Archive | October, 2015

The Untouchables – Review

5 Oct

The 1930s was an interesting time in American history. The Great Depression hit in 1929 which forced many people to make money to provide for themselves by any means necessary. Since this was happening during the time of Prohibition, a lot of these people used the demand of alcohol to their advantage. One of the biggest names was Al Capone, who built an entire empire and was one of the forerunners of organized crime in the United States. This leads me into Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables, based on a book of the same name and a television show from the 1950s. With source material like this, it’s no surprise that this film has become one of the most respected gangster movies of all time and, I think, Brian De Palma’s best film.

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In the early 1930s, Al Capone (Robert De Niro) practically runs the city of Chicago and makes millions of dollars through the illegal distribution of alcohol. He’s also a dangerous and violent criminal who uses intimidation and murder to force people into doing business with him. This causes the Bureau of Prohibition to create a task force just to bring him down and choose Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) to be the head of this group. Ness finds working with a whole task force to be dangerous and nearly impossible, so he makes up a team all his own. They are beat cop Malone (Sean Connery), new recruit George Stone (Andy Garcia), and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith). The group is soon nicknamed “The Untouchables,” but they soon realize that’s not true as the pressure they put on Capone force him to put the pressure back on them.

I hate it when critics use the word “captivating” to describe a movie. It’s such a cheesy adjective and I simply don’t like it, but allow me to be a hypocrite just this once. The Untouchables is a captivating movie. Everything just comes together so well to make a movie that reminds me why I love movies so much in the first place. Normally I hate when a movie is based off true events and is completely inaccurate, but David Mamet’s screenplay makes me forget all that and just enjoy the story that he put together. With Mamet’s screenplay, Brian De Palma’s expert hand at directing, the cast, and Ennio Morricone’s note perfect and unique score, The Untouchables was practically sculpted by the gods.

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There’s a lot of great actors attached to this movie like Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, and Andy Garcia. While everyone does a fine job, there are a few stand out performances that exceed great and wind up in the territory of excellence. These exceptions are Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. Now, De Niro isn’t really surprising, but I never really looked at Connery as a great actor. He can act fine, but his performance in The Untouchables is the highlight of his talent. He brings humor and the right amount of sincerity and drama to the role of Malone, which makes this movie worth watching just to see him act. D Niro, on the other hand, while not being in the movie all that much, makes every scene that he’s in memorable. He plays Al Capone with viciousness, slime, and makes him a very entertaining person to watch.

Like I said before, this movie is pretty far from being accurate. For example, Eliot Ness and Al Capone never actually met face to face during the whole ordeal, and Capone never actually violently attacked back. Also, Frank Nitti wasn’t involved in things like he was in this movie. But, this movie presents a stylized version of reality that makes it so hard to look away. Brian De Palma is known for making highly stylized, but not over the top films. There are scenes in this movie that will be remembered until the day I die, like the shootout on the bridge and the slow motion gunfight in the train station. These scenes combined with Morricone’s score just get to me in ways that movies should.

Brian De Palma’s filmography has had some rough patches, but also some that define film making perfectly. I love Scarface just as much as the next guy, but when it comes to mob movies that De Palma has done, my favorite has to be The Untouchables. It tells a story so perfectly with characters and their arcs so defined, that it’s easy to care about what happens to all of them. It also is reality through a stylish looking glass that shows a world like our own, but somehow just a little different. That’s the magic of the movies, and that’s why this film is a must see.

Commando – Review

4 Oct

I consider 1980s action movies to really be a genre of their own. They really don’t make them like they used to in this case. Movies featuring the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others were violent, gritty, and over the top. For this review, we’re going to travel back to 1985 for the movie Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his earlier starring roles. By this point, the Austrian behemoth had already starred in Conan the BarbarianThe Terminator, and Red Sonja, but I feel like this is the movie that defined the kind of roles that Schwarzenegger would take for the rest of his career. Other than that, Commando is simply just a wild movie.

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Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an ex-Delta Force soldier who was forced to retire in order to protect him and his team from the many enemies they made over the years. When members of Matrix’s old team begin to get brutally murdered, Major General Jack Kirby (James Olsen) warns Matrix that he, along with his young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano), are in trouble. Kirby is too late,however, and accidentally leads the assassins to Matrix’s secluded home. Jenny gets kidnapped and John learns that Arius (Dan Hedaya), a former South American president deposed by Matrix and his team, and Bennet (Vernon Wells), a violent former member of Matrix’s team, are behind the kidnapping and murders. Their demand for John: To take out the current president of Val Verde so Arius can regain the presidency or Jenny will die. While the terrorists believe they have the upper hand, they aren’t fully prepared for the one man war that’s about to be waged by the vengeful commando.

To start off with why Commando absolutely succeeds as an action movie is the fact that it has a body count of 109, with 102 of those being killed by Schwarzenegger. That means that in the 11 hours of movie time that Schwarzenegger’s character is doing stuff, he kills over a hundred people. That’s absolutely ridiculous, which is great because this movie knows that it’s being absolutely ridiculous. There’s no attempt of getting into anything deeper than what this movie actually is, which is a loud and entertaining action vehicle for Arnold. The movie pretty much sums up everything you need to know about its characters in the first few minutes and then the rest of the relatively short run time is spent filling the screen with non-stop action. I don’t really see how someone could be bored with this movie at all.

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Like I said, this knows it’s absolutely ridiculous, so it has plenty of humor to back up its nearly non-stop action. Schwarzenegger has dozens of cheesy one liners he says after he takes someone down, and he delivers them with deadpan perfection. Vernon Wells also has plenty of opportunities to make us all laugh with his over the top villainy an out of this world chain mail shirt and leather pants. Listen, because I’m about to get really real. To me, this is all great and funny, but you have to be in the mood for it. Trying to seriously critique this movie is kind of hard because it’s just something to be taken lightly and to have fun with. While I say this in defense of Commando, there is something in this movie that I absolutely hate.

While this is a one man action show starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, he does have a side kick. Unfortunately, this particular side kick would get along just fine with Jar Jar Binks. Rae Dawn Chong’s character, Cindy, is one of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It’s fine that the writers tried to put in a funny side kick to work against the serious nature that the movie might have had otherwise, but everything was going just fine without her. Her shrieking voice and completely incompetent behavior was completely out of place and overused.

Can you really critique Commando like you would Citizen KaneGone With the Wind, or Lawrence of Arabia? No, certainly not. I feel like I have to judge Commando based on what it is. It’s a crazy action film that showcased how much of a badass Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and in that regard it succeeds wonderfully. Once the action starts, it hardly ever lets up. The only problem I have is one awful character whose absence would make the movie a whole lot better. Still, if you’re looking for a ridiculously ludicrous movie to watch, this one will provide lots of fun.