DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: Paramount Pictures
    Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola


One of the greatest things about the home video market is that films can be purchased in collections, often filled with bonus material. While the “Godfather” series has been released before on both VHS and DVD, and been available in special edition with oodles of special features, the latest “Coppola Restoration” box set is a great excuse to buy the entire series on DVD if you don’t have them in your personal library already.

The box set comes with all three films, with the first two parts restored under the supervision of Coppola himself. The three films also include Coppola’s original commentary. To round out the set, there are two additional discs, one with the DVD features from the 2000 release and a second bonus disc with almost 90 minutes of new content.

If you’ve never seen these films, or have only seen one or two of the films, this collection is worth picking up simply for the wealth of information about the series. The films themselves run close to 10 hours, and the bonus material, including commentaries, run north of 16 hours total. To get the full experience, you’d spend more money renting the discs from a local video store than a bargain price bought new on the shelf.

Still, with so many elements to a single DVD release, it’s worthwhile to break things down disc-by-disc:

“THE GODFATHER”: This is the modern gangster film that started the trend. You wouldn’t have “Good Fellas” or “The Sopranos” without this movie to set the stage. It tells the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), a son of the great Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), who originally didn’t want to joining the family business. However, when a hit is put on his father, Michael must take a step into the world of organized crime.

This film is ranked as one of the top films of all time. I may not necessarily agree with that high of a ranking, but it is definitely a brilliant piece of work. Coppola brings a level of empathy to the gangster that was unprecedented at the time. He constructed the quintessential guy movie and touched into the human level of those in organized crime. With the themes of family and loyalty, this film is a must see for any movie fan.

“THE GODFATHER: PART II”: After the overwhelming success of “The Godfather,” Coppola and writer Mario Puzo told the rest of the Corleone story. The film consists of two parts woven together. In one, we see how Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) became a man, beginning with the murder of his family in Sicily and leading to his control of the streets in Little Italy in the 1910s and 1920s. Concurrently, we see Michael Corleone struggle to retain control of his empire of gambling and organized crime in the late 1950s.

This second part is a very different movie from the first film, taking its time and presenting the story in a rather untraditional way. It follows the Godfather formula with each story, ending with the ultimate and multiple hit in the end, but it’s presented more like a visual novel than a film from the 70s. The movie shows how cold Michael has gotten over the years, but there’s less of a story arc. Vito goes through the change in his story, and you get a chance to empathize with the future crime boss from the first film.

Although it runs a bit long, “The Godfather: Part II” is still an excellent film.

“THE GODFATHER: PART III”: This film is the red-headed stepchild of the bunch. It’s often maligned by “Godfather” fans, and there are some reasons for this. However, it is a commendable movie for being so consistent in style and tone with the first two films. This story takes place in the 70s with Michael Corleone an old man. He still has the dream of becoming legit, but he just can’t get out of the business. And when he gets in bed with the Catholic Church, he becomes a target once again.

While it looks and feels like the other films, “The Godfather: Part III” explores things we haven’t seen before. There’s some taboo story elements when Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate child Vincent (Andy Garcia) strikes up a relationship with Michael’s daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola). There’s also the rather blatant and (what some might say) inflammatory implication that the Catholic church would get in bed with mobsters.

Still, there’s some interesting things happening in this film. Pacino is given more to work with in the character, now that he’s dealing with his adult children as well as other gangsters. This hits have gotten bigger, and the violence has gotten bloodier. It’s less of an examination of family and more of a character piece for Michael.

2000 SUPPLEMENTALS: The anchor bonus is the feature-length documentary about the making of the film. This is well put together and more than just a puff piece you see too much on DVDs today. There are deleted scenes, a Corleone Family Tree, photo galleries, storyboards and a historical timeline of the film. There are also several interesting short featurettes on less examined parts of the film, like locations, the music and the writing process.

2008 SUPPLEMENTALS: With a new release, I always appreciate new features, and the fifth disc in this set is excellent for this. There’s a retrospective with fans, celebrities and filmmakers about the “Godfather” series, mostly included in a mid-length feature called “Godfather World.” For a more interesting look at the film, there is a featurette entitled “The masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” which examines the road blocks the film had. There’s also a spot on the editors of the films, a look at the restoration process and sound byte interviews with celebrities on red carpets reflecting on “The Godfather” and its impact on American cinema.

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