Francis Ford Coppola
I: The first film features the development of Michael from a naïve, indifferent son, to a man who must make a decision as to whether he wants to join in his family’s “business” and help his father and brothers out, or lead the more “respectable” life outside the mafia.
II: The second movie follows two distinct storylines. The first features Robert DeNiro playing a young Vito Corleone, years before the original movie, just coming in to New York and attempting to make ends meet for his family. It’s the beginning of his rise to the top. While the second story, shown in parallel, features his son Micheal, years later, rising to the top of the Godfather ranks himself, while having to make extremely difficult family choices along the way. We all knew it was you, Freddo…!!
III: The third picture takes place many years after the first two and essentially looks at Michael’s struggle to keep his family and his conscience clean after his numerous years of crime and murder. It’s redemption time and the next generation is looking ahead.
GODFATHER PART 2: I ended my last review with the word “classic” and that is the same word that I will use to describe this follow-up. This film is yet another classic of American Cinema. Not only was Francis Ford Coppola able to re-connect the audience with the well-developed characters that he introduced us to in the first film, but he also takes it one step further, and gives us even more background on the man behind the entire family, Vito Corleone, but as a child first entering the country. And that is the secret of this second movie. There are two stories happening here, and they are told in parallel. On the one hand, we have Robert DeNiro, presenting us with the palpable sadness of Vito Corleone’s early years in New York with his wife and kids. And on the other hand, we have Michael Corleone (Al Pacino, playing Vito’s son all grown up and continuing where he left off in the first film), taking his empire to another level. The rise of the two men captures your attention once again in this amazing movie, filled with many graphic and memorable moments, all of which pull you further into its epic ambitions. I’ve always loved this movie as much as the first, and the truth is that they are just perfect together. This film completes the first movie, fills in some holes and gives you further insight into the loves, hates, passions and lives of these people. Once again, the performances are all top-notch here, with DeNiro winning an Oscar, despite saying very few English words during the entire movie. An impressive film that was able to balance two stories at the same time while keeping you entertained and engaged throughout. Kudos to Francis Ford Coppola and to everyone involved in the creation of this amazing sequel. (5 stars)
GODFATHER PART 3: This movie wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. In fact, I think it’s because its predecessors were so great, that it really feels worse than it is. It’s actually pretty good. There were however, certain things that “got to me” about this flick, most of which had to do with the acting. I didn’t much care for Joe Mantegna in this movie. Not necessarily his character, but his acting, which I thought was a little over-the-top. I also thought the same of the chain-smoking priest, who I never really bought into. Sofia Coppola wasn’t necessarily bad as her character was just “boring”. I didn’t really understand how a cool stud like Andy Garcia would go for a girl like that. And the fact that Duvall was nixed here, was a disgrace, in my opinion (and you replace him with George Hamilton, of all people?!?). Anyway, those are all small pet peeves of mine, I suppose. Overall, I did like the story, and even though the whole Vatican thing seemed a little far-fetched (although it turns out that it was actually based on a true story), I was still quite riveted by the film, mostly because I liked all of the characters, and it was nice to see what had happened to them all, after all of these years. Very nostalgic and cozy. But what really made this movie for me was the amazing performance put forth by Andy Garcia. Wow! This dude torched some massive fire into this movie, and it was just what it needed. I was also glued to my set during the film’s final 30 minutes, which Coppola has turned into amazing sequences in all three films, and seriously appreciated the thrilling moments within. And how about those two twin bodyguards!? Mingya! And most surprising of all, was the before last scene featuring the whole family coming out of the opera house, in which Coppola used silence to accentuate Michael’s pain, and dude, it had me gulping with the missus, like you wouldn’t believe. Very powerful, very sad and very touching, all at the same time. The final shot in the film is also another classic and a fitting way to finish the tale of a man who lost sight of what was most important to him over the years: love and family. (3 1/2 stars)
With close to 9 hours of film here, there are a few small dead spots here and there, but he’s generally pretty much into every scene and adds a lot of cool insight for GODFATHER fans (and yes, he also talks about the whole “Sofia Coppola” controversy for PART 3). I wouldn’t recommend that you sit through all 3 commentary tracks in one day (although I was damn tempted…he’s a pretty infectious speaker), but it’s one of the better commentaries that I’ve ever heard and I think I speak for everyone when I say: thank you, Mr. Coppola!
