Friday, December 13, 2019

"The Irishman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Martin Scorsese movie "The Irishman" as well as DVDS "Aladdin," the 2019 Disney live action remake and "Drunk Parents."  The Book of the Week is Julie Andrews' continuation of her autobiography with "Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Ceddo."]



The Irishman


A mob hitman reflects on his life and his involvement with Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa.

It's difficult to believe that Martin Scorsese has never put the gangster triumverate of Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci together in one of his films. DeNiro has been one of Scorsese's darlings, starring in eight of his films, likewise Scorsese has worked with Pesci but Scorsese has never worked with Pacino before now. Boy, have we been missing out! But no longer, because here they all are in a story that attempts to explain what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. I was all in from the very first frame. And that is saying a lot for me because the film is three and a half hours long!

And can I give a shout out to Netflix?  When there is nothing on at the theatres that you are willing to go out in bad weather to see, there is Netflix with some wonderful offerings.  In this case, the film opened in the theatres and on Netflix almost simultaneously so you can see this amazing film in the shelter of your own home.

DeNiro plays Irishman Frank Sheeran, an old man in a nursing home, who in a series of flashbacks recalls his life as a mafia hitman. But he didn't start out that way.  He started as a petty crook stealing meat from the trucks he was driving and then reselling it. However, when he is caught, union lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano, who by the way has been doing a good job these days with dramatic roles) gets him off when he shows his loyalty by not giving out names.  Bufalino introduces Frank to his cousin, Russell Bufalino (Pesci), the head of a Philadelphia crime family.  Frank starts out doing small jobs for Russell, but he quickly moves up to "house painting," a euphemism for a hitman, as in "painting" the house with the blood splatter of his victims.  When Russell introduces Frank to Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), the head of the Teamsters Union, they become close and Frank acts as his bodyguard.

But Hoffa has problems, not just in holding off a fellow Teamster who wants his job, but the election of JFK also poses a problem.  According to this film, the mafia got John F. Kennedy elected, but they didn't expect that his brother, Bobby, the new Attorney General, would go after organized crime with a vengeance and he particularly didn't like Hoffa. He eventually got Hoffa for jury tampering and Hoffa went to jail. Meanwhile, all kinds of machinations are taking place within the Union so that when Hoffa gets out of jail he has a lot of problems to overcome if he is to take back his place as head of the Union.  Worse, the heads of the various crime families are not happy with Hoffa.  A perfect storm is brewing and Frank is right in the middle of it.

The death of Jimmy Hoffa has remained a mystery for almost 40 years, but author Charles Brandt wrote what is arguably considered the definitive book on the subject, "I Heard You Paint Houses," one in which the real life Sheeran says he killed Hoffa (though some historians have debunked his claims), and it is upon that book that this film is based with a screenplay adapted by Steven Zaillian.

All of your favorite mafia actors are here: along with DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci (who are miraculously digitally de-aged for the flashbacks), we have Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Jack Huston, and all kinds of other gangster actors whose faces you recognize but you don't know their names.  And everyone is terrific, especially DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci. 

Much like "The Sopranos," the story centers around the grisly nature of life in the mob, but also counters with the seeming ordinariness of their regular lives.  Gangsters get married, go on road trips with their wives, like ice cream, chili dogs and children, and argue how long one should wait for someone who is late, just like the rest of us.  They just happen to murder people from time to time.

Pacino chews the scenery in true Pacino fashion. I mean, hey, he's Al Pacino! But he's actually quite wonderful.  

And so good to see Pesci again. He hasn't been on the big screen since 2010 (who can forget him in "Goodfellas" - "Waddaya mean I'm funny...I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown?  I amuse you?)" Here he is toned down and quiet, but just as tense and scary.  Both Pacino and Pesci have been nominated for Golden Globes for their performances.  

Sadly, DeNiro was not nominated, which is a terrible snub. But perhaps it was because DeNiro's character, Frank, was the mostly passive Zelig of the film, except for the occasional hit, saying little and bearing witness to the machinations of politics and fighting taking place around him. DeNiro's performance was understated by design.  He makes it look too easy, which as an actor is a blessing and a curse.  It's a blessing because it's the sign of a great actor that his acting seems so effortless, but also a bit of a curse because he might be overshadowed by the more showy roles. DeNiro may be understated, but he is the heart of the film.

