REVIEW: “THE IRISHMAN” (2019) Netflix

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“THE IRISHMAN”  is both a period piece and an almost historical type piece as you need to know a little history to understand the direction of the narrative and flow of this epic film. The movie, while following Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as our designated main character, revolves around Teamsters union boss James “Jimmy” Riddle Hoffa (Al Pacino). Fortunately Frank goes to great lengths to narrate the story for the audience and provides a healthy dose of context for those of us not from the Kennedy era. The main thing you need to know going in is that Jimmy Hoffa had mob ties, and that he vanished in 1975 and was presumed murdered by mob bosses for being “uncooperative”. While I’m sure a few ‘liberties’ have been taken by the film, it does make you go ‘hmmmm’ more than once after viewing.  It’s good to note as well, that it is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, who’s legal career cannot be disputed. Once you do see the movie, you will understand how perfectly rich that title is.

The movie unfolds over four acts, told over several decades by Frank Sheeran. In act one, Frank is introduced as a WWII veteran who is stuck driving food delivery trucks in and around Philadelphia. He has the bright idea to steal some of the steaks that he’s delivering, and sell them to local mobster Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio (Bobby Cannavale). Eventually his brazen willingness to break the law catches the eye of Italian mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), who happens to be a mobster on a national level, a man who might be commonly be referred to as an ‘underboss’ in the mafia levels structure. His calm demeanor is both comical yet terrifying. A soon to be classic line encompasses Bufalino perfectly: “You might be demonstrating a failure to show appreciation.” Under his mentor-ship, Frank becomes a ruthless action/hit man for the Italian mob and explains with rather entertaining dispassion how he does his job properly. In act two, Russell introduces Frank to Jimmy Hoffa, the outspoken and fearless president of the National Teamsters Union. Their relationship grows and Hoffa becomes Frank’s second mentor. Together they use intimidation and bribery to gain influence until the election of John Kennedy, who subsequently appoints his brother Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General and he immediately goes after Hoffa.

The first two and a half hours are the most fun, and in particular the end of act three is some of the most tense and dramatic storytelling that I have had the pleasure of seeing in recent memory. At a dinner celebration for Frank (who eventually becomes a Teamster boss himself), tensions between Hoffa, Bufalino and the other mobsters reaches a breaking point, and the decision is made to make Hoffa disappear. But in a gut wrenching twist that you had a feeling just might be, Frank is the one tasked to do the job. In a beautiful display of cinematography over a thirty-minute buildup, Scorsese forces the viewer to the edge of their seats with the dread of what’s about to happen. Robert De Niro’s performance in these moments is master class; the inner conflict is all the more apparent thanks to all of the time we spent watching Frank being groomed by Bufalino and Hoffa in equal measure.

Getting away from the plot a bit, the movie is actually surprisingly funny. In one particular scene, someone insults an older Bufalino at a dinner reception. He and Frank exchange glances, and the frame suddenly cuts to a hotel bed covered in guns. Frank then narrates with excess detail and hilarious dispassion the ideal weapon for a public assassination. Moments like these are thrown throughout the film and keep it from getting too bogged down in it’s violence. It’s impressive how quickly jokes fly, given the disproportionate amount of people getting shot point blank in the head.

The heart of the movie is definitely Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. De Niro was de-aged apparently with some really good CGI, as he is supposed to be younger than both Pacino and Pesci. While it’s fairly obvious, it was never too distracting to not enjoy what was unfolding onscreen.  Al Pacino is a an absolute over-the-top riot as Hoffa, and is certainly one of the best roles that Pacino has bit into and played in awhile.  While De Niro on the other hand, goes for the more understated, it as if he is the ying to Pacino’s yang that makes this pairing so wonderful to watch together. Pesci as Bufalino is chilling, and it’s fun to seem him as the boss in this gangster movie after being a junior-level mobster in ‘Goodfellas’ so many years ago. The mentor-ship between De Niro’s character and both Pacino and Pesci is amazingly entertaining. Mention must be made of the flawless ensemble cast which backs up these principals, including the amazing women, who play such important, but background roles in the film is the cushion that rounds out these characters and nuances of story line. Kathrine NarducciRay Romano, Anna Paquin and Aleksa Palladino to name just a few, and while not always front and center, they add so much into the texture of their scenes.

The only thing keeping me from calling this movie perfect is it’s length. The almost three and a half hour run time is a very long one, and while occurring infrequently, the movie does drag a bit. This is most apparent in the fourth act where Frank introspects during his final years, and attempts to achieve reconciliation for all the murders he’s committed. It doesn’t really offer any closure or seem necessary to wrapping up the narrative.

Ultimately that doesn’t even come close to making me not recommend seeing “The Irishman” at all. There’s a reason Martin Scorsese will forever be known for his gangster movies. Combining comedy, violence, brotherhood and drama, he has created a formula that continues to work. The fact that he continues to still make such excellent movies after all these years, well it says a lot about the man himself.  Well done Mr. Scorsese, well done.

