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- 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