Sunday, August 31, 2008

LA Times Plays With Itself

Today's Los Angeles TImes had a entertaining multi page piece... The 25 Best L.A. Films Of The Last 25 Years.

Geoff Boucher says that they were compiling the films that best speak to the essential DNA of the Southland... The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience. So as not to say, what are the best films that take place in LA. (explaining Less Then Zero).

They had some rules, the films had to be made since 1983, so alas no Under the Rainbow (1981). 

And ... only one film per director was allowed on the list, which kept Pulp Fiction, Magnolia, Wild At Heart and Short Cuts off the list. Though most erroneously they chose Collateral over the more appropriate Heat (1995). Say what?

Let's not quibble over the picks. I mean, its a unscientific chirpy little list. It's kinda cute. Certainly L.A. Confidential is a perfect number one pick. 

The list continues with....

2. Boogie Nights (1997)

3. Jackie Brown (1997)

4. Boyz N the Hood (1991)

5. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

6. The Player (1992)

7. Clueless (1995)

8. Repo Man (1984)

9. Collateral (2004)

10. The Big Lebowski (1998)

11. Mulholland Drive (2001)

12. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

13. Training Day (1991)

14. Swingers (1996)

15. Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

16. Friday (1995)

17. Speed (1994)

18. Valley Girl (1983)

19. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

20. L.A. Story (1991)

21. To Sleep With Anger (1990)

22. Less Than Zero (1987)

23. Fletch (1985)

24. Mi Vida Loca (1993)

25. Crash (2004)


OK. Not bad, 3, 14 and 15 are perfect picks. 

1, 2 and 15 are the only 'period pieces'.

I haven’t seen numbers 21 and 24 (revealing my possible white-boy bias) but I know they have their champions.

I dislike 20 and 25 and I never got into 4, 12 and 23 as much as others did. 

I would offer up as a definite alternative Ken Loach’s brilliant docudrama Bread and Roses (2000) about the janitor strike staged by heroic exploited immigrants. With a excellent performance by Adrien Brody as a union organizer. This is an important under-appreciated flick, that speaks more about the LA experience for more people then say, L.A. Story ever did.

And maybe I'd add one or two of these titles....

Body Double (1984), Bulworth (1998), Colors (1988), Deep Cover (1992), Echo Park (1986),  Face/Off (1997),  Get Shorty (1995), How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass (Baadasssss) (2003), Internal Affairs (1990), The Limey (1999), Miracle Mile (1988), Night of the Comet (1984), The Terminator (1984) and Thirteen (2003). At least they kept the lame Grand Canyon of the list.


Since no Documentaries appear on the list  Here’s my own...

The 10 Best L.A. Documentaries Of The Last 25 Years


Unfortunately the year requirement made me have to leave off the deserving The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) and Wattstax (1973). I feel like I’m leaving off something really good, something less movie centric and more political (lemme know in the comment section). 

But here goes... 

1.  Los Angeles Plays Itself (Andersen 2003)

2.  Dogtown and Z Boys (Peralta 2002)

3.  Hollywood: An Empire of Their Own  (Jacobovici 1998) 

4.  Brian Wilson: I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1995 Was)

5.  The Kid Stays In the Picture, (2002 Burstein & Morgan)

6.  Overnight (Montana, Smith 2004)

7.  James Ellroy: Demon Dog of Crime Fiction (Jud 1997)

8.  The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip (Hickenlooper 2003) 

9. DiG! (Timoner 2004) 

10. A Decade Under the Influence (Demme, LaGravenese 2003) and Easy Riders/ Raging Bulls (Bowser 2003)  


Other possibilities: 

Bastards of the Party (Sloan 2005),  Biggie and Tupac (2002), Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story (Mechner 2003), Classified X (Daniels 1998), Full Tilt Boogie (Kelly 1997), The Last Mogul: Life and Times of Lew Wasserman (Avrich 2005), Sunset Story (Gabbert 2003), Tell Them Who You Are (Wexler 2004), Twilight: Los Angeles (Levin 2000).


