Posts Tagged ‘James Gandolfini’

The Drop: Pay a Visit—Movie

October 2, 2014

“No one ever sees you coming, do they?” is asked near the conclusion of “The Drop.” Truer words were never spoken, both in terms of the character to whom this remark is addressed and the movie itself. Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, with screenplay by Dennis Lehane based on his short story, “Animal Rescue,” “The Drop” takes its time getting started, but gradually picks up steam, packing a wallop at the end.


Set in the non-tony section of Brooklyn, “The Drop” centers on the goings-on at Cousin Marvin’s, a neighborhood bar. Formerly owned outright by Marvin (James Gandolfini), his bar is now “owned” by the Chechens and serves as a drop bar for money laundering. Marvin “fronts” the bar and his nephew, Bob (Tom Hardy), serves as bartender. One night as Bob is making his way home, he hears the barking of a puppy. To his shock, the barks are coming from inside a garbage can in front of a house. As Bob picks up the discarded dog, you think to yourself, “Oh, no, I don’t think this will bode well.” Well, you are half right. The puppy does bring some shady characters into Bob’s life, but the same dog makes it possible for him to meet Nadia (Noomi Rapace), to whom the garbage can belongs. The two agree to take care of the puppy together. As they continue to bond over the dog, a hesitant romance comes into the picture. Nadia is not complication-free, however. She has a former boyfriend, Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), not necessarily pleased about being “former,”  and who begins making menacing appearances in Bob ‘s and Marvin’s lives. We see that Marvin is not at all happy with the turn his fortunes have taken. More than anything else, he wants to be respected and as we discover, will go to almost any length to make that happen. Once a proud bar owner, he’s now reduced to taking money for and orders from mobsters. He lives with his well-meaning, but annoying sister, Dottie (Ann Dowd). His life is made even further problematic by the urgent need for money in order to keep his ailing, elderly father on-life support. A missing person, a robbery gone bad and a continuing investigation by a detective (John Ortiz) who attends the same church as Bob—all come together to push Marvin and Bob into making some life-altering decisions.

“The Drop’s” cast is absolutely wonderful, but Tom Hardy is the film’s real standout. His performance is very low-key, but his tone is pitch-perfect. Shy, sly and forceful when his character has to be, he does it all masterfully. His Brooklyn accent might be a little too thick, but even that works within the film. James Gandolfini, in his final film appearance, is terrific as Marvin. He makes you feel the rage underneath Marvin’s seemingly calm exterior. Noomi Rapace is very good as the immigrant trying to make a better life for herself and having a hard time accomplishing just that. Finally, Matthias Schoenaerts’ Deeds makes for one of best-looking creeps the screen has seen in a while.

Much of “The Drop” takes place in the evening and that just adds to the film’s murkiness. “The Drop” is a movie that  grips you slowly, but once it’s done, you realize how strong that grip was. It’s a sad, but excellent way for James Gandolfini to leave us, but thankfully we will have both his and Tom Hardy’s performances to remember always.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4



Elaine Stritch—Shoot Me: A True Treasure—Documentary

March 17, 2014

Elaine Stritch—what an utterly fascinating, talented force of nature she is. Frankly, I want to be her when I finally grow up. If you love the performing arts and its artists, then the documentary, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” is a must see for an inside, no-holds barred, vanity-free look at this hard-working performer.ela-poster-v2

Director Chiemi Karasawa appears to have been given unfettered access to Stritch, whether it is in rehearsal for “30 Rock,” preparation for one of her one-woman shows, or even a stint in the hospital. It’s a decidedly unglamorous view, but one in which you come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the woman and what it means to be a “Broadway Baby.”

The documentary opens with one of Stritch’s regular walks on the Manhattan streets and the first of her many quips, “I wish I could f**king drive. Then I’d really be a menace.” Thankfully she doesn’t drive, because not being able to watch her navigate the NYC landscape with her hulk-like stride, dressed in her fur coat, hat, black stockings and shirt, would deprive New Yorkers of quite the sight. How she has managed not to get hit by a car is a mystery and blessing in and of itself, but somehow she hasn’t. It’s wonderful to watch NYC natives and tourists stop her to say “hello” and just chat in general, and you can see that she derives a great deal of pleasure from it as well.

