Tag Archives: Al Pacino

Insomnia (2002) Review

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Insomnia

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Detective Will Dormer
Robin Williams as Walter Finch
Hilary Swank as Detective Ellie Burr
Maura Tierney as Rachel Clement
Martin Donovan as Detective Hap Eckhart
Nicky Katt as Fred Duggar
Paul Dooley as Chief Charlie Nyback
Director: Christopher Nolan

From acclaimed director Chris Nolan (“Memento”) comes the story of a veteran police detective (Al Pacino) who is sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the primary suspect (Robin Williams), events escalate and the detective finds his own stability dangerously threatened.

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Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s follow up to Memento, which was the movie that put him on the map as a director to watch. I first saw the 2002 movie some years ago, and I made a more recent rewatch of it to double check what I still thought of it. Although it may pale in comparison to Nolan’s other movies, Insomnia is still quite a good movie, and it’s worth seeing at least once.

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Insomnia is a remake of the Norwegian movie of the same name from 1997, I haven’t watched the original, but I heard both movies have a similar plot. Knowing Christopher Nolan’s movies now, Insomnia is much less ambitious and twisty in comparison. It’s a pretty standard crime thriller, that has your interest but doesn’t necessarily do something special or unexpected… to a degree. As the film goes on, you find that Insomnia is really a character study that just appears like a standard thriller. It focuses on the lead character played by Pacino and the conflicts within him during this case (no spoilers here), and at a certain point at the end of the first act or so, it really adds another layer that makes things more interesting. It especially leads to some interesting interactions between him and the killer. Despite being a Hollywood remake of a foreign movie, Nolan thankfully keeps the movie subdued, and doesn’t allow it to become too explosive or loud.

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Al Pacino plays the lead role of the detective who is sent to investigate the murder case, and I thought he was really convincing. Around this period of time (it was the point after 1995’s Heat), Pacino had been known to be all Shouty Pacino and would be very over the top with his acting. With Insomnia however, outside of some key moments, he gives quite an effectively subtle performance. He plays the flaws, tiredness, moral conflicts and grey area of his character quite well. Robin Williams is in a much darker role than people are used to seeing him in, and it’s one of his finest performances. Both him and Al Pacino really felt equally matched on screen, and their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. Hillary Swank also does well in a supporting role as another detective who’s also on the case.

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Christopher Nolan’s direction of Indomnia is pretty solid, it isn’t quite as stylish or special as in some of his other movies, but he still does a good job here. When it comes to the atmospheric elements as well as the psychological aspects, the movie really stands out. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is stunning, and really captures the environment and location excellently. The only fault I have on the technical side is that I think there was some not so great editing towards the last 5-10 minutes of the movie.

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I guess you could say that Insomnia is one of Christopher Nolan’s weakest movies, but it’s nonetheless a decent film that’s very wel made. The plot is generally familiar, but even then, it’s an engaging thriller that keeps your attention throughout. Additionally, it’s directed well by Christopher Nolan, and the cast is good, especially the duo for Al Pacino and Robin Williams. For sure worth a watch.

The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
Margaret Qualley as “Pussycat”
Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy
Julia Butters as Trudi Fraser
Austin Butler as Charles “Tex” Watson
Dakota Fanning as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Bruce Dern as George Spahn
Mike Moh as Bruce Lee
Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder
Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz
Director: David Leitch

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the most anticipated movies of 2019. First of all, it is the next movie from writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and also features one of the best casts of the year, with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino and more involved. I was curious about much of this movie, from the cast, to it being Tarantino’s first movie about Hollywood, considering his absolute love for film. Then there was the whole aspect of it apparently surrounding Sharon Tate’s murder (with this movie initially being branded as a Manson murder movie, which it very much isn’t). Tarantino delivers on yet another fantastic movie, and one of the best of the year.

If you plan to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you should probably know first that is a long movie at around 2 hours and 40 minutes, and there is an even longer cut coming later. This is definitely Tarantino’s most laid back movie, and this kind of approach to the story won’t work for a lot of people. Some movies that meander don’t really work for me, it would have to have me on board or invested in order for it to even like. However, for whatever reason, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does work for me. Admittedly, it took me some time to get used to the pacing in the first act, it was rather slow to begin with. The movie is really is just jumping around to the perspectives of the 3 main characters and what they’re doing, with each of the 3 acts focussing on a day in their lives. The movie isn’t plot driven on the whole, not with revenge or anything like that. This is also among the most genuinely heartfelt of Tarantino’s movies, the only other movie of his you could really compare it to is Jackie Brown. It’s ironic that after his bleakest and darkest movie with The Hateful Eight, he then makes his most lighthearted. It’s also very much a comedy for the most part, and that comedy is generally effective throughout. At the same time, it’s darkly effective when it needs to be, such as a tense scene taking place at a ranch with Brad Pitt. I won’t mention much about the third act (it’s really the only part of the movie that you could really spoil), but that’s the point when it really escalates, and if you find yourself a little bored from the rest of the time, you’re going to probably like that act more (provided you don’t take issue with the direction it takes), as it seems to be a lot more focussed in terms of plot. However, I know that some people won’t accept this particular direction, I was more than fine with what they did. I do think that it’s worth mentioning that I think some of the significance of certain scenes won’t hit people who aren’t familiar with the Manson family murders, or Sharon Tate and what happened to her. Now I’m not an expert, but I do generally know the main idea of what happened in real life for a while before going into the movie, and so I got the intended effect. But I just know that people who don’t really know about it at all will be confused at the very least. For those who already know about it and are wondering if her murder was exploited (like many have speculated), the simplest answer I can give is no.

