Film Review – ANNIE HALL (1977)

Pulling Focus: Annie Hall (1977) | Taste Of Cinema - Movie Reviews and  Classic Movie ListsANNIE HALL (1977, USA) *****
Comedy, Drama, Romance
dist. United Artists; pr co. Rollins-Joffe Productions; d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman; exec pr. Fred T. Gallo, Robert Greenhut; pr. Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe; assoc pr. Fred T. Gallo; ph. Gordon Willis (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); ed. Wendy Greene Bricmont, Ralph Rosenblum; ad. Mel Bourne; set d. Robert Drumheller, Justin Scoppa Jr.; cos. Ruth Morley; m/up. Fern Buchner, John Inzerella, Romaine Greene, Vivienne Walker; sd. Dan Sable, Jack Higgins, James Pilcher, James Sabat (Mono); anim seq. Chris K. Ishii; rel. 27 March 1977 (USA), 21 August 1977 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 93m.

cast: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Shelley Duvall (Pam), Janet Margolin (Robin), Colleen Dewhurst (Mom Hall), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall), Donald Symington (Dad Hall), Helen Ludlam (Grammy Hall), Mordecai Lawner (Alvy’s Dad), Joan Neuman (Alvy’s Mom), Jonathan Munk (Alvy – Age 9), Ruth Volner (Alvy’s Aunt), Martin Rosenblatt (Alvy’s Uncle), Hy Anzell (Joey Nichols), Rashel Novikoff (Aunt Tessie), Russell Horton (Man in Theatre Line), Marshall McLuhan (Marshall McLuhan), Christine Jones (Dorrie), Mary Boylan (Miss Reed), Wendy Girard (Janet), John Doumanian (Coke Fiend), Bob Maroff (Man #1 Outside Theatre), Rick Petrucelli (Man #2 Outside Theatre), Lee Callahan (Ticket Seller at Theatre), Chris Gampel (Doctor).

Jewish comedy writer Alvy Singer (Allen) ponders the modern quest for love and his past romance with tightly-wound WASP singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton, née Diane Hall). Allen is at the top of his game with this painfully accurate and funny look at the break-up of a relationship. The movie caught everyone by surprise on release, following a string of hilarious joke fests, but the seeds had been sown with his acting role in Martin Ritt’s THE FRONT and his willingness to explore bigger themes in LOVE AND DEATH. Keaton as Annie is exceptional and exudes charm and personality as well as a neurosis equalling that of Allen. It is the couple’s inner-most insecurities that doom their relationship to failure. This is eloquently expressed through the non-linear narrative, frequent breaking of the fourth wall and the use of flashback to childhood influences. The move also has some very touching moments amongst the brilliant one-liners. Of note are Keaton’s rendition of “Seems Like Old Times” in  a nightclub and the Allen’s use of montage to frame the rose-tinted nostalgia for his lost love. One of the greatest films of the 1970s and a huge inspiration to other filmmakers. Watch out for brief early appearances from Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Hack, Beverly D’Angelo and Sigourney Weaver. Truman Capote cameos as the Truman Capote Look-Alike.

AA: Best Picture; Best Actress in a Leading Role (Diane Keaton); Best Director (Woody Allen); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman)
AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Woody Allen)

Film Review – LOVE AND DEATH (1975)

LOVE AND DEATH (USA, 1975) ****
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions; Release Date: 10 June 1975 (USA), October 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 21 September 1974-late February 1975; Running Time: 85m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG/PG.
      Director: Woody Allen; Writer: Woody Allen; Executive Producer: Martin Poll; Producer: Charles H. Joffe; Associate Producer: Fred T. Gallo; Director of Photography: Ghislain Cloquet; Music Composer: Sergei Prokofiev; Music Supervisor: Felix Giglio; Film Editor: Ralph Rosenblum, Ron Kalish; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman, Juliet Taylor, Blanche Wiesenfeld; Art Director: Willy Holt; Costumes: Gladys de Segonzac; Make-up: Anatole Paris, Marie-Madeleine Paris, Renée Guidet; Sound: Dan Sable; Special Effects: Kit West.
      Cast: Woody Allen (Boris), Diane Keaton (Sonja), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), James Tolkan (Napoleon), Harold Gould (Anton), Olga Georges-Picot (Countess Alexandrovna), Beth Porter (Anna), Zvee Scooler (Father), Jessica Harper (Natasha), Féodor Atkine (Mikhail (as Feodor Atkine)), Despo Diamantidou (Mother), Yves Barsacq (Rimsky (as Yves Barsaco)), Yves Brainville (Andre), Brian Coburn (Dimitri), Tony Jay (Vladimir Maximovitch), Howard Vernon (General Leveque), Alfred Lutter III (Young Boris), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), Sol Frieder (Voskovec (as Sol L. Frieder)), Lloyd Battista (Don Francisco).
      Synopsis: In czarist Russia, a neurotic soldier and his distant cousin formulate a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
      Comment: Woody Allen channels Bob Hope (with nods to Chaplin and Groucho) and European cinema (notably Ingmar Bergman) in this very funny parody of Russian literature. Allen is the youngest of three brothers and is in love with the intellectual Keaton, but she is in love with Allen’s macho older brother. Allen and his brothers go off to fight in the war against Napoleon and after inadvertently becoming a hero, Allen gets to marry Keaton, who expects him to be killed in a duel with Gould. The whole thing then turns into an assassination plot against Napoleon (Tolkan). Yes, the plot is as convoluted as all that, but it is also a great vehicle for Allen to deliver his one-liners with zing and some visual slapstick. His targets include his favourite neuroses about sex and death. Keaton is again a great foil for Allen who directs with more assuredness than in any of his efforts up to this point. He was one film away from his breakthrough hit ANNIE HALL. Shot on location in Hungary and France.

