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 Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet), a London-based journalist, has just had her heart destroyed by her colleague Jasper, who she has longed after for many years, but he’s just got engaged to someone else. Meanwhile Amanda (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a hugely successful L.A. movie trailer company, has just discovered her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) is cheating on her. Both women decide they need to get away from everything for a few weeks, so opt for a house swap, trading homes for a fortnight over the Christmas period. But when they had originally hoped to get away from love, they each end up finding it in the most unexpected of places.
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The Magnificent Seven

A small farming community is being terrorised by a band of thieves and murderers, led by the charismatic but ruthless Calvera (Eli Wallach, previously only known to my girlfriend as the elderly neighbour in The Holiday). He and his gang steal almost everything worth taking from the villagers, leaving them just enough to carry on farming for another year, at which point Calvera will return and repeat the process over again. Sick of this injustice, three villagers head to the nearest saloon and recruit someone to either train or protect them, finding Yul Brynner’s Chris as the perfect fit for the role after he volunteers for something that could get him killed, and offers no reward – a situation very similar to that of defending the village. Chris then goes about assembling a team – you can probably guess how many – of similarly minded men based on Chris’ previous dealings with them or their reputations. 

The line-up has since become a member of the great pantheon of Pub Quiz Questions – I can never remember Brad Dexter or Horst Buchholz, but I’ve won a DVD by naming James Coburn before. The remaining members are Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and, of course, Steve McQueen, who all have various reasons for signing up, be it running from the law, spotting a money-making opportunity or just plain boredom.

This is one of those films that I remembered through a rose-tinted haze as being a far greater film than it turned out to be. It’s not a bad film, not at all, it’s just not the stone-cold classic I had remembered. My main problem was in the amount of time it took for the Seven to assemble, and the attempts to shed doubt on whether certain members will join or not. It’s clear from the very title of the film that there will be a group of seven defending the village, but the group isn’t together until about halfway through the film! Also, I felt that for the most part enough screentime was given to each of the seven, except for Buchholz’s Chico being given far too much time as the young rookie looking to prove himself, and Coburn’s stoic knife-throwing Britt barely getting a look in after receiving the best introduction of the guys. I’m especially sore about Coburn because he’s my favourite character (and accent) in The Great Escape (coming soon), and he voiced Waternoose in Monsters, Inc. Most of the seven are given some kind of arc of character trait, but Britt’s appears to be just falling asleep under any available tree, and being completely unable to hide behind cover whilst shooting.

Based on The Seven Samurai, I had hoped to watch Akira Kurosawa’s classic epic before seeing The Magnificent Seven again, but alas my Steve McQueen adventures and requests from my weekly movie night made this impossible, but hopefully I’ll get to it soon. What I hadn’t realised is that this film was also remade (not as Battle Beyond The Stars, I haven’t seen that yet), but as A Bug’s Life. Granted, the plots aren’t identical, but there are some startling similarities. I’m not entirely sure how happy Charles Bronson would be to know he’d been recast as a ladybird.

There are some gloriously over the top death sequences, and the finale is a great shoot out, though it doesn’t compare to some other classic ones. It’s a very enjoyable film, but alas it’s not the one I remembered. Still the best Steve McQueen film I’ve seen so far on this journey.

Choose film 7/10

The Dollars Trilogy

Widely regarded as the first spaghetti western (actually 1959s Il Terrore dell’Olkahoma), Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars is at least the first important one, birthing the greatest western icon since John Wayne in Clint Eastwood’s drifter, immortalised by a hat, beard, poncho and a squint. Before Leone, Eastwood was known best for his TV western Rawhide (the theme tune of which is sung at the country and western bar in the Blues Brothers) , but this shot him into not just the Hollywood A-List, but into the pantheon of American icons as the nameless cowboy out to make a profit from a small town heading into ruin. Run by two warring families, the Baxters and the Rojos, Eastwood sees a unique opportunity (unique that is unless you’ve seen Yojimbo, from which this borrows heavily) and sets about pitting the two families against one another. Leone’s direction, only cutting a shot when he has to, combined with Ennio Morricone’s whistling score and the spectacular cinematography of a barren, bleached landscape under a harsh, unforgiving sun makes for a spectacular western steeped in both American characters and European style.
Inconceivably, Fistful’s lesser yet still unmissable semi-sequel For A Few Dollars More didn’t make it onto the list, but I watched it again anyway. This time, Eastwood’s identically attired yet still nameless drifter finds that it may be beneficial to team up with Lee Van Cleef’s rival bounty hunter to catch their latest target. Look out for Klaus Kinski as a hunchbacked member of the gang they’re chasing.
The closer to this trilogy is widely regarded as one of the best films in the world, and currently holds the number 4 spot of IMDb’s top 250. From the opening score, undoubtedly one of the greatest in cinematic history that would be my ringtone were it not Reservoir Dogs’ Little Green Bag, you can tell you’re in for something special. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly follows, as the title suggests, three men, whose lives converge around a loot of gold buried in a grave. Eastwood’s Blondie is debatably the ‘Good’, a bounty hunter returning criminals for reward, then shooting the noose when they’re hanged so he can collect it again in the next town. Eli Wallach’s Tuco is the ‘Bad’, one such vagrant Blondie hands in, and Lee Van Cleef is given short shrift as the ‘Ugly’, as hired killer Angel Eyes, who always goes through with a job he’s been paid for. Unlike the previous two films, this is not the Clint Eastwood show, and if anything Wallach, the most interesting and entertaining character, is given the most screen time as the three set out to torture, beat and murder the others for a shot at the gold. Although the plot gets lost a little in the middle, when the US Civil War takes over, but by the three-way standoff at the end any flaws are forgiven. It’s the kind of scene that just doesn’t work on paper (shot of eyes, then a gun, then feet, eyes again, repeat for 5 minutes) but is unequalled on screen, and the ending is perfect.
A Fistful of Dollars: Choose film 8/10
For a Few Dollars More: Choose film 7/10
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Choose film 9/10