Forty years ago this week, Jack Nicholson redefined cool, Faye Dunaway redefined icy, and director Roman Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne redefined film noir with the masterful detective thriller Chinatown. It isn’t just that the period drama boasts terrific performances, crackerjack cinematography, and all the period bells and whistles; it’s also a mighty good mystery, offering twists and turns that blindside the first-time viewer. And isn’t that what really great mystery movies are all …Read More
Parachute pants, giant boomboxes, breakdancing, the Fat Boys, and even (in a sequence after my own heart) Casey Kasem’s “long distance dedication”: yes, the ‘80s live on, or at least they do in the new comedy Ping Pong Summer, out today in limited release. It’s the latest entry in the cinematic ‘80s nostalgia movement — a bit of an ironic idea, since those of us who lived through the decade recall that there weren’t that many great movies being made then. But there have been some awfully good ones set then, and with that we dust off our Trapper Keepers and Rubik’s Cubes and select the very best post-’80s ‘80s movies.
I saw Matilda: The Musical on Broadway recently, and it was overwhelming. The set and songs were captivating, of course, but what truly had me floored was the titanic force of the child actors — many of whom were navigating their very first decade of life. They sang with more passion than some trained adults, and danced with that particular type of high-octane energy only available to schoolchildren on a sugar rush. It was impossible not to feel like the audience was being treated to a sneak preview of tomorrow’s superstars.
A few days ago, we sounded the alarm about a number of great movies vanishing from Netflix Instant, the result of an end-of-the-year changeover due to expiring contracts with content providers. But it’s time to look at the bright side: when it’s out with the old, it’s in with the new, and there are some very good films newly streaming (or re-streaming) on Netflix — which should come in pretty handy for those of you on the East Coast who are having a snow day today, or anticipating a dug-in weekend. So we’ve got great stuff from Robert De Niro, Seth Rogen, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, Christian Bale, Jack Lemmon, Ray Liotta, Shirley MacLaine, Molly Shannon, Audrey Tautou, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, and more; check them out after the jump, and follow the title links to watch them right now.
If there was a more influential American motion picture in the last 25 years than Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, I can’t think of it. Scorsese’s 1990 organized crime epic was a razzle-dazzle stew of black comedy, gangster cool, hyper-linked narrative, and stunningly confident technique, reestablishing its director as a moviemaking god and leaving film geeks agog. You can see its fingerprints all over Boogie Nights, The Sopranos, Donnie Brasco, Pulp Fiction, and all of that film’s imitators (not to mention much of Scorsese’s subsequent filmography, particularly Casino and The Departed). And it seems like every review, positive or negative, of American Hustle has drawn a not-exactly-recondite line from Scorsese to director David O. Russell, who wears the master’s influence on his sleeve: it is, after all, a two-plus-hour fact-based ‘70s crime picture, filled with insane period costumes and hair, battling voice-overs, gliding camera-work, a button-pushing pop music score, and even a Robert De Niro cameo. Nobody’s cracking any code by pinpointing the Scorsese influence, and we’ve had plenty of opportunities to see how easy it is to make an imitation Scorsese movie. What matters is if the good ones (and I’d include Hustle in that group) go beyond the influence.