Retrospective Review: The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando and Al Pacino

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In a new series of articles we’ll be looking back over movies of the past and offering our thoughts in retrospect. And why not start off with a masterpiece?

Let’s not beat around the bush here, not just The Godfather, but the entire trilogy is a work of art when it comes to film making. I’m in the very small minority when it comes to my ordering of the series, in that I believe that the third is better than number two and that the original is the best. But that does not take away my belief that the series as a whole is one of the best trilogy’s ever made.

I had the pleasure of first watching The Godfather when I was about 12 years old with my mum, and I can distinctly remember completely forgetting that the people I was watching on screen weren’t real. That’s a serious testament to not just the performances of every single actor on screen, but also to Francis Ford Coppola’s fantastic directing. The narrative is beautifully woven to create an “epic” feel to the movie, as though we are watching a real family dynasty unfold before our eyes. Something that would not be possible without the highest quality directing, acting, composing and writing. As such it would be unfair to single any one aspect of this film and label it as the most important cog in well designed machine.

This was Al Pacino’s breakout role and my God what a film to be known for. His performance in this film is near perfect, his story arc is both believable but without sacrificing the edge of your seat nature that is so often captured perfectly by well fleshed out characters that you feel invested in. And for me it is that point which takes The Godfather beyond being a great film to a near perfect one. Every character is well thought out, they could very well be real people (As younger me believed) and you invest in their flaws and stories. Beyond that though, like only the best performances can, Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Vito Corleone has managed become film legend. If you haven’t imitated the line “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” then have you really been paying attention?

For a movie released in 1972 to still hold up to today’s standard of film making is a real achievement that shouldn’t be understated. You will still to this day struggle to find a more compelling tale of family, loss and struggle. Sure, some blood effects could be better by today’s standards, but as time moves on that’s something that has to be accepted as inevitable in an industry such as this.

I can’t say enough positive things about this movie. If you’re a film fan, then you need to see this film. If you’re studying film at University, then you need to see this film. If you have even a passing interest in Italian/American mafia, then you need to see this film.

Final Score:

10/10 Porgs.

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Review: Pitch Perfect 3

Director: Trish Sie
Writers: Kay Cannon and Mike White
Starring: Anna Kendrick et al.

Aca-believe it. Firstly I want to pre-face this review by saying that I was a big fan of the original Pitch Perfect. It was refreshing, the music was different to anything else on the big screen at the time, the story was fun and engaging and the characters worked. The second film was less than enticing, it wasn’t awful by any means but it certainly didn’t hit the heights of the original. Now we have the third and final instalment in the franchise, and everything about it stinks.

In short, this movie didn’t need to be made and it is very evident in the way that it comes across on screen. The plot is almost non-existent, with twists and turns being thrown in there for the sake of being able to say that there was actually a story and payoff that’s so underwhelming that you leave the cinema questioning what the point of seeing the film really was.

I would have been willing to forgive an awful plot to some extent if the music hit the same levels it had been in the first film. But astoundingly there are barely any songs from the A Capella group we’ve been following for 6 years now. There is the seemingly contractual “riff-off” and feel-good final song, but apart from that any songs performed by the Bellas are either rushed into a montage or are cut spliced with of other scenes, most notably Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) taking down a yacht of arms dealers ala Liam Neeson in Taken (Yes I’m serious). It feels as though the series lost its identity after the first film and even more so in this third entry, which is likely in part down to the varying directors who have taken the helm. Which is a real shame, as the first film had an innocence and like ability that was lost along the way.

The one shining light in this film, and something which has been a positive in each of the three films, is the chemistry shared between our heroes. Each member of the Bella’s feels like a fully fleshed out character by this point and they genuinely feel like friends, which is no doubt a fortunate consequence of being three films deep into the series. Even the hardly acknowledged characters of Ashley (Shelley Regner) and Jessica (Kelley Jakle) no have their own identities.

