Goodfellas: 20th Anniversary EditionRelease Date: February 16, 2010
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Warner Digi-book
Running Time: 2:25:00
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1||480i or 480p standard definition|
|Audio||Dolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1||Stereo and mono|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, Spanish||None|
The Feature: 4.5/5Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) never wanted to be anything but a gangster. Growing up in a working class family in 1950s Brooklyn, being part of the mob is his chance to be a somebody in a neighborhood of nobodies. Though he starts out modestly as an errand boy for the local mob boss Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino), his enthusiasm and dedication to the work garner him increasing levels of responsibility. By the time he's barely past his 20s, he and his friends Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert DeNiro) have hatched a major score, the success of which turns Henry into a major player. Though he lives the good life for awhile, marrying his girlfriend Karen (Lorraine Bracco), building a family and keeping the requisite mistress on the side, eventually getting and having everything he wanted will be his undoing. Henry may have actually become somebody thanks to the mob, but the mob can just as easily make him into a nobody.
Adapted from Nicholas Pileggi's book "Wiseguy," "Goodfellas" has proved to be both the quintessential Martin Scorsese and mafia crime film. Though some might hesitate to call it a classic given its relative youth, frankly I'm surprised it's only 20-years old, feeling very much a part of the times it depicts than the period piece it actually is. This speaks to the film's attention to detail on all levels, from production design to hair and makeup, the only indicators of its more recent inception being the trademark Thelma Schoonmaker and Scorsese editing flourishes. And though the rise-and-fall of a gangster story is a familiar one, there's hardly a moment when we're not riveted by what will unfold during Henry's path to self-destruction. Twenty years on and the film continues to receive critical praise and acknowledgment from the filmmaking community. To me that certainly qualifies it as a classic.
Video Quality: 3.5/5With the feature and feature-relevant extras contained on a single layer Blu-ray disc, I suspect this 20th Anniversary Edition disc is simply a repackaging of the high definition release that came out on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD in 2007.
Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec, the film's image fills the entirety of my 16:9 display despite the package labeling it as 1.85:1. Black levels are sometimes limited, giving the image a noticeably flat quality, usually in dimly lit interior scenes. Contrast consequently doesn't always exhibit the full range of values, though it may ultimately come down to the quality of the source than the transfer. Detail is decent, but a mild veneer of noise tends to get in the way of anything truly breathtaking. Close-ups tend to be more satisfying in that respect, but there's still a visible loss of detail in the wide shots. Colors are generally muted in quality, with flesh tones sometimes looking a little pink, but overall they seem sufficiently deep and stable. Edge halos are visible in many of the exterior scenes, making the image excessively sharp and processed. Overall it's an average transfer for a film that certainly deserves better.
Audio Quality: 3/5Lacking a lossless audio option will likely be insult to injury for many. It is unfortunate given the supposed "anniversary" nature of the release, but the 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 track does a decent job with what's a pretty straightforward mix. Though the film's voice over narrative is firmly anchored to the center channel, the rest of the soundtrack has a noticeably wider staging, the surrounds kicking in for mostly large environmental effects (city streets, prison visitation rooms, etc.). LFE is technically absent, but bass activity shows sufficient depth, the weakness seeming more a product of the period of filmmaking than the capabilities of the audio format, lossy though it may be. Overall it's a decent, if somewhat unremarkable presentation.
Special Features: 3.5/5The special features include all the items from the 2004 "Goodfellas" special edition DVD and a second disc repackaged from a 2008 Warner Brothers DVD collection. Though the latter is a nice thought, it feels like a half-hearted attempt to legitimize the "anniversary" label on the release.
Special features content evaluation by Herb Kane from his review of the Martin Scorsese DVD Collection and Ken McAlinden from his review of the Warner Brothers Gangsters Collection Volume 4.
The Cast and Crew Commentary with Martin Scorsese, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, Co-Screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, Producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, and Editor Thelma Schoomaker: The scene-specific commentary is chock full of interesting information about the film, from concept to finished product.
The Cop and Crook Commentary with Henry Hill and FBI Agent Edward McDonald: While it's interesting hearing ex-mobster Hill's comments as they relate to him, it seems wrong listening to this low life as his actions are somewhat glorified from what were true-to-life events. McDonald's participation is somewhat more subdued and at times he takes an almost satirical attitude toward Hill.
