Top 5 Martin Scorsese films

by Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper

Last Friday, Martin Scorsese turned 75. For 58 years, this masterful director has been gracing us with masterpiece after masterpiece. And to celebrate, we’re looking at his 5 best films. But, I haven’t seen that many of his films. Thankfully, I know someone who has: Nevin Hooper! Together we’re covering his best films. Just keep in mind there’s some we haven’t seen (Silence, The Wolf of Wall Street), and even if we did see those, we couldn’t exactly talk about them on the school blog. Now, let’s get into Marty’s best, starting with an honorable mention.

Honorable Mention:

Hugo: Based on the bestselling children’s novel, Hugo is without a doubt Scorsese’s most family friendly film. It has a sense of wonder and whimsy within every frame, and has a great performance by Ben Kingsley. The reason why it’s not on the list is because I honestly could not care about some of the characters in this film. Some of them just felt like straight up cartoon characters! But other than that, Hugo is a film that’s fun for the whole family, and is definitely a better film to introduce the family to Scorsese than, say, The Wolf of Wall Street.

5. Casino (1995)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Although not as good as the other films on this list, and I also felt that this film copied off Goodfellas (1990) a little too much, this is still extremely entertaining. “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) will do anything to keep his casino in Las Vegas running, available to anyone, and impossible to win. The film follows his hysteria that comes from him trying to keep up with everything happening in his personal life, competition with Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a Mafia crime boss, and others around him. The film contains Scorsese’s masterful direction, great performances from all, especially De Niro, and a great soundtrack, mood, and pacing. Like I said, not Martin Scorsese’s best, but one that you should definitely check out.

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Taxi Driver was Martin Scorsese’s most controversial film at the time of it’s release in 1976, but over the years has gained a reputation as one of cinema’s greatest films of all time. Troubled taxi cab driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is disgusted by the city of New York in which he lives. He believes everyone around him is scum and dirt on the streets and plans to end that, or “clean it up” as he says. His decision is to turn against society by trying to get back into it by trying to fall in love, assassinate a presidential candidate, and save a young girl from an abusive life. This film has an excellent performance from De Niro, an excellent performance from a 12-year-old Jodie Foster, phenomenal cinematography, and a jazzy music score, giving the film an almost noirish feel. It is a very thought provoking film to watch, and has many deep themes about our society and what it can do to us. It is worth the watch because, duh, it’s Scorsese. Everything Scorsese directs is fantastic, and this film is no exception.

3. The Departed (2006)

by Brandon Matzke

TV version

Personally, this is my favorite Scorsese flick. A remake of the Chinese film series Internal Affairs, The Departed is a film that manages to be a masterpiece of crime cinema without even trying. This film is gritty and brutal, yet manages to have an utterly irresistible charm. The writing is truly amazing (especially for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character), the cast is so filled with talent that it manages to leak through the screen (the biggest show-stealer for me is Jack Nicholson, who seriously brings his all into this film), the directing is phenomenal, the emotion is surprisingly real, I could just talk about this movie for hours on end. It’s just a film that needs to be seen to believe.

2. Raging Bull (1980)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Also based on a true story, Raging Bull follows the rise and fall of fame for boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro, who gives one of the best performances I have ever seen) from his complications with his wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and brother Joey (Joe Pesci) to him losing his hold as Heavyweight Champion to other younger and more experienced boxers. This film is phenomenal with it’s excellent acting, astonishing black and white cinematography, smooth and seamless direction from Scorsese, and amazing screenplay. The whole atmosphere of this film is amazing. The whole film is phenomenal and is one of my favorite films of all time. Not Scorsese’s best, but really close.

1. Goodfellas (1990)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Not only is this a perfect film about life in the Mafia, but this is a perfect film in general. I highly recommend seeing this film (although maybe you should watch the TV version first). It tells the true story of Henry Hill who joins in the Mafia as a teenager and follows his rise in power to an adult, where he is then played by the exotic Ray Liotta. But, you can’t talk about this movie without taking note of his two friends, Jimmy “the Gent” Conway (Robert De Niro), and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, in a fantastic performance that won him the only Oscar for the film for Best Supporting Actor). The relationship between these three is extraordinary to watch. This whole film could just be these guys talking to each other and I would be fine, because their performances and screenplay are absolutely phenomenal. Although, Scorsese’s direction is fantastic, with long takes and lots of movement in the camera, his whole directorial style is something I very much admire. I love this movie, and I do believe that it is Martin Scorsese’s best film.

30th Anniversary Review of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Hello, once again, fans of classic cinema, and today, since it is nearing Thanksgiving, I thought, why not review one of the best Thanksgiving films of all time, John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Since the film is nearing its thirtieth anniversary, it felt necessary to review it.

