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Al Pacino

Insomnia (2002)

insomniaDIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Maura Tierney, Jonathan Jackson

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL ASPECTS OF THE PLOT

In hindsight, after such impressive entries on Christopher Nolan’s filmography as The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Inceptionand InterstellarInsomnia feels low-key and even slight, lacking the grandiose ambition the British director would later become known for.  Ranked alongside his later efforts (Insomnia was only his third film after little-seen indie Following and the critically acclaimed mind-bender Memento), it’s one of his least memorable films, but a “lesser” Christopher Nolan film is still a taut and intriguing murder mystery/psychological thriller worth viewing. Continue reading

Heat (1995)

DIRECTOR: Michael Mann

CAST: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Jon Voight, Mykelti Williamson, Dennis Haysbert, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, William Fichtner, Danny Trejo, Kevin Gage, Natalie Portman

REVIEW:

Heat is writer-director Michael Mann’s (Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans) magnum opus ode to the crime thriller genre, what could have been a generic tale of cops and robbers elevated to crime epic by a level of depth and nuance one doesn’t often find in the genre, assured direction, and a smart screenplay that has something to say beyond hard-boiled crimebusters cliches.  This is just as masterful filmmaking as Mann’s 1992 adventure The Last of the Mohicans, and in a completely different genre and setting.   Continue reading

Carlito’s Way (1993)

DIRECTOR: Brian De Palma

CAST: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Viggo Mortensen, Adrian Pasdar, Rick Aviles, John Ortiz

REVIEW:

Carlito’s Way, an adaptation of the same-named novel and its sequel After Hours (combining material from both) is director Brian De Palma returning to the gangster trough he previously explored with Scarface and The Untouchables (reuniting with Al Pacino from the former). To that end, Carlito’s Way lacks the depth and epic scope of The Godfather, but is less cartoonish than Scarface, and provides a colorful and engaging two and a half hours for fans of the genre.

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The Godfather Part III (1990)

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

CAST: Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Sofia Coppola, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton

REVIEW:

The Godfather Part III is an example of the difficulties inherent in releasing a sequel to an acclaimed film series after so much time has elapsed. The 1972 original and its 1974 follow-up are rightfully regarded as one of the greatest one-two punches in cinematic history, with Part III considered a bit of a tired-out afterthought; indicative of the general lack of enthusiasm, it was the first Godfather movie not to win Best Picture, and the first for which Al Pacino did not receive an Oscar nomination. The Godfather Part III is not as bad of a movie as it’s often derided as; in fact, it’s a good one, with some tremendous moments, but it’s not a great one, and for the Godfather franchise, that’s just not quite good enough.

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The Godfather Part II (1974)

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

CAST: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg

REVIEW:

A companion piece in the true sense of the word and regarded as arguably the best sequel ever made, The Godfather Part II (which was greenlit before the first movie was even released) only further deepens and enrichens the characters and themes from its predecessor while Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo weave an even more ambitious web. Like The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are less a film series than one combined continuous story rightfully taken as a whole.

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The Godfather (1972)

DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola

CAST: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale

REVIEW:

Has any other motion picture defined a genre the way The Godfather did for the gangster film? Since its release in 1972 (receiving ten Oscar nominations and winning Best Picture), it has represented the gold standard to which all other mob movies are held. Yet The Godfather, adapted by Francis Ford Coppola from the novel by Mario Puzo (who also wrote the screenplay), is no mere gangland shoot-em-up (in fact, violence comes in short, jarring bursts, few and far between). What really grants the film its distinction is the core themes of family, an underlying character arc that ultimately resembles a Shakespearean tragedy, the careful technical accomplishment of the entire production, and the richness of Puzo’s script carefully weaving myriad subplots into a cohesive whole. Non-fans of the gangster movie genre might not be enthralled, and the nearly three hour runtime and slow burn pace represents a sizable commitment of time and attention, but for mob movie aficionados, this is as good as it gets, and skillful cinematic craftsmanship by any objective standard.

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