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Mean Streets [DVD]
Mean Streets [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Goodfellas, better than The Godfather., 4 Aug 2004
This review is from: Mean Streets [DVD] (DVD)
This is an overlooked and underrated masterpiece from genius Martin Scorsese. Obviously made on a low budget with (at the time)budding actors Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro this is a genuine, gritty and grainy depiction of Italian-American inner city life. The vast majority of the film is set in bars and backrooms or in dark streets and alleys, filmed with a handheld camera that occasionally sways, pursues running characters or makes use of other obscure techniques that sometimes make the film so real that you think you are watching a documentary.
It is the stark realities, the slim budget and the improvisational work and looseness of the plot that makes 'Mean Streets' so shockingly real in tone and much more aggressive and emotional than 'Goodfellas' or 'The Godfather'. The characters are amongst the most evocative and human ever committed to film, they are like real people summoned up from the lives of the director and the actors.
Harvey Keitel is brilliant as Charlie, a young man with power and respect in his neighbourhood, yet also privately troubled by his faith and his conflicting compassionate nature which involves loving his epileptic girlfriend his uncle has forbidden him to see and supporting and helping her irredemable and troublesome cousin Johnny Boy.
De Niro plays Johnny Boy to perfection: laughing, jeering and fighting, really a young man in desperate need of support (which Charlie offers) but ultimately remains the insensitive idiot fool that leads to his downfall. Johnny Boy is the central focus of 'Mean streets', and he is so tempestuous and troubled and so naive and a fabulously watchable character.
It is said 'Mean Streets' lacks a tangible plot but I don't view this as a criticism. The film is an intimate painting of troubled city life that explores a number of very powerful themes in its 2 hrs. What does exist of the plot is a very simple story of unpaid debts and eventual violence, but the setting, the charcters dilemmas and the relationships between the charcaters is what makes the film so fantastically gritty and dangerously real and disturbing. There is vast space for Scorsese to throw in witty, humorous dialogue, extreme character development scenes, a vast music score (alternating between popular music of the time and Italian operetta style) and extreme violence and obscenely good camera work.
'Mean streets' is a college of beautiful scenes and characters, it is violent, touching and funny. The best scene is the improvised piece between Johnny Boy (De Niro) and Charlie (Keitel) five or ten minutes in when they discuss Johnny Boy's debts. Ten times more powerful than the disappointing 'Goodfellas' and 'Raging Bull's' earlier equal. However, I would suggest watching 'Raging Bull', 'Goodfellas' or 'Taxi Driver' to summon up the mainstream essence of Scorsese and De Niro's work before watching this more underground and different film.


The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) [DVD]
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Billy Bob Thornton|Frances McDormand|Michael Badalucco|Adam Alexi-Malle
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they don't make 'em like they used to... or do they?, 1 Aug 2004
Having not really seen any Coen Brothers films previously I was really not too sure what to expect of this neo-noir vehicle of theirs. However, ten minutes into viewing it I realised that this was somehow different to any other film I'd seen before from recent years. I thought it would be a pretentious and manipulative film merely ripping off the old classics under the pretence of homage and art but it is far from that. This beautifully staged, costumed and atmospheric film in icy black and white has a gripping, intelligent plot and a central character who seems so vacuous and unemotional and bored in his suburban life that things turn fantastically dark at a quick, clean pace.
The plot begins reasonably simple (as do the characters), a blackmail attempt on Billy Bob Thornton's part to finance an investment into dry cleaning. However, things soon become very complex and demanding when murder, incorrect indictment and other such things inundate the picture. But still Thornton's character drifts his way through his troubles and offers occasionally inspiring lines of wisdom and the blandly imparted but true philosophies of his life. His boredom and his alienation makes him a dislikeable but trustworthy narrator for such a dark film.
'The man who wasn't there' is a very artful, quietly knowing film, lined with the malignant, full of twists, at times surreal and funny and a film that moves at its own pace to its grim and moving conclusion. It has the basis of a simple film about dissatisfaction from the forties and it investigates the problems with 'surburban boredom' and the darker and more murderous side of resolving this. A very clever film.


