Category Archives: Louie’s Corner

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman Movie Review

4 out of 4 stars

In a recent interview with Spike Lee on The Director’s Cut podcast, Martin Scorsese gave fans an insight look into the making of his latest film, The Irishman. During the conversation, Scorsese mentioned one book that stayed with him and influenced how he went into preparing his picture. He revealed his favorite passage from Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night

I always talk about there’s a quote towards the end where the main character gets killed, he’s talking with his girlfriend. She says, “What happened to you?” He says, “What happened to me is a whole life has happened to me” and she shoots him. That’s when it hit me. When he says a whole life. It’s a tough book. It’s ugly. When he says that, he’s right. A whole life. Something I can never explain to you. You had to live it with me. You had to be me. That’s what we were trying to go at for the film.

Along with writer, Steven Zaillian, and Robert De Niro (also a producer of this film), Scorsese was able to expand on that and craft a contemplative look at one man’s memories and regret that stayed with him long after the murders he committed. Inspired by the Charles Brandt investigative book I Heard You Paint HousesThe Irishman chronicles Frank Sheeran’s (Robert De Niro) last years as he looks back on his life in organized crime and his relationship/loyalties with mafia don Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and their involvement in the disappearance of Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). 

The Irishman is yet another ruminative masterpiece from Martin Scorsese. It is a poignant, cautionary tale of man’s loyalty to himself and one another. Also it beautifully and heartbreakingly captures betrayal, toxic masculinity and fragile egos. But most importantly, the picture focuses on time, memory, and mortality. Zaillian and Scorsese set up the film as a flashback within a flashback and sometimes within another flashback.

We first meet Frank, through a tracking shot similar to the Copacabana one in Goodfellas; however, they couldn’t be more different. These films are worlds apart. In Goodfellas, we gleefully follow Henry Hill through the kitchen of the club to the best seat in the showroom. It is sexy and seductive. This is why he wants to be a gangster. In The Irishman, the shot is slow and mournful. We are in a retirement home and “In the Still of the Night” plays. As the camera moves, we are constantly reminded of death and Catholicism. Crosses and statues of Mother Mary visually noticeable to remind its barely surviving patients of penance. When the camera stops, we see Frank Sheeran. A wheelchair ridden man alone with his thoughts. With an almost pathetic breath, he begins recalling his life in organized crime hoping that someone, anyone will listen to his story.

With the framing device of multiple flashbacks, we see the uttermost importance of time and memory. There’s a nostalgic feeling when we get transported back in time and we meet a younger Sheeran and his mafia father figure, Bufalino. Part of it is definitely seeing De Niro and Pesci together again, and it is such a great joy to see the two together again.

However, the nostalgia is undercut by the digital de-aging, and that’s not a bad thing at all (The CGI mostly works. It is jarring at first; especially some early scenes with a young De Niro, but it’s an illusion that our eyes get used to fairly quick). We can’t help but be reminded that a life in crime is over the day you start. They are doomed and it is only a matter of time before they meet their end one way or the other. In fact, it reminds all of us of our own mortality. The greatest villain in life is time. 

And time is all so important in The Irishman, figuratively and literally. Time hangs over the characters like an incoming storm. Even Jimmy Hoffa mentions the importance of time and tardiness several times throughout the picture. Not that the audience needs a reminder of time, but we become hyperaware of it.

Clocking in at 3.5 hours, there has been many conversations about its length. Some even consider it a huge hindrance, but in actuality, it is one of the film’s greatest strengths. The movie flies by. It’s never boring, and it remains riveting. Thanks to long time collaborator and editing genius, Thelma Shoonmaker, The Irishman is constantly visually stimulating and impressive. Also by being 3.5 hours, we are allowed to become fully immersed in this world. We get to ruminate with Frank, Russell, and Jimmy. We see their perspectives and worldview, and see them go through their life and we feel the gravity of their every action. As the movie progresses, and the characters grow old we too feel their age thanks to being able to spend the time with them through the most significant part of their lives.

