About My Father

Sebastian and Salvo

So you thought that Killers of the Flower Moon signalled that Robert De Niro had maybe packed it in with all the crazy grandpa roles. About My Father is proof he hasn’t. And whatever you might think of De Niro’s comedy chops in War With Grandpa, Dirty Grandpa and an intermittent run of others going back to 2000’s Meet the Parents (he was just a crazy father back then), he’s the best thing in this comedy written by and (sort of) starring stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. Maniscalco is the son of a Sicilian hairdresser father called Salvatore and here De Niro plays a Sicilian hairdresser father called Salvo – so join the dots … Read more

Killers of the Flower Moon

William Hale in a car and Ernest Burkhart listening to him

It turns out that one of the many uses of Killers of the Flower Moon is as a film for baby-friendly screenings. My daughter-in-law takes her new son to these on Tuesday mornings and recently reported back that the great thing about Martin Scorsese’s latest is that she could take the baby out of the auditorium to be changed or fed and then go back into the screening some time later and not really have missed much. There’s quite a lot of redundancy, in other words. It may be stylish redundancy delivered by a director fully confident of what he’s doing but you could easily cut half an hour from this film and … Read more

The War with Grandpa

Cheech Marin, Robert De Niro, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken in a huddle

In 2016 Robert De Niro starred in Dirty Grandpa, as the titular disgusting (in lots of ways, but mostly sexually) senior giving uptight grandson Zac Efron lessons in letting it all hang out. It was a funny film, though a 5.9 rating on the imdb (as I type) suggests that not everyone loved it. I didn’t love it either, but a few good gags and a suggestion that even the oldies like to part-ay is, in these frigid times, enough for me. The War with Grandpa was made one year later and then sat on a shelf for three more, thanks to the Harvey Weinstein scandal (the Weinsteins were set to distribute it). … Read more

Mean Streets

Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 12 May Exile on Main Street released, 1972 On this day in 1972, one of the cornerstone rock albums of all time was released. Exile on Main St was the Rolling Stones’ follow-up to Sticky Fingers and the first album they had produced since extricating themselves from their contract with manager Allen Klein. The Stones had recently become tax exiles from the UK – and recorded much of the album in the south of France, at a villa Keith Richards was renting. Richards was a heavy user of heroin at the time, and his villa became a hub for visiting fellow … Read more

Wag the Dog

Robert De Niro, Anne Heche and Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 26 January President Clinton denies “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky, 1998 On this day in 1998, a serving president of the United States responded to allegations that he had had sex with a woman other than his wife. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky” said Bill Clinton at the end of a White House press conference, with his wife standing beside him. Unfortunately for Clinton, there had been what most people would call a sexual relationship, and Lewinsky had a blue dress stained with the president’s semen to prove it. Later in the year, boxed into … Read more

Hide and Seek

Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek

After Godsend and Meet the Fockers, Robert De Niro continues bumping along the bottom with this sub-Sixth Sense frightener. He plays the new widower with a ten-year-old traumatised daughter (Dakota Fanning) whose imaginary friend Charlie starts muscling in on the domestic action. Is Charlie a manifestation of the daughter’s loss? Or of her antagonistic feelings towards the women (Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue) who are floating around her newly available dad? Or is he just a malevolent spirit found lurking at the back of the Exorcist cupboard? Director John Polson and writer Ari Schlossberg keep us guessing with Kubrickian glides and Shyamalanian plot turns that suggest more than they deliver. Ultimately, Hide and Seek … Read more

The Score

Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, The Score

Frank Oz is apparently a bit sniffy about being described as the man who used to be Miss Piggy. Here he directs Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Ed Norton in a one-last-heist movie and discovers that big hitters aren’t quite so easy to fist as a porker made of felt. Bob, Marlon and Ed play, respectively, a jazz-loving master thief hoping to go out on a financial high, his lispingly effeminate fence and the cocky wannabe eager to learn at the master’s feet. A wasted Angela Bassett plays De Niro’s girlfriend. (Well, not entirely wasted. At least the producers got to tick the boxes marked “female” and “black”.) We’re in the middle … Read more

Cape Fear

Robert De Niro

It’s compare and contrast time. Max Cady, a psychopath recently out of stir after a long stretch for rape, sets out to terrorise lawyer Sam Bowden who he believes withheld information about his case at the trial which resulted in him going down. The original, directed by cult British director J. Lee Thompson in 1962, starred Robert Mitchum as the avenging psycho (a role he’d perfected in 1955’s Night Of The Hunter) and Gregory Peck as the apparently decent lawyer. Both turn up again in cameos in Martin Scorsese’s remake, in which things aren’t quite so clear cut. This time around Bowden (now played by Nick Nolte) is a lousy lawyer, and a … Read more

Meet the Parents

Poor Photoshop skills add a little extra to the lie-detector scene from Meet the Parents

The notion of “upstaging” comes from the theatre and refers to the moment when an actor walks upstage, away from the audience, thus forcing the actor they’re addressing to turn their back on the audience. The audience can’t see the actor’s face, it can’t hear them that well either. It drives actors crazy. It’s a harder thing to nail down on film, but it’s something Robert De Niro is great at, especially when a comedian is involved. In Meet the Parents the funnyman in question is Ben Stiller, playing the poor sap back to “meet the parents” of his intended (Teri Polo). De Niro plays Jack Byrnes, the mutha of a father, subjecting … Read more