Al Pacino

Scarface

Year: 1983
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Somehow we managed to pass where this movie should have been on the shelf and didn’t notice when it wasn’t there. It dawned on me recently when I was in Mexico that we hadn’t reviewed this movie. I was listening to all the Spanish being spoken and suddenly thought of the classic Spanish speaking mobster from Cuba. Somewhere along the line I must have lent my copy of this movie to some asshole who never bothered to give it back.

I’m not entirely surprised we passed it without noticing. Don’t get me wrong, like any normal person, I love this movie. Nevertheless, I have always found its overwhelming popularity to be a bit annoying. This is a great movie but I don’t think it belongs in the same category as other mobster movies like The Godfather or GoodfellasI would categorize it easily with a movie like Blow, but overall I think a movie about a drug dealer is fundamentally different than a movie about organized crime.

I would concede that Al Pacino might be better in this movie than he is in The Godfather movies but only because Tony Montana is a much louder character. A ruthless and unpredictable villain that simply outmatches the cold and calculating Michael Corleone when it comes to entertainment. The Don may have ordered a hit on his own brother, but Tony didn’t hesitate to personally kill his best friend at point blank range. Maybe the drugs had something to do with it in Tony’s case but it was just another move in Tony’s unpredictable behavior. Regardless which character is more entertaining I think it can be said that both are awesome. Al Pacino does a phenomenal job bringing both characters to life and he will be remembered forever for doing so.

When I was in college, like so many other people, I had a Scarface poster hanging in my apartment bedroom. Mine was huge and big enough to cover an entire window. I always had it draped over a window like a curtain so the black and white image of Tony Montana was always illuminated in my room. The image was from the end of the film, a tired and stoned Tony slouched at his desk behind a massive pile of cocaine. I still have the poster but it languishes away rolled up in some forgotten closet corner.

For the last ten years or so I have heard whispers about a possible remake of this film and I can’t stress enough how disappointing that would be. For a number of reasons it is the most ridiculous idea of all time. First would have to be how lame it is to make a remake of a remake. Yes we live in the era where studios have gotten so lazy they simply remake or reboot everything in order to cash in on name recognition but this is different. This is a classic movie that can’t simply be remade. You can’t recreate the writing of Oliver Stone or the performance of Al Pacino. Another reason being how you can’t recreate the 80s as they really were. One of the things I love about this movie is how it stands as a window into time. This movie is a picture of life in the early 80s and a modernized version would simply take away from something that was already great.

The newest news is that this movie is being remade with a script from the Coen brothers and Diego Luna set to star. Now if you’re going to redo Oliver Stone in his prime I can’t argue with the choice of the Coens. Two of the most clever writers there are, but I don’t think they are going to get involved with coke personally for inspiration. It is well known that Oliver Stone lived with his coke dealer for a while when preparing to write the movie and kicked the habit as he put pen to paper. I do really like Diego Luna, fresh off his Rogue One success, but he’d have to give the performance of a lifetime to win me over as a new Tony Montana. I have to admit I like the effort here in doing something special but I am still totally against it. It’s a travesty to sully a classic film with a new rendition.

I never understood why Steven Bauer didn’t reach greater heights as an actor. As one of the true Cubans in the film he was instrumental at not only bringing Manny Ribera to life but adding to the authenticity of the film with advice on his own culture. I have actually always liked Manny a little more than Tony Montana and hate the scene where he is gunned down. In a criminal organization you simply can’t replace a guy like Manny and Tony made a rash and critical decision when he murdered him over something stupid. As far as Steven Bauer goes I simply don’t know what ever happened to him. His career continued with many roles I haven’t seen myself but I always thought he was capable of more. This was one of the first movies he starred in and I simply can’t understand how it didn’t lead to much bigger things for him. The only other thing I have seen him in besides this movie was his awesome part as Don Eladio in Breaking Bad. I recognized him despite the aging that he has undergone and thought he was a perfect choice to be head of the Mexican cartel that was causing problems for the Chicken Man.

Like everybody else I love this movie for all the mobster shit but I like it too for it’s place in history. I like that Tony was part of a fool’s plan to bring over lots of immigrants from Cuba. After decades of conflict between Cuba and the United States it seemed inevitable that Cuba would clean out its prisons when it shipped people over to the states. I like that Tony is part of the Cuban Crime Wave and loved the scenes in Freedom Town. I was not alive when any of this went on but I think that’s part of what makes this movie great is it’s effort to cover something relevant at the time.