All in all this was an incredibly promising franchise going out on a whimper. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Becca (Anna Kendrick) get her own spring-off, but without the character work of the Bella’s themselves I doubt whether there is any juice left in that idea.

Final score:

3/10 Porgs.

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Review: The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey
Writers: Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams

Yesterday we kicked off our film viewings for 2018 and quite frankly we consider the bar to have been set quite high. The Greatest Showman isn’t receiving particularly impressive reviews from critics, and it’s not the first time that I find myself in complete disagreement with the “professionals”.

The story of The Greatest Showman is at its core somewhat of a cliche, despite the narrative threads around it being a unique telling of P.T Barnum’s (Hugh Jackman) of what we would consider modern day show business and the invention of the Circus. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Michael Gracey takes what many films would consider too cliche and portrays them, whether it be through music or otherwise, in new and exciting ways.

The film itself has been in development since 2009, with Hugh Jackman portraying it as his passion project, having been on board since the beginning. The fact shows in the movie as the Australian juggernaut absolutely thrives in his role and you can almost witness his enthusiasm seeping into his cast members in various scenes throughout the film. Speaking of which, there isn’t a single member of the cast who put in so much as a reserved performance. I would argue that everyone in the film is either strong in this film or great. This is no more evident than in the gorgeously choreographed music sequences of the film, where even the most unimportant characters can shine if you spend long enough watching them. Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle) is a perfect example of this, as she is inherently a secondary character and yet her performances during musical numbers (And performance in general) is almost show stealing.

The characters themselves are, for the most part, well thought out and substantial. The film does a good job of making you care about these characters and whilst there are some characters who could have done with more backstory and motivations, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) and sadly the acts in Barnham’s circus being examples of those who lack in any meaningful backstory.

With that being said, even the most minor character has a role to play in this film and with a dash more meat to some of them it could have pushed the film towards even greater heights than I’m already prepared to say it has reached.

Finally, the main thing you will come away from the movie talking about isn’t the movie, or the characters, it’s the music. Whilst this will not come as a surprise to many of you, the music in this film was outstanding. Songs such as The Greatest Show, This is Me and Rewrite the stars will be stuck in your head for days and they’re certainly worthy of being placed among some of the other great musical numbers. I would be shocked if none of the above receive Oscar nods come February.

Final Score:

8/10 Porgs.

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Fences Review

Being a huge Graham Norton fan I watch his show every single week, I saw Denzel Washington talking about his latest and greatest film with Viola Davies. Having the two in a film together? A match made in movie heaven.

Fences has been performed on the stage since 1987 and became a hit. Denzel Washington, who starred in 2010 revival took the play and took it to the screen. The cast includes four other actors that joined him on stage in 2010.

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) works hard for his family to provide them with food on the table and clothes on their back. Like many men he had a dream, he yearned to be a professional baseball player but was denied too old. His bitterness and resentment is taken out on his youngest son Cory (Jovan Adepo). The emotional damaged Troy refuses to come to terms with his loss. The movie deals with various issues from the 1950s, but most importantly the family unit making the story a truly gripping tale.

Quite deservingly the film was nominated for four academy awards including best actor and actress for Davies and Washington. A.O Scott of The New York Times describes Washington’s performance as ‘if you closed your eyes and just listened to “Fences” you would hear a verbal performance of unmatched force and nuance.’ Even the monologues from Washington make you hang on every word he says in the film. I was completely gripped from start to finish by his performance and I would recommend this film to anyone.

As said by Washington while on The Graham Norton Show, while performing the play on Broadway members of the audience would almost feel apart of the narrative and get up and express their emotions while the show was still happening. Including when Troy first brings his baby home, Washington said a woman in the audience got up and said ‘oh Denzel…’ While sitting in the cinema I understood what he was talking about, the audience’s reaction while in the theatre was extraordinary. The cries, the laughter, and the judgemental noises made were nothing like I have ever heard before while watching a film. The emotion may be overwhelming at times, but this may be one of the best films of the year due to the actor’s performances alone.