-sweeneyrules

Saturday, August 30, 2008

QUICK THOUGHTS, RECENT OBSERVATIONS & SHOUT-OUTS

- Watched the making of Alien on the  Alien Quadrilogy DVD. Interesting, it’s pointed out that besides the look of Kubrick and his 2001, the biggest influence on Ridley Scott was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


- Caught First Blood (1982) on TV one morning. I always enjoyed that flick (and despised the sequels). This time seeing it, I was less impressed with the supporting actors performances (a little melodramatic and too much yelling) and the editing had some questionable cuts. But let me give a shout-out to Jerry Goldsmith’s terrific score. He’s of course has had a distinguished career, but I’d put the First Blood score up there with his definite classics The Oman and L.A. Confidential.

- Hey Casting Directors.  I understand that I’ve been blackballed from the industry for my ahead-of-my-time acting style (and my left of Marxism politics). 

But CDs you should take note of this dude,,, he shoulda been in Ironman or something....

I rewatched the first season of HBO’s epic crime masterpiece The Wire.

Okay. Fine. The TV awards are bullshit. I guess The Wire has never been up for best show. Fine it’s official, the Emmys are a joke. But rewatching season one, boy was I blown away by the performance of Larry Gillard Jr. I mean, of course any rational voter could fill up their acting award nomination cards with the entire cast. But I was especially impacted by Gillard’s work as D'Angelo (Dee) Barksdale. His pent up pain and self-torture from being the one dealer with a conscious is so multidimensional. The  scene where he explains the rules of Chess and later when he gives up his family are so powerful. (I also recall, later in the series in prison a scene where he explains the meaning of the Great Gatsby as being very moving).


- I've been watching lots of James Bond flicks on TV. 

One major issue I have. I'm convinced that I could beat-up Roger Moore if I had too. Really. I'm no Ali, but look at the guy.

Live And Let Die has the best opening song. The Spy Who Loved Me's is good too ("Nobody Does It Better"). 

I kinda like the Octopussy song "All Time High" by Rita Coolidge (hey, didn't she direct Rambling Rose and Valley Girl?). 

A View To A Kill may be one of the worse Bond flicks, but I'll give a shout-out to that tune as well.


- Watching what seemed like a rational little episode of  Naked Science on The National Geographic Channel... I’m officially convinced, and this is hard to declare... I no longer believe in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster (or Nessie to her friends). Shit! I’m still hoping for some hard-core National Geographic evidence for the existence of The Yeti ( I gave up on his American 'cuz, Big Foot at least two years ago).


- I rewatched Finding Neverland. I think I lost weight in my face from balling my eyes out and blowing pounds of snot into tissues. I'm gonna right another post about how much I love Kate Winslet. I hate to say this about someone so early in their career, but she is at the least in my top five favorite actresses of all time (let's see, Bette Davis, Shelly Winters. Maybe Streep, Mirren, and I don't know, Gloria Grahame? I'm forgetting a buncha fine actresses).


- Speaking of Dame Mirren, I was really looking forward to finally catching the Stephen Fears flick The Deal which The Queen was more or less a sequel to. First airing on British TV in 2003, it tells the story of the dandy Tony Blair and his rise to Prime Minister (well played by Michael Sheen who would reprise the role in The Queen) and the toll it took on his political partnership with (the current British PM) Gordon the Gump Brown. Though enjoyable, not as riveting as the Helen Mirren flick. 


- Speaking of politics, lemme give a shout-out to Obama's amazing speech on the final night of that reality show called The Democratic Convention.  

It was kinda a cross between Charles Foster Kane’s “My first official act as Governor will be to appoint a Special District Attorney to arrange for the indictment, prosecution, and conviction of Boss Jim W. Gettys” speech and MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. 

I thought Al Gore managing to compare Obama to another first term Jr Senator from Illinois, Mister Abe 'no mustache'Lincoln himslf, was very cleaver. 

