The Many Saints of Newark


Dinner with the Family.

(2021) Crime Drama (New Line) Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta, Michael Gandolfini, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Michela De Rossi, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Michael Imperioli (voice), Samson Moeakiola, Joey Coco Diaz, Germar Terrell Gardner, Alexandra Intrator, Gabriella Piazza, Mason Bleu, Aaron Joshua, Lesli Margherita. Directed by Alan Taylor

 

There is absolutely no doubt that The Sopranos remains one of the most influential and important television series of all time. It helped establish HBO as a legitimate provider of quality original entertainment and ushered in a new golden age of television which moved away from broadcast and to alternate sources of content providers, from cable and now to streaming. For many of our favorite television shows of the past decade, we can thank show creator David Chase, who co-wrote and produced this prequel to his show, whose storytelling prowess paved the way for shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy.

The movie opens with a startling and effective crane shot that turns into a dolly shot of a graveyard. We hear various voices of the dead until one takes focus; that of Christopher Moltisanti (Imperioli, the sole member of the series cast who appears here), who acts as a kind of narrator as well as Banquo’s ghost. He laments over his own untimely death (one of the most shocking moments in a series replete with them) and focuses in on his father, Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola).

Dickie is welcoming his father, “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti, back from Italy. He brings with him a brand-new bride, Giussepina (De Rossi) from Italy. She speaks little English and is about a third his age. Dickie has been running the numbers operation for the DiMeo crime family, using enforcer Harold McBrayer (Odom) to collect in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of central Newark. It is 1967, and after the violent arrest of an innocent black taxi driver, riots erupt.

In the meantime, Johnny Soprano (Bernthal) has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and sent to prison, leaving his son Tony (Ludwig) in the less-than-tender care of Livia (Farmiga), who is already showing signs of being the unstable, manipulative harridan that Nancy Marchand was acclaimed for in the series. Tony admires his uncle Dickie and begins to see him as a mentor and father figure. As Tony grows into his teenage years (Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini who played Tony in the series), he begins to show a willingness to gravitate towards the criminal life that his Uncle – and father – are part of. In the meantime, McBrayer – seeing the Black power movement and feeling the contempt in which he is held by the Italians – begins to build an empire of his own. Things are going to get mighty ugly in Newark.

I have to admit, I blew a little hot and cold about this one. Da Queen, who is not really a Sopranos fan and has seen little of the show, liked this movie a lot. On the other hand, I’ve watched the show and know how good it could be – and to be frank, the movie doesn’t really measure up in some ways to the original. Few things, to be fair, ever do.

Part of the problem is that the characters who were so indelible – not only Livia, but Paulie Walnuts (Magnusson), Uncle Junior (Stoll), Big Pussy (Moeakola) and Silvio Dante (Magaro) – all faithfully reproduce the look and mannerisms of those who played the characters on the show. It is a bit distracting in a way – it’s like watching a remake of a favorited movie with celebrity impersonators – but one has to give credit where credit is due. All of the things that made us love (or hate) those characters are present here. Farmiga, in particular, and Stoll, both get high marks for inhabiting the parts that Marchand and Dominic Chianese created. However, there isn’t a lot of additional insight to the characters that can’t be gleaned by watching the show – any of them. As a result, the emphasis is mainly on the “new” characters of Dickie, his father and McBrayer.

It should also be mentioned that Gandolfini acquits himself very nicely in the role that made his father famous. The movie really isn’t about Tony; he’s a bit player in his own prequel. For some, that is going to be annoying. I think, though, that it’s a smart move; Tony Soprano is a character that was perhaps one of the most well-developed in television history. While other characters in the show that are portrayed here don’t really get to add much insight to their characters, I don’t think there’s really a lot that can be added to Tony that we don’t already know

So there are a couple of questions to be answered here. First of all, if you’re not familiar with the show, you can still see The Many Saints of Newark without feeling lost. Familiarity with the show adds a certain amount of flavor, but for many of the characters who met untimely ends, we’re fully aware of their (sometimes) grisly demises that occurred in the series and that does color our perceptions somewhat. Does it add anything for fans of the show? Not really a lot. You get a little more background into the relationship between Tony and his mentor, but it doesn’t really make for any startling revelations. While there are plenty of Easter Eggs for super fans to glom onto, for the most part this doesn’t really sit atop the pantheon of mobster movies as much as the show does. If you’re anything like me, however, you will be inspired to re-watch the show once again and that really isn’t a bad thing at all.

