Top 100 Movie Review: #32 – Godfather Part II (1974)

A Sequel Better Than The Original.

There, I said it. Godfather’s second incarnation is better than the first, having a cleaner plot and an interesting juxtaposition of past and present. 

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Al Pacino as Micheal Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #32/100
Awards: Nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, & Score.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Initial reaction to this movie was divided with many people not liking the two story arcs happening at once. Canby writing for the New York Times described the film as “stitched together from leftover parts.” The film later became a focus of reevaluation with some considering it a better film than the first. Roger Ebert even went as far as to re-rate the movie with his highest ranking retrospectively.

Something about this film caught my eye more than the first, and I think it centers around me viewing the two-story arcs positively; it gives us time to breath from present day events while providing a solid, stand-alone story.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #10 – Singing in the Rain (1952)

A Musical with a Story.

Some of the numbers are a bit lame, but the story, acting and sets are intriguing enough to make up for the boring parts.

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Gene Kelly in the famous “Singing in the Rain” scene.

American Film Institute Ranking: #10/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for two – Supporting Actress & Original Music Score
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The story’s iconic scene with Gene Kelly has been burned into the collective consciousness of Americana, but what about the rest of the movie?

Singing in the Rain pairs an interesting story with some solid musical numbers to be a pretty good film. While some of the lulls can be quite treacherous to get through, there is usually enough interesting things on screen, whether talent, clothing, set, or cinematography to make it bearable.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #94 – GoodFellas (1990)

“Do I Amuse You?”

Yes you do Joe Pesci! Along with the rest of this crime film’s cast of characters.

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Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #94/100
Awards: Nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor and Actress with Joe Pesci winning Best Actor.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Finally, a contemporary movie to review! I actually know some of these guys.

GoodFellas is a great crime film with plenty of gore, curse words and crude behavior. The long scope of its timeline allows you to  dive deep into the intricacies of being involved in the mob, following Henry Hill from an outsider admirer, to being one of its main players, to the ultimate down fall.

The arc is bittersweet, almost feeling sorry for the unfortunate endings of the depraved characters you somehow become attached to.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #33 – High Noon (1952)

Realtime Drama.

Time passage in the story is synced with realty, making the clock a constant motif and reminder — time is running out.

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Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) goes to church to recruit help against outlaws in this Western Film.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #33/100
Awards: Nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning four (Actor for Gary Cooper and then some editing and musical stuff).
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This movie has a handful of things going for it, but I’m not sure where they stand against the test of time.

The backdrop of the movie was McCarthyism, and the film is supposed to be a representation of someone willing to stand up against evil when all others wilt. The film runs in real time, with every shot including a clock corresponding with the correct amount of time that has passed in real life. It flips the Western on its head, having an ending that is somewhat counter to what would be considered traditional.

Putting it all together, enough happens where it produces an average film, enjoyable albeit hard to recommend to others.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #67 – Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Old Movies Can Still Thrill

This movie might not have action in a contemporary sense, but neat ideas and slight of hand can cause immense thrill — proven by this classic.

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Old Blue eyes himself as the main character, Captain Bennett Marco

American Film Institute Ranking: #67/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for best supporting actress (Angela Lansbury)
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Old movies are better, so the argument goes, because they had to be creative: they didn’t have the get-out-of-jail-card of special effects like today, so they had to rely on the innovation that came from imagination alone, making magic out of thin air.

Evidence Exhibit A: The Manchurian Candidate.

This movie is a political thriller, but there is very little “action” within the frames. What grips you and keeps you interested isn’t the flash and sizzle of shoot-outs but the tension and puzzle of what is real and what isn’t.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #30 – Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Case Study of Greed

Humphrey Bogart’s character epitomizes what can befall us all: the complete perversion of our sensibilities by unchecked avarice. 

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Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), and Howard (Walter Huston).

American Film Institute Ranking: #30/100
Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Jim Huston and Walter Huston — a father-son combo.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

It was obvious early on what this movie was going to be about: Greed = Bad.

By showing the cards early, I didn’t know if I would be interested, especially if the moral teaching was going to be heavy-handed. My concerns were ungrounded and the movie addressed them with a counterintuitive solution. Instead of using fast-pace or subtlety, Jim Houston takes the approach of a staggered walk, slowly allowing Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) descend into is madness over the course of a couple hours.

What this does is make you experience every slow, twisted turn into immorality. This slow-train wreck of a nose-dive makes you squirm, really understanding what greed can do, exceeding my low expectations of what I thought would be an after school special delivery.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #96 – The Searchers (1956)

Beautiful Vistas Paired with Man-Made Caricatures

This movie combines the awe-inspiring nature of the west with mostly inorganic and stale characters leaving me wondering: can setting alone carry a movie?

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A scene that epitomes the film: wonderful back drop with a typical Cowboys vs. Indian story.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #96/100
Awards: None
My Ratingsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I sometimes take a peak at other people’s thoughts on a movie before settling down on my own: was there an angle I missed or a piece of lore that impacts how I view the film? Roger Ebert is consistently someone I go to first because of his acerbic wit and clear writing. His review for “The Searchers” is a study in character analysis as he slices and dices the depth of the two main leads, reading far into the director’s intentions and purpose.

I simply disagree with what he comes up with. 

Ebert dives deep into the shallow souls of these scantily-detailed characters, projecting life into them that I just cannot see. Where he finds impactful statements and testaments to the director’s hidden or subliminal messages, I see stage props — exception being the main character. This leaves me feeling that the environment was more dynamic than the story and characters: the West is daunting with staggering depth and isolation, while the characters are more true to the stagnant mountains that surround them.

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