Saturday, March 28, 2009

Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day; romantic fantasy comedy, USA, 1993; D: Harold Ramis, S: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Marita Geraghty, Brian Doyle-Murray, Angela Paton, Rick Ducommun, Rick Overton, Robin Duke, Hynden Walch, Michael Shannon


TV reporter Phil Connors, a cynical and ill-tempered human-hater, finds himself trapped in time when he wakes up one morning in the small town Punxsutawney, where he was about to make a report about "Groundhog Day" which is celebrated annually every 2nd of February, and discovers that the day is repeating itself every morning. As the only person aware of it, he tries to seduce his producer Rita, but fails. With every day, he changes until he helps everyone and wakes up with Rita on the 3rd of February.

With time, it is getting more and more obvious that Harold Ramis' shining time comedy "Groundhog Day" is a timeless classic. Namely, there are two kinds of great films – the one where you immediately realize its brilliance, and the other that you at first don’t “quite get”, yet something about that film remains in your subconsciousness, and you think about it for a long time, until something inside you makes you realize its power – “Groundhog Day” is the latter kind of great film; it comes slowly, but powerfully. The movie starts out as a simple comedy - weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) is doing a television weather forecast with these words: "...Out in California, they're gonna have some warm weather tomorrow, gang wars, and some *very* overpriced real estate. Up in the Pacific Northwest, as you can see, they're gonna have some very, very tall trees", while he turns towards the map of the USA and "puffs" the clouds on the screen to the east coast; while producer Rita (sweet Andie MacDowell) jokes around with her "transparent" blue jacket in front of the blue screen, that is not registered on the screen - but with time it becomes a pure philosophy, a symbolical essay about our daily routine in life. It's really clever how Ramis and screenwriter Danny Rubin at first "deceive" the audience that the events of the "first day" of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney are handled too fast, almost superficially, since the time loop just repeats them again and again, offering time to elaborate on the events and characters, and even a chance to direct same scenes in different ways and different perspectives.

Winner of a BAFTA for best screenplay, it is about the imprisoned human spirit crying for a change, a difference. In it, Phil becomes an individual, the only person on Earth that has self-consciousness. At that moment all other characters just became puppets who repeat the same things again and again. You can also regard it as an allegory of Totalitarian regimes (Phil is the only person who does something different than the others, who are all "controlled" by the unknown force to do everything again and again). Plus the explanation for the mysterious time distortion is never given: it's shown more like something as natural as the weather, something that just happened and remained "outside" our reason. In the scene where Phil tells Rita: "I hope you'll remember all those great moments we had", but she of course doesn't have a clue since her memory is erased every new day, the authors are also telling something about transience and how thousands of beautiful moments were forgotten with time. As the protagonist now has plenty of time, relieved of everyday job and obligations, he takes his own time to finally explore some hobbies he always wanted to, from reading poetry up to making ice sculptures. Actually, the story becomes an ode to Buddhism and Karma, since it shows suffering repeating again and again, until there's a change from within a person - Phil at first hates the town, but at a closer look, he discovers how many amazing people live there and then decides to make friends with them. As he does, he finds happiness and enlightenment. The Myth of Sisyphus is mirrored in the story, while the authors masterfully exploit all the rich possibilities of the concept - especially brilliant is the long trial-error date between Phil and Rita. Anyone who was ever on a date will have a blast with that sequence where he makes a goof in trying to charm her, but just "corrects" it the following day by "conveniently" ordering the same drink as her, making a prayer for peace and knowing French, which she studied. This is not just an ordinary mainstream film, but a tale about one of the hardest things in life: turning adversity into advantage. In the finale, even though the anomaly disappears, its has a lasting effect: Phil has learned how to resolve problems for the rest of his life, and how to live. All these are the reasons why many enjoy this quiet masterpiece about awakened spirituality.

Grade:++++

Friday, March 27, 2009

Shiri


Swiri; Thriller, South Korea, 1999; D: Kang Je-Gyu, S: Han Kyu-Suk, Kim Yoon-Jin, Choi Min-Shik, Kim Johnny

Hi is a secret agent from North Korea who killed many politicians in Seoul. She is chased by agents Ryu and Jun from South Korea. One time, they accidentally stumble upon a smuggler in a store and capture him, but he gets killed by Hi. Ryu gets engaged to the young Hyun but gets a new assignment: CTX, a liquid almost identical to water, except that it can explode, was stolen by North Korean agents. Ryu is convinced there's a traitor in his organization and gets surprised - Hyun is actually Hi in disguise! When Jun gets murdered, Ryu discovers that CTX was placed in a soccer stadium where a game is held by the two Koreas. CTX is neutralized and Hi killed, as well as her assistants.

Due to a obdurate-conventional approach towards it's story, thriller "Shiri" can be lamented upon it's hype even though it already became dated at the time of it's premiere - namely, since South Korean cinema was largely unknown in the West, such a film that appeared in it's cinemas seemed more exotic even though it's more or less a standard spy action flick. Still, that thriller, which broke all box office records in it's homeland where over 6.5 million viewers saw it in cinemas, must be congratulated for it's sheer enthusiasm and courage in the "battle" with the American cinema. Some details are interesting, like when the words "Good Bye" were written with a spray on the clothes of a corpse or when the protagonist Ryu asks himself how the "Shiri fish can cry in water". The more careful viewers will already anticipate the plot twist as soon as they notice that the story is "suspiciously" long dealing with Ryu's private life, while other flaws are the feeling that the film somehow looks cheap despite it's big budget, for instance in the masks depicting decapitated heads somewhere around the start; the hectic rhythm and the overlong running time of 125 minutes. Still, Kang Je-Gyu's competent direction finds enough attributes in this spy flick revolving around the North Korea-South Korea antagonisms, while the action has it's moments.

Grade:++

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dead Poets Society


Dead Poets Society; drama, USA, 1989; D: Peter Weir, S: Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Robin Williams, Josh Charles

In '59, English teacher John Keating goes to teach at a private prep school where students prepare for college education. In the school, strict rules are applied, as well as in the homes of the students, whose parents satisfy their own ambitions through their destiny. Mostly emotionally sustained, the students thus experience the creative Keating and his unusual teaching as liberating, as well as his slogan "Carpe diem" (seize the day). But, one student, Neil, realizes that he will never achieve his dream of becoming an actor because of his strict parents, and thus commits suicide. The blame is placed on Keating who is expelled. But as he returns to school to pick up his things, all the students salute him.