As hard as it is to believe I still come by people who have never seen this iconic movie. To those people I give a befuddled look of awe because I don’t know how they managed to miss it. This movie has been so influential over a wide range of media that I think those who haven’t seen it must be confused by a lot of things. If you haven’t seen this movie then it is a must watch. It’s a long one but it’s definitely worth your time to see it.

 

 

 

 

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Heat

Year: 1995
Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: Michael Mann

RYAN’S REVIEW

When Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight this was the movie he turned to for inspiration, the bank robbery scenes anyway.  That was a big part of why The Dark Knight was so awesome and it says something about how awesome this movie is in its own right.  Movies about cops and robbers are always popular and this is one of the best ever made regarding the two.  It was made by a great filmmaker, it had an outstanding cast, and it doesn’t fail to deliver on the action.

In 1972 Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were both part of the same movie, The Godfather: Part IIAlthough they played characters living in completely different time periods and never shared any screen time together.  For the next 23 years both of their careers ballooned and they were the go to guys for mobster parts.  Yet in all that time they both made many mobster movies but never collaborated.  After all that time it became a really big deal that they were in this movie together and their first collaboration did not disappoint.  In fact I happen to think the scene in which they meet for the first time is one of the coolest I have ever seen.  There is so much build up, the music is just right, and then they are finally face to face and everything seems so natural and perfect.  I happen to think they did really well working together but they are both grade A professionals when it comes to acting and know how to do their jobs. This movie was almost twenty years ago now and these two men have continued their careers throughout that time.  Not with quite so much success mind you but they still wield a certain level of power in their industry.

I read that this was a movie Michael Mann spent over ten years trying to get made.  When you put that much time into something you really have to make sure you have the right people and I don’t know that a finer cast was ever put together.  The good guys and the bad guys alike could not have been better cast in any part.  I really like Mykelti Williamson and Wes Studi as Al Pacino’s main guys on his side.  Ted Levine has always creeped the hell out of me but he manages to play a convincing good guy in this one.  Val Kilmer plays one of his best roles in this movie. He is a total badass as De Niro’s right hand man. When you are casting bad guys I don’t know that you could have done much better in 1995 than Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo.  Sizemore is one of the most intimidating guys ever.  He has an absolute look of insanity in his eyes; he fits into this movie nicely. There is one scene where a guy takes notice of the crew and Sizemore just stares him down and the guy quickly looks away. Sizemore wasn’t who the witness wanted having a good look at him.  I am a big fan of Danny Trejo; I have really enjoyed his rise to fame in recent years.  Jon Voight, Dennis Haysbert, and William Fichter are all great as well and bring a lot to the film.  There is a really young Natalie Portman here proving that she was always an exceptional actor.  Ashley Judd is smoking hot in this one and that served her well during the late 90s. I do not like the part that Hank Azaria played in this one but I am a big fan of his and love how often he pops up in different types of movies. He shot his scenes for this movie during his days off while filming The Birdcage, one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.

In preparation for this movie Michael Mann did a lot of research.  The story is somewhat loosely based on a real relationship between a high profile cop and criminal that took place in the 70s.  I don’t know much about the real story but it was one that Mann was always personally interested in.  When prepping his actors for their roles he actually arranged for the good guy actors to have dinner and interact with real police officers and also had the bad guy actors meet with real life criminals. This kind of preparation went a long way as we can clearly see by the performances of the actors.

This was a really awesome movie that I always enjoy.  It’s a long movie and has slow points here and there but the action makes up for any boredom that might be incurred. I would recommend this movie to anybody and it is definitely worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan makes me watch this movie all the time. Well, not really…but since it is so freaking long it feels like forever every time we watch it. It’s a great movie with a good storyline and amazing actors. It takes forever to finally get there, but it can be worth it to sit through the movie. If you like movies like this, go for it.

NEXT MOVIE: Heist (2001)

The Godfather: Part III

Year: 1990
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is an awful movie plain and simple.  It is stupid for a number of reasons and mainly because it does not even remotely correlate with the original story.  It was a desperate attempt to make bank on a popular franchise and they blew it.  I am perfectly aware of how many awards it was nominated for and all I can say is that those people were lying.  It’s The Godfather and after more than 15 years of waiting for it to be made they were all going to gush over how great it was whether it was true or not.  This is a stupid movie and I will not even waste my time with it now by suffering through the two hours and forty-two minutes of monotony.

