Movie Recommend of the Week #10 – ‘The Sting’

the sting

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford and was directed by George Roy Hill.  “The Sting” sees these men teaming up for another movie that is an absolute classic.

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is a masterpiece of film and I would highly recommend it as well, the reason I’m not is because I think most people have at least heard of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, whereas “The Sting” is at least a little lesser known.

REASONS TO WATCH

  • The acting of course is fantastic. Paul Newman is one of my favorite actors of all time, and his pairing with Robert Redford is one of the all time greatest screen duos.
  • The movie sets it’s tone perfectly and holds true throughout. The film tells a serious, competent story, but also manages to have a slight whimsical and comedic edge that makes it a lot of fun.
  • The music is great, if a bit limited. You will end up hearing the same song quite a few times throughout the movie, but whether or not you grow tired of it is a matter of personal experience. Personally, though I’ll admit the music is repetitive, it never stopped being enjoyable or fitting.
  • The movie is very long and is broken up into segments. The segments are connected with little musical interludes, and absolutely fantastic hand-made art panels. This artwork is magnificent and took a great deal of time and care.
  • There’s a degree of showmanship in “The Sting” that you just cannot find in modern cinema.
  • I’ve heard this film compared to “The Godfather“, and while they do have completely different styles, tones, and even focus, when comparing the two “The Sting” wins by a large margin. I know that “The Godfather” is often considered one of the best films ever made, but  I honestly think that “The Sting” is a much, much better film all around.
  • The Sting” is an absolute classic and is truly a masterpiece that stands the test of time.

Stand Up Guys (2012)

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pacino walken arkin“Stand Up Guys” was one of those movies that I was really excited to see when I first heard about it, but then I kind of forgot about it. So did most people I guess, because “Stand Up Guys”  didn’t do too well. The movie was moved back from it’s set release date due to unfortunate current events (That really have nothing to do with the movie, but I digress.) “Stand Up Guys”  eventually ended up settling for a limited release which is why I wasn’t able to see it until now.

I didn’t hear a whole lot about “Stand Up Guys” , and what little I did hear wasn’t very positive. But,  I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

It has the feel of a throwback to old gangster films. I like to imagine the characters in “Stand Up Guys”  as the subject of a 70’s gangster film, perhaps called “A Fistfull of Teeth”, then those characters grew old and “Stand Up Guys” comes along as a way to check up on those characters.

stand up guys3The basic story is that Al Pacino is released from prison and is picked up by his old pal Christopher Walken, who was sent to kill him by a gangster. What follows is not an action film by any means, but a well acted, dramatic, character piece, that works to study the relationship of it’s two lead characters.

“Stand Up Guys” stars Christopher Walken and Al Pacino who are both great. They are two of my favorite actors and they are very talented. Christopher Walken’s strange demeanor and pattern of speech often overshadow the fact that he is actually a very good actor. Both actors deliver great performances here. It takes a while for the relationship to develop between the two, but once they get in the swing of things it’s a lot of fun to watch. The film claims to also star Alan Arkin and he does a good job while he’s on screen, but he isn’t in a whole lot of the movie.

stand up guys Mark Margolis stand up guys Vanessa FerlitoOther actors of note in the movie are Mark Margolis (AKA Tio Salamanca AKA The Bell Guy from Breaking Bad,) playing the head gangster, Vanessa Ferlito (AKA Butterfly from “Deathproof), and a real stand up guy found in stand up comedian Bill Burr who plays a small time gangster.

The script has some problems and feels like it might have been better suited to a different director, but the actors manage to hold the whole thing together. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken bring these characters to life and make their relationship very powerful. The heart of the film is the relationship between the two characters and the drama with them works very well.

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“Stand Up Guys”  is also pretty funny. The comedy is all quippy dialogue based comedy akin to a Tarantino film, except not written as well. The comedy is sometimes hit and miss.

The premise is fairly interesting but it’s really the characters that make this work. Don’t mistake this for an action movie aside from a couple brief moments and a pretty awesome, but somewhat unfulfilling slo-mo shootout, “Stand Up Guys”  is strictly a character driven drama. But it’s a pretty good one.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

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seven psychopathsSeven Psychopaths was a movie that I had heavily anticipated. I wasn’t able to see it until now, because unfortunately the movie had only a limited release, and wasn’t available anywhere near me. But I finally had a chance to see the movie, and I was not disappointed. I was however surprised. I expected a fast paced action comedy film, what I got was a much deeper story, that came off as deeply personal to the writer/director Martin McDonagh.

One of the main characters, played by Colin Farrell is Martin McDonagh himself. Colin Farrell’s character is a writer who is actually writing the movie that we’re watching.  When i first heard this I thought it would just be gimmicky and pointless, but thankfully that’s not the case. This concept ends up being very interesting and is crucial to the plot. In the film an ad is placed in the paper calling all psychopaths to an audition. I feel like the writer may have been struggling for an idea much like the character in the film, and contemplated putting an in the paper. The film might be what he thinks could have happened if he had.

Seven Psychopaths has a great cast. Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, and Sam Rockwell all give very good performances. All of their characters are surprisingly deep and multilateral. I was really surprised how complex some of these characters were. A movie called Seven Psychopaths better have some f*cking good psychopaths, but I didn’t expect the deep emotional complexity that I found in the characters. Especially in Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. The entire movie has a very deep and personal glaze over it that raises the film up a couple levels.

The movie has many subplots, which are great but at first feel a little out of place. They all end up tying together really nicely by the end. There are segments in the film where we go to a character’s imagining of the plot. We hear him narrate over events that take place outside of the main story arc. Alright now the cinematography on the whole movie is good, but it was exceedingly more impressive in these sequences. I believe this

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was done on purpose because these moments are supposed to be a “movie” the other parts are supposed to be real live. Adding an extra coat of gloss to the “movie” segments, helps distinguish between sections of the film in a very stylistic way. These segments were done very well. They could have easily been done sloppily, but they are all fully fleshed out ideas of relevance to the plot. These miniature stories are complex and interesting enough to be worth their own films.

Seven Psychopaths is very deep and it is also very funny. the trailer’s made the film look like a straight up comedy, but comedy is more of a side attraction to the story, which is a benefit rather than a hindrance. The comedy all works because the cast is full of funny people who know how to delivery even serious lines in a comedic way. Most of the comedy comes from the contradiction of popular movie stereotypes. The film almost begins to deconstruct other films of it’s genre for comedy. The writing is funny, and the excellent delivery

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from the actors makes the movie a very fun ride.

Seven Psychopaths is very violent, but not in a detractive way. The violence is either used to further the plot, or for the sake of comedy. There’s no violence for the sake of disgusting the viewers, or violence for the sake of having violence. The violence is used in a fun over the top way, but not past the border of ridiculousness. Shooting, stabbing, even burning, all present, none undeserved.

Seven Psychopaths is one of the best and most original films of the year. It makes me want to follow the director. Martin McDonagh has only done one other feature film “In Bruges” which I’ve heard good things about, and intend on seeing. I look forward to future film from Martin McDonagh.