Film Review – THE GODFATHER: PART III (1990)

Image result for the godfather part iiiTHE GODFATHER: PART III (USA, 1990) ***½
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), United International Pictures (UIP) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures / Zoetrope Studios; Release Date: 12 December 1990 (USA), 8 March 1991 (UK); Filming Dates: 27 November 1989 – 25 May 1990; Running Time: 162m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby SR (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (spherical) (Eastman 5384), 70mm (blow-up) (Eastman 5384); Film Process: Super 35; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Francis Ford Coppola; Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo; Executive Producer: Fred Fuchs, Nicholas Gage; Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; Associate Producer: Marina Gefter; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Carmine Coppola; Music Supervisor: Stephan R. Goldman; Film Editor: Lisa Fruchtman, Barry Malkin, Walter Murch; Casting Director: Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins, Roger Mussenden; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis; Art Director: Alex Tavoularis; Costumes: Milena Canonero; Make-up: Fabrizio Sforza; Sound: Gloria S. Borders; Special Effects: R. Bruce Steinheimer.
      Cast: Al Pacino (Don Michael Corleone), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams Michelson), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone Rizzi), Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini), Eli Wallach (Don Altobello), Joe Mantegna (Joey Zasa), George Hamilton (B.J. Harrison), Bridget Fonda (Grace Hamilton), Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone), Raf Vallone (Cardinal Lamberto), Franc D’Ambrosio (Anthony Vito Corleone), Donal Donnelly (Archbishop Gilday), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Helmut Berger (Frederick Keinszig), Don Novello (Dominic Abbandando), John Savage (Father Andrew Hagen), Franco Citti (Calo), Mario Donatone (Mosca), Vittorio Duse (Don Tommasino), Enzo Robutti (Don Licio Lucchesi), Michele Russo (Spara), Al Martino (Johnny Fontane), Robert Cicchini (Lou Pennino), Rogerio Miranda (Twin Bodyguard Armand), Carlos Miranda (Twin Bodyguard Francesco), Vito Antuofermo (Anthony ‘The Ant’ Squigliaro), Robert Vento (Father John), Willie Brown (Party Politician), Jeannie Linero (Lucy Mancini), Jeanne Savarino Pesch (Francesca Corleone), Janet Savarino Smith (Kathryn Corleone), Tere Livrano (Teresa Hagen), Carmine Caridi (Albert Volpe), Don Costello (Frank Romano), Al Ruscio (Leo Cuneo), Mickey Knox (Marty Parisi), Rick Aviles (Mask #1), Michael Bowen (Mask #2), Brett Halsey (Douglas Michelson), Gabriele Torrei (Enzo the Baker), John Abineri (Hamilton Banker), Brian Freilino (Stockholder), Gregory Corso (Unruly Stockholder), Marino Masé (Lupo), Dado Ruspoli (Vanni), Valeria Sabel (Sister Vincenza), Remo Remotti (Cardinal Sistine), Luigi Laezza (Keinszig Killer), Giuseppe Pianviti (Keinszig Killer), Santo Indelicato (Guardia del Corpo), Simonetta Stefanelli (Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone (archiveFootage)), Francesco Paolo Bellante (Autista di Don Tommasino), Paco Reconti (Gesu), Mimmo Cuticchio (Puppet Narrator), Richard Honigman (Party Reporter), Nicky Blair (Nicky the Casino Host), Anthony Guidera (Anthony, the Bodyguard), Frank Tarsia (Frankie, the Bodyguard), Diana Agostini (Woman with Child at Street Fair), Jessica DiCicco (Child), Catherine Scorsese (Woman in Cafe), Ida Bernardini (Woman in Cafe), Joe Drago (Party Security), David Hume Kennerly (Party Photographer), James D. Damiano (Son Playing Soccer), Michael Boccio (Father of Soccer Player), Erica Yohn (Governess), Teresa Tirelli (Midwife).
      Synopsis: In the final instalment of the GODFATHER Trilogy, an aging Don Michael Corleone seeks to legitimize his crime family’s interests and remove himself from the violent underworld but is kept back by the ambitions of the young.
      Comment: Unnecessary continuation of the story is initially very uneven before improving significantly when the action moves to Sicily for the final act. Main issue is with a script that lacks the depth of character of the earlier movies and a pair of weak performances from Garcia and Sofia Coppola, whose love affair lacks any level of intensity and feels like it has drifted in from a lesser movie. Fortunately, Pacino is once again excellent in the lead role and supported well by Keaton, Wallach and Shire. Coppola admits the movie was made purely for financial reasons. It adds little to the enormous legacy of the first two movies but taken in isolation has enough impressive sequences – notably the opera finale – to pack a punch.
      Notes: Extended version runs 170m.