I will tell you why this is a stupid movie that doesn’t correlate with the original story.  Lucy Mancini did not have a son by Sonny Corleone and that is specifically covered in the book. After Sonny was killed Don Corleone personally went to see Lucy Mancini if I’m not mistaken, although he may have sent Tom Hagen.  It doesn’t matter though because she was specifically asked if she was pregnant and was not.  She then went on to be part of the staff at the family owned hotel in Las Vegas where she met and fell in love with a doctor employed by the family owned hospital in Vegas.  So to create a story that revolves around a character that clearly didn’t exist is stupid. Sonny had two legitimate sons and I think the story would have been better had they just used one of them. Of course that is assuming they didn’t have them enter a sexual relationship with their cousin. Secondly, and I know this started in the second film, but Michael Corleone did not have a daughter.  In the first book it specifically mentioned that Kay had given Michael two sons.  Although because of the films the sequels to the novels include the Mary character.  Thirdly, this movie is stupid because it is BORING as hell, and because there is no Tom Hagen.  Robert Duvall was supposed to be in it but demanded the same amount of money Pacino was getting and was simply written out of the script.  That was a bad idea and a serious part of why this movie was so bad.  All the Godfather characters are gone here, with the exception of Connie and Al Neri.  The problem with including Al Neri in such a large part is that none of the movies clearly explain who he is.  Neither the first film nor the second clearly explain who Neri is and until I had read the book I had no idea why Vincent seemed to value his opinion so much.  Now to the biggest reason this is a stupid movie.

INCEST does not belong in such a great franchise and I think the man who put forth that idea should be beaten, and then the man that allowed it to be part of the movie should be beaten.  It was an awful idea and I can’t believe somebody approved it.  Granted they are simply cousins, but when did “simply being cousins” not cause offense? I don’t care what anybody says, it was incest, and it was stupid.  Not only that but the whole point of legitimizing the family only makes for a boring story.  Yeah it makes sense because that was always Michael’s dream but it still makes for a story that sucks.  People watch mob movies to see the crimes, to see the killing, to see the great power and manipulation.  When they are trying to turn into legitimate people then they are no different than Spiderman deciding he doesn’t want to be a hero anymore.  What good is he if he isn’t the hero anymore? Why even pay attention to his story?  That goes double for a beloved mafia franchise trying to not be in the mafia anymore.  It’s lame and who cares?

Since I have mentioned that Al Neri is never really properly introduced in the movies I will explain who he is.  Al Neri was a Sicilian police officer in New York who had a real mean streak to him. He did not take bribes and took his job very seriously. On one call he went too far and killed a criminal in his efforts to subdue him.  Despite his good police record he was imprisoned and let go from the police force.  It was Michael who found him, took care of his troubles, and offered him a position in the family. Al Neri is more or less Michael’s version of Luca Brasi.  Luca was a true killer that Don Corleone feared but had bent to his own will nonetheless.  The Don tells Michael about the importance of having a man like this, a man without fear that can be counted on.  Al becomes this man for Michael and is always at his side throughout the novel sequels. Al’s role is head of security for the Corleones in Vegas but he operates as Michael’s main enforcer. In the first film we see Al Neri dressed in his police uniform and he is the man that shoots Don Barzini. He doesn’t say a single word in the movie and his name is never mentioned. We see him many times throughout the second movie but I don’t think he was ever properly introduced there either.  He is seen on the big board in the courtroom as a high ranking family member and he is the man that executes Fredo.  Still we never really find out who he is in either of these movies as it is never explained.

In closing I just want to again express how bad this movie is.  IT HAS INCEST IN IT! That says it all, incest is gross and dangerous.  It has no place in a franchise about such a famous family that is loved by all.  I haven’t even mentioned how bad casting was when they called on names like Andy Garcia and Joe Mantegna for key roles.  I know that Garcia was nominated for his role in the film but like I mentioned earlier, these decision makers were lying to themselves.  They nominated this film for Best Picture of the year for Christ’s sake, if that’s not a move made for political purposes I don’t know what is.  This movie is specifically a waste of your time, and I would almost go as far to say the second one is practically a waste of your time as well. If you want a truly fulfilling continuation of the first film then read the books by Mark Winegadner.  The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge are both exciting and well written books that are actually worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Goodfellas (1990)

The Godfather: Part II

Year: 1974
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo

This is NOT the greatest sequel of all time, in fact I find myself at times having a hard time even saying that it is a good movie.  I think this movie shows many characteristics of sequels gone horribly wrong.  For example the Clemenza character having to be written out of the story because Richard Castellano decided to be an asshole. Sometimes when a movie is really successful certain people get it in their heads that they have more power than they really do and unfortunately Castellano fell victim to that. This is a movie of great length, too great if you ask me.  In fact, when people ask me about this movie I tell them that this is one of the worst ones I have ever seen and it is so long and boring that I want to scratch my eyes out.

