Tag Archives: Al Pacino

The Insider: Under Pressure

WARNING: EXPOSING THE TRUTH MAY BE HAZARDOUS. 

I work for a major newspaper in Scandinavia. That means we are a powerful voice in the Swedish media landscape. But just like every other newspaper or network, we are owned by somebody, in this case a Norwegian corporation. The relationship between us and our owners is complicated, as it should be. On the business side, I’m sure no one considers that relationship to be particularly complex; everybody has a boss and you get paid to serve those in charge and do a good job. But a newsroom must be independent to a certain degree; otherwise, it can’t deliver good journalism. The story of The Insider (1999) depicts a conflict familiar to every reporter.

In the mid-1990s, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) is a research and development executive at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company who’s fired after an argument with the CEO (Michael Gambon). Wigand is a doctor of biochemistry initially hired by the company to find safer ways of delivering nicotine to smokers without increasing the harm of other tobacco compounds. Wigand wasn’t terribly successful, constantly clashing with a company that was more interested in making money rather than trying to reduce damage to its customers’ health. After his firing, Wigand is pressured into signing a confidentiality agreement that forbids him to disclose anything about his work at Brown & Williamson. However, Wigand makes contact with Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a 60 Minutes producer who becomes interested in making a segment about the tobacco industry…

Powerful corporations protecting its interests
This real-life story was chronicled by Marie Brenner in a Vanity Fair article called ”The Man Who Knew Too Much”, and it’s a juicy one. Wigand claimed that he and his family were threatened in several ways after the revelation that he was working with 60 Minutes. No one was ever charged with anything, but the film draws a clear connection to Brown & Williamson (without ever saying so). That’s one piece of an intriguing puzzle. What’s more important for this drama though is how people get caught in the middle when powerful corporations do everything in their power to protect their interests. We have a tobacco company that’s been hiding its dirty secrets for years and is now making moves against a former employer who might reveal them, and we have a media company that doesn’t want a billion-dollar law suit against them and pressures its flagship institution to do the wrong thing and suppress a news story that’s very much in the public interest. The conflict inside CBS stands between Bergman and his superiors… but it also causes a rift between him and Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), the superstar of 60 Minutes who does not want to ”spend the last years of his career on PBS”. The primary showdown involves seemingly dry issues like ethics and journalistic principles, but then there’s also the character of Jeffrey Wigand. He’s there to make sure we invest emotionally in the story. He’s not a perfect hero; Crowe plays him as a flawed, ill-tempered person, but that’s why we remain interested in him. We don’t really get as close to Bergman, the other hero of the story, but Pacino delivers such a compelling performance anyway that we instantly sympathize with him.

Michael Mann is famous for tense, smooth thrillers like Heat (1995), which also co-starred Pacino, and he brings that edge to this drama; many scenes take place in the evening or at nighttime, creating an atmosphere rife for both contemplation and confrontation. Mann is an expert at that, and he doesn’t need guns blazing to conjure tension. 

The Insider 1999-U.S. 157 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Pieter Jan Brugge, Michael Mann. Directed by Michael Mann. Screenplay: Eric Roth, Michael Mann. Cinematography: Dante Spinotti. Cast: Al Pacino (Lowell Bergman), Russell Crowe (Jeffrey Wigand), Christopher Plummer (Mike Wallace), Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse… Stephen Tobolowsky, Gina Gershon, Michael Gambon, Rip Torn.

Trivia: Val Kilmer was considered for the part of Wigand.

