Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Godfather Part III

Welcome to the third and final week of my Godfather trilogy reviews.  The Godfather Part III, is generally considered the weakest of the three films due to a poor storyline and sub par acting from some of the supporting cast.  However I feel that when looking at the film by itself, it presents a solid conclusion to the story we’ve become enthralled with in the first two installments.  It shows us how money, power, and greed can determine how/where people end up in the world.

Taking place 21 years after the conclusion of the second film, Michael Corleone (still played by Al Pacino) is all but retired from the family business and the once powerful Corleone family is a shell of its former self.  Michael, still wealthy from some gambling profits, is trying to make the family legitimate and starts a foundation with his money; it is led by his daughter Mary Corleone, who is played by director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter Sofia.  Michael’s son Anthony has decided to quit law school and not go into the family business, instead pursuing a career as an opera singer.  This initially angers Michael, but eventually he comes around much to the happiness of his ex-wife Kaye.  While this is going on, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) appears on the scene.  Viewers come to find out that his is Sonny’s illegitimate child, making him Michael’s nephew.  With all these events, we see a regeneration of the problems and questions which permeated the first two films: loyalty, right vs. wrong, and now a new question of forgiveness. How will this journey end for the Corleone family?

Let me start off by saying this film gets a lot of unnecessary flack. Yes, it is not as good when compared to the first two, but it’s not a terrible film. It is able to do what it was meant to do: provide this trilogy and the story of these people’s lives with some sort of conclusion. The first two films gave us insight into the Corleone past, but this story filled in the blanks and gave us an idea of how some of our favorite characters end their journey. I think that was important especially after how much I loved the first two films; I wanted to see how Michael ended his journey, and how the decisions he made in his life affected him in the end.

Once again Francis Ford Coppola was able to direct a really good film, where the whole film built upon itself to reach the conclusion.  Every scene matters, and when you get to the conclusion you are truly stunned by what happens, although it fits in perfectly with the rest of the film.  Once again, Al Pacino plays Michael, this time as a man who has reflected on his life. Pacino gives a solid performance, but the best performance of the film has to be Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini.  Mancini has a lot of the same traits as Michael from the second film such as being ambitious and willing to do what it takes, but Andy Garcia played him in a way that was more solid and you truly believe his motives.  He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and definitely lived up to his nomination.  When he is on-screen, you’re drawn to him and his character and you want to see where he ends up.  On the other hand, a performance that gets a lot of flack and is sometimes said to be one of the worst performances in cinematic history is Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone.  I didn’t think she was terrible, but it’s clear that she was uncomfortable being on-screen.  I don’t know if she didn’t want the part, but she had said she never wanted to be an actress.  Her awkwardness on-screen worked in some scenes, especially given her character was a 21-year-old girl who loves her father despite all he’s done.  Was the worst performance in cinematic history?  No, I have seen a lot worse in other films.

All in all, The Godfather Part III was a perfect conclusion to the series.  In comparison to the first two it’s nowhere as good, but when you look at the film on its own it’s a good film with relatable characters and a story that has a satisfying ending.  As always, I leave you with a question: do you think the decisions we make today impact our relationships with people down the road?

Until next time, Happy viewing.

4 out of 5 stars

Adam’s Film Friday (Really Monday) – A Review of The Godfather Part II

Welcome back to another Film Friday!  This week will be a continuation of my three-week series of reviewing all of the films in The Godfather trilogy.  This week is The Godfather Part II.  Many film critics and film fans say The Godfather Part II is an even better film than the first, and knowing how much I liked the first one, I was eager to continue on my journey and learn more about the Corleone family.  Part II is told through two different stories: one that takes place two years after the end of the first film, and one that tells the back-story of Vito Corleone and how he became the Don.  Once again the filmmakers and cast take you on a journey of family, loyalty, and deciding between what is right and wrong.

As previously stated, The Godfather Part II is told as two distinct stories. The first story begins in 1901 in Sicily, depicting how Vito Corleone (played this time by Robert DeNiro) came to power.   Vito’s father and brother are being ordered to be killed by the local mafia. When his mother goes to confront the mafia, she is shot.  Vito is sent to America for his own protection.  From there, he begins to gain more power in his neighborhood and eventually vows to go back to Sicily to seek revenge on the people who killed his family.  Intertwined throughout this story is the story of Michael Corleone, who is now settling into the role as the new Don of the Corleone family.  He realizes the truth about the family business, and knows that his involvement as the leader of the clan is tearing up his own family.  Most of all, it is destroying his relationships with the people closest to him, mainly his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), who has never truly agreed with his decision to take over the family business.

