• THE GODFATHER PART II is a considerable departure from its predecessor, but unfortunately not any better. It is a ponderous epic, taking 3 hours and 20 minutes (with no intermission) to chronicle the disintegration of the Corleone family. Emotionally the film is a downer from start to finish. The audience is trapped in an all-pervading aura of gloom, accented by the repetitive use of dark rooms and backlighting. The gratuitous violence that was the hallmark and chief attraction of The Godfather is considerably toned down in the sequel, but it is not replaced by any events meaningful enough to justify the film's excessive length. Many members of the original cast are back, and there is little fault in the acting or the production values. Al Pacino is an arresting presence as Michael Corleone, who takes over the family after the death of his father. He gives an effective performance as a former idealist, in the process of losing the last remnants of human feeling and conscience in a compulsive drive for power. In the film's frequent flashbacks, Robert De Niro is energetic and daring as the young Vito Corleone, founder of the dynasty. Perhaps the best performance of all is Diane Keaton as Pacino's long-suffering wife, who sees the truth but is helpless to do anything about it. The script, co-authored by Mario Puzo and producer-director Francis Ford Coppola, is serviceable in the areas of dialogue and continuity, but weak in establishing motivation, especially in regard to Pacino's character. He comes across as virtually a man without emotions, incapable of any enjoyment. And this is perhaps the key to the movie's ultimate failure: it tells us how he came to be that way, but it fails to tell us why. Rated "R." —Charles F. Barr
• THE TOWERING INFERNO is a formula thriller on an epic scale. Producer Irwin Allen has given us the best actors, dialogue, thrills and special effects that $14 million can buy. But for all that, the movie is curiously uninvolving. The audience is invited to sit back and witness the spectacle without emotionally participating in it. But what a spectacle it is! On the night of its formal dedication, the tallest building in the world (at 138 stories) is threatened by a fire that starts on the 81st floor, trapping 300 dignitaries and other guests near the top of the building. Fire Chief Steve McQueen, with the aid of architect Paul Newman, risk their lives in repeated rescue efforts as the flames slowly eat their way upward. The all-star cast includes William Holden as the builder, Richard Chamberlain as a cowardly subcontractor using inferior materials in exchange for kickbacks, Faye Dunaway as a career girl and Newman's romantic interest, Fred Astaire as a con man with a heart of gold, Jennifer Jones as his intended victim, and Robert Vaughn as a politician with ambitious urban renewal plans. Robert Wagner and Susan Flannery have short but affecting roles as the early casualties. The special effects are awesome; in addition to the fire, they include several gas explosions and a helicopter crash. Dazzling stunt work includes flaming leaps from the building, dramatic helicopter rescues and a harrowing elevator ride. The events take on a life of their own, even when the characters don't. Rated "PG." —C.F.B.
• ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE is a semi-romantic movie that is virtually destroyed by a relentlessly naturalistic, slice-of-life style. The acting, many of the scenes, and the plot (when it is allowed to intrude) are worthwhile out of the film's larger context. But for the most part, the movie is alternately dull and distasteful. Ellen Burstyn gives a sympathetic performance as a housewife who is cast adrift in search of a meaningful identity after her sadistic husband is killed in a traffic accident. She is left to cope with a precocious but spoiled 10-year-old son, a hastily resurrected singing career that is going nowhere, and a brief but violent affair with a married man. The reasonably happy ending looks almost artificial by comparison. Rated "PG." —C.F.B.
• There are three points worth making about Mel Brooks' new comedy, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. First, it is not very funny. Second, Gene Wilder is a remarkably versatile and talented actor who seems to have landed in the wrong film. He deserves better material. And last, without Madeline Kahn, there would be little cause for any laughter. She alone triumphs over the script and manages to deliver a genuinely funny performance as young Frankenstein's virginal fiancee. Unfortunately, her best moments come in two brief scenes at the end of the film, but once you find yourself in the theater, they are definitely worth waiting for and almost make the film worth seeing. The story of the original Baron von Frankenstein's grandson, a professor of medicine, who succumbs to his grandfather's ambition to reanimate dead flesh, Young Frankenstein is a far more disciplined film than Brooks' earlier Blazing Saddles, but hardly more successful. Part of the problem is that the comedy simply does not play very well. One can imagine Brooks laughing uproariously as he conceived the "Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy" spoof: young Frankenstein, arriving by train at his ancestral village, asks from the coach window, "Pardon me, boy, is this the Transylvania station?" As delivered, it falls so flat that the parody is almost unrecognizable. Similarly, the Transylvanian police chief, whose uncontrollable mechanical arm recalls Dr. Strangelove, never comes close to being as funny as the original. Other humor is simply too sophomoric to be entertaining, as when young Frankenstein responds to a student baiting him about his ancestry by declaring to the class in a scholarly demeanor that his grandfather's work was "doo doo." Hardly rollicking stuff, even for Brooks. Rated "PG." —James F. Carey