There is an epilogue at the end of the film that shows all of the players and how they ended up in real life, most them gunned down or having died in prison, all except Frank who made it to a nursing home by remaining loyal and keeping his mouth shut.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Scorsese has made this film now.  Though the film focuses on Hoffa and the mob, there is an underlying political tone. In this film, Watergate has happened and Nixon is facing impeachment and one can easily draw parallels to today. That's all I am going to say about that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an extraordinary achievement and a worthy addition to Scorsese's impressive body of work that includes some of my all-time favorite films. At 77, Scorsese's still got it!



***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


On DVD



Aladdin (2019)


One of those live action Disney remakes.

Okay, I hate to say this but I am going to have to eat my words.  I know I have ranted and raved about how much I hate the Disney remakes of our beloved animated classic films.  They ruined "Dumbo when they remade it and that original was one of my all time favorite Disney films, and "The Lion King" remake wasn't much better because how can it be live action when you have animals talking?

But I have to say, despite myself, I loved "Aladdin."

You know the story, Aladdin (Mena Massoud, who actually looked very much like the animated character) is a bit of a petty criminal who roams the city of Agrabah with his pet monkey, Abu.  Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) has been kept a virtual prisoner in the palace ever since her mother, the Queen, was murdered, but has escaped the palace and is roaming the city incognito when she runs into a bit of trouble and Aladdin rescues her. Meanwhile, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the grand vizier, is plotting against Jasmine's father, the Sultan (Navid Negahban), but needs the magic lamp that he knows resides in the Cave of Wonders so that he can gain ultimate power.  The lamp will grant him three wishes, but he can't get it because only a "diamond in the rough" can get into the cave. So Jafar comes upon Aladdin and entices him to retrieve the lamp for him.  While in the cave, Aladdin just happens to find a magic carpet along with the lamp, but the cave collapses on them, trapping them in the cave at which point Aladdin rubs the lamp and meets the Genie (Will Smith).  

Aladdin manages to trick the genie into getting them out of the cave without having to use one of his wishes.  Wish #1 - to become a Prince so he would be worthy of Princess Jasmine, but he also promises the Genie that he will use one of his wishes to free him from the lamp.  In the meantime, though, Jafar has other plans.

This movie really worked well as a live action film.  In fact, it had all of the components of a classic musical, and I am a sucker for classic musicals.  It had a beautiful leading lady, handsome leading man, villanous villain, a funny genie, big flashy production numbers, great songs and the cutest little monkey ever.  What's not to like?

Directed by Guy Ritchie, who is more known for British hard man movies than musicals, his screenplay with John August sticks to the story we know and love, while at the same time is fresh and fun and he directs with a deft hand. Massoud and Scott are engaging actors and Will Smith was perfect for the genie, despite much controversy when he took over the role meant for Robin Williams. I liked him in the role.  His smart ass "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" persona worked great for the role. I really enjoyed this film!

Rosy the Reviewer says...Disney, I forgive you for that awful "Dumbo" remake.




Drunk Parents (2019)



Two parents try to hide their financial situation from their daughter and their neighbors and they are not helped by the fact that they are drunk all of the time.

Here is my first question - Why?

Here is my second question - Why me?

Frank (Alec Baldwin) and Nancy (Salma Hayek) Teagarden have just dropped their daughter off at school only to return home to find their car being repossessed.  You see, Frank and Nancy have financial problems.  They also each have a drinking problem which doesn't help them make good decisions.  For example, they are watching their neighbor's house while he is in London and decide that it's a good idea to put an ad in Craig's list and rent it out for some extra money.  And who should rent it from them?  Why, Carl, a sex offender (Jim Gaffigan).  And on and on it goes like that. The only reason I kept watching was to see if there was a reason to keep watching.

I think this film was supposed to be funny but are drunk people funny?  Remember that comedian, Foster Brooks, whose entire schtick was playing a drunk guy?  Well, in our PC age, that kind of thing doesn't fly anymore. And sex offenders?  Are they funny?

Alex Baldwin has made a career out of playing unpleasant guys.  I mean, look what a great job he does on SNL playing our President! But Salma, comedy is not your thing.  You are playing Nancy for laughs and it doesn't work.  Didn't you learn in acting school that you get the most laughs by playing it straight? Acting funny is not the same as being funny.  Play it straight and let the funny lines do the work. Oh, right, the lines aren't funny either.