And I find it almost offensive that these drones who were Hillary Clinton supporters, now may vote for McCain because he has used the cute gimmick of adding the sassy Sarah Palin to his ticket. If these voters actually believed in Hillary because of her stance on the issues, Palin is the poller opposite on most, veering extreme to the right. If say they thought Hillary brought more ‘experience” to the job then Obama does, well Palin brings none.        

However, if they were only voting for Clinton because  she is a woman...and now they want Palin to get elected because she also has a vagina, well that’s just as bad as the goons who said they would never vote for Hillary because she’s a woman.


- Speaking of vagina, um, um, um... I got nothing to add. 

Um, maybe a shout-out to vaginas, to all sexual and urinary organs. You rock!


- How about this: saw for the first time the strange Brit-flick, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, excellent. This 1969 flick about a charismatic teacher at an all girls school, shocked me.

Where I was expecting some uplifting 'teacher who inspires' drivel, in the To Sir, With Love or Dead Poets Society mold, this is closer to perhaps Notes on a Scandal

The untraditional teacher in question, Miss Broadie, brilliantly played by Maggie Smith, may be ‘inspirational’, but she’s also a twisted, manipulative, borderline-insane, fascist wannabe, who even tries to coax one of her “girls” into banging a male teacher (her own ex-lover she is trying to unload). Fascinating stuff.

And hey, I don't mean to say that all “inspirational teacher” flicks are lame (though 90% are horrible). I do love Martin Ritt’s whitey in blackville movie Conrack (only on VHS so pretty much only available at Rocket Video) and I’d give a shout-out to The Paper Chase, Blackboard Jungle (and it’s remake The Class of 1984), Election and Groucho Marx in Horse Feathers.


- I saw and loved Wall-E. Sadly for me, I could really relate to the little robot (much more then I could relate to, say, The Dark Knight). And for the first hour or so I forgot it was even an animated film, it looked so cool.

Also I enjoyed the corny live stage show, “Disney's Flight of Fantasy” that the over priced El Capitan Theater offers before each screening. With a shout-out to the confetti bombs and that one dancer, very attractive, I think she played The Little Mermaid.


- British director  Neil Marshall, after making two memorable B-movies Dog Soldiers and The Descent,  took ten steps backwards with the disappointing nightmare of a mess Doomsday. Which is more or less a hodgepodge of Escape From New York / The Road Warrior / Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome / Streets Of Fire / District 13Knightriders & The Sword and the Sorcerer and that was just in the first half that I sat through.


- Rewatched a great movies: Outlaw Josey Wales. Easily Clint Eastwood's best work as a director.

- Lastly, a shout-out to the cult British show Spaced that finally made it to DVD. It's wonderful. And better then any American TV comedy in decades (with Arrested Development being the exception). A must. I’ll leave it as that, readers in-the-know will know what I’m talking about.


- sweeneyrules

Thursday, August 28, 2008

T-Shirts

Jump on the trendy bandwagon early....
Order the newest, hottest clothing line that's sweeping Los Angeles...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO DVD SET ANNOUNCED WITH MILLER COMMENTARY

Universal Studios Home Video have announced the Region 1 DVD release of Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection on 28th October 2008 priced at $119.98 SRP. 
This collection brings together 28 films across 15 discs in premium packaging which also features an exclusive book "Abbott & Costello: The Universal Story" with details on the team's legacy and their films at Universal Pictures.
The films: One Night in the Tropics; Buck Privates; In the Navy; Hold that Ghost; Keep ‘Em Flying; Ride ‘Em Cowboy; Pardon My Sarong; Who Done It?; It Ani’t Hay; Hit the Ice; In Society; Here Come the Co-Eds; The Naughty Nineties; Little Giant; The Time of Their Lives; Buck Privates Come Home; The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap; Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; Mexican Hayride; Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff; Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion; Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man; Comin’ Round the Mountain; Lost in Alaska; Abbott and Costello Go To Mars; Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops; Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
All 28 films are presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame with English DD2.0 Mono audio and English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. There are 2 films per disc, with all titles including Production Notes and the majority also include Theatrical Trailers. Additionally there are 6 films with audio commentary by film historians.

