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Fascinating true story!
1 October 2004
The made for TV movie "Bonanno: A Godfather's Story" from 1999 tells the fascinating story of true life Italian-American Mafia boss Giuseppe "Joseph" Bonanno, perhaps more known as "Joe Bananas". We get to follow Bonanno through his very long life, born in 1905 he was still alive when the TV movie was made (he died in 2002). The TV movie is listed on the IMDb as 170 minutes long, but the version I saw on Hallmark Television was divided in four episodes and about 360 minutes long. The first two episodes gives a realistic and insightful description of the conditions of many Italian-Americans in New York during the first decades of the 20th century, the last two episodes concentrates instead on the intrigues and the power struggle in the US Mafia from WWII until the late 1960s. It is very well done and entertaining throughout, even though it is made in an almost semi documentary fashion. By following Bonanno's fascinating life and crime career we also get to meet other interesting protagonists of the US Mafia such as Salvatore Maranzano, Joe "the Boss" Masseria, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci, Buffalo's Stefano Maggadino, Chicago's Al Capone and Sam Giancana, New Orlean's Carlos Marcello and Tampa's Santo Trafficante Jr. We also get to learn more about the mob's support of Politicians such as Franklin D Roosevelt, John F Kennedy and NYC mayor Robert F Wagner. The actors are all very good, particularly Tony Nardi who plays Bonanno for most of the third and fourth part. Edward James Olmos is also quite good as Don Maranzano. You notice that a great part of the cast is Canadians of Italian origin, since their Italian pronunciation is superior to most US actors of Italian origin. Among the negative parts of the TV movie is the glorification of the protagonist, which is however common to most films dealing with the US Mafia. Here is it even more evident, perhaps because the movie is produced by Bonanno's son Bill. It is for example heavily underlined that Bonanno is an anti-fascist, that he supports the US Democrats by ideological reasons, that he opposes Cuba's Batista and that he reflects thoroughly before ordering any murders. We must however remember that he committed a lot of criminal acts and like most mobsters was against Mussolini not because of democratic beliefs, but because the Fascists clamped down on crime. Neither has it been proved that the Mafia, as suggested in the movie, was involved in the murders of journalist Carlo Tresca in 1943 and JFK in 1963. You shouldn't compare this TV movie with Coppola's "The Godfather" which is fictional, but partly based on the true events described in Bonanno's story. Mostly however the TV movie is a great deal more faithful to real events than similar products and it is greatly recommended to anyone interested in the history of New York's Italian-American Mafia. As a mini series made for Television I would give it an "above average" rating.
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Credible depiction of the upper middle class in today's Rome
1 September 2004
"Il Pranzo della Domenica" is one of the Vanzina brothers more quiet comedies. It gives a fairly credible depiction of the upper middle class in today's Rome, at the beginning of the third millennium. It reminds similar Italian comedies from the 1950's, and its main asset lies in the cast. All the actors and actresses are in fact very good and credible in their respective roles. Giovanna Ralli as the well-off widow and matriarch, Massimo Ghini as the womanizing divorce lawyer, Rocco Papaleo as the left-wing journalist full of principles, Elena Sofia Ricci as his wiser wife and Maurizio Mattioli as the amiable right-wing florist. Galatea Ranzi and Barbara De Rossi completes the cast as Ralli's other two daughters. Not really a film to remember, but fun if you know modern Rome.
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Funny and Laura Fraser is simply delightful!
1 September 2004
"Virtual Sexuality" is an above average movie about teenagers aimed especially at a teenage audience. It does include the traditional ingredients of similar movies, like the interest for the other gender, the good hearted nerd, the school's babe, the stupid jock and the silly parents. Yet is it different. Firstly because it is British (taking place in London) and not American as most films of the kind. Secondly because it contains an interesting twist (the duplication, as a man, of the female lead). Thirdly because the movie is told mainly from a female perspective. It does have some good points about relations between girls and boys in their upper teens, and they are told in a funny and inventive way. The main asset of the film is however Laura Fraser who plays the female lead, Justine. She is not only beautiful in a fresh and believable way, but also very, very charming. The movie wouldn't have been the same without her!
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Strong cast but pretty weak story.
14 April 2000
"A Civil Action" is different from most filmed legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, perhaps because it's based on a true story and thus more realistic but also less entertaining. It does however have a very strong cast, particularly Robert Duvall and Sydney Pollack shine in their roles. The film is also well done in a slick fashion and I didn't found it boring but the plot is rather weak and forgettable. It does however raise some interesting questions of a legal kind, such as settlement vs. going to court in civil cases. With a cast like this it would probably have been a great TV-movie in two parts but it doesn't work as well on the big screen. I give it 5 out of 10.
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Screw Loose (1999)
A disappointment
19 March 2000
I found this film a disappointment, especially since I usually like Mel Brooks as well as Ezio Greggio. Sure, the film is fast-paced and it never gets boring but the story is paper thin. It's a very forgettable film, I wouldn't recommend you to see it unless you are very young (aged under 13/15) and fond of slapstick humour like people throwing food on each other or a die hard fan of Brooks or Greggio.
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Typical Italian comedy of the 1960's
27 November 1999
A pretty typical Italian comedy of the time (early 1960's) with a very strong cast, fast pace, a bit of romance and a lot of gags with some of the best well-known comedians of the time. There isn't much of a plot however, more a collection of funny situations and jokes "Hellzapoppin" style. Singer Joe Sentieri performs a song.
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