Archive for 1990

Pacific Heights * *

Posted in thriller with tags on January 10, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: John Schlesinger.
Screenplay: Daniel Pyne.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, Laurie Metcalf, Mako, Carl Lumbly, Dorian Harewood, Luca Bercovici, Tippi Hedren, Jerry Hardin, Miriam Margoyles, Hal Landon, Jr, Tracey Walter, Dan Hedaya, Beverley D’Angelo.

Having such good films under his belt like “Midnight Cowboy” and “Marathon Man”, director John Schlesinger is no slouch when it comes to crafting a quality drama or suspense. However, with an irritatingly underpar cast, this is not one of his finer efforts.

Young couple Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) purchase a Victorian home in San Francisco. They fix it up and rent one of the apartments to fast-talking businessman Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) unaware that he is in fact, a sociopathic swindler.

When this film was released in 1990, I actually enjoyed it. I was 12 years old. Looking at it now, I have to admit that my critical faculties had not kicked in then. There’s no denying that it’s a well crafted suspense yarn but it’s also ludicrously plotted. The fault doesn’t lie with Schlesinger though, in fact, he does really well handling the tension and suspense. The fault lies with the unintelligible script. Would this stereotypically disturbed character really waste his time, being no more than an inconvenience by drilling holes in the walls? Do disturbed sociopaths really sit watching static interference on TV, in a darkened room, while flipping a razor blades over their fingers? Methinks it’s all a little melodramatic. Keaton does his best sinister look with animated eyebrows, Modine needs his quiff trimmed and Griffith gives her usual one-note innocent, softly spoken, damsel in distress act. Three very limited actors with a very limited script. Schlesinger brings what he can to the table, but it’s not enough to overcome ineptitude.

Hitchcock would have had a field day with similiar material. Schlesinger tries his best to emulate the old master but he’s ultimately fighting a losing battle with a very limited cast.

Mark Walker

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GoodFellas * * * * *

Posted in Crime, Drama with tags on January 9, 2012 by Mark Walker

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Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: Martin Scorsese, Nicholas Pileggi.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, Frank Sivero, Mike Starr, Tony Darrow, Chuck Low, Debi Mazar, Illeana Douglas, Christopher Serrone, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Samuel L. Jackson.

For many, this is the best film ever made and it certainly ranks as one of director Martin Scorsese’s finest moments. Personally, “Raging Bull” would be my favourite but there’s no denying the abundant brilliance throughout this. Scorsese is on comfortable ground here and it shows.

Based on the real life story of Henry Hill – low level New York mafia member turned F.B.I informant. We’re shown his life from childhood, his induction to the local ‘family’, and his subsequent rise in status. Then it all starts to go wrong as Henry gets involved with drug dealing and loses the trust of his partners in crime.

Scorsese keeps the film flowing and fascinating by using the technical possibilities of his craft. There are flash cuts, freeze frames, crash zooms and montages, all expertly executed and aided by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. There is rarely a moment when the camera is static. It moves and weaves through the lives of the characters bringing a real sense of excitement and vibrancy – the Copacabana nightclub tracking shot is a sublime piece of camerawork alone. The actors all deliver exceptional performances; Joe Pesci is frighteningly volatile and may have been the only Oscar winner but “The Sopranos” Lorraine Bracco (Oscar nominee) and Ray Liotta are a revelation as the strung out couple who get in way over their heads; Paul Sorvino is intensely reserved and Robert DeNiro, as always, is class. However, my only criticism is his character takes a back seat to the others and is a little underused. Whenever called upon though, his subtle exchanges are very powerful. This is a film that has influenced so many since it’s arrival. Quentin Tarantino (with his eclectic use of music as the soundtrack and sudden bursts of violence) and Paul Thomas Anderson (with his long tracking shots and numerous characters) are a couple of notable directors that have so obviously learned from Scorsese’s expertise. Comparisons with “The Godfather” are inevitable but this has a different, more working class, feel to it. The people’s lives are more accessible and less like the operatic Corleone’s. The arguments and opinions will rage on between them but rest assured that this stands it own ground.

A Tour de force crime film that never let’s up and boasts career highs for all involved. Quite simply, it’s a cinematic masterpiece.

Mark Walker

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