Category Archives: Gangster / Mafia

“I’m not so sure about that Bette Davis..” Three on a Match (1932)

3 on a MatchThat was a quote from the director when speaking to the WB front office about the great turns shown by the young cast members of ‘Three on a match’. Ann Dvorak received high marks for this great showing as a socialite who tires of her lifelong place in the upper crust of virtue and society only to take the most devastating of falls to the bottom. Joan Blondell also received high marks for her role as Dvorak’s childhood friend and social opposite who soon takes her place at home and in high society. Davis, who gave a standard turn for a supporting role, didn’t earn Mr. LeRoy’s kudos… but everyone makes a mistake now and then.

I’ll admit, I didn’t expect too much out of this film and was greatly surprised. The story starts out innocently enough (as many a WB early 30’s crime drama did) and then opened a wound just to pour salt in it with a lemon juice chaser by the very riveting end. Lyle Talbot and Warren William turn in very good supporting turns along with a very early gangster cameo for Humphrey Bogart.
The 3Well paced and to the gritty point, this one is a keeper. Popcorn and absolutely no bathroom breaks.

5 Stars

John Wayne plays ‘Dirty Harry’… McQ (1974)

McQ posterOriginally turning down the role of both ‘Frank Bullitt’ and ‘Dirty Harry Callahan’, Wayne was given another shot by Warner Bros. to play his first ‘policeman’ role in the legendary career.

Not out of his league by any means, the Duke definitely fills the bitter seen it all lost my partners kill some drug dealers genre cop of the early 1970’s. Not so much a rip-off of ‘Dirty Harry’ as a different take on the idea. Just as Eastwood’s character was another take on ‘Bullitt’.
McQ under fireThe story moves along and doesn’t skimp on much, definitely bring the popcorn and maybe one quick bathroom break.

4 Stars

And the table was set… Each Dawn I Die (1939)

Each Dawn I DieThis film marked the first for George Raft under the Warners’ regime. Famous as a young song and dance man, Raft later became Paramount’s answer to Cagney in their mobster film genre, but in the end, no one could compete with the Warner Bros. in that category.

The film paired Cagney with his semi-rival and the two did well together on screen. Two song and dance actors in gritty gangster stereotype action makes for a great film. The story is well paced and keeps in stride, a well versed supporting ensemble to help.
Cagney RaftIronically, it was Raft who would later turn down ‘High Sierra’ and ‘The Maltese Falcon’, making way for another Cagney gangster co-star, Humphrey Bogart.

4 Stars

Time for a switch… G-Men (1935)

G-MenAfter playing a Gangster for the better part of four years, Cagney was allowed a curveball in ‘G-Men’. Though not without a little prodding to the Warners, Jimmy turned the tables and finally portrayed the law, in one of the better F.B.I. films to this day.

Breaking from his standard typecast, Cagney gets to show a little more range in a restrained lawman looking to use the law as his vehicle of payback. A great turn in a well paced and scripted film.
Tools of the tradeFor Cagney fans or just old school movie lovers, bring the popcorn.

4 Stars

Almost true to life, eh? Lady Killer (1933)

Lady KillerHustler gets hustled, goes to Hollywood and hits big. Hustler’s friends arrive to hustle him again… and get hustled in return. All this and the boy gets the girl too.

Very simple Cagney gangster type film, but lighter on the bullets. It rolls along at a fair pace and sews itself up pretty well. With revisits from some ‘Pubic Enemy’ cast-mates, Cagney does a great job turning out ‘A’ list material in a ‘B’ list film, just as his career was built on.
Cagney ClarkeIf you’re a Cagney fan or a fan of ‘Dream Factory’ old school films, bring some popcorn.

4 Stars

He just wanted to dance… The Public Enemy (1931)

The Public EnemyJames Cagney, America’s leading gangster for decades, simply wanted to be a song and dance man. But, this was the film that would type cast his stardom for the remainder of his career. Originally cast as the sidekick, Cagney and Wood traded spaces, giving Jimmy the range he obviously required on-screen.

