Mario Puzo

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Superman Review


Good
Yeah, it was 1978 when Superman first hit theaters in the version most of us remember -- with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Marlon Brando as his disco-inspired pop. Superman is a lovable epic full of quaint nostalgia and incredible mysteries of logic (because if the earth spun the other way round, time would apparently reverse... riiiight). The story tells the bulk of the Superman legend -- his escape from Krypton, coming to terms with his powers as a youth in Smallville, moving to big old Metropolis and becoming Clark Kent (and falling for crusty Lois Lane), and dealing with a Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, excellently over the top) plan to buy up real estate in Nevada and then destroy most of California, thus making his new coastline worth millions. Watch for Terence Stamp's Zod in the first scene -- he'll be back to rule as one of cinema's great villains in Superman II.

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Superman II Review


OK
"Kneel before Zod."

Superman II had all the signposts of a disaster. Richard Donner, who shot much of the footage during the production of the first Superman, found himself forced away from the movie and replaced by Richard Lester, who claimed never to have heard of Superman before signing on to the franchise. To top it off, Marlon Brando sued to cut out all his scenes as Jor-El. And Gene Hackman was unavailable to shoot after Lester took the reins.

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Earthquake Review


OK
The land-based counterpart to The Poseidon Adventure provides the same decay of civilization, the same mix of jaw-dropping special effects (remember, no CGI in these days) and cheese, and the same George Kennedy. With names like Heston, Roundtree, Bujold, and Greene (Lorne), the film has plenty of star power to manage its obvious plot: The Big One strikes L.A., and a handful of stories play out in the aftermath. Some are inspired (a group of office workers attempt to escape a crumbling high-rise) and some are absurd (Roundtree is a stunt motorcycle driver whose wooden track falls apart). The stories roughly interlock, but the impressive effects steal the show, not to be outdone by some amazing howlers, like the crudely animated blood that "splatters" on the screen when an elevator falls to its doom. Priceless. (The movie had four Oscar nominations, won one, and got a special achievement award for visual effects. On DVD, the sound is awesome.)

Earthquake Review


OK
The land-based counterpart to The Poseidon Adventure provides the same decay of civilization, the same mix of jaw-dropping special effects (remember, no CGI in these days) and cheese, and the same George Kennedy. With names like Heston, Roundtree, Bujold, and Greene (Lorne), the film has plenty of star power to manage its obvious plot: The Big One strikes L.A., and a handful of stories play out in the aftermath. Some are inspired (a group of office workers attempt to escape a crumbling high-rise) and some are absurd (Roundtree is a stunt motorcycle driver whose wooden track falls apart). The stories roughly interlock, but the impressive effects steal the show, not to be outdone by some amazing howlers, like the crudely animated blood that "splatters" on the screen when an elevator falls to its doom. Priceless. (The movie had four Oscar nominations, won one, and got a special achievement award for visual effects. On DVD, the sound is awesome.)

The Godfather: Part II Review


Extraordinary
The inimitable Godfather story continues in The Godfather Part II.

Unlike many critics, I don't feel the sequel has the weight of the original -- many feel it to be better than the first film -- but it certainly is a necessary and extremely good follow-up, adding a wealth of information about "the family" that only serves to enhance the experience of the original movie. The problem, of course, is how could you measure up to The Godfather? The truly memorable scenes from the series -- the spilling cart of oranges, the horse's head, Michael's vengeance in the Italian restaurant, "an offer he couldn't refuse" -- are all found in the original, not here (or at best, they are simply repeated in the sequel). Godfather 2's most memorable moments -- the Senator's private meeting with Michael ("My offer is this: Nothing."), the denouement of Fredo -- pale in comparison. Well, not exactly pale, but you can't say that Godfather 2 is as good as Numero Uno.

Continue reading: The Godfather: Part II Review

Superman Review


Good
Yeah, it was 1978 when Superman first hit theaters in the version most of us remember -- with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and Marlon Brando as his disco-inspired pop. Superman is a lovable epic full of quaint nostalgia and incredible mysteries of logic (because if the earth spun the other way round, time would apparently reverse). The story tells the bulk of the Superman legend -- his escape from Krypton, coming to terms with his powers as a youth in Smallville, moving to big old Metropolis and becoming Clark Kent (and falling for crusty Lois Lane), and dealing with a Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman, excellently over the top) plan to buy up real estate in Nevada and then destroy most of California, thus making his new coastline worth millions. Watch for Terence Stamp's Zod in the first scene -- he'll be back to rule as one of cinema's great villains in Superman II.

The Godfather: Part III Review


OK
Why make another Godfather? While he gives it the old college try, Francis Ford Coppola fails to answer the question in The Godfather Part III, which picks up the saga of the Corleones decades later -- which finds Michael (Al Pacino) still unable to go legit. By 1990, he's near death (having heart attacks and whatnot), and he figures the Catholic Church is his best route to legitimacy. And wouldn't you know it, they're corrupt too. Well, you know, just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in...

While the film is well-acted (with the surprising exception of Diane Keaton reprising a role that wasn't all that interesting to begin with), masterfully lighted, and gorgeously photographed -- most notably the various shootout scenes -- it ultimately treads over old ground: material from the first two movies as well as repeating itself. This is most telling in the aforementioned shootouts -- the Atlantic City shoot-'em-up (courtesy of a helicopter outside) is horrifyingly grotesque (in a good way), but it seems more fitting for the histrionics of Scarface than the subtle and jaw-dropping one-two punch of Michael Corleone's assassination work at Louis' Italian-American Restaurant in The Godfather. Ultimately, the movie is simply one assassination after another -- and in Coppola's commentary track, he acknowledges this, placing much of the blame at the foot of the studio. It's also a testament to the amount of power that Coppola lost in the intervening decades -- again, something he acknowledges in the commentary.

Continue reading: The Godfather: Part III Review

The Godfather Review


Essential
I remember the first time I viewed The Godfather. It was 25 years to the day after its initial theatre release, and it was being re-realased, as many films were at the time, for their anniversary. So, trotting to the Mercer Mall General Cinemas on Route one (I literally trotted, I was without car and always looking over my shoulder for fear of getting run over by one of those infamous New Jersey drivers (of which I am a member)), I bought my ticket and proceeded to get the seat, front and center, as normal, in one of the smaller screens in the theatre. As I recall, the last movie I had watched in there was Night Falls on Manhattan with Richard Dreyfuss, Ian Holm, and Andy Garcia. I had seen the famous first moments before, knew the parodies of it back and front, but had never seen the film itself.

In Italian: Molto bene.

Continue reading: The Godfather Review

Superman II Review


OK
Superman's sequel is probably as good as the original, thanks to Terence Stamp's inimitable Zod, released (thanks to Superman himself, the big lunk!) on earth with his posse of goons, Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O'Halloran). This time out, Lois discovers Clark Kent's true nature as the Man of Steel, and his computerized mother convinces Supe to give up his powers in order to marry the gal. Er, great call, Mom. Clark hightails it back to the Fortress to get the powers back, just in time for a duel with the three Zod folks at the end of the movie.

Continue reading: Superman II Review

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