The Godfather Part II


A picture of corruption.

A picture of corruption.

(1974) Drama (Paramount) Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, G.D. Spradlin, Richard Bright, Gaston Moschin, Tom Rosqui, Bruno Kirby, Frank Sivero, Morgana King, Francesca de Sapio, Mariana Hill, Dominic Chianese, Troy Donahue, James Caan, Abe Vigoda. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It is rare enough that a movie with the quality and the impact of The Godfather gets made. It is rarer still that a movie that prestigious has a sequel made. And for that sequel to be as good if not better than the precursor, well that’s a very lonely group.

But that’s exactly what Francis Ford Coppola did when he made the second installment of what would turn out to be a trilogy. The story is told in two distinct segments that are alternated in the original cut of the film between young Vito Corleone fleeing from Sicily from a corrupt Mafia don who’d murdered his father over an imagined slight. Young Vito (De Niro) marries and tries a life of the straight and narrow but poverty and corruption conspire to draw him into a life of crime at which he excels. The other segment is that of Michael, now head of the family, brokering a deal with Jewish gangster Hymen Roth (Strasberg) in Cuba while dealing with betrayal from a source unexpectedly close to him.

Coppola deftly weaves the two stories together and although they are essentially unrelated, the flow of the movie is never interrupted. It’s a masterful job of directing and editing and a tribute that we as the audience are never disappointed when one segment ends and the next one begins. We are equally drawn to young Vito and the older Michael.

Pacino, reprising his role as Michael Corleone and without Marlon Brando to upstage him, turns in what is largely considered the defining performance of his career. The corruption of Michael is growing as his desire for power and to retain it at all costs slowly warps his soul. It’s absolutely masterful as we see Michael turn from soft-spoken war hero to cold, calculating monster in the course of two films.

There are some powerful scenes, such as one before a Senate subcommittee on organized crime in which one of Michael’s capos are due to testify against him. The mute confrontation between Frankie Pentangeli (Gazzo) and his brother is as powerful a moment as has ever been recorded in cinema.

The question of whether the sequel is better than the original is one that rages fairly passionately within the film buff community. There are plenty who argue that the first is the best; there are just as many who argue just as vehemently that the sequel outdoes the original. For my own part, I think that both movies are nearly equal in cinematic excellence. My own personal preference leans towards the first Godfather however – by just a hair.

So do you need both of these films? Absolutely. Separately they are both magnificent films that should be in every film lover’s collection. Together they constitute one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of the movies. They remain today as they were 40 years ago enormously influential not only on the gangster genre but on cinema in general. This, like the first film, is one you’ll want to see many, many times and will pick up something new that you didn’t notice before each time you see it.

WHY RENT THIS: Another must-see for everyone who loves movies. A rare sequel that is as good as the original.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some may find the violence off-putting.

FAMILY VALUES:  More than its share of violence (some of it bloody) and foul language. There is also some sensuality and brief nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The first sequel to win a Best Picture Oscar.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: Be warned that editions which contain the individual films tend to be fairly sparse with extras. If you’re looking for extras you’re better off picking up the trilogy boxed sets in either DVD or Blu-Ray which include some scintillating material as it relates to the trilogy plus it is a cost-effective way to get all three films in the saga. However if you want to skip the third film and are just interested in the movies themselves without the bells and whistles, buying them individually is the way to go.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $193.0M on a $13M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Goodfellas

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Out of the Furnace

Pain and Gain


Mark Wahlberg is surrounded by chaos.

Mark Wahlberg is surrounded by chaos.

(2013) Action Comedy (Paramount) Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Rebel Wilson, Rob Corddry, Bar Paly, Ken Jeong, Michael Rispoli, Keili Lefkovitz, Emily Rutherfurd, Larry Hankin, Tony Plana, Peter Stormare, Vivi Pineda, Ken Clement, Yolanthe Cabau, Persi Caputo. Directed by Michael Bay.

