More Films to See Before You Die: #95 Carlito’s Way

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Carlito’s Way (1993)

Director: Brian DePalma

Cast: Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo and Sean Penn

Synopsis: Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is freed after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence on a legal technicality exploited by his lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Upon release from prison, Carlito decides to return to his old neighborhood of Spanish Harlem where, he reconnects with old associates. Carlito vows to be through with crime but is persuaded to accompany his cousin Guajiro to a drug deal at a bar. Guajiro is betrayed and killed and Carlito is forced to shoot his way out, he takes Guajiro’s money and uses it to buy into a nightclub. Carlito is approached by a young and ambitious gangster Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) about a business partnership to which he quickly declines. He also reconnects with his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who he left behind when he went to prison. Carlito plans to save money in order to retire in the Caribbean with Gail. All of his plans are threatened when his lawyer gets in hot water with a powerful mobster client and asks for Carlito’s assistance.

Trivia: The exterior of the hospital where Carlito visits his bedridden attorney is the same one where Vito Corleone is taken in The Godfather (1972), also starring Al Pacino. Director Brian De Palma wanted to shoot the climax of the film at the World Trade Center in New York but it was the target of a bombing, and he had to shoot it in “another railway station again.” (De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) also featured a scene at a railway station.)

Why Should You Watch This?: Brian DePalma has made some great films my personal favourites are his mob films. My favourite being the Untouchables but what makes Carlito’s Way so special is how different it is from Scarface. Sean Penn is wonderfully slimey as Carlito’s attorney and Penelope Ann Miller has great chemistry with Pacino who anchors the film with yet another solid performance.

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Films to See Before You Die: #1 The Godfather

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton

Synopsis: In late summer 1945, guests are gathered for the wedding reception of Don Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) daughter Connie (Talia Shire) and Carlo Rizzi. Don Corleone, the head of the Corleone Mafia family, is known to friends and associates as “Godfather.” He and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the Corleone family lawyer, are hearing requests for favors because, according to tradition, “no Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter’s wedding day.” Meanwhile, the Don’s youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), a decorated Marine hero returning from World War II service, arrives at the wedding and tells his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) anecdotes about his family, informing her about his father’s criminal life. Michael reassures her that he is different from his family and doesn’t plan to join them in their criminal dealings. Also among the guests at the celebration is the famous singer Johnny Fontane, Corleone’s godson, who has come from Hollywood to petition Vito’s help in landing a movie role that will revitalize his flagging career. Jack Woltz , the head of the studio, denies Fontane the part which is a character much like Johnny himself, and which will make him an even bigger star, but Don Corleone explains to Johnny: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” After Tom returns from settling business with Woltz the family meets with Virgil Sollozzo, who is backed by the rival Tattaglia family. Sollozzo is trying to get the Corleone family into the drug trade so that he can use the Don’s connections in politics to traffic more drugs. The Don refuses him on the basis that if his politician friends knew he was dealing in drugs they would no longer help him. A few days later while waiting for his son Fredo to get the car the Don is gunned down in the street by Tattaglia’s men but somehow survives. Sollozzo in an attempt to frighten the family into doing what he wants kidnaps Tom and tells him that he has to broker a deal with the new first in command Vito’s hothead boy Sonny (James Caan) who is liable to do something stupid before talks can take place. A few days later Michael goes to the hospital to visit his father in the evening and finds that his security detail has been pulled off and in fear of an impending hit moves Vito into another room and stands guard outside the hospital. The police arrive there shortly with the Chief of Police trying to arrest Michael and when he questions whether he is a dirty cop is punched in the face by the Chief and has his jaw broke. Sonny is furious about this and now wants Sollozzo dead but with the Chief of Police as his personal bodyguard it makes it nearly impossible. Michael offers to kill them both because he is about to meet with Sollozzo and is the last person they would suspect. After Michael kills them both he is exiled to Corleone, Sicily where his father was originally from until the whole thing blows over. One of the many casualties of the mob wars is Sonny who is gunned down in broad daylight.  After the Don has recovered he brokers a deal with the other heads of the five families that establishes peace so that Michael can come home. With Michael back from Italy Vito passes on the torch to him and makes him head of the family and he stays on as consigliere so that he can teach Michael how to properly run the family. It isn’t until the Don dies that Michael makes a power play eliminating all competition and establishing a new Godfather in the Corleone family.

Trivia: The presence of oranges in the Godfather trilogy indicates that a death-related event will soon occur (even though production designer Dean Tavoularis claimed the oranges were simply used to brighten up the darkly shot film). In chronological order of such events:

  • Hagen and Woltz negotiate Johnny Fontane’s position at a table with a bowl of oranges on it, and later Woltz discovers his horse’s severed head
  • Don Corleone buys oranges right before he is shot
  • Sonny drives past an advertisement for Florida Oranges before he is assassinated
  • at the Mafioso summit, bowls of oranges are placed on the tables (specifically in front of those Dons who will be assassinated)
  • Michael eats an orange while discussing his plans with Hagen
  • before Don Corleone dies, he puts an orange peel in his mouth to playfully scare his grandson
  • Tessio, who is executed for attempting to betray Michael, plays with an orange at Connie’s wedding
  • and Carlo Rizzi, who wears an orange suit right before Sonny beats him up, causes Sonny’s death and is himself garrotted in retribution.
  • The only deaths in the film that don’t appear to have oranges foreshadowing them are the assassinations of Paulie, Sollozzo, McCluskey and Apollonia.