Last word: “[Mike Wallace] would call me, and have these engaging dialogues. They were funny, they were hilarious. And halfway through one of them I said, ‘Mike, do you mind if I record this?’ And he said, ‘Why?’ And I said , ‘Because I want to put this right into the movie.’ ‘Turn on your tape recorder dear boy.’ And I did, and much of what Wallace says in that speech, particularly, ‘How fortunate I am to have to have Lowell Bergman to shine a light on the path of moral rectitude.’ That’s directly a quote from him. So we had a lot of dialogue, I had a lot of dialogue while this was going on, and the film was dead [accurate], it’s not just accurate, it’s authentic. And, a higher standard, and I know it injured Wallace, and I feel bad that it injured him.” (Mann, The Hollywood Reporter)

 

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The Best Shakespeare Films

400 years have passed since William Shakespeare died on April 23rd, 1616. I recently finished Stephen Greenblatt’s amazing 2004 book “Will in the World”, which vividly brings the Bard to life in a way that feels down to earth. By using the historical facts and records of Shakespeare’s life that we have, and tying them to the sonnets and plays that he wrote, Greenblatt brings us as close to the times and sentiments of the Bard’s life as is possible. A revealing read for me, and so was a visit I made to Stratford a few years ago. There’s something very surreal about standing next to William Shakespeare’s grave.

As expected from a movie blog, I’ve thought about the multitude of Shakespeare adaptations that we have, and tried to come up with the best. The playwright’s work was typically divided into three genres, tragedies, comedies and histories, so let’s take advantage of that:

Histories:
The historical plays were among the first recorded in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Cinematically, there is no doubt which king should be crowned the winner – in 1944 and 1989, Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh both turned “Henry V” into masterful vehicles for their own burgeoning careers. In the former case, Henry V was also meant to be a morale booster for British audiences during World War II. In the clip above, Branagh delivers the famous “band of brothers” speech from the 1989 version.

Tragedies:
Laurence Olivier’s most famous Shakespeare adaptation is likely his 1948 take on “Hamlet”; Kenneth Branagh failed to match him in 1996 with his four-hour version, even though it is a beautiful, extravagant experience. Roman Polanski made a colorful, bloody movie out of “Macbeth” in 1971, one that fit the director and his style like a glove (watch the opening with the three witches above). Not the most faithful version, but stands on its own as a majestic film. And then there is “Romeo and Juliet”, which always has had a special allure to teenagers for obvious reasons; this was true in 1968 when Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey played the leads, and in 1996 when it was time for Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Those who want their Shakespeare tragedies served with a culturally different context should take a look at Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) and Ran (1985), his versions of “Macbeth” and “King Lear”.

Comedies:
Shakespeare’s comedies have been given an eclectic treatment on screen. There is no obvious candidate for which one is the best, even if Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing (1993) is quite exuberant and one of the most commercially successful Shakespeare adaptations. It was obviously hard to ignore The Taming of the Shrew in 1967, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it was just as lushly photographed as his Romeo and Juliet the following year. In the clip above, Taylor lets her father (Michael Hordern) have it from her balcony. Of course, we should also mention “The Merchant of Venice”, one of the Bard’s most challenging comedies for modern audiences; not only is this play more memorable for its dramatic ingredients, but its perceived anti-Semitism is hard to take. The film adaptation from 2004, starring Al Pacino, walked a fine line.

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Donnie Brasco: A Made(Up) Man

IN 1978, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WAGED A WAR AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME. ONE MAN WAS LEFT BEHIND THE LINES. 

donniebrascoI was just listening to a political debate about Islamic terrorism. One of the participants talked about how intelligence agencies need to do more than just tap phones; they need to put ”boots on the ground” by trying harder to infiltrate terror cells. Perhaps they already are. I came to think of the story of Donnie Brasco and how an FBI agent infiltrated organized crime and spent a whole year undercover. Rightwing and Islamic terrorism are some of our time’s greatest threats, another kind of organized crime. Are there any new Donnie Brascos out there?

In the late 1970s, New York City gangster Benjamin ”Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino) starts noticing a young man and asks around. He turns out to be Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), a jewel thief. ”Lefty” asks Donnie for the value of a ring he got from a diamond dealer, but Donnie tells him it’s a ”fugazzi”, fake. ”Lefty” doesn’t believe him, but when they go to the dealer Donnie turns out to be right and his aggressive attitude impresses the old gangster. ”Lefty” takes Donnie under his wing and introduces him to several ”made men”, notably Dominick ”Sonny Black” Napolitano (Michael Madsen) who is promoted to captain when the Bonnano family’s street boss is killed. As these men come to trust Donnie Brasco, they have no idea that he is in fact an FBI agent.

