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The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Today and tomorrow I cast out demons and work cures. On the third day, I will be perfected.

— Jesus

 

After the rapture did not happen last week, I wanted to see the controversial Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The only thing that I have heard is the controversy of having Jesus portrayed as a flawed mortal and not the savior most people know. I didn’t realize that it received the Criterion treatment, but I knew that it was nominated for a single Oscar for Best Director. I think that I would have had a strong reaction back then instead of now.

Based on the 1960 Nikos Kazantzakis novel, the movie is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (Willem Dafoe). Jesus is a mortal living his life as a carpenter living with his mother, Mary (Verna Bloom). He is haunted by bouts of fainting spells, widespread pain all over his body and the voices he hears. He doesn’t know if it’s God or the Devil talking to him.

His best friend, Judas (Harvey Keitel) visits him to ask him why is he building crosses for Roman so they could crucify his fellow Jews. Jesus takes pity on the people that he has sent on the cross. The villagers think that he is a traitor and should be killed for his actions. Whenever he walks across the town with the cross, people throw rocks at him. He is spat upon by Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey), the local prostitute.

Jesus continues to hear the voices speaking to him. He is conflicted because he doesn’t want to be the messiah. Jesus tries to make God hate him so he could make another person the messiah. He is afraid of every aspect of his life.

He wants to seek forgiveness from Mary Magdalene before Jesus sets off on his journey for absolution. She doesn’t understand why he couldn’t love her and she does for him. While he was purified on his sins, he tries to preach the word of God, but he is not the best speaker to deliver God’s message.

Meanwhile, Judas is sent to kill Jesus, but he doesn’t. He decides to join him on his ultimate mission with the apostles to preach God’s message to the people of Jerusalem. Jesus makes some selfish decisions that could ultimately effected the course of his purpose on Earth.

My first thoughts of this movie are that , why is Harvey Keitel in this movie? He has his regular accent in B.C. Israel. Say what? Ever heard of a dialect coach? I felt like the story was not intriguing enough for me to invest my time with it. Let me tell you, it was a lot of time. The movie is 2 1/2 hours long. I did not feeling anything with the movie. If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am not a religious person. Organized religion bothers me that I have to be this person and not myself.

I wish that the movie would have provoked a response, but I think that people are not as easily offended today then they were twenty years ago.

Judgment: This movie should have been dumped into the Dead Sea where it belongs.

Rating: 3/10

Gangs of New York (2002)

I took the father, now I’ll take the son.

— Bill the Butcher

I have been meaning to watch Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, but I didn’t want to devote the time to it. When I saw the “Top Five Irish Films” on Matt’s site, CyniCritics, I thought I would visit this movie. It stirred up controversy when it was campaign to pick up any of its ten Oscar nominations in 2002 when it something happened to make it shut out in every single category. I felt bad that it went home empty-handed. Looking at it now, I kinda see why.

Taking place during Civil War era New York City, the film focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man returning back to his old stomping ground at the Five Points. where sixteen years earlier, he witnessed his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the Dead Rabbits get killed by a rival gang leader, the head of the Natives, William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

An old friend of his, Johnny (Henry Thomas) tells about the disintegration of the city. The name “Dead Rabbits” was never spoken of again. The members of the Dead Rabbits integrated into the Natives. The city has been divided with no clear leader to rise up against Bill and his regime. The climate of the city is ripe with tension from the Natives having boatloads of Irishman coming to the city, blacks being somewhat free and Abraham Lincoln being vilified as a traitor.

After the duo loots a house where rival fire bridges are fighting to see who would put out the fire, they bump into Bill. Bill doesn’t know anything about the son of Priest Vallon coming back, even though his gang sent him away to Hellgate: House of Reform. Every year, Bill pays tribute to the anniversary of killing Priest in a ritual every year, which he relays to his new protégé, Amsterdam that he lets him run his shady dealings.

Amsterdam tries to live out the adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” As an assassin tried to kill Bill, Amsterdam stops him for succeeding in what he wanted to do. They become closer. When an ally betrays Amsterdam, he is forced to regroup the old gang to rise up against Bill.