The film focuses on time and mortality so effectively because of the three acting legends. There’s significance and urgency throughout the film thanks to these men. Pesci, De Niro, and Pacino are all terrific in their roles. As Bufalino, Pesci goes against all the other characters we have known and loved Pesci for. This time around, he is calm and quiet throughout. He never raises his voice. Never lifts a hand, but with a stern look and tone, he’s as intimidating and commanding as ever. Whenever he’s on-screen you can’t help but be drawn to him and his alluring presence.

As Frank Sheeran, Robert De Niro is at his most composed and subtle. He carries the filmy exceptionally and reminds all of us why he is the greatest actor of his generation. Only few people can play a cold blooded killer with the warmth and compassion that De Niro does. His performance especially shines through in the final act; as he gets to become more vulnerable than ever.

Al Pacino is equally as wonderful as Jimmy Hoffa. He plays Hoffa with such charisma and gravitas that we can’t help but be charmed into rooting for him. There are times where Pacino gets to use his usual bombastic yells, which are great to an extent, but Pacino’s restraint and poignancy stays throughout. Hoffa is the most flashy role, and it needs a straight man to play off, and De Niro’s Sheeran is just that. Pacino’s Hoffa is an external performance. There’s lots of gestures, movements, and yelling. De Niro’s Sheeran is internal. He’s quiet and always observant and mostly devoid of real input or emotions. Together they make a great pair and their relationship is beautiful and heartbreaking. You get so lost in their moments together that you begin to hope there’s a way for them to avoid the inevitable. 

The final 90 minutes of the film is some of the best moments of cinema you will see this year or any year for that matter. This is where The Irishman becomes a true masterpiece. Frank becomes pitted between both Bufalino and Hoffa and is forced into a situation that can only end in bloodshed and betrayal. This final act is truly heartbreaking and profound. Scorsese unflinchingly observed the downfall in such a melancholy manner that only silence accompanies it. It’s Scorsese at is most subtle and meditative. This is also where Anna Paquin’s presence/absence is magnified. 

As Peggy, one of Frank’s daughters, Paquin only says 7 words in the entire film and is only in screen for about 10 minutes. She does make the most of what she is given and her body language and facial expressions cut through the core of the film. Paquin’s the soul of The Irishman. When the film ends, many will want more of Peggy and more women characters, and rightfully so. Some may feel that the film did a poor job with them and forgotten about them.

But that’s the point. Men like Frank existed and still exist today. Frank was an absent father and husband always going to “work” never making genuine, real-time for his family and daughters. So, when the movie ends and Frank fails to connect with the women of his life, we the audience, feel that too. We feel their absence throughout the entirety of the film. Frank never had the chance to make amends with Peggy and misses out on her relationship and so do we. Scorsese does not give us a happy ending or revisionist history. We are left wondering what could have been just like Frank; which makes an ending that is striking and powerful. We feel the emptiness and loneliness Frank feels. 

For Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, The Irishman is a career long culmination. They beautifully and elegantly added a poignant epilogue to all those toxic male characters they have created in their previous 8 films together. They dive deep into the soul of a man that failed to second guess all of his actions; only to have all the time at the end of his life to look back and ruminate on all that he did and did not do. It is chilling and gripping and some of the best work they have ever done. Especially in the last hour, the movie becomes so personal. So meditative. It is not only Frank looking back, but also Scorsese and De Niro looking back at their career and mortality. The Irishman is dazzlingly and delicate. It’s poignant and pensive. It’s cinema at its highest form.

-By Louie Coruzzolo

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Shaft Redefining Black Hollywood

Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s, many American films were becoming radically different in their approach. These new Hollywood films were beginning to explore darker subjects in more character driven films. During this cinematic renaissance of the 1970s, many mainstream American audiences began to develop a thirst for crime films that featured masculine heroes taking matters into their own hands. Of these new masculine, violent films were The French Connection and Dirty Harry. The white heroes that were in those films were strictly intended to satisfy the white audiences; however, the craving for these types of heroes was not limited to white audiences.

