The Godfather Collection – The Coppola Restoration Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray & DVD Version Covered In Review

Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
I have looked at the logo for The Godfather nearly my entire life. That hand holding the marionette strings, the top swoop from the G to the D, it might just be one of the things that inspired my graphic design genes. It looks like someone drew it by hand and then refined it, cutting and pasting in the old school style. I don’t think I can uncloud a lifetime of appreciating that part of the cover image and be unbiased. The red blood spurt with images of key members of THE family, well, that part I could do without. I think it’s a bit garish and doesn’t do the story justice.

The menus on each disc are subtle but powerful at the same time. They have an image from the movie, non-spoiler, in the background with the navigation at the bottom. The three select shots from the movies are thought provoking and intriguing if you have never seen the movies, and bring a flood of “oh yea I remember THAT part!” for anyone who has seen them.

The extras disc has more graphic influence with some images from the movie but it’s a predictably ornate affair. I like it though, it’s appropriate. The menu for the extras from the older DVD release is just that, the menu from the older DVD release, so nothing to brag about there. Overall the packaging is understated, but sorta classy. It doesn’t really do much for me. I think I expected something more elegant or bold. I’m just glad they didn’t do some crazy new twist on the image of The Godfather movies, that would have been a disaster.

Features: 10/10

  • Commentary By Director Francis Ford Coppola – Coppola has a very detailed way about him. He likes to give real details from the experience of making his movies. He sounds like more of a fan of the art of making a film rather than the sentimental aspect of watching movies.
  • Godfather World (HD) – Can we even imagine a world without these movies? I mean, I hadn’t seen them until now and I still know the impact they have had on my entertainment experience through years of being a movie lover. That’s what this extra covers, how these movies have planted themselves in our culture, for better or worse.
  • The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t (HD) – A feature length documentery with talking heads like Coppola, Spielberg, Lucas, and more. The creators of Zoetrope films discuss how The Godfather was to be a studio job for Coppola so he could make money to go back to their fledgling company to make non-studio films. Go figure. This covers a lot of quality information that kind of demystifies the movie a bit, gives it more of a real life history at the same time.
  • Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather – Amazing! The original film was never preserved properly so the folks who took on the job of putting together a new revitalized digital version had their hands full. From having to piece together sections of film from all over the world to pioneering techniques in film restoration and preservation, this extra is an excellent edition to the pot of goodies.
  • The Godfather On The Red Carpet – Who goes to premieres? Everybody except you and me. I’m not every that interested in this portion of the DVD extras world, and this time it’s even less interesting because they are not even at the red carpet of The Godfather. They ask people at the premiere of Cloverfield about what The Godfather movies mean to them.
  • Four Short Films On The Godfather – SHORT is right. These are just a couple minutes each and not really what I would consider films. It’s a bit misleading. I was hoping for more documentaries or analytical chatter boxes talking about the movies, but instead it’s just the tid bits listed below.
    • The Godfather Vs The Godfather 2 (HD) –Nope, it’s not a beefy arguement about which one is better or worse, just people talking about their thoughts and experiences of each one.
    • Cannoli (HD) –“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” How did that line, a great line in film history, get in the movie?
    • Riffing On The Riffing (HD) –People love to recite lines from the movie, even famous people.
    • Clemenza (HD) –Why didn’t they have an old version of Clemenza in the 3rd movie? Coppola explains. I didn’t like Clemenza anyway, not the Bruno Kirby version or the Part II version, so no big loss for me.
  • The Family Tree –I really appreciate this feature. I get confused sometimes with who’s who, yea, I admit it. So, seeing the whole family on a chart, with links to their backstories is really a good thing for me. It’s not very exciting to look at, but it’s full of information about each family character.
  • Crime Organization Chart –This is another great extra for me, Ms. Confusion. I was a bit fuzzy sometimes on who was who from one film to the next as they aged. Names get muddled for me, so seeing the chart of the whole mobster roster is a great thing, and it tells who plays the same characters as they age through the movies.
  • Connie & Carlo’s Wedding Album – Blah, not interested. That jerk, who cares. Connie is one of my least favorite characters in the whole series anyway, so this glorified photo gallery isn’t for me.
  • All Of The Extras From The 2001 DVD Release (22 in All In SD) – That’s right ALL of the extras that came on the earlier release are here. Tons of deleted scenes, more behind the scenes, making off footage.

The Godfather: 9/10
I had never seen The Godfather properly until now. I know, I know, it’s tragic. I have been a movie lover all my life and yet without this series to add to my cinematic memories. I think that’s a good thing actually. Seeing The Godfather now, after 40 years of life and seeing several thousand movies I have a perspective that’s not so much tagging onto the bandwagon with the millions of others who have taken on this cultural monolith of a flick.

