Films to See Before You Die: #4 Goodfellas

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Goodfellas (1990)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

Synopsis: Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), has always wanted to be a gangster and begins working for the Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) as a teenager. He also meet Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) who at 25 is already notorious for his love of stealing. Jimmy introduces Henry to another young criminal named Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), whose temper can go off at any time. It’s not long before Henry gets pinched by the cops for selling stolen cigarettes for Jimmy but he does the right thing and keeps quiet, he is later rewarded for his courage. A few years later Henry does Tommy a favour by going on a double date with a girl named Karen (Lorraine Bracco), the date does not go well but they agree to go on another which Henry stands her up. She makes Tommy drive around and find Henry so she can yell at him, eventually the two get married. Jimmy and Henry get busted and sent to jail for a few years leaving Karen alone to take care of their children. After Henry gets out he begins selling cocaine with Jimmy and Tommy without Paulie’s knowledge. Tommy’s temper gets the better of him when he kills Billy Batts who was a made man without permission because the guy insulted Tommy which is a big breach of protocol. A few years later Jimmy pulls of the biggest heist in U.S. history the Lufthansa Heist. After the heist Tommy learns he is to be a made man meaning both Jimmy and Henry have an in because they are eligible to be made men because of their Irish descent. On the day Tommy is to be honoured it instead turns out to be a trap with Tommy being murdered for killing Billy Batts. Henry eventually gets busted for cocaine possession and faces a much longer jail term unless he turns on his adopted family. After Paulie gives him some cash and sends him on his way a desperate Henry does something he never thought he was capable of doing.

Trivia: The “You think I’m funny?” scene was based on a story that Joe Pesci acted out for Martin Scorsese. While working in a restaurant as a young man, Pesci once told a mobster that he was funny and the mobster became very angry. Scorsese allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene. He did not tell the other actors in the scene what would happen because he wanted their genuine surprised reactions. Every one of Robert De Niro’s outfits had a watch and a pinkie ring to go with it.

Why I think you should see this: Martin Scorsese is just so talented and this film is the perfect example. This is my favourite of his movies and it marks another fine collaboration between him and screen legend Robert De Niro who shines in this film. Ray Liotta is amazing as Henry Hill giving the performance of a lifetime but the movie belongs to Joe Pesci’s foul mouthed and explosive tempered Tommy DeVito. This is one of greatest Gangster films of all time and is a great companion piece for Casino. I am sure most people have seen this but for those who haven’t this is a masterpiece of modern cinema so check it out.

Films to See Before You Die: #24 Casino

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Casino (1995)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, James Woods

Synopsis: Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), is the best gambler around and he is given the chance of a lifetime to run the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas for the mob outfit he places bets for. They want Ace to run the casino because he is so meticulous with his procedures they are sure he is going to make them a fortune. Everything is going very well for Ace and the casino when he meets Ginger (Sharon Stone), a local hustler who steals his heart and although she doesn’t want to he convinces her to marry him. While the casino is doing really well the bosses in Kansas want to make sure their money is secure and they send Ace’s best friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who is one of the outfits best muscles. Ace and Ginger are now married with a young daughter but she cannot seem to end her relationship with her former pimp/boyfriend Lester Diamond (James Woods), who keeps milking her for 25 grand every few months. When Nicky starts to go into a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol he threatens to bring Ace’s entire operation down with him something the bosses won’t allow to happen.

Trivia: The word “fuck” is said 422 times, including in the narration – 2.4 times per minute on average. The film also holds the Guinness world record for the most swearing in a film. To avoid the continuity problems that accompany a chain-smoking movie character, Robert De Niro always held his cigarettes the same distance from the lit end so that their lengths never appear to change. The movie is based on the career of casino boss Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal as portrayed by Robert De Niro’s character Sam “Ace” Rothstein.

