Casino is classic Scorsese by now, having premiered way back in 1995. It may not be the best nor the most popular in his stable as it was made when online slots didn't even exist, but it has a compelling nostalgic story of Las Vegas “goodfellas” in the 1970s when the town was still quaint and a beacon for petty crooks. Robert de Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci are superbly cast in roles they know by heart. As Sam “Ace” Rothstein, de Niro captures the screen with ethnic-imbued intensity.
Using iconic actors, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a wide-ranging historical drama with a minimal connection to the actual life of White House staff member Eugene Allen. It is not a period piece, a term usually used for pre-20th century subjects, nor is it a documentary per se. The loose adoption of a non-fiction person lends reality to the filmic recreation of key points in the American past. It is a time-tested narrative device to aid the story-telling and connect the factual dots into a coherent cinematic whole.
Computer-animated comedies have their definite following and Turbo, released in 2013 is no exception. The DreamWorks offering is the brainchild of the film’s director David Soren. Oddly enough it is a sports tale featuring an ordinary garden snail named Theo from the San Fernando Valley in California. The mighty mollusc has racing ambitions. He wants nothing more than to emulate his hero, Indy racecar driver (and five time champ) Guy Gagné. It is a noble calling for the crawly creature who is desperate to get out of his slow-paced rut.
Saving Mr. Banks is about as amiable as a movie can be. What can go wrong with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in lead roles? How can you have a more appealing topic than the story of Mary Poppins, the film, and the Disney Studios? Now legendary, the film has a past and a history that had not yet been publicly told. Loaded with flashbacks and period sets, Saving Mr. Banks fills us in on the life of author Pamela “P.L.” Travers, a London-based Australian woman, who runs the gamut of emotions while negotiating the rights to the production of the classic film in 1961. In financial dire straits, she forces herself to confront a distasteful proposition that is otherwise anathema to her being.
Gravity is one of the most respected films in recent years. It has gained a large following and promises longevity as a classic space adventure. Stars of the magnitude of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock shine in roles of complexity and sensitivity. Beyond the extraordinary visual effects, the story is compelling and emotionally effective, focusing on two astronauts in outer space as they face the challenge of a space station repair assignment gone terribly wrong.