We all have some sort of version of the American dream – success, and the rewards that come with it. Not all of us have the tools to achieve it on our own, however – particular in these rough times when achievement is seemingly less attainable than it’s ever been.

Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg), a body builder in Miami, is a big believer in physical fitness. In fact, the only thing he believes in more than keeping in shape is the aforementioned American dream. He believes that he deserves it. But working at it isn’t always easy. He’s charming and is able to draw lots of new customers – younger customers – to Sun Gym, which pleases owner John Mese (Corddry).

But Lugo isn’t pleased. He’s frankly tired of building up the bodies of wealthy douchebags like Victor Kershaw (Shalhoub), one of the most unlikable people…well, ever (see below). His protégé Adrian Doorbal (Mackie) concurs. Adrian has to work at a taco joint in addition to his full-time job at the gym in order to make ends meet. Adrian also has erectile dysfunction, which requires some expensive treatments. A sympathetic nurse (Wilson) at the clinic hits it off with Adrian.

Lugo wants his share and he thinks Kershaw has too much as it is. In fact, he despises Kershaw. He decides that he is going to take everything Kershaw has. His plan? Kidnap him, torture him and get him to sign his assets over to Lugo and his crew. But they’re going to need a third partner and they find it in Paul Doyle (Johnson), an ex-con who found Jesus and is trying to stay on the straight and narrow but soon finds that he can’t afford the straight and narrow.

So these three knuckleheads, roughly on the same intellectual level as the Three Stooges, go about pulling off their crime of the century. They kidnap Kershaw who’s so unlikable and such a horrible human being that nobody reports him missing even though he’s gone for weeks.

They finally get him to sign but typically they mess things up. Adrian blows all of his share on a house which he pays for in cash (the realtor, when asked about the unusualness of this snaps “He’s black. I figured he was a rapper, an athlete”), leaving him with an operation to get his erectile issues resolved to pay for. Paul falls off the wagon like it was the Brooklyn Bridge and puts almost all of his share up his nose. They decide to go for one more score.

Meanwhile, Kershaw has seen the police who react with absolute disbelief. Nobody believes him – except retired cop and private eye Ed DuBois (Harris). DuBois knows what he’s doing and it won’t be long before these ee-dyots will mess up but he is concerned that others will get hurt before then. He doesn’t realize just how right he is.

This is one of those stories that is so bizarre that it has to be true, and it is – and apparently pretty dang close to the truth. There is one scene so outrageous, so unbelievably dumb near the end of the movie that Bay feels compelled to remind you that this is a true story, even though it is announced early on and often.

Bay is often criticized for his big overblown productions, and with a $20M budget (actually it’s a bit less than that) that won’t be the case here. In fact, I think this might be his best movie to date. It’s snappy, has a real terrific sense of humor. I laughed out loud as much here as I have at some of the better-known and better-received comedies in recent months.

Wahlberg and Johnson are two of the most engaging stars in Hollywood and both are quite willing to poke fun at themselves. They can utilize their huge likable personalities to offset the fact that they’re playing some truly despicable people who do way despicable things.

It doesn’t hurt that they have a particularly engaging cast. Shalhoub, best known for his portrayal of the neurotic Monk gets to play a real jerk and he does so with great relish. Harris, one of the steadiest and strongest actors in the business, plays it pretty straight but every so often you catch an expression that lets you know that DuBois is ready to bang his head against whatever wall might be available that these clowns might actually get away with it (although they didn’t in the end).

The crimes that are depicted here are horrible. I understand that some of the family members of those involved are somewhat upset that the story was essentially a comedy. In all fairness however I think that the tale is well-served by humor and it should be remembered that while the movie is funny, the suffering depicted is not and that the victims aren’t being made fun of. At least, I never got the sense they were – mostly the ineptness of the criminals is what is being held to scrutiny.

And that’s kind of the point here. Criminals by and large aren’t a bright lot – all Hollywood romanticizing to the contrary. For the most part, they’re effin’ dumb. Criminal jobs rarely are pulled off smoothly and more often than not, they wind up imprisoned. Pain & Gain isn’t really a cautionary tale so much as it is a reminder that while any idiot can get lucky, generally speaking their luck runs out pretty darn quickly.