If you are new to my film reviews, I have a grading system that goes like this: I grade films on a scale of 0/10 (films that are so horrible that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (films that are so fantastic, so amazing, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade). Now, onto the review!

Workaholic Neal Page (Steve Martin, in one of his best performances) is desperate to get home to his family for Thanksgiving, but his plane to Chicago gets rerouted to Kansas because of a monstrous snow storm. He meets up with the extremely talkative Del Griffith (John Candy, in another lovable performance, rest in peace), who offers to find a way to get him to Chicago in time to see his family, so they have to overcome their numerous problems with each other to get Neal back home.

John Hughes has always been a favorite director/screenwriter of mine. With some of my favorite films of his being The Breakfast Club (1985), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), I immediately raced to see this film and loved it. Hughes uses his brilliant writing skills to create a hilarious, yet at times extremely heartfelt, atmosphere with excellent dialogue and chemistry between Martin and Candy who give some of the best scenes in the entire movie.

Another thing that I appreciated was the music in the film. Some may like it, some may not, but I thought the music in the film was great for the mood and tone of the story. The only very minor negative that I see with this film, that doesn’t even affect my grade as it just bothered me a little bit, are a few times in the film where they have an argument and they threaten to separate, but then they stay together. Since this happened multiple times, I was like “Just stop arguing and make up your mind! Leave or stay, it’s your choice!” But, that is only very minor for me, so I still have to give this film an 11/10. It is a great film to watch around Thanksgiving.

So, have any of you guys seen this film? If so, what did you think of it, because, as you can tell, I loved this movie. Not my favorite Hughes film, but still pretty good. Tell me what you think in the comments, or what is your favorite film to watch around Thanksgiving. I will be back soon writing more reviews!

Review- Amadeus (1984)

by Brandon Matzke

Rating: (theatrical) PG

Wow.

Based on the stage production of the same name, Amadeus could be the best film I have ever seen. I almost never say stuff like that. This masterpiece of cinema is a story about every theme imaginable: love, hate, pride, jealousy, obsession, appreciation, whatever you want; it’s in there. The film follows Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), a former musician sent to an insane asylum following an attempted suicide. He is soon visited by a priest to whom he confesses to “killing Mozart.” What starts out as a simple life story ends up as a tale of rivalry between the surprisingly immature, yet talented, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (played to perfection by Tom Hulce) and a musician slowly losing his sanity.

Positives
Where to start? Well, the visuals are fantastic. There isn’t any CGI, but this film needed none. The colors reflect the tone perfectly: the uplifting scenes are bright and vibrant, while the more dramatic moments are darker and dimly lit. The costumes and sets put me exactly in this era, and the music, OH THE MUSIC! It’s about Mozart, so of course it’s going to have an amazing soundtrack. And the acting? Purely phenomenal. There isn’t a single dull performance in the film. And the directing is phenomenal; there isn’t a single dull moment in the film. Despite being almost three hours long, I never found myself bored.

Negatives
What negatives? I couldn’t find a single one. Sure, the runtime of nearly three hours can turn off some viewers, but it never stopped me before.

Overall
I consider this film to be one of the best films ever made, and for good reason. I’m not even that big on music, and I still consider this to be a masterpiece. So, of course, I have to give it an 11/10. If I could give it higher, I would immediately. This may be my favorite film of all time, even beating out other classics including Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Drive, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fight Club, Alien, The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back, Rocky, The Shawshank Redemption, Lord of The Rings: Return Of The King, and Back To The Future (all of which I highly recommend). But now I’m curious; since I reviewed my favorite film of all time, I want to know what your favorite movie is. Be sure to comment!

What the critics say:
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

IMDb: 8.3/10

Review- The Room (the best of the worst)

by Brandon Matzke

(edited version for TV audience)

It’s October. Well, it’s time to talk about something scary: a ridiculously bad movie. Not just any bad movie, one of the worst movies ever made. And seeing as the day I wrote this it was Tommy Wiseau’s (the director/actor/writer/producer) birthday, and a film is coming out next month about the making of this movie, I thought it was time to cover this mess. So, let’s dive into this monstrosity of a film!

Plot: Since this film is nearly impossible to comprehend, I’ll summarize what I understood about this it: a space alien disguised as a human named Johnny falls in love with a girl named Lisa, who is his “future wife.” But later in the film Lisa starts to cheat on him with his best friend Mark (as in, “oh. Hi, Mark”). This drives Johnny to the brink of insanity (“Lisa, you’re tearing me apart!!!”), which drives Johnny into a deep depression (I guess).

Positives: This movie is hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. This was intended to be a serious drama about relationships and what they can do to people, but instead it ended up as one of the best comedies of all time. Tommy Wiseau is hysterically bad in this movie, whether he’s simply ordering flowers under a 30-second timer or destroying his house in both the most uncaring yet over-the-top performance I have ever seen. This man can’t even impersonate a chicken correctly, and it’s all for the better. The dialogue he writes is so offbeat that it’s become a pop culture icon, including the infamous lines I referenced earlier.