Commentaries: Buck Privates - with Film Historians Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo
Hold That Ghost - with Film Historian Jeff Miller
Who Done It? - with Film Historian Frank Coniff
The Time of Their Lives - with Film Historian Frank Thompson
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - with Film Historian Gregory W. Mank
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - with Film Historians Tom Weaver and Richard Scrivani.
The films without trailers are: Pardon My Sarong; It Ani’t Hay; The Naughty Nineties; Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff; Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion; Comin’ Round the Mountain; Lost in Alaska; Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops.

Disc 29 is a bonus-disc with the following additional extras:
The World of Abbott and Costello
Abbott & Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld
Abbott & Costello Meet the Monsters

NEW RELEASES - AUGUST 26, 2008

August

Big Picture: Documentary Films Produced by the Army

Cannibal Holocaust - Unrated

Chicago 10

Dali in New York

Hollywood's Greatest Villains

The Last Eve

Legend of the Lone Ranger

Linda Loveless for President

Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning

Me And Will

Monster Mash

Montana

My Sassy Girl

Never Say MacBeth

Nightmare Before Christmas (Collector's Ed.)

No Blood No Tears

Postal

Redbelt

Riders to the Sea (Opera)

Rocky Mountain

Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom (Criterion)

San Antonio

Skinned Alive

Son of Rambow

Strictly Background

Three Stooges Collection 1940 - 1942

Virginia City

Walker Payne

What Happens in Vegas

Where the Wild Things Are


TELEVISION:

Entourage - Season 4

Heroes - Season 2

One Tree Hill - Season 5

The Shield - Season 6


REPLACEMENT DVDS:

Anaconda

Cooley High

Copland

Gran Casino/Young One (Bunuel)

Hard Day's Night

Hollow Man 2

Island of Dr. Moreau

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Les Enfants Terribles (Criterion)

Jazz Singer (25th Ann. Ed.)

Performance

Spanish Prisoner

Stella


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rocket Event! STATISTICS

DVD SIGNING & LAUNCH PARTY
(WITH REFRESHMENTS AND POSTERS!)

Featuring In Person Signing DVDS:

WRITER/DIRECTOR
FRANK ROBAK

PRODUCER
DAVID MICHAELS

STAR
KENT HARPER

ACTORS
SCOTT RUDOLPH
JAMES DUMONT

More TBA!


The Award-winning STATISTICS tells the story of six individuals who all share one thing in common: they will become statistics by the end of the day. They are neither heroes nor criminals, but everyday people who will become victims of everyday life. The events that take place will be read about today and forgotten tomorrow, but in that blink-of-an-eye, their lives and the lives of the people around them will be changed forever. It happens every day. Despite the tragedies, this is not a story about dying, but is in fact a very uplifting story about living. The message is simple: cherish life today because no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.

for more information on the film, or to view the trailer, visit the film's website:
http://www.rebelimage.com/statistics/

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH
7:00 P.M.

ROCKET VIDEO
726 N. LA BREA AVENUE
(323)965-1100

ADMISSION: FREE

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

REWATCHING THE SOPRANOS

Recently I caught an early episode of The Sopranos all cut up on Bravo or somewhere. 

It inspired me to rewatch the first season on DVD again.

And of course, I got rehooked, obsessed actually and ended up rewatching the entire series.

I had watched probably the first four seasons first-run weekly on HBO and maybe the last couple on DVD. Though on the first go around I loved it, I did have some problems with it. On this second go-around those issues didn't bother me as much. 

For instance the first time watching the series, I would get frustrated on what felt like were “stand-alone episodes” (like, the music biz episode A Hit is a Hit or the Jon Favreau one, D-Girl), where the A-Story was brand new and story lines from the previous week were ignored. However on this latest marathon go-around, I didn't have that problem. Probably because I wasn’t having to wait another week to get back into the story lines that mattered to me, only another fifty minutes. Also this time watching those "stand-alone episodes" I still could find little character developments I may not had noticed before.

