The Irishman – Martin Scorsese

the irishman movie review

The internet was flooded with rave reviews after The Irishman was released on Netflix on November 15th, 2019 after a short stint in very limited theatres around the world. There was so much anticipation built up around Martin Scorsese‘s new epic that a whopping 26 million Netflix accounts watched The Irishman within the first week of its release. It had so much praise coming from respected critics – and the nominations from international festivals and awards kept pouring in – that it was a tough one to ignore, even for people who don’t consider themselves Scorsese fans.

The Irishman is a Scorsese film through and through. All the elements that make his films great are present, including Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (GoodfellasCasinoRaging BullOnce Upon a Time in America) and a runtime of over 2 hours and 30 mins (The DepartedThe AviatorGangs of New YorkThe Wolf of Wall Street). Yes, The Irishman is long. Yes, it’s one-minute shy of 3 hours and 30 mins. Why that is the main discussion point when people bring up negative aspects of this movie is honestly baffling. Martin Scorsese makes long movies; this should be no surprise to anyone. Is every minute of this movie necessary? Absolutely. That’s all that should really matter in the end.

Martin Scorsese’s own words are the best ones to describe what the film is really about:

“…It’s certainly more about looking back, a retrospective, so to speak, of man’s life, and the choices that he’s had to make.”

The film flips back and forth between an aging Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a war veteran and former hitman for the mob, and his younger self (Robert De Niro + excessive CGI)– taking us from the 50s to the late 70s. Present day Sheeran is reflective and matter-of-fact about his past. He was introduced to the mob through his truck-driving days as a meat deliverer and quickly proved to be a loyal subject and effective killer – taking out anyone he was told to, no questions asked. At one point he is “assigned’ to none other than Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), eventually becoming a trusted friend and confidant to the famous American union leader. Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sheeran grow close over their years working together, even Sheeran’s closed-off daughter (Anna Paquin) shares a special bond with him. When Hoffa finds himself in a tough position with the powers that be when he becomes a little too outspoken, Sheeran is the voice of reason…that is until Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975.

People have been itching to see more of Hollywood legends Pacino and De Niro in the same film together since they both appeared (although not in the same timeline) in The Godfather Part II in 1974. The pair very briefly appeared together in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), which only made people want it to happen moreThe Irishman is what we have been waiting decades for (we can just pretend that Righteous Kill never happened in 2008).

Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino are the big names bringing in the viewers, but most people who see it can agree that the one who shines the most in The Irishman is Joe Pesci. He has never been better and he has never been so…calm. Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, the head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family, and the one who Sheeran answers to. Even though he is the head of a crime family, Russell is just so damn likeable – someone who exudes loyalty and respect, and gets it in return. Both Pesci and Pacino are nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Drama at the 77th Golden Globes.

the irishman robert de niro and al pacino

The acting is phenomenal, the subject matter is interesting, the characters are intriguing and so well developed – the entire thing is nothing short of a masterpiece. Even so, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The length as well as the pace will be a bit too long and too slow for some viewers. It’s comes across as a much more mature film than Goodfellas or Casino and if you’re in a certain age bracket (65+), it might even hit you a little harder as you watch the aging actors come to terms with their past decisions. Like most Scorsese movies, it’s not a happy film, it won’t leave you giddy or even smiling. It’s heavy, as violence and betrayal often is.

It’s actually quite sad that many people didn’t get to see this epic mob movie in theatres – the way Scorsese would have wanted it to be seen. Because it was financed by Netflix, the theatrical window was too short and the only theatres playing the movie were the small, independent ones. Plus, there’s some other power struggle going on between studios, big chain theatres, and streaming services. It’s unfortunate that we miss out on seeing movies the way they were intended to be seen because of money and power.

I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters…Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.” – Martin Scorsese (New York Times article)

It’s a crappy deal for visionary filmmakers like Scorsese, but without Netflix, The Irishman never would have been made. So in the words of Russell Bufalino…

joe pesci the irishman

So boot up your Netflix, find 3.5 hours of quiet time, and get it done.