Negatives: Technically, everything about this movie is a negative. But some stand out more than others. For every hilarious line coming out of Tommy Wiseau’s mouth, there’s four more boring lines coming from his “future wife” Lisa. She has conversations with her mother that go nowhere, and almost every scene in the second third of the film has literally no effect on the plot. Also, let’s talk about Danny. Danny is a teenage boy that Johnny and Lisa adopted who comes off scarier than Hannibal Lecter at times. I don’t think that was the intent, but it certainly makes him one of the weirder parts of this already weird movie.

Overall: The Room is one of the worst movies ever made. It’s unfocused, poorly made, and the best example of filmmaking gone wrong. I’m not going to lie and say that I can do better, but what I will say is that I’ve seen three minute shorts better than this two hour film. However, this is an absolutely hysterical movie, and one to watch with friends for the intent to have a good time watching an awful movie. The Room gets an 11/10: it’s that bad. So, what film should I cover next? Let me know in the comments, and before I leave, here’s what others had to say about this mess.

Critic’s reviews:

Rotten Tomatoes: 32% (rotten)
IMDb: 3.6/10

Review- Kingsman: The Secret Service

by Brandon Matzke

Rating: TV-14

Isn’t this movie rated R? Well, yes and no. When it was released in theaters, it was rated R. But when it was released on television, it was toned down (slightly) to a TV-14. And seeing as the sequel comes to theaters September 22, it seems like the perfect time to review this modern cult classic. Now, with that out of the way, let me review this movie…. like a gentleman.

The plot of Kingsman is rather simple, yet crazy. A rebellious teenager (played by Taron Egerton) is forced into joining the Kingsman: a tailor shop famous across Britain. Of course, there’s more to it than that; the Kingsman is actually a secret agent agency, protecting the world from whatever threats approach. Mentored by the famous Harry Hart (played excellently by Colin Firth), the rookie agent must take on the maniacal Valentine (played by Samuel L Jackson), and his evil henchwoman Gazelle (a woman with literal blades for legs). Believe me, that’s the easiest way to describe the zaniness in this film.

For one, the action is amazing. I loved every action scene, and each one was filmed perfectly. Especially the church sequence. That may be one of the best fight scenes I have ever seen on film. I promise not to spoil it, but trust me when I say that it’s breathtaking.

This is a goofy movie. The film has a great lack of self-seriousness, despite what the trailer promoted. From start to finish, there isn’t a single scene that takes itself too seriously. And that’s for the best.

It is supposed to be a love letter to campy spy movies of the 1960s. Well, a very violent love letter, but still a love letter. And apparently, that was the intent. Matthew Vaughn (the director) once had a discussion with comic book legend Mark Millar about how spy movies had become way too serious, and he wanted to do a type of film that payed homage to the classic 60’s campiness, but to “give it a modern spin”. As a result, a 60’s inspired “take over the world” plot is mixed with modern technology, some brutal yet jaw-dropping action scenes, and some pretty fun performances to watch (especially from the usually dramatic Colin Firth). Kingsman isn’t perfect, but it’s still a ton of fun for spy movie genre fans, and gets a 10/10. Is it the best spy movie ever? No. Nothing can beat Casino Royale (2006). But it still is a blast.

What the critics say:

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

IMDb: 7.7/10

Review- The Sixth Sense (1999)

by Nevin Hooper (guest classic movie reviewer)

Hello (again), fans of classic movies! I am back after reviewing the Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I had no idea what to review next until I realized that the new movie IT just came out, which is about a bunch of kids who are troubled with frightening visions of their fears. So, why not review the film that started that genre…. The Sixth Sense.

If you are new to my reviews, we should get caught up on my grading system for movies. I rate movies on a range from 0/10 (movies that are so horrible that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (movies that are so great, so amazing, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade). Now that you are caught up with that, on to the review!

Considered one of the best films of the year 1999, The Sixth Sense is still the best and most successful film by M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan nowadays has given himself a reputation of some great movies (The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable), but then started to really drag and made a lot of terrible films (The Happening, The Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender), and now has started to redeem himself in making some more better films (The Visit, Split). So let’s talk about the first film that gained him an incredible reputation: The Sixth Sense.

This film tells the story of acclaimed child psychologist, Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis, in a fascinatingly underrated performance) who, after a frightening encounter from one of his last patient’s, tries to figure out the troubled 8-year-old, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment, in one of the best child performances ever that got him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor), but once Malcolm delves deeper into the mind of the frightened Cole, more secrets are revealed, which come with some frightening consequences.

