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The Godfather: Part II

More of a stand alone epic. Either way a triumph
The Godfather, Superman, Evil Dead. There are textbook answers to the question of sequels that are better than the original. The sequel of The Godfather, though, is a very different project to the first, engaging in something so unfathomably far-reaching and ambitious, a story of such epic proportions, that if it had gone wrong, it would have gone WRONG. Instead, we have a rolling, multi-dimensional, poly-era masterpiece. We must not compare the two as it does not make the prequel any less formidable (as is often the case with a successful sequel) but it is worthy of standing alone but also being recognised as part of the saga. A rare position and a lucky one but it seems to rather deserve it.

In the first review, tribute was paid to those who claim to not like the first film. Tribute in the form of contemptuous scorn and disrespectful suspicion. Here it will be the same. Once again if someone says it is too much for them, or they like simpler films, or have a problem with the violence, etc and do not like it for those reasons, this is perfectly fine. However, any folk saying it is just not any good are not being honest with themselves. It is a spellbinding triumph of incalculable dimensions with timeless honourable merit and standard-bearing assumed by its creators. So, if this is you, get some therapy, and another film review. You do not belong here. For the rest of you, let us begin.

Very differently we begin in Corleone, Sicily. We learn of the brutal instances that cause Vito to leave, alone and orphaned on a strange vessel, marked for death by a Mafia chieftain, headed for the New World. As he lands on what would become Ellis island, we see an understated but vital scene. Young Vito, a mute and barely eight years old walks in front of a crowd of fellow immigrants all staring at the Statue of Liberty. Vito also looks, but unlike his fellow boat-people, he is walking forward while looking up to the symbol of America while everyone around him stands still. The analogy does not take much figuring out. Smallpox quarantined, alone, and scared, for the first time, in his small single room with a table and a bed, we hear his voice as he sings to himself.

Time leaps to his grandson, Anthony, many years later in Tahoe, Nevada, at the same age. The rise of the family under Michael (Al Pacino) has moved into politics, a naive senator tries to strong-arm. An entertaining piece. A series of events leads to a violent head, Michael leaves to find out who betrayed them and nearly cost him his life. Temporarily the illegitimate German-Irish lawyer and Michaels assumed brother, Tom Hagen is at the helm after being stepped-over in the first movie's climax. Things take hold in Cuba, in a story meant to mirror that of a true Mafia event, The character of Hyman Roth, played by acting legend Lee Strasberg is painfully obvious in its basis upon famous Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky. A capable but mute bodyguard accompanies Michael everywhere as he weaves around finding out who betrayed them, who paid them too, and how to come out on top in both the long term and in the Cuban deal

As happened in real life, history decides the latter as Cuba collapses under Bautista as Fidel Castro takes power and throws the Mafia out., The traitor is revealed and Michael must act, but how he acts will be determined by actions he must control. Back home a wronged subordinate, manipulated by Michael's enemies, turns government witness to a senate committee (once again drawing from an event of recent history). Michael must also outwit the US Senate, treachery is everywhere and duplicity is lurking. Michael uses his wit and cunning with typical aplomb to outwit and crush his enemies at a cost of maybe losing his family. His main betrayal coming from a source that troubles him for the rest of is life. He remains at the top and yet it is at a terrible cost.

As all this happens, the second unit story evolves. Young Vito played in breathless mystery by a spellbinding pre-embarrassment Robert DeNiro in post-WWI New York. For you young-'uns who see Bad Grandpa, Meet the Fockers, and Joker, you may wonder why he is so revered, and it is a good question. The answer, is probably more than anywhere else, evident here. A young Vito, a grocery boy, is made unemployed by a Black-Hand (a particularly ferocious offshoot of the mafia) operatives and thus christened into the crime world by that often-occurring phenom in these movies, the life-changing chance encounter. This time is with a jolly but lethal neighbourhood tough called Clemenza. From here he rises, using his quiet viper-like strength and ability to listen and not react. He rises to the top of New York and returns to his home of Sicily to repay those who forced him out. If anyone has not seen it, they should check the deleted scenes on YouTube for a more detailed explanation.

