[19 September 2008]
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Simply put, “The Godfather” trilogy (Paramount, $119.99) is a magnificent example of how enjoyable great films can be on Blu-ray.
The set, which arrives in the DVD high-definition format Tuesday, not only includes all three films but a fourth disc that is packed with more than a dozen absorbing extras.
It’s jolting to think that these landmark movies were on the verge on the extinction.
Original negatives of the first two films, both of which won Best Picture Oscars, had deteriorated badly over the years. That inspired director Francis Ford Coppola to launch a meticulous, frame-by-frame restoration project using the latest state-of-the-art technology. Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis personally directed the restoration which was supervised by Robert A. Harris of the Film Preserve.
The results should serve as a model for such restorations and preservations in the future. On Blu-ray, the movies look as good, if not better, than when they were released theatrically more than 30 years ago. Happily, Coppola and Willis did not try to slick up the images and were careful to maintain the original texture of both films. The shadowy sequences, the hues and the lighting are exactly the way Coppola first envisioned them.
Also worth noting is the crisp new 5.1 surround sound track enhanced by Nino Rota’s haunting music score.
“The Godfather” (1972) stars Marlon Brando in his Academy Award-winning role of Don Vito Corleone, head of a powerful Italian-American family that deals in organized crime. Brando won the award, but it is Al Pacino’s performance as younger son Michael Corleone that leaves a lasting impression. His transformation from a young and somewhat innocent World War II hero to the coolly ruthless heir to his father’s position is a memorable piece of acting.
The impressive cast includes Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Talia Shire, Sterling Hayden, Richard Conte and Abe Vigoda. It is a great film that won three Oscars, including best screenplay by Coppola and Mario Puzo and was nominated for eight others. And, of course, it gave us that line “I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
As great as the first one is, “The Godfather Part II” (1974) is even better. Pacino, Keaton, Duvall and Shire reprise their roles with the story focusing on Michael’s decision to move the family business to Nevada. The film excellently moves back and forth through time; telling the modern story while periodically flashing back to chronicle the early life of Vito Corleone (terrifically played by Robert De Niro). “Part II” received six Oscars and five nominations.
“The Godfather Part III” (1990) moves forward to the late 1970s, with Pacino, Keaton and Shire the only holdovers from the other two films. New to the cast are Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda and George Hamilton. Although not as powerful as its predecessors, the film still earned three Oscars and seven nominations.
Disc four includes featurettes “Godfather World,” “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t,” “When the Shooting Stopped,” a piece on the restoration, a couple of “The Making of ...” shorts, additional scenes and much more. Coppola’s commentary also accompanies each film.
“The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration” will also be available in a standard DVD 5-disc set ($72.99), but the suggestion here is to opt for the Blu-ray edition. For those who haven’t switched to the format, “The Godfathger” trilogy is the perfect reason to do it now.
Other new Blu-ray titles:
“Leatherheads” (Universal, 2008, $39.98): George Clooney directs and stars in this fun film about the early days of pro football. It opens in 1925 at a packed college football stadium where former World War I hero and superstar Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski) is leading Princeton to another victory.
The film then switches to a cow pasture of a football field, where the rag-tag Duluth Bulldogs are playing what passes for professional football. Only a few fans are scattered about the rickety stands. Times are tough for pro football, but Bulldogs captain Dodge Connelly (Clooney) discovers things are about to get tougher. After the game, he is informed that teams are folding everywhere because of lack of interest and money. The league appears to be dead.
Connelly comes up with a plan that will pump life into the game by luring Rutherford away from Princeton to play pro football. When that happens, the big crowds pour in. The only problem is newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), who is determined to prove Rutherford is not a real war hero.
“Deception” (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.98): Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor star in this thriller about a man who finds himself swept up into a world of lust, lies and murder. Obviously, not for the kiddies.
“L.A. Confidential” (Warner, 1997, $28.99): Another tale of sex, betrayal and corruption set in 1940s Hollywood. The subjects might be old but the film has style and a stellar cast. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce and Danny DeVito star.
“Sex and the City - The Movie” (New Line, 2008, $35.99): The acclaimed (by some) HBO series comes to the big screen. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall reprise their TV roles. This is an extended cut of the film.
“Corteo: Cirque du Soleil” (Sony, 2008, $28.95): A music-filled parade of vignettes seen through the eyes of a circus clown. It really looks good in Blu-ray.
“Shrek The Third” (Paramount, 2007, $29.99): Not quite on a par with the first two movies, it will still manage to captivate the kids. This time, Shrek (the voice of Mike Myers) goes on a journey to find the rightful heir to the throne vacated after his father-in-law does. Along for the trip are Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas).
“Madagascar” (DreamWorks, 2005, $29.99): The kids will love this delightful animated feature about four animals that escape from the New York City zoo and end up in Madagascar.
All prices listed are the suggested retail price and can be purchased cheaper for those who shop around or go to www.amazon.com.