Before there was John Gotti, before Carlo Gambino, before Lucky Luciano, there was Bill “the Butcher” Poole. The 19th-century boxer, fixer and, yes, actual butcher, was a forerunner of the mobsters who later controlled New York City.
May 7th, 2013
May 6th, 2013
Cagney, along with Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni and, later, Humphrey Bogart, invented the film gangster. Each brought a sense of the street and gritty realism. For Cagney, that came naturally. He grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and had to drop out of college after one semester when his father died. He knew how to be tough, in an argument or in a rumble.
May 5th, 2013
Sir Ben Kingsley becomes the ruthless Logan in Sexy Beast, and he’s 90 percent of the reason to watch the movie. The plotline here is straightforward, nothing special really. The action is sporadic. The supporting cast is strong—led by British veteran Ray Winstone, who’s actually the film’s lead, and Ian McShane, who can always dial up ominous. But it’s Kingsley—throwing off Gandhi’s loincloth and round spectacles—who becomes the savage bully you’ll remember long after viewing Sexy Beast.
May 3rd, 2013
Road to Perdition, a period piece about one branch of the Chicago crime family in the 1930s, is really a story about fathers and sons.
May 2nd, 2013
One year after reviving his career in Pulp Fiction, John Travolta gracefully slipped back into the role of a mobster. Like Vincent Vega, Get Shorty’s Chili Palmer is ultracool, sharp-witted and drawn to dressing in black. He can shatter your nose with a punch or fire his Colt Detective Special accurately enough to add a part to your hairline.
by Dan Fields
April 25th, 2013
With just three feature films to his name, writer and director Jeff Nichols has already set himself a high standard. Both of his previous works, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, are strong dramas with compelling characters, dark intrigue and impressive economy of style. With Mud, Nichols has progressed from making a good film to making a great film.
April 25th, 2013
That these guys are, as the French say, sympathique, is evident from the beginning of the robbery when Tony tucks a pillow behind the head of the elderly woman to make her more comfortable after she and her husband have been gagged and tied up. A clock ticking on a mantel provides a time line for the heist, which begins shortly before midnight and doesn’t end until six the next morning. In film time, the robbery takes about 30 minutes. And during those minutes, not a word—NOT ONE WORD—is spoken.
April 22nd, 2013
Every year, similar seeming movies will be released shortly after one another. For the first installment of Head to Head, I will compare this year’s horror spoofs A Haunted House and Scary Movie V. There will be spoilers, but for these movies, I can’t imagine anyone caring.
April 19th, 2013
Director Joseph Kosinski, who helmed the vapid and cartoonish TRON: Legacy, uses every frame of Oblivion as a canvas on which he can project the massive adventure he wants audiences to experience. Kosinski, who made a sizable impression on the industry with his commercial work, has a background as an architect and his eye for details and contrasting imagery is front and center in this film.
April 18th, 2013
In the midst of a dinner party in his honor, Capone (Robert De Niro) takes out a Louisville Slugger and delivers a tribute to baseball as the All-American sport. As his underlings smoke cigars and chuckle in agreement, Capone circles a huge round table—finally stopping behind one nodding toadie. He briefly speaks of betrayal and then applies a few Ruthian swings to the employee’s skull.
April 15th, 2013
The problem with writing this review of Upstream Color is that I’ve only seen it once. This isn’t to say that the movie will make complete sense upon subsequent viewings, but it definitely requires multiple watches (plus access to Wikipedia, fan theories, and frame-by-frame analysis) in order to begin to appreciate what writer-director-actor-composer-fundraiser-distributor Shane Carruth accomplished with his second feature about the “subjective experience of life,” relationships, and several other intangibles.
April 13th, 2013
In its brief run time of an hour and 40 minutes, Trance includes a heist to steal a priceless piece of art, a love story, a revenge story, double crosses, a triple cross, amnesia, the power of the mind and a pretty shameless plug for a British carmaker.
April 12th, 2013
The diary of Tatiana (Tatiana Maslany), a 14-year-old, drug-addicted prostitute who dies while giving birth to a daughter in a London hospital, sets the film in motion. Her account of how and why she came to London—provided by periodic voice-overs as the diary is translated from Russian—offers a back story of the mob’s involvement in white slavery and English brothels.
April 5th, 2013
Despite all of these good elements, the movie ends up significantly less than the sum of its easily discernible parts. Linking these pieces is easy in a narrative sense, but it becomes almost too easy and too obvious thematically.
April 4th, 2013
New York City is more gritty than pretty in this period piece, which was shot before the Big Apple’s late-20th century revival. The skies are gray, vacant lots are strewn with debris and there’s a doomed look to the city—right down to the rusty Rheingold beer signs. It’s not attractive, but the urban tangle is a genuine representation of a time and place.
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