Film Review – THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)

Robert De Niro and Leopoldo Trieste in The Godfather: Part II (1974)THE GODFATHER: PART II (USA, 1974) *****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures; Release Date: 13 December 1974 (USA), 15 May 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 October 1973 – 19 June 1974; Running Time: 202m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Francis Ford Coppola; Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo (based on the novel by Mario Puzo); Executive Producer: Robert Evans (uncredited); Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; Associate Producer: Mona Skager; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola; Film Editor: Barry Malkin, Richard Marks, Peter Zinner; Casting Director: Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton, Vic Ramos; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis; Art Director: Angelo P. Graham; Set Decorator: George R. Nelson; Costumes: Theadora Van Runkle; Make-up: Charles H. Schram, Dick Smith; Sound: Nathan Boxer, Charles M. Wilborn; Special Effects: A.D. Flowers, Joe Lombardi.
      Cast: Al Pacino (Michael), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay), Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V. Gazzo (Frankie Pentangeli), G.D. Spradlin (Sen. Pat Geary), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Gastone Moschin (Fanucci), Tom Rosqui (Rocco Lampone), Bruno Kirby (Young Clemenza), Frank Sivero (Genco), Francesca De Sapio (Young Mama Corleone), Morgana King (Mama Corleone), Marianna Hill (Deanna Corleone), Leopoldo Trieste (Signor Roberto), Dominic Chianese (Johnny Ola), Amerigo Tot (Michael’s Bodyguard), Troy Donahue (Merle Johnson), John Aprea (Young Tessio), Joe Spinell (Willi Cicci), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Tere Livrano (Theresa Hagen), Gianni Russo (Carlo), Maria Carta (Vito’s Mother), Oreste Baldini (Vito Andolini – as a Boy), Giuseppe Sillato (Don Francesco), Mario Cotone (Don Tommasino), James Gounaris (Anthony Corleone), Fay Spain (Mrs. Marcia Roth), Harry Dean Stanton (F.B.I. Man #1), James Murdock (F.B.I. Man #2), Carmine Caridi (Carmine Rosato), Danny Aiello (Tony Rosato), Carmine Foresta (Policeman), Nick Discenza (Bartender), Joseph Medaglia (Father Carmelo), William Bowers (Senate Committee Chairman), Joseph Della Sorte (Michael’s Buttonman #1), Carmen Argenziano (Michael’s Buttonman #2), Joe Lo Grippo (Michael’s Buttonman #3), Ezio Flagello (Impressario), Livio Giorgi (Tenor in ‘Senza Mamma’), Kathleen Beller (Girl in ‘Senza Mamma’), Saveria Mazzola (Signora Colombo), Tito Alba (Cuban President), Johnny Naranjo (Cuban Translator), Elda Maida (Pentangeli’s Wife), Salvatore Po (Pentangeli’s Brother), Ignazio Pappalardo (Mosca), Andrea Maugeri (Strollo), Peter LaCorte (Signor Abbandando), Vincent Coppola (Street Vendor), Peter Donat (Questadt), Tom Dahlgren (Fred Corngold), Paul B. Brown (Sen. Ream), Phil Feldman (Senator #1), Roger Corman (Senator #2), Ivonne Coll (Yolanda), Joe De Nicola (Attendant at Brothel), Edward Van Sickle (Ellis Island Doctor), Gabriella Belloni (Ellis Island Nurse), Richard Watson (Customs Official), Venancia Grangerard (Cuban Nurse), Erica Yohn (Governess), Teresa Tirelli (Midwife).
      Synopsis: Continuing saga of the Corleone family as they move to Nevada and make the casino business their major income source under the leadership of the increasingly paranoid and malevolent Michael, whose reign as the “Don” is juxtaposed against the parallel tale of his father’s escape from Sicily as a young boy and his subsequent rise to power in New York’s Lower East Side during the turn-of-the-century.
      Comment: Coppola does the seemingly impossible by topping THE GODFATHER with a follow-up that has even more depth of character and plot. The parallel plot threads weave nicely together giving Pacino and De Niro the opportunity to showcase their considerable acting skills. The supporting cast is perfect with universally strong performances. Coppola’s direction is note-perfect as he seamlessly moves his story between locale and time period. The production design is sumptuous and, aided by Willis’ evocative cinematography, wonderfully captures the contrasts between the poverty experienced by the young Don Vito with the enormous wealth of his legacy. Pacino’s transformation into a single-minded and ultimately lonely and unforgiving figure is beautifully captured by the actor’s skilful performance.
      Notes: Winner of six Academy Awards, including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Music. James Caan appears uncredited in a brief cameo. Extended version runs 220m. Followed by THE GODFATHER PART III (1990).