The cast was pretty large and talented, and among the most exciting aspects of the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give some of their best performances here, and their respective characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are among Tarantino’s best characters. They share some great chemistry together and genuinely feel like best friends. Despite being mainly known as a ‘serious’ actor, DiCaprio with this and The Wolf of Wall Street has really shown that he has a knack for comedy. There’s a certain scene where he just has a complete breakdown after not getting some of his lines right, and it’s among the funniest scenes in the movie. His storyline is really about him being struggling as an actor, as his transition from tv actor to film actor has failed. Brad Pitt also shines as Cliff Booth, which rivalling his best performances (and that’s saying a lot). He has so many hilarious lines and moments, and is really one of the highlights of the movie. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and there was much speculation surrounding her role in the movie. The main story really follows Dalton and Booth as they have their own storylines, but once in a while it’ll cut to Tate doing things during her day. One could wonder why the movie focusses on her, as none of her scenes seems to be in a storyline like the other two main characters, or does it seem to be amounting to anything. What I can tell is that her inclusion is meant to show audiences who Sharon Tate is through brief scenes, from her picking up a hitchhiker to her entering a screening of a movie that she starred in to hear audiences’ reactions to her performance. Robbie and Tarantino did a good job at making audiences of today remember Tate as someone much more than a tragic murder victim. I would’ve liked to have seen more of her, hopefully that inevitable extended cut will have more scenes with her. I will say though, despite the cast being one of the most anticipated parts of the movie, outside of those 3 previously mentioned actors, most of the others don’t get a ton of screentime. The likes of Margaret Qualley, Al Pacino, Timothy Oliphant, Dakota Fanning and others play their parts well, but don’t expect to see them more than a few scenes. Some appearances of actors like Michael Madsen and Scoot McNairy, as well as portrayals of iconic real life people like Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) are basically just cameos. I guess they’re good in their necessary scenes, and maybe didn’t need to have more, but it’s worth knowing going in that they don’t get a massive amount to do like you might think they do.

Quentin Tarantino definitely has a great handle of this movie, as he usually does with his films. He really takes you back to the 60s Hollywood time period, with the costumes, to the production design and sets, and yes, the very well picked music. Longtime Tarantino cinematographer Robert Richardson also contributes heavily to the movie, giving it a stunning look and even successfully conveying a fantasy and relaxed feel to some of the scenes. Sometimes the movie would just follow Booth or Tate just driving, for a minute or so, it may stop the plot for a bit but for some reason it just worked for the overall vibe of the movie. I feel like if you are really into film, there’s going to be a lot of things in the movie that you’re going to enjoy, especially the scenes of filming with Dalton’s segment in the second act.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s heartfelt love letter to Hollywood, and one of the best movies of the year. The cast is great (DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie particularly), and Tarantino’s writing and direction are on point. It’s not quite in my top 3 favourites from him, but it’s close, and I’d still say that it’s among his best movies. I know that apparently he wants to make one more movie before he wants to retire as a director, but if he just finished with this movie, it would be very fitting for him.

The Godfather (1972)

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The Godfather

Time: 175 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
James Caan as Sonny Corleone
Richard Castellano as Clemenza
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagan
Sterling Hayden as Capt. McCluskey
John Marley as Jack Woltz
Richard Conte as Barzini
Diane Keaton as Kay Adams
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

“Don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is the head of the Corleone Mafia Family. His younger son Michael (Al Pacino) has returned from the war and is the only family member not involved with the mafia. Things however change when the family is threatened by a rival. The film is based on the bestselling novel by Mario Puzo.

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The Godfather is one of cinemas all time classics but you’ve probably heard this many times before. It is a brilliant crime drama that doesn’t just focus on the crime business but also on the characters occupying it. It has great acting, well written dialogue, developed characters and an atmosphere that really invested me in the story.

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Pacing-wise, this movie does take its time, it took a second viewing for me to really like this movie because of how uninterested and slightly bored I was the first time I watched it – especially in the middle section. On the second viewing I noticed how the pacing is actually well set up; it starts out slow as the events unravel over time. Also great is the fact that the characters are contrasted and are really well developed. Interestingly, some of the characters are sympathetic and relatable, despite this technically being a gangster movie. There are so many characters that it is kind of hard keeping track of everyone; fortunately for most people including myself, I managed to keep track of the main characters.

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The best thing about the movie is the acting. Marlon Brando manages to personify Vito Corleone strongly and turns in one of those rare performances where they are a presence, even when they aren’t on screen. He is very subtle in his role as well as making him feel genuine and realistic. He also manages to act older than he does, which is helped with the great makeup. Al Pacino is also worth mentioning as he is the character that arguably goes through the most change throughout the story; his character’s transformation is so great because Pacino manages to make the changes very subtle. Other performances from actors like James Caan, and Robert Duvall are also great.

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The cinematography is also well done; it is beautifully photographed and is well suited to the era; a great example is the opening which is about a few minutes of a man – over those minutes the shot is being zoomed out. The lighting is also great; the opening again is a good example of this. The movie was also well edited, the best example of the scene is the baptism scene; while a baptism is happening a lot of events are happening at the same time and are fit in well – in my opinion it is the best scene in the movie. Another thing worth mentioning is the score by Nino Rota. Every time one of the songs from that core was playing I felt the presence of the godfather – that’s how the score is to me.

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If I was advising someone to watch the movie, the first thing I’d suggest that they should walk into the movie without the ‘greatest movie of all time’ hype as it may affect your first viewing – that happened with me. Just go into the movie expecting it to be good without expectations that would possibly end up disappointing the movie for you. For me, although it is a gangster movie I don’t usually view it as that – I view it as a complex family drama. Even as a gangster movie, I still prefer Goodfellas or Casino but there is no denying how much of an impact The Godfather has made on cinema. Overall the movie is a masterpiece and a great example of how great movies can be.