was in this film. The brains scene actually wrecks this movie more than it already was by that point. I don’t know why a well-versed director like Ridley Scott thought to go that route, creatively, but it felt cheap and made me roll my eyes so hard I pulled a muscle in my face.

Sure, the scene could’ve been in the film and worked but the problem was with how it was shot. Sometimes it’s better to imply something horrific without showing it in frame. This would’ve worked much better if they let the viewer’s mind fill-in the blanks.

The cinematography was good and I thought the music in the film worked. But other than that and the actors making the absolute best out of a shit script, this is just a really, really meh movie.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Hannibal Lecter films.