Film Review – RADIO DAYS (1987)

Image result for radio days blu-rayRadio Days (1987; USA; DeLuxe; 88m) ***½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Dick Hyman (supervisor).  Cast: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Jeff Daniels, Tony Roberts, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen, Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Wallace Shawn, David Warrilow, William Flanagan, Mick Murray, Paul Herman, Mike Starr. A nostalgic look at radio’s golden age focusing on one ordinary family and the various performers in the medium. Allen’s affectionate tribute to the 1940s is a series of vignettes based around a family of Jewish New Yorkers living in Brooklyn. Along the way we meet vulnerable characters encountering the challenges of poverty and life who get their pleasures from the radio programmes of the time. Warm and funny, its lack of a central plot is compensated by its strong ensemble cast of characters. [PG]

Film Review – THE GODFATHER (1972)

Image result for the godfather blu-rayGodfather, The (1972; USA; Technicolor; 175m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Francis Ford Coppola; w. Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Nino Rota.  Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Richard Castellano, Sterling Hayden, Gianni Russo, Rudy Bond, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Abe Vigoda, Franco Citti, Lenny Montana, Al Martino, Joe Spinell, Simonetta Stefanelli, Morgana King, Alex Rocco, John Martino, Salvatore Corsitto. Epic tale of a 1940s New York Mafia family and their struggle to protect their empire from rival families as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son. Superbly scripted and directed, this is the template for all gangster movies thereafter. Brando as the patriarch and Pacino as his heir are superb. A strong cast supports. Great period detail and production design by Dean Tavoularis. Winner of three Academy Awards: Best Movie, Actor (Brando) and Adapted Screenplay. Based on Puzo’s novel. In 1977, a special version for television titled The Godfather: A Novel for Television (1977) was prepared by director Francis Ford Coppola and editor Barry Malkin by re-editing THE GODFATHER (1972) and THE GODFATHER PART II (1974) in chronological order and adding deleted scenes. Extended version runs 200m. Followed by two sequels. [15]

Film Review – MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993)

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993; USA; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman; ph. Carlo Di Palma.  Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Ron Rifkin, Ira Wheeler, Joy Behar, William Addy. A middle-aged couple suspects foul play when their neighbour’s wife suddenly drops dead. Witty mystery with a top-class cast. Hand-held camera work and Woody’s trademark naturalistic approach to dialogue helps create some tension, but its Allen’s one-liners and Keaton’s scatty characterisation that are the real pull here. Alda’s lonely playwright and Huston’s confident novelist also score. [PG]

Film Review – FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II (1995)

Father of the Bride Part II (1995; USA; Colour; 106m) ∗∗∗ d. Charles Shyer; w. Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer; ph. William A. Fraker, Elliot Davis; m. Alan Silvestri.  Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kimberly Williams, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin, B. D. Wong, Peter Michael Goetz, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Jane Adams, Eugene Levy, Rebecca Chambers, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Annie Meyers-Shyer. In this sequel to 1991’s FATHER OF THE BRIDE, George Banks (Martin) must accept the reality of what his daughter’s ascension from daughter to wife, and now, to mother means when placed into perspective against his own stage of life. Entertaining follow-up, which doesn’t vary from the sunny formula set by its predecessor and provides just enough laughs to sustain its run-time.  Remake of FATHER’S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951). [PG]

Film Review – FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)

Father of the Bride (1991; USA; Technicolor; 105m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Charles Shyer; w. Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer; ph. John Lindley; m. Alan Silvestri.  Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams, George Newbern, Kieran Culkin, Martin Short, Peter Michael Goetz, BD Wong. A remake of the 1950’s Spencer Tracy/Elizabeth Taylor classic in which an ordinary guy has to take on the planning, expense, and complications of his daughter’s wedding. Wonderfully entertaining with a smart script, if a little over-sentimental, and top-class performances from Martin and Keaton. Short is also superb as eccentric wedding co-ordinator. For dad’s everywhere. Followed by FATHER OF THE BRIDE PART II (1995). [PG]