FlixChatter Review – The Irishman (2019)

Adapted from the memoir I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman follows the real life story of Frank Sheeran. Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, was a World War II veteran. While working as a truck driver through the 1950s, finds himself drawn into Russell Bufalino’s inner circle. At this time Bufalino had recently been promoted to Boss of the Pennsylvania-based Bufalino crime family.

The Irishman is an old school film, epic in its scale. It is at once as nostalgic and familiar as it is relevant and timely. Visually reminiscent of Coppola and Leone. Sharp dialogue, long takes, a perfectly curated soundtrack and attention to color immerse the viewer. The shifting from grey/sepia tones in 40s/fifties to a cooler more natural reading pallet as we move to the 80s and 90s was a really nice detail that helped show passage of time. Too often in film attention is paid to styles of clothes and cars appropriate to the time but not color especially the tone.

The use of visual effects in the movie – was impressive as the film flips between the past and present day/older De Niro, (what he looks like now). Although the use of CGI is apparent, it doesn’t pull the viewer out of the film or detract from the amazing performances. This is as much a credit to Scorsese’s careful implementation as the evolution of the technology itself.

I am not a big fan of Scorsese or De Niro. I was not anticipating this film as I felt like the crime genre had been worn out. Having watched Motherless Brooklyn shortly before, I wasn’t excited to watch another crime film. However, I greatly enjoyed this film and believe this is by far the best film both have made.

De Niro plays a reserved, soft spoken deliberate man. His drawn back approach is perfect for the character. On the other end of the spectrum, Al Pacino‘s character, Jimmy Hoffa is the exact opposite. A loud, brash personality who reeks of desperation. Pacino puts every ounce of energy he has become known for into this performance, giving it a level of natural charm and charisma. Lastly, Joe Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, a near silent, no nonsense character who “takes care of business”.

Although it possesses a daunting run time of 3 hours and 29 minutes, each scene felt well thought out and purposeful. Although it felt long winded it never felt bored or aimless. The editor Thelma Schoonmaker, known for cutting all Scorsese films utilizes cutscenes and splices to create tension through the movie.

Martin Scorsese, known for re-invigorating the gangster genre may also be the one to put it back to rest. His use of violence is not dissimilar from that in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood. I think this is partially due to the fact that both films seek to express a period of time where the older traditions gave way to a modern generation. The friction and tension felt between the generational gap is expressed through an unfiltered physical violence. Although this film follows an individual from his youth through his elderly years, it also highlights the rise and fall of the mobster/teamsters union relationship. This juxtaposition of the growth of an individual and societal shifts at large was highly effective and extremely thought provoking.

The film was stunning on the big screen but could also benefit from the ability to watch at home once it is released on Netflix. Because it is packed with small details, there were many times I wanted to pause and replay scenes. The actors gave highly nuanced performances that were quite intense and it would have been nice to take a breather.

Rumored to be Scorcese’s final film, The Irishman is a fitting end to his filmography. Not only does it encapsulate his prior body of work but also serves as a beautiful showcase of several of the greatest actors of our time.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen The Irishman? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Martin Scorsese’ SILENCE (2016)

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To close out his trilogy of religious theme film that includes The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun, Martin Scorsese has spent over 20 years on trying to bring his latest picture to the big screen. Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo and technically a remake of a Japanese film that was directed by Masahiro Shinoda from the early 1970s, it’s his most passionate film and will test the patience of many of his devout fans.

After receiving a letter from Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), detailing his difficult times in Japan when he and other priests were trying to bring Christianity to that land in the 1600s. His two students Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) decided to make a trip from Portugal to the Far East in order to find out what happened to their mentor. Upon arriving in Japan, the young priests are exposed to a secret world of local Christians who has to keep their faith under wraps because it’s consider a crime to believe in Christ. Both Rodrigues and Garrpe need to stay in low profile to avoid being seen by the Japanese authority. But soon Rodrigues was captured by local shoguns and brought before Inoue (Issei Ogata), an inquisitor who insists the priest renounce his faith by stepping on bronze image of Jesus. Refusing to break as he searches for Ferreira, Rodrigues is exposed to many horrors and extended captivity, left with only his searching, questioning mind to keep him focused on God’s love.

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Clocking in at nearly 3 hours long, it may test the patience of some of the most devout Scorsese’s fans out there. The film does feel slow at times and about 20 minutes could’ve been cut out. But on an artistic level, it might be Scorsese’s best work since The Age of Innocence. It’s beautifully shot and he even decided to not use any music in any of the more dramatic scenes, in fact I don’t recall hearing any theme music in the entire film. Anyone expecting to see some kind of graphic violent sequences will be sorely disappointed. He wisely focuses on the emotional suffering of the characters as opposed to showing the tortures in graphic details.

