The Sopranos-Season 5
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Rodrigo Garcia (Director)-Episode 4: All Happy Families...
Audio Commentary-Peter Bogdanovich (Director)-Episode 6:Sentimental Education
Audio Commentary-Steve Buscemi (Director)-Episode 7: In Camelot
Audio Commentary-Mike Figgis (Director)-Episode 10: Cold Cuts
Audio Commentary-Drea De Matteo (Actor)-Episode 12: Long Term Parking
|Year Of Production||?|
|Running Time||696:39 (Case: 710)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
Steve Van Zandt
Joseph Badalucco Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
For me, The Sopranos is to crime drama what Raymond Carver’s short stories were to everyday life. Indeed, the writing shares a lot of similar themes – the TV is always on, the episodes often have an open ending inviting further discussion of their meaning, and each finds glimmers of the exceptional in the apparently mundane.
For those of you who have missed The Sopranos in your channel surfing late at night, the show follows the life of the Italian mobster family of the show’s namesake, and in particular Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), the Don of the New Jersey Mob. Entering Season 5, Tony has separated from his wife, Carmella (Edie Falco), his daughter Meadow (Jamie Lynn DiScala) is living with her boyfriend in New York, their son A.J. (Robert Iler) is undergoing rather extreme teenage rebellion, his dysfunctional sister Janice (Aida Turturro) has married his uncle’s right hand man Bobby (Steve Shirripa), and things in his other ‘family’ are not going well either. Adding new troubles, just released from prison is Tony’s first cousin, Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi in a role he was simply made for), put away for 12 years and jealous of his cousin’s wealth. His young second cousin Christopher (Michael Imperioli) feels he is being passed over by the old guard, and Tony’s former senior captain Paulie (Tony sirico) is riling things up with Christopher over perceived unfair treatment.
The following is a breakdown of how these episodes are distributed across the 4 discs of Season 5. For those of you who need a complete episode summary, you can get one at TV.com.
1. Two Tonys (53:44) 2. Rat Pack (56:45) 3. Where’s Johnny? (54:37)
4. All Happy Families (52:42) 5. Irregular Around The Margins (51:45) 6. Sentimental Education (58:51)
7. In Camelot (54:56) 8. Marco Polo (53:30) 9. Unidentified Black Males (45:04)
10. Cold Cuts (53:01) 11. The Test Dream (50:00) 12. Long Term Parking (56:34) 13. All Due Respect (55:10)
This show has attracted some of the strongest writers for television in the last five years, and as such the show remains nothing short of brilliant. Even in its fifth year the show is still progressing, never succumbing to cliché, always delving deeper into insights of humanity and human behaviour. Like an extremely painful five years of therapy, the writers envelop you in the story and in a sense you undergo the changes that the Soprano family goes through.
What is most disturbing about this show, however, is just how easy it is to empathise with Tony and the members of his family – both his blood family and his ‘extended’ family. For the most part, these are everyday people, with readily identifiable human faults. There are no heroes here, only differing shades of grey. Even the various FBI agents are described self-serving, manipulative sociopaths and the FBI itself as a machine driven as much by the corporate rat race as the merchant banks in downtown New York.
Season 5 represents, quite possibly, the pinnacle of achievement for this series. After four long years of therapy, Tony is finally making personal progress in dealing with his anxiety attacks and other anti-social behavioural issues. Gone are the days when an attempt on his life would snap him out of his depression. Finally Tony starts looking into his past and the reasons why he is how he is, which gives us, the viewer, real insight into him and the characters that populate this show. It also makes this, the apparently now penultimate season, perhaps also the most frightening.
On the acting front, this show's greatest asset is the brilliant James Gandolfini, whose ability to portray the complexities of his character with every conceivable facet of his body is truly brilliant. That is not to derogate from the other fine actors on this show, notably Michael Imperioli, Drea De Matteo (who plays Christopher’s fiancé Adriana) and Steve Buscemi who really fill this show out into a brilliant cast work. But it is Gandolfini who sells this show, with his soft-spoken menace and his growing snarl of contempt for life.
I am an unashamed fan of this show, and consider its writing to be bested only by the exceptional writing of The Wire. However, The Sopranos in turn trumps that show in terms of its absolutely faultless production values. If you’ve never watched this show before, I do not recommend this as a place to start, and urge you to go back and watch this from the beginning. With only 13 episodes a season, it won’t take too long. But this penultimate season really does represent the pinnacle of achievement so far and it will be difficult for the writers, actors, producers and directors to go one better. Still, I am keen to see them try...
