1987 Movie Review: MOONSTRUCK, 1987

MOONSTRUCK MOVIE POSTER
MOONSTRUCK, 1987
Classic Movie Review
Directed by Norman Jewison
Starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, John Mahoney
Review by Cheyrl Farr

SYNOPSIS:

An Italian-American widow, Loretta Castorini, settles for a loveless engagement, believing that she has bad luck nothing better will come along. She meets her future brother-in-law, Ronny Cammareri, and does her best to flee the hot passion that exists between them. But, under the “Bella Luna,” their romance cannot be denied. With love’s ups and downs, they all come together at the conclusion of a whirlwind courtship with a toast to family.

REVIEW:

Loretta Castorini is a take charge kind of woman who lives and works in the Italian-American neighborhood of Brooklyn. Brilliantly played by Cher, this character is matter-of-fact, and has little joy in her life. She is resigned to the fact that bad luck has played a major role in her life, and as a widow, she accepts the proposal of Johnny Cammareri. He is a momma’s boy, and the two seem to gravitate to one another out of a sense of duty rather than any love or passion.

Johnny gives her the unenviable task of contacting his younger, estranged brother so that he will attend the wedding. Johnny flies off to Italy to the

Loretta meets Ronny (the younger brother), and tries to impose her will on him as he recounts the reason why he never speaks to his brother…he lost his hand in a bread slicer during a conversation with Johnny. As their arguing escalates, the heat between them leads to the bedroom, and as much as the level-headed Loretta tries to end the affair, the two have a deep chemistry which won’t be denied. Ronny invites her to the opera, and she undergoes a wonderful makeover for the occasion. She covers her gray hair, buys new clothes, and seems to find the light that was snuffed out of her life when her first husband died.

When Johnny returns from Italy, where his mother has a miraculous revival from near death, he decides to call off the engagement in deference to his mother. Within moments, his brother steps in and asks for Loretta’s hand in marriage. A precious moment is when the patriarch, Loretta’s grandfather, becomes confused by the quick turn of events and sobs because he doesn’t understand what is going on. The subplots are in harmony with Loretta’s own roller coaster ride with romance. Her father is having his own affair with a gold-digger, as her mother tries to understand why men chase women. Her mother has dinner with a man, but with her feet firmly on the ground, says goodbye at her doorstep. Her aunt and uncle find a fresh breath of romance under the “Bella Luna” that shines as bright as the noonday sun and seems to guide all the lovers.

Highly recommend watching this entertaining film with all of its dry humor and commentary on life and love.

MOONSTRUCK, 1987.jpg

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Movie Review: …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, 1979

Review for tribute to Jack Warden, born today. Amazing character actor. One of his best works.

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL,  MOVIE POSTERAND JUSTICE FOR ALL, 1979
Movie Reviews

Directed by Norman Jewison

Cast; Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Lahti, Dominic Chianese, Craig T Nelson
Review by Surinder Singh

SYNOPSIS:

Ethical Baltimore lawyer Arthur Kirkland (Al Pacino) desperately battles the establishment of law when his case to free the innocent Jeff McCullaugh (Thomas Waites) is thrown out by the furiously unforgiving judge Fleming (John Forsythe) over a technicality. Soon enough the tables are turned and judge Fleming is arrested on a charge of rape and battery. Fleming specifically requests to be represented by Kirkland, which presents the honest lawyer with a conflict of interest…

REVIEW:

…And Justice for All arrived at the tail end of what is in hindsight the decade that Al Pacino did some of his best work. With roles like Michael Corleone, Frank Serpico and Sonny Wortzik already behind him, Pacino had to a lot to live up to! Arthur Kirkland is one the less renowned roles that Pacino has played, even though the movie carries one of the most famous Pacino quotes of all time: “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” This is perhaps due to Kirkland not being as visually striking as the stylish Michael Corleone or as outrageously fashioned as Frank Serpico. Either way, Kirkland is a topnotch Pacino performance!

We first see lawyer Kirkland sat in a jail cell amongst the incarcerated. Having thrown a punch at judge Fleming, Kirkland’s “passion” has isolated him from other lawyers safely in their apartments. Kirkland in many respects is much like Serpico in that he’s a man who is standing up against what he believes is wrong in his own institution. Kirkland faces a minefield of moral dilemma everyday of his life, luckily he has at least one escape: his grandfather Sam (Lee Strasberg). It’s worth noting that Strasberg was Pacino’s real-life acting coach/mentor during his days at the Actor’s Studio and the relationship certainly shows on screen.

What is so striking about this low-key movie is how strong the script is, thus completely understandable why Pacino signed on. Even though the film takes place in a world of suited-and-booted lawyers, there is never a dull moment or a shortage of interesting characters in Kirkland’s life. When Kirkland is invited by his friend and colleague the unconventional judge Rayford (Jack Warden) on a helicopter ride, it ends in a near-death landing! The scene is wonderfully comical with Warden as a man who has a playful relationship with fate; he shows the terrified Kirkland the importance of being courageous and taking risks.

Being true to himself is certainly a risk Kirkland will have to face in the challenge ahead of him. When Kirkland’s colleagues tell him Fleming has been arrested and wants to be defended by him the sheer absurdity causes the men laugh hysterically! The scene shows a great understanding of humor and director Jewison handles the scene with skill. Pacino makes you laugh out loud (despite the seriousness of the case) you have to stand back and laugh at his character’s circumstance. Fleming is largely responsible for Kirkland’s innocent, young client being sat in a jail with dangerous criminals. What makes things worse is when Fleming confesses to Kirkland he is in fact guilty of the rape.

As the film progresses, the moral questions begin to press heavily upon Kirkland. Pacino revels in this opportunity to do one of the things he does best: portraying someone with deep inner conflicts. Pacino pushed this skill to the limit in the famous “Sollozo Scene” in The Godfather (1972). With his dark eyes Pacino gazes out at others but draws you into his character’s mind and emotions. The camera loves Pacino’s long, staring pose and when it’s on him you cannot watch anyone else in frame. Pacino displays this skillfully in the scene where his colleague Porter (Jeffery Tambor) reveals that his guilty client (that he cleared) has now murdered again. The guilt is eating away at Porter and we see in Pacino’s eyes the conversation Kirkland is having with himself.

Kirkland has to ask himself the question: “should I defend my guilty client because it’s my job to do so?” Kirkland is compelled to take the case or be disbarred from the practice of law (such is the influence of judge Fleming) Kirkland cannot evade the question. The filmmakers ensure we see a very bleak vision of the law; every excuse is given to Kirkland to lose faith in the justice system. When Kirkland makes demands of his client Fleming it’s clear that the judge has no intention of following orders and seems to be using his lawyer for political reasons. In this scene we are made aware that Kirkland is a puppet on a string and that he’s within a system attempting to control him.

From the very beginning we know that Kirkland is the outsider and so if anyone is going to rage against the machine it will be him! The final courtroom scene is a real treat for Al Pacino fans as it allows him a platform for one of his classic speeches! Pacino takes hold of everyone’s attention and destroys Fleming’s plea of innocence in a show-stopping rant: “And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution is not going to get that man today, no, because I’m gonna get him! My client, the Honorable Henry T. Fleming, should go right to fucking jail! The son of a bitch is guilty!”

Pacino’s Kirkland finishes the movie with his principles intact and the crowd cheering. …And Justice for All is a simple morality tale about he importance of doing what you believe is right and just. What makes it great viewing is the acting and non-fussy direction that shows you what’s possible with the basics of narrative cinema: story and character.

 

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