REASONS TO GO: Surprisingly funny. Terrific performances from all the leads.

REASONS TO STAY: Maybe a bit too gruesome in spots. As things spiral out of control for the main characters towards the end of the movie, the sense of the surreal becomes a bit too much.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s a lot of violence, some of it quite brutal and graphic. There’s also some nudity and sexual content, a fair amount of drug use and pretty much non-stop foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Wahlberg bulked up to 213 lbs. for the film, essentially using his own body building supplements to do it. While his sons loved their new muscular dad, his daughters reportedly hated his over-the-top physique.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/7/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 46% positive reviews. Metacritic: 43/100; fairly mixed but trending towards the negative.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Bank Job

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: Informant

Whiteout


Kate Beckinsale

This is Kate Beckinsale looking concerned. Later, she'll look perplexed.

(Warner Brothers) Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short, Tom Skerritt, Alex O’Laughlin, Shawn Doyle, Joel Keller, Jesse Todd, Arthur Holden, Erin Hickock. Directed by Dominic Sena

In space, no one can hear you scream; by the same token, at the South Pole, nobody can see a maniac coming either. At least, not in this movie.

It all starts with a plane full of Soviet Russians circa 1955 transporting a mysterious box over the South Pole to God knows where (Ummm…not to make too fine a point of it, but isn’t the USSR closer to the North Pole? Just asking…) when a gunfight breaks out on the transport plane. As anyone who knows airplanes can tell you, a gunfight on an airplane in midflight is usually a very bad idea. This scene would bear that out – so remember the next time you feel the urge to shoot someone on a plane, no matter how irritating they are.

Fifty years later another body turns up, and like the Russians, this one was killed on purpose but nobody knows who it was or what the body was doing all the way to Hell and gone. U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) has maybe the cushiest and worst job in the U.S. Marshall service – the most she ever has to deal with are a couple of geologists arguing about whose theory about igneous rocks is more accurate. Now, she has to deal with a murder – and only two days to solve it before the researchers fly north for the winter.

She will be aided by the wise, kindly Dr. Fury (Skerritt) who has nothing to do with Nick Fury other than they both originated in comic books, an FBI agent (Macht) who shows up conveniently, a wisecracking pilot (Short) and umm…other guys. As other bodies start turning up and an investigation of the original crime scene turns up that Russian transport plane from the prologue, it appears that the murders have something to do with whatever was in that mysterious box. What was so valuable that people would be killing for it fifty years later? The Ark of the Covenant maybe?

The movie started out life as a tautly written graphic novel that was way more suspenseful than this mess. The fact that it was shelved for nearly a decade before it was made, then sat on the studio shelf an additional two years after it was made should have told you something; well, obviously you took it to heart because this bombed at the box office in a hailstorm of negative reviews.

Part of the movie’s problem is endemic to the location, which is ironically one of the things that sets this movie apart from other thrillers. The whiteout conditions at the conclusion of the movie make it nearly impossible to tell who’s fighting who, or see what the characters are doing. I’ve seen plenty of movies so underlit that you can’t make out what’s going on; here, the action is obscured in a blizzard of studio snow.

The other problem is that much of the tension that made the graphic novel so enjoyable is largely missing here. Beckinsale, who can be a strong actress when given the right material (see Snow Angels), has been given absolutely nothing to work with here. Oh, there’s a backstory about a near-death experience while working for the Marshall Service in Miami that Haunts our Heroine Even Now, but largely she is given no personality and spends most of the movie looking perplexed, surprised, bundled up beyond recognition in fur jackets or stripping down for a gratuitous shower.

Likewise, most of the other characters are given no personalities and all kind of blend together with the exception of Skerritt’s Doc Fury who comes off a bit like a skinny Wilford Brimley. As such, you’re given no reason to care a whit about any of them, even after the maniac with the pickaxe comes calling.