This movie checks in at 200 minutes. That’s three hours and twenty minutes….My question to you is “who the hell has that kind of time?” This is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, are you kidding me? This movie is unbearably long and all events at the present time were so relentlessly BORING. The Michael story doesn’t even make much sense if you ask me and I am a mafia fanatic.  If I can’t sit through this movie as the movie/mafia fanatic I am then I have to believe all those other people out there claiming it is so great are just lying to themselves. This movie isn’t epic; it’s the apocalypse of sequels.

OK, it’s not that bad and I do love the flashback scenes because they were part of the original book and they were great. I just think the continuation of the story in the present was awful.  It would have been better had the Clemenza character still been part of the story, but not if he turned informant. Unfortunately Richard Castellano, who played the part in the first film, proved too difficult to work with early in production so his character was cut entirely. If I remember correctly it had something to do with him wanting a different writer for his role specifically, a completely unrealistic request for a small time actor. The replacement part of Frank Pentangeli was awful in my opinion, and I hope it doesn’t mirror anything they actually had in mind for the Clemenza part.  The bad impression he gives starts early when he is completely hammered at the party for Anthony’s coronation and then drunkenly belligerent to Michael. He doesn’t get much better after that and it just seems stupid for the all powerful Corleone family to have such an incompetent person at such a high level. A guy in his position should never be the kind of guy that would become a government witness.  A guy in that position would be too proud to kill himself and he would never be allowed to do so, the mob would make an example of him.  Suicide is too easy of a way out for a man who breaks Omerta. His death in the end is anticlimactic and a waste of what should have been an important figure in the family.

For some reason when I think about this movie I only see Al Pacino sitting there, doing nothing but working on that Godfather gaze. He is great in the role but this time around he bores the hell out of me more than anything.  Al Pacino is Michael Corleone but he is so secretive in this film that it is annoying. He tells nobody what he is actually doing and his actions are so vague it’s hard to tell who exactly the bad guy is. To this day I still don’t know who the old guy that shadows Michael the whole movie is, the fact that they never explain that drives me crazy. If anything the man who shadowed him should have been Al Neri and we should have known who he was.  After nearly being killed in his own home I think it is a bit ridiculous that Michael travels with only one bodyguard who looks old enough to be his grandfather.

I also specifically have a problem with the execution of Hyman Roth. Roth wasn’t a bad character and he is based on real life Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, which is really cool. His execution was stupid because Michael’s Capo Rocco Lampone is gunned down after the hit.  This is just stupid, that isn’t how it should have been handled and I think it was a waste of an important character in the Godfather world.  The mob wouldn’t entrust a suicide mission to such a high level guy, that kind of thing is passed down to the Button Men. Had he not been killed it wouldn’t matter, but I liked the Rocco character. Clemenza may have made a hit in the first film as a Capo but that was different.  Michael was the new Don with one Capo who had already betrayed him; it was an opportunity to prove his loyalty in that case. The Capos are high ranking men in the organization and one of the many buffers for the Don.  These guys generally don’t do the hits; they pass them down making more buffers that keep the Don from getting in trouble.

I didn’t always have such strong feelings about this movie but having read both sequels to the novel by Mark Winegardner I think this sequel fails by comparison.  Winegardner did an incredible job mimicking Mario Puzo‘s style and tone.  He wrote a really interesting story about the Corleone family and I think it was just so much better than what they did with the films.  Winegardner’s book picks up immediately after the first film ends and covers the years before and after this film.  It just kind of bypasses the film and incorporates it into the story.  It parallels history very well by going farther with the Fontane/Sinatra character and a new group of characters obviously based on the Kennedys.  It goes deep into the mafia world and the dynamics of the Corleone family as well as several other major families throughout the U.S.  I wasn’t high on this movie before reading those books, but afterwards I can barely stand to watch it.