Why I think you should see this: This is my absolute favourite film and is also the best movie I have ever seen. I also love the whole series and suggest to anyone to check them all out. This series is Coppola’s masterpiece and also one of the most important films ever made. Marlon Brando is just amazing and if you can’t get enough of Vito check out Robert De Niro’s portrayal in Part II which makes them the only actors to win an academy award for the same character. Al Pacino is pretty great too but his character gets better as the movies progress as Michael is clearly the star of the series. James Caan is perfect as Sonny and John Cazale is amazing as the pathetic Fredo. One of the best performances in the series comes from Andy Garcia in Part III and while I know most people do not like the last movie I still think it is very good and still important to the series it just had the misfortune of coming out the same year as Goodfellas. This is my all time favourite so if you haven’t seen it rent the whole series one weekend you won’t be disappointed.

Films to See Before You Die: #27 Heat

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Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, William Fitchner

Synopsis: Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), is a master thief that is looking to make one last score with his crew and then sail off into the sunset. His philosophy in life – Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds flat, if you spot the heat coming around the corner. Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is an LAPD detective that always gets his man and will go about getting him by any means within the law. Neil’s life becomes a little more difficult when his last heist gets botched by the itchy trigger finger of a new man leaving them to kill each of the security guards which was not part of the plan. This puts Vincent on their trail now and he becomes obsessed with finding this crew. The loot from the heist is barer bonds from a business man named Van Sant (William Fitchner), who agrees to buy his bonds back at a reduced price which infuriates the man who then tries to betray McCauley. Another complication in Neil’s life is he has broken his philosophy and fallen in love with a younger woman that he wants to take with him after he retires. During their last heist Neil and Chris (Val Kilmer) are surrounded by Vincent and his men which lead to a bloody shootout in the streets of L.A. After getting away from the robbery relatively unharmed Neil must make a mad dash to leave the city but not before be ties up some loose ends leading to a final confrontation with Vincent.

Trivia: The first film to ever feature both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino acting together, which created much hype prior to release. They both starred in The Godfather: Part II but never shared the screen together as split chronology prevented this. When this movie was finally released, even its advertising material promoted the film as a De Niro/Pacino “showdown.” The meeting between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino over coffee was shot at Kate Mantilini on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Diners may request the very table featured in the scene, table #71, which wait staff are familiar with as “The Table”, and are happy to seat De Niro Pacino fans at their famous meeting place.

Why I think you should see this: The story of Heat is interesting because it might be the best film ever to not be nominated for any major Academy Awards. Both De Niro and Pacino are fantastic together with then being on opposite sides of the law makes for a perfect setting. Michael Mann delivers in what is by far his best film though I recommend you check out Collateral if you enjoy his work because it is pretty awesome too. Val Kilmer was awesome in this and it is pretty impressive considering he filmed both this and Batman Forever at the same time. This is in my opinion the best cops and robbers movie out there so check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #45 Scarface

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Scarface (1983)

Director: Brian De Palma

Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham

Synopsis: Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Al Pacino), has arrived in Miami and is immediately met with hostility by American officials and put in an internment camp. While in the camp he and his friend Manny (Steven Bauer), are offered a way out of the camp early as long as they kill a former member of Castro’s government. After they complete the job, they are given jobs at a local Cuban fast food joint. One night they are asked by Omar (F. Murray Abraham), to pick up a shipment of Cocaine from an associate in attempt to give them more work. The job does not go as planned as one of the guys Tony is working with is killed and just before Tony is about to suffer the same fate Manny manages to save him. When Tony starts to work for Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) who takes an instant shine to Tony because he is a hard working grunt and he starts having go to Colombia to make deals with a man named Alejandro Sosa. It becomes clear to Frank that Tony is becoming too powerful he tries to have Tony killed but that fails and Tony come for him. Now with Frank out of the way it means Tony is free to explore his own business options. Tony’s lust for power becomes to great as he betrays everyone close to him with tragic consequences.

Trivia: In the final shootout sequence, Al Pacino grabs the gun by the barrel. Although only blanks were used, his hand was badly burned, and production had to be shut down for a few weeks. Oliver Stone wrote this film while fighting a cocaine addiction. The word “yeyo” is used by Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as a slang word for cocaine. This word was not in the script, and was ad-libbed by Pacino during the first drug deal scene (chainsaw scene), and Brian De Palma liked it enough to keep using it throughout the film. Pacino learned the word while learning the Cuban accent.

Why I think you should see this: This movie might be the most influential film to the rap industry ever made whether or not that is a good thing I am not too sure, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great film. Al Pacino is vicious as power hungry Tony Montana and Steven Bauer does a great job trying to keep up as his friend Manny. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio does a really good job as Tony’s sister and the film just works on many levels. Oliver Stone does a great job handling the writing duties on this one and Brian De Palma shows why his older work is by far his best. This is a really entertaining film check it out sometime.