Written by Fred Wolf and Peter Gaulke and directed by Wolf, while watching this film, I couldn't help but wonder how junk like this gets a green light.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I watched this film much as I would a train wreck, horrified but wondering just how much worse it could get.  And it did.




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

 50 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Ceddo (1977)


When a local Senagalese king converts to Islam, members of the Ceddo, or "commoner class," protest, wanting to retain their traditional religion, so they kidnap the king's daughter and civil war erupts.

In an unspecified time in African history, but pre-colonialism, the Ceddo, the common people, basically slaves, fight against the onslaught of Islam and Christianity, wishing to retain their traditional culture.  So when the village King sides with the Muslims, the Ceddo abduct Princess Dior Yacine in protest. She is eventually rescued but is it too late?


Directed by Sengalese director, Ousmane Sembene, I didn't get this one at all, though it definitely makes a statement about the encroachment of colonialism and presents a negative view of Muslim influence in Senegal. However, not my kind of film.  Not a lot for me to relate to in story, characters or production. But worse, the story and characters lacked depth and the production values were very basic.
Even if a film has worthy intent, it must be watchable.  For me, this wasn't. Interestingly, though, the film was banned in Senegal, not because of the film's content but because Sembene spelled "ceddo" with two d's whereas the government insisted that it be spelled with one.  Strange.

Why it's a Must See: "Limpid, elegant, and direct, the film eliminates inessentials..."

--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Not sure what the reviewer meant about "inessentials?"  Maybe a plot was considered inessential?  Because there really wasn't one.  Mostly a lot of chanting, posturing and talking...all by men.  If this is the best that can be said about this film in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," one must ask why in hell it's in there. 


Rosy the Reviewer says...not a good film experience for me.
(If you care, can be found on YouTube)




***The Book of the Week***



Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews (2019)


Singer/Actress Andrews gives us Part II of her life story.

Who didn't adore Andrews as Mary Poppins?  And seeing her on talk shows, she just seems to be the nicest, most optimistic and grateful person.  And if this second autobiography is any indication, she really, really is the nicest, most modest and grateful person.

And you needn't have read the first book to enjoy this one.  


Andrews very nicely brings the reader up to where this book begins, which is Julie heading to Hollywood for her first film role, that of Mary Poppins.  Before that, she had a very Dickensian childhood, surviving the war, her parents divorcing and remarrying and then, when Julie's extraordinary voice was discovered at a very young age, she was paraded around the Vaudeville circuit with her mother and alcoholic and sometime abusive stepfather.

But her positive attitude led her to the West End in London where she starred on the stage and was called to Broadway to star in "The Boyfriend."  Later she originated the role of Guinevere on Broadway in "Camelot" and Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."  However, she was passed over to star in the film of "My Fair Lady," Jack Warner, the head of Warner Brothers, preferring Audrey Hepburn, a bigger name. But Walt Disney wanted her for "Mary Poppins," and Andrews went on to win a Best Actress Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance.  In her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, she got the final word, thanking Jack Warner for passing her over for "My Fair Lady," so she could star as Mary Poppins.

Andrews shares behind the scenes information on the making of "Mary Poppins," as well as her later films "The Americanization of Emily," her first dramatic role, "The Sound of Music," which cemented her place in the echelon of the greatest film musicals and her later collaborations with husband, Blake Edwards.  In addition to her Academy Award, Andrews' extraordinary career garnered her a BAFTA, five Golden Globe Awards, three Grammys, two Emmys, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honors Award and the Disney Legends Award.  In addition to her two autobiographies, she is also the author of childrens' books.

In addition to her career, Andrews also candidly shares her personal story, how tough it was to be a new mother, the end of her first marriage, meeting and collaborating with second husband, Blake Edwards, and, the adoption of two Vietnamese orphans and the blending of their two families from earlier marriages. Throughout it all, she maintained and optimism and grace. 

On a sad ironic note, the woman with the golden voice can no longer hit those high notes due to a botched operation on her throat. However, she doesn't touch on that here, since this book only goes up to 1986. So looks like yet another memoir is in the offing. I can't wait to hear more from her.  Despite the ups and downs of her life, she is still that wonderfully nice, modest and grateful person we have come to love.

Rosy the Reviewer says...love her, loved this book.




Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday

for 


"Marriage Story"


and


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)


as well as


the latest on


"My 1001 Movies I Must See


Before I Die Project" 





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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).



Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.


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