REASONS TO SEE: Strong performances throughout. Plenty of Easter Eggs for fans of the show.
REASONS TO AVOID: Doesn’t really add a lot of additional insight into the show and characters.
FAMILY VALUES: There is violence (some of it gruesome), profanity and some nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The amusement park scenes were filmed at Rye Playland in Westchester, NY. The amusement park scenes for Big were also filmed there.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Max (through November 1)
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/10/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 73% positive reviews; Metacritic: 60/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Goodfellas
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Pharma Bro

New Releases for the Week of October 1, 2021


VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE

(Columbia) Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen Graham, Peggy Lu. Directed by Andy Serkis

Eddie Brock continues to have problems reigning his alien symbiote Venom in, but all that changes when serial killer Cletus Kasady gets a symbiote of his own, the evil Carnage.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some strong language, disturbing material and suggestive references)

The Addams Family 2

(United Artists) Starring the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Wallace Shawn. Everyone’s favorite creepy and kooky family decide to take one last family vacation in their haunted camper in an attempt to reclaim the bond that they once had before the kids began to want a life of their own. But this will take them out of their element and into an America that may not be ready for them.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide (also on Premium VOD)
Rating: PG (for macabre and rude humor, violence and language)

American Night

(Saban) Emile Hirsch, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Paz Vega, Jeremy Piven. When a highly prized Andy Warhol original appears on the market, a ruthless New York City art dealer and the head of the New York crime syndicate will stop at nothing to obtain it.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for violence, sexual content, nudity, and language throughout)

The Jesus Music

(Lionsgate) Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Toby Mac, Kirk Franklin. The story of how Contemporary Christian music rose from a Sixties counterculture movement to become a worldwide phenomenon.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, CMX Lakeland Square
Rating: PG-13 (for some drug material and thematic elements)

The Many Saints of Newark

(Warner Brothers) Michael Gandolfini, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta. The prequel to the legendary HBO series charts the rise of Tony Soprano in the volatile streets of Newark as he rises in the crime family, fueled by the example of a beloved Uncle whom he idolizes.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime
Now Playing: Wide (also on HBO Max)
Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content and some nudity)

Prisoners of the Ghostland

(RLJE) Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley. A bank robber with little or no moral compass is sprung from jail by a ruthless warlord who wants him to find his adopted daughter who has run away. She is in the wilds of the Ghostland, and he has five days to find her, otherwise the suit that he is locked into will self-destruct and him with it. Cage has said this is the wildest movie he has ever done, and that’s saying something.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Enzian
Rating: NR

Republic

(Zee) Sai Dharam Tej, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jagapathi Babu, Ramya Krishnan. A corrupt system protects The Collector, a ruthless man who runs his country without pity or conscience. Brave men must take on an entire system to bring him down.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Amstar Lake Mary
Rating: NR

Titane

(Neon) Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Lais Salameh. A father is reunited with his son who has been missing for ten years.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16 Melbourne, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, CMX Plaza Orlando
Rating: R (for strong violence and disturbing material, graphic nudity, sexual content, and language)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

The Amityville Moon (Tuesday)
Bingo Hell
Black as Night
Coming Home in the Dark
Diana: The Musical
Falling for Figaro
The Ghost and Molly McGee
The Guilty
Implanted
Mayday
Stop and Go
There’s Someone Inside Your House
(Wednesday)
The Universality of It All
V/H/S/94
(Wednesday)
Witch Hunt

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Guilty
The Jesus Music
The Many Saints of Newark
Stop and Go
Venom: Let There Be Carnage