On my first viewing I would often get bored with the interplay between Tony and Dr Melfi, sometimes I would find it redundant. Not this time. Often I found those scenes the highlights of many episodes. 

However what still annoyed the hell of me are the dream sequences. It's a cheap way to reveal character insight. I mean, who remembers their dreams that vividly? And are all our dreams that significant? Those scenes often felt straight out of Living In Oblivion, or a TV directors chance at strutting his David Lynch/ experimental film school magic.

But what does works on the show... Wow does it work! 

Less a typical ‘crime drama’ or ‘mafia saga’ and more a psychological character study of a world changing and a slew of characters not knowing how to cope with those changes. 

The potpourri of pop references and (often already dated) modern life mixed with the criminal world can be exhilarating. The small details of these people’s daily life. The complicated relationships between Tony  and his crew, the other crews, his family, politicians and everyday pedestrians is so rich in detail and constantly changing and expanding. 

These people have seen all the same gangster flicks we have and are often self aware of their own story. They live in their own Truman Show world in their own head. For instance, as Christopher attempts to write a screenplay, he grows more and more self doubt and asks himself about his own life “Where’s my arc?”

With no “original score” the use of established music and the editing of the 'where and when' the music falls in a scene is often nothing short of genius (“World Destruction” by Time Zone was a particular stand out for me).


But the real stand out... the Acting. 

As the big-dog Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini might give the greatest performance in TV history. It’s certainly up there on my list with Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy (not The Lucy Show), Carroll O’Conner in the first couple a seasons of All In The Family (that show deteriorated fast) and maybe, Nick Nolte in Rich Man, Poor Man.

With the help of great writing Gandolfini‘s Tony is so rich and complicated. Amazingly with all the popularity the show found, neither the actor nor the show ever make Tony overly lovable. When he comes too close to our embrace they usually pull back and have him do something cruel. Besides the rich palate of colors Gandolfini paints Tony in, his performance is usually fearless. Besides letting him be ugly, with his belly hanging out of his tight wife-beater and bath robe or the way he breathes disgustingly loud while slopping food down he is constantly lying to others or to himself.  

All of his appetites are highlighted and he’s never able to fully control them. In his conversations with Melfi, when feeling sorry for himself, he often brings up what a good person he is and then second later he'll be screaming his head off at her. His insecurities are also always on display. A great moment comes after his coma, when he returns to work, he sneaks peeks at the biceps of his crew, then picks a unnecessary brawl to show his strength. 

His moments of trying to connect with his son Anthony Jr can also be deeply moving. One of the most memorable is after A.J. sneaks in a sword to kill Uncle Junior and is subsequently arrested and released to Tony, he tries to explain himself by citing his Father’s respect for Pacino’s Michael in The Godfather, Tony looks at him, baffled and near tears and says “you gotta grow up”. What’s brilliant about those type of moments with Tony, is our (the audience) expectations is to finally get a loving moment of good advice, so we can fully embrace Tony, but keenly the writers also cut Tony short from reaching full sap.

Of course Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano also adds much depth. Most interesting is her guilt over how the family acquires it’s wealth, while at the same time her exploiting the fear and power being the wife of Tony Soprano brings her. 

I could go on and on with praise for the entire cast. Everyone proves perfectly cast. 

It’s interesting that the show often cites The Godfather and Goodfellas, of course many of the cast including two of the shows leads Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and  Lorraine Bracco (Dr Melfi) are alums of the Scorsese flick as were Tony Sirico, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Vincent Pastore and Frank Vincent and many who popped in for single episodes.

Bracco deceivingly got an Oscar Nom’ for GoodfellasJoe Pesci won the Best Supporting Actor award. But Bracco did not. Losing out to... hold on to your seat...  Whoopi Goldberg for egads! Ghost.