BEHIND THE SCENES:
“Inside Look” (~70 minutes): An excellent retrospective on all three films with interviews with pretty much all of its main players (except Brando, of course), many behind-the-scenes sequences, fun screen tests from many of the actors involved in the production as well as others (Martin Sheen reading for the Michael Corleone part) and some insight as to the mechanics behind all three pictures. It’s still incredible to hear about how Coppola was basically working with another director standing right over him, in case the studio decided to fire him one day and replace him with the other guy. The studio also wanted nothing to do with either Brando or Pacino for their specific roles, and it was Coppola’s insistence which ultimately got them their parts.
Coppola does freely admit here that he practices nepotism and that’s one thing that I’ve never really understood (he even says that he went out of his way to put his family in the movie, so that it would be like his own “home movie”— the problem is that it isn’t a home movie, and the audience might’ve been better served with someone more professionally suited for those roles). But that aside, a lot of cool anecdotes line this extra (to make the decision as to whether or not DeNiro’s character should have a mustache in his Sicily scenes in PART 2, they decided to flip a coin, etc…), and I was especially intrigued by all of the screen tests.
“On Location” (~ 7 minutes): Production designer Dean Tavoularis (for all three movies) goes back to the actual location in the Lower East Side of New York City (Little Italy) and gives us some great details about the shooting of the many streets scenes in that area (specifically, the parade along the street, Brando’s shooting, DeNiro’s first assassination across the roofs of the buildings and more). There’s also some behind-the-scenes B&W footage from the original shoot on the streets, and it’s interesting to note that, once again, the studio was against this idea. They wanted to shoot the entire thing in a studio lot, which looking back, would likely have taken “something” away from the authenticity of those scenes. Coppola was proven right again!
“Francis Coppola’s Notebook” (~ 10 minutes): Some very interesting insight into the actual mind-set and details of director Coppola, who sits down on a couch with a very thick volume of notes which he used to assemble about the movie, and gives us specific details about how he went about shooting the movie. It is very cool and quite incredible to see how much time and detail is given to every little thing (he even outlined the specific pitfalls which he foresaw for every scene “watch out for too much exposition here”, etc…). It’s also interesting to see how many times he makes reference to Hitchcock in his own notes. A definite must-see.
“Music of the Godfather” includes two sections. The first is a 5-minute taped conversation that Coppola had with famed composer and Fellini collaborator Rota, who plays him the basic idea (on piano) behind the themes of the GODFATHER, while scenes from all three movies play for us on the screen. Interesting for fans of the films’ score (who isn’t?), to see where it all started. In “Carmine Coppola”, we sit through a 3-minute video of the behind-the-scenes recordings of Carmine Coppola’s music during the third GODFATHER movie. It basically tells us that Francis gave his father the biggest break of his career and that his dad came through and won an Oscar in the process. There’s also a deleted scene from the flick in which son Coppola was able to work even more of his family into the actual story of the film.
“Coppola and Puzo on Screenwriting” (~ 8 minutes): Some interviews and discussions with Coppola and novelist Puzo, and their collaborations on these movies. One really interesting note is that Coppola didn’t want the 3rd film to be called GODFATHER: PART 3, but rather insisted on the title of THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much power by that time, and had to drop his insistence. This feature ends on a sad note as Puzo discusses how he had already written half of a GODFATHER: PART 4 script, regarding the rise of the Corleone family (chronologically, this would fit in somewhere between the DeNiro section of PART 2 and PART 1, and would focus more on how Sonny became a killer), and how he would love to see it get made. Sadly, he died in 1999, before he saw his ideas come to fruition.
