The Sopranos – an appreciation.


I dunno if I ever said on this BLOG, but I am currently collecting all of the Sopranos series 1-6 (have up to 5…only two more box sets to go!), and must confess to being a complete and utter geek when it comes to the exploits of charismatic New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (played every episode to my total awe by James Galdolfini).

Now as we all know, this is a movie website, so I now hear you ask…what is a TV show doing on here? Well compared to some shows like Lost and 24 perhaps, The Sopranos has its routes in gangster films, and often pays homage to the classics like The Godfather and especially Goodfellas, where even some of that great film’s cast make up part of the show’s major character actors. Firstly we have the beautiful, sexy but highly professional Doctor Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) who of course was Ray Liotta’s wife in Goodfellas. Then do you remember the kid in the upstairs room who served the guys drinks in Goodfellas, but came worse off to psychotic Tommy (Oscar winning Joe Pesci)’s gun after a bit of back-answering? Well step forward Michael Imperioli who play’s Tony Soprano’s slightly wet-behind the ears nephew Christopher Multisanti – my personal favourite character.

Add to this pedigree the likes of Frank Vincent, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Buschemi, Steve Van Zandt, Dominic Chianese to name but a few, and the movie-gangster heritage is clear. At the head of all this as mentioned is James Gandolfini, who as Tony is both a family man and a ‘family’ man…if u catch my drift. You see, usually for this kind of material, the mobster’s actual flesh and blood family are more just set dressing – it’s not what we’re here for…and of course we just want gangsters doing some gangster ‘shit’. Not so with The Sopranos. This is as much a suburban drama about the goings on of a family home as it is a violent and thrilling gangster yarn. Also take into consideration that Tony is often at his therapist (Lorraine Bracco) due to suffering mysterious panic-attacks…and there is obviously more to this whole deal than meets the eye.

I think The Sopranos can appeal to a much broader audience than just die-hard gangster fans. Yes I love gangster films…but put it this way, my Mom is hooked and she doesn’t do on-screen violence, sex, nudity or bad language – and this has it all…but because it also has ‘heart’ she see’s past all the bad stuff (as she might put it) and still comes away thirsty for more.

So anyone who has either avoided The Sopranos because they don’t ‘do’ gangster stuff…take another look – you may be surprised. Oh and those that just haven’t seen the show…it’s never too late as my fairly late to the show collecting of the entire series shows…and now that’s it’s all done in the states but for the plethora of (finger’s crossed) awards…now is as good a time as any to “get yourself a gun” (to quote the opening credits superb song). Bada Bing!!

Raging Bull

Viewed – April 06 2007  DVD

Definitive Edition

This has been one of those films I have always wanted to see, but never got around to.  OK, I have checked it out numerous times on TV and seen about an hour of it, whilst flicking back ‘n’ forth between channels.  Now though with this release presented in an attractive metalic case, I have finally got around to it.  Robert DeNiro plays real-life boxer Jake LeMotta, a tough middle weight who’s personal life is almost as dramatic as his life in the ring.  If he’s not sparring with his younger brother (a brilliant Joe Pesci in his first double-team with DeNiro, that he would later continue to great effect in GoodFellas and Casino), Jake is sparring with his wife (Kathy Moriatty) a beautiful blonde who always seemed out of his league and his jealousy and paranoia take their relationship to the very brink and back.  Yet this is also a boxing film, and famed director Martin Scorsese delivers in ultra real and bloody bouts that will linger long in the memory.  Scorsese stages every fight like the set peice in a John Woo movie and its stylish, violent and unforgettable – making Rocky look like a children’s film. The acting on show here is first class, especially DeNiro who has never looked meaner, and goes from peak fitness champ to tubby has-been throughout, and its a marvel to see, considering he put the weight on and lost it himself – no fancy effects here, my friends!  So yes this is a classic, and filmed in iconic black ‘n’ white its every bit as eye-catching as it was back in 1980 when it was pretty much ignored by the Oscar academy, despite several nominations – a travesty!

This edition houses a wealth of material, documentaries and interviews, comparisons between DeNiro and the real Jake LaMotta, as well as an always worth while commentary track from Scorsese.  Yet if you have previous releases like the Special Edition and then the Ultimate Edition, only the fancy packaging may lure you.

Verdict: 4 /5