THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK: 3 STARS
“The Many Saints of Newark,” the sprawling big-screen prequel to the iconic TV series “The Sopranos,” looks more like a pilot for a new show than the origin story of one of the most famous families. famous television.
Divided into three parts, “The Many Saints of Newark” uses storytelling, courtesy of Tony Soprano’s late associate Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), to break down the film’s interconnected story fragments.
First, there is Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), soldier of the Soprano family, father of Christopher, cousin of Carmela Soprano, uncle of Tony. He’s trendy, cunning and impulsive, but also a traitor. When his father, the sociopath ‘Hollywood Dick’ (Ray Liotta), returns from Italy with a new wife (Michela De Rossi), it triggers chaos in the Moltisanti family.
In Dickie’s orbit is Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), an African-American number runner for the crowd, galvanized by the Newark race riots in 1967 to go out on his own, and finally, Tony Soprano, played by William. Ludwig as a youngster, Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini, as a teenager. As Dickie’s thirst for power runs out of control, he becomes Tony’s surrogate father, hoping to pass something good on to the impressionable young man as a way to atone for his sins.
“The Many Saints of Newark” is alive in its portrayal of the period. Spanning roughly four years, from 1967 to 1971, he uses the turmoil of that era in American life as a backdrop to the explosive nature of Dickie’s world. That atmosphere of uncertainty makes up for a story that, despite some glorious moments, often feels rushed as it heads towards an ending that doesn’t explode the rich psychological landscape of these characters, which is what we expect from David Chase and ” The Sopranos. “
The actors are playing.
Nivola brings equally charisma, danger and depth to an imperfect character who is the master of the action trail. Unlike many other characters, like the junior soprano (Corey Stoll), henchman Paulie Walnuts (Blly Magnussen) or consigliere Silvio Dante (John Magaro), who come with eighty-six baggage episodes, Dickie is new and can be seen through new eyes.
Michael Gandolfini takes on the Herculean task of revisiting a character his father made one of the most famous in television history and brings him home highlighting the character’s volatility and, more importantly, his vulnerability. . He’s a troubled kid, about to turn one way or the other, and while we know how the story unfolds, Gandolfini’s performance suggests there is more to Tony Soprano.
If there is one complaint, it’s that Tony and McBrayer, two of the main cogs that keep this engine running, get lost in the elaborate plot of “The Many Saints of Newark”. Ditto for the female characters. Despite Vera Farmiga’s tremendous work as Tony’s poisoned mother, Livia and De Rossi as Dickie’s stepmother, women often feel peripheral to the story, serving only the stories of the men.
“The Many Saints of Newark” brings with it great expectations, but fails to come close to the greatness of its source. “The Sopranos” broke new ground, changing the way gangster stories (and all kinds of other stories) were told on television. “The Many Saints of Newark” is content less as an exercise in nostalgia.
THE GUILTY: 3 ½ STARS
There is no mention of COVID-19 in “The Guilty,” Jake Gyllenhaal’s new thriller now streaming on Netflix. But make no mistake, this is a pandemic movie. A remake of the 2018 Danish film “Den skyldige”, this is essentially a one-handed movie, shot on a handful of sets with strict security protocols in place. Gyllenhaal may be socially estranged from his castmates, but his performance is anything but distant.
Gyllenhaal plays Joe Baylor, an LAPD cop on 911 duty while awaiting trial for police brutality. As a wildfire ravages the city, he is strapped to a phone in the call center, where he shares his displeasure with his new assignment with anyone who calls. Angry, he lashes out at his co-workers and even berates his callers for their bad choice – “You took drugs!” – before offering help.
His attitude changes when he receives a call from Emily (Riley Keough, who does impressive vocal work), a mother of two kidnapped by her abusive ex-husband (Peter Sarsgaard). Their conversation sets off a chain of events that causes Baylor to look inside and reassess the choices that led him to the 911 dispatch center.
Played in real time, “The Guilty” creates tension as Baylor battles a stopwatch to sort things out safely for Emily. Director Antoine Fuqua amplifies the sense of urgency, keeping his camera focused on Gyllenhaal’s feverish performance. The close-ups create a feeling of claustrophobia, visually telegraphing Baylor’s sense of helplessness and his crumbling mental state.
Gyllenhaal delivers a gripping performance that bristles with determination, ranging from brooding to blasting to resignation. His expressive face fills the screen and, save for a distracting set of eyebrows, carefully guides us into Baylor’s den of anxiety.
“The Guilty” is a no-frills thriller that allows the viewer to imagine most of the action, both in Emily’s fate and in Baylor’s mind. He breathes the same air as films like the minimalist “Locke” which do a lot with little.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2: 2 ½ STARS
The strange and wonderful Addams family, Gomez (Oscar Isaac), Morticia (Charlize Theron), Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz), Pugsley (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) and their chrome dome uncle Fester (Nick Kroll), are as n any other family. Sure, they live in a house of horrors and are “mysterious and scary and all together ok”, but underneath it all they are a regular and loving family.
The latest installment in their long documentation of family life, the animated “The Addams Family 2”, currently showing in theaters and on premium VOD, sees Gomez and Morticia, like so many parents, worried that their children are growing up too fast.
The action begins at Wednesday’s high school science fair. When she only wins a participation prize for her project – transferring the intelligence of the octopus to her uncle Fester – she becomes more withdrawn than usual. To reunite the family, Gomez and Morticia plan a family trip to – where else? – Valley of Death.
Along the way, complications arise, including Cyrus Strange (Wallace Shawn, son of publisher William Shawn who ran the Addams Family cartoons for decades on the pages of The New Yorker), a villainous scientist who convinces Wednesday that she’s not really part of the Addams family. .
“The Addams Family 2” has prominent vocal work from Isaac, Theron, and especially Moretz, which nails down the detached but fiery tone of his death-obsessed character. Her empowerment – “I am not a monster,” she said, “I am a force of nature.” – will also likely strike a chord with anyone who has felt like a stranger.
What the movie doesn’t nail, however, is that addams family x factor, the sense of gleeful dread. It is a family entertainment for the general public, embellished with songs and dance numbers, which softens the quirky and macabre heart and soul of the source material. It’s wacky, not okay, without the quirky charm of the 1960s TV show.
Directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon bring a light touch to the story where nothing was needed.