Tag: Al Pacino

MOVIE REVIEW | …And Justice for All (1979)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Al Pacino is so great in it, I blame this movie for his reliance on bluster and bravado ever since.”

Justice 1
“Being honest doesn’t have much to do with being a lawyer.”

Call off the search!  I found it!  I found the moment Al Pacino went from the fresh faced, quiet, intensity of roles like Michael Corleone on The Godfather, and morphed into the gravelly voiced yelling that’s defined his career for the last several decades.  I haven’t just found the movie when it happened, I’ve found the exact, specific moment.   The movie is …And Justice for All.  The exact, specific moment, happens in the climactic final scene, just a few minutes before the end credits roll.

Arthur Kirkland (Pacino) is the last honest lawyer who genuinely cares left in Baltimore.  He cares so much, when the movie opens, Kirkland is in jail, charged with contempt of court after taking a swing at a judge.  You see, Kirkland’s client Jeff (Thomas G Waites) was pulled over for a broken tail light, but after a case of mistaken identity, thrown in jail for murder.  Now, a year later, Jeff is still in jail, and Judge Henry T Fleming refused Krikland’s latest request for an appeal.  Hence the punches being thrown. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #2. The Godfather (1972)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Godfather 1
“Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.”

The Godfather might be the film most responsible for me becoming so obsessed with movies. Sure, there were plenty of flicks I was obsessed with before The Godfather, but they were all surface level obsessions. I liked the actors, or the jokes, or the story. The Godfather is the first time I can remember being aware that movies were just as much about what was going on behind the scenes and in the background. It was the first time I was aware that someone had to build this world, join these dots and make this film.

Francis Ford Coppola therefore became the first director I recognised by name. The first director whose involvement was just as enticing a reason to see a movie as the actors starring in it. The first director who I actively looked into their career and started tracking down their movies. I have no idea how I did that pre-internet, but I did. I remember my mum bought me The Godfather on VHS for my 13th birthday, despite it R rating. And it’s probably the first movie I ever got obsessed with, that still holds up as a legitimate masterpiece today. I’ll still watch The Goonies if it comes on telly, but I know my appreciation is pure nostalgia. The Godfather on the other hand, is simply amazing film making that I know will impress me for the rest of my life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #32. The Godfather Part II (1974)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Godfather II
“Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor.”

With The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola accomplished two pretty amazing things.   He turned an entertaining, but ultimately pretty trashy novel into a filmic masterpiece.  And fought a major movie studio all along the way that hated him, his casting choices and pretty much every artistic decision he made, and he came out the other end with an a multiple Oscar winning blockbuster.  But what’s even more impressive than all of that?  Making a sequel that many would argue is even better than the original.  I love them both too much to declare one better than the other, but I also have no problem with people who firmly believe that The Godfather Part II is the superior film.  That’s how amazing this movie is.

After settling all family business at the end of the first movie and fully succumbing to his darker side, the once idealistic Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has taken his already powerful crime family to new heights. Where they were once a strong New York organisation whose leader carried senators and judges in his pocket like so much loose change, Michael has taken the Corleones international, with gambling concerns in Las Vegas and the soon to be overthrown Cuba. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SHAKESPEARE WEEK*** The Merchant of Venice (2004)


“He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”

I don’t have a huge problem with old movies, books or stories in general being less than sensitive when it comes matters of race, gender and religion etc.  As wrong or as misguided as those attitudes can be, I still think it’s OK that they exist, as long as we acknowledge how wrong and misguided they were.  And hopefully even use them to keep moving in the right direction.  So while they’re existence doesn’t bother me, I am a little confused by the perpetuation of them.  Was Shakespeare an anti-Semite?  One look at The Merchant of Venice I’d have to assume yes.  And while I have no problem with the play still existing today, I have no idea why someone would want to make a lush, big budget movie version in the new millennium, that only seems to perpetuate Shakespeare’s terrible, terrible attitude.

Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) has a problem.  He’s got his heart set on Portia (Lynn Collins), but wooing her requires a crap load of money that he doesn’t have.  So he goes to his friend Antonio (Jeremy Irons) for help.  Antonio has a problem, he’s technically rich, but cash poor at the moment while his fleet of trade ships is all at sea, making his next fortune.  So Antonio gives his bond to local money lender, Shylock (Al Pacino).  Shylock has a problem, he’s Jewish, and in 16th century Venice, that basically means being a second class citizen.  It also means being abused and spat on regularly by the Christian Antonio. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Scent of a Woman (1992)


There was a time, in the 70s, when Al Pacino was the young, fresh faced, nasally voiced quiet guy.  Michael Corleone in The Godfather is only as imposing as the monster he becomes by the end because of that fresh faced performance in the preceding couple of hours.  But to anyone who’s only seen the last twenty, or even thirty years of Pacino’s career, he’d only be known as the guy who yells almost every line, with the odd piece of gravelly whispering here and there for texture. And while this current version of Pacino had existed for a little while, his real coming out party was Scent of a Woman.