Once again, Francis Ford Coppola , who won the Oscar for Best Director, was able to create a masterpiece.  The way he effortlessly intertwined the two very different stories was incredible.  The story of Vito Corleone made me appreciate the greatness of the first film because you learned more about the motives of his character.  I now understood that he had gotten to such a point at the end of his life and career that made him act the way that he did in the first film.  It was interesting, because many times you don’t get to see characters’ lives before the film starts.  Learning the story in this film helped me to appreciate the Don’s character more, and understand why he was the way he was.

Robert DeNiro was pure genius as the young Vito Corleone.  His performance is the thing that legendary performances are made of.  He took this character that Marlon Brando had played so memorably and really made it his own.  Granted he played him at a different point of his life, but he still retained some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns that Brando did without it seeming like he was copying him.  It’s no wonder he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Two other performances that were really strong, especially in the scenes when they were together, were Al Pacino and Diane Keaton.  They really advanced their character’s stories from the first film, and I wondered how these two people who were so in love in the first film got to this point.  You’re basically seeing their marriage unfold on the screen.  The scene where Kay tells the truth about her miscarriage with Michael’s baby was definitely the dramatic highlight of the film.  That scene was so poignant and powerful that I watched it twice!

All and all, the hype about this being better than the first Godfather film is definitely true.  Once again, solid performances from the cast, beautiful direction by Francis Ford Coppola, and the way the story was told through the two separate plot lines made this film an amazing follow-up to the first.  As always I will end my review with a question: based on his actions in the film would you consider Michael Corleone a villain, a hero, or a victim of his circumstances?

Until next time, happy viewing!

7 out of 5 stars

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Paramount Pictures
R, 200 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Godfather

Hello all and welcome back to another film Friday.  For the next three weeks, I am going to be reviewing the Godfather trilogy, which in my opinion is the greatest trilogy in film history.  Winner of three Academy awards: Best Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay, this tale of family, mafia, and loyalty is considered to be a classic of the late 20th century.  I am ashamed to say as your esteemed film reviewer that I hadn’t seen any of the Godfathers until a month ago.  However now that I have, I had to review them!

The Godfather begins at the wedding of the Don Vito Corleone’s daughter.  Don Vito (Marlon Brando) is required to take requests from the wedding guests since it the Don’s daughter’s wedding.  Also at the wedding we meet his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), who is just home from fighting in World War II and is reluctant to take part in the family business; Sonny (James Caan), his eldest son who is a bit of loose cannon; Fredo (John Cazale), his middle son who is generally considered to be the weakest; and last but not least his adopted son and business lawyer Tom Hagan (Robert Duvall).  After a failed assassination attempt on Don Vito, questions of loyalty and power are thrust onto this family, and an unlikely candidate stands to hold the future generation of the family business.

Like I had previously stated, I am quite ashamed that it has taken almost 25 and a half years for me to see the Godfather films. However, I will say that it was definitely worth the wait.  Part one was a perfect introduction to the series and an all-around amazing film.  From the story, which is based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same title, to the acting and music, everything in this film screamed masterpiece.  The acting was superbly top-notch.  Not many films cast every role perfectly, but this film somehow did it.  Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, who is the glue that holds this family together, was unbelievable.  He is one of, if not THE greatest actor of the 20th century.  Every character he played he became, and this role was no different.  Two other standouts, were Al Pacino in his breakout role as Michael and James Caan as the hot-headed brother Sonny.  It was really interesting to see these two actors play brothers, seeing how different their characters were and how they portrayed the differences between themselves.  Al Pacino’s performance was much more quiet and reserved, which really worked for the character, as Michael is the cautious brother, the quiet thinker of the family who is also very apprehensive about being a part of the family business. On the other hand, Sonny acts off of his emotions making James Caan’s performance a lot flashier and louder.  How neither of them won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is beyond me.

Francis Ford Coppola is a genius behind the camera.  He has a way of making even the smallest shot count in really making the film.  Whether it was a pinnacle moment of the film or just a scene which showed people walking or eating, Coppola really made that scene feel important.  Every scene in the film counts and the finale is really a culmination of the entire piece.  Sometimes in films, little things happen and the director throws them to the side and kind of forgets that they happen.  The finale of this film really showed the progression of the characters and the story, and set up Part II outstandingly.  You really understand each character’s motives and how they got to the point in which they did.

All and all, The Godfather is one of the very few films that actually deserves the title of masterpiece.  The acting, director, screenwriting, score, and everything else about this film is perfect.  Like always, I will end my review with a question, and this one is based on a decision Michael has to make in the film.  Do you think it’s more important to stay loyal to the family, despite their wrongdoings, or do you think it’s more important to be good and lead the straight life? Until next time, happy viewing!

5 out of 5 stars