Tag: Francis Ford Coppola

MOVIE REVIEW | Patton (1970)

Patton 1
“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

Before he was regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time, Francis Ford Coppola was already an Oscar winner. And the fact that he wrote a screenplay for Patton, won an Oscar for it, and that is well down the list of reasons people remember this movie, is a testament to just how may reasons there are to watch Patton.

It‘s 1943 and the Americans have officially entered the Second World War. After their first salvo into the fray is a massive defeat in Africa, General George S Patton (George C Scott) is given command and tasked with whipping them into shape. He does this through a strict regime of zero tolerance when it comes to soldiers acting like soldiers, and soon the American have their first major victory over the Germans. With old friend and fellow General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) by his side, Patton leads his units through Africa and is a major force behind an important win in Sicily. (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 | Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

Finian 1
“My family’s been having nothing but trouble with immigrants ever since they come to this country!”

When I did a week of reviews dedicated to great film maker’s debuts, I knew Francis Ford Coppola was going to be one of them.  It would be a tossup between Coppola and Martin Scorsese as the first director I could recognise by name in my early movie nerd days as a teenager.  I tracked down a copy of his debut, The Rain People, and felt like I’d finally crossed a long overdue movie off my to-watch list.  Only, it turns out, The Rain People wasn’t Coppola’s debut.  It’s not even his second movie.  Sure, a quick google or search on IMDB would have shown me that, but I’m gonna clutch at straws here so I can justify The Rain People being his first, and me not being wrong.

Technically in the one and two spots on Coppola’s filmography as a director are Battle Beyond the Sun and The Bellboy and the Playgirls.  But he share’s directing credit on these, and both look like foreign made movies, repurposed by some cheap grindhouse studio for the American market.  There’s something called You’re a Big Boy Now that looks like an actual movie, so I guess all I can do is pretend it doesn’t exist.  Then, there’s one more movie standing in between me being wrong and The Rain People being Coppola’s first movie, but this one is easy to dismiss.  Because it is so batshit insane, that even though I just watched it, I’m not sure I believe it exists.  Finian’s Rainbow is too nutty to be real, right? (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #30. Apocalypse Now (1979)

“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.
“I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.”

The top three examples of ego run rampant that ended the director lead era of 70s Hollywood are Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.  Way over time and way over budget, Cimino basically brought down an entire movie studio and ruined his own career.  Way over time and way over budget, Friedkin used every bit of goodwill he’d built with The French Connection and The ExorcistAnd while he’s made more than a few well received movies in the decades since, he never really reached the A-list again.  Way over time and way over budget, Coppola made one of the most deservedly iconic movies of all time.

It’s the Vietnam War and Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard is a black ops soldier, with several clandestine assassinations to his name.  Which makes him just the man to be covertly sent to Cambodia, where rogue US. Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) has built his own cult like army, and taken to fighting his own war by his own rules. (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 | Twixt (2011)


“Of all the melancholy topics, what, according the universal understanding of mankind, is the most tragic?”

I’m liking Frances Ford Coppola’s late career renaissance as an indie film maker.  Before 2007’s Youth Without Youth, he hadn’t made a movie in a decade.  His comeback was audacious and ambitious and big and grand.  And while Youth Without Youth was by no means his best movie, it was great to see Coppola back, making something weird and original.  He followed it up with the family relationship drama of Tetro, a black and white almost melodrama that never shied away from making its characters hard to like.  Then came the bat shirt craziness of Twixt.

Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) is a horror writer.  He’s had success in the past, but now he’s reduced to doing a book signings for almost no one in a small town that doesn’t even have a book shop.  The only person to show up for the author’s hardware store appearance is local Sherriff, Bobby LeGrange (Bruce Dern).  Trying to ingratiate himself with Baltimore, LeGrange takes him to the local morgue to see the body of young girl, killed by a wooden stake to the heart. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Coppola: The Rain People (1969)

Fracnis Ford Coppola has to be one of the ballsiest directors to ever dominate the main stream.  Throughout the 70s and 80s, the making of several of his movies seemed like career suicide, and more than once had him on the brink of financial ruin.  Then all the dust would settle and something amazing like The Conversation or Apocalypse Now would be the result.   Or maybe something not so great would appear, like The Cotton Club or One From the Heart.  But even when they weren’t so great, there was always an attempt at something big, something different, something new.  With all that’s come since then, it’s amazing to see where it all started, with a small, character based road movie, The Rain People.

Shirley Knight is Natalie, a suburban housewife who finds out she’s pregnant, freaks out and hits the road, leaving her husband.  Along the way, she picks up a hitchhiker played by James Caan, Jimmy, who goes by his college football nickname, Killer.  Killer suffered a head injury on the field and is now never going to be eligible for Mensa membership.

At first strangely sexual, their relationship becomes more like a mother and son as Natalie realises the extent of Killer’s brain damage and she becomes increasingly protective.  Later, Robert Duvall appears as a motorcycle cop and bizarre possible love interest, but it’s obvious from the opening minutes that The Rain People isn’t interested in giving Natalie a happily ever after.

Coppola rarely does things small.  His movies are big, grand, bombastic and rich with everything…  Characters, story, music, sets, production design.  So it really is amazing to see it start on such a small scale.  And I don’t just mean small in budget and small on experience from its director.  I mean small in story, small in focus, small in execution.  Other characters pop up here and there, but the majority is just Natalie and Killer.  Even Duvall, who gets third billing as the cop Roger, only shows up for a handful of scenes in the second half.

The Rain People is a road movie, but it’s not all highways that vanish over the horizon and endless scenic vistas.  Instead, it’s all about the claustrophobic inside of Natalie’s station wagon, the cheap motels on the side of the road and the small towns that road movies usually drive right past.

The story goes that while Coppola, along with a young production associate  named George Lucas, were travelling across the top of the country from west to east making this movie, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonder were a little more south, headed east to west, making Easy Rider.   Even as someone who’s always found Easy Rider kind of over rated, indulgent and boring, it’s great to think that these future legends were all just getting started, doing things their way and getting ready to dominate the next decade in Hollywood.

The Rain People
Directed By – Francis Ford Coppola
Written By – Francis Ford Coppola

MOVIE REVIEW | Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)


When you’re the guy who made The Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, a silly little time travel romance is never gonna be a stand out amongst your illustrious filmography.  And when you’re the guy who made Jack (you know, the one where Robin Williams plays a ten year old kid with a crazy aging disease), a silly little time travel romance is never gonna stand out as one of your worst either.  But the thing is, when you’re a guy named Francis Ford Coppola, your  silly little time travel romance is probably gonna be the best a silly little time travel romance is ever gonna be.  All of that is to say, Peggy Sue Got Married is a much better movie than its premise would have you believe.

What makes this throw away idea work are the lead performances by Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage.  Turner is the titular Peggy Sue.  In present day 1986, she’s separated from her high school sweetheart, now husband, Nicolas Cage, and on her way to a school reunion.  At the reunion, we’re quickly introduced to a few key friends, where their character arc types and current standings in the world are quickly dispatched so we know who’s who and where they’re headed once we meet them again back in 1960.  Coz’ that’s where Turner ends up pretty soon into this movie.

Turner sells the disbelief, acceptance and embracing of time travel so well, that at no point do her attitude or decisions seem rushed for the sake of plot momentum.  And even when she makes decisions that she knows for a fact won’t work out for the best in the future, you believe they really were the only decision this character could ever make, no matter how many chances she might get at a do over.