Ok, I wrote everything above this before re-watching the film.  I am watching it now and at only 25 minutes in I can clearly see that I was far too critical of it.  It does deserve a certain level of respect, but I do stand by most of what I said.

I have finished the movie now, and it took me nearly all freaking day to do so.  This movie isn’t as bad as I make it out to be, but it is long to the point of being a flaw.  This movie should have been split into two pieces and released as a sequel and prequel. It is so long that boredom is inevitable and to be honest the climax in this one just doesn’t deliver like the first one.  I implore all Godfather fans to read The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge if you want some excitement from this series. If you think this movie is worth the 3 hours and 20 minutes it takes to watch it then by all means please leave a comment and argue your position.  I am interested in the thoughts of someone who thinks it is, but I don’t know that I will ever give it that much time again. It will take longer to read the books, but you will get a lot more out of the time you invest.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather: Part III

The Godfather

Year: 1972
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Mario Puzo

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of if not the best film adaptation of a book ever.  Watching this movie is like getting little snippets from the book perfectly crafted into a condensed version of a larger story.  I love the book that this film is based off of and I think the movie is incredible.  I love this movie and book on a different level than most. Every time I watch the movie or read the book I find myself so immersed in the story.  It has proved to have a great influence on my life and I have learned many lessons from it.  The movie was legendary when it came out forty years ago and since then the legend has only grown.  For FORTY years this film has been considered one of the best, and in many cases it is called the best. It is an excellent movie that I always encourage anybody to see, and then I suggest they read the book.

About three or four years ago Amber picked this book up for me on the spur of the moment.  She knew I liked the movie and thought that I would like it.  I did not do very much reading at the time and really wasn’t interested in taking the time to read any book.  To humor her I gave it a shot, but I was barely through the first page before I was hooked.  Mario Puzo put words together in a way that spoke to me and I found myself having difficulty putting the book down.  When I finished reading I went on to read most of Puzo’s books, and then The Godfather sequels written by Mark Winegardner. I have never stopped reading since and to this day read constantly and as much as I can.  I credit all I have learned in that time to Mario Puzo and his awesome story, The Godfather for showing me that reading can be so interesting. I cannot even begin to estimate how much I have learned from all the reading that started with that book.  It has had a significant impact on my life, and because of that the film is very important to me.

One of the things I have found so interesting about this film is how successful it turned out to be despite serious problems all through production.  Francis Ford Coppola had a really rocky relationship with Paramount pictures and was nearly fired multiple times.  The studio also specifically hated the casting of both Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.  Literally just about everyone involved in this film met enormous success once the film was released, but it wasn’t really an easy journey getting there. The film won the Academy Awards for both Best Picture and Best Actor for Brando, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay for Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.  Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Francis Ford Coppola (for direction) were all nominated as well.  This movie became the highest grossing film of all time when it was released and remains the highest grossing film of 1972 earning over $134 million domestically. Its domestic grosses equal to over $625 million once ticket prices are adjusted by today’s rate.

I have never been a big fan of Brando despite how great he was.  I do think he was incredible in this film and this is how I like to remember him.  He got so pathetic later in life; he ballooned into a serious weight problem and became quite the recluse in his old age.  He was great in his youth, and he has a very interesting life that is worth looking into sometime.  Despite all that, I really haven’t ever been a big fan with an exception of this movie and a few others.  He is great in this role, and I have read before that he actually met with real life mafia Dons to learn mannerisms and other character traits he could mimic.  His performance reflected his research too and it will be remembered for all time.  As Don Vito Corleone Marlon Brando became a legend.  He looked the part so much and he had such a great and memorable voice as the Godfather. He spoke with such patience and power, and when he spoke wisdom rolled out of his mouth that could be either insightful or dangerous.

Al Pacino is great as the reluctant Michael Corleone, the family rebel that would prove to be the most cunning and most ruthless of them all.   What I have always found so interesting about his role in this movie is how different he looks.  He looks younger and better looking in this movie, for nearly the rest of his career he has both looked and sounded dramatically different.  I grew up seeing Pacino in films but he was always the older guy.  He was the guy that in any given movie got that crazy look in his eyes and started screaming about something. Pacino loves to raise his voice and does so frequently.  I have heard that Pacino is a really heavy smoker and I assume that the habit has wreaked havoc on both his looks and sound over the years. I like to make a joke occasionally that I tried to “Pacino” my voice by smoking for a few years so I wouldn’t sound exactly like my dad. Pacino, if nothing else, has had a long and significant career in the movie industry.  He has played many legendary and iconic characters over the years and it all started with this film.  Pacino turned out to be perfect for the part and it gave him the opportunity to go on and do so much.