The story is told beautifully. The characters all give me some kind of guttural reaction, some good, some bad. The look of the film, the world they live in, the colors, the darkness, the details, oh geesh, it’s all amazing to sink my eys into. What else is there to say that hasn’t’ been said already?

I’ll give it a try. Vito doesn’t interest me, yet. He’s powerful in a way that I don’t fully understand and it doesn’t intrigue me. That is until the moment he’s told about his son’s death, THEN I see him, through Brando’s occasional elegance and depth. (No I don’t think being stoic and talking with a gravely voice is acting brilliance.) He’s nearly been killed himself by rival gunmen and now his oldest son has been shot down by people in the world Vito himself has groomed him to be a part of, and the veneer goes away. That’s when I got interested in Vito, but then it fades with the onslaught of plot turns and other more dynamic characters stepping into the spotlight.

tom Hagen is by far my favorite character. Robert Duval makes me want to lean in and watch him closer and closer. He’s smooth and sleazy, trustworthy and treacherous. I can’t imagine any Godfather movie without him..oh…more on that later.

Sonny, the son who is shot down, well he’s a time bomb played by James Caan. It’s pretty clear that he’s not going to outlive his rogue attitude. He’s fascinating in a way, but then the whole macho husband with a chick on the side, hot headed thing, well, remember I’m 40. Those kinds of men are a serious annoyance in this life, so he didn’t do much for me. The only thing I did like about him was that he had a specific identity and never strayed from that. He didn’t get watered down by anything, just purely himself, untamed, I like that in a character.

Fredo is quirky, but creepy to me from the instant we first meet him, and he’s never redeemed. I can’t explain it exactly. He was the other end of the spectrum from Sonny and those two extremes, the tough guy vs. the weakling and how they function in a family like the Corleones falls to the back behind more interesting elements of the story, and characters.

Kate, played by Diane Keaton made a good impression in the beginning. Initially there is a charm about her I hadn’t ever seen in Keaton. She’s never been a favorite of mine. I like her and I’ve seen lots of her movies, but she’s not hooked me like she has a lot of other people. She gives off a theater vibe for a lot of this film. There are moments of greatness when she’s opposite Pacino, but that seems to happen a lot through this entire series. More on that later.

Kate and Michael (Pacino) are supposed to convince us that he’s not into the whole mob family thing and she’s his link to civilization. Come on people. From the very first scene it’s overtly thrown in our collective viewing faces that Michael is about to become the man he claims he doesn’t want to be. Personally I think Mikey has some issues and all his life, appearing to be the one who will get away from it all, with college and being in the military, well, he’s brewing some psycho tendencies just waiting to get out. When Vito gets shot and Michael steps in to save the day he has the excuse he needs to jump in head first. Everyone can pretend he was an innocent until that moment, but I think it’s always been brewing.

I won’t analyze the whole movie bit by bit. I think I need to see it a few more times before I can rightfully do such a thing. I will say that it’s beautifully paced, looks lovely, and for a gal who isn’t a fan of mob type movies, it’s a mind changer. The complexity of the crime syndicate combined with the simplicity of how problems are addressed (i.e. horse head in bed) is compelling, I have to admit that much. I think it’s fair to say that after seeing all three movies I have a different point of view about Vito, but I’ll cover that as I go along. I will say this, he had a foreboding and yet compassionate way about him throughout the movie so it twists your little mind into hating and rooting for him at the same time. That could be one of the things about this story, this movie, that makes it such a formidable piece of film making and story telling art.

The Godfather Part II: 9/10
We watched Part I, took a brief break and then watched Part II. In that break I thought to myself, “I would really like to see a whole movie about Vito Corleone, before he became the Godfather. Part II starts, and voila, my wish is Coppola’s command.

The prequel/sequel aspect of this part of the story is quite interesting to me for two reasons. First I so wanted to be more captivated by Vito, but to do that I needed something to understand about him, his past, his reasons for doing the things he does. And second, Michael as the head of the family didn’t mean much to me as a stand alone story. I felt like we had seen the upward swing of him and the only way to go would be down. While watching someone crumble is always fascinating, this is the one downfall of Part II for me, the transparency of the rise and fall scenario. Adding the life of Vito as told in flashbacks was like a custom made movie just for me.

Young Robert DeNiro as a young Vito took me by surprise. I knew DeNiro was in the movie, but I had no idea what role he played. I told you, it’s tragic that I have gone my whole life without watching these movies. I have not been sheltered, but never made any effort to know about them so I was totally in the dark. Imagine never having watched it before and having the chance to discover all of this for the first time…it’s very cool.