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft

 

African American audiences of this time also wanted masculine heroes in their movies: “After years of watching elegant, well-spoken Sidney Poitier endure insults from racist white cops in films like In The Heat of the Night (1967), African Americans were ready to see someone respond to the cinematic police brutality and racial profiling of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and “Dirty” Harry Callahan” (Friedman 57). The need for such black heroes led to the emergence of a new film genre called Blaxploitation.

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which is based on the Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, follows the tragic death of American Ambassador, Chris Stevens. Stevens was killed on September 11, 2012, during an attack at the United States Consulate in Benghazi, and now a security team made up of men from different military branches have to defend their base and try to piece together how this was allowed to happened.

John Krasinski in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

John Krasinski in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

It is genuinely hard to critique a film like 13 Hours. No matter how bad or good it may be, at the back of your mind sits the acknowledgment that the events that are depicted on screen have actually occurred. The objectives of war films like 13 Hours and recently Lone Survivor and American Sniper are to remind us that these are the true stories of brave men and women fighting for our country. And in the last 15 minutes of 13 Hours, the movie hits its goal in stride as it bridges the pain and emotions felt by the characters to their real life counterparts. This is when the movie is at its most honest and impactful. After watching nonstop combat for mostly the entire duration of the film, and seeing the pictures of the very men who the characters are based on, the movie stops being an action spectacle and briefly becomes a sincere tribute to those men depicted in the film. Unfortunately, these emotions are not always present.

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Joy Movie Review & Film Summary

Throughout cinema’s history, there have been numerous director/actor collaborations, and when these collaborative efforts are truly symbiotic, we get some of the most memorable films and performances. Whether it is Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, or Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, these types of director/actor pairs have made some of the most iconic films of the last century. Now, it appears that we have another director/actor collaboration in the making. While it is way too early to even mention this new pair in the same sentence as the examples above, it feels like this new cinematic relationship can develop into something exciting and unforgettable.

Jennifer Lawrence in JOY

Jennifer Lawrence in JOY

This new pair is of course writer and director David O. Russell and America’s favorite star Jennifer Lawrence. They have made two films already, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, and their third effort is opening up on Christmas day. Joy is based on the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence)- the woman that invented the miracle mop. The film takes us on a wild journey inside Joy’s personal life as we watch Joy grow from a young, imaginative child into a strong woman who becomes the matriarch of her own business.

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Concussion Movie Review

As I sit here and brainstorm about what I want to say about Will Smith’s new football drama, Concussion, I am currently watching the New England Patriots take on the Houston Texans. Now, the original plan was first to write about how millions of Americans- myself included- will spend every Sunday watching a full day’s worth of football for 17 consecutive weeks. In addition to Sundays, there are also Monday, Thursday, and the occasional Saturday night football games, and we must not forget about the four weeks of playoffs that ends with America’s new favorite holiday, Super Bowl Sunday. However, something happened during the game that has always been a costly price for playing this sport but has only become a prominent concern in recent years. Can you guess what it is?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith in Concussion

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith in Concussion

The quarterback for the Texans, Brian Hoyer, left during the fourth quarter after possibly suffering another concussion (he was diagnosed with one less than a month ago). Concussions are definitely not a new risk for these players; however, understanding the actual risks of these types of head injuries are. Along with the growing concerns about the dangers of head on collisions, the National Football League is now being held accountable for the player’s safety on the field. Because of this, the league has enforced a more extensive concussion protocol; however, concussions have not been prevented. According to PBS and their “Concussion Watch”, the NFL had 171 concussions in 2012, 152 in 2013, 123 in 2014, and 166 so far in the 2015 season. It is safe to say that Concussion is being released at a pivotal time.

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The Big Short Movie Review

I am sure all of us can remember the financial crisis of 2008, but can any of us really explain what exactly happened? Do we actually know why the government bailed-out the national banks and why the housing market practically imploded? The answer is most likely no, and it is okay neither can I. So, take this opportunity now and drop what you are doing and see The Big Short. It is a brilliant indictment of the financial systems of America and allows you to see what exactly the banks did and got away with.