Some random thoughts on the seasons....

SEASON ONE:

- Maybe the best season. The introduction to the family and the crew. The relationship between Tony and Dr Melfi is at it’s best (as the series progresses over the years credibility is strained that they would continue their treatment).

- The heart of the first season though is Nancy Marchand as Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano, both monstrous and hilarious, her manipulation of both Tony and Uncle Junior against each other is brilliantly played.

- There’s great stuff with Tony’s teenage kids Meadow and Anthony Jr coming to grips with what their father does for a living.

- John Heard has a memorable couple episodes as a dirt cop hired by Tony to learn about Melfi.

- The most talked about episode College is indeed terrific, but in some ways a stand alone episode. Not only is it nice seeing Tony have to relate to his daughter and the real world (before spotting a creep who testified against the mob) while touring collages. Back at home the awkward sexual tension between Carmela and the young priest, Father Phil is a lot of fun.

- Christopher trying to write a screenplay is entertaining, and another example of the shows postmodern sensibility to almost comment on itself. In Goodfellas Imperioli as Spider, Joe Pesci ends up shooting him for not paying him respect in the  episode, The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti, Chris does the same thing to a young Bakery worker.

- Episode 10 A Hit is a Hit is the weakest entry of Season One.

- Episode 12 Isabella. Too many dream sequences.

- Oksana Lada as Tony’s Russian girlfriend Irina is wonderful and probably the best looking of the many woman Tony beds throughout the series.

- New Jersey must have some cool TV channel that seems to constantly air old movies. And it’s not even cable, because characters with rabbit ear antennas even seem to be watching classic B&W movies as well.

- The final Episode 13 I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano a masterpiece. Carmela goes off on Father Phil. And the final scene between Tony and his mother is one of the great moments in the entire series.


SEASON TWO:

- It continues nicely on the path season one created. 

- Maybe the most horrible, annoying human being The Sopranos ever created becomes a regular, Tony’s manipulative sister Janice, perfectly rendered by Aida Turturro, (while his other sister Barbara, only occasionally pops up and is rarely crucial to the plots).

- Episode 4 Commendatori, the trip to Italy episode, is a lively one. We are introduced to Furio. And the actress Sofia Milos  as Annalisa Zucca is a real stunner 

- Richie Aprile (the creepy David Proval), is this seasons guest antagonist for Tony and like all who hook up with Janice, he meets an ugly conclusion.

- I like all the b-story concerning Pussy’s ratting Tony out to the Feds, and then his downfall.

- Episode 5 Big Girls Don't Cry where Christopher takes an acting class is amusing (though what lame ass acting teacher would have her student do a scene from Rebel Without A Cause?).

- The slow ugly fall of sporting goods store owner and ex jock Davey Scatino (Robert “T2” Patrick) is amusing and pathetic.

- Episode 7 D Girl though entertaining, just feels too gimmicky.

- But the rest of the season is perfect. Episode 8  Full Leather Jacket is a classic. In which Richie seethes over Tony giving away his prized leather jacket.

- I loved Carmela’s efforts to get it on with the hunky Maintenance Man.


SEASON THREE:

Episode 1 Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood, with the Feds trying to plant a bug in the Soprano home was terrific.

- The rest of the season was not as strong as season’s one and two.

- Joe Pantoliano as Ralph Cifaretto was terrific filling as  this seasons guest antagonist forTony , a real pain in Tony’s ass. However there was too much of him. Why for instance were he and Rosalie Aprile having dinner with the Soprano’s seemingly every week?

- Also too much Jackie Jr. (Jason Cerbone) that stuff got boring. The actor is fine, but his characters arc feels rushed. What should of been over the course of many seasons feels jammed into six or seven episodes.

- In Proshai, Livushka Episode 2, the computer edited scene between Tony and his mother (Nancy Marchand, died before three begun shooting), felt strange.