Stays true to the actual story
Director Mike Newell showed a wider range here, after a few pleasantly British comedies; this wouldn’t be his only movie to have a darker streak. The film stays true to the actual story of how Joseph D. Pistone infiltrated the Bonnano family, but takes a few liberties. In the book, Pistone writes about how close he came to ”Sonny Black” and that the mobster couldn’t believe that this man he had confided in turned out to be working for the feds. But screenwriter Paul Attanasio obviously thought it would be more interesting dramatically to make ”Lefty” the gangster who virtually becomes a father figure to Donnie/Joseph over the year. Pacino is excellent in that role, a sad figure who has grown older and is quickly losing influence even though he’s reputed for having 26 hits to his name. When ”Sonny Black” gets promoted, ”Lefty” confides in Donnie, letting him know how bitter he’s becoming. As the relationship between ”Lefty” and Donnie grows deeper, the more touching it is, especially since we all know that it is going to come to an end in one way or another. Depp is also compelling as the undercover agent. On the surface, his record at the FBI has been erased but he still has a wife and three daughters whom he rarely gets to see. The deeper he gets involved with the Bonnano family, the more he turns into an actual gangster, committing crimes and finding it hard to separate his mobster mentality when he talks to his wife. Anne Heche’s part is largely thankless, but the declining marriage between her and Depp says a lot about the immense sacrifice that Pistone makes, trying to ensure a successful investigation but also protecting ”Lefty” as much as he can. The film’s final scenes depicting Pistone and ”Lefty’s” ultimate fates are heartbreaking. Pacino is famous for his gangster movies, but this is an entirely different role, echoing a Shakespearian tragedy. The period details seem right; Patrick Doyle’s music score subtly emphasizes tension and emotion.

Pistone was involved in the making of the film and wrote in a subsequent book called ”Unfinished Business” that it is 90 per cent accurate. Doing what he did seems almost impossible… but the film brilliantly brings out the human aspects of such a lethal challenge.

Donnie Brasco 1997-U.S. 127 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Louis DiGiaimo, Mark Johnson, Barry Levinson, Gail Mutrux. Directed by Mike Newell. Screenplay: Paul Attanasio. Book: Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley. Music: Patrick Doyle. Cast: Al Pacino (Benjamin ”Lefty” Ruggiero), Johnny Depp (Joseph Pistone/Donnie Brasco), Michael Madsen (Dominick ”Sonny Black” Napolitano), Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche… Zeljko Ivanek, Tim Blake Nelson, Paul Giamatti.

Trivia: Also available in a 147-min. version. Joe Pesci was allegedly considered for a role. At an earlier stage, Stephen Frears and Tom Cruise were reportedly attached as director and star.

Quote: “Whackin’ the boss… another thing I get left out of.” (Pacino)

Last word: “Because ‘Four Weddings’ was a romantic comedy, I was getting a lot of romantic comedy scripts and most simply weren’t very good. And I don’t like doing the same trick twice because it bores me… So I really wanted to do something tough, about men. And I got the script by Paul Attanasio. And it had been on the shelf about six years, because it originally had been scheduled to get made at the same time ‘GoodFellas’ was being done. And the producers thought, quite wisely, that that wouldn’t work. So I got the script and thought the writing was just fabulous. There was a drama of real lives there.” (Newell, The Hollywood Interview)

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Remembering Robert Loggia 1930-2015

Robert Loggia passed away four days ago at the age of 85. In the clip above, the actor is interviewed by film historian Alan K. Rode in 2011. It’s not clear from the start, but the movie they’re talking about is The Garment Jungle (1957), an early programmer that Loggia did, and he talks about how the original director Robert Aldrich was replaced after some turmoil involving Columbia head Harry Cohn. Loggia is looking very alert, which is why his death, reported as due to complications from Alzheimer’s, comes as a surprise.