I know that Scorsese wanted to make a movie that chronicle the shaping of New York City the way that is today. I get it, but I thought this movie did not get the point across. I did not care about any of the characters. It was a typical revenge story set in the 19th century. I spent almost three hours of buildup to get premature ejaculation. What I mean by that is that I thought the big showdown was anti-climatic. Shit. It was literally two minutes. What a disappointment.

Judgment: Have you read my last paragraph?

Rating: **1/2

Shutter Island (2010)

I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?

— Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.

The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.

Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.

The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.

A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?

I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.

Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.

Rating: ****

Taxi Driver (1976)

Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.

— Travis Bickle

Taxi Driver is probably one of Martin Scorsese’s top films that he has helmed. I have to confess that I have never seen the movie. Shame on me. There are some other classics of his that I have not had the chance to see yet, but I won’t name them because I might be whacked. I am making up for it by watching this film. After watching the film, I think I might have reconsidered the #39 Movie of All-Time on IMDb.

A Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) three years discharged from the Marines comes back to the States to an unknown world. He is troubled by the memories of the war. He is a raging insomniac. He spends nights wandering the streets or riding on the subways. Travis seeks a job at a local NYC cab company.

Travis has an internal monologue with himself to cope with dealing with being back in civilian life. He writes his thoughts down on scraps of paper. He doesn’t like what he sees. He wants to get rid of the “scum on the streets”.

A volunteer, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) that works for a presidential campaign for Sen. Palantine (Leonard Harris), infatuates him. Her co-worker Tom (Albert Brooks) is weary when Travis parks outside of the office and stares at her. Later, he wants to volunteer for the campaign so he could be with her more. His true intention is to ask her out.

At a local hangout, he hangs out with Wizard (Peter Boyle), Doughboy (Harry Northup), and Charlie T (Norman Matlock). They talk about the taxicab confessions about what happens in their cabs or on the radio as they drive around. One of the guys ask if he has a gun, Travis doesn’t want to have anything to do with guns since his time in Vietnam.

The more that Travis does not sleep, the more his mind begins to give way. All of his relationships are affected until he snaps. He becomes a solider is his own right: changing his drinking, eating habits and fitness regimen. He buys a couple of guns to wreak havoc on the scum of the earth.

The world of Taxi Driver is steeped in filth as it took place in 1970s. The locations to the score by Bernard Hermann evoke sleaziness. Travis Bickle is a walking contradiction that he wants to rid the scum of the earth, but he wants to save an underage prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).

I think I had too many expectations for this film, because it is held in such high esteem. I thought the pacing was a detriment to the quality of the movie. I found myself essentially bored with it. Another moment that ruined the movie for me was when Martin Scorsese was in front of the camera. That scene in the back of Travis’ cab completely took me out.

Judgment: Ultimately, I wish that I could see more of Travis’ decent into madness. I felt that it was cut out.

Rating: ***1/2

The Departed (2006)

departed

When I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what I’m saying is this. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

— Frank Costello

The winner of Best Pictures in 2006, The Departed won four Oscars including, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. It currently at the time of this posting #52 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB.

I have not watched this movie in its entirety before last night. I tried to watch it one time a couple of months ago when it was on the cable. I was so annoyed by the overwhelming Bostonian accents that I shut it off. I don’t know why, but I have a hang up with the Bostonian accent. It bugs the hell out of me.

This movie was the American remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs that I haven’t seen yet.

The plot revolves around two cadets, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Costingan is recruited to go undercover by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to help take down crime boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

Sullivan is secretly working for Costello who help raise him from when he was a little boy.

As the two men go deeper with “Who is the rat?” and “Who is the mole?”, revelations come out that lead to tragic consequences.

I have seen some of Martin Scorsese’s movies. I don’t think that this movie is his finest work. I have some issues with Jack Nicholson’s laughable characterization, the quick cuts, the convenient plot twists that I saw from mile away, the last shot of the film and numerous others.

I was bored during the first hour of this 2 1/2 hour opus. A whole bunch of talking that needed to trimmed are jettisoned all together. When the plot twist that happens at the hour mark, then I was invested in the film. It was uneven to me.

Judgment: If you want to see smart characters, a head shot extravaganza and Jack Nicholson’s hilarious performance, I would suggest this film.

Rating: ****

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