The Irishman (2019) Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre(s): Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 209 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The Irishman has a lineup that you can’t argue with. It stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci (and Ray Romano) and is directed by Martin Scorsese. Did I mention that it’s three-and-a-half hours long? In this gangster film, which desperately tries to the mob-movie-to-end-all-mob-movies, World War II veteran Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) works his way into the local mob, controlled by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), becoming a hitman and befriending corrupt union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Is it worth investing those three-and-a-half hours into?

One of the most noteworthy of the behind-the-scenes tricks featured in The Irishman was the computer-generated de-aging done to make the actors look different ages at different points in their lives. I think this was successfully pulled off, and was probably necessary given the huge timeline this feature has to cover. Yes, this is one of the most epic-scale gangster pictures ever released, with the characters experiencing several major historical events that I won’t give away here. Despite this, some of the most entertaining moments in this flick are the comparatively smaller scenes that give the audience a slice of criminal life.

The Irishman is stuffed to the brim with content…perhaps too much. While most of the movie focuses on the three big leads, countless supporting characters come and go. Many (but not all) of the killings lack a certain gravity for this reason. It’s just another job to do. Maybe the story would’ve been served better in a mini-series format? Maybe not, I’m just throwing ideas out there.

It may have highly casual pacing, but I think The Irishman is worth checking out. It’s definitely a drama, but there are some funny scenes sprinkled in. The performances can’t be criticized, and the massive scope of the motion picture is impressive. It does border on the episodic, but many biopics do, so I suppose I can’t complain too much. The bottom line is that fans of the stars and the director will almost certainly end up satisfied. I can’t say I was as enthused with it as the critics were, but it still a gets a thumbs-up from me.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Halloween: Resurrection (2002) Review

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Genre(s): Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 94 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

If every film franchise had to nominate one of its installments to go to the So-Bad-It’s-Good Awards, the Halloween series would definitely pick 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection (the eighth entry). This is the one where a bunch of dumbass college students go on an Internet reality show where they must spend a night in the old Myers home, where serial killer Michael Myers (Brad Loree) was raised. In case you haven’t guessed, the show is hosted by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and produced by Nora (Tyra Banks). This right here is a slice of bad movie nirvana.

Many (most?) fans of the original Halloween (1978) are bound to shed some tears over this one. We’re not talking everyday stupidity here. We’re talking electroshock-Michael-Myers’-gonads-level stupidity. It’s not a scary picture, but its true appeal is in its unintentional comedy. There are definitely some belly laughs to be found in Halloween: Resurrection. Hell, people in the other room may think that you’re watching a marathon of The Simpsons or something, instead of viewing an entry into one of the most famous horror series of all time. Oh, yeah, did I mention that it’s directed by Rick Rosenthal, who helmed the classic Halloween II (1981)?

It should be noted that the opening sequence of Resurrection is perhaps more insulting than hysterical, as it revolves around a gallingly bad cameo from Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). After that, there’s a few mildly slow moments, but this horrible feature’s got it where it counts. Atrocious dialogue and baffling action is what Resurrection‘s all about. It tries to go for a semi-“found footage” vibe with the low-resolution camerawork done by the reality show’s “contestants,” making it all the more endearingly kitschy.

Okay, do you shy away from so-bad-it’s-good flicks? If you do, stay miles away from Halloween: Resurrection. However, fans of the outlandish and enjoyably awful will want – nay – will need to see it. It may not be as deliriously funny as, say, Death Wish 3 (1985), but I can see this one becoming a cult classic in the future…and rightfully so. Busta Rhymes wills it.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

1917 (2019) Review

Director: Sam Mendes

Genre(s): Drama, Thriller, War

Runtime: 119 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Hollywood doesn’t seem to make too many World War I films these days, but, once in a while, they crank out one that gets a thumbs-up from me. My favorite movie on the First World War so far is 2019’s 1917. During that horrendous conflict, two British soldiers on the Western Front, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), are tasked with delivering a message across no-man’s-land to cancel a planned attack on the German lines that’s doomed to fail. It turns out that Blake’s brother, Joseph (Richard Madden), is one of the troopers who’s going to participate in the offensive, adding even more urgency to the proceedings.