In this drama, written by Tom Schulman, director Peter Weir again explored his often theme of an individual trying to live freely or escape from an autocratic environment, crafting a dedication to the awakening of damped emotions, while in doing so decided to remain sober and quiet, avoiding stepping into pathetic territory. Anyone who can remember their high school years will identify with John Keating, a teacher every student would love to have, a friend and a mentor whose teaching transcends the formal topic and touch upon life itself. "Dead Poets Society" is not a film about action. It is a film about changing the state of mind. The sequence where Keating orders the students in class to rip a page depicting an equation for measuring the quality of a poem is extremely powerful, on so many levels, and really helps ignite the film and the spirit of the teenagers. It also features arguably the greatest and single most emotional line Robin Williams ever had the opportunity to play out, besides his line on the bench in "Good Will Hunting", when he gives an answer at the meaning of life: "That you are here. That life exists, and identity: *that* powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"

This is Williams indeed in his finest hour. It seems even "The Simpsons" played a wonderful homage to Keating with their gem of an episode, "Lisa's Substitute", which also features a remarkably good teacher for Lisa. Maybe Weir plays it too safe, yet he directs the story smoothly, doesn't let emotions remain only in theory, has a humane touch and while the line "Carpe diem" remained his trademark. Schulman is also, thankfully, very honest: one lad, Overstreet, follows the "Carpe diem" credo and tries to persuade a girl he loves to go out with him, but it doesn't work out. He admits it, yet adds that at least he finally summoned the courage to do it. Among the most successful moments are simple jokes that transmit the creative teachings of Keating and his influence on the "dead" lives of students. The film is really competently crafted, just enough to notice the effort and good intentions of the authors, though the finale seems somewhat melodramatic, schematic and forced at times, especially between scenes of Neil (Robert Sea Leonard from "Dr. House") and his father, who does not want him to become and actor because he thinks there is no bread in that business. A few mild moments, yet Weir managed to make an unconventional an untrammelled film-feeling that does Keating's unconventional and untrammelled teaching justice.

Grade:+++

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire


Slumdog Millionaire; Drama, UK/ India, 2008; D: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan, S: Dev Patel, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Tanay Chheda, Freida Pinto, Rubina Ali, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor

Mumbai. The young Jamal Malik is interrogated by the police because they suspect he cheated in the TV show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" since he suspiciously answered all the questions correctly. He explains them that he "learned" all the answers from his life experience: as a child, he and his brother Salim lost their mother due to Hindu extremists and thus learned the image of Rama the "hard way"; they got a 100 $ bill by chance and thus remembered that Benjamin Franklin is on the note; Salim used a revolver and thus Jamal heard that the weapon was invented by Samuel Colt, etc. All that time, Jamal just thought about Latika, the girl he fell in love with. Jamal is thus brought back to the show and wins, not only the money but also Latika's heart.

This is amusing. The Oscars, Golden Globes and the BAFTA awards all want to present us "Slumdog Millionaire" as the best film of the year, yet it's a fine, but overrated achievement. Maybe I saw "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" one time too often and thus I'm fed up with it, maybe I simply don't have such an appeal towards India's culture, but whatever way you look at it, it somehow does not seem that "Slumdog" distinguishes itself with something special from all the rest of the movies released in 2008. Director Danny Boyle has an extraordinary lightness of working with India's actors and locations, especially in the scenes where the characters speak Hindi and not English, while the sole story where the hero slowly reveals that he knew all the answers to the questions because he learned them the "hard way", by chance during his tough life (for instance, when he knows that Rama wears a bow and an arrow because Hindu extremists killed his mother when he was a child) is really cleverly structured, yet the whole thing is so serious-melodramatic that it practically resembles a soap opera at times, whereas many situations ("Chilly on willy"; a child is blinded so that it will cause pity when it begs on the streets...) are simply backward and awful.

Emotions are always welcomed, but just like humor, they can be tasteless and forced, which is why the story - despite its objective tone - seems sentimental. The sequence where Jamal shows India to two American tourists, and when they return, their luxurious car was robbed by poor thieves, so the police officer hits him, upon which the kid says: "You wanted a little bit of real India? Here it is!", whereas the American woman gives him some money and says: "Here's a little bit of real America", is the biggest kitsch in quite some time, but luckily the film is still much more realistic in the rest of its running time. The story is smooth, it has a tight rhythm, all the actors are convincing while the ending is wonderful, but as a whole the film simply doesn't have that pure inspiration for which the viewers would really be engaged by it. Its biggest virtue is definitely the fact that the authors actually dared to tackle such an unpopular theme, the one of poverty in the India's slums, which is something that many luxurious viewers from the West would rather avoid.

Grade:++

Sunday, March 22, 2009

She's All That


She's All That; Romantic comedy, USA, 1999; D: Robert Iscove, S: Freddie Prinze Jr., Rachel Leigh Cook, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Matthew Lilard, Anna Paquin

Laney (17) is a secluded, unpopular high school girl who wears glasses, paints and is ashamed that her father cleans pools while her younger brother Simon is his assistant. At the end of spring break, the most popular guy in school, Zack, discovers that his girlfriend Taylor left him for an actor of some TV show called "The Real World". Thus, as a joke, Zack makes a bet with a friend that he will make a prom queen out of Laney. At first, she doesn't quite realize why Zack takes her to a theater of avant-garde art and on the beach, but then he even gets her contact lenses and a new hair-due. When Laney finds out that it was all a bet, she goes on prom night with someone else. Zack apologizes to her and they become a couple, even though he lost the bet.

In the mass of ephemera teenage films there is also this version of "Cinderella" called "She's All That", but which departs a lot from it's cliches. The heroine Laney, played by Rachel Leigh Cook, reminds of the one from cult TV series "Daria": she is cynical in the exposition where she threatens to her little brother that she will spit in his juice if he doesn't wake up from bed, but at the same time she also has untypically weak grades in school (even though she wears glasses) while the popular Zack is the 4th best student of the year. Still, the dialogues between Zack and Laney don't have such sharpness that had "Daria", despite such statement like "rectal archeology" and "why are you talking to me? Are you in some 'help the geeks' programme?" When Laney gains assertiveness with time she slowly starts to change, which is something the authors done really well with a neat touching gradation, while they also avoided a purely happy ending since she doesn't become a complete winner at the finale. Too bad the execution is standard, but there is simply something charming about this movie as a whole.

