The Sopranos-Season 4 (2002)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mob Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-"The Weight" - Terence Winter (Writer)
Audio Commentary
Audio Commentary-Awards And Nominations
Audio Commentary-"Whitecaps" - David Chase (Series Creator/Writer)
Notes-Series Index
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Awards And Nominations
Synopsis-Episode Previews And Recaps
Synopsis-Season Recaps
Web Links
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 709:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring James Gandolfini
Lorraine Bracco
Edie Falco
Michael Imperioli
Dominic Chianese
Vincent Pastore
Steve Van Zandt
Tony Sirico
Joseph Badalucco Jr.
Robert Iler
Jamie-Lynn DiScala
Nancy Marchand
John Ventimiglia
Case Gatefold
RPI $99.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Sopranos is without a doubt my all time favourite television series, of any genre, of any origin...period. The quality of the writing, acting and direction is flawless. Despite this being the fourth season, the storylines continue to be credible, consistent and compulsive viewing. For those who may not have seen the show, I urge you to watch the entire series from the very beginning - whilst it ebbs and flows on occasion, there has never been a truly bad episode. The reviews of the earlier seasons can be found on the site for Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3. Well, enough gushing from me - how does The Complete Fourth Season acquit itself?

    This season is presented with the thirteen episodes spread across four discs. The discs are once again presented in gatefold packaging and a cardboard slipcase. Unlike some of the previous reviewers, I actually like this type of packaging and all of my previous sets are still in perfectly good order. For those that wish to maintain the packaging in perfect condition however, it may be a wise precaution to place the discs into replacement Amaray type cases, and save the original packaging from any wear and tear.

    Below is a brief summary of each episode in Season 4, but please be warned that this may spoil your enjoyment of the episodes - if you have not yet watched them, please skip to the transfer section now.

    There was much debate over the intensity and direction of this season amongst fans. For me, the acting is the most visceral of any of the seasons so far - if anything I thought the swearing and violence in Season 4 was the strongest to date. Whilst graphic violence may not crop up as frequently as some of the earlier seasons, when it does appear it has great impact. According to David Chase, this season focuses on Tony's relationship as a husband. To my mind it focuses heavily on deceit - both Tony's deceit of Carmela, and also the way the various hoods are constantly trying to outmanoeuvre each other. James Gandolfini (who finally won an Emmy for this season) has shown Tony Soprano at his most aggressive and devious. Carmela is endowed with her most poignant scenes and is marvellously well acted by the Emmy-winning Edie Falco - her performance in the Whitecaps episode is simply flawless. Doctor Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) seems to get relatively little air-time in this season compared to some of the earlier ones, but she is still there along with most of the outstanding supporting cast.

    The Sopranos - The Complete Fourth Season is stunningly good television. The storyline gets better and better in my opinion, and really shows no signs whatsoever of becoming tired or repetitive. Personally, I think this season is the equal of the first and probably slightly stronger than the second and third seasons. Due to the networks showing this season at a ridiculous timeslot, I did not watch it on television this time around. Well, my patience was rewarded by waiting for the DVD set. This set has been provided with a quality transfer - both audio and visual - a few decent extras and a great overall presentation. I cannot enthuse strongly enough about The Sopranos - there is nothing on television to touch it for sheer quality. Highly recommended for anyone who is not offended by graphic violence, sex and strong language. Fans will simply rejoice at the quality of this DVD set - almost thirteen hours of near perfection!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Warner Home Video have done a fine job with the video transfer. Whilst it does suffer from some grain and pixelization from time to time, the sheer quality of the storyline and bravura acting will mean you hardly notice.

    The series is presented in its original (digital) televised aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is acceptably sharp and detailed throughout - even on the largest of screens. Grain is evident at times with the opening title sequence of every episode a perfect example, but also for instance around 18:00 in the Whitecaps episode. Given the gritty nature of the subject matter, I find that a little grain fits the feel of the series quite well anyway. There is some evidence of pixelization from time to time also, but nothing that will really spoil your enjoyment.

    Black levels are extremely deep and solid, albeit with shadow detail that can be a little limited. I am just coming to terms with my new display (an LCD projector) so there is probably some work for me to do on the image, but I still felt that the episodes in this season were generally a little too dark on occasion. Colours are well rendered throughout the series - generally they feel a little subdued, but this is in keeping with the New Jersey landscape, and feels appropriate at all times. There are times when they become more vivid, such as with the neon lights of Bada Bing! and the warmer palette of Italy. Colour bleeding is not a problem and skin tones look natural throughout.

    There are no major signs of MPEG artefacts (bar the sporadic minor pixelization). Edge enhancement is often present, and can be seen as a bright halo around buildings or clothing, but even on a very large screen I never found it excessive or annoying. It is there, but quite easy to overlook. Aliasing was never a noticeable occurrence on my system.