1917 was shot in a way that makes it look like one, continuous take. It wasn’t actually one, big shot, but that doesn’t take away how meticul0us and detailed it all feels. So, does the one-take cinematography distract from the storytelling at all? I would say “not really,” even though such a “gimmick” could’ve easily made itself the focus of the picture. To the feature’s credit, the action moves along quite fluidly and the camerawork does not feel limiting. On a related note, the sets the filmmakers dealt with must’ve been absolutely massive.

Characterization here isn’t particularly detailed, but it’s enough to get the job done. It’s not hard to invest yourself emotionally with the situations that the main characters find themselves in on their journey across the wastelands of the Western Front (the only real flaw with 1917 is that landscape isn’t always as Hellish as it should be…there’s often too much grass). This is a film about war-time heroism that generally shies away from over-the-top displays of machismo. Of course, it’s not one-hundred-percent realistic, but it’s grounded enough to work properly.

While there certainly are action scenes and ferocious thrills to be found here, this isn’t quite the combat-heavy Saving Private Ryan (1998)-style treatment of the Great War that many expected. Still, I actually enjoyed it a tad more than that excellent motion picture, as I found 1917 to be tighter and more successful in its dealings with side characters. War movies as great as 1917 don’t come along often, so I highly recommend it. It’s more than just a director showing off his immense talent, it’s a dramatically satisfying and hair-raisingly intense experience. 1917 is simply outstanding.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) Review

Director: Steve Miner

Genre(s): Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 86 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

This one just might have the silliest name of the entire Halloween series. I mean, “H20?” You mean like the chemical formula for water? Who thought this out? The flick’s tagline is “Blood is thicker than Water,” so I guess they tried to tie in the whole water thing to the marketing. Okay, enough with that. The seventh installment in the franchise sees the return of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who’s now the dean of a private school in California. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for the audience, Michael Myers (Chris Durand) is also alive and well, and is making his way to the West Coast to kill her. Could this be the final showdown between Laurie and Michael? Don’t count on it!

Despite the water-logged title, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is actually one of the better regarded sequels in Halloween universe. I think a lot of its appeal comes from the return of Laurie Strode, who goes by the alias “Keri Tate” in this picture. The last time she was seen in the Myers saga was Halloween II (1981), so many an audience member reacted positively to seeing her character come back and kick some ass. The final fights between her and Michael are, of course, the reason to watch.

On the down side, it seems like the filmmakers can only be so original with the seventh entry in the series. Halloween H20 sometimes feels like a “greatest hits” reel for the franchise so far. After the pre-opening credits sequence, this movie takes a while to get going. I’m not sure I’d describe it as a slow start exactly, but it comes close. The runtime’s short, though, so, all things considered, it doesn’t take that long for Michael Myers’ rampage to begin. The grungy Creed song (“What’s This Life For”) that plays over the end credits is, er, an interesting touch.

H20 is certainly competently made and avoids mistakes (unless you count misspelling Donald Pleasence’s last name “Pleasance” when dedicating it to him at the end), but is that enough? Well, it’s not the most original Halloween film, but I like it. If you’ve kept with the series this far, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it, too.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) Review

Director: Joe Chappelle

Genre(s): Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 87 minutes (standard version), 95 minutes (Producer’s Cut)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Well, what does the sixth entry into the Halloween franchise have in store for viewers? Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) was hardly the strongest movie in the series, so where do things go from there? In this film, killer Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) and his beer belly return and chase around Jamie Lloyd’s (J.C. Brandy) baby for about an hour and a half. However, this time we’ve got an army of robed cultists who use Myers as a tool for making Halloween-time human sacrifices. Yes, that is a thing now.

Oh, how innocently this franchise began! Now look at its convoluted lore, overdone traditions, and wacky elements. As you may have guessed, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) comes back and he’s still doing monologues on Myers being “pure evil.” Jeez, give it a rest, old man. Unfortunately, this would be Pleasence’s last Halloween film, as he would die before the picture’s release. Paul Rudd, better known to modern audiences at Ant-Man, shows up here as Tommy Doyle, a grown-up version of one of the kids that was babysat in the original Halloween (1978). I’m sure he’s very proud of his performance here.

