Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Graham’

Betrayal and Remorse

The Irishman

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano, Jack Huston, Jesse Plemons

Please note this film is currently only available on the Streaming Service Netflix and had a very limited theatrical release in cinemas.

When I heard that the latest Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman was only going to have a Netflix release I was deeply perplexed. Scorsese has always championed the art of cinema, of audiences watching films in a cinema. Especially his films. Scorsese is also passionate about film restoration both digitally and for preservation purposes.

Considering that The Irishman runs for 3 and a half hours, I can understand why Scorsese choose the world’s most famous streaming service to release his latest masterpiece. Most of Scorsese’s other films run for under 3 hours which is manageable in a cinematic format and palatable for audiences to sit through.

The Irishman is exceptionally long but it is worth the reward considering the talent that Scorsese procured to act in this exceptional film about the mafia, hitmen and Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. His long-time collaborator Oscar winner Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, The Godfather Part II) is sensational as Frank Sheeran who is basically in every frame of this digital masterpiece as is Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) who is utterly captivating as the Union Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa who mysteriously disappeared in Detroit in 1975.

Equally brilliant is Oscar winner Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) who came out of acting retirement to star as mafia heavyweight Russell Bufalino who answered to the Detroit and Chicago mafia.

Unfortunately, the part of Frank’s disapproving daughter Peggy Sheeran played by Oscar winner Anna Paquin (The Piano) is underwritten and not fully utilized especially in the crucial scenes between her and her father who is basically a hitman for the mob or as some people like to say “I Heard You Paint Houses”.

Al Pacino really steals the show as Jimmy Hoffa a larger than life character who refuses to buckle to pressure from the Mafia even when he allowed them to use the union’s immense pension money to fund the mob’s gambling operations in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The Irishman could have had 30 minutes shaved off the film and Scorsese could have released it in cinemas as I personally found the last section of this epic tale dragged considerably especially when trying to view it on a mobile device.

Superb performances by De Niro, Pesci and Pacino make The Irishman worth watching but viewers be sure to have three and a half hours spare. It’s a stunning film but could have been edited sufficiently to condense the exceptionally large canvas that Scorsese always tries to paint, except in this case it’s a streaming canvas which has made Netflix even wealthier.

The Irishman gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing purely for the phenomenal acting of such veteran stars as De Niro, Pesci and of course Pacino who is a revelation.

Let’s see how The Irishman fares during the 2020 Awards Season although if Al Pacino doesn’t win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, then that is a great cinematic injustice.

The Quest for Poseidon’s Trident

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

Directors: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stephen Graham

Viewers can be forgiven for thinking that they are on a spectacular Disney theme park ride, when watching the highly entertaining opening sequence of Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge co-directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge was released in South Africa, Europe and the UK under this title but is also known as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in America possibly for trademark reasons.

This fifth installment of the hugely successful Pirates franchise which made stars out of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, not to mention cementing Johnny Depp’s status as a massive box office drawcard, is maximum entertainment. Depp’s performance as the wayward pirate Captain Jack Sparrow was Oscar nominated back in 2003 for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

As the film opens we see Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Gods of Egypt) as Henry Turner conversing miraculously underwater with his trapped father Will Turner played again by Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End).

Henry makes a pact to find Poseidon’s Trident which will undo all the curses which have befallen pirates and sailors alike in the turbulent waters of the Caribbean, thus freeing his father from his watery confinement.

Under another such curse is Salazar, the archetypal villain wonderfully played with a Spanish accent by Oscar winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) who is a ghostly pirate trapped for eternity in an unholy state keen on exacting revenge on every pirate and sailor he encounters, more specifically Captain Jack Sparrow who he blames for tricking him into sailing into the Devil’s Triangle, cursing his Spanish crew forever.

After an attention grabbing opening sequence involving a chaotic bank robbery on the British controlled island of Saint Martin, Captain Sparrow reluctantly gathers his crew again including Henry Turner and newcomer Carina Smyth played by Kaya Scodelario as they escape the island and set sail in search of the elusive Poseidon’s trident. The bloodthirsty Salazar has made an unlikely pact with another of Sparrow’s enemies Hector Barbossa wonderfully played by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine).

While Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is fantastic entertainment with alluring special effects, the plot and direction is occasionally ambivalent lacking a unity of vision in certain sequences.

Besides the swashbuckling, the cameo appearances and a relentlessly fast narrative which taps into a pervasive Pirates mythology which subscribes to the notion that they are outlaws, reckless and merciless, this version of Pirates of the Caribbean is worth seeing especially since it deftly introduces the franchise to a younger audience with the love affair between Carina and Henry, promising of more sequels to come.

Perhaps the action might seem implausible or downright fantastical, but Pirates delivers on its franchise promise and gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Fans of the previous films, will enjoy this version especially the welcome re-appearance of its most notable anti-hero, the rum-sipping, wise-cracking and perverse Jack Sparrow played with suitable delinquency by Johnny Depp.

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