    The transfer is free from any major film (video) artefacts, with only the occasional fleeting speck cropping up very rarely indeed. Unsurprisingly for such recent material, this is a very clean transfer.

    The English subtitles are nicely presented in a non-stressful grey font which helps with legibility. They are well timed and very true to the on-screen dialogue throughout, with only rare minor edits (quite often the swearwords) for brevity. The subtitles for the Hard of Hearing are similarly good, with the added benefit of appropriate audio cues and attribution for off-screen dialogue.

    All four discs are RSDL formatted. I did not notice the layer change on any of them however, so I assume that the layer changes are all wisely placed between episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is technically very good for a television show and is without any major flaws, but these discs will not be a particularly harsh test of your surround system's abilities.

    The sole English audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 384 kbps and it is clear, powerful and appropriate at all times. Dialogue is always crystal clear. There are no signs of hiss, pops or other audible defects.

    The excellent theme music is, as always, provided by Alabama 3, and sets each episode up nicely for the events to come. One of the great strengths of The Sopranos over the seasons has been the appearance of highly appropriate musical numbers in each episode - particularly over the closing titles. This season provides some eclectic gems from the likes of Dean Martin, The Beach Boys and Public Image Limited amongst others. The music is always appropriately mixed and never overpowers the dialogue.

     The front speakers do the majority of the work, and deliver the audio cleanly at all times. There is some reasonable separation across the front soundstage, and the overall feel of the audio is mildly enveloping. The surround speakers do carry some ambience and musical support, but there is little in the way of reference quality panning or localisation of sound effects. Think of this as a high quality television audio track, with some surround activity and you'll be very satisfied. Expect a special effects extravaganza, and you'll be disappointed.

    Depending on your set-up, the subwoofer will be used to carry some bass - particularly from the musical numbers, but it doesn't add much in the way of true LFE rumbles. The subwoofer is appropriately used given that this is really a dialogue driven drama, rather than an action oriented piece.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few extras present spread across several of the discs, but surely they could have fitted in some interviews or behind the scenes material?

Menu

    The menus are wonderfully stylish. After some Warhol-esque pop art graphics, they feature video clips from the episodes and sound the series. They allow the selection of individual episodes, each one accompanied by the option to watch the "Previously On" and "Next On" broadcast clips. Each episode also has six chapter stops available. The following special features can also be selected, some of which are present on all discs and others of which are disc specific:

Present on All Discs

Series Index

    A brief text synopsis of each episode, with writer and producer specified.

Cast And Filmmaker Biographies

    Reasonably extensive text based screens of information for David Chase and seventeen members of the cast. Quite an interesting read.

Awards And Nominations

    Nine text based screens of information on the gongs which the show has been nominated for.

DVD ROM Weblink

    A link to www.hbo.com, although due to the damned irritating Interactual Player, I could not do anything useful with it.

Disc 1

Previous Season Summaries

    This is a very nice addition. If you select Episode 1, you have the opportunity to select individual summaries of each of the three previous seasons. Selecting any one will start a video summary playing in a small window within the menu screen.

Disc 2

Audio Commentary - Episode 4

    Terence Winter, who wrote this episode, The Weight, provides a slightly dry commentary. Worth a listen once - but there is not much of great interest here.

Audio Commentary - Episode 6

    Writer of the episode Everybody Hurts (and the actor who plays Christopher), Michael Imperioli, gives a commentary which is quite interesting, and feels rather more personal than the earlier commentary. He lets slip that Steve Buscemi (who directed the episode) will feature as a significant character in Season 5.

Disc 3

Audio Commentary - Episode 9

    Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, who wrote this episode, Whoever Did This, provide a mildly interesting commentary track, although it is not terribly scene specific. Worth a listen, but there are plenty of silences here.

Disc 4

Audio Commentary - Episode 13

    David Chase, who created the series, provides a commentary for the final episode, Whitecaps. This is a fairly laid back commentary, and is often a little hard to hear through Chase's mumbling - but it is straight from the horse's mouth. Again, worth a listen for the background information imparted.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this series appears to be essentially the same as our own, bar some minor language and subtitle options. Buy whichever is cheaper.

Summary

    The Sopranos - The Complete Fourth Season is the epitome of quality television. Superb acting, great scriptwriting, credible characters, great direction and a top soundtrack. If you don't mind a bit of crime, brutal violence, nudity, sex and excessive swearing then you will have no complaints! Fans will buy it no matter what I suggest. For those of you who have not yet experienced the sheer magic that is The Sopranos, do yourselves a favour and buy every season at once. Utterly recommended.

    The video quality is generally very good for a television series.

    The audio transfer is perfectly fine, but not overly dramatic.

    Extras are a little limited in quantity, but overall this is a well put together package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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