Grade:++

Comrades: Almost a Love Story


Tian mi mi; drama, Hong Kong / China / USA, 1996; D: Peter Chan, S: Maggie Cheung, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Christopher Doyle

In '86, the coiled Jun leaves the northern China to immigrate to Hong Kong. there he transports food with a bicycle, gets a 2.000 $ salary for it, while he meets waitress Qiao in a restaurant. She sends him to a private school to learn English which would enable him to get a better job. A year later, Jun and Qiao become close friends and even end up in bed even though he has a fiancee. Jun gets married to his fiancee while Qiao starts a relationship with mobster Bao. In '90, Jun admits to his wife that he still loves Qiao, upon which she throws him out of the apartment. He returns to Qiao, but she goes with Bao on a ship to Taiwan. In '93, in New York, Bao gets murdered, while Qiao meets Jun again.

"Comrades: Almost a Love Story" is a gentle love story that in a conventional, but intriguing way implies that the love between the characters Qiao and Jun is so destines that it can't be avoided, no matter how long they avoid each other and have relationships with someone else. That message is slightly un-elaborated, yet the story has enough attractions to keep the viewers' attention. For instance, the exposition is amusing since the rural inhabitant Jun arrives to urban Hong Kong for the first time and does something he never did before - he buys a hamburger in McDonald's. Other gentle humorous moments - like when his English teacher (Christoher Doyle) teaches him lines like "Go to hell!" or when he meets a singer on the street and begs her to give an autograph on the back of his jacket - give color to the story that shows sad emotions of the two characters. Still, the character of Qiao (excellent Maggie Cheung) is so much more interesting due to the fact that the film presented them in a more subtle way. The camera movements are dynamic and fluid, yet the story still mildly underwhelms since it's not focused and lacks real intensity.

Grade:++

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Freaky Friday


Freaky Friday; Fantasy comedy, USA, 1995; D: Melanie Maybon, S: Shelley Long, Gaby Hoffmann, Catlin Adams, Alan Rosenberg, Sandra Bernhard, Drew Carey, Carol Kane

Ellen Andrews is innovative in design of new clothes but pretty lax in handling her neglected daughter Annabelle. On Friday the 13th, Ellen's lover Bill gives her a gift, a mysterious Chinese talisman that causes a miracle - Ellen and Annabell switch bodies. Since nobody noticed that, they try to keep it a secret: Ellen feels wonderful as a 14-year old girl, yet everyone mocks her in school and she is terrible at basketball, while Annabelle enjoys as a grown up woman, but has obligations selling her fashion design to rich Frieda, which she visits on rollerskates. She manages to persuade her. Finally, Ellen and Annabelle switch back to their normal bodies.

Fantasy children's comedy "Freaky Friday" has been adapted and remade numerous times, and this TV version offers a solid fun and should probably please everyone, yet it still remained a typical mild Disney film. The idea that a mother and a daughter switch their bodies and see how it is to be in their skin has charm even in this 1oth film version, but the beginning of the film is slow and has no balance. The main jokes, which were derived from the exploitation of the quirky basic concept, mostly are composed out of the fact that a 14-year old girl would say such lines like: "Just because your generation suffered, now you want that the next one suffers too!", while she also smokes cigarettes and asks boys if they kissed her. Even the grown up Shelley Long copes well while acting a teenager, especially when she ironically accuses both "herself" and Annabelle: "I'm equally as guilty as my daughter!" It's a solid film that doesn't try to be something more, while Sandra Bernhard has a small appearance towards the end as the spoiled rich Frieda, but she got weaker gags (she gives just a few cents as a tip).

Grade:+

Now and Then


Now and Then; Drama, USA, 1995; D: Lesli Linka Glatter, S: Christina Ricci, Gabby Hoffmann, Thora Birch, Ashleigh Aston Moore, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O'Donnell, Rita Wilson, Cloris Leachman, Bonnie Hunt, Janeane Garofalo

Four friends - Chrissy, Samantha, Roberta and Teeny - meet again after they haven't seen each other for 20 years. Now, as grown women, they remember their childhood from the 70s: Chrissy was fat and her mother tried to explain intercourse to her with the help of flowers. Samantha was sad because her parents divorced. Roberta was angry because her breasts started to grow. Teeny wanted to become an actress. They argued with boys, tried to talk with ghosts on the graveyard and got into trouble. Back in the present, Chrissy gives birth to a baby.

"Now and Then" is an acceptable, solid melodramatic lemonade exclusively to a few charming ideas and excellent performances from Christina Ricci and Thora Birch. The story deals with a few serious emotional issues during adolescence, but instead of a delicate tone the mood is wrecked with tasteless grotesque: what was the purpose of the scene where a bird is defecating and it's feces fall on Chrissy's hair? What the point of the scene where Teeny shows how she fills her bra with Vanilla flavoured pudding? Still, despite many discrepancies, the film still has a few amusing scenes, like the one where the girls mischievously steal the clothes of the boys who were swimming in a lake, so they start chasing them naked causing them to run away screaming. The connection of the past story of 4 friends in childhood and the present story of them in their mature age (played by Moore, Griffith, Wilson and O'Donnell) is thin while many characters were underused: for instance, even though her part as voodoo waitress had potentials, Janeane Garofalo got to appear only two times in the entire film!

Grade:+

Friday, March 20, 2009

My First War


Hamilchama Harishona Sheli; Documentary, Israel, 2008, D: Yariv Mozer, S: Ilan Levi, Aharon Yechezkel, Hadad Shtaif

When the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war broke out, the young Yariv Mozer was called in as a reservist for the IDF army – and took his video camera with him. During the four weeks of the war, he documented how his unit was settled around Kiryat Shmona, a town on Israel's north, to prepare for a possible ground offensive. He documented numerous katyusha rockets that fell in the town, their commander who called his nephew, a singer, to entertain the troops, TV reports and interviews of the soldiers who told about the messy nature of the whole situation. In the end, the commander decided not to send the troops into Lebanon. After the war, Mozer also interviewed soldiers, some who suffer from post-war trauma, some who write their experiences in memoirs and some who quit their job.