Getting Made (29:35, SD) An in-depth look at how the whole project came to be, from Scorsese contacting author Nicholas Pileggi to the completion of the project. This is a super little feature.
The Workaday Gangster (7:57, SD) Henry Hill takes the lead discussing what it was like living the life of a mobster. Other cast members appear and offer their thoughts of what it was like portraying some of the thugs.
The Goodfellas Legacy (13:32, SD) Discussion with a number of budding young directors as well as some established directors and how the film affected their filmmaking.
Paper Is Cheaper Than Film (4:28, SD): Shows us some of Scorsese's notes and sketches as they compare to several completed scenes.
Theatrical Trailer (1:28, SD)
Collectible Book: The nicely produced book-that-is-the-packaging includes cast and crew biographies and numerous archival photographs.
[Disc Two]Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (1:45:49, SD): The core of the documentary consists of a number of interviews with an international collection of film scholars, including many of the participants in the commentaries on this set, and filmmakers attuned to the genre such as Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi. The interviews are complemented by archival first person accounts from important filmmakers in the genre such as directors Mervyn LeRoy and Raoul Walsh and actress Joan Leslie. Generous amounts of clips and behind-the-scenes photos are used to illustrate the films being discussed. Off-screen narration is provided by Alec Baldwin.
The documentary offers a fine history of the genre as well as a broader look at the history of crime on film. This is quite a range of years when one considers it begins with the first substantial narrative feature, 1903's "The Great Train Robbery." Following the genre somewhat chronologically, the piece looks at significant silent films and spends quite a bit of time on the breakthrough "pre-code" talkies "Little Caesar," "The Public Enemy," and "Scarface." Other topics include adaptations to the genre, which addressed both its fundamental limitations and the enforcement of the Production Code that began in 1934. Adaptations included the casting of gangster stars as agents of the law in films like "G-Men," infusing the gangsters with consciences and forcing them to confront even worse gangsters (enter Humphrey Bogart as Warner Brothers' go-to "worse-guy"), and genre-bending twists like gangster comedies. Eventually, the documentary discusses the influence of the Golden Age gangster films on subsequent features, ranging from post-war noirs to modern-day crime films like "Goodfellas," "Once Upon a Time in America," and "The Departed." Interestingly, no mention is made of "The Godfather" and its sequels (Paramount generally resists having those films lumped in with other "gangster" pictures as if the genre were some kind of pejorative). If anything, the documentary makes a pretty good case that the genre is flexible enough to encompass everything from low comedies, to hard-boiled action programmers, to Oscar-worthy epic family dramas like Coppola's films. Along the way, the film also offers biographical and professional notes on significant personalities both in front of and behind the camera.
Merry Melodies and Looney Tunes
- I Like Mountain Music (6:56, SD) - A 1933 Harman-Ising Merrie Melodies cartoon following what would become a familiar "magazine covers come to life" plot. There is very little gangster related material until close to the end, where an Edward G. Robinson caricature appears out of the pages of a Hollywood magazine to thwart the efforts of a group of criminals who previously emerged from a true crime magazine.
- She Was an Acrobat's Daughter (8:35, SD) - A Friz Freleng Technicolor Merrie Melodies cartoon from 1937 that parodies a night out at the movies, lampooning both audience members and theatrical conventions. The gangster connection in this one comes late in the short when the feature presentation proves to be "The Petrified Florist" which spoofs "The Petrified Forest" complete with caricatures of Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.
- Racketeer Rabbit (7:52, SD) - A Friz Freleng Technicolor Looney Tunes cartoon from 1946 in which Bugs Bunny matches wits with a couple of criminals who bear a striking resemblance to Edward G. Robinson and Peter Lorre.
- Bugs and Thugs (7:12, SD) - A Friz Freleng Technicolor Looney Tunes cartoon from 1954 that pits bugs against diminutive bankrobber Bugsy and his large oafish sidekick Mugsy. A couple of gags are repeated from "Racketeer Rabbit," but they are improved upon as well. This is one of my all time favorite Freleng cartoons.
RecapThe Feature: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5
Warner Brothers turns in a serviceable audio and video presentation for a classic and quintessential Scorsese / mafia film. While the feature-relevant set of extras has some strong points, the second disc feels like a last-minute attempt to pump up the amount of "stuff" in the release. In all respects the film deserves better; as a result I can't recommend this 20th anniversary edition. If you must have the film in your collection, opt for the single-disc Blu-ray release, which is available at half the price.