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The Intern

Ben Whittaker (played by Robert De Niro) has lived in New York City his entire life. He was born here, met and married the love of his life here, raised his family here and had a successful career here – all in these familiar streets. Now, aged 70 and having recently lost his wife of over forty years, he’s trying his best to make the most of retirement. His family are nearby and he sees them often, he has a few friends and keeps active daily – but something’s still missing. He spots an advert for a “Senior Intern” at an online fashion organisation and decides to give it a go. The innovative business is only 18 months old and is growing quickly. It has all the features of a modern, dynamic organisation – open plan offices, relaxed dress code, flexible working, in-house masseuse – and their Intern Program welcomes candidates of any age. So Ben figures – why not?  Their founder, Jules Ostin (by Ann Hathaway), is a one-woman show, so at first Ben – feeling like an invisible fish out of water – struggles to find his place. But he can see that having this totally focussed leader and after such rapid growth, the staff and their approach can do with some tweaks here and there. Slowly he starts to forge a place for himself in the organisation, get to know his colleagues and uncover the truth … that Jules’ does actually have a softer side. But … will this Internship work out? … or are his ways just too old-fashioned to fit into a professional life any more?

This is a sweet movie. As Ben, Robert De Niro is lovely. He’s unassuming and totally endearing in this role. He works with Anne Hathaway very well. Renee Russo’s role as corporate masseuse, Fiona, is just right – there’s not too much made of her role, but just enough for it to add to the story. The fellow interns are great too – best of all is Davis, played so well (perhaps he was just being himself …) by Zack Pearlman. Overall, it’s a nice way to spend a couple of hours and is a very easy movie to watch.

Made in 2015. Directed by Nancy Meyers.

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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Family

Giovanni Manzoni (played by Robert De Niro) was born into one of the Italian families that runs “the business” allover New York City. At 13 years of age he joins in and is soon a big part of the entire operation. Everything goes well, he meets and marries the love of his life, Maggie (by Michelle Pfeiffer) and they have two beautiful and very smart children – daughter Belle (by Dianna Agron) and son Warren (by John D’Leo). The children learn a lot from their parents and they’re worldly wise, far beyond their years. One day, Giovanni has a change of heart and he “sings like a birdy” to the Feds. As a result, he’s put into the Witness Protection Program and is now living as Fred Blake and his adorable American family in France. As a snitch, the people from the business back in New York have never forgiven or forgotten him – and they’re on his tail. The Manzoni’s do their best to settle in France, but every time someone disrespects “Fred”, he can’t help himself … oops, I just killed another one …. then patient but exasperated Agent Robert Stansfield (by Tommy Lee Jones) has to find another safe house and move them all on … again. The family have reached a quiet village in Normandy, in northern France. They settle in to school, church and the community and things seem relatively calm – until … back in New York, the mob find out where they are and the boss sends his guys to take care of Giovanni and all the Manzoni’s, once and for all …

This movie takes you by surprise. It’s a quirky and dark story, but is very entertaining. The setting, in a sleepy French village, is divine – and just totally opposite to the lifestyle of Giovanni and his family – they’re all hot-tempered, apparently placid until something gets under their skin, then they react … they REALLY react! It’s the kind of movie you just keep watching because you really want to know what’s going to happen. There are some great comedy moments – made all the better because these veteran performers are all good at their craft. Robert De Niro plays dead-pan comedy with such class, as do Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones – they’re all great. As daughter Belle, Dianna Agron is lovely – and she is aptly named, she really shines on screen. As Warren, John D’Leo is very good – watch for both of these young people in more movies. Both characters are multi-layered and they do very well. It’s great to see Vincent Pastore here too as “Fat Willy”, a mobster (what else??). The movie is based on the book “Malavita (Badfellas)” by Tonino Benacquista. Well done, Luc Besson and everyone involved.

Made in 2013. Directed by Luc Besson

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Movies

 

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New Year’s Eve

Across New York City, people are getting prepared for tonight … it’s New Years Eve. Some people have high expectations and big plans, others want to spend the evening in their own individual way. Amongst all these people, there is one common thread – they all seek something … all near Times Square, where the huge New Year’s Ball will fall on the stoke of midnight, to usher in the New Year with all the hopes and expectations that come with it. We watch the fortunes of pregnant women expecting their first child, people looking for love, others trying to forget love, some trying to mend a broken heart and some spending the last precious hours of the year celebrating their lives.

This is a lightweight movie that is fine to watch if you need to pass the time. The comedy is mostly witty and a big part of the entertainment comes from the ensemble cast – not in their performances, which are all just utilitarian, but in the delight you get when yet another big star pops up in one of the scenarios. That is quite fun … there are dozens of stars in this. It’s nothing special, but not difficult to watch. Sofia Vergara is my favourite here, closely followed by Hilary Swank. All in all, yes it’s okay.

Made in 2011. Directed by Garry Marshall

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Movies

 

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Silver Linings Playbook

Pat Solatano (played by Bradley Cooper) has recently been discharged from a mental institution, where he has spent the last eight months in treatment after beating up the lover of his ex-wife, Nikki. Having lost his house and his job, under the conditions of his release, Pat is now living at his parents’ home with his father, Pat Senior (by Robert De Nero) and his mother, Dolores (by Jackie Weaver). He refuses to take his medication because he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel and he is desperate to reconcile with his wife. He attends mandatory counselling sessions with a therapist (by Anupam Kher) and is convinced that he can get back on the rails, back into his job as a teacher and back with his wife – he just needs to stay positive and focus on the silver linings in his life. Pat’s parents wish everything could just get back to “normal” – but Pat Junior’s bizarre unmedicated behaviour is leading them to the end of their collective tethers.  They hope Pat is able to get back on his feet himself, but this is no easy feat. Pat Senior has his own issues to deal with … his obsessive gambling, his baseball team and his conviction that Pat Junior is his ultimate good luck charm. Dolores just tries to keep everything together. One day, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (by Jennifer Lawrence), a refreshingly direct and honest woman who must deal with her own issues. Pat and Tiffany realise that theirs can be a mutually beneficial relationship. They settle on a deal to each get the thing they most want in their lives. … but are they both being honest? … does this come at a price that’s getting too high?  Things progress well, but then start to get complicated and as their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

