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The Sopranos: Season 1 [Blu-ray]
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Meet Tony Soprano: your average, middle-aged businessman. Tony's got a dutiful wife. A not-so-dutiful daughter. A son named Anthony Jr. A mother he's trying to coax into a retirement home. A hot-headed uncle. A not-too-secret mistress. And a shrink to tell all his secrets, except the one she already knows: Tony's a mob boss.]]>
The series' brilliant first season is built around what Tony learns when, whipsawed between those two worlds, he finds himself plunged into depression and seeks psychotherapy--a gesture at odds with his midlevel capo's machismo, yet instantly recognizable as a modern emotional test. With analysis built into the very spine of the show's elaborate episodic structure, creator Chase and his formidable corps of directors, writers, and actors weave an unpredictable series of parallel and intersecting plot arcs that twist from tragedy to farce to social realism. While creating for a smaller screen, they enjoy a far larger canvas than a single movie would afford, and the results, like the very best episodic television, attain a richness and scope far closer to a novel than movies normally get.
Unlike Francis Coppola's operatic dramatization of Mario Puzo's Godfather epic, The Sopranos sustains a poignant, even mundane intimacy in its focus on Tony, brought to vivid life by James Gandolfini's mercurial performance. Alternately seductive, exasperated, fearful, and murderous, Gandolfini is utterly convincing even when executing brutal shifts between domestic comedy and dramatic violence. Both he and the superb team of Italian-American actors recruited as his loyal (and, sometimes, not-so-loyal) henchmen and their various "associates" make this mob as credible as the evocative Bronx and New Jersey locations where the episodes were filmed.
The first season's other life force is Livia Soprano, Tony's monstrous, meddlesome mother. As Livia, the late Nancy Marchand eclipses her long career of patrician performances to create an indelibly earthy, calculating matriarch who shakes up both families; Livia also serves as foil and rival to Tony's loyal, usually level-headed wife, Carmela (Edie Falco). Lorraine Bracco makes Tony's therapist, Dr. Melfi, a convincing confidante, by turns "professional," perceptive, and sexy; the duo's therapeutic relationship is also depicted with uncommon accuracy. Such grace notes only enrich what's not merely an aesthetic high point for commercial television, but an absorbing film masterwork that deepens with subsequent screenings. --Sam Sutherland
Stills from The Sopranos: The Complete First Season
Two behind-the-scenes featurettes
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DTS 2.0, French DTS 2.0, German DTS 2.0, Castillian DTS 2.0
Top Customer Reviews
Season 1 used a grainier film stock than subsequent seasons. This was problematic for the 2000 DVD release because MPEG II encoding has a difficult time handling grain, HBO squeezed 4 episodes onto each discs (except the last one) resulting in a high level of compression, there was a lot of edge enhancement applied to the video, and that this was a relatively early DVD release -- MPEG II encoding has significantly improved since then. As a result, the video on the DVDs had a lot of artifacts -- and the larger the TV you have, the more obtrusive the artifacts and edge enhancement are.
The Blu-ray release pretty much fixes all of those problems. You can really see the difference in the closeups on the actors' faces. The image is clear with a film texture. You'll also notice a lot more details in the background.
The pilot episode doesn't look as good as the rest of the season. This is no doubt because a cheaper film stock was used and they had less time to light scenes due to it being a pilot. The rest of the episodes look uniformly excellent.
Don't expect the show to look quite as good as good as the HD broadcasts of the later seasons. Starting in Season 2 much more money and effort was put into the cinematography in order to give the show a feature film look. The interiors of Season 1 are typically slightly over lit with a soft white light. I suspect this was done because they had a shorter production schedule then later Seasons when the show was a hit, and they didn't have time to relight sets every time they moved the camera.
The packaging is virtually identical to the DVD box.Read more ›
I wasn't disappointed. Matter of fact, I was blown away. It's a great show, at times hysterical, at times very dark. The characters are sometimes over the top but they stay close to basic story, unlike a lot of shows where, struggling to fill 60 minutes and having run out of any sensible ideas, they'll have doctors from an ER show caught in an improbable plane crash in the Andes or whatever.
The most interesting thing for me is the way they've used Tony Soprano's sessions with his therapist as a way to stitch everything together and let you get inside Tony's head. The actors playing both Tony and the therapist turn in remarkable and very believable performances.
This set is also a heck of a bargain. You get 13 episodes, four per DVD, plus some bonus materials, which is a lot of viewing time for the money.
I recommend this set as easily the best DVD purchase I made all year (this from someone who buys nearly everything that comes out.)
James Gandofini stars as Tony Soprano, a very human individual, who just happens to be a gangster. He's living in modern times though, and so he's plagued with depression and goes to a therapist, played by Lorraine Bracco. Tony's domestic scenes, which include his wife, Edie Falco, his daughter, Jamie-Lyn Sigler, his son, Robert Iler, and - especially his mother, Nancy Marchand, are all unique and slightly off-center examples of brilliant writing and editing. Add to this his criminal activities and his violent temper, and there's a mix that fascinates me completely.
One of the delights of the series is that I can't quite figure what will happen next. I'm constantly on edge as I watch the story unfold, and there are always surprises. I like the humor and the irreverence. And best of all I like the fact that each episode is commercial free and a complete movie in itself. I love it when the scenes move back and forth between the actual crime stuff and his family life. And I love the humanity that Tony exhibits. In a way he is "everyman" as he struggles with decisions and hard choices in his life. And yet, he is larger than life, and a bit of a hero to our culture.Read more ›
But quite aside from that. The Sopranos is at the absolute highest level of visual art. No movie and certainly no TV is at a higher level. I am amazed at how much I've seen in an episode on first viewing and then how much more on second and third viewing. There are lots of little things, connections, that emerge on repeated, highly pleasurable viewings. There are so many surprising details, little throwaway lines, cues that lead to something later on, that really show the filmmakers respected the intelligence of the viewer.
The richness of the interwoven comedy and drama, the inventive ways found to tell the multiple stories--I love it. I love all the actors, but would just take a minute to single out Nancy Marchand, who plays one of the most marvelous mother characters ever recorded. The merging of comedy and drama in her performance is sublime. Every little line matters. The way she walks. Everything she does is beyond wonderful.
The greatness of The Sopranos you've heard about is really true. You will not regret having this set on your shelf to watch over and over again.