The Garment Jungle is however not one of the films we remember the most when we talk about Robert Loggia. Ever the tough guy, his voice became raspier with time and he was always credible as a gangster. His fans like him primarily in Scarface (1983) where he plays the Miami mobster who’s eventually “removed” by up-and-comer Tony Montana (Al Pacino). Twenty years later he would delight  Sopranos viewers as a aging mobster reminiscing together with Uncle Junior about the good old times.

There’s no doubt though that the most delightful clip you’ll ever see of Loggia is him playing the piano with Tom Hanks in a scene from Big (1988) that has gone down in cinema history. So charming.

Loggia was born in New York City and served in the U.S. Army before embarking on a career as an actor on several TV shows. He usually landed supporting roles in movies and had a wider breakthrough in the 1980s, capped by an Oscar nomination for his work as a private investigator in the thriller Jagged Edge (1985).

Perhaps it was Patton Oswalt who best captured our sentiment upon hearing of the actor’s death. Here’s what he tweeted:

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The Devil’s Advocate

THE NEWEST ATTORNEY AT THE WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL LAW FIRM HAS NEVER LOST A CASE. BUT HE’S ABOUT TO LOSE HIS SOUL.

devilsadvocateFlorida attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is recruited by John Milton (Al Pacino), a senior partner at a powerful New York law firm, but Lomax and his wife (Charlize Theron) soon discover that their new acquaintances can be disturbing… Much of this film is set in courtrooms and swank NYC locations, but Satan’s presence and elements of horror is deftly weaved into it as Taylor Hackford slowly builds an atmosphere of dread – especially for Theron (who’s very good). Intriguing, with Pacino a perfect choice to play a charismatic prince of darkness, but the film suffers a bit from a talky climax and a twist that isn’t fully satisfying. 

1997-U.S. 144 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Novel: Andrew Neiderman. Cast: Al Pacino (John Milton), Keanu Reeves (Kevin Lomax), Charlize Theron (Mary Ann Lomax), Jeffrey Jones, Judith Ivey, Connie Nielsen… Craig T. Nelson, Heather Matarazzo. Cameos: Delroy Lindo, Don King.

Trivia: At one point, Joel Schumacher was allegedly considered for directing duties, with Brad Pitt as Lomax.

Quote: “Who, in their right mind Kevin, could possibly deny the twentieth century was entirely mine.” (Pacino to Reeves)

5 kopia

 

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Scent of a Woman

COL. FRANK SLADE HAS A VERY SPECIAL PLAN FOR THE WEEKEND. IT INVOLVES TRAVEL, WOMEN, GOOD FOOD, FINE WINE, THE TANGO, CHAUFFEURED LIMOUSINES AND A LOADED FORTY-FIVE. AND HE’S BRINGING CHARLIE ALONG FOR THE RIDE. 

scentofawomanCharlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), a New England prep school student, is hired by a blind, retired army officer (Al Pacino) as his assistant and they soon find themselves in New York City… but the veteran has a hidden agenda. One of the director’s most successful films, a remake of a 1974 Italian movie, has its two lead characters on separate journeys in life, but they will learn a thing or two from each other. Its formula makes the movie feel lightweight, especially during the climactic finale back at the school, but many dialogue-heavy scenes between the two leads are very engaging and Martin Brest finds the right tone of sadness. O’Donnell and Pacino are terrific, the latter in a performance that has become much imitated.

1992-U.S. 157 min. Color. Produced and directed by Martin Brest. Screenplay: Bo Goldman. Cast: Al Pacino (Frank Slade), Chris O’Donnell (Charlie Simms), James Rebhorn (Mr. Trask), Gabrielle Anwar, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Venture… Bradley Whitford, Frances Conroy.

Trivia: Jack Nicholson was allegedly considered for the lead role.

Oscar: Best Actor (Pacino). Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Drama), Actor (Pacino), Screenplay.

