Francis Ford Coppola
Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, G.D. Spradlin, Richard Bright
Mario Puzo (novel), Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola's compelling sequel lives up to - and even eclipses - the brilliance of The Godfather, contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. In parallel story lines the movie traces the problems of a matured Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in 1958 and that of young immigrant Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) in 1917's Hell's Kitchen. Vito is introduced to a life of crime by two-bit hood Clemenza (Bruno Kirby) while Michael survives an attempt on his life, familial betrayals, and Senate hearings ... but at a cost. De Niro, speaking almost completely in Italian, is charismatic as the young Don, a Robin Hood-type figure.
$244.000 thousand on -unknown- screens.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 200 min.
Release Date: 2/2/2010
• Audio Commentary from Director Francis Ford Coppola
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The Godfather: Part II [Blu-Ray] (1974)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 19, 2014)
Whenever the subject of sequels that surpass their predecessors arises, a short list of the usual suspects emerges. The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day offer some of the most consistent and prominent examples.
However, the king of them all likely will always remain 1974ís The Godfather Part II. For one, it remains the only sequel ever to win the Oscar as
Best Picture, and itís also the sole continuation to merit inclusion on the American Film Instituteís Top 100 list, where it resides at number 32.
Thatís 30 places below its predecessor, 1972ís Godfather, which seems kind of unfair. Many think II is a better film, though I suppose Godfather may have earned the higher ranking partially due to historical importance; it was a seminal flick, while II simply continued and refined its experience.
Personally, Iíd always agreed with the AFIís idea. While I thought II was a very good of work, I never could view it on the same level as Godfather. The latter seemed like a more visceral and involving experience, whereas II came across as cool and less directly stimulating.
Prior to this Blu-ray, Iíd seen II five or six times, and my opinion of it remained fairly consistent. However, now that Iíve watched it once more, I must admit that Iím starting to see its merits more clearly. II may not offer the same level of slam-bang moments found in its predecessor, but it may be that filmís equal nonetheless.
The Godfather Part II follows dual storylines. One continues the tale begun in the first movie, as we see the further development of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as the head of a crime syndicate. When Godfather ended, heíd consolidated his powers via a bloody attack on his competitors, and by II - which takes place a few years later, toward the end of the Fifties Ė Michaelís become even more powerful. His side of the story shows his attempts to further develop the familyís interests Ė most notably via some possible investments in Cuba Ė while he deals with traitors within his organization.
In addition, II develops the early years of family patriarch Vito. Performed by Marlon Brando in the first film, Oreste Baldini briefly portrays the child version while Robert De Niro plays the don as a young man. We watch his arrival in America after a Sicilian Mafioso kills his family, and we see him as he starts his own clan. Though he starts as an honest, hard-working guy, Vito soon sees the benefits of a life of crime, and when he takes on local don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) his course Ė and that of his family Ė is set.
Though the movie starts with Vitoís childhood, it interweaves the two tales in a fairly seamless manner. The technique easily could have become distracting, but director Francis Ford Coppola manages to pull it off neatly, as the stories flow cleanly and remain involving. Although I admit I found Michaelís tale more interesting, I thought both sides of the film earned equal prominence.
Without question, Godfather is the showier movie of the first two, and II lacks some of the big personalities seen in it. Both Brandoís Vito and James Caanís Sonny were driving forces in the original film, and they presented larger than life attitudes. On the other hand, Michael remained a quieter sort, and the younger Vito may have foreshadowed the man he would become, but here he appropriately appeared less commanding and forceful.
While the variations in tone may make it appear as though II is at fault somehow, it isnít; I mention them just to relate the differences between the two movies. As I mentioned earlier, the relative coolness of II led me to find it inferior for quite a while, and it remains a less iconic flick. However, the filmís quieter, more introspective nature leads it to be very satisfying nonetheless.