There were four writers credited with the screenplay, which makes for patchwork screenwriting. This was a difficult graphic novel to translate to the motion picture medium at best for the reasons outlined above, but it basically had no chance with so many fingers in its pie. Hopefully, the studios and producer Joel Silver will have learned a lesson; avoid action sequences in a snowstorm and focus on character development if you want the suspense to really go off the scale and in the future, try to inject a little suspense into a suspense movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Kate Beckinsale is a beautiful woman.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Not a lot of suspense and quite frankly some of the action is hard to see.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of violence but not to excess, some rather grisly images and a bit of nudity. Probably not for the kids, unless they’re crazy mature.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Lake Manitoba exterior location was occasionally colder than the South Pole it was doubling for.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: The Expendables

Away We Go


Away We Go

A young couple face an uncertain future armed only with their love for each other.

(Focus) John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Chris Messina, Catherine O’Hara, Jim Gaffigan, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Schneider. Directed by Sam Mendes

At some point in all of our lives we are forced to grow up. Usually some sort of life-changing event is the catalyst – a new job, financial difficulties or impending marriage/parenthood. Whatever the cause, we are required to put aside the irresponsibilities of our youth and get serious about our future.

Burt (Krasinski) and Verona (Rudolph) are very much in love. They are pleasant, smart people, both with jobs that enable them to work at home wherever that home may be. They live in a ramshackle house that is probably well beneath what they can afford. However, Verona is expecting their first child and that changes everything.

Further complicating things are Burt’s parents Gloria (O’Hara) and Jerry (Daniels) who they were hoping would help with the child-rearing thing. Rather than assisting with their grandchild, Gloria and Jerry are more eager to move to Antwerp. This leads Burt and Verona to the revelation that they are completely free to live anywhere now, but with that freedom comes choice – where to live?

This leads them on a road trip to visit various relatives and friends to examine the relative merits of various locations as places to raise their impending family. First is Arizona, where Verona’s ex-boss Lily (Janney) lives with her husband Lowell (Gaffigan). Lily is a foul-mouthed, borderline alcoholic who actually does her best to convince Verona not to move to Arizona. It’s probably a good thing, too, considering all the dumbass legislation that has been coming out of there lately.

Next on the list is Madison, Wisconsin where lives a childhood friend of Burt’s, LN (Gyllenhaal), who teaches radical feminist bullshit (as far as I can make out) and has adopted a goofy New Age mantra that makes her a loonie of the first order. I’d say she’s a caricature but I’ve met a few sorts who aren’t far off from the views she espouses so we’ll leave it at wacko.

It’s on to Montreal where college chums of the both of them Tom (Messina) and Munch (Lynskey) seem to be living ideal lives and at first it’s very appealing to Burt and Verona but soon the desperate unhappiness simmering beneath the surface for their friends comes boiling through.

Next is Miami where Burt’s brother (Schneider) is struggling with a wife who left him to raise their children alone. This is one of the more poignant of the vignettes, but the experience leaves Burt and Verona a little shaken. After all this, Burt and Verona are faced with their decision, but what are they going to choose?

Director Mendes made this hot on the heels of his last movie, Revolutionary Road which was a totally different animal. Mendes is known for his condemnation of the suburban lifestyle, which he has explored in movies like the aforementioned Revolutionary Road and American Beauty but this is a bit gentler and a bit more quirky than his previous movies.

Krasinski and Rudolph, both TV veterans (from “The Office” and SNL respectively) do very well on the big screen. Their relationship is totally believable and the viewer is left with no doubt that these are two people who love each other very deeply. Yes, they have a certain amount of indie film arrogance about them, but Burt and Verona are genuinely nice people who are a little bit more educated than most and a little bit kinder than most. If that makes them smug and superior to some, well I suppose they have reason to be.

The various location vignettes work with varying degrees. Janney and Gaffigan are a bit out of whack with the overall tone of the film and it is a bit jarring. The Miami and Montreal vignettes are the best, ruthlessly honest and brutally frank.