The two parallels play together perfectly. The rolling camerawork of following young Vito across the rooftops of Little Italy as he pursues his quarry, interspersed with pyrotechnics and scenery from the Saint Genarro festival is something to behold. It shows that panoramic shots do not need to have half of Montana in the background and can even be poorly lit. All of the scenes of this section are dim and rather dusky and shot at close quarters. This is to express the claustrophobic nature of railway cold-water flats and tenement rows in early 20th-century New York. Somehow though, it has an epic feel too. In fairness, the cinematography of part II is way superior to the first installment, but that is possibly the way it is meant to be. The way a young colt of an experienced stud racehorse will have speed and strength its parents didn't, but all are remembered as fondly.

A lot more happens in this installment. As mentioned, Cuba falls. Then the act of betrayal at Michael's home is far beyond anything seen before, and the brutal slaying of an innocent prostitute simply to aid a blackmail case by the fearsome Al Neri (Richard Bright) is an act far beyond the romanticised broad-Brooklynese movie-star, ferret-faced behatted mobsters of the first film. One of the moral criticisms is that it glorified the Mafia (a word never uttered in the film) and it led to a backlash against this romanticised image of mobsters only killing other killers and raining gold on the innocent. You certainly do not feel this way at the end of part 2

It is full of crescendo-like scenes. The music of Nino Rota is used to explain for those looking away. The camerawork is ambitious, for example, a scene in a courtroom where Michael uses a defendant's brother to silence him, is often praised, but I have always found it clunky and out of pace. I think trying for too many cuts and bustling tension is a bridge too far in a movie that is all about subtlety. For example, Connie wants the children to leave the room, they ignore her, although they are so very young, just a glance from Michael shows his power among all who he rules. Paradoxically, we are shown that Vito does it differently, he gives people a chance to not fear him Take for instance, a quirky little comedy involving a reactionary landlord of a friend of Vito's wife is another testament to Nino Rota and his score. With a different tune it could have been terrifying, yet here it has a flutey Italian jig playing, so it is taken lightly. Michael never has such a frivolous sound accompaniment. His interactions have the whistling background of deep piano foreboding and in one of the most depressing scenes I have ever encountered, he returns to his wife, who is sewing and there is no love left. He gives no one a chance and is cruel, particularly to his step-brother, Tom, who is loyal beyond question.

A very complicated movie that no-one could fully comprehend in one sitting. For the most part, there is no book to refer to (except for Vito's segment being part of the original novel). It deserves multiple watching, it is a towering achievement in modern motion-picture artistry that will provide food for all thoughts. At once it is both a soap-opera and a mystery. It remains never-bettered by imitators. This is mostly due to it has been, aside from the hilariously inferior Once Upon a Time in America, largely unattempted. Not being one to romanticise the past, it is daft to say it could never happen I truly hope it does as it would be some kind of film to watch. Until that day 9.5/10

Spider-Man: Far from Home

Good Stuff. Tom Holland is a star and a less well-know director paid off
As the ending of any MCU movie shows with the unspeakable amount of people involved, it is difficult to justify assigning any credit to any departments. So, saying X person deserves credit for anything seems unfair. To that end, with Marvel movies all credit is aimed at the director, it is for them to distribute. So individual accolade will be feudal Set immediately after the events of Endgame, this new incarnation of the MCU sees Peter Parker take the helm. We learn that the Thanos incident was called "The Blip" and using careful yet light exposition showing amateur footage during a tribute to Tony Stark and the other fallen Avengers of a basketball game to humourous ends.

The relatively unknown director, Jon Watts had something of a mammoth task. He pretty much had to go on after The Beatles just split up live on stage. Was his low-fi profile maybe a tactical decision by the board at Disney to be able to disassociate itself from the glorious success of the MCU up to Avengers: Endgame by giving it an indie roster to pass it down to "cult hit" if required? Not sure, it seems like a strange choice given the well-known players that would have fought for a chance to direct this. Either way, he handled it well.

