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From Nicholas Pileggi's true-life bestseller Wiseguy, GoodFellas explores the criminal life like no other movie. Directed and co-written by Martin Scorsese, it was judged 1990's Best Picture by the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics and named to the American Film Institute's Top-100 American Film List. Electrifying performances abound, and from a standout cast that includes Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. Joe Pesci walked off with the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. It "bristles with passion, wit and style" and endures as "an American classic" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone).
For more about GoodFellas and the GoodFellas Blu-ray release, see GoodFellas Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on October 16, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero
Narrators: Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco
Director: Martin Scorsese
» See full cast & crew
GoodFellas Blu-ray Review
With a revitalized 1080p picture, Scorcese's trademark gangster classic is given new life on Blu- ray.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, October 16, 2007
"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster." So begins Henry Hill's (Ray Liotta) narrative stream that winds through Martin Scorcese's mafia character study, GoodFellas. The gangster classic is based on a true story that follows Hill from his childhood initiation into an Italian-American crime family through his involvement in heists and stints in prison to his drug trafficking enterprise. As Hill's life and relationships spiral out of control, he must face a choice between death at the hands of his gangster cohorts or turning state's evidence in the witness protection program. Through an unflinching, analytical lens, Scorcese uses a palate of colorful characters to paint a landscape of violence, humor, honor and betrayal. And like few other films, we are given a front row seat to see what life may be like in a Brooklyn crime organization...made all the more real by its 1080p video resolution.
GoodFellas features Robert de Niro as Irish-American gangster Jimmy "the Gent" Conway and Joe Pesci as the hotheaded Tommy DeVito who seems to operate at the whim of various psychopathic disorders. DeVito is the pointman for the film's most visceral violence as well as it's punchiest humor. And Scorcese is a master of playing off one against the other. Watch the legendary "what's so funny about me" scene, which uses a humorous anecdote to launch into a tension-building dialogue that resolves in comic relief only to erupt moments later in brutality. "I'm beginning to wonder about you, Henry. You might break under questioning," DeVito jokes during the scene in a classic moment, foreshadowing the plot twists later.
With legendary costars to support him, Liotta's portrayal of Hill is the least accessible of the main characters. His narration is somewhat unconvincing, as his voiceover sometimes sounds more like a California pseudointellectual than a Brooklyn gangster. De Niro and Pesci are far more convincing in their roles and the way they deliver their characters' emotion and intrigue catapults them into magical presence in the film. They are both more exciting to watch than Liotta's Henry Hill. Still, the dynamics of the characters are easy to accept and Liotta's performance and narration are strong enough to make the film work very well.
In fact, Liotta and Lorraine Bracco, playing Karen Hill, have great screen chemistry together, and the way Scorcese captures the developments of their complicated relationship is nothing short of incredible. It provides depth and breadth to the story, taking it far beyond the normal gangster fare and into the realm of the greatest mafia classics of all time--along with the epic Godfather I and II. But where Francis Ford Coppela presents a more romanticized vision of mob life in an earlier era, and a more stark representation of a mob boss' broken marriage, Scorcese captures the poetry of the streets and Hill's deception of his wife in a gritty realism. Scorcese once said that good films help us learn something about ourselves, and in GoodFellas, the lessons are there for us all to ponder: loyalty, honor, deceit, strength and weakness.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Video Quality
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted GoodFellas to have good picture quality. Previously released versions did not. All VHS and DVD releases and TV broadcasts of this film appeared dark and lacking in dynamics and detail. The most recently remastered DVD was a marked improvement. But being NTSC, it lacked adequate resolution. Warner's Blu-ray disc features a VC-1 codec and 1080p that, while not reference quality and still a bit dark, is an absolute revelation. I was mesmerized by the detail in faces, fabrics and set design that was all but invisible in previous versions.
Scorcese made use of still frames where he would highlight action with a frozen scene. In these moments, the scope of the improved resolution is made abundantly clear. One good example of a freeze frame is the night shot as the young Henry Hill runs from exploding cars, the level of detail and depth is quite astonishing. The image shows overwhelming contrast, yet it is not oversaturated or smeared. In motion video, the improvement is even more enjoyable, as the full impact of characters' movements and facial expressions is communicated with far greater resolution than NTSC could render.