„My First War“ is an honest and spontaneous „accidental“ documentary since it's author, the young Yariv Mozer, took his video camera when he was drafted in the army during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war – the result is a rough, but interesting essay about the war and it's consequences. Even though his unit never went into a direct battlefield, Mozer was able to pick up just enough footage to incorporate it into a modest movie, whereas the best moments are small scenes showing what happened during that time in Kiryat Shmona (empty streets, a car in the parking lot heavily damaged by a katyusha rocket, a bedroom with a crater on the ceiling caused by a direct rocket hit). In that aspect, it's a pity he didn't manage to show more – frankly, some 40 minutes into the film, the war is already over and it seems he slightly „cheats“ the audience by filling the remaining 40 minutes of the movie with arbitrarily interviews of (ex)-soldiers who participated in the war and still feel the frustration of the sloppy execution of the conflict, though even that can be justified as part of the overall theme of it's consequences. Some tighter crafting would have been better, yet that's difficult in the documentary genre where you're up to "destiny" as to what will happen in front of camera, and providing the human perspective of the war is something that goes hand in hand with the story, especially with a few angry comments from IDF officials (one of them complains how a unit was first sent to go to spot A, then to spot B, then they were told to go into Lebanon, and then they were ordered to return to spot A, because "it's as if nobody is sure what we want"), some of which are so intimate it's a marvel how the author was allowed to film them.

Grade:++

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2010


2010; Science-fiction, USA, 1984; D: Peter Hyams, S: Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, Saveliy Kramarov, Keir Dullea

In 2010, years after the mysterious failure of the Discovery mission to explore the incomprehensible black monolith near Jupiter, Dr. Heywood Floyd is approached by a Soviet scientist who proposes to join him on a second space mission to explore what happened there. Leaving his wife and child on Earth, Floyd wakes up from cyrosleep on the Soviet spaceship Leonov: since there are tension on Earth between the US and the Soviet Union, the joint American-Russian crew is uneasy about cooperating together. They recover Discovery floating around Io's orbit and turn on computer HAL 9000 again. Floyd receives the apparition of Discovery's astronaut Dave who warns him to leave Jupiter. The crew obeys while the monolith creates a hole in Jupiter, and then makes a new star out of it.

A retrospect of "2010" is very interesting since director Peter Hyams actually dared to craft a sequel to a classic that some consider even the greatest science-fiction film of the 20th Century, Kubrick's "Space Odyssey", which by it's audacity is almost equal to someone making a sequel to Welles' "Kane". Even though some critics cynically commented how in "2010" actors like Roy Scheider, John Lithgow and others are just visting the locations of where a masterwork was once shot, Hyams in reality made quite a sharp, tight and competent film whose mood was only enhanced by a crystal clear cinematography and absolutely fantastic special effects that seem even more convincing than many computer generated images 20 years later. The original "Odyssey" offered a few deeply esoteric messages about human advancement, even enlightenment, while this film seems to be pulling the viewers leg at times since it doesn't even try to explain the mystery but just concentrates on the joint American-Soviet space mission around Jupiter's orbit, offering a few more "mainstream" and understandable space adventures - one of the most acclaimed moments is the 7-minute long sequence where the two astronauts in space are trying to "fly" to the wildly rotating Discovery spaceship, a moment so fixated and filled with juicy details (one of them looks bellow his feet and spots only the giant, red surface of moon Io) that it's amazing, while the most panned ideas where the pointless comeback of astronaut Dave from the first film and the last third that doesn't have any sense. Among many natural "fantastic" scenes of space, there was also one unusual: the cult finale with the giant 'black hole' in Jupiter, which is a sight to behold.

Grade:++

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oscar


Oscar; Comedy, France, 1967; D: Édouard Molinaro, S: Louis de Funès, Claude Rich, Claude Gensac, Agathe Natanson, Sylvia Saurel

Betrand is a rich industrialist who doesn't really care about anything. One morning, one of his workers, Christian, declares him that he proposed his daughter. After the initial shock, Bertand eventually agrees since Christian saved a lot of money for his company. But then the unknown Jacqueline storms Bertrand's mansion and explains him that Christian actually proposed her since she introduced herself as his daughter to impress him. Bertrand is shocked, especially when he discovers that his real daughter Colette is pregnant by his driver Oscar. After a whole bunch of complications, everyone gets married to those they want.

"Oscar" is a simple, fun, unpretentious and sympathetic comedy of misunderstanding that seizes the attention with a very well written and constructed story filled with humor of situations and the super-funny Louis De Funes. Even though it has all the distinctions of one Wilder film, "Oscar" is still a notch weaker since it didn't manage to sparkle with full strength, maybe because it based the whole story on one gag and nothing more, and director Edouardo Molinaro wasn't such a master to turn it into a great film. Maybe this is the reason while one of the best jokes is exactly the one that doesn't have nothing to do with the story, in which hero Bertrand, instead of money, finds underwear in the suitcase and goes "mad", performing some over-the-top wacky gestures with his nose and foot. Still, the film works really smoothly, almost as a good play since it unravels almost in one location, Bertand's home, and it's better than the American remake from '91.

Grade:++

The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob


Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob; Comedy, France, 1973; D: Gérard Oury, S: Louis de Funès, Claude Giraud, Suzy Delair, Marcel Dalio, Miou-Miou, Henri Guybet

On his way to his daughter, who is about to get married, the stubborn rich businessman Victor Pivert gets stuck when his car falls in a lake. He is a racist and thinks all nations and religions are inferior compared to the French, which is why he fires his driver, Jew Salomon, when he refuses to help because Shabbat just began. On his way to get help, Victor gets stuck in a bubblegum factory and accidentally finds himself co-operating with Arab revolutionist leader Slimane who is hunted by killers from his country who want to eliminate him. Victor and Slimane disguise themselves as Rabbis and get mistaken for Rabbi Jacob and his nephew by the Schmoll family. In the end, the revolution succeeds and Slimane becomes the prime minister of his country.