Last word: “The partnership with Martin Brest started upon his invitation to write what became ‘Scent of A Woman’. He might deny it, and I may be wrong, but I think he had approached others and been turned down. Brest had spent too long a time securing the rights to ‘Profuma di Donna’, was somewhat exhausted by the efforts but we shared the same wonderful agent, Jack Rapke (now a producing partner with Robert Zemeckis). Jack urged me to take the job. It became my life. Marty and I spent days patrolling the lot at Universal working out the story. He sat with me as I wrote it, transcribing and getting into his directing soul my illegible (not to me) handwritten pages on a computer (an unfamiliar object which I immediately detested, and still do). Marty, as the expression goes, ‘got it out of me’.” (Goldman, Double Exposure Journal)

4 kopia

 

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Heat: Cops and Robbers

A LOS ANGELES CRIME SAGA.

heatI remember watching this movie in a theater back in 1995. After about two hours, a woman asked someone sitting close to her, “Do you know how long this movie is?”. He did know, told her and the woman just left. Some people don’t have the stomach for a story that needs time to evolve. In fact, I underestimated the film as well back then, thinking the story didn’t really need three hours. After watching it again now, twenty years later, I have to correct myself – this is a first-rate action-thriller.

In Los Angeles, Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his team of robbers hit an armored car and steal $1.6 million in bonds. However, the newest member of the team (Ted Levine) kills one of the guards, which changes everything; the other robbers shoot the remaining guards so as not to leave witnesses. McCauley wanted a “clean” hit and tries to kill this unreliable new team member, but he escapes. Police detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is on the case and it doesn’t take him long to figure out who are responsible for the hit and the murders. Capturing McCauley and his team, who are very good at what they do, is another thing though.

First attempt: A TV movie
Director Michael Mann wrote this story in 1979 and had hopes of turning it into a movie after making Thief (1981). The first attempt was made for TV, called L.A. Takedown and aired on NBC in 1989; this was after Mann’s success with Miami Vice and NBC’s original hope was to turn the concept into another hit show. That didn’t happen – which is good, because in the mid-90s, Mann had built enough clout as a filmmaker to talk two huge movie stars into playing the leads in a more ambitious big-screen version. Inspired by a real story (from the 1960s, where detective Chuck Adamson hunted the real-life Neil McCauley), this film highlights the similarities between the cop and the criminal, especially in a very memorable scene where they have coffee in a diner and talk about how they live their lives; we also meet the women they’re involved with, relationships that never have a future. That part of the film is the most difficult to handle because of obvious clichés, but Mann still does it intelligently, depicting a sort of sad inevitability to the proceedings. Many of these emotional scenes are set at night, with a dramatic view of the city and its lights, creating a melancholic tone, aided by Eliot Goldenthal’s discreet music score. The running time is indeed long, but Mann keeps us glued, especially thanks to his explosive, expertly staged action scenes, which are on an operatic level. That goes especially for a long sequence where a bank job leads to a violent shootout with the police in broad daylight in the middle of the city. The cast is very strong. Much was made of De Niro and Pacino doing a movie together for the first time since The Godfather, Part II (1974) where they never shared a scene. They come close to not doing it here either, but when they do (the scene in the diner, the final showdown between them at an airport with jets roaring over their heads) it’s pure dynamite – and even a bit touching. It is also interesting to see a young Natalie Portman in a small role as the emotionally frail daughter of Pacino’s wife.

Pretentious to some degree, this film still has a hypnotic feeling that the director has tried to repeat a few times in movies like Collateral (2004) and Miami Vice (2006), but he was less successful. What bored that woman who left the cinema obviously fascinated a lot more people. 

Heat 1995-U.S. 172 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Art Linson, Michael Mann. Written and directed by Michael Mann. Cinematography: Dante Spinotti. Music: Elliot Goldenthal. Cast: Al Pacino (Vincent Hanna), Robert De Niro (Neil McCauley), Val Kilmer (Chris Shiherlis), Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora… Ashley Judd, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, Jeremy Piven.

Trivia: Keanu Reeves was allegedly considered for a role.