The back story of Vito’s life filled in a huge gap of wanting for me. I wanted to find him compelling. I wanted to have some compassion for him. I wanted to have a reason, one reason, not to hate him for being such a ruthless bastard. Part II satisfied all these desires amply. Talk about tragic, a young boy’s family murdered by the local Sicilian thug boss. He then travels to America and slowly, patiently makes something of himself. Yes he becomes a criminal, but there is a foundation there to build on. He could have chosen to be a totally honest hard working man. However he chose to be an honest hard hitting extortionist and favor doer which eventually lead him to more violent things like having horses beheaded and men killed. Even with all of these bad deeds, Vito had a REASON. What about Michael?

Michael now runs the family from his Lake Tahoe house on the water. It cheapens the whole New York dark and cozy feel for me. Moving some of the action to Vegas for financial gain, trying to move up in the world, it doesn’t have the same heart Part I has. Pacino is brilliant. No doubt about it. He’s subtle and brooding but explosive when it’s important. I still see that psycho hidden beneath, while he doles out orders, gets too big for his britches and eventually proving my point by having poor Fredo disposed of. His own brother, this guy ain’t no Vito.

Tom is still around, solving problems, doling out his own kind of justice in such a admirable/loathable way. Tom has always been considered a son to Vito, even though he’s not really part of the family. Not everyone thinks of him with as high regard as Vito did. He’s being held at arm’s length by Michael and it’s causing enough tension to convince me that Michael is starting to show his true colors. He has nothing to back up his actions. He has no tortured childhood. He wasn’t left an orphan by some jerk in Sicily. He was handed all of this on a silver platter and now, mixing with crooked politicians, tossing around large sums of charitable money, and trying to dominate other thug families, his cracks are starting to show. He has only his desire for power and to be in charge, the puppet master. It’s not enough to hold him and his life together.

The part of the story with Kate having and abortion to avoid bringing another Corleone into the world is interesting. She’s brave and bold and tries to get away with his children. Tha’ts not going to happen. We are convinced by the end of the movie that the most important thing in his life is protecting his children which means keeping them away from their mother. Why he didnt just kill Kate, I don’t know. Some secret thing about killing your children’s mother or something no doubt. I guess that doesn’t apply to killing your own brother, so many rules.

Overall I enjoyed Part II marginally less than Part I, HOWEVER, watching it again will probably change that. I didn’t focus on the details as much in Part II just because sometimes I was trying to keep up with who’s doing what to who. It’s just as stunning to look at, the style, the pace, the building of each part of the tale, it’s all here as if there was no gap between the two films. I will make a point to watch these two again in a couple of months when I have time to let them settle. What about Part III you ask? Hmmm I said it before, I’ll say it again, what can I say that hasn’t been said? Read on.

The Godfather Part III: 6/10
Ascully, my dear husband, fills in these templates with ‘Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah’ and then I delete the blahs and write my thoughts on each movie. I sat looking at the blah blah blah blah’s for a while on Part III. I have heard all the negative hype. These movies might not have been in my head, but I live in the real world where people do express very strong opinions on this, the final installment of the Corleone sega. This means that yes, I know people don’t like it. People hate it, say it’s crap, rip it to shreds every which way. Well guess what, I like to think for myself. I like to absorb something on my own, form my own opinion and not go along with the crowd.

It’s it funny how sometimes we can be so wrong? I mean, i thought everyone was just being ultra picky. I like all 6 Star Wars movies. Gigli was NOT that bad. I liked Waterworld and loved The Postman. See where I’m going here. I’m a woman with my own mind. People aren’t very smart most of the time so The Godfather Part III seemed like it was probably just another mindless victim of over scrutiny and biased to the two beloved films that preceded it.

Do I have to say it outloud? Or can I just type it? I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I’ll get the formalities out of the way, The Godfather Part III was a sorry excuse for a movie, at least one pretending to conclude such an epic tale. My eyes were focused on the screen, my ears on the sound, but my mind she wandered. I found myself consciencously thinking how poorly written, poorly paced, often poorly acted the whole thing was. In my life of watching movies those thoughts never blatently cross my mind.

What did I like? Al Pacino.

What didn’t I like? Sofia Coppola, Andy Garcia, the whole Catholic church thing, the amounts of money that Corleone has acquired, and so much more. Michael has apparently handed his children back over to the mother he ripped them from several years ago. We get a flimsy letter in the beginning that tells that part of the story. Now those kids are grown up mostly. The son wants to be a singer and the daughter is the director’s daughter.

The acting from almost everyone except for Pacino, Keaton, and some perpherial people is actually so flat it’s distracting. What the hell was going on? I will never get an answer to that question, so I’ll move on to the next one. What year was this movie supposed to be taking place in? 1979, right? So why is the daughter always dressed like a an 80’s leftover? I watched all those John Hughes movie too. It’s like they never sent her to wardrobe, they just let her come into her shots with those horrible late 80’s early 90’s clothes on. It was so disappointing for such trivial things to make such an impression.