Feeding off the previously released film ‘Little Caesar’ with Edward G. Robinson, the film hits hard and keeps hitting at every turn, to almost make us feel the plight of this depression era hood and his inevitable downfall. Although recast in a dozen later gangster films echoing the same thoughts, it was ‘Tom Powers’ that set Cagney in motion and still sets him apart as a ‘B’ list (as Gangster pics were considered in the day) actor worthy of ‘A’ list roles.
GrapefruitNot till his biggest gangster redux eight years later in ‘Angels with Dirty Faces’ or ‘The Roaring Twenties’ would Cagney get such sweet mob roles. Listed as ‘Best’ in my category, it helped set the pace and take the lumps for better mafia films to follow.

5 Stars

10 Movie Remakes That Are Better Than The Original

From: Yahoo! Movies

Last week, Sony Pictures and MGM released its remake of horror classic “Carrie” starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore.

While it may not be better than the 1976 original — it’s tough to top the Oscar-nominated performances of Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie — there are plenty of remakes that have improved upon the original.

We’ve weeded through a ton of remakes — including some you may not realize are remakes — to find the best ones.

The films on this list were selected according to audience and critical reception via Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic (where available) along with awards won. If two films were equally matched in reviews, we went with the movie more fans are familiar with today.

From oldest to newest, here are 10 films that are better than its original.

“The Maltese Falcon” (1941) Warner Bros. Maltese Falcon

Remake of: “The Maltese Falcon” (1931) Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 67%*

John Huston’s adaptation of the best seller starring Humphrey Bogart as private detective Sam Spade has been called one of the American Film Institute’s best films and has been nominated for three Oscars.

Even Roger Ebert called it one of the best movies ever made.

Maltese Falcon rogues gallery

The film was so successful, Warner Bros. originally wanted Huston to work on a sequel in ’42. That project was shelved since he and the actors went to work on other projects.

“The Ten Commandments” (1956)  Paramount PicturesTen Commandments

Remake of: “The Ten Commandments” (1923) Rotten Tomatoes: 91% / 83%

More than 30 years after making the silent film, Cecil B. DeMille returned to direct the ’56 classic. The movie won one Oscar for visual effects and airs every year around Easter on television (Definitely a fond childhood Holiday memory).

“The Ten Commandments” is among the highest-grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation.

Heston as Moses

“Airplane!” (1980)   Paramount PicturesAirplane

Based on: “Zero Hour!” (1957) Rotten Tomatoes: 98% / 46%**

Chances are you’re unfamiliar with ’50s movie “Zero Hour!” But if it didn’t exist, there probably never would have been an “Airplane!”. Leslie Nielsen’s parody classic borrows heavily from the original.

Airplane Fever

Surely we must be joking? We’re not, and don’t call us Shirley.

“The Thing” (1982)  Universal PicturesJohn Carpenter's The Thing teaser

Remake of: “The Thing From Another World” (1951) Rotten Tomatoes:  79% / 87%

Time may have named the original the “Best sci-fi movie of the 1950s,” however, you can’t deny John Carpenter (the man who brought us “Halloween”) and ’80s Kurt Russell.

Total Film:  “The Thing is one of [Carpenter’s] greatest moments, creating a terrifying atmosphere of claustrophobia, suspense and paranoia. And Kurt Russell is as good as he’s ever been, wearing one of the best beards in movie history.”

Kurt Russell

Empire:  ” The Thing is a peerless masterpiece of relentless suspense, retina-wrecking visual excess and outright, nihilistic terror. …  Back in 1997 Carpenter told Empire that ‘You’ll never, ever, see anything like The Thing again.’ Like MacReady and Childs we’re still waiting. We might be for a long time yet.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)  Warner Bros.Little Shop of Horrors

Remake of: “The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960) Rotten Tomatoes: 90% / 92%  Metacritic:  81%

Sure, the original may have had Jack Nicholson in it, but that was in a small, small role. While the critical reception for the original may edge out the remake, Frank Oz’s rendition of the musical based off the original film with Steve Martin and James Belushi helped make it a cult classic.

The New York Times: “WHO could have imagined that ”Little Shop of Horrors,” the 1960 comic horror film shot by Roger Corman in two days’ time, would continue to grow bigger, mightier and more formidable, much like the man-eating plant that is its unsung star? …  Mr. Martin’s solo number has been hilariously staged, as he combines Elvis Presley posturing with a wonderfully wicked delivery of phrases like ”root canal.” Seldom has one single film sequence, in which Mr. Martin gleefully terrifies his patients and brandishes the most ghastly array of instruments, done as much to set back the integrity of an entire profession.”