The script is well-written by novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida who are romantically involved themselves. One gets the impression there’s an awful lot of the two of them in Burt and Verona (even the names are similar), so that may be why the film rings so true. Authenticity is a commodity that serves movies like this very well, and there’s an abundance of it here.

The truth of the matter is that there is always someplace better, but if you want the perfect place, it is almost inevitably the place where you’re at – wherever the one you love is, there is the perfect place to raise a family. Those who complain that there are no good romantic comedies anymore would do well to check out Away We Go – it blows all those formula movies right out of the water.

WHY RENT THIS: The chemistry between Krasinski and Rudolph is more than believable, and they both deliver fine performances. Supporting cast does very well.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Sometimes a bit too low-key for its own good; the one vignette that is louder is jarring to the film’s overall tone.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of sexuality, as well as some foul language. For my taste, some of the humor is adult but mature teens will be able to enjoy this.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Toni Collette was originally cast in the Maggie Gyllenhaal role but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is a feature on how the filmmakers tried to make the production eco-friendly with the help of a group called Earthmark.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: State of Play

The Losers


The Losers

Jeffrey Dean Morgan knows that two sub-machine guns are ALWAYS better than one.

(Warner Brothers) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jason Patric, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Holt McCallany, Oscar Jaenada, Peter Macdissi, Ernesto Morales, Peter Francis James, Tanee McCall, Krissy Korn. Directed by Sylvain White

When you want to send in a fighting force, you send in the Marines. When you need a tougher job done, you send in the Navy Seals. When you need the impossible done, you send in the Losers.

The Losers are one of those elite fighting forces who can get just about any job done. They are commanded by Hannibal….err, Colonel Clay (Morgan) who is a cool customer except when it comes to the ladies. His right arm is Roque (Elba), a lethal weapon on two legs. Their technology expert is Jensen (Evans) who has a mouth that just won’t stop, while Cougar (Jaenada) is their quiet and intense sniper who is as deadly with a rifle as anyone you’re likely to find. The man who gets them from place to place is Pooch (Short) whose wife is about to give birth. He gets his name from the Chihuahua bobble-head he takes with him for good luck on the dashboard of every vehicle he drives or flies.

They’ve been sent to South America to paint the home of a drug dealer with a laser target so that it can be targeted with a missile. It all seems pretty routine, although Roque wonders why a team as elite as they are would be sent on a mission that nearly any reconnaissance team could do. Then, as the jet with the missile is approaching, a busload of school children arrives at the hacienda. Clay gets on the radio to abort the mission, but a mysterious voice identifying himself as Max (Patric) tells the pilot to deliver the payload as instructed, then blocks the communications of the Losers. The team goes down to save the day and does, but not before Clay kills the drug dealer (Morales) they were sent to take out. Unfortunately, when the helicopter comes that is meant to fly them to safety, there’s not enough room for all of them. Without hesitating, Clay puts the kids aboard. Then, before the horrified eyes of the team, the copter is shot down and everyone aboard is killed.

Clay realizes that they were meant to be on that chopper and that the world believes they’re dead. In order to avoid becoming that way for real, they need to let the rest of the world go on thinking that. Of the team, only Pooch and Jensen have families although in Jensen’s case its siblings and a niece whose soccer team he follows like he’s got money on them in Vegas. The team is working  menial jobs trying to get back home when Clay is approached by a mysterious but beautiful woman named Aisha (Saldana) with an offer he can’t refuse – she’ll get the team back to the States as long as they help her take out Max. Clay is more than willing to accept the offer, but he quickly realizes that Max has a more insidious agenda on his mind and Aisha’s own motivations are questionable. It will take a good deal of firepower and skill to get out of this situation alive but then again, they were dead to begin with.

This is based on a DC/Vertigo comic series of the same name and yes, there are more than a few similarities to the A-Team and other movies of that ilk; in fact, I can think of three like it coming out this year alone (besides the A-Team feature there’s also the all-star action flick The Expendables coming out later this summer) that have a similar plot. Frankly, I didn’t realize there were that many elite teams being sent to South America only to be betrayed and forced to fight powerful forces in order to clear their names. It would sure make me think twice before joining an elite fighting unit eh?