On one hand, we witness the gradual evolution of Vito into a cold-blooded killer. The movie makes this growth seem almost inevitable, but it doesnít portray Vito as a stereotype or a one-sided personality. As portrayed by De Niro, heís a strong force but not one who does what he does without purpose or intelligence. De Niro ably makes the character feel like a younger version of Vito without resorting to cheap Brando imitations, and he deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Unfortunately, Pacino wouldnít grab a similar prize for his performance as Michael, though I think he earned it. Actually, I believe he deserved that award for Godfather, where he was misclassified as a supporting actor. For II, he got Best Actor consideration but lost to Art Carney for his work in Harry and Tonto. (Interestingly, both Godfather and II snared solo nominations for Best Actor Ė Brando received the award for the first film Ė and a whopping three Best Supporting Actor nods apiece. For Godfather, Pacino, Caan and Robert Duvall all got nominations, while De Niro, Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo all received nods for II. For the record, Caan, Pacino and Duvall all lost to Joel Grey for Cabaret.)
I felt Pacino should have won for Godfather. In that film, Michael was the only character who really showed development, and he was the center of the story. Brando was terrific, but Vito was essentially a supporting role, and he didnít evolve in any real way. I suppose one could make the same argument for Michael in II, as the changes experienced by the character are much more subtle this time. He begins as a cold, distant man and ends the film in the same state.
However, II concentrates much more intently on nuance, and thatís where Pacinoís performance gets its passion. Although Michael finds himself increasingly lost in his criminal world, he maintains a perverse focus on his family; in a bizarre way, he truly seems to feel that he does what he does for the good of the family. Unfortunately, all that this leads to is the dissolution of what he loves and cherishes. Pacino executes the slow transformation with tragic power and makes Michael one of the great film characters.
Admittedly, in some ways, II suffers from a factor that affects many sequels: it feels like a mild rehash of the first film. The Godfather was clearly the more original movie of the two, and I think thatís one reason why it continues to garner more attention. While II lacks the force of its predecessor, it compensates through coherence and style. II seems like a better developed and implemented movie, and it definitely used a more daring style; the dual storylines made II vastly more ambitious than Godfather.
Arguments about the superiority of either flick will likely continue ad infinitum, and I wonít attempt to resolve them. I continue to prefer the original film, but I must admit that Iím starting to develop a greater fondness for The Godfather Part II. It may hold up better to repeated viewings, as it communicates greater depth and subtlety each time. In any case, The Godfather Part II remains an excellent achievement that holds up very nicely next to its classic predecessor.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+
The Godfather Part II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer replicated the source material in a positive manner.
Sharpness remained acceptably clear and accurate throughout most of the film, as much of the movie looked reasonably crisp and detailed. A few slightly soft elements occurred, but those were insubstantial, as the majority of the film showed good delineation. I noticed no issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge enhancement. Source flaws also remained minor. Grain levels remained appropriate for a movie of this oneís age and style, and only a smattering of defects presented themselves. I noticed a handful of specks, but nothing intrusive.
As was the case with the first movie, II went with a palette that favored an orange/yellow tint much of the time. A few brighter tones occasionally found their way into the proceedings, such as during some of the Cuban scenes. However, the film usually stayed subdued and nearly monochromatic. Given the storyís tone and visual design, I didnít expect many vivid or brilliant hues, so I found the colors of II to appear satisfactory.
Since so much of II took place in low-light conditions, it needed very good blacks and shadow detail. Neither truly excelled, but both were more than acceptable. These shots had good depth and clarity from start to finish. Overall, I felt quite pleased with the presentation.
I wasnít wild about the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix of the first film, and I continued to have some qualms about its first sequelís rejiggered audio. That said, the second flickís multichannel sound appeared a bit more satisfying. The soundfield itself seemed surprisingly natural and involving, as the elements in II blended together with solid grace and realism.