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Performances by the actors were great; Garfield seems to be on a roll this year. He’s been asked to carry the entire film and I thought his performance was superb. Here’s a man who truly believe in his faith and yet he has to witness some of the most horrific things that people would ever do to one another. It’s an emotional performance that I don’t believe many young actors in his generation can achieve. Driver has a smaller role and he’s decent here as a priest who seems to be questioning the existence of God. Issei Ogata gave an interesting performance as the aging shogun, he’s truly believes in his mission to eradicate any western influences to his homeland. Yôsuke Kubozuka also was very good as the slimy character that betrayed Rodrigues several times yet asked for his forgiveness. Asano Tadanobu showed up later in the film as the interpreter and tried to convince Rodrigues to renounce his faith. Lastly, Neeson gave a kind of laid-back performance but I think it fits what his character went through.

This is a heavy film and Scorsese doesn’t bring his usual stylistics to the picture, remaining more observational, relying on editing to experience the journey. Filled with beautifully-shot sequences and great performances, it’s a film that deserves to be seen but I wouldn’t call it an entertaining one.

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So have you seen SILENCE? Well, what did you think?

Five for the Fifth: MAY 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Since tonight I will be attending a Christopher Nolan‘s Conversation with Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, I thought I’d dedicate my first question in Nolan’s honor.

WalkerArt_NolanLecture

Nolan is actually the first filmmaker whose complete works I have seen, though not in order as I’ve just caught up with his first film The Following (1998) a few years ago. I made a birthday tribute to him in 2012 by ranking his movies. Even though I wasn’t wowed by Interstellar, a so-so Chris Nolan film is still a darn good one. Foundas posted an article on Walker Art website on Nolan, calling him A Practical Magician of Modern Movies, which I think is an apt description.

So if you can ask one question to Nolan, what would it be? 

….

2. I always like to include some kind of FIRST LOOK in FFTF, and this one just arrived yesterday courtesy of EW. It’s Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming drama SILENCE starring Andrew Garfield. It also stars Liam Neeson and Adam Driver due out in 2016.

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Based on Shusako Endo’s 1966 novel, ‘Silence’ tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who is persecuted along with other Christians in 17th-century Japan. Garfield portrays Father Rodrigues, pictured in an exclusive image with Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays a villager named Mokichi.

Per EW, Scorsese told reporters in a press conference in Taiwan that he’d been trying to find a way to adapt this novel since he first read it more than 25 years ago, and that its themes resonated with him deeply. “The subject matter presented by Shusaku Endo was in my life since I was very, very young, … I was very much involved in religion, I was raised in a strong Catholic family. … Further reflection is how [we] want to lead our life in the Christian faith … so ultimately this book drew my attention when it was given to me in 1988.”

The spiritual element certainly piqued my interest. Sounds  like a meaty role for Garfield and I’m happy for him. I saw him in this British indie Boy A prior to his stint as Spiderman and he’s certainly a capable actor.

What’s your initial thoughts of Silence?

3. Now, since today is Cinco De Mayo, I usually highlight Mexican filmmakers and/or actors but this time around why not talk about Mexican cinema in general. I actually haven’t seen any film about the Battle of Puebla, which is what the Fifth of May commemorates. There’s one called Cinco de May: La Batalla that’s just released in 2013. This still below is from that film, has anyone seen it?

CincoDeMayoMovieLately Mexican filmmakers have dominated the award seasons, culminating with two Mexican directors and winning Best Picture Oscars back to back (Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman). But there are many others that have made a name in Hollywood and not just limited to directors, Emmanuel Lubezki is no doubt the hottest cinematographer working today.

So in celebration of Mexican cinema, what’s your favorite Mexican film?

4. I’ve been watching a ton of foreign films lately, thanks to MSPIFF AND my new crush Stanley Weber who’s so far have been mostly in French films (Violette, Thérèse Desqueyroux).

One of my top 3 picks from MSPIFF is definitely Girlhood (Bande de Files), a French coming-of-age drama that really spoke to me and featured one of my favorite scenes ever. I LOVE Karidja Touré‘s performance in that film, and it made me think how I wish more people would discover her. She’s still only 21 years old and based on this article, she is bilingual which helps… “Better practise my English so I can be a star in the States.” I’d love to see her get noticed the way Lupita Nyong’O practically took Hollywood by storm.