Last word: “One of the ex-convicts we talked to during the research period described how, no matter how pathological someone doing life in Folsom without the possibility of parole might be, there’s one day every two months at three in the morning when [the lifer] wakes up and says to himself, like a ten- or twelve-year-old boy, ‘How did I fuck my life up this bad? How did I end up like this?’ The point is, everybody has emotions, regrets, expectations. People don’t walk around as a personification of moral conclusions. They walk around with the package of who they are. That’s real. It’s also very dramatic.” (Mann, “Michael Mann – Cinema and Television: Interviews, 1980-2012”)

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Sea of Love

DECEPTION IS DANGEROUS. DESIRE IS DEADLY.

seaofloveIn a novel attempt to catch a serial killer who shoots men after finding them in the newspaper singles column, New York city detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino) places his own ad in the paper… On first sight, this thriller doesn’t look like much; the final revelation of the killer seems almost desperate and far from the most interesting part of the movie. Still, director Harold Becker keeps us guessing throughout and balances the hunt for the killer with a juicy, sexy romance between Pacino’s alcoholic cop and a woman who really is a suspect. A very seductive package, passionately played by the two leads (and John Goodman), and cleverly scored by Trevor Jones and the titular 1959 chart-topper.

1989-U.S. 112 min. Color. Produced by Martin Bregman, Louis A. Stroller. Directed by Harold Becker. Screenplay: Richard Price. Music: Trevor Jones. Cast: Al Pacino (Frank Keller), Ellen Barkin (Helen Cruger), John Goodman (Sherman Touhey), Michael Rooker, William Hickey, Richard Jenkins… Samuel L. Jackson, John Spencer.

Trivia: Dustin Hoffman was allegedly considered for the lead.

Last word: “I have to say, even in the experiences I’ve had that have been—let’s just say ‘difficult’ or ‘trying’—there’s always been a shining light for me. I did not enjoy making the movie ‘Sea of Love’, but Al Pacino, on the other hand, was my savior. And that was a wonderful thing. Just the fact that everything about ‘Sea of Love’ was wrong, except there I had, arguably, one of the great American actors as my fierce, fearsome protector, and that felt amazing to me and gave me a level of confidence that I certainly never would have had without him.” (Barkin, A.V. Club)

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Two for the Money

twoforthemoneyFormer football player Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), who has a knack at predicting winners in games, is hired by the charismatic head (Al Pacino) of a sports consulting firm – and his life changes. It’s a pleasure watching these three stars make their characters come alive – McConaughey as the cocky talent, Pacino as the ruthless manager who spoils him and Rene Russo as a woman who constantly has to keep her husband in check. The director keeps us entertained for about an hour, but the slickness can’t compensate for the conventional story.

2005-U.S. 122 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by D.J. Caruso. Screenplay: Dan Gilroy. Cast: Al Pacino (Walter Abrams), Matthew McConaughey (Brandon Lang), Rene Russo (Toni Abrams), Jeremy Piven, Armand Assante, Jaime King.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Russo and Gilroy, who are married.

6 kopia

 

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Revolution

A NATION FORGED IN BLOOD.

RevolutionAt the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, a fur trapper (Al Pacino) and his son are reluctantly drawn into it; an aristocratic daughter (Nastassja Kinski) has more idealistic reasons to help the colonists. The box-office bomb that was so poorly received that Pacino didn’t make another movie for four years isn’t quite that bad. Technical details in the 1700s scenery and battles are impressive, but the British are painted as almost comically evil, a few accents are ludicrous and we never get a firm grip on Kinski, or her romance with Pacino.

1985-U.S. 123 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Hugh Hudson. Cast: Al Pacino (Tom Dobb), Donald Sutherland (Peasy), Nastassja Kinski (Daisy McConnahay), Joan Plowright, Dave King, Annie Lennox… Steven Berkoff, Robbie Coltrane.

Trivia: Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford and Richard Gere were allegedly considered in the lead role. Reedited in 2009; that version runs 115 min.