Shot on Super 35 in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, mastered in High Definition Digital and broadcast in Australia in 1080i HD (1920 x 1080 pixels interlaced), this transfer is perhaps the closest I’ve seen a standard definition DVD transfer come to replicating its HD broadcast. Yes, it is that good.
Upscaled at 720p (1280x720 pixels progressive scan), the image is nothing short of breathtaking. It is incredibly sharp, immaculately detailed, and has a 3D lifelike panorama. It definitely has that wow factor.
Colour is probably the best I’ve seen replicated on standard definition DVD. It is awe-inspiringly good.
Shadow detail is faultless. Despite the many scenes shot at night, or in environments with plenty of shadows, you always get great detail, particularly with all important facial expressions.
For the most part, there are no MPEG artefacts, no aliasing or moire, and no low-level noise.
My one and only disappointment with this set is Disc 4. In cramming four full-length episodes onto the final disc, Warner Home Video sacrificed picture quality for convenience. I noticed a definite, albeit slight, increase in background low-level noise that was not present with the first nine episodes. While this is never appalling, by contrast to the first three discs there is a definite reduction in overall quality. Given that Warner Home Video took the time to add a fifth disc to the first season of The Wire in an attempt to combat this problem, this seems pretty inexcusable. Sorry guys, but I have to take a star off for that one.
Dirt and other film artefacts are pretty much non-existent.
Subtitles are available in English, French, Dutch, Arabic, Finnish, Hebrew, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are white with a black border, clear and easy to read, and follow the dialogue fairly closely.
The dual layer pauses come during the second episode on the first three discs, and in between episodes two and three on Disc 4. The pauses on the first three discs are all during scene changes and are very well placed and subtle. The pause on the fourth disc is invisible.
The original audio track is an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track encoded at 384Kb/s. It, too, is excellent. There is also a French 2.0 Dolby Surround track encoded at 192Kb/s. I checked this track out and it has been dubbed fairly well. However, it lacks the depth of the English track.
Dialogue, the most important part of this show, is extremely well reproduced here, with every inflection caught.
The music, another all important part of this series, is also well reproduced, particularly those well chosen original tracks over the final credits that so effortlessly sum up the mood of the episode.
There is plenty of good surround information here, with even the rears kicking to life in some of the more ambient surround environments. While never distracting, this is certainly a well balanced track.
Although used sparingly, when the subwoofer was put to use it had a devastating effect. Two car crashes, in particular the one from Irregular Around The Margins, were truly earth shattering with the subwoofer in play.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. They show several little snippets from the episodes, but nothing that gives anything away. The main menus have a 2.0 Dolby Surround audio track. The other menus are static and silent.
This menu is on each disc and contains summaries of each episode for Season 5 and tells you which disc it is on. These menus are also static and silent.
The following episodes contain audio commentaries presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround encoded at 192Kb/s:
Each of these commentaries makes for interesting listening, and I highly recommend spending the time.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The R1 release includes:
By contrast, we appear to have more subtitle options.
Otherwise, they appear to be identical content wise.
As for transfer, given that R1 is encoded in NTSC, which takes up less space on the disc, it is possible that the R1 has a better picture quality. This was certainly true of the first two seasons, although the third and fourth seasons came in about equal.
So far in my searches on the Net I’ve only found very positive reviews of this season, and no mention of the minor reduction in video quality on Disc 4 as a result of compression. If anyone has an R1 copy and similar equipment, can they confirm whether the picture quality is identical all the way through the season?
The Sopranos: Season 5 is an outstanding cinematic TV masterpiece from a series that was not expected to live past its first season.
The video is utterly exceptional, except for Disc 4 which was a real let-down. Sadly, this precludes me from giving the set a five star rating.
The sound is presented in a masterful 5.1 Dolby Digital mix.
There are some very good audio commentaries on this set and I recommend listening to each of them if you have the time.
|DVD||Momitsu V880N Deluxe, using DVI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-HS50 LCD Cineza Projector with HP 80" Widescreen (16:9) HDTV Mobile Projector Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Digital Accoustics Emerald 703G - Centre, Front Left & Right, Rear Left & Right Satellites, Subwoofer|