Chris O’Donnell is Charlie Simms, a blue collar kid on a scholarship at a prestigious Boston school, surrounded by spoilt rich dudes. One of whom is George Willis Jr. played by a jarringly young, yet already middle aged looking in a lot of ways, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  The two witness some other students putting in place an elaborate prank targeting an asshole teacher, James Redbone as Mr Task.  Task later tries to bribe Charlie into snitching on the pranksters, by offering an assured admittance into Harvard. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FRIEDKIN WEEK*** Cruising (1980)

Cruising Quad
He’d impressed everyone with The French Connection and The Exorcist.  He’d done his best to throw his career away with Sorcerer.  By 1980, William Friedkin had to do something big, audacious, shocking and most of all, risky, if he was going to be relevant again.  His resume after this shows he never reached those early heights of The French Connection ever again, but he certainly delivered on being big, audacious, shocking and most of all, risky, with Cruising.  

It’s 1980 New York and there’s a serial killer on the loose killing gay dudes.  But because this is 1980, gay dudes aren’t the delightful dandies you get on something like Modern Family today.  They’re the kind who hang out in sleazy, underground clubs where everything has to be dirty, sweaty, leather clad and hidden from the rest of the world.  Because he fits the description of the victims, uniformed cop Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is sent into deep undercover with virtually no training or experience.  So deep undercover, the only person who knows is his boss, Paul Sorvino’s Capt. Edelson.

From here, it’s a pretty standard plot where the more involved in this strange, new world Steve becomes, the less black and white it and its people become.  The more grey areas appear that make him choose more and more between what’s right according to the rule book, and what’s right according to being a good person.

This movie seems to be a real turning point in Pacino’s career as well.  Not in a way that it indicates any rise or fall in quality, but a turning point in him physically.  It’s funny to see Pacino’s almost baby face, not that different to how he looked in The Godfather, but with the gravelly voice that has defined the last couple of decades of his career.

Cruising got a lot of negative attention for gay rights groups as it was being made and it’s easy to see why.  In fact, I assume things that seemed offensive then are monumentally more so now.  But here’s the thing, I also think Friedkin went to some pretty extreme lengths to depict this world accurately while never judging it.  The only problem is, the world he decided to depict seems like it’s built on every homophobic fear of the era.  Did every single gay fella in 1980 wear leather and have a moustache?

If you take away all the mardi gras float level clichés, Cruising is a way above average thriller.  Technically an 80s movie, it has 70s grime all over it and comes with that level of grit the 70s delivered so well.  In 2014, New York is the setting for movies about beautiful Brooklyn hipsters trying to figure their lives out, white collar moguls, and romantic tales where every apartment is enormous and every conversation takes part on bench in Central Park on a gorgeous day.

But in the 70s, the New York of the big screen was dangerous, it was dirty, it was populated by the world’s worst people and it was trying to devour every person who had the misfortune of being stuck there.  Seeing this version of New York in all of its hellish glory is by far the best thing about Cruising.

Directed By – William Friedkin
Written By – William Friedkin

MOVIE REVIEW | Carlito’s Way (1993)

A movie starring one of my favourite actors of the 70s.  A movie made by one of the most interesting directors of the 80s.  A movie with the kind of crime storyline that usually has my interest immediately.  This movie had a lot of reasons for me to have seen it long before now, but somehow, it had evaded me.  Maybe the bearded Pacino on the poster always made me assume it was Serpico.  Whatever the reasons, before watching it, I had no idea what to expect from Carlito’s Way.

Al Pacino is Carlito, and ex New York heroin kingpin who just got out of a 35 year jail sentence after only five years, thanks to his lawyer, Kleinfeld, an almost unrecognisable Sean Penn underneath an awesome jewfro.  Once free, Carltio swears he’s on the straight and narrow.  He just needs to make $75,000 so he can buy into a car rental business in Miami and leave the criminal world forever.  Which is good, because in movies, every time a con, or ex-con, decides to go on the straight and narrow after one last job, they always get to live happily ever after.