This guy got a lot of flak online, but for those who have too many obligations in order to spend 3.5 hours watching a movie, this is a good option to turn this long film into a mini-series.

the irishman viewing guide

Check out this amazing Rotten Tomatoes score (critics and audiences finally agree!):

Watch the official trailer here:

Ford v Ferrari – James Mangold

For v Ferrari movie review

Christian Bale and Matt Damon star in Ford v Ferrari.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Despite the title, Ford v Ferrari is not about the cars. Nor is it about the giants Henry Ford II or Enzo Ferrari. And, contrary to how it may appear in trailers, it’s not even a “rah, rah, go America!” film that’s designed to make you go out and purchase a Ford as soon as the movie is over. In fact, it may actually make you feel less strongly about the company because of how beaurocratic is appears to be. Anyway, the movie is essentially about a group of men in the mid-60’s who attempt to build a Ford that could take on Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France… 90 days.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in this 2.5-hour drama/action/comedy that is receiving amazing movie reviews from general audiences and critics alike. It’s an easy film to recommend to almost anybody. The characters are fantastic, the story is both moving and exciting, the race scenes are spectacular, and you will be fully immersed for the full length of the film. Some scenes will have you laughing out loud while others will have you at the edge of your seat. And if you see Ford v Ferrari in theatres, you will really get the full experience of feeling like you are inside the cars as they are racing down the track at 200mph. What’s not to love?

While it takes about an hour to get to the main story (building the race car to beat Ferrari), that first hour is definitely not time wasted. You really get a chance to know each of the characters and understand their motivations.

Ford v Ferrari movie review

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Carroll Shelby (Damon) is a retired race car driver and previous winner of Le Mans in 1959. He is in the business of car sales and modifications when he gets approached to do the impossible: find a way to get a Ford to beat a Ferrari at Le Mans in ‘66. Ken Miles (Bale) is a hotheaded driver who lives and breathes cars (he also runs a repair shop) but has fallen on hard times since racing doesn’t really pay the bills. He is completely dedicated to his wife (Caitriona Balfe) and son (Noah Jupe) but can’t pass up the opportunity to work alongside Shelby, especially when Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is sparing no expense in this endeavour.

The Ford Motor Company isn’t painted in the best light as folks from the marketing department (a loathesome Josh Lucas) are in danger of derailing the whole project due to “image issues” and don’t really seem to understand how difficult the task at hand actually is. Thus, the main conflict isn’t really between Ford and Ferrari, it’s mostly between Ford beaurocrats and their own progress/innovation. If you don’t know who wins out in either situation, all the more reason to check it out.

Bale pulls off a character that not many others could in Ford v Ferrari – Ken Miles is a know-it-all that rubs people the wrong way in every aspect of his life (aside from family), but as a viewer you have nothing but love for him. Bale can truly transform himself into any character and it’s amazing to watch him bring the famous driver, racing engineer, and Motorsports Hall of Famer to life in the film. Director James Mangold (Logan, Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma) made sure that the character of Carroll Shelby was the anchor – the reliable, cool-under-pressure type to balance out the fiery Miles.

Ford v Ferrari movie review

Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Both Damon and Bale give off a really refreshing “buddy” vibe as the movie plays out – resulting in some giggle-worthy moments. You get the sense that there is mutual respect and confidence in the other’s abilities (both on and off the screen). As mentioned before, this is not a car advertisement pretending to be a movie – it’s more about the people behind the cars than the vehicles themselves. You don’t even have to be a “car person” to appreciate what plays out on screen. It’s fun, the dialogue is great, and it’s not all action and no substance (looking at you Fast & Furious franchise).

It’s an exciting time in the history of motorsports that deserves to be seen on the big screen. Interestingly, this movie is called Le Mans ‘66 in a lot of other countries. Probably because the brand names mean more to the North American general public (young and old) than the name of a race in France (this is where certain people in their 60’s will shake their heads in shame). But, it was probably a smart move because it has already grossed $84M domestically since its release on November 13, 2019.

James Mangold takes his experience in multiple genres (rom com, gritty drama, biopic, and even dabbling in the X-Men universe) and creates something truly enjoyable with an interesting retro feel. You’ll definitely be watching this one more than once!

If you’re at all in doubt about whether it’s your type of film, just check out its Rotten Tomatoes score below:

For v Ferrari Rotten Tomatoes

Watch the official trailer here:

Joker – Todd Philips

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker, a Warner Bros. picture

Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Joker has been making headline after headline after surpassing 1 billion dollars at the box office this past week, so it only makes sense to share the ReelDecisions movie review while it is still top of mind. Joker has done something that has never been done before; it became the first R-rated movie to cross the billion-dollar mark – all without being released in China. It’s a jaw-dropping achievement, especially for a movie based on a comic book character that is not part of a series (and made with a modest budget). Billion-dollar movies are usually made with huge budgets, not something as little as $55M-70M. But as Joker shows, a well-crafted film mixed with controversy and a character virtually everyone is curious about makes a perfect combination to drive people to the theatre.

