Joe Pesci

Jersey Boys 1

I can understand the appeal of a jukebox musical on Broadway. In a way, it’s just a concert, albeit for cover artists, with a little bit of story thrown in for fun — like skits on a rap record. On the big screen, though, they just can’t be as enjoyable. There’s no live performance and, unless you find just the right movie theater or wait a number of years for a Drafthouse sing-a-long screening, there’s none of the same audience vibe you get with the real deal. I’m sure the stage incarnation of Jersey Boys is a really good time. The movie version, on the other hand, looks like a real bore of a biopic with an imitation soundtrack. It seems so generic that they’ve probably even thrown in a token sibling death for Frankie Valli. This evening we got our best look yet at the adaptation, directed by none other than Clint Eastwood. And by the look of this new trailer, Jersey Boys looks like a cheap TV series knocking off the period-set popularity of Mad Men. That is especially disappointing, because Eastwood and cinematographer Tom Stern have made some great historical dramas together, including Letters From Iwo Jima and Changeling, for which Stern received an Oscar nomination. In fact, Eastwood’s usual visuals team is here — costume designer Deborah Hopper, art director Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., effects supervisor Steve Riley — so why doesn’t this look like it fits with the rest? Why does it look like something made for cable? At […]

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If ever there was proof remakes are worthwhile, it’s the 1995 adaptation of Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone. Neither a critical nor a box office success, the movie would probably be forgotten entirely if it weren’t for the fact that it’s based on a very popular comic strip. In the UK, anyway. Also, as much as there is to dismiss about the movie, it has some good ideas that aren’t necessarily taken from the source material. Basically, it’s a movie that could be remolded into a very fine film. That said, the upcoming Dredd 3D doesn’t appear to be a remake so much as another attempt to mine a movie out of the character, which made its debut in the pages of 2000 AD in 1977. Not even the title is the same. Nevertheless, this isn’t simply an umpteenth adaptation of Romeo and Juliet or Anna Karenina. With comic-based movies we think of the franchise. While The Dark Knight is not exactly a remake of the 1989 Batman, there’s a tendency for people to be conscious of all movies involving the Caped Crusader, as a unified property. And we can’t rightly think about Dredd 3D without considering its predecessor, either. Two and a half years ago, Brian revisited the earlier version with a thorough look at its pros and cons for a Junkfood Cinema column. So, there’s no need to redo that, and I don’t mean to. What I mean to do is address the movie in the context of its […]

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Culture Warrior

Tomorrow, the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring, Larry Charles-directed The Dictator opens. Unlike the previous two docu-prank collaborations between Charles and Cohen, the humor of the fully staged Dictator doesn’t so much rely on the reactions of ‘real people’ to an idiosyncratic foreigner as it uses its fish-out-of-water arc to chronicle the pseudo-enlightened changes that its eponymous character experiences (this is all based on the film’s advertising – I have yet to see it). With its riches-to-rags narrative, The Dictator seems to be the newest iteration of a long tradition in Hollywood comedy: the story of the redeemable asshole. It’s rather appropriate that the teaser trailer for Anchorman 2 will be premiering in front of The Dictator.  Will Ferrell has made the redeemable asshole into something of an art form in his collaborations with Adam McKay. Ferrell’s often narcissistic, privileged, ignorant, and empathy-challenged creations should, by any measure of any other genre (audiences are far less tolerant of asshole protags in, say, dramedys) be reviled by audiences. But we ultimately find something redeemable, even lovable, in Ferrell’s jerks, even if this surface-level redemption overshadows the fact that they never quite achieve the level of self-awareness that would actually redeem one from assholedom. These are characters we would likely avoid in nearly any real-life circumstance, but yet we go see movies about them learning life lessons which add up to little more than common knowledge for the rest of us. The redeemable asshole is often a white male who is conniving, manipulative, entitled, […]

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If you’ve been privy to watching the Gotti family’s reality show Growing Up Gotti, then it should be pretty clear to you that the family isn’t shy about being perceived as gaudy tabloid fodder. And it should come as no surprise that the biopic they’re involved in about their family’s recent history is stirring up its own circus of controversy. First it was all surrounding the casting of Lindsay Lohan and the question of whether she would be sober or sane enough to actually appear in the film, and which role she would actually play. Then THR reported that Joe Pesci was suing the production. He was announced at a Cannes press conference as playing the part of Angelo Ruggiero and had already gained 30 lbs to play the role, but recently the film’s new regime, led by director Barry Levinson, had told him that he would be recast in the smaller role of Anthony Casso and have his pay cut from $3 million to $1 million.

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A press conference was held today that seems to have been a big love fest between the Gotti family and Hollywood. The concrete news on the table is that Joe Pesci is going to be joining John Travolta in the upcoming Nick Cassavetes mobography Gotti: Three Generations playing the role of Angelo Ruggiero. The not yet concrete news is that they are in negotiations with Lindsay Lohan to play John Gotti Sr.’s daughter, Victoria Gotti. Things seem to be pretty far along on that front though, as Lohan attended the press conference. The film is being described as an “open door insider’s look” into the Gotti family history that was written by Leo Rossi after numerous interviews with members of the Gotti family and John Gotti Sr.’s attorneys. John Travolta, who is playing the Gambino crime family boss himelf in the film, calls this “the most interesting untold story in this country.” He goes on to talk about the “beautiful love” that he has gotten from the Gotti family and the fact that he is a fan of Growing up Gotti as to why he was interested in taking this role. A large part of the film seems to concern itself with fathers and sons, and how Gotti Sr. took the family into a life of crime, but how Gotti Jr. has steered it away from nasty enterprises like drug dealing and murders and toward more classy ventures like reality television. Cassavetes says of Gotti Sr., “He didn’t know any […]

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Culture Warrior

One odd thing about being a child of the 80s is that you learn movie history backwards. In watching anything from Animaniacs to Pulp Fiction, I became acquainted with references and homages to classical Hollywood cinema long before I ever watched the movies referenced or the moments paid homage to. Thus, my knowledge of cinema’s past was framed through cinema’s present: I learned about old movies because of what new movies did with them. One of the most formidable moments of this backwards cinematic education occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s when major event kids’ movies became especially preoccupied with 40s film noir in movies like Robert Zemeckis’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) or Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990). These movies embodied a world of double crosses, femme fatales, and cynical detectives without requiring their viewers, young or old, to have seen any of the films these genre tropes are indebted to. Thus, because of my exposure to new tweaks on an old form, conventions became familiar to me long before I could name the films from which such conventions originated. But one movie was exceptionally influential in formulating a distinct impression of film noir in my childhood imagination, and that movie was – oddly enough – Home Alone (1990).

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As if a better cast could be assembled. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino will all find themselves lookin’ at each other under the direction of Martin Scorsese for The Irishman. The plot could involve three out-of-work plumbers sitting around talking about the glory days, and it would still be a hell of a cast, but the film boasts mob ties, hit men, and conspiracy connections to JFK’s assassination. Plus, they might all solve where Jimmy Hoffa is buried so we can all finally get on with our lives. It’s possible that the only way to make this better is to include Harvey Keitel. Fortunately, he’s involved as well. The only challenge for the film will be keeping the curse words in the low thousands. [Cinematical]

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