KaridjaToure_GirlhoodAs for Stanley Weber, well he’s been my obsession in the past month or so. I’m not gonna lie, of course I was initially transfixed by his ridiculous good looks. He’s like a taller, sexier, more virile version of Chris Pine, with a hint of Richard Madden. But looks alone won’t get me all worked up about. Actors I love have to have the chops AND screen presence and Stanley’s got both in spades.

Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux
Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux

Classically trained at Cours Florent, French National Academy of Dramatic Arts and the London counterpart LAMDA, his background is theater but he’s done quite a few TV and film works in the past decade. Even in smaller supporting roles alongside big names of French cinema, Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Devos, Audrey Tautou, etc. he more than held his own. He’s only 28 but seems much older than he looks, I kind of think of him like an old soul. As with ANY successful actor, versatility is key and I’ve seen him display his comedic chops in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as well as portray a devilishly charming psychopath (BORGIA: Faith & Fear) convincingly. So yeah, I’m dying for him to get more leading roles, and soon!!

Which foreign actor/actress you noticed lately that you wish would get their big break in Hollywood?

….

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Tom from Digital Shortbread!

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Seeing that Avengers: Age of Ultron has just rolled on through, I thought it’d be interesting to gauge what people think of highly anticipated movie events.

Is hype generally a good thing or generally a bad thing, in your view, when it comes to movies?


Well, that’s it for the May 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Wordless Wednesday: the unrequited love of ‘The Age of Innocence’

WordlessWednesdayIn honor of the double birthday of Michelle Pfeiffer (57) and Daniel Day-Lewis (58), I thought I’d highlight their work (and scorching chemistry) in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence. It remains one of my all time favorite period dramas (and one of my faves of the 90s), and that unrequited love story never fails to move me to my core.

Words fail me to describe the beauty of this story… so I’m going to borrow the words of Roger Ebert: “It was the spirit of it — the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain. The idea that the mere touching of a woman’s hand would suffice. The idea that seeing her across the room would keep him alive for another year.”
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Newland Archer: You gave me my first glimpse of a real life. Then you asked me to go on with the false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

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Ellen: I think we should look at reality, not dreams.

Newland: I just want us to be together!

Ellen: I can’t be your wife, Newland! Is it your idea that I should live with you as your mistress?

Newland: I want… Somehow, I want to get away with you… and… and find a world where words like that don’t exist!

ageofinnocence_still2This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.


What’s your thoughts on The Age of Innocence?

In with the New BLOGATHON: 4 remakes we think are better than the original films

InWithTheNewBLOGATHON

Happy Weekend everyone! Today I’m participating in Wendell’s In With the New Blogathon, and here’s the gist of it from Dell himself:

In movies, we tend to look upon the new version of things with disdain or, at best, cautious optimism. By new version, I am of course talking about remakes and re-imaginings. Let’s be honest, we have good reason to be skeptical of these movies. They often pale in comparison to the original. Every once in a while, though, one comes along that blows its predecessor out of the water.

I think remakes that are better than the originals are still uncommon, but here are four films my pal Ted S. and I think are on par or better than the original. Anyway, the two films that Ted picks are taken from this previous post that compares remakes from their originals.

Ted’s Picks:

Man on Fire

1987 Original: Speaking of Tony Scott, he was actually set to direct this film way back in the 80s but at the time he was still new in the industry, so the studio didn’t want him to take over the project. They let some French director named Elie Chouraqui do the film instead. The original starred Scott Glen as Creasy and Joe Pesci as David, his character is that of Christopher Walken’s in the remake. I saw this version years ago at the recommendation of Quentin Tarantino, he loves the film and can’t stop talking about it while he was promoting Pulp Fiction. To be honest with you, the film wasn’t that good. The first 30 minutes or so was hard to sit through, but the rest of the film was pretty decent. The film was badly directed and acted, especially Joe Pesci, he was quite awful in the film. Also it was a very low budget film so it looked very cheap.

2004 Remake: So 17 years later, Tony Scott was finally able to make the film he wanted to do years back. He has more prominent stars with Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken, and a bigger budget. The remake is pretty much the same as the original, except this one took place in Mexico while the original was set in Italy. Also the remake was much more violent and since it cost $70mil to make, so the action scenes were bigger and louder than the original.

 

Infernal Affairs/The Departed

2002 Original: The original version from Hong Kong was a very slick and cool thriller, and I knew Hollywood would do a remake of it right after I saw it back in early 2000s. In fact, Brad Pitt bought the rights to the film after he saw it and was going to star in it himself but he decided to just be the producer. The film was very fast paced with great cinematography and a cool soundtrack. To me though, the film didn’t spend enough time on character development, so we didn’t really know about them all that much. The women in the film were simply there just for eye candy purposes and the main gangster (Nicholson’s character in the remake) was played by a very weak actor.

