Martin Bregman

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Scarface Review


Weak
To say that Al Pacino chews the scenery as Tony Montana, Cuban drug lord par excellence, doesn't really do justice to the performance. Pacino tears into his lines with a lust approaching frenzy, ripping through scenes with an animalistic fervor, creating a role that has already gone down in the books as one of the great, if not the greatest, portrayals of a gangster ever to hit the screen. It's also, watching some 20 years down the line, laughably campy in a manner that the rest of this bloated, self-important film doesn't seem to appreciate.

Pacino and producer Martin Bregman had a good idea in wanting to make an updated version of the original 1932 Scarface, which chronicled the rise and fall of a Prohibition-era Capone-like criminal overlord (screenwriter Ben Hecht was a Chicago journalist with a lot of intimate knowledge of Capone). Handing it over to director Brian De Palma (who had specialized mostly in psychosexual thrillers like Dressed to Kill and The Fury), and screenwriter Oliver Stone (whose credits included an Oscar for 1978's Midnight Express but also Conan the Barbarian), was a daring move. Stone did a lot of research for the screenplay, hanging out and doing coke with drug lords all over Latin America, and De Palma promised to bring a certain visual flair to the proceedings.

Continue reading: Scarface Review

Dog Day Afternoon Review


Extraordinary
Attica! Attica!

I'd say they don't make 'em like Dog Day Afternoon anymore, but, you know, they sure do try to. Bank robbers under fire, hostage negotiations, panic in the streets. Why, moviedom is littered with films like Heat, Mad City, The Negotiator... some good, some bad.

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One Tough Cop Review


Grim
One Tough Cop sure makes for one boring movie. This true story of a case in the life of NYC flatfoot Bo Dietl has that "ripped from today's headlines" feeling usually reserved for TV. It's best left there.

Carlito's Way Review


Extraordinary
Spitting in the face of the idea that criminals are simply nurtured by their environments, legendary gangster Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino, doing a vague approximation of a Puerto Rican accent) stands before a judge in the 1993 Brian De Palma film Carlito's Way and refuses to blame his criminal ways on his upbringing or the fact that his mother died when he was young: "The fact is, your honor, I was a mean little bastard when she was alive."

It's a rebuke to the environment-nurtures-criminals mentality that infused the previous De Palma/Pacino collaboration from 10 years earlier, Scarface, which stands as the bloody and exciting but frankly pretty immature younger brother to the more stately and ultimately more affecting Carlito's Way. The differences are obvious right from the film's opening gunshot: Carlito's been popped and is being wheeled away to the hospital, musing as he dies, "Don't take me to no hospital... Some bitch always pops you at midnight when all they got is a Chinese intern with a wooden spoon." The rest of the film is in flashback, starting with Carlito being let out of jail after serving only five years of a 30-year-sentence and leading back up to that gunshot.

Continue reading: Carlito's Way Review

Serpico Review


Excellent
Damn dirty cops! It's gonna take Frank Serpico to clean up this town!!!

Based on a true story of rampant corruption and internal affairs in New York City (where else?), Serpico stands as the consummate cop movie, right up there with The French Connection. But while The French Connection is a standard cops-and-robbers movie, Serpico is pretty much cops-and-cops, as Al Pacino's title character hunts out corruption inside the department even though it means all but signing his death warrant.

Continue reading: Serpico Review

The Bone Collector Review


Weak
Call me crazy, but I'm dead certain I saw the Transamerica Pyramid (in San Francisco) in the opening scene of The Bone Collector, which is otherwise set in New York. In fact, this film, about a cab driver who kidnaps and murders his passengers, might have been better suited to a S.F. setting, where a cab driver recently kidnapped and murdered his passenger.

Small world. Art imitates life.

Continue reading: The Bone Collector Review

Carolina Review


Weak
Just by looking at the cover you'll be able to figure out a fair amount of the content of Carolina. Sure, there will be a love triangle forming its central struggle, and a kindly old grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) will be on hand to dispense wisdom to young Carolina (Julia Stiles).

But will you guess that a major subplot will blatantly (and explicitly) rip off The Rocking Horse Winner? Or that MacLaine will spew a monologue about rubbing manure on her breasts? Wow. How could you?

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The Adventures of Pluto Nash Review


Terrible
The year is 2080 and not a damn thing has changed - wannabes still roam the universe looking for a gig, clubs still try to make a small budget look like a big one, and most movies still suck... this one in particular.

Eddie Murphy is, you guessed it, Pluto Nash... present club owner and former smuggler extraordinaire. As it starts, Pluto has been out of prison a week, already saving the lives of Polish accordion players in kilts, negotiating bookies into lending him millions of dollars, and turning the worst bar on the moon into the satellite's hottest nightclub. Cut to seven years later and Pluto's club is hot, the jokes aren't, and a charming wannabe singer comes into the club looking for work, about five minutes before it gets blown up, leaving only Pluto, the singer, and an antiquated security robot named Bruno (Randy Quaid).

Continue reading: The Adventures of Pluto Nash Review

The Four Seasons Review


Good
Back in the '70s, Alan Alda gained a rep as a "sensitive man," a pro-ERA, Marlo Thomas-loving, abortion-rights-advocating bleeding heart. The Four Seasons, written, directed, and starring Alda at the peak of his M*A*S*H fame, is his feminist apotheosis. This sparkling comedy tracking the travails of three upscale middle-aged couples as they vacation together four times a year (accompanied by a vibrant Vivaldi soundtrack, natch) is told from a distinctly female, and feminist, perspective. Alda is really in touch with his softer side.

Jack and Kate Burroughs (Alda and Carol Burnett), Danny and Claudia Zimmer (Jack Weston and Rita Moreno), and Nick and Anne Callan (Len Cariou and Sandy Dennis) head off for the first of their four annual trips in spring, but it's not going to be a good time. The fragile and seemingly unstable Anne announces that Nick has dumped her and that a divorce is imminent. The women rally around their long-time friend while the men stand back and try to avoid emoting at all.

Continue reading: The Four Seasons Review

Scarface Review


Weak
To say that Al Pacino chews the scenery as Tony Montana, Cuban drug lord par excellence, doesn't really do justice to the performance. Pacino tears into his lines with a lust approaching frenzy, ripping through scenes with an animalistic fervor, creating a role that has already gone down in the books as one of the great, if not the greatest, portrayals of a gangster ever to hit the screen. It's also, watching some 20 years down the line, laughably campy in a manner that the rest of this bloated, self-important film doesn't seem to appreciate.

Pacino and producer Martin Bregman had a good idea in wanting to make an updated version of the original 1932 Scarface, which chronicled the rise and fall of a Prohibition-era Capone-like criminal overlord (screenwriter Ben Hecht was a Chicago journalist with a lot of intimate knowledge of Capone). Handing it over to director Brian De Palma (who had specialized mostly in psychosexual thrillers like Dressed to Kill and The Fury), and screenwriter Oliver Stone (whose credits included an Oscar for 1978's Midnight Express but also Conan the Barbarian), was a daring move. Stone did a lot of research for the screenplay, hanging out and doing coke with drug lords all over Latin America, and De Palma promised to bring a certain visual flair to the proceedings.

Continue reading: Scarface Review

Martin Bregman

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