Entertainment

The Many Saints Of Newark review: Sopranos fans should still find much to enjoy


The Many Saints Of Newark                                                                Cert: 15, 2hrs

Rating:

The Green Knight                                                                     Cert: 15, 2hrs 10mins

Rating:

The Alpinist                                                                                 Cert: 12A, 1hr 32mins

Rating:

It’s well over a decade since the original run of The Sopranos came to an end on terrestrial television. But with almost 90 episodes of some of the best TV drama ever made still available on catch-up services, the story of the New Jersey mafia family enjoyed a new round of popularity during lockdown. 

So it’s a good moment for a movie spin-off.

With the tragic death in 2013 of the great James Gandolfini, who played the central character of Tony Soprano, ruling out any sort of sequel, creator David Chase and director Alan Taylor have gone back in time to bring us a prequel set amid the Newark race riots of 1967 and which concentrates on one of the Soprano family’s close associates, the Moltisantis. 

Hence the ‘many saints’ of the title.

Creator David Chase and director Alan Taylor have gone back in time to bring us a prequel set amid the Newark race riots of 1967 and which concentrates on the Moltisantis

Creator David Chase and director Alan Taylor have gone back in time to bring us a prequel set amid the Newark race riots of 1967 and which concentrates on the Moltisantis

Fans of the TV series will remember Christopher Moltisanti, Tony’s young and good-looking sidekick who nursed dreams of becoming a Hollywood writer. Here he returns from beyond the grave (apologies for the spoiler if you haven’t finished the TV series) to serve as an unseen narrator and to introduce us to his father, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and his aging but, as the film begins, still powerful grandfather, Aldo, played by Ray Liotta.

Apart from a surname and a certain charismatic charm, the two men share one other attribute, a volatile, violent temper. Which young Tony Soprano – then an awkward high school pupil nursing sporting ambitions and a plan to stay out of criminal trouble – cannot fail to witness or be influenced by. 

Especially, once the New Jersey Italian mob – including his father, Uncle Junior and Dickie – are threatened by a new generation of ambitious and equally violent black gangsters.

It’s a touching moment when Michael Gandolfini (above), James’s 22-year-old son, takes over as the teenage Tony and Alessandro Nivola is terrific as the increasingly terrifying Dickie

It’s a touching moment when Michael Gandolfini (above), James’s 22-year-old son, takes over as the teenage Tony and Alessandro Nivola is terrific as the increasingly terrifying Dickie

It’s a touching moment when Michael Gandolfini, James’s 22-year-old son, takes over as the teenage Tony and Nivola is terrific as the increasingly terrifying Dickie. But the real pleasure, at least for fans of the original TV show, is spotting the younger versions of characters we already know and love.

Paulie, Silvio, Big Pussy – they’re all here – but the stand-out performance comes from Vera Farmiga, whose whine-perfect turn as Tony’s constantly complaining mother, Livia, is a genuine delight. 

It’s a tough watch at times – the racism and violence against women are shocking by modern standards – and it doesn’t have the coolness or style of the TV show but Sopranos fans should still find much to enjoy.

The American film-maker David Lowery doesn’t always get it right – I loved Pete’s Dragon, for instance, but was bored silly by A Ghost Story. But he returns to form with The Green Knight, a good-looking, nicely acted but somewhat embroidered retelling of the medieval tale of Sir Gawain, an ambitious young knight at King Arthur’s court who accepts the Christmas challenge issued by the strange, banquet-interrupting Green Knight.

Given the terms of the deal, I’ve often wondered why Sir Gawain – played here impressively by Dev Patel (above) – promptly cuts the Green Knight’s head off but he does and we’re off

Given the terms of the deal, I’ve often wondered why Sir Gawain – played here impressively by Dev Patel (above) – promptly cuts the Green Knight’s head off but he does and we’re off

Depicted as half-knight, half-tree, the Green Knight dares any knight to land a blow on him… as long as he returns to the Green Chapel in a year’s time so the Green Knight can land his own blow in return.

Given the terms of the deal, I’ve often wondered why Sir Gawain – played here impressively by Dev Patel as both arrogant and yet uncertain – promptly cuts the Green Knight’s head off but he does and we’re off.

It’s a tad confusing but look out for Sean Harris as King Arthur and Alicia Vikander as a seductive Lady whose husband offers a bargain of his own.

Thanks to the likes of Touching The Void and Free Solo, climbing documentaries have acquired a more mainstream following and the latest vertigo-inducing offering is The Alpinist, the story of the young, Canadian solo climber, Marc-André Leclerc. 

Never heard of him? Well you won’t forget him once you’ve seen this.  



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