American History X [DVD] [1999]
American History X [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Edward Norton
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.97

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the greatest films of the 90's, 31 July 2004
This film is a brutal and relentless (and often disturbing) study of white supremacy, racism and the attached hatred and violence brought about through such issues. What is so powerful and harrowing about the film is its ability to examine such awful and controversial subject matter from a neutral standpoint for three quarters of the film- really requiring the viewer to deliberate and consider the views of the characters properly, and then finally ending with compassionate resolve and true righteousness.
The plot centres around two brothers, one named Derek Vinyard (played to perfection by Edward Norton), the eldest, once the leader of the Venice Beach white supremists- a violent, merciless crew of skinheads with very racist and extremist viewpoints. We learn Derek was jailed for the manslaughter (actually murder) of a number of black men who attempted to steal his car. His younger brother Danny (played excellently by Edward Furlong) is an impressionable teenager who hero worships his brother and is also part of the white supremist gang.
The film is based over the period of one day- the day when Derek is released from jail, awaited by his family (particularly Danny) and his fellow gang members eager to welcome him back- but he's a changed man. The film tells its story through retrospect, showing powerful essential scenes in Derek's development as a hate filled racist, the night of the murder and the subsequent time he spends in jail- where he reforms and befriends a fellow black inmate. All the retrospective scenes are filmed in crisp black and white, and the present scenes in an unusually overly coloured picture (perhaps a subtle technique mirroring views of racism).
American History X is unusual in its scene ordering, its camera techniques and its approach to such dangerous and disturbing material. Edward Norton turns in a performance that somehow transcends beyond the limits of merely acting- he 'is' his character (like De Niro in 'Taxi Driver'), he plays marvellously the demonic and brutal skinhead to an extent to which he is uncomfortable and frightening to watch, he plays the redeemed brother who loves and wishes to protect his family equally as well- I think his performance could be the greatest male performance of the ninties. Furlong as the younger brother is also very impressive.
This film has a very strong message to portay- which it does brilliantly through its performances, its tension and its general approach. The excessive violence (particularly the prison scenes and the infamous 'teeth on the kerb' scene are too gut wrenching for me) which is where it loses its fifth star. Too graphic at times but absolutely essential and very moving- the end is very sad and very compassionate (but overly dramatic).


King of Marvin Gardens [DVD] [1972] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
King of Marvin Gardens [DVD] [1972] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jack Nicholson

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric, haunting but little else., 27 July 2004
Having watched and loved Five Easy Pieces directed by Bob Rafelson and starring Jack Nicholson I had heard somewhere afterwards about their reteaming for this effort two years later (1972). TKOMG is not a well known film and you can see why on first viewing, it tries very hard to live up to its predecessor Five Easy Pieces in terms of creating a highly atmospheric and character driven drama piece, but its lack of clarity, clear cut plot and really 'point' is not there.
It is the tale of a shy late night radio talkshow host, unusually played by Nicholson, who is called to Atlantic City by his petty criminal brother (Bruce Dern) and his two ladyfriends (one of which is Ellen Burstyn in an early role) who has dreamed up a get rich scheme involving the purchase of an island near Hawaii. Like 5EP the tale is based around alienated characters with drifter qualities. The location, Atlantic City, is a perfect reflection of their faded characters and their hopeless dreams. Photographer Lazlo Kovacs is really the films star with his searing and melancholy depictions of the faded, lonely city.
The film is masterful in its ability to capture desperation and lonliness and the human need to dream- rather like a Tennesse Williams play, through its photography and a few particularly captivating scenes- the opening scene is fabulously original and in my opinion one of Nicholson's all time great scenes, hidden behind glasses and a serious, thoughtful face, and a scene where brothers Dern and Nicholson are riding in a faded skytower on a fairground in what appears to be a slight tribute to 'The Third Man'. However, away from the originality, the haunting ambience and quiet dignity of Nicholson's character the film is a mere ghost of what it could be, far too uneventful and sometimes uneccessarily mournful to appeal to mainstream audiences.
Watch for some fantastic and beautiful capturings of Atlantic city, an unusual and interesting alternative to Jack Nicholson's usual performances, but besides that this is a ghost in early seventies cinema, a failed follow up to Five easy Pieces- surely one of America's greatest films. We need, however, a release of this for Region 2 audiences.
Really only for die hard Jack Nicholson fans (like me) or arthouse types who can watch a film despite lack of events.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 7, 2008 4:31 PM BST


