It takes a lot of effort to transition from an actor to a director, even if you are one of the greatest actors out there, and Robert De Niro's directional debut proves that will full force and vigor. Based on a play by Chazz Palminteri who wrote the screenplay and co-stars alongside De Niro, A Bronx Tale captures the racial tension in Bronx, New York in the 1960's and with it spins a coming-of-age drama with a distinctively gangster movie flavor. An Italian-American growing up on the streets of the Bronx is lured into the neighborhood mob led by the smooth, confident Sonny (Palminteri) who teaches the kid, Calogero how to survive the harsh environment of the neighborhood and a few life lessons that led him to success. The kid's father, Lorenzo (De Niro) heavily opposes the mob lifestyle, warning his son to keep away from the bar where the gangsters hang out, though the kid doesn't listen and for almost a decade continues to strengthen bonds with Sonny. As a teenager, Calogero and his circle of friends make their own mob of sorts, but Sonny tells "C" to stay away from them because they'll get him into trouble. C's tries to keep his association with the mob a secret from Lorenzo while attempting to spark a relationship with an African-American girl even though his neighborhood is hostile toward blacks. Teaming with timely music and clever and emotionally charged writing, A Bronx Tale shows off the directing talent of De Niro and that he really learned a thing or two from Scorsese after working with him for two prosperous decades.
The epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy brings out the bug guns with its action and superhero drama. It picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne is facing a major financial crisis and has retired the bat suit and crime fighting altogether. Harvey Dent's legacy lives on in the city's regulatory laws, and the truth of his death has still not been revealed to the city, with Batman taking the blame for "murder," but Commissioner Gordon still feels guilty for not reporting what actually happened. Meanwhile, a new master criminal is rising to power named Bane (Tom Hardy), and has an old grudge against both Batman and Gotham City that he is looking to settle. Also an elusive thief known as the Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), is about to be discovered, and she is after a device owned by Wayne that will erase any identity so she can proceed to leave the city for good. Bane then unleashes a full-scale attack on the city with an undergrou nd army at his disposal, forcing Batman back into action, with a quick-witted cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as a new ally. Ambitious beyond anyone's expectation and those who find such an approach unwieldy may not be as satisfied with the trilogy's closure, but for those who realize the finely tuned pacing and gripping performances from its established cast, The Dark Knight Rises delivers a powerhouse closing ceremony for its iconic hero and ends the series on a particularly high note.
In making a traditional black comedy, one might wish to balance the laughs with the dark elements and come out with a semi-feel-good movie that might also make you feel queasy about feeling good. Director Martin Scorsese underscores this with his film The King of Comedy (1983) about a struggling, unemployed comedian in the making (Robert De Niro) in which comedy seems to be his only interest; chiefly the popular comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) who is a rather sad man. De Niro's character Rupert Pupkin attempts to set up numerous meeting with Langford, only to be spurned each time by his breezy secretary, leading him to resort to more and more drastic measures. Pupkin is a very unusual type of antihero, one who has absolute confidence in himself and whatever he does and is persistent in his efforts to achieve fame. He is his own unique kind of psychopath. While not grounded plot-wise, the film instead takes the anything could happen approach, where Pupkin is as clueless as the audience is about what his next move will be, but when he does act, it is not upon logic or reasoning but emotion. It was not very popular upon release, receiving limited theater coverage and mixed reviews, but became more recognized among critics later on as another great pairing between its star and director.
A bizarrely affecting film grounded by a star making performance from Christian Bale that explores the world of a crazed Wall Street financier in the late 1980's. Patrick Bateman (Bale) has his daily life set out perfectly. He does an extensive morning workout, lives in an expensive apartment, and is engaged to another wealthy financial backer (Reese Witherspoon). But something inside him causes savage, violent outbursts that result in murder. While none of the people around him are aware of his killer side, the rapid mental degradation that comes with the growing number of victims does not bode well for Bateman's grasp on reality. It's entertaining and also fascinating to see Bale's character go insane, as he puts so much charisma into the role, carrying the show and pulling us in. His narration is excellently drawn out and often quite funny and amusing, as it is a work of satire. Bateman feels isolated by his lack of interesting colleagues and friends, and his self-indulgence is left to rule over his needs, thus encouraging him to enact his twisted fantasies. The line between reality and fantasy within the confines of Bateman's mind is all but entirely blurred by the end of the tale, which leaves you wanting to think up your own solution to his destructive actions.
After the mega success that was 1992's El Mariachi, director Robert Rodriguez entered the Hollywood scene with this sequel (and quasi-remake). He made El Mariachi with a paltry $7,000; Desperado with $7,000,000.
It has the same set-up as its predecessor, this time with Antonio Banderas as the unnamed mariachi, a lone wolf well-equipped with a guitar case full of guns, searching each town he comes across for the crime ring that works for the man who murdered his lover. He gets help from a wacky Steve Buscemi and Carolina (Salma Hayek), a bookstore owner, with whom he falls in love. Rodriguez regular Cheech Marin plays a shady bartender and Quentin Tarantino shows up as an unlucky patron to Marin's bar. Many of these characters are the movie's main sources of comic relief when gunfire isn't filling the screen.
Chock full of bloody action sequences and automatic weapons (Rodriguez loves to use MAC-10's), Desperado never stops a beat to develop its characters or add to the storyline as the mariachi goes from shooting one place up to the next. Yet I enjoyed this film more than I did El Mariachi. It is better shot and edited, the dialogue is more fun, the action more satisfying, and the actors more talented.
Despite still having a few prop inconsistencies (guns will replaced by others in different shots, though this doesn't occur nearly as much as in El Mariachi, where it was more noticeable) and no better a premise than to add revenge, Desperado shows Rodriguez's improvement as a filmmaker and the energetic touches he adds to the revenge/shoot 'em up genre.