Starting off in the usual setting, a war-torn zone, we see Nick Fury and Agent Hill (although agent of what?) in the remnants of what actually turns out to be an "Earthquake with a face" (no one has explained who Nick is now and how he is funded, perhaps it is by Audi, he seems to be advertising them). Greeted by the usually dramatic opening incorporating Marvel's usual spellbinding special effects and some expo-logue (a neologism, figure the meaning) and the drama is settled by Jake Gyllenhaal dressed as the alien leader from Mars Attacks! and shooting Harpic dust from his hands. Well dealt with is the phenomenon of people ageing five years while those who vanished in "The Blip" didn't. So, especially for younger folk, it was awkward where younger siblings were now older siblings, best friends who were eleven, now had one that was sixteen. An amusing offshoot that is touched upon but not laboured, to the writing team's credit. There is a lot of reference to Tony Stark. Verbal and visual, and unspoken. Now some would say this is gratuitous, but its Iron Man. Remember what he did? What were they going to do, ignore it? He bought trillions back to life. Celebrate Stark, have at it. Embrace your options. So, we see Peter, Aunt May, and Happy Hogan continuing without Tony. Happy and May have a burgeoning romance of zero plausibility and Peter, ghosting Nick Fury, just wants to go and have fun with his pals, including the always delightful Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). Off on a trip to Europe with the hilariously uncool teacher played by one of the best deadpan comic actors around, Martin Starr, a clumsy yet clever little pantomime executed poorly results in Peter NOT getting to sit with MJ but instead love-rival Brad is moved next to her instead. This is a new trope I see in millennial-influenced productions where the love rival is a nice guy. The obnoxious Flash is peripheral and needs writing out. Now that Peter is not a teen kid anymore, an annoying bully is surplus to entertainment. Yet moreover, one constant is true, Tom Holland is an absolute joy. The perfect Peter Parker.

So, engaging is the chemistry of all the players that I forget the whole "Weather had a face" thing and suddenly, it appears, and the action begins. Starts off a little clunky with Peter hopping from one Gondola to another and is not of the usual MCU standards. Then it finds its feet and the effects kick into excellent levels. Peter, disguised as Peter wearing a little mask, helps the unnamed weird looking Jake Gyllenhaal fight the gargantuan creatures soon explained as "Elementals". A clever idea that is a kind of living version of the infinity stones. Back at the hostel, Peter still jonesing for MJ (played by the elegant Zendaya) is blindsided by Nick Fury in a very funny scene that had a lingering thought of "why not close the door?". Anyway, comic relief spent, after another Audi commerical, in a scene that emulates more of a Bond-style 'Q' scene of exposition, Peter joins the inexplicably well-resourced Nick Fury and the outer-space visitor Quentin Beck (yeah) but lately-monikered "Mysterio". A kind and Tony-esque tonic to Nick Fury's aggressively demanding and somewhat mildly insulting persona. We learn Beck's tragic back story, a little unimaginative and strangely enough a character in the film, and someone watching at the same time as I was, asked "Is that not Dr Strange?" This could be pointing to the fact they MCU are running out of ideas. Still running with it, here is a definitely entertaining yarn. Mind you, love-rival Brad is becoming a bit less likeable. There are further remnants of Tony in his EDITH glasses. A device that will have the fanboys gushing, and I have to say, they are right. It is a grand and exciting concept to have such tech available post Stark Industries. However, as is proven almost immediately, Peter is not ready to have them. All danger is over. By now, I really hate Brad, and as it is halfway through the film, we know a twist is coming. and it is far from over. A twist that is somewhat obvious but still intriguing to see how it is played out. Sadly, therein lies a few faults. Many questions are raised. The explanations are both complex and inefficient. At this point we see the sides begin to split a la Homecoming on the ferry. This time there is no Iron Man to fly in and save the there?