Throughout the film, black level and contrast ratio are excellent. What strikes me most, though, is the detail and lifelike color that is unmarred by smearing or stepping. Previous versions look like bad notch filters are used. Now that is replaced with a film-like clarity with small grain and excellent depth. As mentioned earlier, the overall tone may be a tad dark, but I suspect the source material would show a similar color balance. The overall effect of the 1080p Blu-ray presentation is to fully update the look of GoodFellas, bringing it into the 21st century and the age of high definition video.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
With its Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the Blu-ray disc was not among the greatest examples of the format's audio performance. Nevertheless, the soundstage was strong, with good clarity and presence in the voices and ample use of the surrounds and LFE channel. Some sound effects, such as footsteps and closing car doors, were startlingly realistic. Others were not as palpable.
One of the signatures of GoodFellas is its soundtrack, which features many well-known hits, spanning the '50s through the '80s. It is heavily weighted toward the earlier recordings, with such classics as Rags to Riches (Tony Bennett), Sincerely (The Moonglows), Speedo (The Cadillacs), Life Is But a Dream (The Harptones) and Beyond the Sea (Bobby Darin). The stereophonics is good, but the music lacks adequate "wow-factor" resolution, making it sufficient for background. When the music comes more to the foreground, however, on later tracks like Sunshine of Your Love (Cream) and Layla (Derek and the Dominos), it is missing the additional musical information that lossless PCM can provide. Still, the DD track's ability to resolve such sounds as squealing tires, gunshots and car engines is quite impressive.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Die-hard fans of Scorcese and his gangster classic will find no new content that isn't on the DVD version GoodFellas. Moreover, this now-familiar material is not in high definition. In those respects, the supplementary material is a let-down. But it shouldn't be, because the three documentaries, two commentaries and a storyboard to screen comparison all provide significant insight into the film.
One of the documentaries, "Getting Made", is worthwhile. Clocking in at nearly half an hour, "Getting Made" provides detailed interviews with Scorcese, De Niro and Pesci. Newer material with Liotta and Bracco is also included. The other two documentaries are not as interesting. The eight-minute "The Workaday Gangster" covers the central theme of the movie, but the subject is covered in far more detail in the commentary. "Made Men: The GoodFellas Legacy" attempts to place the Scorcese classic in its proper historical context and praise its vast influence on a generation of filmmakers.
The commentaries provide the bulk of relevant info, with input from Scorsese, Liotta, Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Vincent, writer Nicholas Pileggi, producers Irwin Winkler and Barbara De Fina, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who went to film school with Scorcese. Another commentary, "Cop and Crook", features the real-life Henry Hill and former FBI agent Edward McDonald. Compared to the film, this is actually fairly boring, but it is important to understand that what is being packaged as entertainment by Warner is actually a dangerous lifestyle of organized crime.
GoodFellas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The writing, acting, cinematography and direction that went into GoodFellas are unique in the history of film. While not a flawless movie, many moments in GoodFellas transcend not only the crime genre, but the art of motion pictures itself. For example, film appreciation classes on every level study Scorcese's unprecedented shot following Liotta and Bracco as they are ushered in an alternate entrance of the Copacabana, through a hallway in the back of the club, the kitchen and out into the dining area where waiters set up a table for the couple in front of the stage. The video quality and increased resolution make the Blu-ray a must-have and an easy recommendation, even for those who are satisfied with the DVD. You have not watched Goodfellas until you watch it in 1080p.
GoodFellas: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with GoodFellas (4 bundles)
GoodFellas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• GoodFellas 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Recycles 3-Year-Old Disc - February 1, 2010
Ever since Warner Home Video announced GoodFellas: 20th Anniversary Edition, many enthusiasts expressed their hope that WHV would use this opportunity to improve the audio or the video presentation of this major Martin Scorsese movie. However, site reviewer Kenneth ...
• Lightning Deal: Watchmen Nite Owl Edition $50, GoodFellas $10 (De... - November 17, 2009
Amazon has an interesting BD-related "lightning deal" going on now: for a very limited time, you can buy 'Watchmen (Amazon exclusive Nite Owl Edition)' for only $49.99 , and 'GoodFellas' for $9.99. This offer expires at 12 p.m. PST, or when stock runs out. Update: ...
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