Joker’s feat is both surprising and telling. It means there is a huge market for well-crafted, dark films that deal with topical (and polarizing) themes – namely, mental illness and the struggle between rich and poor. Its unparalleled success also may have had something to do with the fact that it was an origin-story for one of the most notorious villains in the DC universe. And not just any origin story either, a gritty and violent one with, arguably, one of the most talented actors at the center of it – Joaquin Phoenix.

Despite the rawness in which it deals with its contents, and the remarkable performance by Joaquin Phoenix, it’s still a tough film to recommend to anyone. At the same time, there are people who have seen this movie 7-10 times in the theatre. But it must be said, Joker will only appeal to a “certain” type of moviegoer, and it is certainly not something that will be universally enjoyed by all. It is not your typical run-of-the-mill comic book movie. It’s not funny, it’s not action-packed, there is virtually no hard-core CG imagery, and the focus is more on believability rather than outrageous otherworldly powers. In other words, it’s more of the “cinema” that Martin Scorsese was talking about rather than more Marvel drivel.

Joker is the origin story for Batman’s arch nemesis, a tale that has never been shown before on the big screen, and one that audiences have been waiting for. Sure, The Joker has been portrayed by a number of Oscar-winning actors on screen (Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto), but how The Joker came to be and the troubles he faced in order to morph into one of the best-known villains of all time has never been done. We got a glimpse of how good a Joker arc could be with The Dark Knight (hell, Heath Ledger won an Oscar for it!), but Todd Phillips takes it to another level entirely. He should probably send a big ‘Thank You’ note to Christopher Nolan for successfully priming the market for dark origin storytelling though. At least people had an idea of what to expect with this one.

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a part-time clown who eventually becomes “The Joker”.
Photo credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a troubled individual who really got the short end of the stick in life. He has a terrible job, is constantly mistreated by others, has fits of uncontrollable laughter in the worst possible situations, and has ultimately been left behind by the system. Things slowly unravel after finding himself in a number of unfortunate circumstances – including brutal, unprovoked beatings; finding out new truths about his loved ones; being forced to stop medications; and generally feeling rejected and irrelevant. The whole thing is a slow burn and mostly a gritty, dark character study. If that doesn’t appeal to you right off the bat, or if seeing Joaquin at his absolute best isn’t enough to sell it, steer clear.

Even as everything is happening, you feel close to Arthur, you truly understand why he is spiralling out of control and you just wish someone would help him. You can’t really blame him for the criminal things that he does – including murder (hence the controversy before the movie was widely released). From feeling like the scum of the earth to experiencing the feeling of immense power and adrenaline that accompanies his crimes, Arthur slowly transforms into someone else. People were concerned that it glorified gun violence and would inspire it in others, especially in America where everyone is afraid of another movie theatre shooting. Couple all that with corrupt authority figures and depictions of violent protesters reacting to a David (poor) vs. Goliath (rich) type of crime story in Gotham City, you begin to understand why Joker was not even released in China. Yes, there is violence. Yes, there are riots. Yes, the rich get away with terrible things. Is this anything new? Aren’t good movies supposed to get you to draw similarities between real life and fiction?

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker, a Warner Bros. picture

Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

This whole film is a very unique experience, crafted by Todd Phillips who is better known for his R-rated comedies (The Hangover series, Due Date, and Old School). It’s very edgy, fairly long, gritty, and takes acting to the next level. Calling Joaquin’s performance Oscar-worthy is actually an understatement. Plenty of questionable actors have won Oscars; but this, this is a performance that should be studied in the years to come. He wouldn’t even be the first actor to take home the prize after portraying the Joker (Heath Ledger won posthumously for The Dark Knight).

Just because it has grossed over 1 billion dollars doesn’t mean everyone who saw it liked it, or would even see it again. It is a guarantee that some people even hated it. But those who liked it loved it enough to see it multiple times in theatres, contributing to its huge success. Oscar buzz also helps. But a lot of people will actually find it too dark and too violent to be truly enjoyable. It’s something you should see, but something you might not actually like – if that makes any sense. Just be prepared for something you’ve never seen before and to be challenged mentally (perhaps even emotionally).

If film festivals mean anything to you (admittedly, this moviegoer doesn’t always “understand” the big winners at these events), you’ll be happy to hear that the movie received an 8-minute standing ovation at it’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival this year. Whether it takes home any golden statues this year is up for debate, but there’s no denying you’ll be hearing a lot about it for the next 4 months.