A hilarious comedy, "The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" is one of the most commercial and popular movies of comedian Louis De Funes in the 70s. The critics said: "The screenplay is excellent and halfway", since it's great in the first half but in the second half it loses all it's jokes, leaving only the grimaces of the hero. Still, it was very clever that director and co-writer Gerard Oury gave him unobtrusive psychological depth by presenting him at first as a hilariously exaggerated racist-bigot, only to have him disguised as a Rabbi and join a Jewish community which gave a neat message about understanding between nations at the finale of this dynamic story, which compensates for some heavy handed approaches and the already mentioned empty second half. The whole story was presented wonderfully simple while Louis De Funes has a field day, which is why those viewers who want to get a really good laugh, should obligatory watch the first half of the film: the hero Victor gives statements such like these: "I'm a real Catholic, just like God himself!", falls in a gluey bubblegum mass and gets out all cowered by it so bubblegum balloons pop out on his head while especially amusing were the scenes with his car that can be "converted" to a ship thanks to a yacht attached to it's roof. "Rabbi Jacob" was nominated for a Golden Globe as best foreign language film.

Grade:++

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Prince of Egypt


The Prince of Egypt; Animated adventure, USA, 1998; D: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells, S: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Sandra Bullock, Patrick Stewart, Danny Glover, Steve Martin, Helen Mirren, Martin Short

Egypt, 1.300 BC. Pharaoh Seti orders that all male Hebrew babies must be drowned, but the basket with the little Moses afloats on the Nile to the Queen, who adopts it. Decades later, Moses grew up with his stepbrother Ramses in complete harmony and doesn't care about the suffering of Hebrew slaves who are building pyramids. During a horse race, they accidentally break a part of the building, but only Ramses gets the blame. From a slave and the Queen, Moses discovers that he himself is Hebrew and thus leaves in the desert. There he saves a nomadic family from outlaws and marries Tzipporah, Jethro's daughter. Then God orders Moses to free the Hebrew people and cause various diseases and catastrophes until Ramses doesn't give in and frees them. Moses brings his peope through the Red sea.

For their first traditionally animated film, the "Dreamworks" company chose a lose adaptation of Biblical story of Exodus, and despite the fact that the reviews were mild at first, with time the project gained a considerable reputation. "The Prince of Egypt" is a wonderful example of what happens when a dusty story full of dry dialogues is revitalized with humor, taste and three-dimensional characters - in one scene, for instance, Moses and Ramses are having a carriage race, and at one instance Ramses find himself on the top of a building and says: "See Moses? I always said you look at me from down!", while he looks at his underpants and responds with: "But it's not a nice sight!" Later on the two of them are throwing balloons filled with soup on Pharaoh's wizards, while a slave tells Ramses that he is getting exactly the respect he deserves: none. Such shrill and alive moments are nowhere to be found in some stiff Bible epics from the 50s and 60s. The voice actors all did a great job (from Val Kilmer in the leading role up to Martin Short and Steve Martin is mall ones) whereas the images and the animation design are also wonderful. The song won an Oscar and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Grade:+++

Fantômas


Fantômas; Crime comedy, France, 1964; D: André Hunebelle, S: Jean Marais, Louis de Funès, Mylène Demongeot, Jacques Dynam

There's a mess in France since the dangerous criminal Fantomas is causing fear among citizens. Nobody knows his identity, hidden behind a blue mask, while he can disguise himself as anyone. Inspector Juve eagerly wants to catch him. One day Fantomas brings reporter Fandor and Helene to his hideout - he then disguises himself as Fandor and robs a jewelry store, putting the blame on him. But then he even disguises himself as Inspector Juve and creates an even bigger chaos when he again commits a robbery. Fandor, Helene and Juve team up, but Fantomas still manages to escape.

Wacky and proportionally well done adventure crime cult comedy based on French pulp novels, "Fantomas" became a huge commercial success back in the 60s, which is why director Andre Hunebelle also signed its two sequels, "Fantomas threatens the World" and "Fantomas Unleashed" - equally as watchable as the original. A mild style and great jokes are attributes of this simple flick with a lot of spirit but also dated features, courageously mixing crime and comedy elements in something that seems like a hermetic French version of James Bond, whereas the design of the blue mask of the title antagonist is solid, yet the main star is definitely comedian Luois de Funes in the role of Inspector Juve. His appearance in the film is so untypical that he seizes the attention at every step, and even though not every gag works, there is one that's simply brilliantly hilarious - when Fantomas disguises himself as Inspector Juve (!) and commits a robbery, numerous eyewitnesses are gathered in a room in the police headquarters to make a sketch of his face. Of course, Juve coincidentally enters the room and sits somewhere at the back, all pleased because he will finally see how "that dreadful Fantomas" looks like. Slowly, little by little, the artist is composing the photo of the perpetrator, listening to the descriptions of the eyewitnesses: he is bald, has long eyes...until he makes a sketch that looks exactly like Juve. The now furious Juve interrupts the process, thinking it's all a joke, but then the eyewitnesses all turn around and spot him, "identifying" him as the robber, getting him in a lot of trouble, in a sequence that is comedy gold.

Grade:++

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Incredibles


The incredible; CGI animated fantasy comedy, USA, 2004; D: Brad Bird, S: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee

Once, Bob was the superstrong superhero Mr. Incredible, but one little fanboy kid, Buddy Pine, accidentally caused him to goof and cause damage to the railroad. When Mr. Incredible was sued for saving a suicidal man who didn't want to get saved in the first place, he decided to avoid the angry public and live a quiet, secret and normal life as a family man. 15 years later he is married to Helen/Elastigirl, also a person with superpowers, and father of Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. But he quits his boring job when he gets an assignment to become a superhero again on an island - though it turns out it's a trap by Buddy Pine, who in the meantime grown into Syndrome, a man with an inferiority complex. Luckily, Helen and the kids are able to save him and the town from the evil robots.