Robert Duvall was so young in this movie too. I had always associated him with being one of those old actors who still had a lot to offer and I was surprised to see him so young.  He is great as Tom Hagen and always stays true to the character.  Hagen is clever and resourceful.  He blends in and knows the importance of remaining anonymous or unnoticed. Hagen is one of the strengths of the family but it wasn’t until I read the book that I realized he was one of the most significant problems for the family.  Hagen was dear to the Corleones and undeniably talented but he was Irish-German.  Having him held in such high regard within the Sicilian mafia family weakened the power the Corleones had in the eyes of the other five families of New York.  It was Hagen’s appointment as Consigliere that even made the possibility of taking out Don Corleone a topic for discussion. When the character of Sollozzo talks to Michael at the restaurant in Sicilian he mentions this. He mentions how the Don was a legend but is being unreasonable over the situation at hand.  He suggests that the Don, as great as he was, is slipping a little and that the appointment of an Irish Consigliere proves as much. If you are interested in what he said specifically read the book because everything is written in English. Nevertheless Hagen remained an important part of the Corleone family and never wavered in his loyalty.  Duvall embodied everything that Hagen was in my eyes and I think he was great in the part.

When I saw this movie for the first time I didn’t really like it.  I was young and too immature to recognize the value and quality of the film.  I was however quite taken with the Sonny Corleone character as a teenager.  I loved his reckless and violent behavior. I remember thinking that this movie sucked because they killed off the best character but I was wrong.  James Caan did do an awesome job portraying the character.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when he goes nuts and beats his brother-in-law on the street in front of everyone.  Sonny was a wild and viscous character who met an unfortunate end much too early, but he managed to make quite an impression with the time available to him.  I like James Caan quite a bit and think he has been great in several films.

John Cazale plays a smaller role in this movie but represents a character very important to the Godfather universe.  As Fredo Corleone I think he really looks the part, the character of Fredo goes on to be very interesting in the books by Mark Winegardner.  John Cazale was Al Pacino’s best friend in the 70s and they appeared in a few other films together.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the late 70s but continued acting despite the diagnosis.  He died in 1978 shortly after completing work on Deer Hunter. Cazale was a very interesting man who is worth looking into.  In this film he did an excellent job and I liked him quite a bit as Fredo.

Diane Keaton, Richard Castellano, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, and Talia Shire all played great roles in this movie too. I got so immersed into the story at one point that I really got to know all of the characters pretty well.  I think that all these actors did an excellent job playing their parts.  I think they not only look the part but became the characters that they played, at least in my imagination.  I do tend to think too highly of everything in this movie because I think it was really really well made.  I am not really a big fan of most of Francis Ford Coppola’s work, but he got everything right in this one.  He has always been significant and has a name that commands power because he made this film.  Nothing else he has ever done mattered because he was the man that made The Godfather, so we all owe him mad respect.

This story is the classic example of the romanticized mafia. I sometimes feel like a cliché for falling for it because I am one of those people that are somewhat obsessed with the organized crime world.  I have researched not only the Italian Mafia but several other factions of organized crime syndicates.  They are not like we see in the movies; they are violent and ruthless people that will stop at nothing to get what they want.  They usually do not have honor in the ways that we see in the movies but they are still fascinating. They live interesting lives that draw the attention of everyone because if nothing else, we do love the drama in this country and these are dramatic people.  There is a small part of all of us that wants to root for the bad guy sometimes, and these kind of bad guys offer a good opportunity to do so.

I said this movie and book made quite an impression on me and it has.  This movie taught me the importance of cunning, and I try to be cunning in every aspect of life.  The men in this movie are cold and calculating.  They have serious issues to deal with and they come up with elaborate plans to resolve them.  I am the kind of person that plans for everything, and this story taught me a thing or two about planning.  This movie also got through to me the importance of honor, and respect.  In the mafia world the people that don’t know how to show respect get killed, and I suppose there is something appealing about that part of their world.  Couldn’t we all do with a little less of the disrespectful idiots out there in the world?

