Film Review: Django Unchained

Film Review: Django Unchained

Django Unchained is Director Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. What that film did for World War II films, this film does for Western’s. It takes the typical archetypes of the genre and somewhat historical scenarios, and twists them into excellent, dark, pulpy, violent entertainment.

[Read more…]

Film Review: Hugo

Film Review: Hugo

‘Hugo’ is director Martin Scorsese’s first foray in a long while that is in complete unfamiliar territory. For starters, this is his first film absent of Leonardo DiCaprio in 10 years. Secondly this is the first Scorsese picture intended for all ages. Notice I didn’t say “intended for kids.” I don’t think Scorsese set out to make a kids movie, I think he definitely set out to make a movie that could be enjoyed by anyone of any age (kids included!).

Adapted from the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, the film tells the story of a boy who lives alone in a Paris train station, and a curious toy shop owner. Hugo (Asa Butterfield), orphaned at a young age lives in secret, running around in the background keeping the station’s clocks in order – a job he took over from his drunken Uncle who adopted him after the passing of his father.

The one possession he still has from his father is a mechanical man, an automaton. A project he was working on with his father. Hugo believes that the automaton holds a secret final message from his father, and is working tirelessly to fix it.

Hugo acquires parts by stealing them from the toy shop, owned by Papa Georges (Ben Kinglsey). When Papa Georges takes Hugo’s notebook as payment for what he’s stolen, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), Papa Georges goddaughter, begins to help Hugo – beginning their wonderful adventure.

Scorsese films are known for their amazing cinematography and camera work. Whether its the long tracking shots in ‘Goodfellas,’ or the swooping shots of planes in ‘The Aviator,’ Scorsese and his DP Robert Richardson love moving the camera. In the opening of this film, they use every trick in the book. It’s mind-blowing. The seamless movement through practical, and CG sets, all while closely following Hugo looked amazing – this scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Asa Butterfield proves himself to be a talented, wonderful actor. The emotions he displays, especially in the pivotal moments of them film are quite believable. Moretz, who at a young age already has a great catalog of work under her now has another amazing film under her belt. It was also great to see Sacha Baron Cohen in something other than his own characters.

I’m not the greatest proponent of 3D films. I don’t like it for a lot of reasons. But I have said, if there is any director who could do anything amazing with the medium, it’d be Scorsese. I was right. This film is hands down, the greatest 3D film I’ve seen. The way the depth and dimension is used exceeds what we saw in Avatar. Subtle things like dust in the train station, or light from a film projector surrounding a characters head – everything looked amazing.

When I first heard that Scorsese had signed on to direct this film, I was scratching my head. Having now seen it, its obvious why he was the perfect director for this film. Not just because of the advanced themes and amazing story – the film calls back to one of Scorsese’s greatest passions, the cinema of yesteryear. The film features, and is inspired by so many great films, from ‘The Great Train Robbery,’ and ‘Safety Last,’ to ‘Intolerance.’

There is no reason why every single person of any age should not see this movie. Amazing cast, amazing story, amazing cinematography, this film is a great reminder that, yes, there still can be great films that can be enjoyed all.

Review: Shutter Island

Review: Shutter Island

‘Shutter Island’ Scorsese’s latest masterpiece is a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane.

Set on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, 1954, the film begins with two Federal Marshals on a boat, heading to Ashecliffe Hospital to assist in finding an escaped patient. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is paired up with a new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) whose been sent to the department from Seattle.

They arrive on Shutter Island just as a storm is approaching and meet with Dr. Cawley (Kinglsey) the chief administrator of Ashecliffe. Daniels immediately senses that he is being lied to, that the people their interviewing are hiding something, and that there is something terrible happening at this hospital.

Throughout the film, we flashback to Daniels in the service, a soldier in WWII, as well as to dream sequences with Daniels late wife. Daniel’s character is haunted by the horror he witnessed at Dachau, a concentration camp, as well surreal scenes of Daniel’s dead wife, who died in an apartment fire. Due to what he saw at Dachau, Daniels feels that this is what is happening on Shutter Island. He’s seen what horror man is capable of, and he’s there to stop it.

The mood of Shutter Island is haunting. I had an uncomfortable feeling from start to finish. It wasn’t a scary film per-say but the mood was tense, you felt an uneasy weight on your shoulders that you couldn’t shake because of what was being played out on the screen. The music (from longtime collaborator Robbie Robertson) only added to the films haunting atmosphere. Honestly, the music as Daniels and Aule arrive to the island will give me nightmares the rest of this week.

As far as the acting goes, DiCaprio has become quite comfortable with his Boston accent, and nothing really stood out as overly ridiculous as is normally the case (maybe I’m biased because I’m from Boston). His performance was the best I’ve seen in all his collaborations with Scorsese. Everyone shined, from the background patients up. Mark Ruffalo continues to be one of my favorite actors to this day. He has this presence that makes him stand out in everything he pops up in.

‘Shutter Island’ was tightly crafted and extremely fine tuned, nothing felt out of place, and despite its 138 minute runtime, I never felt it drag, not once. The story was tight, the script was tight. The editing was absolutely perfect.

The movie has been received with mixed feelings, critics and audiences seem to be either completely loving it, or completely hating it. I definitely feel like its going to be one of those films that will get its complete respect decades from now. Will it be remembered by Oscar season next year? I really hope so, because I really do believe it was that good.

Retro Review: Casino (1995)

Retro Review: Casino (1995)

Robert De Niro

I took a trip down to New York, which if you don’t know is a little more then 4 hours away from Boston. What better film to throw onto my iPhone then my old favorite Casino (clocking in at 2 hours 40 minutes, its length is perfect). While it’s fresh on my mind, I thought I’d do a little write up.

Casino is Scorsese’s second pairing with organized crime memoirist Nicholas Pileggi. Based on the life of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the film follows the life of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert de Niro), and his management of the mob controlled “Tangiers” Casino. The film follows Sam, mobster Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), and Sam’s relationship with a former hustler, Ginger (Sharon Stone).

[Read more…]