- The Steve Buscemi directed Episode 11 Pine Barrens  (Christopher and Paulie get lost in the woods) is hailed by many as the best episode ever. It is pretty funny, it still feels like a stand alone episode and only rudimentary connects with the episodes before and after it.

- Tony’s affair with the nut job car deal (Annabella Sciorra, still very sexy) had an outcome that though powerful, felt a little too inevitable. 

- Meadow off to collage was fine, but her african American boyfriend felt forced.

- Dr Melfi’s attack was excellently handled and feeling her urge to reach out to Tony was gripping.


SEASON FOUR:

Picks up from Season Three and generally improves on it.

- The stuff with Ralph and Tony ‘s horse was great.

- Great guest work, standouts include Linda Lavin as Meadow's therapist and Peter Bogdanovich as Melfi's uptight therapist. And Peter Riegert as a corrupt politician, is wonderful. The scene where Tony gives him a wiping is unforgettable.

- Great stuff with Meadow coming to understand her father’s career and her mother’s lack of education.

- Episode 3 Christopher, written by actor Michael Imperioli was a weaker one. It centers on the fight with Native Americans over Columbus Day. It also, rather weakly, explores the twisted sexual practices of Ralph.

- Episode 4 The Weight really kicks the season into gear, after Ralph ‘crack’s-wise about Johnny Sacks overweight wife. They prove to have the most love of any couple on the show. 

- Everything with Adriana (Drea de Matteo, a scene stealer) and the FBI coming down on her really works well.

- The potential Furio & Carmela romance is fun.

- In Episode 8 Mergers & Acquisitions Paulie trying to get the old bats at his Mom’s nursing home, to “play nice” is a hoot. Though Tony’s relationship with Valentina is not very entertaining.

- Joe Pantoliano really gets to shine and give Ralph some new dimensions when his son is hurt in the bow n arrow accident. nd then his final fight with Tony in the kitchen may be the best moment of violence in the entire run of the show.

- It’s horrifying watching poor grief stricken Bobby Bacala slowly get swallowed by Janice.

- The final episode of the season, 13 Whitecaps is brilliant. Tony and Carmela’s domestic problems and their final throw-down is riveting.

 

SEASON FIVE:

- We jump ahead in time, Janice has managed to marry widower Bobby and more disturbing she is trying to be a mother to his two kids.

- Nice to see character-actor Robert Loggia pop-up as the fresh-outta-the-can Feech. In real life, apparently he was having problems remembering his lines and is killed off earlier then Producer David Chase intended. 

- Tony and Carmela’s life breakup continues to be painful, moving, pathetic and often very amusing.

- Occasional episode director Steve Buscemi takes a break from offbeat flicks and shows up as this seasons guest antagonist for Tony, Tony BTony S's beloved cousin. 

He kinda works and he kinda doesn’t. His acting is great and is jealousy towards Tony is reasonable. But his dream of becoming a massage therapist feels forced and by now we know the pattern, he won’t be around longer then a season or two. 

- Hilarious: Episode 1 Two Tony's Tony watches a little of the weepy The Prince of Tides in which Barbra Streisand miscast herself as a heroic shrink.

- Back in the day, it was known that Drea de Matteo had been cast in the upcoming Friends spin-off , the over-hyped and eventually unwatchable Joey. So her doomed fate was inevitable, but half the fun of watching this season the first time around was waiting to see how poor Adriana would get offed. 

- Episode 3: Where's Johnny? Good stuff with Feech and Paulie fighting over neighborhood lawn cutters. The battle between Tony and Johnny Sack starts to heat up and is the main conflict for the season, it’s fascinating.

- Hilarious: Junior mistakes himself and Bobby for Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David and Jeff Garlin.

- Carmela fling with A.J.’s guidance counselor (David Straitharn) is fascinating and a little heartbreaking.

- A.J. moving in with Tony and Artie Bucco works great. And Tony finally flipping out on his bowl of cereal is a terrific scene.

- Episode 5 Irregular Around the Margins Adriana and Tony bottled up sexual tension leads to a car accident and Christopher freaking out. A great episode.

