Tag: James Caan

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 | New York, I Love You (2008)

“But only if you’re comfortable with this, and if you’re not then you can just forget it, and you can quit, but if you are… then open this door.”

Anthology movies never really work.  Very few get good reviews and even less make good box office.  But despite this track record of little to no success, every few years, someone manages to convince another batch of directors and writers to contribute their own short film to something bigger, tackling some sort of common theme.  In the 80s, powerhouses like Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese couldn’t make it work with New York Story.  In the 90s, break out rock star film makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez couldn’t make it work with Three Rooms.

Not only do the film makers get tricked into thinking that somehow, this time, it might just work.  But I do as a viewer as well.  Sure, the above geniuses took a big swing and a miss at their own versions of the anthology movie, but surely, the next batch will get it right.  Won’t they?  It’s that optimism that lead to me buying the DVD of New York, I Love You back when it came out.  But it’s the practical part of my brain that has let it sit on my DVD shelf, collecting dust for the six or seven years since.  I want it to be good so much.  But I also know that the odds are against it.  But today, I bit the bullet.  I watched New York, I Love You. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Gambler (1974)

Gambler (1974)

“Ah, quit lying to yourself. Once you ain’t a virgin no more, you’re a whore till you die.”

Movies centered around gamblers and gambling a rarely setups for happy endings.  It’s clear that George Segal and Elliot Gold’s characters in California Split are never gonna have that one big score and be satisfied to quit while they’re ahead.  The instant Gary Bond goes back to the betting ring in Wake In Fright, it’s obvious that barely breaking even financially is the best he can hope for, while losing a lot more emotionally is a certainty.  Movie gamblers rarely win, which is kind of the thrill.  Because like gambling itself, even though you know winning is a long shot, it’s exciting to think that there’s still a slim chance of making that big score.  And it’s that thrill that’s so infectious in The Gambler.

A college literature professor by day, Axel Freed (James Caan) is much more dedicated to his nocturnal profession as a high stakes gambler.  Opening the movie already $44,000 down, Axel has pushed his bookie (Paul Sorvino as Hips) and his credit to the absolute limit.  Axel contemplates loan sharks before swallowing his pride and borrowing money from his mother (Jaqueline Brookes).  Between his mother and his rich grandfather, Axel has obviously felt invincible, with a safety net there when things get really bad. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Thief (1981)


“You’re marking time is what you are. You’re backing off. You’re hiding out. You’re waiting for a bus that you hope never comes because you dont wanna get on it anyway because you don’t wanna go anywhere. Ok?”

When I wrote about Manhunter, I said, “Michael Mann is possibly the most 80s director of the 80s”. Well, if anyone ever challenges me on that statement, all I need to do is point them in the direction of the Mann movie that kicked off the decade, the James Caan starring Thief.

Caan is Frank, a crook with a code. He has a strict set of rules he refuses to bend and is on the lookout for that one last, big score that will let him settle down and leave this life behind forever. So of course, all of that turns to shit the closer he comes to his dream, and the less likely it seems Frank will ever actually get there. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Rabbit, Run (1970)

Rabbit“I once did something right. I played first-rate basketball. I really did. And after you’re first-rate at something, no matter what, it kind of takes the kick out of being second-rate.”

Adapting a novel can’t be easy. The writer has the luxury of hundreds of pages and ten of thousands of words. The screenwriter has to condense the same story into a fraction of that. With a novel, every single reader imagines their own version of how the characters and settings look, how they sound and interact. The director has their own vision too, so it’s always going to be different to how the majority of readers imagined. And if a book is successful enough to be made into a movie, it’s probably pretty beloved with a reputation difficult to live up to. An example of all of these obstacles being too much to overcome, is the 1970 movie adaptation of John Updike’s novel, Rabbit, Run.

Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, played by James Caan, is an ex high school basketball star and current terrible husband and father. With a two year old son and heavily pregnant wife, Janice (Carrie Snodgress), Rabbit is so overwhelmed, he runs and shacks up with a woman on the wrong side of the tracks, Ruth (Anjanette Comer). (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