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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Irishman

Dearest reader(s), Monday I spent nearly half of my day off trying to digest Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailer.

An aging mob hitman recounts his past and his relationship with infamous union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
Let it be noted I've already taken much heat for suggesting this film might not be the second coming of Christ...or at least the second coming of the Godfather. Take me to task if you will, but I've probably already heard it. That being said: I didn't hate this movie. I think it's being classed a masterpiece by default, because the individual pieces *should* add up to something spectacular. In my mind they don't, BUT...I didn't hate it.

Let's start with the obvious: the Irishman is too long to be as slow as it is, or too slow to be as long as it is. There are plenty of moving pieces, but it's not half complicated enough to justify such a bloated runtime. Robert DeNiro is, of course, more than alright in the lead; it's a role he could sleepwalk to awards glory. His by-the-numbers assassin isn't particularly sympathetic, but, portrayed as a normal person ravaged by age and a few pangs of regret, he appears to be the good guy...or maybe the least bad guy? Al Pacino's Jimmy Hoffa is an ice-cream loving buffoon, so convinced of his own untouchable status that he almost seems an easy mark. It's a convincing performance, but not a particularly noteworthy item on the Pacino CV. The supporting cast is a who's who of "that guy who was in that mob movie": Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano. Everyone is capable; no one is remarkable. The film does feature a pretty terrific soundtrack of old 50s and 60s nuggets, with Marty Robbins' "A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)" bringing particular joy to this old 60s nugget. The Irishman is an interesting enough story that, unfortunately, isn’t particularly well told, although the movie did prove a marginally better sleep aid than the most recent Avengers flick, so there ya go, Scorsese: you got one over on Marvel.

The Irishman runs an interminable 209 minutes and is rated R for "pervasive language and strong violence."

The Irishman is a deliberately-paced tale of violence and betrayal.

While its individual ingredients taste of past brilliance, the finished recipe is more Monday night leftovers than Christmas dinner. Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Irishman gets five.
Fangirl points: Jack Huston!

Until next time...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Cindy Prascik's Review of Knives Out

This weekend the cinema offered one of my most hotly-anticipated titles of the year: Rian Johnson's Knives Out.

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.

When a well-to-do author dies a suspicious death, a private investigator attempts to unravel the case while the millionaire's family fights over his estate.

Knives Out is a proper, original murder mystery, with a layered story and plenty of clever twists to keep the audience engaged. Set almost entirely in a Clue-like old mansion, the atmosphere is almost equal parts lush and creepy, with a healthy side of humor. The all-star cast includes such luminaries as Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, LaKeith Stanfield, Toni Collette, and Don Johnson. Most are very good, with Evans turning in a particularly fun performance. Collette, unfortunately, is woefully miscast to the point of being distracting. Neither mattered as much to me as having Don Johnson on my screen. Knives Out is deliberately paced enough to border on too slow, making the two-plus hour runtime seem somewhat longer, and there's an uncomfortable political interlude that serves a purpose, but (for my money) not enough of a purpose to justify what it costs the picture. Overall, I didn't love Knives Out as much as I'd hoped, but--without spoiling any particulars--I think that's more down to it not playing out as I'd have liked than to any shortcomings as a film.

Knives out clocks in at 130 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material."

Knives Out is a sharp, darkly funny mystery that can rightly be counted among the year's best movies. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Knives Out gets eight.

Fangirl points: In addition to Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" featuring on the soundtrack, Knives Out name-checks the musical Hamilton and the movie Baby Driver. Win/win/win. Also, in case you missed it before: DON JOHNSON.

Until next time...


Elsa the Snow Queen and her sister Anna embark on an adventure far away from the kingdom of Arendelle. They are joined by friends, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven.

Director: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck

Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Ciarán Hinds, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto

Release Date: November 22, 2019

Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements

Runtime: 1h 43min


The original Frozen was a film I ignored as long as I possibly could.  Once I finally succumbed to the weight of its cultural impact and finally watched the film, I was left shrugging my shoulders.  The film itself is perfectly fine but it reminded me a lot of older Disney films which never really did much for me.  The songs were catchy enough to make the whole thing watchable.  The sequel has a very similar feel with a story that’s adequate if uninspired.  Honestly, the music is the center piece of this animated musical.  The songs are all solid enough but sadly none are nearly as memorable as “Let It Go” from the original.  As such, it’s easier to dissect the fairly routine story that doesn’t hold any sort of tension for anyone over the age of 10.  Pixar has raised the bar so high for children’s films that it’s almost quaint to run into a film that’s perfectly fine just catering to its core audience while leaving very little for the adults in the audience.  It’s a shame the story isn’t a bit more dense because the cast is all impressive with Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell carrying the film with great ease.  Josh Gad’s Olaf still fluctuates between amusing to annoying and his character is given a bigger role in this sequel.  Ultimately, this sequel checks all the boxes to keep the younger kids entertained but I doubt anyone will look back on this entry with sort of great fondness or affection. 


Thursday, November 28, 2019


In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran gets involved with Russell Bufalino and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hit man, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa -- a powerful Teamster tied to organized crime.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jesse Plemons, Harvey Keitel

Release Date: November 27, 2019

Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama

Rated R for pervasive language and strong violence.

Runtime: 3h 29min


The Irishman might be best described as a Martin Scorsese supreme.  This magnum opus seems to encapsulate everything from his gangster golden age populated by all his favorite actors from that era.  In lesser hands, this might come off as superfluous or passé but Scorsese feels refreshed and rejuvenated.  His direction is sharp, crisp and engaging throughout.  You get moments, sequences and shots that recall some of his classic films like Good Fellas and Raging Bull.  However, this isn’t simply retreading old tropes because you can get a sense of a more pensive and reflective director behind the camera.  Similarly, his cast delivers their best work in years with the added depth of age.  The much talked about deaging works for the most part even though it’s a bit jarring in the early sequences.  Thankfully, that wears down over time allowing you to appreciate the performances.  Watching Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together on screen really helps highlight how well they work off each other resulting in stellar performances from both.  Joe Pesci, after his long layoff, shows that’s never lost his touch for these types of characters with his age aiding his performance.  De Niro looks more engaging that he has in years.  His performance is both frightening and sympathetic at the same time even though his character is a moral wasteland.  Al Pacino though decides to go full Pacino as Hoffa.  His performance is like a mix of Scarface and The Devils Advocate’s Devil, its full decibel from the get go.  The interesting thing is that after the initial shock, it actually works well for the character.  The supporting cast is populated with Scorsese regulars both new and old plus an added bonus of giving Anna Paquin her best performance by making her nearly mute throughout with one solitary line.  These types of decisions are true signs of a auteur still at the top of game as he creates another classic.

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