It became boring that all the critics used the predictable adjective "Incredible" when they described "The Incredibles", but Brad Bird's 2nd feature length animated film really filled out almost all expectations of such a story. CGI still seems eclectic and artificial compared to classical examples of animation, but Bird's obsessed sense for small touches, touching emotions and humane view on imperfect characters manage to compensate for that fact with ease: almost every scene has an eye for detail. The motif of protagonist Bob who has to do an average desk job even though he has such potentials as a superhero mirrors the lives of talented people who are sentenced to routine because the society doesn't recognize they are special, which is really well thought out since it tells something about life, but the most memorable moment is the one where Bob/Mr. Incredible is defeated by the powers of Syndrome, his enemy who was once his biggest fan (!) until he was rejected by him as a kid. Syndrome even goes on to tell him: "Yes, *now* you respect me! Because I'm a threat. That's the way it works. Turns out there are lots of people, whole countries, that want respect, and will pay through the nose to get it" - truly, such a humorous line is so true it almost reaches philosophical proportions. The film isn't that funny as much as it's clever, whereas some of the most lovable moments come swiftly, like when Helen leans towards Bob's car window and tells him she loves him very, very much, before he leaves. Some more serious complaints could be aimed towards a too action packed finale, some heavy handed scenes, too much 'cartoon violence', exaggerated facial expression of the characters and occasionally arbitrarily ideas. Still, aside from that, it's amazing how well the film works as pure entertainment on a higher level, which is why you simply forget the flaws with time and simply enjoy it's value.

Grade:+++

Charade


Charade; Thriller comedy, USA, 1963; D: Stanley Donen, S: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy

American Regina Lambert, who works as a translator, arrives in Paris to file for divorce from her husband, but he gets killed in a train. In US embassy, Mr. Bartholomew explains that he husband stole 250.000 $ during the World War II and hid them somewhere, but his "friends" Tex, Gideon and Scobie are after the cash. Regina's friend is the mysterious Peter, but she discovers his name is actually Doyle and that he works with Tex in order to get the money. When Tex, Gideon and Scobie get murdered and Regina discovers the money was transformed into stamps, she figures Bartholomew is actually the killer and that his name is actually Doyle. He gets killed by "Peter" who explains her he works for the embassy.

"Charade" is a real thriller that took Hitchcock as the ideal, at the same time suspenseful and comical, with a complicated story where every third represents the negation of the previous - which is why the viewer is left uncertain on to who is actually Cary Grant's character since he at one moment turns out good, then bad (the associate of the bad guy) and then good again (just pretends to be the associate) - but that ideal wasn't so perfectly re-enacted as a whole. Director Stanley Donen has an inspiring sense for how and where to place all the camera angles whereas the most famous sequence is the one on the funeral of Regina's husband - she and her friend are the only people present in the church, besides a police officer who is "just there because the deceased one was murdered", but then the three bad guys enter the stage and "subtly" stab the corpse with a needle and place a mirror in front of his face to see if he is really dead. Some inconsistencies and discrepancies in the story are bothersome, since it didn't manage to become as stylish to forgive it everything despite a few fun ideas (a bad guy with an iron hand) and has a few plot twists too much, yet the two main actors have great chemistry, especially Audrey Hepburn who was nominated for a Golden Globe and actually won a BAFTA as best actress.

Grade:++

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mary Poppins


Mary Poppins; Fantasy musical, UK, 1964; D: Robert Stevenson, S: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber, Glynis Johns

London. The Banks family already hired numerous nannies to watch out after their problematic children Jane and Michael. When a strong wind blows away the new candidates, a mysterious nanny arrives descending with an umbrella from the sky, Mary Poppins. She is very accessible to kids, which is why the father of the family has sympathies towards her. But she also has magic powers: she makes the children's' room clean up all by itself, she brings Jane and Michael into a world of animation and uses a chimney to introduce a chimney sweep. There is also her friend Burt. In the end, a change happens: the uptight father becomes a cheerful and fun person, while Mary leaves with her umbrella.

This opulent musical gained a negative reputation in some circles due to it's sweet tone, but those who properly watch it from start to finish will be pleasantly surprised with it's spark and style: such innocent films with pure heart, that still manage to be sharp at the same time, disappeared in modern times, while the real highlight is splendid Julie Andrews as the title heroine, who managed to win a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Oscar as best actress. The whole story is presented from the children's perspective (why would that be a flaw?), but it contains also some serious and true messages about life, especially about children who need loving care and adequate intellectual stimulation to stop acting problematic, whereas the story impresses with funny visual jokes, mostly presented in fast-forward motion (the wind blows all nannies away from the fence; Mary and the children snap their fingers to start the process of the room cleaning itself up by magic) and even lines (the phrase 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' became one of the most quoted tongue twisters ever). The trip into the cartoon world wasn't so grand, but the dance sequences and some moves are fabulous, while director Robert Stevens has such a simple approach that he manages to make this fun and touching film work down to a T.

Grade:+++

In Good Company


In Good Company; Tragicomedy, USA, 2004; D: Paul Weitz, S: Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Scarlett Johansson, Marg Helgenberger, David Paymer, Phillip Baker Hall, Selma Blair, Malcolm McDowell

Dan Foreman (51)works as an executive in one American sports magazine, but trouble is underway: his wife declares she is pregnant while his daughter Alex goes to study at NYU. Also, he gets a new boss, the young Carter (26) who starts firing employees. Since his company was sold to another owner, Dan has to listen to Carter but gets furious when he discovers that he has a relationship with Alex. But she breaks up with him, the company gets sold again, Carter gets fired while Dan returns to his old spot.

"Stop the Oscars!", protested critic Andrew Sarrison when one of his favorite films of 2004, "In Good Company", wasn't nominated in any category. Truly, "Company" is a sympathetic serious comedy with new actuality after the recent Global economic crisis, whereas Dennis Quiad and Scarlett Johansson are especially good, as well as the message about superiority of the older generation compared to the young and inexperienced. One of the most subversive jokes at the expense of the "young" is the one where the potential sponsor tells Dan that today teenagers don't read because "they get tired from moving their eyes". Another interesting joke is a dialogue between Dan and his younger boss ("That's terrible, Dan." - "Then why are you smiling?" - "I'm not." - "Your lips are turned up"). "Company" is a relaxed, swiftly written and crafted film, but still sightly too ordinary to become something more. It didn't make no mistakes, but no extraordinary brilliance either.

Grade:++

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hot Shots! Part Deux


Hot Shots! Part Deux; parody/ comedy, USA, 1993; D: Jim Abrahams, S: Charlie Sheen, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Crenna, Brenda Bakke, Jerry Haleva, Miguel Ferrer, Rowan Atkinson, Martin Sheen

Once a warrior, now a peaceful Buddhist somewhere in Asia, Topper Harley is brought back to action when US president Benson orders a secret mission that is suppose to rescue a rescue party that went to rescue a rescue party in Iraq from captivity of Saddam Hussein. Topper once again teams up with his former girlfriend Ramada and goes with a small boat to the jungle in Iraq. After a lot of troubles, he rescues Colonel Walters and Ramada's husband Dexter, while Benson fights with Hussein in his castle. In the end, the team escapes with a helicopter and throws a piano on Hussein.