Being one of my favorite films, The Sixth Sense has phenomenal performances from all, especially from the young Osment, but do not forget the brilliant performance by Willis, who is really the heart and sole of the film. But, what this film is most noted for is it’s unpredictable twists and turns in the story that are better left unspoiled. Shyamalan’s spooky script also does something that is very unusual for this type of film: it doesn’t focus on the horrifying secrets that Cole is revealing, but focuses on the personal drama between boy and psychologist. The relationship between them is fantastic, but the fact that the film is more of an emotional drama than a spooky story is what makes the film phenomenal. With amazing direction, subtle hints of what is to come, and brilliant use of the color red, it is just one of those must see films that I have to give an 11/10.

Review- IT (1990, the classic adaptation)

by Brandon Matzke (guest modern movie reviewer)

Rating: TV-14

Since the newest version of the terrifying Stephen King novel is coming out this week (I have seen the movie, it’s a 10/10), I thought it would be fun to look back at the TV mini-series that “scared a generation”; IT (starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the dancing clown). So, after days of searching Goodwills for a copy (and finally buying one on VHS for a dollar), and 3 and ½ hours of watching, I finally decided to review it. So, how was the classic mini-series? Well… I honestly have no idea. I’m gonna have to do something unusual for me: divide this into positives and negatives. But before I tell you my thoughts, I have to explain the structure. IT uses what I like to call the “Nolan formula”, where it often switches between past and present (this film’s present is 1986). So, half of the series follows the characters as children growing up in the town of Derry during the 50s, while the other half follows them as adults re-entering Derry to combat a childhood fear: Pennywise. Make sense? Well, let’s get this started!

Positives

1. The child actors

Believe it or not, but the kids in this movie are surprisingly talented. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that a young Seth Green was cast, but for the most part, they did pretty well. Sometimes, even better than the adults! The kids brought emotion into the film, and if the entire film was focused on the kids, I would’ve enjoyed it much more.

2. Tim Curry as Pennywise

I feel kind of strange about Curry’s iconic take on the child-devouring clown; part of me loved every second of him on screen, while another felt he was in the wrong movie. Let me explain. Curry was surprisingly a laugh riot; every joke he made had me cracking up. He truly stole the show. But at the same time, he was supposed to be scary. And the rest of the film took itself very seriously, so it felt rather jarring. Welcome, but jarring.

3. It’s surprisingly tame for a “scary movie”

This is probably the tamest Stephen King adaptation I’ve ever seen, despite the fact that it’s based on one of his most disturbing works. There’s nothing too gory, and it never gets too creepy. If you’re curious about scary movies, but aren’t exactly ready for Alien (my personal favorite scary movie), then this one is a great place to start.

Now onto the negatives. Oh boy…

1. The adults

Nothing against these people, but sometimes the acting from the adults feels rather bland. I don’t if it’s because their child counterparts did such a great job, but I found myself dreading seeing the adults’ stories. They were kind of predictable.They definitely dragged down the second half, since it was almost entirely focused on them.

2. The plotholes

Some plot points make zero sense at times, and I wouldn’t mind if they weren’t so “in your face” about some of them. For spoiler’s sake, I will not cover them, but they do annoy me. If you’re there for Tim Curry though, then it won’t be much of a bother.

3. The stop-motion

Listen, I used to make stop-motion films; I know how hard it is to use it properly. But the stop-motion in the film has not aged well. It looks extremely dated, and feels very out of place. But, again, it won’t be much of a bother to those there for a good time.

4. The Stephen King cliches I don’t know if these are as abundant in the novel as they are in this movie, but they do get on my nerves. If you don’t know them, then you’re going to have a lot more fun than I did. Trust me when I say that.

Final Thoughts

So, those were my personal thoughts on IT, a mini-series I sadly did not enjoy. But, for a few reasons, I still recommend it in a weird way. Tim Curry’s take on Pennywise is something you need to see to believe. This man was clearly having the time of his life doing this, and it shows. The childhood half of the movie works well acting as a sort of “supernatural coming of age” story. And, again, it’s a decent introduction to those who are curious about scary movies. Plus, it’s a great watch with friends.

I had a great time getting through this thanks to a very close friend, and I highly recommend getting as many of your pals together to watch this. It might not have been my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some enjoyment to be had. I personally give it a 6/10, but it’s clear that others can enjoy this more. Is it the best Stephen King adaptation? Not even close (nothing can beat The Shawshank Redemption). Is it the worst? As someone who has seen most of the worst (never watch Maximum Overdrive, Dreamcatcher, Sleepwalkers, etc. ), I can gladly say no. It’s somewhere in the middle. You either adore it, think it’s OK (me), or hate it.

Other reviews:

62% on Rotten Tomatoes

6.9/10 on IMDb