This movie is interesting and good. Bradley Cooper’s performance in this role takes him out of the familiar roles he has played to this point – and he is very good here. His haphazard method and his demonstration of the effects of mental illness are realistic and well done. He deserves the nomination for Best Actor for this. As usual, Robert De Niro makes acting look like second nature and his portrayal of Pat Senior is so excellent it just looks effortless. Although small, the role of Dolores is important and Jackie Weaver’s performance is strong and I agree that Jennifer Lawrence is the stand-out – she totally deserves the Academy Award (Oscar) she received for this performance. The movie is very well directed, the relatioships, dependencies, human idiosyncracies and the intricacies of human emotions are all done very well.  Great effort. The film is based on the novel by the same name by Matthew Quick.

Made in 2012. Directed by  David O Russell

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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Taxi Driver

Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. He’s a loner and since his return from Vietnam he’s become an insomniac, so he takes a job as a taxi driver, thinking he might as well be earning money to be awake all night. As he cruises the city streets all he sees around him is how the world (particulary New York) has declined into ugliness and before him is a parade of scum, what he views as the dregs of citylife and all types of degradation. During the day he goes to seedy porn cinemas to pass the time. Brightness enters his world when he sees the beautiful Betsy (by Cybill Shepherd), a campaign worker for presidential nominee Senator Charles Palatine (by Leonard Harris). Travis becomes obsessed with her after his attempts to woo her fail when he takes her to a porn movie for their first date. He also spots Iris (by Jodie Foster) a very young runaway who is now a street prostitute working for Sport (by Harvey Keitel). Travis feels he needs to rid the world of all its ugliness to make it a safe place for all, particularly these two women. He feels powerless, but is prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve a “cleaner” world, so he forms a plan and builds up himself, his attitude and his armoury so that he can take on the scum that deserve it …

This movie has slow, but deliberate drama. From the moment it begins, Robert De Niro owns the screen and every scene he appears in. The cinematography is carefully and equisitely planned, with score to match, to depict the seething emotions inside Travis and the developing suspense and tension builds within him and he gradually loses his grip on reality. I wanted to see much more of Jodie Foster’s Iris, she was superb. I also would have enjoyed more of Harvey Keitel’s Sport, but this movie was focussed on Bickle – and rightly so. Facial expressions, non-verbal communication in gestures, observations and scenarios are beautifully done and, although this is an early example, the viewer can clearly see Scorcese’s masterful directing at work here. In 1977, De Niro was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) as the Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Travis Bickle, Jodie Foster achieved a nomination as Best Actress in Supporting Role (and she is marvellously authentic for such a young actress) and the movie itself was nominated with Best Music Score and Best Picture. As an aside, it was beaten by “Rocky”, with other nominees being “All the President’s Men”, “Network” and “Bound for Glory” – all stunning and challenging contenders.

Warning: the film does contain some graphic violence and some could be offended by its depiction of the planning and conduct of these scenes.

Made in 1976. Directed by Martin Scorcese

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Movies

 

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Everybody’s Fine

Eight months ago, Frank Goode (played by Robert De Niro) lost his wife of many years. It has been difficult for him to keep going without her as she was the glue that held his family together. She had great relationships with all of their four adult children and Frank is now finding that it’s hard to maintain good contact with his children as he just doesn’t feel he knows any of them well enough, but he’s very proud as he has pushed each of them to achieve their best in life. He now lives on his own and we meet him just as he is preparing for a visit by all four of the children at once. He’s all ready for them to arrive, but then one by one each of them calls to let him know they’re not coming. Bitterly disappointed, but trying to be understanding, Frank decides that if they can’t come to him then he will go to them. So, even though he’s plagued by heart trouble, he sets out on a road trip around the country to surprise each of them with a visit in their home town. First, he calls on David (by Austin Lysy) the artist, in New York City. Then he moves on to Amy (by Kate Beckinsale), an advertising executive in Chicago. After this, he’s off to Denver to see Robert (by Sam Rockwell) an orchestra conductor, then to Las Vegas where his youngest daughter Rosie (by Drew Barrymore) is a dancer in a big show. Things don’t quite go according to Frank’s hopes, but he does learn a lot about himself and communication within his family.

This is a very poignant drama. Robert De Niro is beautiful as the everyday Frank who just wants to know his children are okay and happy. He defies his doctor to travel because his urge to see them is so strong. He is so authentic, I could see every father in him. Of course, each of the adult children has their own life issues to deal with and while they each had a trusting and open relationship with their mother, things with their father aren’t quite as open and easy. The two daughters, played by Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore, seem to be more relaxed and natural in their characters – the actors seem to “fit into” these roles a bit more easily than Sam Rockwell does into his. He doesn’t really seem to be comfortable, nor gel well with the rest of the family group.  We really only see David fleetingly, so no view can be formed about Austin Lysy. The directing is good and the film-making is done well – so we see the children through Frank’s eyes, as well as in their actual state. There is a journey, primarily for Frank, but by the story’s conclusion, everybody is fine and it concludes nicely on this point. It’s a good movie.

Made in 2009. Directed by Kirk Jones

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Movies

 

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