I really like Morgan in his role as Clay. He’s tough as nails but not without character flaws. His relationship with Roque and the triangle that is formed with Aisha is at the heart of the movie and with Elba, another excellent character actor the heart is beating nice and strong.

Evans is making a career out of the smart-talking team member (he plays Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies) and will be Steve Rogers in the upcoming Captain America movie, which just means he’s comfortable with comic book adaptations. He is one of the highlights here.

I liked Patric as Max, although Da Queen disagrees with me strongly here – she felt Max was the weak link in the movie. I think the character is way over-the-top but let’s face it, the movie really needs someone like it, someone so obsessed and drunk with his own power and sense of rightness that he can casually shoot someone for stumbling while holding the umbrella that was shading him. Now that’s just evil, you know?

Director White has little experience with action movies, but showed himself to be more than capable here. The action sequences are well done, but most importantly paced so as not to give the audience a whole lot of time to catch their breath. There’s enough quirky humor to balance the testosterone-fueled action sequences and there’s a style that gives homage to the film’s comic book roots and makes it a little slicker than the average bear.

Clearly this is meant to be the starting point for a franchise but the opening weekend box office numbers were disappointing so there’s little chance of that happening, which is a crying shame but in some ways perhaps inevitable – as I mentioned earlier there are far too many movies with similar plot points in the pipeline and far more that have come out in theaters and on television over the past five or six years. Still, this is one of the better representatives of the genre and those of you who turned away from the movie last weekend would do well to reconsider, particularly if you’re out for a little mindless entertainment, because this so fits the bill on that score.

REASONS TO GO: It’s big, it’s dumb, and it’s a whole lot of fun. No real new ground is broken but the characters are well-drawn, the action is spiffy and the pacing is breakneck.

REASONS TO STAY: The plot is kind of old hat and while the characters themselves are well-thought out, they are nonetheless a bit on the cliché side as elite Special Forces teams go.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of shooting, a good deal of things blowing up real good and one scene that’s on the sexy side. In other words, pretty much what you’d find in your standard broadcast TV show.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The story is somewhat loosely based on the arc published in the comic book series’ first six issues, collectively called “Ante Up.”

HOME OR THEATER: Sure, there are some big bangs and action films tend to work better on the big screen but quite frankly I think it would be just as swell on a good home theater system.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Shotgun Stories

Goldfinger


Goldfinger

Shirley Eaton is just golden.

(United Artists) Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewellyn, Shirley Eaton. Directed by Guy Hamilton

There are many who consider this to be the ultimate James Bond movie and quite frankly, I’d have to agree with them. All of the elements come together and make this the standard against which not only all other Bond movies are measured, but all other spy movies as well.

James Bond (Connery) is in Miami having a little R&R when he receives a call from his boss M (Lee) to assist the CIA in observing Auric Goldfinger (Frobe) who happens to be staying at the Fontainebleau as is Bond. Felix Leiter (Linder), the CIA liaison, gives Bond the low-down; Goldfinger comes to the pool area every day to cheat at canasta, having a young beautiful blonde by the name of Jill Masterson (Eaton) report what his opponent’s cards are via shortwave radio to his hearing aid. Bond, being Bond, decides to mess with Goldfinger. He seduces Masterson, causing Goldfinger to lose. However, Goldfinger doesn’t take kindly to losing and sends a flunky named Oddjob (Sakata) to knock out Bond and repay Masterson for her betrayal by painting her gold, suffocating her skin.

As it turns out, MI6 has a big interest in Goldfinger owing to his smuggling of gold in and out of the UK. They’re wondering how he’s doing it and put Bond on the job. He follows the portly villain to Switzerland, where he has a run-in with Tilly, Jill’s sister. Oddjob murders her as well, making the score Oddjob 2, Masterson girls 0. He also captures Bond, which gives Goldfinger the opportunity to set up an industrial laser aimed for the Bond family jewels. It also gives Goldfinger to deliver the all-time classic villain line when Bond asks “You expect me to talk?” (For the record, the response is “No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die”).