Grade: A-

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: peggyatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup

“THE IRISHMAN” NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS // ON NETFLIX NOVEMBER 27, 2019

+++READ~~~~REVIEW OF “LIFE ITSELF”+++

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Film Independent's 2006 Independent Spirit Awards - Arrivals

I’m not much of a crier at movies.. Usually, I know when someone is going to die or pass away, and I prepare for it. Not this movie, I knew what the ending was, I knew I would cry ~ and I did. I also laughed and learned a few things.  Look, I realize there are some people out there who might not even know who Roger Ebert is and are wondering  whaaat?? but for me Roger Ebert epitomized the word “MOVIES.”

And while there were many things I did not know about the man, that this movie nicely took me through to learn more about his earlier life and times, how he got to be the Film Critic for the Chicago Sun Times etc, I was a COMPLETE devotee of Siskel & Ebert ~ At the Movies.  And this movie made me remember so many of the reviews, off camera moments, oft sarcastic remarks they made to each other and a big reminder of how far back I actually started watching them..as I even remembered my mom saying to me “why do you watch these guys ~ all they do is bicker” and I haven’t lived at home in many years now!! hahahaha And oh yes, bicker they did. But what made them special to me was not only the way they reviewed movies, as for me a two-thumbs up was a must-see, but you could see deep down the respect and admiration they really truly had for each other even though arguing like high-school boys over whom was right in their reviews.  I loved every second of watching them. I will even admit that I used to *gulp* set my VCR to record their show..yep..my fandom knew no bounds..hahahahaha  And I know people thought I was weird to be so into what so many of my friends considered a ‘weird show’ for someone my age then, to be watching..And just like now, I didn’t care. To say they shaped how I watch movies would be an understatement. They made me understand movies.

siskel ebert

I remember being so saddened by Gene Siskel’s sudden death of a brain tumour, though it wasn’t as we learned, so sudden. He just kept it hidden.  Roger chose a different route when he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw. Devastating as it was, he kept going until he felt he could no longer be in public. They removed his entire jaw, he couldn’t eat, drink, speak..nothing..It’s devastating seeing what he went through, but that he handled it with a strength I’m guessing he didn’t even know he had. I know I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I believe he had an amazing support system behind him with his wife, Chaz & his step-children/grandchildren also.  Martin Scorsese and many of Roger’s film critic friends are featured throughout this movie, and tell it like it is.  It’s quite wonderful, funny, and touching.

After Siskel, Roger had a lot of various co-hosts basically giving the a try-out so to speak..(if only I had been old enough dammit!! :)) And none worked so well as Richard Roeper. I was leary at first, thinking was he going to be as good as Gene, would there be that chemistry that they had before.  And while it definitely was a different chemistry, it worked. Until Roger could no longer do a live show.

ebert roeper

Roger Ebert could write about movies like no other.He had a way with words that no one else simply had. He was the 1st film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. He became somewhat of a celebrity in his own right getting to be friends with some of the biggest names in film, yet that didn’t stop him from ever reviewing a movie thumbs up or thumbs down.  I know my little movie review blog here could be taken as a bit laughable when compared to the things that Roger Ebert wrote..but that’s okay by me. Without him I would have never been exposed to the movies the way I am..He loved everything from the Hollywood Blockbuster to Independent Film to the little Foreign Documentaries that it took years for the Academy to even recognize. But he did, and with that true love of film ~ he touched a lot of people..I am proud to say I am one of those people he touched. So yes, this film and my review are an ‘Ode to Ebert’ so to say. Thank you Roger.. my little blog about something I love #peggyatthemovies exists because of you.

Grade: A

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GRADING SCALE: A = OSCARWORTHY; B = ABOVE AVERAGE~MUST SEE; C= AVERAGE~SHOULD SEE; D = DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY; F = YEAH..NO DON’T SEE THE MOVIE.. ( + OR – ) GIVES IT A BIT UP OR DOWN

COUNTDOWN TO THE OSCARS – BEST DIRECTOR

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So I think I’ve made it clear how much I love this movie.. So it makes perfect sense that I would love the director also, which I do. 🙂  I loved last years ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ I loved ‘Three Kings’ so do I think he would be a great shot to win this award..yes I do..my choice hands down.

ZZZZzzzzz was ‘Gravity’ for me.  I mean can we say green screen & CGI all the way…no, I can’t at least. Did I think it was made to be seen in 3D, yes ..yes I did because it made it better but do I think you should get a best director award for that. Answer = no.

While I thought this movie was sweet and cute..I don’t understand the director’s nod here when a movie like ‘the Bulter’ got overlooked for it. ah well.. que sera sera I do like some of his other work more and yeah.. it’s highly unlikely he will win. 

Well..since I think this movie is not so well done, choppy, and all over the place ~ and that is because of the direction – I’m not in this guys corner for the win..at all.

Oh yes.. The short man came up with another goodie.. I mean what a career this man has had. His movies that I love, including this one, are almost to many to list. And while he finally got his Oscar and was overlooked more times than any great director should.. I’m not sure if he will take this..though it’s deservedly his as his movies is head & shoulders above Alfonso Cuaron, Steve McQueen and Alexander Payne in this category.. I definitely pick him as my runner up..

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