The mix remained concentrated in the front spectrum, where fairly positive stereo music appeared as well as a variety of effects. Those bits added the good dimensionality to the track, as sounds appeared to be appropriately placed throughout the film. Surround usage stayed pretty minor, but they contributed acceptable reinforcement of the front channels, and they also kicked to life nicely at times, such as during a train sequence.
As with the first flick, the audio suffered from too much artificial reverb at times. This especially affected dialogue, as speech often seemed unnatural. This wasnít severe, but the echo made things a bit messier than Iíd like.
Otherwise, the sound quality for II seemed decent for its era. Dialogue usually came across as reasonably distinct and crisp. Some edginess interfered at times, but I detected no problems related to intelligibility. Effects also could crackle on occasion, but as a whole they seemed clean and relatively dynamic. In addition the few loud sequences showed decent bass response.
Music demonstrated some modest distortion as well, such as during the opening party sequence. Overall, the score lacked the depth heard during Godfather, but I still thought the music seemed to be relatively clear and vibrant for a film of this vintage. Ultimately, the audio of Godfather II showed its age at times, but it appeared to be above average for its era, and some parts of it worked quite well.
As was the case with the first filmís sound, I preferred the original monaural material to the 5.1 mix. However, I found less of a difference between the two this time, as the multichannel track had enough strengths to make it an acceptable alternative. It went with some wonky Foley choices, and that reverb didnít make me happy, but I felt reasonably pleased with the 5.1 track for II. Iíd still choose the mono in the future, though, as it was more natural and also obviously better replicated the original theatrical experience.
How do the picture and audio of this restored 2008 DVD? All the soundtracks seemed similar. Maybe the lossless mix here had a smidgen more oomph than the DVDís counterpart, but not to a substantial degree.
On the other hand, the visuals showed nice growth. I suspect that both the DVD and the Blu-ray came from the same transfer, but the latter seemed tighter and more sumptuous. It simply appeared to more accurately replicate the source, and that made it a good improvement.
Only one extra appears here: the same audio commentary from director Francis Ford Coppola that appeared on the prior DVD releases. Once again, Coppola provides a running, fairly screen-specific affair. Frankly, I expected this track to be less interesting than the one created for the prior film; first flicks always have the most background to relate, and the rough time Coppola went through making it seemed to offer more opportunities for interesting stories.
To my surprise, I found the II commentary to be at least as good as the one for Godfather, and it may actually be better. When I reviewed the Godfather track, I related that despite his negative experience, Coppola didnít seem bitter as he discussed the shoot.
While that remains true, he does appear much brighter and cheerier through his chat here. Clearly II was a much more pleasant time for him, so instead of the complaints about difficulties heard during Godfather, Coppola focuses more on positive issues for the sequel.
That doesnít mean we get a superficial puff piece, however; Coppola never lets the commentary degenerate into excessive praise. Instead, he simply talks about a variety of elements that went into the making of the film, from his reticence to do such a project to casting woes Ė which include the reason why Clemenza doesnít reappear in the sequel Ė to his overall goals for the flick to a slew of other issues.
As was the case with Godfather, a moderate number of empty spaces occur, but these seem fewer during II, perhaps because the subject engaged him more fully. Ultimately, Coppola provides a very informative and engaging track that includes a wealth of good information about Godfather II.
I donít know if Iíll ever like it as much as its predecessor, but Iíve begun to appreciate The Godfather Part II more. The film richly deserves its status as a classic, and it may well be the better film of the two. Whatever the case may be, II offers a fascinating and deep experience that holds up extremely well to repeated viewings. The Blu-ray provides good picture and audio. In addition, another fine audio commentary from Francis Ford Coppola rounds out the package. This is unquestionably the best home video representation of The Godfather Part II to date, and itís the one Iíd recommend to fans
Note that you can buy this release either on its own or as part of a boxed set called ďThe Godfather CollectionĒ. This set also includes The Godfather, The Godfather, Part III and supplements.
To rate this film, visit the Boxed Set review of THE GODFATHER PART II