Carnival of Souls & Horror Hotel [DVD] [1960] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Carnival of Souls & Horror Hotel [DVD] [1960] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Candace Hilligoss
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful heroine, scary music and a funfair... beautiful, 25 July 2004
There are, of course, the obvious problems and criticisms any idiot could make about this film with it being a budget movie, so expect a cheesy supporting cast and a few errors and problems, just as I did. Anyone who plans to watch this film will know and probably hold some respect or liking of the horror B-Movie anyway. With that said i can get on with the praise, for this film has to be one of the most atmospheric, haunting and surprising films around.
I adore the storyline, involving a lonely beautiful heroine (Candace Hilligoss, who is breathtaking and very convincing in her role), a ghostly ubiquitous figure with staring eyes and a morose abandoned carnival- all with a surprisingly clever relevance and linkage to the plot.
The scene where the beautiful girl passes by the carnival at sunset, the camera panning across and the music delightfully omenous is melancholy and almost romantic in tone.
I love the melancholia the film conveys, the romantic lonliness and the fantasy, and beyond the shallow but still chilling and effective 'horror' of the storyline the film seems to present itself almost as an allegory for the lonely indivdual and their place in society whether it means to or not. It contains no gore or blood or bad taste, but succeeds in creating mystery and fear through atmosphere and ambience. Candace Hilligoss is a great actress and it is a shame she has never transcended to greater things for she is beautiful, tremendously good at creating fear, confusion and other such neurotic characteristics and could have done great things. Finally, this small, cheap, now cult film has to be the best film at using music to haunt and grip the viewer- the organ music is terrifyingly good at reflecting the dark atmoshpere and tone of the film along with the camera work. Maybe laughable to some contemporary viwers but this is a haunting, interesting and beautiful film I have a soft spot for. The faces rising from the water in the end sequence and the 'dance of life' almost Edvard Munch in style with the music spreading out around it, the camera spiralling, this minor B-Movie gem is seminal and to be watched alone if you're feeling thoughtful. In my opinion this is not trash to watch for cheap thrills but something else.


The King of Comedy [DVD] [1982]
The King of Comedy [DVD] [1982]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £5.10

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the king of black comedy, 25 July 2004
This has to be one of the sharpest, darkest and most subtle comedies ever made. It is hilarious, it has brilliant performances all round and has a great satirical statement to make.
Robert De Niro brilliantly portrays the delusional slightly creepy (but curiously loveable) loser Rupert Pupkin with dreams of becoming the 'king of comedy'. He badgers his hero, chatshow host Jerry Langford incessantly after a chance meeting believing that he and the celebrity have a friendship. His delusions are eventually shattered when he realises that Langford isn't the funnyman and the hero he thought he was, but a miserable and aggravated man who hates his fans. What results is a kidnapping where he holds Langford and demands a small slot on langford's chatshow as ransom.
The film cleverly shows us societies pathetic obsession with the media and the celebrity and strips it down and condemns it to fallacy. Rupert Pupkin is hilarious at times- as a comedian and in real life- in his appearence, his bumbling harmlessness and not so convincing act as a threatening kidnapper, whilst at other times he seems quite unnerving- his obsessions and his fantasy world we are left to construe are slightly discomforting. Jerry Lewis is dynamite as the old crettenous chatshow host who hates the world around him.
Scorsese has created a first rate, highly intelligent comedy which depicts obsession, delusion, and the whole fallacy of the media in a little, unpretentious gem of a movie. It is also a great 'New York' film, some of the shots of the streets of NYC really give the film its gloomy, brooding and serious tone. This is easily one of De Niro's greatest films, it shows he can be very funny and gives him another chance to play the 'antihero' again (like in Taxi Driver). One of my all time favourite films- check out the comedy routine at the end, it's hilarious!


Cape Fear [VHS] [1992]
Cape Fear [VHS] [1992]
VHS
Offered by stephensmith_426
Price: £9.77

3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and bloody and better than the original, 25 July 2004
This review is from: Cape Fear [VHS] [1992] (VHS Tape)
Having seen the original I was curious to see what film veteran partners Scorsese and De Niro could build on the 1962 thriller classic. The original lacks the thrills of a Hitchcock film and seems a little routine, but Bob Mitchum is considerably greater at playing a swaggering, seductive villian than De Niro. De Niro is far better at playing a recluse or a more human man with inner demons (check out Taxi Driver/Raging Bull) and Mitchum is better as a deranged maniac (check out The night of the Hunter), however, De Niro performs admirably and this is a first rate thriller.
The film is tense, Juliette Lewis is great as the pubescent teenager led on by Max Cady, and Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange are quite frankly a disappointment, playing very 2D characters that require more depth to emphasise their dilemma.
The story is simple but effective, Scorsese's trademark occasional scenes of bloodshed, brutality, religious symbolism and misogyny are there and check out the artificial coloured skies and the fireworks that pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock who obviously greatly influenced Scorsese here. The film has succeeded in updating a thriller where brutality and violence far too graphic for 1962 have been incorporated.
De Niro is over the top, Nolte is too routine and the climax is thrilling but ridicoulas, but still this is highly entertaining cinema.


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