So, there is much left to play out. Holographic stage plays and images that are clearly distracting in a pleasing way. Anyone who enjoyed Tron will be right at home. Through a frankly fantastic and eerily psychedelic scene traipsing through Peter Parkers fears and insecurities (think back to when Brian took mushrooms in Family Guy in the storm episode) we approach the final act. It is possible, even simple, to overdo the action. If you agree that this can be the case, you will almost certainly believe it here. Also, something about the overall threat is not so grabbing. How do you create a villain after Thanos, the Elementals are not Thanos. He was simply the villain to end all villains. Back to being on stage after The Beatles again. The usual comic relief of a Spiderman movie does not escape. There is a very funny scene in Holland, although to that end, the Gondolas in Rome, the Tulips in Holland, the open-top red buses in London and the Tower etc, it does often find itself being a little guilty of clumsy or lazy cultural labelling. Fine for Wayne's World, this is Marvel. Try harder please. Not to mention Tom Holland flexing his muscles as Happy Hogan is handed a necklace. Caught you out Tom! Not fair, as Mr Holland is a star. He has none of the smug bedazzlement of Tobey Maguire, or the misplaced athletic handsomeness of the over-charismatic Andrew Garfield. He is quite simply Peter Parker. Long may he reign. So, in conclusion, while the action can get heavy-handed and the storyline a little forgotten, it is overall a definite winner and deserves the accolade of being part of the MCU. Jon Watts has handled it well and maybe he will return. On that subject, this annoying habit of mid-credit and end-credit scene that is part of the movie and should have been in the main picture is certainly redone here. So, stay till the end. I would give them credit but making paying fans wait is frankly a despicable tactic and a reminder of why the world hates Disney. Mid/Post credit scenes are supposed to be cute little add-ons, not incredibly vital plot points. 7.5/10

Withnail & I

I am writing a review
I am writing a review of Withnail & I. This is likely to elicit two responses. Either "Woah, all a bit student isn't it? Going to do Betty Blue, Easy Rider, Man Bites Dog, and Clockwork Orange (on bootleg VHS from days of withdrawal of course)", or failing that, just simply; "What is that?"

To the former I say; No. Then, predictably, I am going to take issue with the latter. Just baffles me. So many times I am asked what my favourite film is. I respond with this title, and people look blankly. As if I have just mentioned some Icelandic student movie filmed on super 8 on Easter Island, released through a bankrupt independent Turkmenistan electrical wholesalers, about a Cloud falling in love with a sick-bag and it all being viewed through the eyes of a baby eel with all dialect being said backwards. They do not recognise one of the most quoted, adored, hilarious, start-studded, intriguing, and beloved British films ever, with a first starring role for a major English actor, supporting for an ex Dr Who, borne of acting royalty, and released in tragically lovable circumstances by a Beatle, for christsake!

Seriously, I mean people that can talk about movies, even expressing some apparent knowledge, yet rendering that totally misguided by the expressed bewilderment of this uncut gem. In fact, one girl, who seemed to know her stuff, said to me that she was a (sic) HUUUUGGE Richard E Grant fan, and when I said that he was in my favourite movie, she proved herself, if you will excuse my severity, an Oxygen Thief, when she said she had never heard of it. Sorry, harsh, I know. Yet I am sure you will accept the labeling when I tell you shortly after, expressed how much she adored (or whatever) Kevin Spacey (she had even met him, as she proved with a picture of him at the Vic in the noughties, looking bored in her presence....the signs were definitely there) but had never heard of Swimming with Sharks, had not seen American Beauty, and didn't think Se7en was one of his good ones.

She was just one of many W&I virgins I have left alone, not explained the drinking game, the laughter scene at the end that is more infectious than Botulism. While I want to call them "terrible c**ts", I feel it is moot. Not to you though, you clicked, so shall you have ice in your cider.

As I said, it was released by a Beatle. George Harrison and his wonderful Handmade Films, with the soul drenching wonder behind the story of The Life of Brian (not for here, look it up) gives any movie with the Handmade logo a place in British independent cinema loving lore. So it has a good start. As does the movie:

Marlowe (unaccredited, as, but easier to write than "...& I") is a world weary young fellow with a referential likeability and a clear and relatable film of anxiety. He shares a dark, squalid, flat in north London with his destructive, selfish, and eccentric friend and fellow undiscovered thespian, Withnail. The wonderfully synced opening scene of Marlowe struggling to a mythical famous live version (once again, not for here, look it up) of Procul Haram's Whiter Shade of Pale. The junky anthem of the late sixties. On that subject, it is worth noting, as it is easy to miss, that the two are at the end of a week long speed-binge.