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in THE BIG SHORT

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in THE BIG SHORT

The Big Short, which is based on Michael Lewis book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, follows a group of outsiders that were able to predict the build-up and eventual collapse of the financial and housing bubble. More specifically, the film follows Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Ben Rickert (Pitt), and Mark Baum (Steve Carell) as they all begin to take on the big banks and prove that the most stable investment, the housing market, is destined to blow.

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Sisters Movie Review & Film Summary

2 out of 4 stars

In the last decade or so, the great Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have become one of our most beloved and celebrated comedic actresses and duos. This great team has been close friends for 20 years after meeting at Chicago’s ImprovOlympic, but they first cemented their place in popular culture and TV history in 2004 when the duo became the first female co-anchors of “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live. That same year also proved to be productive for the both of them on the big screen.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters

Tina Fey wrote the screenplay for the Lindsay Lohan led Mean Girls, which also featured Poehler. Fast forward to a couple of years after they left SNL (Tina in 2006 and Amy in 2008), Fey and Poehler both went on to star in two of NBC’s most successful sitcoms of the 2000s, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation respectively. However, their friendship and comedy pairing continued in other projects. In 2008, they starred in the comedy, Baby Mamma, and more recently they hosted the Golden Globes three times from 2013-2015. Now, they are returning to the big screen once again in the comedy Sisters.

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Room Movie Review & Film Summary

**The following is a wonderful review for the new film Room, however, it does contain minor spoilers that are given away on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. But, if you plan on seeing this film and haven’t read anything about it, I believe it would be best to see it without knowing a thing for the best moviegoing experience – Jacob Tiranno**

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in Room

Most of us typically view rooms, especially rooms in our homes, as our escape from the outside world. Whether it is the living room, the kitchen, the dinning room, or the bedroom, people can find solace in their favorite rooms. But what if, one room became your entire world? One singular room only confined by four walls is now the bane of your existence. Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, for Ma- formerly known as Joy- and her newly turned 5-year-old boy, Jack, this is their nightmarish reality.

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

It has been 19 years since Tom Cruise debuted as Ethan Hunt in the very first Mission: Impossible film, and with every passing sequel the franchise is still able to uphold the approach and quality that made fans fall in love with it in the first place. No matter what director is directing it, there seems to be a consistent style and progression to it that allows the series to approach new heights and success. For Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise is teaming up with his Jack Reacher director, Christopher McQuarrie, and the two are able to create one of the most memorable additions to this series.

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as he is once again determined to take on another impossible mission. After learning that the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) is getting shut down, Hunt goes rogue in order to take out the mysterious Syndicate before it takes out him and his remaining team. Along the way, Hunt meets possible double-agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) and the two form an unlikely friendship that could prove costly for Hunt and his team.

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Entourage is Enjoyable but Empty

In 2004, HBO premiered a series that was loosely based on Mark Wahlberg and his experiences when he and his childhood friends moved to Hollywood. Show-runner, Doug Ellin, took this loose association and applied it to his New York background, and created the show, Entourage. It became a well-received show that showcased the loyalty of friends in the presence of all the glitz and glamour that Hollywood has to offer. In its eight seasons, Entourage racked up 26 Emmy nominations and 6 wins. What Sex and the City meant for women, Entourage meant for men. So, it is no surprise that 4 years after the show ended it is following in Sex and the City’s footsteps, and is releasing a feature-length film in the theaters.

Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillion, Jerry Ferrara, and Kevin Connolly in Entourage

Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillion, Jerry Ferrara, and Kevin Connolly in Entourage

Entourage follows movie star, Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), and his best friends, Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), as they try to live out the largest dreams in Hollywood. Wanting girls, money, and fame the boys will stop at nothing to achieve their goals-that even means taking on a risky movie project with their frequent business partner, Arie Gold (Jeremy Piven). This movie, which is also Vinnie’s directorial debut, can be the one project that could make or break all of them.

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