As the documentary notes, Stritch has many film and television credits to her name and certainly has guest-starred in many television shows, even winning Emmys along the way, but she is best known for her work on Broadway…as either part of an ensemble or for her one-woman shows.  “Shoot Me” takes us behind the scenes as she prepares what is probably her last show, “Elaine Stritch: Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time.” Stritch is no Bernadette Peters, but in her own way she is the perfect person to sing his music.  When she sings…belts is more like it… she tells a story and makes the song her own. Poignant and funny, her rendition of “I Feel Pretty” gives new meaning to the song. The only problem…her memory is failing and she’s not always able to remember the lyrics. Watching her work with her longtime musical director, Rob Bowman, melts your heart…he is so patient with her. And when she forgets the words in concert, it matters not. She’s such a performer that she makes it work.

Alec Baldwin, who played her son on “30 Rock,” is one of the film’s producers, and in interviews, their love for one another is evident. When he’s late to rehearsal she starts calling him Joan Crawford. It’s probably only something Stritch could get away with. Among many, there are other conversations with John Turturro, Nathan Lane,  Cherry Jones, Tina Fey and most poignantly, James Gandolfini, to whom the film is dedicated. All simply admire and adore her.

Stritch is a recovering alcoholic. She makes no excuses, saying she just enjoys drinking. Now she has one drink a day and says that if she was on a desert island and could have just one item, it would be a stocked bar. She’s also diabetic and is constantly monitoring herself. The most dramatic part of the documentary is when we see her experience a hypoglycemic attack and watch her being taken to the hospital.

Residing for years in NYC’s Carlyle Hotel, Stritch was 86 when filming the documentary began. At that time she was contemplating a move back to her Detroit hometown where her family resides, and taking life a little easier.  After completion of the film, as her eyesight worsened and her memory continued to fail, she did make the transition.

But somehow it seems wrong to say she’s done with NYC and all that it’s meant to her. As the documentary and Stritch point out, she’s faced debilitating diabetes, alcoholism and dare one say it, old age, and “she’s still here.” Praise the Lord.

4 nuggets out of 4

Not Fade Away: Fades A Little Too Soon—Movie

January 10, 2013

“Not Fade Away” has a fantastic soundtrack and is a nice walk down memory lane for some. BUT does that justify an $11 movie ticket? Probably not.

Written and directed by the “Soprano’s” David Chase, this semi-autobiographical film, set at the beginning of the musical British Invasion, is about New Jersey teen Doug (John Magaro)who wants to earn his living as a rock and roller against the wishes of his Italian-American father, Pat (James Gandolfini).  Original, isn’t it?

For all we know this story might go back as far as Adam and/or Cain and Abel. But for sure this movie musical does go back to at least 1927 with one of movie’s earliest talkies,” The Jazz Singer,” which is the story of a son who pursues a career in show business over the objections of his Jewish cantor father. It’s not new and, frankly, it’s not better told.  Even the movie’s romance between the not so popular Doug and the “in” girl, Grace Dietz (Bella Heathcote), is something we saw with television’s “Gossip Girl’s” Dan and Serena for six seasons.

Even though “Not Fade Away’s” story is as old as dirt, that takes nothing away from the acting and the music—they are both terrific. James Gandolfini is very creditable as the strict, old-fashioned father. In fact, the scenes that he plays quietly are the most authentic and most heartfelt of the filmNot Fade Away poster. John Magaro is also very good and has an excellent voice. My first reaction, upon hearing him sing at “Not Fade Away’s” beginning was, “Why isn’t he singing lead?” And Bella Heathcote (a dead-ringer for “Gilmore Girl’s” Alexis Bledel ) is fine portraying the object of Doug’s affections during a time of changing moirés for women.

But the true saving grace of “Not Fade Away” is the soundtrack. Under the music supervision of Steve Van Zandt, “Not Fade Away” has compiled the best rock music of the ‘60s. It’s enough to make you want to go out and start your own garage band or, at the very least, download the early Beatles and Rolling Stones.

2 nuggets out of 4

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