Audrey II

“Fatal Attraction” (1987)  Paramount PicturesFatal Attraction

Remake of: British television movie “Diversion” Rotten Tomatoes:  78%  Metacritic: 67

Technically, we’re still going to count this one since it’s probably not well known that this was an adaptation of a TV movie.

Fun fact: “Diversion” writer and director James Dearden actually wrote the screenplay for the Hollywood film adaptation. The movie went on to become the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide and received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.

Glenn Close Fatal

“True Lies” (1994) 20th Century FoxTrue Lies

Remake of: French film “La Totale!” (1991) Rotten Tomatoes:  72%  / n/a

We’ll admit, we’ve never seen the French film from Claude Zidi; however, you can’t beat a James Cameron film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger secretly working as a government agent while his wife (Jamie Curtis) believes he’s a computer salesman (also serves as a wonderful homage to the James Bond films).

The film received an Oscar nod for Best Visual Effects.  At the time, the film was one of the most expensive ever made (an estimated $115 million)

Curtis for Arnold

“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)  Warner Bros.Ocean's Eleven

Remake of: “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) Rotten Tomatoes:  82%/ 46%

The Rat Pack may have starred in the original, but it was George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, who made robbing a Las Vegas casino look awesome while also infuriating Al Pacino (Note: Al Pacino was not in this film!  He was in Ocean’s Thirteen… tsk tsk Yahoo!).

Successful Eleven

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: “What is Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh doing remaking a 1960 Rat Pack flick best remembered for Frank Sinatra’s orange sweaters and Dean Martin being Dino? Answer: having a ball …  Forget Oscar, Ocean’s Eleven is the coolest damned thing around.”

“The Departed” (2006)  Warner Bros.The Departed

Remake of: “Infernal Affairs” (2002) Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / 95%  Metacritic: 86 / 75

Another phenomenal casting list comprised of Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and Alec Baldwin  about an undercover cop (DiCaprio)  trying to discover a mole (Damon) in the Massachusetts State Police force (Shot in various locations in and around Boston, including my hometown of Southie).

The film won four Oscars including Best Picture of the Year and Best Director.

Leo Jack Departed

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, highlighting the positives of both films, while not discrediting either.  “The story is inspired by “Infernal Affairs” (2002) by  Alan Mak  and  Andrew Lau , the most successful Hong Kong film of recent years. Indeed, having just re-read my 2004 review of that film, I find I could change the names, cut and paste it, and be discussing this film. But that would only involve the surface, the plot and a few philosophical quasi-profundities. What makes this a Scorsese film, and not merely a retread, is the director’s use of actors, locations and energy, and its buried theme.”

“True Grit” (2010)  Paramount PicturesTrue Grit

Remake of: “True Grit” (1969) Rotten Tomatoes:  96%  /  90%  Metacritc: 80

Though John Wayne made the original film a classic and earned an Oscar for his performance, the update from the Coen brothers starring Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn along with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin was celebrated by critics and moviegoers not only for sticking closer to the source material, but also all of the actors’ performances.

However, despite 10 Oscar nominations — including Best Picture, Director, and Actor — it won none.

The Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy: “This ‘True Grit’ makes the original almost unwatchable except as a curio …  In the new version, Portis’ novel is returned to its proper locale: the post-Civil War frontier where the James brothers raised such a nasty ruckus.”

Bridges True Grit

Ebert: “In the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit,” Jeff Bridges is not playing the John Wayne  role. He’s playing the Jeff Bridges role — or, more properly, the role created in the enduring novel by Charles Portis , much of whose original dialogue can be heard in this film. Bridges doesn’t have the archetypal stature of the Duke. Few ever have. But he has here, I believe, an equal screen presence. We always knew we were looking at John Wayne in the original “ True Grit” (1969). When we see Rooster Cogburn in this version, we’re not thinking about Jeff Bridges. … Bridges’ interpretation is no doubt closer to the reality of a lawman in those years of the West.”

*Denotes critical reviews for the remake and original, respectively when applicable. **Audience score