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: 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: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Also known as: Godzilla 2, Fathom (working titles)
Release Date: May 29th, 2019 (Europe, South Korea, Indonesia)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Based on: Gojira, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra and Rodan by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathaim, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Morton

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 132 Minutes

Review:

“We opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no closing it now.” – Jonah Alan

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

It’s been five years since the last American Godzilla film and I hate waiting. Sure, we got Kong: Skull Island two years ago, which is a part of this series, but Godzilla is the true king of kaiju and his return has been long overdue. Plus, we were promised a movie featuring King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, so five years was too damn long to wait.

Now I enjoyed the first movie, even if I had some issues with it but I discussed those in that film’s review. As far as this one goes, I still have some issues but overall, this is a superior chapter in the pretty good American Godzilla series.

The film was certainly well cast with its human being characters but that was a part of my problem with the movie. There was just so much broken family drama and bullshit that it dragged the film down. Sure, you need a human story to ground the picture and make it relatable but I want to see giant monsters punching the shit out of each other, as opposed to an episode of This Is Us.

As far as the monsters go, I was afraid that the movie would have monster overkill, as the trailer mentioned 17 “titans”, which is white people for “kaiju”. Luckily, the only ones we really see fight are the main four we were promised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. There are several other monsters that appear, including a new M.U.T.O. and a creature similar to Kumonga, but we only really see glimpses of them and then one scene where they appear at the end, after the big action has already gone down. Kong and Skull Island are also mentioned but Kong does not appear, which does create a bit of a plot hole but whatever, everything has plot holes these days.

The origin of the monsters is different in this film too. Mothra is Chinese, Rodan is Mexican, Godzilla is from Atlantis and King Ghidorah is Antarcticese but is later discovered to be from space, so I guess his origin is the most accurate. Well, except for the fact that he has Wolverine healing powers and can grow back heads like a hydra.

Also, Rodan is a dick in this movie and he’s not an ally to Godzilla and Mothra, as he should be. He comes around in the end, after the final fight, but I wanted to see the classic match up of King Ghidorah vs. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan in a 3-on-1 handicap match.

There’s one point in the film where a general says, “We’ve got a secret weapon…” And my mind immediately screamed, “MECHAGODZILLA!!!” But then the general continued with, “…an oxygen destroyer.” So that was a nice homage to the original Gojira and it was a tremendous use of CGI special effects to make it look much more powerful than the 1954 equivalent but the weapon was used so freely and carelessly that the film missed the whole moral debate over that powerful weapon. However, I guess that was sort of replaced by the humans arguing about this film’s other weapon/device/MacGuffin: the Orca.

But the big monster battles are the most important thing about any kaiju movie and this picture gives us pretty solid kaiju action. At least, it’s much better than the total lack of kaiju action we got with this film’s predecessor, the 2014 Godzilla.

New York Yankees fans will love the big final battle in this film as it takes place in Fenway Park. You see the iconic stadium and all of Boston get leveled. And I’m assuming the Red Sox allowed the film to shoot there, due to some of the specific shots that saw Millie Bobby Brown’s character arrive there for the climax. But I guess the famous saying should now read: “Boston Strong, Godzilla Stronger.”

Anyway, I was mostly happy with the film. The human drama bullshit was grating and Vera Farmiga’s character is an evil, selfish psychopath, no matter how hard this film wants to justify her apocalyptic actions. They kind of try to redeem her in the end with her final act but that bitch wanted to die a hero because of her own ego not because she’s got a heart or anything. Thirty minutes earlier she was releasing giant monsters despite millions of people needing to evacuate from giant monsters. She was an insufferable shithead and her husband, Kyle Chandler a.k.a. Mr. Friday Night Lights was pretty terrible too. But maybe I’m just pissed that he never got killed or arrested on Bloodline.

My favorite moment in the movie was when the deaf chick from that Oscar winning fish fuck movie got eaten by King Ghidorah like a piece of popcorn chicken. I bet she lost a shoe this time too.

This review is probably all over the place but I got shit hammered at the theater, hit the bar pretty hard after and am currently too wired to sleep, so I wrote this now, as it’s approaching 3 in the f’n morning. Thank fuck for spell and grammar check.

But hey, this was a step up from the last one. It had better kaiju action, a better than decent story and good acting apart from the two leads that should have been merked much earlier than Bryan Cranston was in the first flick. Hell, Kyle Chandler survives again and he’s still getting away with killing his own brother and sending his other one to Cuba with his dumb wife that forgot to ditch her phone.

And I’ve also got to ask, what’s with all this need for a plot and shit? Monsters smash monsters, the end! It’s not rocket science! We don’t need story getting in the way of a kaiju Royal Rumble. Other than the original, original Godzilla picture, these don’t need to be thinking movies. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving Stunners to the Undertaker, we didn’t need him to stop before the attack and recite Shakespeare, we just wanted to see him drop the Deadman with a kick to the gut and a yank of the head.

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the American Godzilla film before this, as well as the original Japanese films Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars.

Film Review: The Conjuring (2013)

Also known as: The Warren Files (working title)
Release Date: June 8th, 2013 (Nocturna, Madrid International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes
Music by: Joseph Bishara
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

New Line Cinema, The Safran Company, Evergreen Media Group, Warner Bros., 112 Minutes

Review:

“When the music stops, you’ll see him in the mirror standing behind you.” – April

Seeing this has been long overdue but at the same time, I was never in a rush. Reason being, modern horror is predominantly CGI jump scares and lame haunted house or generic boogeyman stories. I’m not against haunted house movies but I’ve seen so many that a film needs to find a way to tackle the genre with something fresh or interesting or it’s going to hit my brain like a fistful of Ambien.

Anyway, this was a decent film for what it is but going back to what I just said, it gave me nothing new to sink my teeth into.

There’s a creepy house, ghosts, demons, a killer doll, some general witchcraft stuff, exorcism and nothing new. This is like a bunch of mundane horror tropes thrown into a blender and then splashed out onto the screen: a gooey, sloppy mess.

The biggest positive for me was the acting. I thought all the main players were good and convincing in their roles. Lili Taylor had the biggest challenge out of all the top stars but she did a wonderful job, worked in a pretty wide range of emotions and temperament and sold the possession thing quite well. I also like seeing Ron Livingston in anything because I’ll always remember how much I loved him in Office Space, almost twenty years ago. But his dramatic stuff has always been quite good too.

This isn’t a bad movie and I don’t want to treat it as such. It’s well made and it looks pretty damn good, even the unnecessary CGI bits didn’t become too much of a distraction. But I thought the cinematography was well done and the film’s tone works.

For someone who hasn’t seen dozens of haunted house movies, this is probably really effective. I guess that’s why it resonates with younger fans so well.

My biggest issue is just that the story crams so many different horrors into this tight box. It’s as if they planned spinoffs from the get go.

At some point, I will probably check out some of the other Conjuring related movies. But like I was with this, I don’t feel a real rush in needing to see them.

Also, weren’t the Warrens exposed as frauds decades ago? But I guess this is based on “true events”. But I think that enough time has past that new moviegoers are too young to even know who the Warrens were. But at the same time, I feel like this does capitalize on selling some bullshit. Sorry, I just hate charlatans.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Conjuring films and spinoffs, as well as James Wan’s Insidious series and Dead Silence.

TV Review: Bates Motel (2013-2017)

Original Run: March 18th, 2013 – April 24th, 2017
Created by: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Chris Bacon
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell, Kenny Johnson

American Genre, Cuse Productions, Kerry Ehrin Productions, Universal Television, NBC, A&E, 50 Episodes, 40-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Psycho is a movie that I adore. I didn’t watch some of the sequels until just recently but Psycho II was far better than I thought it would be. Psycho III fell off and I’ve yet to find Psycho IV streaming anywhere. But this show has been floating around in my Netflix queue for a long time, so I thought I’d finally give it a watch, fresh off of watching the first two Psycho sequels.

Sadly, I could not get into this show. I watched the first half of season one and threw my hands up in the air and just quit. I don’t usually just quit a show but I have a lot of stuff I need to power through and the five hours I spent on this were a dreadful bore where I didn’t care for a single character (well, except Olivia Cooke’s Emma Decody).

The show just doesn’t work for me on any level, really. It takes the Norman Bates character and wants to give him an origin story. But this is bogged down by a bunch of characters and the town is made to feel much larger than the desolate place it was in the original movie.

Another issue for me, is that the show takes place in modern times. Now Norman, his mother and their rundown house and hotel look like they’re straight out of the 1950s but everything around them looks like an episode of Gilmore Girls with iPhones.

This is more of a high school teen show trying to be edgy. It feels like something that I wouldn’t watch on The CW.

One thing that really made me want to give this is a shot was that I heard about how good the acting was, especially from Vera Farmiga. I don’t know what the hell people are talking about, though, as her performance seemed incredibly forced and over the top in just about every scene where she was bossing her sons around.

This is also bogged down by too many characters but mainly Norman’s brother, who was created just for this show. He’s some sort of poor man’s Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. I’m not sure how or if he evolves over the course of the show but from what I saw, he’s just a douche and takes a job protecting a marijuana field.

I was initially glad to see Nestor Carbonell in this, as I have loved him since Lost, but even his performance was weird and his character felt really inconsistent.

But the show, at least, looks good and has nice cinematography for something on cable.

I can’t quite say that this is bad. It’s just not what I want and it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the Psycho universe.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The original Psycho for context and it’s sequels, as this also doesn’t live up to the greatness of the original Hitchcock masterpiece.