Okay, this feature may make your eyes roll at times, but that’s part of the fun. This is the most ridiculous of the Myers Halloween flicks yet, as well as being the most violent one at the time of its original release (the electrocution scene is so over-the-top, one can’t help but laugh). It’s a barely coherent horror picture that tries to explain too much of why ol’ Michael is basically unkillable. Oh, yeah, the end credits also have a grunge rock song (“And Fools Shine On” by Brother Cane) play over them. I mean, this was the mid-1990s, after all.

A “Producer’s Cut” of the film exists that’s supposedly more watchable, but I haven’t seen it yet. Still, I crave this sort of crazy schlock. It’s not exactly compelling on a filmmaking level, but I can sit back and enjoy a serious motion picture (like the original Halloween) and also get some fun out of a confusingly-made movie like this, about an invincible serial killer and his, uh, cult of robed fanatics. I’m giving it a positive rating, because of how far-out it is.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) Review

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard

Genre(s): Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

When giving a short plot description of the fifth entry into the Halloween series, it’s hard not to sound like you’re repeating the story from the previous installment, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988). Once again, seemingly invincible killer Michael Myers (Don Shanks) is on the loose and chasing after his niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris). It’s hard not to get just a little bit of déjà vu watching this barely passable slasher thriller.

Yes, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) returns for more, and he’s slightly crazier than we’ve seen before…so that’s something, I suppose. He’s still consumed with killing Myers once and for all, and his obsession is starting to get a little creepy at this point. One of the more notable aspects of this feature is the inclusion of two bumbling cops, Nick Ross (Frankie Como) and Tom Farrah (David Ursin), who I believe are here for comic relief. Several other characters exist for the sake of being cut down by Michael Myers, as you would expect.

Despite repeating some material from the previous Halloween film, there are some reasonable horror and suspense scenes here. The sequence in the metallic chute (I’m not giving away any more than that) is probably one of the better nail-biter scenes of the Halloween sequels. Speaking of sequels, does this movie bait us for one or what? Hell, the elements promising a continuation of the story are probably the most interesting aspects of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

The Halloween series isn’t running on fumes yet, but it sort of feels like we’re getting there. Halloween 5, like Myers himself, seems to just keep going and going, even if the runtime is only 96 minutes. I don’t really think it can be considered a classic, but I’ll give it a passing score because, although it contains many familiar plot points, they’re generally executed with competence. Should you watch it? Well, you’ve come this far into the franchise, so why stop now?

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

Director: Scott Derrickson

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 115 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

Does 2016’s Doctor Strange do enough to set it apart from the rest of its superhero film peers? Well, it’s not the best of its kind, but it has an identity of its own, which makes it feel like more than just another product off the Marvel assembly line. Okay, that was a low blow, but Doctor Strange is certainly more enjoyable than not. After an egotistical and ambitious surgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) is wounded in a car accident, he travels to Nepal for healing, only to learn the mind-bending superpowers of a group of warriors protecting Earth from interdimensional threats.

Of course, the primary reason to watch this flick is for its oft-trippy visuals. The big set-pieces are filled with positively psychedelic special effects that occasionally resemble something out of Inception (2010) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on steroids. It’s a feast for the eyes, even if the action scenes still often boil down to people punching each other repeatedly.

Despite all of the spectacle, Doctor Strange is still a commercial product. It follows the traditional superhero origin story formula fairly closely and, although the main character is a bit of an asshole at first, he’s not that much of an asshole. Moments of comedy and drama (which are admittedly effective) seem to be added to the mix with cold calculation. The stakes of the action sequences are also sometimes a bit on the murky side.

One’s enjoyment of the highly efficient action-adventure film Doctor Strange will come down to what they want to get out of the picture. If you want action scenes driven by great special effects that haven’t been fully seen before on the screen or if you want to see an arrogant man of science get in touch with his spiritual side, you’ll probably like this picture. As a whole, I can’t say that it goes above and beyond the call of duty, but it’s still a fun superhero movie. It’s not as mind-melting or surreal as something along the lines of Un Chien Andalou (1929), but I still have to give some props to a big-budget blockbuster for attempting something similar.

My rating is 7 outta 10.