Bond, thinking quickly on his feet (or on his back as it were), implies that he knows a lot more than he actually does. This forces Goldfinger to send Bond back to his Kentucky horse ranch under the watchful eye of his personal pilot Pussy Galore (Blackman), the dirtiest character name in the history of movies. There, he uncovers Goldfinger’s real ambition; to set off a nuclear device at Fort Knox, irradiating the largest gold supply in the world and making his own supply ultimately far more valuable. Can Bond stop the nefarious plot and overcome the seemingly indestructible Oddjob?

This was the Bond that essentially became the template for all the Bond movies to follow. It set the bar and quite high as well. For better or worse, all other Bond movies are measured against this one, just as all Bond villain are measured against Goldfinger, all Bond flunkies are compared to Oddjob and all Bond girls are compared to Pussy Galore.

The ultimate Bond car is the Aston-Martin DB5 that makes an appearance here. With its changing license plate, rocket launchers, oil slick dispensers and ejection seat, it was the ultimate spy vehicle. The car became so popular that two working models were built (complete with ejection seat) and toured the world in support of the film.

Like most Bond films of the era, the attitude towards women is pretty dated. While Pussy is a strong, independent woman, she is no match for Bond’s machismo; in fact, all it takes is a single kiss for her to see the error of her ways, a kiss that is forced upon her, I might add. In our more enlightened times, we might call that sexual assault.

It is the action that makes Goldfinger what it is, and that action is breathtaking. The assault on Fort Knox is one of the most awe-inspiring action sequences in the history of the movies. While some of the special effects look a little clunky, it still stands up 45 years after the fact.

I’m not saying this is the perfect movie, mind you. It is pretty darn close, however. It’s a reflection of its times, and that certainly needs to be taken into account, but it is timeless in all the important aspects of the movie. If you haven’t seen Goldfinger yet, your film education is incomplete without it.                    

WHY RENT THIS: By far, the best of the Bond movies. Frobe is one of the best baddies of all time and Connery was never better than he was here.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Well, maybe you just don’t like movies made in the 20th century. Your loss.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a surprising amount of violence, much smoking (remember, that was common for the era) but still pretty tame by modern standards.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: One of the hoodlums gathered at Goldfinger’s ranch is played by an uncredited Garry Marshall, future director of Pretty Woman and Valentine’s Day, among others.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The new Blu-Ray contains a digitally enhanced print and there are a number of contemporaneous features about the making of the film. There are also some screen tests of some other actors who tested for the Goldfinger part, as well as a featurette on the phenomenon of the movie and one on the Aston Martin DB5, possibly the most popular movie car of all time.

FINAL RATING: 10/10

TOMORROW: You Only Live Twice

Miami Vice


Miami Vice

Their other car is a Corolla.

(Universal) Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, John Ortiz, Luis Tosar, Elizabeth Rodriguez, John Hawkes. Directed by Michael Mann.

It’s a given that everything old will become new again at some point. Take Miami Vice as an example. As a television show during the mid 1980s, it helped define the era with its South Beach cool. The soundtrack included some of the signature songs of the era – “In the Air Tonight” (reprised in the movie, but not by Phil Collins sadly) and Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City.” For a time, record labels campaigned mightily to get their music onto the show’s soundtrack because it guaranteed them a serious sales upsurge.

Twenty years later, the show has largely faded into its time, but for those who loved the show are as affectionate for it now as they ever were. Show creators Anthony Yerkovich and Michael Mann have made the decision to resurrect the show and update it for the 21st century. For me, this set off a lot of alarm bells in my head. Movies based on classic television shows have been nearly without exception extraordinarily bad. For every Mission: Impossible there have been several like Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched and My Favorite Martian. The only thing that even kept it on my radar was Mann’s recent track record, which includes Collateral, one of the more stylish thrillers of recent times, and The Insider, which was nominated for seven Oscars.