While Turner is the cynical head of the movie, flash back Nicolas Cage gets the far more fun role of the over optimistic heart of Peggy Sue Got Married.  The fact that we get to see his 1986 loser self makes his 1960 wide eyed romantic all the more likeable.  These days, Cage gets a lot of attention for his bat shit crazy approaches to most characters, but it’s really nothing new.  Cage’s best (and worst) characters his entire career have all come from the weird choices he makes that no other actor would ever even dream of if they were playing that same character.  He’s a go-big-or- go-home kind of actor.  When he misses, he really misses.  But when he hits, you get really interesting stuff.  Whether it’s heavy, restrained drama like Leaving Las Vegas, or total fluff like Peggy Sue Got Married.

Is it all a dream, or did Peggy Sue travel back in time?  The best part of this movie is that it doesn’t really matter.  1986 Peggy Sue has learnt what she needed to learn, whether or not she actually went back to 1960.  And that’s the kind of thing Coppola does to make sure Peggy Sue Got Married is more than just a silly little time travel romance.

Peggy Sue Got Married – Watch the full movie, streaming for free HERE
Direct By – Frances Ford Coppola
Written By – Jerry Leichtling, Arlene Sarner

MOVIE REVIEW | Heaven’s Gate (1980)


It’s one thing for a movie to bomb so bad it ruins a director’s career.  It’s another thing for a movie to bomb so bad, it almost ruins the studio that made it.  Heaven’s Gate was director Michael Cimino’s follow up to The Deer Hunter, which had won him a Best Director Oscar.  It’s also seen today as one of the movies that killed the American auteur system of the 70s.  People like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdonavich and Warren Beatty had all had a great run making personal films that created critical buzz and decent box office returns.  Then Cimino crapped all over it with this shit bomb that went way over schedule and way over budget.

Actually, that’s harsh.  Before watching it, Heaven’s Gate had a mythical status for me as that shit bomb, so I had some pretty strong preconceived notions.  Preconceived notions only made stronger when I saw it came with an almost four hour running time.  Seriously, four hours?  If you can’t tell your story in two and half, three at the absolute most (and your movie had better be a ball tarer if you’re gonna take three hours of my life), maybe you should look at making a TV series, not one of film.

And that’s the thing, while I was watching, I checked the clock a few times, but not constantly, so the running time wasn’t a huge issue.  But when I think back, I can’t recall four hours worth of story.  It opens with main character James Averill, played by Kris Kristofferson, graduating from Harvard in 1870, in a sequence that could have been done in ten minutes, but goes for closer to thirty.  It then jumps twenty years ahead to the midst of land disputes between American land barons and European immigrants.   Kristofferson is on the side of the immigrants because he’s banging an immigrant whore…  Oh, that and because he’s a top bloke with principals and stuff.  About an hour in (just over a quarter, if you’re doing the maths), we meet Nate Champion, played by Christopher Walken, Kristofferson’s rival for the whore’s golden heart.  It’s great to see Walken before he became “Walken”.  No weird line deliveries, no creepiness, no “quirk”.  Just a solid, subtle performance.  That really is the broad strokes of what fills the four hours, it’s not a complicated story, though the characters are.

Watching Heaven’s Gate, it’s easy to see where all the money and time went in its making.  It looks absolutely amazing.  Shot on location in a Montana national park, every exterior shot has the most amazing, natural backdrop of deep valleys, snow capped peaks and wild frontier.  In a modern world of movies full of slapped together CGI, this really is one of the most impressive looking movies I’ve ever seen.  And more than just the natural wonders, Cimino adds an almost gold filter to the majority of the film.  Some scenes are somehow monochrome, but full of deep, rich colour at the same time.

On one hand, I can understand why it wasn’t a huge success on release, but on the other, I think it is a legitimately awesome piece of film making.  And the best part, the title comes from a roller skating rink seen several times throughout the story.  Yep, this epic tragedy is named after rolling skating rink.  I can only hope if a movie is ever made about some terrible time in my hometown’s past, they have the forethought to call it Skate Haven.

Directed By – Michael Cimino
Written By – Michael Cimino