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Robert De Niro is one of our greatest living actors. The history of American film simply cannot be told without including a number of his films. He has seven Academy Award nominations for acting – five in Best Actor, two in Best Supporting Actor, with one win in each. He is a titan of cinema.

However, he is ALSO a working actor who has long shown willingness to undertake projects that won’t get him anywhere near the Oscar stage, making loads of films that are far more populist than prestigious.

His latest film is “The War with Grandpa” … and you can probably guess into which category this one falls.

The family-friendly comedy – directed by Tim Hill from a screenplay by Tom Astle and Matt Ember (adapted from Robert Kimmel Smith’s book of the same name) – is pretty standard fare, tame kid stuff that aims to be inoffensively entertaining. It’s the kind of film that young viewers will likely find delightful and that older audiences will find more or less tolerable.

That said, the film sports a shockingly strong cast; De Niro leads the way, but we also have Uma Thurman and Christopher Walken, among others. While the quality of the performers can’t fully make up for the generally generic quality of the film, it certainly doesn’t hurt – in lesser hands, this movie could have been just plain bad. Instead, we get a perfectly pleasant, albeit forgettable 90ish minutes.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 03 December 2019 13:49

Morality and mortality – ‘The Irishman’

Martin Scorsese is an icon, one of the best directors in the history of the medium. The creative force behind films like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas” – films that are indelible parts of the cinematic pantheon.

His latest offering is a worthy addition to that illustrious filmography.

“The Irishman” is an achievement in filmmaking, an American epic of the sort that many had simply given up ever seeing again. It is Scorsese embracing the sordid past of our culture’s underbelly, finding shadows in the sun. Over the course of its sprawling (and admittedly sometimes self-indulgent) 209 minutes, it shares a kind of secret history of the American dream.

Featuring a pair of all-time talents in frequent Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro and Al Pacino supported by a Murderers’ Row of exceptional talent, “The Irishman” is an ambitious film – one that occasionally succumbs to the consequences of that ambition, but whose successes far outweigh the odd minor stumble. It is an intricate, immense memory play, driven by the vision of one of the greats.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 08 October 2019 14:29

This ‘Joker’ is wild

Hollywood has spent the past decade-plus showing us that superheroes are more than capable of carrying a movie. We’ve seen all manner of comic book fare, from the biggies like Marvel and DC to more independent offerings. Superheroes are movie stars.

But what about supervillains?

With few exceptions, we haven’t seen the bad guys in the lead in these films. There’s “Suicide Squad” and … what? Now, one could argue that the single greatest performance in a superhero film was Heath Ledger as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” but he wasn’t the star – not really.

And now, we’re getting yet another iteration of that character, only this time, it’s his story. “Joker,” directed by Todd Phillips from a script co-written by Phillips and Scott Silver, stars Joaquim Phoenix as the titular criminal. For the first time, a singular bad guy got the chance to carry a film all by his lonesome. There are no heroes here, no other villains – just Joker.

The result is a film that is unapologetically visceral and unwavering in its brutality. It paints a bleak portrait of the world and the people who live in it, using its titular character as a mirror to force society to look itself in the warts-and-all face. It is repugnant and fascinating in equal regard, driven by an absolutely mesmerizing and transformative performance by Phoenix. It is aggressive in its unpleasantness, doubling and tripling down on its unreliability as it forces us to follow along on a journey where the line between reality and delusion is indelibly blurred.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 26 January 2016 19:45

Some dirt just won't wash off

'Dirty Grandpa' one of 2016's worst so far

Ever wonder what would happen if you paired one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history with a sentient set of abs?

Well, whether you did or not, the answer has arrived in the form of 'Dirty Grandpa,' a comedy sorry, 'comedy' starring Robert De Niro and Zac Efron. Let me be the one to assure you that however bad you might believe this movie to be, rest assured that it is much, much worse.

Published in Movies

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