While the names remain the same, this is most definitely not your father’s Miami Vice. Detective James “Sonny” Crockett (Farrell) gets a frantic phone call from an informant (Hawkes) who has had to give up FBI undercover agents to a vicious drug cartel operating in Miami in order to save his family – unsuccessfully. It’s obvious there is a mole in the FBI somewhere.

Fujima (Hinds), the FBI agent in charge, enlists Crockett and his partner Rico Tubbs (Foxx) to go undercover; since they are in the Miami-Dade police department, he can trust them. Their superior, Captain Castillo (Henley) agrees to it. The two undercover cops set themselves as transporters of illegal goods. Fujima tells them that the supplier for the man they’re after in South Florida is a Columbian named Jose Yero (Ortiz). They arrange to take down a shipment of his, destroying the boats of the transporter he has been using. Using an intermediary, they set themselves up to take over the business.

They are surprised to find out that Yero is not the boss of the organization. Isabella, a beautiful Asian woman (Li) seems to be in charge, but it turns out she is just the girlfriend of the man who is in charge, a man named Montoya (Tosar). Crockett and Tubbs find themselves in a position to take down the entire organization from top to bottom.

There are complications, however. Crockett falls hard for Isabella, which makes Yero suspicious. He sets up a hit on the two of them and when that fails, kidnaps Tubbs’ girlfriend, fellow undercover cop Trudy Joplin (Harris) whom he has for reasons I can’t fathom introduced to Yero as…you guessed it, his girlfriend. Crockett and Tubbs may be in over their heads against a network of vicious killers that have absolutely no compunction about leaving a high body count of civilians in their wake.

Miami Vice gets high marks for its action sequences. Mann doesn’t waste a single moment on-camera (OK, the shower scene with Tubbs and Joplin might have been a little too long, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining) and keeps the movie’s pacing at a breakneck pace.

Like its predecessor, Miami Vice gets high marks for style. The detectives drive state-of-the-art wheels, boats and jets and hit night clubs that actually look like clubs that the high and mighty would hang out at. While the soundtrack isn’t as memorable as that of the television shows, it nevertheless pulsates with some excellent tracks from Moby and India.Arie.

You don’t go to a movie like Miami Vice for the performances. I thought Foxx did pretty well as Tubbs, but Farrell at times was a bit too mannered for Crockett, and he gets the majority of the screen time – I would have liked to see more of Tubbs. However, Gong Li does an unsurprisingly good job in the femme fatale role.

The gun battle at the movie’s conclusion is loud and looks and sounds a lot like what that kind of confrontation with that kind of firepower would look and sound like. Hopefully, you’ll have a high end sound system to take enjoy the experience. This is far grittier than the television show, which makes some sense – given that it has an R rating, they could go a lot farther than they could on the small screen.

This is pure summer entertainment, and has a sense of realism in the police procedural aspect as well. Although there are a few moments that make no sense other than to put one character or another in jeopardy, there is no doubt that this movie succeeds wildly at what it set out to do. From that standpoint, there’s definitely something in the air.

WHY RENT THIS: Extraordinary action sequences take front and center stage. Foxx is outstanding as Tubbs. The movie retains the South Beach style and an updated but still strong soundtrack which may invoke a sense of nostalgia.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the plot points are a bit preposterous. Farrell is a little too mannered as Crockett.

FAMILY VALUES: Oy vey! Violence, sex and drugs aplenty. Lots of foul language. Definitely one to put on after the kids are in bed.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Actor Edward James Olmos turned down the opportunity to reprise his role as Castillo and TV theme song composer Jan Hammer also turned down the job of scoring the film.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: A realistic prank played on Farrell by undercover officers he was shadowing for research purposes is shown as part of a feature on the actors preparation for their roles. There is also an unrated directors cut that restores footage cut out to get the movie its R rating.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Doubt