Let’s talk about story again, the church is a big business and it’s in debt. Some conglomerate of strange and almost 1950’s business men wants to keep Michael out of the picture so they can kill all the popes who don’t play along with their money making schemes. All of this and the implication that Michael is somehow going to save the pope, the church, starving children, and his soul. George Hamilton stands up very straight and obviously has the thought “I’ll never be as good as Duval.” running through is head constantly. It’s a farce people. I can’t think of any redeeming qualities…well, maybe a couple.

When Pacino does the confession it’s a very touching scene. It totally doesn’t fit with anything else in the whole entire series, but he does a great job. Also, we ar reminded of fact that Vito, Michael’s father (in case we have forgotten by now) had to recover from gun shot wounds inflicted by his dealings and the choices he made. Which is a fair storyline element in this epic tale with conflict of on the man vs. himself, the world, his environment, society. The problem is that we are reminded through Michael’s inferment as he copes with Diabetes, as if his body is his foe. He says it acts up when he’s stressed out. So, it’s like a cheap modern twist on the idea of man vs. himself.  It’s boring. It’s not compelling at all.

Keaton shines in this one for me, I can’t forget to mention that. The scene in Sicily at the table with Pacino, good stuff. It seems Pacino elevates most people he does scenes with, most people. I won’t rip anyone apart. Some were too young to know how bad they were, some were just not up to the challenge of competing with a legacy of amazing performances before them. It’s just a shame that the quality of almost every aspect of this franchise is crushed under some unseen pressure. Notice I have never refered to these films as a franchise until now. Seeing Part III moved me from the lovely thoughts of these elegant, satisfying films being a unique experience to thoughts of people cashing in on something that maybe should have been left alone.

The venom isn’t intendted. I wanted to like this movie, be a rebel, fight the crowd. The problem is that the more I think about it the worse it is. Unlike Part II which gets better as it marinades in my mind, strange how that happens, Part III causes an controllable head shake and eye roll. I sincerly wanted The Godfather Part III to be a wonderful three hours to get lost in another world, another place, with familiar but evolving characters, ideas, experiences. That didn’t happen and I just have to learn to deal with it.

Overall I am thrilled and proud to say I am now a card carrying Godfather fan. It might take years to perfect my affection, but that’s ok, I’m willing to put in the time.

Audio & Video by Ascully: /10
I didn’t appreciate how amazing the transfer and restoration of these movies were until I watched one of the extra’s on the fourth disc detailing the process. Then I was sold. Godfather 1 and 2 are really quite old movies and the masters were pretty much full of scratches. The team at Zoetrope hired one of the leading film restorers in the country and set about the long arduous process of restoring it frame by frame. Using the latest technology they scanned in a original negative combined from various 35mm prints and then spent a whole year touching up the images one pixel at a time. The result is amazing.

As I said in the Podcast, the director of photography Gordon Willis has the nickname “The Prince Of Darkness”. This isn’t by accident. He uses a unique light and shadows technique in his filmmaking. Some scenes are intentionally not lit at all to provide a more natural dark feel. You might think your television is broken at some points in the film since the detail is lacking, but don’t go reaching for the brightness control. Those blacks are meant to be black, this is by artistic intent. The movies are also not as sharp as some HD releases you find on Blu-Ray disc. This is because of the age of the prints. If you are looking for showcase HD material this isn’t it, but if you are looking for a more subtle filmlike image, the Godfather Restoration is the way to go.

The original first 2 movies had mono soundtracks at the time of release but the Coppola Restoration version of the movies brings them into the present with a full Dolby TrueHD mix. While these are not quite as dynamic as today’s rock’em sock’em feature films they do sound a lot better than the older DVD releases. But remember, the Godfather movies are more talk than action and that is where the sound excels right up in the center channel where it needs to be. The surrounds do not play a major part in the soundstage except for a few chapters of Godfather 3 which is the livliest of the bunch, I assume because it was made in the 90’s right as dolby surround technology was taking off.  All 3 movies sound better than they have in years.

Overall the Godfather Collection, especially on Blu-Ray, are the best versions of the movie on a home format avalible. Since the result of restoring these movies is a brand new 4K transfer that has been archived, we now have a peice of film history safe for many years to come.

Value: 7/10
Ok, don’t freak out. I know this DVD collection is packed full of movie and extra goodness. I still do not believe that it’s worth a hundred bucks. If you look closely online you will find it for around 50-60, but that’s still quite steep….then again, this is an entire weekend of entertainment. I would be willing to go as high as $35.00 for the set. Let’s face it, these movies have made a good chunk of change in their lifetime. This time around it should be about what the restoration is worth, and the new extras. Would I rent? No. Even after not being a lifelong devotee to the series, I still want it on my DVD shelf.

Overall Score 10/10