The Godfather II and III Francis Ford Coppola

From an artistic standpoint, sequels, for the most part, rarely live up to expectations — most fail miserably, leaving their fan base embittered and disappointed. Sometimes, however, a gem will sneak through and surpass its original, soaring to new heights. The Godfather Part II garnered as much adulation as its predecessor, receiving 12 Academy Award nominations and winning Best Picture (not to mention Best Director for Coppola as well), the second instalment has been rightfully hailed as the best sequel of all time. The Godfather Part III, however, blows. But let's start with the sublime. Coppola takes on some ambitious filmmaking with GF 2 by telling two stories at once: the first continues the story of Micheal Corleone (Al Pacino), who has now taken over the family crime business from his father, Vito Corleone; the second switches eras and time to witness Vito's (marvellously played by a young Robert DeNiro) rise to power. Coppola's choice to tell the story in parallel could have been awkward but he handles transitions so well that they seem flawless and serve as perfect counterpoint to Michael's inevitable and ultimately calculated rise to the top. "I knew the story I wanted to tell," Coppola remarks on the commentary track, "and with no studio interference, I was able to do what I wanted." Which brings up a great point: one of the most striking things the viewer takes away from watching the film some 30 years after it was created is how Hollywood and for the most part, even the so-called independent scene no longer possess such grand ambitions. Which brings us to the ridiculous; The Godfather Part III is a perfect example of how ambitions and studio interference can make for a terrible combo. The Atlantic City shoot-'em-up scene, in which half of the cast is meaninglessly shot courtesy of a helicopter outside, is a fitting case in point. Coppola has always strived for an operatic beauty to such scenes — the subtle and jaw-dropping one-two punch of Michael Corleone's assassination work at Louis's Italian-American Restaurant in The Godfather comes to mind — but it's lacking here and might have better suited the histrionics of Scarface. Ultimately, the movie is simply one assassination after another and in Coppola's commentary track, he acknowledges this, placing much of the blame at the foot of the studio. And I won't go into it at length, but daughter Sofia Coppola's acting talents in this film are as bad as you've heard. Her scenes are laughable to the point of being absurd and lend credence to her decision to stay behind the camera. And I don't know how else to put this except to say: Andy Garcia is not Italian! The Godfather series is an unsurpassed classic, a story of rot and the unbreakable bonds that link business, crime, murder and death. If you're new to the Godfather series, I recommend checking out The Godfather I and II and leave it at that. It gives you the whole picture in a more comprehensible fashion... if you have about six hours to kill. (Paramount)