This book made Mario Puzo a mega star and he went on to write several other books involving organized crime. I would recommend all of them because I did thoroughly enjoy all of them.  Puzo was an Italian American and he wrote a lot about his own experiences in life.  He also wrote quite a bit about Sicilian culture and it has always appealed to me.  Sicilians have such an interesting history and their people are so fascinating in his stories.  The Sicilian was connected to The Godfather universe and was a really excellent book; I would recommend that everybody read it. It was loosely based on a real life person and Puzo wrote a great story. There was also a movie based off of the book starring Christopher Lambert as the main character. Obviously, that movie is not worth your time. The Godfather story too was loosely based on real life and Mark Winegardner’s sequels continued that trend.  When Puzo was on set for the movie he was actually confronted by an angry and aggressive Frank Sinatra who was angry that the Johnny Fontane cried on film.  The character is and was obviously based on Sinatra but that wasn’t what bothered him, it was the fact that his character showed the weakness of crying that he got angry.  Puzo was a big fan of Sinatra, and the experience really shocked him.  It is really obvious in all of Puzo’s books that he really despised the Hollywood lifestyle.

I could literally go on forever and ever about this movie and about the entire series because for a while it was my obsession.  This is not a movie I need to validate because it was one of the greatest ever made.  It has been significantly inspiring and important to me but that should mean little to other serious movie watchers.  This is the kind of movie that means something to all of us, it has taught us all different things and there is no end to the different things we all love about it.  This film is worth your time and worth your attention.  Don’t be the fool I was as a teen when I watched it simply looking for violence.  You have to let this story suck you in and see where it takes you.  There are plenty of lessons to be offered in this one and they are just sitting there waiting to be absorbed.  I recommend this movie to everyone and scold the people who admit to having never seen it before.

Ugh, I finished this review before I finished the film and there is so much to say as the movie goes on but I have already written so much. The mafia’s involvement in Las Vegas is really fascinating.  The character of Moe Greene is based off of real life Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel who was executed by the mob for blowing too much money. This movie is loosely based off of real history, sort of a fictionalized history if you will. I would suggest anybody interested in the story first read the book.  Then find books about the true history it is based on.  All of it is really fascinating stuff.

AMBER’S REVIEW

The Godfather logo is one of the most recognizable logos in our society today. The font is completey unique and can only ever be used again to parody the typography in this logo.

The puppet hand symbolizes The Don’s power over the mob players. He holds the reins and they are at his bidding. A deeper explanation can be gathered from the following quote from the movie: “And I refused to be a fool dancing on a string held by all of those big shots.” Don Vito says this is a conversation with Michael and means that he didn’t want to be the puppet held by someone else. The ironic thing is, he turned out to be the puppeteer while making his own way in life.

This movie is great, and so is the design.

NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather II (1974)

Donnie Brasco

Year: 1997
Directed By: Mike Newell
Witten By: Paul Attansio (screenplay), Richard Woodley and Joseph D. Pistone (book)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a really dull movie made about an awesome and incredible story.  In a nutshell that is why we own it. I saw this movie in the theater in 1997 but didn’t own it till a couple of years ago after reading the book.  I am a big fan of any mafia/organized crime film and have always been fascinated by the real history it has in our country.  Donnie Brasco is a big part of that history and a truly amazing story.  Despite the efforts to cast the right people for this movie I think what they ultimately came up with wasn’t that good and could have been done much better.

There are plenty of problems with this film but I think one of the main problems is that there’s too much to the story to squeeze it into a two-hour time frame the way they did. Joseph D Pistone was undercover as Donnie Brasco for six years. The movie combines a combination of different stories from throughout those six years into one part of it, his time with Lefty Ruggiero. Another problem is the theme of the film and how it exagerates certain aspects of the story.  One thing that Pistone makes perfectly clear in his book is that there is no “code of honor” in the actual mob.  He says their portrayal in films is mostly Hollywood stuff and that in fact these guys are just scheming thieves and killers who will do anything to make money. Pistone never gets that close to crossing sides either, he was always in control of who he was and what he was doing.

Pistone first infiltrated the Columbo family in New York as Donnie Brasco and then moved on more seriously into the Bonanno family. After his six years working undercover he got over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of organized crime members.  What I find interesting is how he actually managed to do any of this because he was on such a tight leash by the FBI.  He never actually broke any laws because that would have jeopardized his ability to get convictions. Yet he managed to infiltrate the mob despite this.  I think a lot of it had to do with how stupid the men he infiltrated actually were.  Ruggiero specifically was a real moron, yet still a very dangerous man. Pistone wasn’t on his own as much as the movie implies either, he often worked with other agents who were also working undercover.  Even some of them were found to be undercover yet Brasco managed to continue getting deeper involved. It really is an amazing story and Pistone is a true badass.  He had to make many sacrifices to do his job and he has had to continue living in danger even until today.