The movie may not be funny (at all), but you can bet that Todd Philips and Warner Bros. are laughing all the way to the bank with this one.

Joker was released on October 4, 2019 and has grossed over 1 billion dollars in less than 6 weeks.

Rotten Tomatoes score for Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix

Watch the official trailer here:

Last Christmas – Paul Feig


Emilia Clarke in the movie Last Christmas.

Last Christmas starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and Emma Thompson.
Photo credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

Last Christmas, named after the iconic Christmas song by Wham!, is the first “real” holiday movie of the season to hit theatres. The term “real” is used in this review to emphasize that it is not produced by Hallmark and features a storyline different from the typical single-and-snowed-in-at-an-idyllic-country-lodge narrative that we are all used to by now. Last Christmas introduces us to Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman who seems to be stuck in a rut and can’t find her way out of the cycle of bad decisions that has become her life. Last Christmas is a romantic comedy through-and-through, complete with witty banter and laugh out loud moments, but – unlike a lot of Hallmark movies – the caliber of the actors allows the story to go a little bit deeper without losing the interest of the audience.

As the title leads one to believes, the film takes place during the Christmas season, which means the London streets are often filled with soft, romantic lights; a few light snow flurries; and people bundled up in warm clothing – the perfect scene for falling in love. But Last Christmas isn’t just about one character falling in love with another, it’s actually more about Kate learning to love herself and really existing instead of just being. Admittedly, it sounds pretty cliché, but you likely won’t be going to see this movie if you aren’t at least a little bit prepared for that type of thing. Over the course of 1hr and 43 mins we learn more about why Kate is the way she is and are introduced to the people who inspire her to climb out of the life-ditch.

A photo of Emilia Clarke, star of Last Christmas (movie) released in November.

Kate (Emilia Clarke) dressed as an elf for her job at a year-round Christmas shop in London.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

Kate works as a cashier/elf at a year-round Christmas store run by an Asian woman (Michelle Yeoh) in the heart of London and seems to have lost all passion for her job, her family, and (in most cases) her dignity. At his point she is living off of the generosity of her friends and the patience of her boss and seems to have hit something close to rock-bottom. Enter uber-hunk Tom (Henry Golding). The mysterious Tom pursues Kate and the two seem to complement each other as they go on late night treks through the city streets – Kate is a disaster surrounded by constant drama and Tom seems to have it all figured out. Per the no spoilers policy, there’s not much more that can be said in terms of plot, but it’s certainly worth watching for those who generally find these Christmas-themed romantic-comedies appealing.

One of the highlights of this movie is Kate’s mother (Emma Thompson), who is a Yugoslavian immigrant who is overbearing, critical, and generally depressed with her own life. It is not unexpected given her track record, but Oscar-winner Emma Thompson (who also happened to be the producer and screenwriter) steals every scene she is in. The dynamics between her and the rest of the family feel very real and every interaction is fun to watch. There may be critics that say her accent isn’t correct or it’s too stereotypical – if that’s something you care about then this movie probably isn’t for you in the first place.

Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson star in Last Christmas, a romantic comedy.

Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson play mother and daughter in Last Christmas.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures

The beginning of the movie, particularly the first interactions between Kate and Tom, feels a little forced and not quite natural at times – which may be a result of the writing – but Last Christmas quickly finds its rhythm. In fact, it’s something that many viewers will not even notice (or will soon forget) as the story unfolds. The runtime is perfect and as long as this type of film is your cup of tea, you won’t ever be bored. If you liked the trailer, you will like the movie. It’s as simple as that. The (right) audience will love it and most (if not all) critics will condemn it – which is echoed pretty clearly in the Rotten Tomatoes scores.

Paul Feig (A Simple FavorSpyThe HeatBridesmaids) directs this charming tale in a way that’s a lot more family friendly than some of his other films. There’s no raunch and no awkward scenes that would make you want to avoid watching it with parents and children. All characters in this movie are loveable and were created with that notion in mind, even the ones who only appear for a couple of minutes at a time.

If you’re looking for a wholesome story, a few laughs, a couple tears, and some really good-looking people, Last Christmas will fit the bill. Oh, and if none of this convinces you, the entire soundtrack is George Michael hits. Yes, including the beloved “Last Christmas”.

Last Christmas was released on Nov 8th, 2019.

Last Christmas movie reviews according to Rotten Tomatoes

Watch the official trailer here: