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Silence Review

Excellent

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Kindun (1997). And now he has adapted the Shusaku Endo novel into this profound exploration of religion. As seen through the eyes of a 17th century Jesuit priest in Japan, it's a dark, contemplative film that sometimes feels a bit too murky for its own good. But it also has bracing insight into our need to believe.

At the centre of the story is the disappearance of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) as Japan cracks down on foreign religions in 1640, brutally persecuting local converts. Back in Portugal, two of Ferreira's proteges, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), volunteer to go in search of him. But the journey is dangerous, requiring them to trust exiled Japanese drunk Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) to sneak them into a rural village near Nagasaki. There they find an underground group of devout Catholics who are hiding from the cruel Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata). After they split up to search for Ferreira, Rodrigues is captured by Inoue and interrogated by his interpreter (Tadanobu Asano), who is determined to show him that Christianity can never take root in Japan.

The film has an eerie resonance in today's divisive global climate, where everyone seems determined to protect their own culture from any outside influence, especially a religion that seems to run counter to long-held traditions. But the film's deeper themes explore the idea that we all have a yearning to understand the world and our existence in a way that makes sense to us. So debating the relative benefits of Christianity and Buddhism is actually beside the point. When the movie lets these ideas simmer under the surface, it has real power, especially in Rodrigues' experiences, which are gruelling both physically and emotionally.

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Barbara De Fina - A variety of stars were snapped as they arrived for the Closing of The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of 'Goodfellas' in Manhattan, New York, United States - Saturday 25th April 2015

Barbara De Fina
Barbara De Fina
Barbara De Fina

Lymelife Review


Excellent
In Lymelife, Cynthia Nixon, as real estate agent Melissa Bragg in a New York suburb in 1979, looks skinny and a shade skanky, like an aging out-of-town version of a T. Rex groupie. And yet here she is in the real estate office trying to sell parcels in a housing development to people with from other countries. "It's the American Dream, Mr. Patel. On Long Island." Her boss, Mickey Bartlett (Alec Baldwin, he of the reptilian gaze and surface-to-air anger), is planning to become a millionaire in one year developing new homes in a place he calls Bartletown (what else?). And since they are next-door neighbors, the two are not so secretly engaged in schtupping one another. Mickey's wife Brenda (Jill Hennessy) is trying to tune him out but the song is getting monotonous. Melissa's husband Charlie (Timothy Hutton), spends his time in cheap gray bargain suits, sweating profusely and lurking in the basement, imaging that deer are trying to psychically commune with him. Charlie is slowly slipping away (possibly) to the effects of Lyme disease. Or he may just be another strung out sixties reject (he says the Lyme disease feels like "perpetual acid trip").

Lyme disease in the Long Island burb is the horror malady of the moment, as constructing new homes smack dab in the middle of the woods may be beautiful but it is also nightmarish. Radio announcers point out that Lyme disease causes psychiatric disturbances and severe mental disorders. Mothers weep at the thought of their kids contracting it and duct-tape the kiddies' clothing together to keep out the ticks. But if Lyme disease is the rampant contagion that all fear, it must have seeped into the residents' skulls and infected their brains. Because the only sensible parental character in Lymelife is Charlie, and he is obviously nuts.

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Casino Review


Very Good
The way I see it, Martin Scorsese has one problem: He's in love with the sound of his own voice, as it comes out through the dialogue of films like GoodFellas and now, Casino. Clocking in at three long hours, Casino is an entertaining and engrossing film, but just drags a simple story into a sprawling, epic tale that desperately needs a little trimming.

Based on a true story, Casino is the tale of Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro), the best of the old bookmakers, who is hand-picked by his mob bosses "Back Home" to go to Las Vegas to run the Tangiers Casino. Sam has to contend with managing the bosses' skim going out the back door, cheats at the tables, the law breathing down his neck, and strung-out hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone), whom Sam falls for, and, despite his better judgment, eventually marries. Add to the mix Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who basically reprises his role from GoodFellas as a "problem solver" with a temper from hell, and it's pure chaos in the high-glamour world of 1973 Las Vegas.

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You Can Count On Me Review


Excellent
You Can Count on Me is a film that, in true Sundance form, mixes the familiar with the unexpected. The Best Dramatic Film winner from this year's festival has some actors we've seen before (including Matthew Broderick) and some traditional storylines (single Mom's troubles, loner returns to hometown), but first-time writer-director Ken Lonergan adds just enough unpredictable dialogue and creativity to make this movie the real deal.

The single Mom is Sammy (Laura Linney), an organized bank loan officer living in her small-town childhood home. The loner is her scraggly brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo), a troubled wanderer coming back to ask Sammy for cash. And while this seems pretty basic from the outset, Lonergan has some smart ideas up his sleeve.

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Kundun Review


Extraordinary
Withdrawal. It has to be withdrawal. This is now Day 2 of my lovely vacation and here I am thinking about it. No CNN. No printer. No Internet. And, come to think of it, no cheesy movies. I suppose, having become accustomed to the bad for so long, I have acceppted them, learned to deal with them, and become adddicted to the destruction of them in a well thought out review. I suppose its ironic that the film that makes me want to tear a film apart, that should make me learn that the bad films, the sufferring, is a part of my life as a movie critic, should be one focused on Buddhism. And it's also ironic that it should stir the violence in my blood.

The film I'm talking about is Martin Scorscese's Kundun, the Dhali Lama film of 1997 that was nominated for four academy awards but walked away with none (sadly). With a cast that no one's heard of it still managed to pull off what is becomming impossible: make a great film about a religion that is, for the most part, misunderstood. Make you sympathize with the Tibetans, and hate the Red Chinese, and, at the same time, illustrate the drama of the Dhali Lama's early life.

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My Voyage To Italy Review


Excellent
I'm not sure who the target audience is for Martin Scorsese's four-hour history lesson about Italian cinema and its effect on his life and his work, but let's put that aside for a moment.

For 246 minutes and two stuffed-full DVDs, Scorsese takes the viewer who's willing on an epic journey through the movies of Italy, starting with the Neo-Realist movement that sprung from the aftermath of World War II. Snippets of Italian movies are shown, with Scorsese narrating about their historical importance and/or impact on him, personally. Sometimes he'll show various versions (old print vs. new print, American TV version vs. original version) in order to aid your understanding of the work.

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The Hi-Lo Country Review


Good
Duel in the Sun meets It's a Wonderful Life -- in the oddest of ways. The Hi-Lo Country gives us Harrelson and Crudup as best friends in post-WWII New Mexico, where cowboys still rule a land forgotten by time. Over two rather dragging hours, a story of Harrelson's affair with the married Arquette unfolds, with Crudup lusting for the girl as well (not to mention while he courts Cruz), and Sam Elliott's evil cattle baron overseeing it all (and corrupting Harrelson's brother, Hauser). Got all that? Hi-Lo often ventures into the realm of the truly baffling, but it isn't without its charms, as Harrelson is quite engaging in his role.

Bringing Out The Dead Review


OK
One has to wonder if Martin Scorsese's worldview stops at the New Jersey state line.

A shocking disappointment, Bringing Out the Dead marks Scorsese's first film since Kundun, and his first contemporary movie since Casino. So neither of these took place in New York, but Scorsese is so in love with his hometown, it shows through in all his work. Dead actually begins with the title card, "This film takes place in New York City" (or something close to that), just so there's no confusion.

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The Age Of Innocence Review


Good
Little Marty Scorsese, directing a period piece? Well, it is set in New York. Only it's the late 1800s and everyone is in frilly dresses and smokes cigars. Daniel Day-Lewis takes center stage as a high-society type engaged to Ryder but entranced by her cousin Pfeiffer. How to choose between two very different girls? Ah, such is the dilemma of life. Very pretty, very long, very cold, and very tidy.
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Barbara De Fina Movies

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

Casino Movie Review

Casino Movie Review

The way I see it, Martin Scorsese has one problem: He's in love with...

You Can Count on Me Movie Review

You Can Count on Me Movie Review

You Can Count on Me is a film that, in true Sundance form, mixes the...

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Bringing Out The Dead Movie Review

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One has to wonder if Martin Scorsese's worldview stops at the New Jersey state line.A...

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