2006 Remake: So the remake is pretty much the same as the original plot wise with the exception of the ending, I wouldn’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen either the original or the remake. In my opinion, the remake did a better job when it comes to developing the main characters, we know more about them and their motivations as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Of course it helps a lot when it was directed by the master Martin Scorsese and the fact that Jack Nicholson played the Irish gangster.

 


Ruth’s Picks:

The Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail

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1940 Original: I saw this movie a year ago or so, and given that I like Jimmy Stewart, I was prepared to be wowed by it. Well, it didn’t quite make an impression to me as much as had hoped. I find it odd that the film was set in Hungary and Stewart playing Hungarian, and that fact didn’t really add much to the story. The beginning the story was more about the various human relationships of the store in that gift shop. Stewart was okay here, but I personally prefer him in other films. There’s not much chemistry between him and Margaret Sullavan either, and so when they ended up together, it wasn’t emotionally involving. It’s not a bad movie per se, and I’m glad I saw it, just not something I’d ever see again.

1998 Remake: It’s loosely based on the same story, with some technological changes of course, it’s email vs letters, and in the remake, the characters are more of a business rival. I really think that the pairing of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan (the queen of rom-coms back then) made the movie for me, and Ephron infused the story with such wit and irony that it’s such a delight to watch this one repeatedly. Of course the technology is so dated, it’s hilarious to hear that modem sound and that cutesy ‘you’ve got mail’ icon, but I think the story still holds up. I also love the two supporting cast here: Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear as Hanks’ girlfriend and Ryan’s boyfriend, respectively. It also boasts one of the loveliest New York City scenery in a movie.

Sabrina

SabrinaOriginalRemake

1954 original: I also saw this film years after I saw the remake. Now people might say that usually we prefer films that we saw first and be that as it may, the original has one of my favorite classic actresses of all time: Audrey Hepburn. So she was really the main draw for me here, yet I didn’t really like her in this role as much as I had hoped. Similar to how I felt about Stewart, I prefer her in other films of similar genres, i.e. Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady. Well for one, Hepburn never really looked that shy or awkward to me nor did she come across as being desperate despite the attempted suicide scene. Now, suicide is obviously a dark subject matter but here it comes across rather silly and Sabrina seems like a petulant girl who’s upset things don’t go her way instead of someone who’s deeply brokenhearted. I also feel that Humphrey Bogart, who was three decades older than Hepburn, looked old enough to be her dad so their scenes are kind of creepy. William Holden was fun to watch as the rich playboy David but I too feel there’s not much chemistry between him and Hepburn. I still enjoyed the movie, but I expected more from Billy Wilder.

1995 Remake: I absolutely adore this movie the first time I saw it years ago, and I’ve seen it countless times since. I really connected with Sabrina Fairchild right from the start and Julia Ormond might not have the movie star charisma as Audrey Hepburn, but she more than made up for that in earnestness. I like how Sydney Pollack made her look plain, almost like an ugly duckling in the beginning, as she watched David with googley eyes from a tree. There is something so beguiling about Sabrina’s vulnerability here that I didn’t find in the original, and her narration really helps me get into her character’s head. Harrison Ford might seem like unlikely casting here but I actually really like him in the role of Linus, he’s such a contrast to the charming rascal younger brother David, played with such wonderful comic timing by Greg Kinnear. Ford was actually two decades older than Ormond but somehow it didn’t feel creepy as Ormond looked far more mature than Hepburn. I love everything about this movie, the look, the setting, the supporting cast (especially all the servants in the Larrabee’s mansion) and the absolutely gorgeous music by John Williams.

 


What do you think of our picks? Let us know in the comments!

Blogathon Relay: TEN Most Influential Directors Of All Time

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This Blog Relay idea is really getting around. I did a similar post a while back with the Most Iconic Movie Characters which generally has the same concept. This time around, the 10 Most Influential Directors relay is spearheaded by John at Hitchcock’s World. Here’s the gist in John’s own words:

I have compiled a list of ten directors I consider to be extremely influential. I will name another blogger to take over. That blogger, in their own article, will go through my list and choose one they feel doesn’t belong, make a case for why that director doesn’t fit, and then bring out a replacement. After making a case for why that director is a better choice, they will pass the baton onto another blogger. That third blogger will repeat the process before choosing another one to take over, and so on.

Thanks to Josh at Classicblanca for passing the baton to me! These nine remain on the list as it stands right now, scroll down below which director I have to let go and his replacement:

10DirectorsRelay_9RemainingClockwise from top left:
Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Georges Méliès, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrik.