Why I think you should see this: Casino is a great film and I am convinces it was passed over by the academy awards just because it was of the same style as Goodfellas but this is a different beast entirely. Using the same narrating style that was used in Goodfellas except instead of Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco you get De Niro and Pesci which in my opinion isn’t a such a bad thing. Scorsese does yet another superb job from the directors chair and he also collaborates with author Nicholas Pilleggi again for a rock solid script. Both De Niro and Pesci are amazing but its really Sharon Stone who steals the show in a role that was perfect for her. Just a great film and the perfect companion piece for Goodfellas check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #27 Heat

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Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, William Fitchner

Synopsis: Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), is a master thief that is looking to make one last score with his crew and then sail off into the sunset. His philosophy in life – Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds flat, if you spot the heat coming around the corner. Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is an LAPD detective that always gets his man and will go about getting him by any means within the law. Neil’s life becomes a little more difficult when his last heist gets botched by the itchy trigger finger of a new man leaving them to kill each of the security guards which was not part of the plan. This puts Vincent on their trail now and he becomes obsessed with finding this crew. The loot from the heist is barer bonds from a business man named Van Sant (William Fitchner), who agrees to buy his bonds back at a reduced price which infuriates the man who then tries to betray McCauley. Another complication in Neil’s life is he has broken his philosophy and fallen in love with a younger woman that he wants to take with him after he retires. During their last heist Neil and Chris (Val Kilmer) are surrounded by Vincent and his men which lead to a bloody shootout in the streets of L.A. After getting away from the robbery relatively unharmed Neil must make a mad dash to leave the city but not before be ties up some loose ends leading to a final confrontation with Vincent.

Trivia: The first film to ever feature both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino acting together, which created much hype prior to release. They both starred in The Godfather: Part II but never shared the screen together as split chronology prevented this. When this movie was finally released, even its advertising material promoted the film as a De Niro/Pacino “showdown.” The meeting between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino over coffee was shot at Kate Mantilini on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Diners may request the very table featured in the scene, table #71, which wait staff are familiar with as “The Table”, and are happy to seat De Niro Pacino fans at their famous meeting place.

Why I think you should see this: The story of Heat is interesting because it might be the best film ever to not be nominated for any major Academy Awards. Both De Niro and Pacino are fantastic together with then being on opposite sides of the law makes for a perfect setting. Michael Mann delivers in what is by far his best film though I recommend you check out Collateral if you enjoy his work because it is pretty awesome too. Val Kilmer was awesome in this and it is pretty impressive considering he filmed both this and Batman Forever at the same time. This is in my opinion the best cops and robbers movie out there so check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #54 Taxi Driver

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Taxi Driver (1976)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jody Foster, Cybill Shepherd

Synopsis: Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), is a mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City. Suffering from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palatine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris (Jodie Foster), a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Matthew (Harvey Keitel).

Trivia: Travis Bickle’s famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene may have been inspired by Robert De Niro’s training under Stella Adler, who (as an exercise) had her students practice different interpretations of a similar phrase. The legendary acting teacher was surprised to see one of her former students use “You talkin’ to me?” as a psychotic mantra. Martin Scorsese was encouraging De Niro just below the camera while shooting the scene, which lead to the rest of the “dialogue” Bickle has with his mirror.

Why I think you should see this: Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors of all time and this is the film that really put him on the map. Robert De Niro is hauntingly brilliant as the disturbed Travis Bickle and Jodie Foster is amazing as the young prostitute Iris. This is not my favourite of Scorsese’s but those wanting to get to know his work should check this one out because it is the most raw of any of his films. This is a really interesting look into the mind of a Vietnam Veteran and should be watched by any movie enthusiast.

Films to See Before You Die: #69 The Untouchables

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The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Cast: Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro

Synopsis: Treasury agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), has been sent to Chicago during Prohibition in an attempt to stop gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro) and his alcohol empire. In his first attempt to stop Capone, Ness discovers rampant corruption within the ranks of the Chicago police force. Afterwords while feeling sorry for himself he meets beat cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery) possibly the only honest cop in the city. Ness is able to convince Malone to work with him and Jim insists they need a team of men and that they want an uncorrupted cop the need to go the source to the academy where they find George Stone (Andy Garcia). They also recruit an account from the Treasury department and are dubbed the Untouchables. They set there sights on Capone and use an unorthodox way of putting him in prison.

Trivia: Robert De Niro insisted on wearing the same style of silk underwear that Al Capone wore, even though it would never be seen on camera. The producers, knowing De Niro’s reputation as a Method actor, gave in. Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia engaged in police tactic and weapons training for the film – from the 1950s.

Why I think you should see this: This is a really great film with some awesome performances. In my opinion this films is worth seeing just for the fact that Robert De Niro is Al Capone and he does an amazing job but it is Sean Connery who steals the show with his Oscar winning performance. The other members of the Untouchables are great too with Kevin Costner in his star making role. This is an awesome movie and is definitely worth seeing .