“Gordon Willis on Cinematography” (~ 4 minutes): Willis discusses how he went about his cinematography in all three pictures. He likes dark shots and over-exposing some things, but admits that he went a little overboard with it during one particular scene in PART 2.
“Storyboards: Godfather Part 2” gives you about 20 B&W storyboards from the second flick, most having to do with DeNiro’s early Vito years, and “Storyboards: Godfather Part 3” is a 4-minute video walk-through from some of the storyboards from that film, with a voice-over establishing each shot. Most of it covers the scene in which Andy Garcia and Bridget Fonda’s character face two bad guys in their apartment. Some voice-over dialogue is added for effect.
“The Godfather: Behind the Scenes (1971)” (~ 9 minutes): A super-grainy look at an original “behind-the-scenes” documentary shot during the actual production of the first movie (mostly the big wedding scene). It’s nice to see how everyone looked and spoke about the film in those days (once again, Brando says nothing). The narrator guy’s voice is that “typical” voice from those days. Pretty funny.
“Trailers”: Fairly simple to explain. This is a gallery featuring all three trailers of the films. The first and the second one were the most interesting to watch, because I’d never seen them before, but the first one is actually more of a gallery of pictures from the movie, played over the amazing score. It basically gives away the entire movie’s plot points…not sure why they did that.
“Photo Galleries”: This features pictures from the movies, complete with descriptions, including some cool behind-the-scenes shots of Brando in the make-up chair and one especially unique picture of DeNiro and Pacino’s characters from the second film, standing next to one another (they never actually cross in the films).
“Rogue’s Gallery”: Not really sure why they decided to put these 10 pictures of a few of the bad guys from the various films, into their own “gallery”, but here they are.
“DVD Credits”: Don’t be fooled by this one. What starts off with basic text credits to all the sources required to create the DVD, turns into a 2-minute scene from the famous TV show “The Sopronas”, in which the boys are all sitting around discussing THE GODFATHER and about to watch it on DVD. Pretty funny.
“Acclaim and Response”: I had no idea what this was, but expected something boring. Wow, was I ever surprised. I love this kind of stuff! In this extra, we get to see a few of the actual Oscar presentations and winnings for the Godfather movies, and the speeches thereafter. One of the funnest parts about this thing is seeing the fashions of those days, but also to see how young everyone looked (is that Hugh Jackman or a young Clint Eastwood presenting the Best Picture 1972?). I do wish there were more of these clips though (where’s DeNiro accepting his Oscar win?) There’s also a 2-minute TV intro which Coppola did before showing the original GODFATHER on TV, in which he asks people not to stereotype all Italians because of the film. Another very cool extra.
This basically gives you some basic background information on the main people behind this production, including Francis, Mario, Gordon Willis and others, in text form.
THE FAMILY TREE:
This is another cool extra, which shows you the entire family tree of the Corleones, starting with Vito Corleone as the root. You can actually click on many of the names and get pictures of the people, as well as little background information on each of them. Another must for any major GODFATHER fan, and likely to help you better understand the entire family structure and how everyone fit into the pictures.
You really can’t ask for much more than this! In this extra, you will find no less than 34 deleted scenes (close to an hour overall) from all of the GODFATHER movies. Most of them are very cool to check out for the first time, and give you a little more insight into the goings-on of each film. They are separated chronologically, starting from 1901 and going until 1979. Before each scene, we are also given information about where each scene belonged in the picture and what it was all about.
I especially liked the one featuring DeNiro’s character in Sicily whacking out more people in retaliation for what they had done to his parents. It seemed to give you more insight into his ability to be so violent. And I also appreciated the extra scenes featuring Sonny (Caan) right after he hears about his father being shot. He’s actually a little reluctant to take on his newfound role. Oh yeah, and there’s also an “alternate ending” to the original movie, which was how they ended the TV version of the film, with Kay’s character (Keaton) lighting candles and praying for Michael’s soul in church.
The DVDs come in a sturdy little box, with 5 DVDs in all (one for the original, two for the sequel, one for the third part and one more for all of the extras) and the menus feature different scenes from each film, along with the kick-ass score.