After a huge commercial success with "Hot Shots", director Jim Abrahams made the 1993 sequel "Hot Shots! Part Deux" that's even better and funnier than than the occasionally arbitrarily original, crafting a worthy part 2 that became the last great parody film, long before that genre completely collapsed with disastrous "Scary Movies" and "Meet the Spartans". Part 2 is silly and "rough" at moments, but from start to finish it's a super fast, super fun parody with class, where the authors wonderfully spoofed "Rambo" and 'Operation Eagle Claw'. Some of the jokes are completely random and come so swiftly that it's hard not to like them, while Abrahams even succeeds with childish gags: for instance, the scene where Topper (Charlie Sheen) fails repeatedly to hit an Iraqi soldier who spots him, and thus takes a chicken, puts it on his bow and uses it as an arrow, sending it flying right into the soldier, is so absurd and out of this world that it's howlingly funny. But even others gags have their purpose, from wacky lines ("It seems the upper hand is on the wrong foot, Saddam!") up to hilarious small situations (Topper doesn't have time to recharge his machine-gun and thus takes a hand full of bullets and throws them at Iraqi soldiers, "eliminating" them; an Iraqi soldier with a 'bulls eye' sign on his back). Sheen is really in great shape, but a small jewel is Jerry Haleva's performance as Saddam Hussein, who drinks camel milk, has a pale spot on his chest from a bra and becomes incredibly clumsy at every move. It's a hilarious light film, and it's a pity they never made "Hot Shots III", since it would have had so much potential after the War in Iraq.

Grade:++

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?


What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?; Comedy, USA, 1966; D: Blake Edwards, S: Dick Shawn, James Coburn, Sergio Fatini, Giovanna Ralli

Sicily, '43. US Captain Cash and Lieutenant Christian get the assignment to capture village Valerno with their unit. To their surprise, the Commander of the Fascists, Oppa, immediately happily surrenders under the condition that they all arrange a celebration. Cash agrees under protest but then gets drunk the most and lands in bed with Gina, Oppa's girlfriend. When Oppa finds that out, he decides not to surrender. Since the generals from both sides observe the village via airplanes, Italian and American soldiers decide to act as if they are fighting, in order to win on time. When the Germans take both sides as hostages, they unite and fight against them. They disguise themselves as Germans, capture them and send them to the Americans.

War burlesque "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" is a small jewel of comedy, a movie so simple and yet so effective with it's childishly hilarious jokes: already from reading the absurd plot synopsis, you can sense that the story is perfectly set up for laughs, and it's execution is really well done, which is why director Blake Edwards started earning his title as 'master of comedy'. The opening is overstretched and convulsive, but the story quickly picks up on substance when it spoofs military cliches: it's very cynical when the US soldiers and their Captain Cash enter an Italian village in order to conquer it, but to their surprise the Fascist Commander Oppa happily surrenders under the condition that they are arrange a celebration, which ignites a great conversation with Cash ("Americans, do you surrender?"-"We? Never!"-"All right, then we surrender...But only tomorrow, after the celebration."-"Surrender now!"-"After the celebration."-"Surrender!"-"...You're such a strange Captain..."-"Yes, that's right! I'm strange, and now surrender!"). The plot may meander at times, but it's always refreshing with pure humor, from the scenes where the Italian and US soldiers are acting as if they are fighting up to the simply genius sequence where US soldiers hide because they are wearing Italian uniforms while the Italians who are wearing US uniforms have to stay and pretend to be Americans when Sargent Pott arrives (he asks one soldier what's his name and he, of course, doesn't speak English and mumbles something in Italian, while Christian tries to justify it with "war shock"). It's amazing how well the film works, shooting gags left and right, and thus it's a pity it's a forgotten classic.

Grade:+++

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

10


10; Comedy, USA, 1979; D: Blake Edwards, S: Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, Robert Webber, Brian Dennehy, Dee Wallace-Stone

George Webber, despite having a great career as a songwriter and a good relationship with singer Samantha, falls in midlife crisis at the age of 42. While driving his car, he spots a beautiful woman, Jennifer, and loses his mind over her despite the fact that she just married her friend David. He finds out her name through the priest and visits her dad, a dentist, but she causes such a calamity in him that he gets drunk and joins a nude party at his neighbor. After an argument with Samantha, he flies to relax at some Mexican sea resort, but spots Jennifer again and saves her husband at the sea. The grateful Jennifer wants to sleep with George, but he changes his mind and returns to Samantha.

A huge commercial success back in it's time, „10“ is today on a rather shaky reputation and critic Alex Sandell even cynically wrote: „And the irony is, the film deserves only a 1“, though it's still a solid (erotic) comedy with a few deeper messages about how an ideal fling may not be better than a stable relationship. Director Blake Edwards included more and more lascivious humor in his later phase of career, which is more than obvious here in numerous nude scenes, which don't seem natural but somehow uneven and cheap. The film is quite sympathetic at first, yet it quickly proves to be an embarrassing vehicle for Dudley Moore since Edwards' sense for humor in such scenes where the old Mrs. Kissle farts and (especially) when George is all staggered and mumbles after his dentist fixed his six cavities proves to be mean-spirited and on a really low comic level. Edwards again forced too much humor from the main character stumbling into something or tripping on to something, since George Webber is not Inspector Clouseau, yet the last third of the film is refreshingly smoother, under control, and some of the best jokes may be in minority, but they come swiftly – like when a Mexican hotel employee is telling how the hotel had only one accident when „some idiot fell asleep on a surfboard and drifted away into the Ocean“ while just then George happens to spot the husband of his beloved 10 out of 10 woman precisely sleeping on a surfboard and drifting further away in the sea. It's a pity Bo Derek speaks up only some 90 minutes into the film since her role is quite neat, whereas the most beautiful moments are without any function, like in the underused role of song fan Mary who adores George, played wonderfully by Dee Wallace-Stone, yet Edwards' weight of talent can be sensed at moments.

Grade:+

S.O.B.


