The Godfather Part III

Oh boy. Twenty years after the events of The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone is still the head of his family, and is being awarded a religious title after gifting the church $100 million Mob enforcer Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) is making problems for the Corleone family, Michael’s illegitimate nephew Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) looks to be more involved with the family business, Michael’s daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) takes a romantic interest in Vincent, and Michael’s son Anthony (Franc D’Ambrosio) plucks up the courage – with the help of his mother Kay (Diane Keaton), who divorced Michael many years ago – to tell his father that he plans to drop out of law school and become a singer instead.
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The Godfather Part II

In 1900’s Corleone, Sicily, a young Vito Andolini is left the only surviving member of his family after his father, brother and mother are all killed by the local mafia head, Don Ciccio. Vito flees to New York and adopts the new surname Corleone, and eventually finds that perhaps the best way of life for him is similar to the one that led to his family’s demise. Inter-cut with this story and following on from the events of The Godfather, a now in-charge Michael (Al Pacino), Vito’s youngest son, struggles to maintain his power with threats on many sides, including possibly one from within the family.
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The Godfather

Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is the head, or Godfather, of his family and crime syndicate in 1940s New York. He receives a request to move into narcotics by up-and-comer Sollozzo (Al Lettieri), but when Vito declines, the Tattaglia family, with whom Sollozzo is in business, attempt to kill Vito and break the Corleone family apart. With Vito in hospital, it is up to his children – headstrong firebrand Sonny (James Caan), simple Fredo (John Cazale), newly married Connie (Talia Shire), war veteran Michael (Al Pacino) and adopted Tom (Robert Duvall) to resolve matters.
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Dog Day Afternoon

Based on a true story, Sidney Lumet’s tale of two inept criminals (Al Pacino and John Cazale reuniting after the Godfather 1 & 2) whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank descends into chaos once the police, the media and the general public get wind of their plans. Pacino gives arguably one of his best performances – without resorting to ‘shouty Al’ – as he struggles to handle a situation completely out of his control, that is only ever going to become more so, and it’s refreshing to see a heist film with a couple of average Joes doing the robbing, as unlike Ocean’s Eleven or Inside Man, these guys have no plan, no masks, hell they even use their real names. Lumet excels when restricted to small locations (see 12 Angry Men), and here is no different, with almost the entire film taking place in and around the bank, as Pacino’s Sonny becomes a hit with the crowds gathering around the crime scene. Heading straight into the plot – Lumet rarely bothers with much initial back story – the direction is tight and entirely to the point, as every scene helps to progress the story further, or reveals a character detail previously unknown. There are some nice comedic touches – a bank teller hostage receives a call from her husband, asking what time she thinks she will be finished there, and when Sonny asks Cazale’s borderline psychotic Sal what country he wants to flee to, Sal replies “Wyoming,” and look out for Lance Henrikssen as FBI agent Murphy in one of his first film roles.

Choose film 8/10

Heat

Most crime films tend to pick a side early on, focusing on a ‘means to an end’ band of criminals thieving because they have to, or a team of patriotic, all-American supercops able to match their never-ending machine gun clips with a limitless supply of one liners, but Michael Mann’s Heat, a remake of his own 1989 made for TV movie L.A. Takedown, takes a different path, giving Robert De Niro’s gang of seasoned thieved and Al Pacino’s police squad equal screen time, equal motivation and similar levels of compassion, so you get to decide who you want to win. Though the two main characters; De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley and Pacino’s dogged detective Vincent Hanna are sworn enemies, they are still two sides of the same coin, separated by their own opinions of the law, but brought together by a deep mutual respect. Neither one is the villain of the film, there are more than enough scumbags among the supporting player to take that role, yet neither is necessarily the hero, although in the end it’s Pacino who grabs the most heroic moments.
Surrounded by an incredible ensemble cast (deep breath: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Xander Berkeley, Hank Azaria, Jon Voight, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Ted Levine, Ashley Judd), some perfectly choreographed set pieces (the opening truck heist and mid film bank robbery/street shootout) and ability to show the effect their chosen lifestyles has had on these characters and their personal lives, or lack thereof, this is a tremendous film, even if it does give in to the occasional cliché, but these can be forgiven for the fact that they use weapons that actually, from time to time, need reloading.
Choose film 9/10

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross has an excellent ensemble cast that cannot be ignored, featuring Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce and the great Jack Lemmon, all sharing the screen and delivering award-worthy performances. In particular, I was very impressed by the mesmerising cameo from Baldwin as corporate ball-breaker Blake, brought in to motivate the employees of the real estate firm (or make them feel about 2 inches tall, whatever works) and Kevin Spacey’s weasel-like manager Williamson, knowing he has no right to his job and sticking firmly to the rules and regulations to make sure he keeps it. I was reminded of 12 Angry Men whilst watching, with the confined locations, all-male cast and stage origins of the story, as well as the heightening tensions, hot and wet climates and outbursts of anger from its central cast. Harris and Arkin, as the angry Moss and deflated Aaronow respectively, seemed a little one-note, but their characters were still vital to the story, and each had their highlights.
Choose film 8/10