But like Pacino’s more famous criminal trying to go straight in The Godfather Part III, every time Carlito thinks he’s out, they drag him back in.  Buying into what should be a straight business and running a nightclub, he’s almost immediately surrounded by the people and the world he’s trying to avoid.  But the worst influences aren’t the criminals and street hoods from his past, the worst influence is the increasingly manic and coked up Kleinfeld.  But honor bound after his early release from prison, Carlito feels like he can never say no to any favour his lawyer asks, or sometimes begs.

The glass half full, happily ever after future of Carltio is represented by Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), a ballet dancer and his girlfriend until he cut her off while in the joint.  Now back on the street, they pick up where things left off and she becomes his major motivation for getting out of New York and into his boring, but legit life, in Miami.

Pacino copped a bit of flack for his over the top Cuban accent in Scarface and I wonder if that made him a little gun shy for Carlito’s Way.  Because while references are made quite often to the fact that he’s not playing an Italian-American in this movie, his accent slips into tough guy, mobster Italian quite often.

Carlito’s Way is no way one of the genre’s best, in no way one of Pacino’s best and in no way one of DePalma’s best.  But it is still a pretty cool and more than serviceable street crime action / drama.  The biggest and best surprise was Penn.  He doesn’t normally go in for genre fare like this, and he doesn’t often do these big, over the top characters.  So if for no other reason, it’s worth watching just to him to chew the scenery and act as big as he possibly can.

Carlito’s Way
Directed By – Brian DePalma
Written By – David Koepp

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FLOP WEEK*** Gigli (2003)

A central relationship built around two people with exactly zero chemistry…  An overly convoluted kidnapping plot involving a mentally challenged, Baywatch obsessed man-child…  Pointless cameos from Christopher Walken and Al Pacino perpetuating all the negative opinions we have about the modern work of these once-great (still can be great when they try) actors…  When watching Gigli, the question isn’t “What went wrong?”, it’s “How did any these ingredients result in a movie being made at all?”

Why did writer / director Martin Brest bother finishing the screenplay?  Surely by the time he wrote “mentally challenged man, obsessed with Baywatch” in his outline, he knew he was on a stinker.  Why did the studio think a combined $25million for Affleck and Lopez was a good investment when the script was so terrible?  Even after all that, once it was made, why did anyone involved think it was worth ruining their reputations for the foreseeable future by letting it be released.  Oh yes, Gigli lives down to every negative thing you’ve ever heard about it.

Affleck is Larry, a low level mob enforcer who’s instructed to kidnap the brother of a District Attorney or something.  I can’t be sure of the specifics, because I did find myself distracted and zoning out for long stretches.  The kidnapee is played Justin Bartha, he’s the “other guy” from The Hangover movies.  You know, the one who disappears before the fun adventures begin.  Here he goes, as Robert Downey Jr would say in Tropic Thunder, full retard.  I don’t know if that statement is offensive, but I do know his performance is.  J-Lo shows up as Ricki, another mob enforcer sent by Affleck’s boss to keep an eye on the kidnapping.  Also, she’s a lesbian.  Apparently, in Martin Brest’s world, that’s enough to make her a fully formed character.

Brest tries to give all his characters personality through monologues.  Long, rambling, excruciating monologues.  I think he might have been attempting a mix Tarantino “cool” and Kevin Smith “sexual frankness”, but they all just come off as indulgent wanks.  Affleck, Lopez and Pacino all deliver them adequately, but when working with such hacky dialogue, the best performance in the world is still like putting lipstick on a pig.

On the one hand, I can understand how Gigli put Affleck in movie limbo for a few years.  He does play the leading role in a truly terrible movie.  But on the other hand, he also manages to make some of Brests’ terribleness not quite so terrible.  There are a couple of genuinely funny moments where the humour consists of 1% joke, 99% Affleck working his ass off to make it at lease grin worthy.  Seeing him turn this massive lemon into a few drops of lemonade, it seems inevitable that he became a directing and acting A-lister when the stank of Gigli finally wore off a few years later.

I generally don’t enjoy watching movies that are so bad, they’re good, but I get it when other people do.  Gigli doesn’t even have that going for it.  It’s a mess, but not even an entertaining mess that falls apart under too much ambition.  It aims low and somehow hits even lower.  One thing worse than a bad movie, is a boring, bad movie.  Even worse than a boring, bad movie, is Gigli.

Budget $75.6million / U.S Box Office $7.2million

Razzies Won:
Worst Picture
Worst Actor – Ben Affleck
Worst Screen Couple – Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez
Worst Director – Martin Brest
Worst Screenplay – Martin Brest

Directed By – Martin Brest
Written By – Martin Brest

Instead of Gigli, watch proof that Martin Brest can make a really funny crime adventure, with Midnight Run