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The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Giftset - drama DVD / suspense DVD review
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Andy Garcia, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire
Director: Francis Ford Coppola   Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 23 September 2008   Runtime: 549 minutes (5 discs)
Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Restored, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital, Mono - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (Spanish, English, French), The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III, Director's commentaries, Godfather World, The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't, When the Shooting Stopped, Emulsional Rescue: Revealing The Godfather, The Godfather on the Red Carpet, Four short films on The Godfather

I was thrilled to get the chance to review The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Giftset. Even though I have seen these films countless times (especially the first two), I hold them in high regard and feel their place among the greatest films ever made is richly deserved.

For those who have not seen the three films of the trilogy yet, here is a summary:
  • The Godfather is the saga of a mafia family's struggle to stay in power in post-WWII America. It balances the struggle of a family trying to stay together, as well as the transition of the family business from father to son, with the sordid, violent crime business in which they are engaged. This film features the now iconic performance of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. However, many critics and film historians argue that the greatest performance in the film is by Al Pacino as son Michael, the true central character of the film. Pacino is simply brilliant: he grows colder and colder as his power increases. One of the great acting moments ever filmed is the moment when Michael comes out of the bathroom in the Italian restaurant, knowing that he is about to forever seal his fate.
  • In arguably the greatest film sequel ever made, Coppola not only seamlessly continues the Corleone saga but somehow also enriches the first film as well. In a risky but brilliant move, The Godfather Part II interweaves two stories that serve as both prequel and sequel to the original. The two stories combine to form a profound response to what much of the world misunderstood about the first one (the Corleones were never meant to be seen as heroic standard-bearers for family loyalty and respect; they were always criminals).

    In the past, we see the Old Europe underworld being brought to the New World in the form of young Vito Corleone. Robert DeNiro takes on the formidable task of following in Brando's footsteps, yet he makes the role of young Vito his own. It is hard to imagine any other actor pulling off this role so successfully. In the decidedly grim present, Pacino effortlessly continues his brilliant performance from the first film. He loses what strand of conscience he has left and destroys his family, thinking he is saving it.
  • The Godfather Part III, which was made 15 years after Part II, is clearly not of the level of quality of the seminal first two installments. However, judged on its own, it is still a very good, well-made film. The final installment finds Michael, now in his 60s, one of the richest men in the world yet consumed with guilt over his past deeds. In a desperate search for redemption, he tries to remake the Corleone family as a completely legitimate corporation but finds that he cannot completely escape from his criminal past.

    The main weaknesses of the film: it makes the strong assumption the viewer has seen the first two films. Otherwise, one might get lost in why certain characters are important or in the actions of certain characters (such as why Kay fears and loathes Michael). Second, Michael is startlingly different from the ice-cold anti-hero seen in the first two films; he comes off as, strangely, quite sympathetic instead. Third, though Sophia Coppola was perhaps unfairly savaged for her performance as Michael's daughter, it's true that her performance is just not very good and stands out poorly against the true pros she is acting with. That said, the film is still beautifully photographed and has memorable scenes and a compelling story.
Just having these films alone is reason enough to buy the trilogy, but the care gone into this set makes it almost essential for any movie lover. First and foremost, the newly re-mastered prints of the first two films are breathtaking. Cinematographer Gordon Willis received legendary status among his peers as the "painter of shadows." The new print highlights how he brilliantly uses dark and shadows to advance the story, create ominous moments and reveal the inner thoughts of characters, as well as the gold hue he used to create a sense of sad nostalgia for the times when the family was strong.

Along with the re-mastered print, each film includes warm, insightful commentary by Coppola. He is one of the best commentators I have heard on a DVD; it really feels at times that he is in the room and discussing the film with you as you watch it.

Finally, two supplemental discs are included (four hours in total). Disc Four of the set is loaded with additional scenes, a Corleone family tree, a historical timeline, a "making of" documentary, profiles, storyboards and photos (as well as Easter Eggs). The highlights of Disc Five are Godfather World, a documentary on the cultural impact of The Godfather trilogy, with commentary by leading entertainment figures (including remarkably reverential and insightful commentary by South Park creator Trey Parker) and The Masterpiece that Almost Wasn't, which shows how many obstacles needed to be overcome for The Godfather to be made (Note: not all of the extra features work. Emulsional Rescue is devoted to the restoration process and seems somewhat too "techy" and boring, while The Godfather on the Red Carpet, which shows up-and-comers and wannabes from such films as Cloverfield and Harold and Kumar discussing the impact of The Godfather, is worthless).

It's obvious that I recommend this box set, but I struggled on how to summarize this review. All I can say is that I received my box set five days ago, and even though I have seen the first two repeatedly, I happily spent the last five days re-watching each film as well as the supplemental material. I'm somewhat envious of anyone who will get to see these films for the first time, especially in these beautifully re-mastered prints. I highly, highly recommend this box set to anyone who loves gangster movies (or who loves movies, period).
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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