It cannot be any sort of accident that this film found a resurgence in the mid nineties, among the club generation. Rave had all but died, and was inner city now, ecstacy, while still plentiful and guzzled down in heroic quantities, had plummeted in quality and risen in price. People were getting a longer dance buzz from amphetamine. however, with E, you stand a chance of recovering by the following evening. As us clubbers know, speed, is not so forgiving. That is why anyone of the Mixmag generation watching Marlowe, as the titles go up, in that dingy, comedown chic, apartment, lighting spitty half smoked roll-ups, trying to get up by doubling over from cramps and dizziness, as all the blood is trapped between your waist and knees as you have been chewing through your jaw in that circulation-lancing squat for six hours and standing up is about as likely as opening the curtains. Yet, this punishment still has a day to go.

I will not make another cliched review about Richard E Grant first appearing as Withnail, or the famous continuity error about the egg sandwich (you guessed it, not for here.....). Just watching it, will show you the hilarity and the tragedy, the anti freeze cocktail, the near violent ponce-battering from a son of Erin, who may, or may not Arses". All amongst the confused time void of a whizz comedown eloquently narrated by Mr Mcgann. ("Speed, is like a dozen transatlantic flights without ever getting off the plane.....all of a sudden those frozen hours melt through the nervous system...its crashing")

Now bear in mind we have already had a wildly entertaining opening, we have still not met Danny, the legitimately aspiring entrepreneur / drug dealer ("the purveyor of rare herbs and prescribed chemicals is back, will we never be set free"). His beautifully delivered prose and logic and his always narcotic-analogous, anecdotes will make you love him. Sadly he only has two appearances, happily, they are in ascending order of entertainment.

What I like is the lack of that old British movie trope of the drug dealer being the brainless thug alpha who bullies his victims with constant lording of the sellers market nature of his ubiquitous product (powder-power, I believe they call it). Here, he is shown to be the intelligent, sensitive, and forward thinking one, and the eponymous actor the spiteful reactionary one. Although, push Danny too far and.... you will know you have been spoken to.

So by now, our two heroes have clatteringly agreed to try and blag a rich uncle to lend his weekend country retreat to them. Unbeknown to Marlowe, it is secured by Withnail telling his flaming gay Uncle that his pal is a convicted rent-boy, in unrequited love with Withnail. All for vanity and manipulation reasons, reasons that blossom and evolve with Shakespearian perfection and subtlety, and against a background of the beautiful northern countryside. Eventually.

So we arrive in the freezing, fuel depleted, empty larder sporting cottage in Crow-Crag, near Penrith. The two realise, for the first time (the tagline for the movie plot) that they have "Gone on holiday by mistake" and will pay for said mistake. In many ways. By animal, vegetable, and mineral. they also realise, it is not weekend retreat. It is a rarely visited shack of inequity for his leanings.

I believe a movie bylaw states; if it is English, so shall it contain Michael Elphick. So it shall be, and so it does. The gruff, tough, entirely unpretentious, and unpredictable Jake, a local poacher. His lines, which for some reason are among the best, are pretty terrifying. The Withnail-christened "Silage Heathen" promises to come and see them. In the most menacing way.

The aforementioned cowardice in Withnail bubbles over to a hilarious misunderstanding. Leading to another when an unexpected visitor arrives.

Here, we must take a moment to pay homage to the titular characters portrayal. The rookie screen actor Mr Grant voicing, with seasoned aggression, the most memorable greeting to anyone in any movie. Ever. When the mysterious visitor reveals his identity, He carries on, changing his tone of voice and expression into a high pitched cracking. A vocal trick worthy of lifelong study. Employing convincing rage, post adrenaline fear-soaked relief, and foot-stomping bewilderment. So very impressive for a movie beginner. With no disrespect to the excellent Marlowe, he acts a member of the Mcgann dynasty off the screen (although, it has to be said he has more opportunity). Just moments like Paul Mcgann over-cockneying the angry dialogue (where he is ranting about the unhelpful farm hag and telling his pal to "bring in the shed" for firewood, he briefly turns into Martin Kemp as Reggie Kray), means we have to shave a few decimal points from his rating. Mr Grant, though, gets ten out of ten. Still, as a whole, the comfort the two leads have on screen, as well as the intertwining of the rich dialogue, creates a "chemistry" (I hate that word) rarely lamented, but never bettered.

Then, once the monkeyshines of the previous evening are over, the drinking can carry on. Culminating in a beautifully in-keeping scene of external debauchery in a local village tea-rooms. Now, as in so many movies, scenes appear for shock value, or to give a shot in the arm to a dying screenplay, this is neither. It is a rare, fluid, organic, and drunkenly hilarious riot. It fits like a pair of good quality rubber boots.