- Meadow's boyfriend Finn often plays like the eyes of the audience (as least for me). You wonder what would I do if I were him, like when he tries to pay the restaurant tab with Tony. And his icky encounters on the construction site with Vito.

- Episode 10 Cold Cuts was directed by Mike Figgis (Leaving Los Vegas).

Though the Janice as psychopathic soccer mom was a bit too much. The final scene where Tony lays into her is a gem.

- Episode 11 The Test Dream. Another lame extended dream sequence.

- But Episode 12 Long Term Parking makes up for it. 

Bye-bye sexy Adriana, a powerful last scene for her. You can see Tony B’s bye-bye coming soon (his death and the after effect are well done).

Carmela basically charges Tony $600,000, to get back together with her.


SEASON SIX, PART ONE AND PART TWO:

- Tony’s coma story is great. Seeing how each character reacts is fascinating and often moving. Paulie’s greed is amusing.

- Silvio finally getting his time to act as the boss is great to see.

- Episode 2 Join The Club - Another lame-ass extended dream sequence.

- Phil Leotardo has a great arc and really becomes a memorable player in the story. 

- Episode 5 Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request Great stuff as Johnny Sacks leaves jail for the day to go to his daughter’s wedding. And his eventual health decline is played beautifully. Who the hell is this actor Vincent Curatola? He is really interesting & make a lot of unpredictable choices with his mannerisms. 

Sidney Pollack pops up perfectly as a ex doctor inmate.

- Vito is spotted in a gay-leather bar and now the epic journey of Vito begins. This major new thread is often fascinating, his dealing with his own family. After he is killed two great moments of old-school in the new world happen as Frank and then Tony try to talk to Vito’s disturbed makeup wearing Goth son. 

But Vito’s stay in Twin Peaks NH feels fake, especially his relationship with the conveniently hunky pancake-flipping/ fireman. Talk about a (gay) male fantasy. I mean the show often pushes the limits as countless hot babes throw themselves at fat Tony. But Tony is a man of power and wealth. Why some nice single muscle dude would fall for disgustingly obese and charmless Vito is far from believable.

- Episode 7 Luxury Lounge A silly story line with Christopher in Hollywood to meet Ben Kingsley, but the theft of Lauren Bacall‘s gift-bag s priceless, as is Tony’s reaction to all the loot.

- Episode 9 The Ride has a great flashback showing what happened when Christopher told Tony that Adriana was talking to the Feds.

- Speaking of which Christopher’s new girlfriend and then wife Kelli (Cara Buono)  is maybe the prettiest of all the actresses to pop up in the show.

Surprisingly, Christopher’s movie, Cleaver actually works for me, because the film is clearly terrible, a straight to cable piece of junk. But it’s not inept, it’s believable, unlike the movies made in the lame satires For Your Consideration and Bowfinger.

I had forgotten about Christopher’s death and was shocked by it. The relief it brought Tony, wonderfully plays against the usual TV clichĂ©s.

- A.J.’s depression over his break up with his fiancĂ© is completely believable and very well played by Robert Iler. His character’s arc in the last season really gives him some nice moments especially with Tony’s inability to understand him.

- Part Two of the season begins with Soprano Home Movies. Bobby and Tony's drunken fist fight is one of the best moments of the season.

- The show heads to a brilliant conclusion. Part 2 Episode 8 The Blue Comet as deaths pile up and the gang goes to the mattresses.

- Part Two Episode 9 Made in America. The controversial final scene worked perfectly for me.  

It creates a artificial tension, something’s coming... and then pow!... Blackout

Fascinating that they end it in a traditional diner and not Artie’s restaurant. It’s rather symbolic of them never really being able to blend in with the rest of American culture (and what life would be like in Witness Protection). 

I’m glad they didn’t go out with say, a Best Of...Clip Show ala Seinfeld or overly sentimental like the final M*A*S*H*

Nope. The Sopranos ended like it started, bold, original, frustrating and surprising.


- sweeneyrules