Thanks to Two Dollar Cinema for the image idea 🙂

The last addition that Josh added was Ingmar Bergman. Here’s his reasoning: Ingmar Bergman’s films put the human condition in the forefront, combining striking imagery with raw emotion. Where would cinema be without his humanistic approach to storytelling? 

Boy, the list as it stands now makes it incredibly tough for me to remove a single one, but hey, rules are rules and so, even with a heavy hart, one has to make a decision.

Who’s Out?

InfluentialDirector_Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola

It’s not so much that I’m removing Mr. Coppola, but I’m just moving him down to another spot in the top 15. How about that for diplomacy? 😉 In all seriousness though, I do think Mr. Coppola is indeed an influential director. But the point of this list is just how influential? I mean we’re talking about the most influential of ALL TIME here. Looking at the 10 directors, I feel that I can’t remove anyone else given the prominent contributions they’ve made, even if I haven’t seen any of their films [yet]. I feel that Coppola’s resume is pretty spotty after his glory days in the 70s. So sorry Mr. Coppola, but like I said, I do think you deserve to be in the Top 15!

Who’s In?

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Billy Wilder

I’m surprised he wasn’t on the list in the first place, to be honest. Now, even though I haven’t seen all his films, his talent is undeniable and he’s so well-loved by filmmakers and fans alike. He doesn’t just win numerous awards in his illustrious career (27 films, 6 Oscars), but he’s been an inspiration to other great directors. Michel Hazanavicius who won Best Director Oscar for The Artist thanked Wilder three times in his acceptance speech, “… I could thank him like a thousand times because I think he’s the perfect director, the perfect example. He’s the soul of Hollywood and I wanted to thank him and I love him.” [per The Wrap]. Even Ingmar Bergman who’s a legendary director himself has said that Wilder is his favorite Hollywood director [per IMDb]. Cameron Crowe also penned memoir of sort, called Conversations with Wilder, which was the first time Wilder agreed to talk extensively about his life and work. I wish there had been a documentary on him as well.

I’ve recently seen one of Wilder’s best, The Apartment, and I could see why his films are so beloved. He imbued such wit in his films, a dose of cynical humor. He also has a way with actors, having directed no less than 14 actors to Oscar-nominated performances. He’s also a versatile writer/director, as he excelled in numerous genres: drama, noir, comedy as well as war films. He’s one of those directors whose work I still need to see more of, but even from the few that I’ve seen, it’s easy to see how Mr. Wilder belongs in this list.


I’m passing the torch to Mark, one of my favorite bloggers over at Three Rows Back. He’s been doing great work in his Retrospective Series, like this one on A Hard Day’s Night.

Previous relay contributors:
Girl Meets Cinema
And So It Begins
Dell on Movies
Two Dollar Cinema
A Fistful of Films
Classicblanca


So folks, agree/disagree with my picks? Let’s hear it!

First Question of the Year: Which 2013 movie(s) do you appreciate but wouldn’t watch again?

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It’s been a bitterly c-cc-cold start to the new year here in my neck of the woods! I know I seem to be obsessing over the weather a lot but really, you’d understand when the *high* only reaches -2˚F (that’s -18˚ C!) and I’m super excited that Friday is going to hit 20 degrees (woot woot!) Yeah, it’s pathetic!

But hey, it’s not a weather blog so let’s talk about movies! As I’ve been writing some reviews of 2013 releases the past few days (stay tuned for my review of Nebraska later this week), it made me think of how I view some of those films now that it’s sunk in. More often than not, the reaction right after seeing the movie is pretty different than how I feel days or weeks later. There are some films I rate highly that I wish I’d watch again, sometimes right away (Frozen comes to mind, and on varying degrees HER, Nebraska, Austenland, and of course Pacific Rim, which I had watched twice since its theatrical release).

On the flip side though, there are films I appreciate and truly respect, but not something I’d ever want to see again. This question is kind of a different twist to what I posed a couple of years ago in regard to The Hurt Locker. A couple of movies that comes to mind (which sort of sparked this post), are Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I was originally going to title this ‘Movies I Appreciate but NOT Love.’ That’s perhaps an equally appropriate question, though there’s perhaps other reason why you don’t want to watch something a second time around. Interestingly, those two films come from beloved and celebrated filmmakers (the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese) whom I respect but their work are not exactly my cup of tea. In any case, both are good films, some would even call a masterpiece. But for me, I can only appreciate some aspects of the film (i.e. the performances) but as a whole, it’s not something I’d want to see again.


What about you folks? Which movies you saw in 2013 that you’re glad you saw but wouldn’t watch again?