S.O.B.; Black comedy, USA, 1981; D: Blake Edwards, S: William Holden, Julie Andrews, Richard Mulligan, Marisa Berenson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Loggia, Robert Preston, Shelley Winters, Rosanna Arquette

Actress Sally Miles stars in the sweet child musical "Night Wind", filled with giant stuffed teddy bears and toys, but arriving in the theaters, it turns out that it has almost no audience at all. Director Felix thus falls in depression: it's his first flop while Sally, his wife, leaves him. Producers of the "Capitol" studio, David Blackman, sends his friend, agent and doctor to him so that they can persuade him to re-edit the film. And while Felix throws up and organizes nude parties in his mansion, he suddenly decides to make a porn film out of "Night Wind" - and it becomes a box office hit. But in the end he dies.

Black and not particularly amusing satire "S.O.B." became a box office flop itself, but director Blake Edwards at least showed an almost documentary picture of ingratitude and commercial greed of (some) Hollywood producers in that kind of situation. The rest is practically a disaster. Some critics in the minority claimed it's a matter of an excellent (!) poisonous satire, but the majority agreed with the audience that the film sickeningly exaggerated in vulgarity, deformed humor and hysteria. Here and there it delights with an occasional spark of inspiration (like the review of "Night Wind": "Critics break wind") while Julie Andrews is good and courageously does her nude scenes in the finale. "S.O.B." is crammed with everything, but it's pure hassle.

Grade:+

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Godfather Part III


The Godfather Part III; Crime drama, USA, 1990; D: Francis Ford Coppola, S: Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Franc D'Ambrosio, Sofia Coppola, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda

The now old Michael Corleone changed into a family loving man who wants to get out of the mafia and legalize his money. His foundation gives 100 million $ to the church for charity and then tries to deal with the Vatican to buy enough shares of the prestigious Immobiliare real estate company. The arranged deal is jeopardized though when the pope becomes sick and dies, and thus can't confirm it. Also, the impatient Vincent kills double crossing Joey Zasa and starts a relationship with Michael's daughter Mary. A Italian Lodge is conflicting with the Corleone's interest with Immobiliare. Vincent orders his men to kill all of Corelone's enemies during an opera where Anthony is performing. But the killers also kill Mary. Michael dies alone as an old man in Sicily.

16 years after the 2nd film, Francis Ford Coppola finally gave in and directed the 3rd and final film of the "Godfather" saga, "The Godfather Part III", an extremely hyped and disputed film that some have characterized as a worthy conclusion to the trilogy while others have denounced it as a movie that shouldn't have never been made in the first place. The stumbling point to many fans was the decision to show Michael Corleone as an aging mobster who suddenly changed his mind and became a family loving person who wants to leave the mafia, yet it's a legitimate choice from Coppola and Puzo who wanted to show how he became aware that it doesn't pay out to risk his children anymore to keep on with his work. The end is a haunting and depressive message that crime doesn't pay out and that no matter how rich someone can be, he can end up alone.

Despite a few tedious, banal and heavy handed moments (one of the four people carrying the statue of Virgin Mary on the street turns out to be an assassin who shoots with his gun, and thus drops the statue to the floor), the majority of the film is handled with a sure hand and a confident style that covers up some empty scenes, while the most astonishing detail is that the story even unbelievably plays with fact and fiction when it used some real-life events, the suspicious death of Pope John Paul I (here a result of poisoning) and the Papal banking scandal (here a result of the fact that the Corleones wanted to make a business deal with the Vatican in order to legalize their money). The most negative comments were aimed at the performance by Sofia Coppola who played Mary Corleone, though that was unjustified - admittedly, her performance isn't perfect, which is obvious in the sequence where she is talking with Al Pacino at the table, since she delivers her lines mechanically while he says them all naturally - yet she delivered a solid performance, and since her role isn't that big the accusations that she "ruined the film" are baseless. The film was nominated for 7 Oscars and 7 Golden Globes (including best picture, director and supporting actor Andy Garcia).

Grade:++

The Godfather Part II


The Godfather Part II; crime drama, USA, 1974; D: Francis Ford Coppola, S: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg


Two parallel stories of the Corleone family: Sicily, 1901. Mobster Ciccio kills the whole family of the little boy Vito. He emigrates alone to save his life and arrives in New York, where he is mistakenly given the last name Corleone and grows up trying to get rid of poverty. As a grown man, Vito makes friend with an Italian mobster and climbs up the hierarchy. As an olive oil owner in Sicily, Vito kills the old Ciccio...In '58, Vito's son Michael is now in charge of the mobster business and has 2 goals: to start a hotel business in Havana and to start a casino business in Nevada, even though he needs a vote from a Senator to do so. Michael uses the assistance of mobster Hyman Roth. After he survives an assassination attempt, Michael discovers that his brother Fredo betrayed him. Michael has him killed instead and divorces himself from his wife Kay.

The first "Godfather" was declared a classic because it daringly gave a glimpse into organized crime and showed how that system ticked, for which he won numerous awards and praise. Almost as some sort of paradox, 2 years after it was made, director Francis Ford Coppola made a "miracle" with this sequel which won even more awards and became an even bigger success, winning 6 Oscars (including best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor Robert De Niro, who spoke Italian during the entire film) and one BAFTA award (best actor Al Pacino), and, despite the fact that it's weaker and rather confusing at times, it was even declared as a better film than the original "Godfather". Just like the 1st film, Coppola and Mario Puzo again follow the mobster business - the film is fascinating because of 2 things.

Firstly, by showing the system of organized crime and how Michael uses tricks and deceit to start a profitable casino and hotel business, it displays "the people behind the curtain", influential individuals who try to control the market, far from the public and the law. Secondly, by showing a parallel story of Michael's father Vito, who came to New York all by himself as a little child, it gives an unbelievable insight into how a "nobody" could manage to become "somebody", powerful and influential with time. But in doing those two different stories side by side, Coppola also shows the differences between Michael and Vito - how one failed and the other succeeded. Intriguing 200 minutes of running time, with a lot of contemplative messages (for instance, Vito's family was killed by a mobster. Motivated by revenge, the poor Vito became a rich mobster. By killing that mobster, he actually destroyed the catalyst for his own success), but with already seen style from the original which seems rather worn out and grey towards the end, whereas the story is rather cold and slightly uninteresting at moments.

Grade:+++