6 kopia

 

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Stand Up Guys

THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE THEY USED TO.

standupguysAfter doing time for murder, Val (Al Pacino) is released and reunited with his old friend and partner (Christopher Walken)… who has a secret, heartbreaking agenda. A film that goes all-in for old-school charm in a story about geriatric gangsters that still know how to strut their stuff, even though dark clouds hang over them. Their reunion is episodic and silly, but director Fisher Stevens makes the film hold up pretty well. Pleasant and harmless, but it would never have worked this well without its two stars who give the old veterans a bittersweet aura; Alan Arkin is also fun as another retired gangster.

2012-U.S. 95 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Fisher Stevens. Song: “Not Running Anymore” (Jon Bon Jovi). Cast: Al Pacino (Val), Christopher Walken (Doc), Alan Arkin (Richard Hirsch), Julianna Margulies, Addison Timlin, Vanessa Ferlito.

5 kopia

 

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Jack and Jill

HIS TWIN SISTER IS COMING FOR THE HOLIDAYS… AND IT AIN’T PRETTY.

jackandjillL.A. ad executive Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler) is less than thrilled that his twin sister Jill is coming to spend Thanksgiving with his family – but she might be his ticket to success. If you can’t get enough of Sandler, why not have a double dose? His drag performance never really turns into a credible character, even though there’s a few amusing scenes. Most of it is uninspired nonsense, with Al Pacino playing himself and having as much fun as Jack Nicholson did with Sandler in Anger Management (2003).

2011-U.S. 91 min. Color. Directed by Dennis Dugan. Screenplay: Adam Sandler, Steve Koren. Cast: Adam Sandler (Jack Sadelstein/Jill Sadelstein), Katie Holmes (Erin Sadelstein), Al Pacino, Eugenio Derbez, Elodie Tougne, Rohan Chand… David Spade, Norm Macdonald, Dana Carvey. Cameos: Christie Brinkley, Drew Carey, John McEnroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Regis Philbin, Johnny Depp.

Razzie: Worst Picture, Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel, Director, Actor (Sandler), Actress (Sandler), Ensemble, Supporting Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actress (Spade), Screen Couple (Sandler, Holmes, Pacino), Screenplay.

7 kopia

 

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Diane Keaton Revisiting Her Life

Diane Keaton is a fascinating person. Just a week ago, I finished her first biography, “Then Again”, and just a few days later I learned that she has now written a second one called “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty”. Well, good for her – and us. Although I enjoyed and was moved by her first effort, I did feel a need to know more. “Then Again” is a cleverly edited experience that takes us through not only Keaton’s life (as described in diary entries from the 1970s and her own musings on what it means to be a mother to young children in your 60s) but that of her mother Dorothy who was an avid diarist and photographer, a woman with a creative bent who never really got the chance to explore that side of herself fully and who was stricken with Alzheimer’s in her 60s. It’s obvious through the book that Keaton holds her mother in high regard and sees a lot of her in herself even though there are many differences. In one of its most striking chapters, Keaton compares a diary entry by Dorothy that was written when she was 63 with the actress’s own experiences at the same age.

We learn a lot about Keaton in “Then Again”, from her early experiences as an actress, to her struggle with bulimia, and what her relationships with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty (a movie star she idolized as a teenager and then got to have a relationship with) and Al Pacino looked like. We’re informed that Woody had a great body and that she and Al kept getting back together without ever figuring out how to make their relationship work. We’re served a few looks behind the scenes of The Godfather (the only thing Marlon Brando apparently ever said to Keaton was “nice tits”), Annie Hall and The Godfather, Part III (in one word: chaotic). Keaton also tells us what it felt like winning an Oscar for Annie Hall and meeting Audrey Hepburn, a legend she admired but then felt sorry for when she actually met her because she thought Hepburn looked old, an experience that Keaton is ashamed of.

All of this is engrossing… but I would have liked to read more about it. Hopefully, “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty” has more to offer when it comes to Keaton’s career and famous flings.

The clip above shows a CBS interview with Keaton from 2010 when she made Morning Glory, one of her best comedies from the past few decades.

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