California Literary Review

Movies

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Léon: The Professional, #13

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May 17th, 2013

He’s a highly efficient—but in many ways naïve—hit man who drinks milk, exercises religiously and seems obsessed with the care and maintenance of a houseplant. She’s a 12-year-old who smokes, curses and is wise way beyond her years. Together they form an unlikely crime team in this fascinating and unusual look at the New York underworld.

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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May 16th, 2013

By the end, Star Trek Into Darkness ends up feeling too much like a retread of the first feature without offering anything unique or different stylistically or intellectually. The characters are still likable, Abrams (and crew) knows that we like the characters, and Abrams (and crew) clearly likes the characters. Even Scotty’s little green friend returns. That pleasantness can and does cover up many flaws, even if certain moments dance dangerously close to cutesy and irritating.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Mean Streets, #14

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May 16th, 2013

One of the best things about watching Mean Streets more than 30 years after its debut is that you know what’s coming after this. And so you look and you watch and you listen for little signs—small scenes that are the roots and the seedlings of the Scorsese/De Niro oeuvre.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Reservoir Dogs, #15

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May 15th, 2013

Reservoir Dogs is an action film without much action. A crime drama in which you never see the main crime take place. A comedy that makes you sometimes feel uneasy about laughing. A buddy movie where the buddies end up killing each other.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Scarface, #16

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May 14th, 2013

A remake of the 1932 classic of the same name starring Paul Muni, Al Pacino’s Scarface is more often compared to his other underworld epics, The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. All four movies are about the immigrant experience and a charismatic figure from the underclass using any means possible to realize the American dream. The dream, of course, becomes a nightmare.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: White Heat, #17

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May 13th, 2013

This was film noir, movies where evil not only exists, but flourishes. Cagney’s Cody Jarrett isn’t a charismatic outlaw who viewers could vicariously admire, but rather a despicable embodiment of immorality, a man who takes what he wants whenever he wants it, mocking and abusing all those he comes in contact with—including the cops, members of his own gang and his less-than-virtuous wife, Verna (Virginia Mayo).

Boldly Going…: A Look Back At The Original The Original Series Star Trek Movies

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May 12th, 2013

In preparation for Star Trek Into Darkness, I decided to take a look back at the original The Original Series movies, marathon-style. Of course, I have no way of proving that I went through the films in a straight shot, so you can either take my word for it, or not.

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100 Greatest Gangster Films: A Bronx Tale, #18

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May 12th, 2013

A Bronx Tale is more than a wonderful portrait of growing up around the mob in the 1960s. Written by Chazz Palminteri, directed by Robert De Niro and starring both, the movie is a primer on life. No film this side of The Godfather provides as many valuable life lessons.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Bonnie and Clyde, #19

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May 10th, 2013

“Young people understood this movie instantly,” director Arthur Penn told the Los Angeles Times. “They saw Bonnie and Clyde as rebels like themselves. It was a movie that spoke to a generation in a way none of us had really expected.”

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Carlito’s Way, #20

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May 9th, 2013

Brian De Palma was worried about doing another Hispanic drug kingpin movie after Scarface. But the story and the acting in Carlito’s Way go in such a different direction that there ended up being few similarities between the two films. This is a personal look at one man’s attempt at redemption. Scarface, on the other hand, is a saga about one man’s one-way trip to hell.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Pope of Greenwich Village, #21

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May 8th, 2013

To appreciate just how well director Stuart Rosenberg and writer Vincent Patrick captured wiseguy street corner ethos in this classic mob tale, you have to understand the meaning of an Italian phrase that has come to define the way certain mobsters act. The phrase is faccia una bella figura. Literally, it means “make a good impression.” But in fact the phrase conveys much more. It describes an attitude, an approach to life that is more typically found in the southern half of Italy, especially in Naples and points south.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Gangs of New York, #22

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May 7th, 2013

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.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Public Enemy, #23

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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.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Sexy Beast, #24

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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.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Road to Perdition, #25

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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.

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