Jake the poacher returns, all too briefly then a night of drunkenness, fear, misunderstanding, followed by, as always, a mornings reflection, guilt, Marlowes name revealed (if you zoom) and a long, and far from uneventful journey home, aided with the best use of the intro of Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile ever conceived.

After some more hilarity, and a gorgeous soliloquy from Danny about cultural apropriation and chemical-effect philosophy. We have the introduction of an infamous South London named, illiterous narcotic concoction, diluted into cliche by party bores the world over. A major "whitie" from Marlowe, some infectious giggling from Withnail, and a linguistically perfect summary from Danny, in his last spoken words, set the tone for the coming end. The future of the two main characters, already decided by fate and fortune, framed by a wet walk through Regent's Park.

************************SPOILER SECTION****************************

Marlowe has finally acchieved the success hinted at in earlier scenes, he has cut his hair, he is off to Manchester to play the lead in the WWI tragedy, Journeys End. Withnail has to say a heartbreaking goodbye to his only friend in the rain (a little heavy-handed.....yo

Man Up

Okay. Teen Romcom plot with older cast
Okay this film was alright. Short, funny in parts, storyline a bit too simplistic maybe but also nice to not have any hipster cynicism found in most love movies starring, and/or about city based thirty-something rave culture post indie hybrids. It wasn't trying to be like an episode of This Life. That being said it was too derivative. For the end and how Pegg gets to where he wants to be, I was smiling at how it made me think of the end of the hilarious Not Another High School Movie and the airport scene parodying the obligatory assistance from unlikely groups of public to help the hero get the girl. It's not good to be laughing at a spoof of a scene from a movie lampooning its clicheed hackneyed approach that came out ac decade before. So the lazy copycat scenes aside I thought it was watchable. I don't agree with the one and two star reviews but everyone is entitled to an opinion and accept that viewpoint. However what I just cannot accept is people saying its 9 or 10 out of 10. So they are saying it ranks along such romantic comedies as As Good As it Gets, Me Myself and Irene, Ten Things I Hate About You, Crocodile Dundee, or Jerry Maguire? They must be because same genre and the marks can't get any better. Wow.

El Chapo

Narcos methadone. Sickly sweet alternative
Firstly, the actor. His face is the most annoying ever! The chubby cheeks and tiny mouth make him look like a spoiled boy. Makes hating him so easy. Then his character, in Narcos, Pablo had some likeability, his family dedication and his brief flashes of humanity gave him audience faith. El Chapo murders scores of innocent working men who had done construction work for him. Just so they couldn't tell anyone. So for me straight off the bat I hated the guy and that couldn't be changed. No experience of his could give any excuse for this. So when he's in jail and suffering I just wanted it to carry on. After he escapes it shows he is about to rape an underage girl, just in case you forgot what he was. So for me having such a petulant, irritating and vile lead is a bad thing. That said it is a well crafted show. Too similar in its subject matter, production values, and release time to not be compared to the superior 'Narcos'. It's a bit jolty jumping from one perspective to another Still definitely one of the good shows.


Unfairly denounced
I like this movie. But I just want to give a nod to Bradley Whitmans sleazy coked out record exec denouncing the bowery just as he did at the dinner table in Scent of a Woman just before colonel slade attacks him. Just wondered of anyone else caught that

The Young Americans

Correction of Sols review
Sorry SOL but your review is a little inaccurate. First, you call Keith Allens character homicidal and psychotic. Truly he was just a pretentious little prick with a Napoleonic complex trying to be a tough guy. Also, Chris was not a hoodlum. He worked in a bar and hated drugs.

For my end, I love this movie. I know its not amazing but its got some great lines, so class footage of Arsenal v Man U and as usual Keith Allen is out of his depth and hams it to get through.

I will agree that there were too many sub plots opened and never explored (Keitels family etc) and the seemingly rushed downfall to Carl Frazer was too easy. However, scenes like the police interviewing Dwayne, and the attempted murder of the old time gangster who proves to be too wily a fox to be taken out like that, combined with great cinematography and likable heroes make this one of my old time faves.

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