I don’t think Mike Newell had any business being in charge of a film like this, the project should have been given to a more talented director. I think casting Al Pacino in a mafia film is an idea that looks really good on paper for obvious reasons but I don’t think it really went well in this film.  He is playing the part of a pathetic kind of mobster that spends most of the film bitching about this and that.  Johnny Depp is OK in the movie but I wouldn’t call him exceptional.  Casting Anne Heche in the female lead is an idea that only made sense in the late 90s for about 10 minutes. I think the best part in this movie goes to Michael Madsen, but Michael Madsen is awesome in everything he does.  Mr. Blonde is one of the most ultra cool actors ever and he didn’t make enough movies in his prime. There are a lot of other notable actors in smaller roles all throughout the film including Paul Giamatti, Zeljko Ivanek, and Tim Blake Nelson.  Bruno Kirby is awful and has way too much screen time in the film.

This film received critical acclaim when it came out but I have seriously never understood why.  As a big fan of anything with the mafia in it I have always thought this was a dull movie and one of the weaker films of the genre. This movie isn’t dark enough to be a good mob film and there isn’t enough violence. With an R rating you have to take advantage of certain opportunities and this film doesn’t, it has no edge to it. I don’t think this movie is worth anybodies time, but the story is.  In lieu of endorsing this film I would like to instead encourage everybody to get a copy of the book and read what really happened.

NEXT MOVIE: Donnie Darko (2001)

Dick Tracy

Year: 1990
Directed By: Warren Beatty
Written By: James Cash & Jack Epps Jr.

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was six years old when this movie came out, and I watched it about a million times.  It’s a movie that inspired my love of action films as well as comic book themes. The color coordination really hooked me in as a six year old too.  Turns out the main colors of the film are yellow, orange, green, red, blue, and purple plus black and white. Which are the six colors the comic appeared in when originally published. Twenty-two years later and I still like what Warren Beatty did with this film and his use of the colors at hand.  This film is so bright it resembles a Tim Burton film, especially with Danny Elfman doing the score.  That’s a good thing though, I think this movie has a timeless quality that will help it live on forever, or until the inevitable reboot because studios are too stupid to come up with new ideas these days.

I like everything Warren Beatty did behind the camera as director of this movie.  Not just the color coordination but the style, the sets, the cars, the walkie-talkie watches, and the costumes are all top of the line. Beatty is also great in the role of the title character, he rocks the hell out of that yellow fedora. Al Pacino is always an excellent choice for the mob boss.  Under a lot of make-up he does a great job of playing Big Boy Caprice, based on the Chicago mob boss Al Capone. Pacino was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for the role but didn’t win.  Madonna plays her part well; she is really sexy and seductive as Breathless Mahoney.  She was one of the many women to jump start my sex drive at a very young age and it was this role that did it. At the age of six my parents thought I wasn’t old enough to see her doing anything else.  This film has a terrific supporting cast beyond those top three including Paul SorvinoDustin HoffmanWilliam ForsytheDick Van DykeJames Caan,  and Kathy Bates.  There is also Charlie Korsmo in the role of The Kid, he was in a few movies I loved as a child in the early 90s then mainly disappeared.

This was the cops and robbers story I identified the most with as a child.  It had a strong hero who always knew what to do, a large variety of really animated bad guys, and a big time shoot out in the end. It offered scenes that my imagination was really able to run wild with and it helped aid in my young creative spirit. This is a film I would recommend to anybody and I have really enjoyed seeing it again. This movie is worth your time if you get the opportunity to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is beautiful. I feel like this movie is an animated film, that isn’t actually animated. The colors are completely vivid and pretty and the characters are made up in a way that doesn’t even seem possible for the time period that this movie was made. Madonna looks exquisite in this film. I remember watching this movie when I was younger and not really ever knowing exactly what was happening, but watching it now I still really like this movie. It has action and suspense and is made in such a whimsical way. I think that Warren Beatty is one of the only men in the world that could actually pull off wearing that classic yellow hat and jacket.

This film is well worth your time of you haven’t seen it. It has a little something for everyone and is a movie you should definitely see in your lifetime.

NEXT MOVIE: Die Hard (1988)