Movie Review: The Many Saints of Newark

As a huge Sopranos fan, I was disappointed by the movie. What made The Sopranos so great was the organic character development where you’d see beefs and alliances develop between characters over the entire season, snappy dialogue, and motifs/devices that injected a touch of the supernatural/fantastic (think Chrissy’s crow, the ghouls following Paulie around, Tony’s many dreams) while also helping to explore the complex psyche of Tony Soprano.

The Many Saints of Newark is not that. In many ways, it feels like a parody of the show – many have already commented about the cartoonish characterization of the young Silvio (his first appearance in the film is cringeworthy, and borders on parody on the level of an SNL skit), Paulie, Pussy, and Junior (how many times does Junior say “Your sister’s ****”?) which often feel jarring in the moment.

I felt as if I was brought to a Sopranos themed amusement park, where the main attraction and draw is seeing the characters in their youth, played by actors whose main performance notes seem to be exaggerations of whatever mannerisms the characters had on the original TV series. This experience might be delightful to some – personally, it was charming for a second before it descended into camp.

The plot is largely unremarkable – there’s a lot of screen time given to Giuseppina, who mainly exists to be a Helene of Troy-type deal for the male protagonists despite all of her talk of wanting to be an independent woman; there is a half-assed, exposition-heavy exploration of how African Americans fit into the organized crime scene, and a few scenes depicting the 1967 Newark Riots that felt very much like the film was reaching to strike a historical note, in the same way Godfather 2 did with the Cuban Revolution.

The difference between MSoN and Godfather 2 (and the problem with MSoN) is that Many Saints of Newark seems to never be sure of what it wants to be – it perpetually seems to be stuck between the three modes of pandering shamelessly to fans of the franchise (like the Star Wars sequels), making a statement/paint a scene of the racial tensions in Newark in the 1960’s, and exploring the character of Dickie Moltisanti, the movie’s eponymic protagonist.

With no clear direction and emphasis on the second and third desires, the movie ultimately ends up as little more than a trip to Sopranos-land, and the end credit score feels like another grab at the fanboys more than anything else.

There is something to be said about how Many Saints of Newark was marketed – as a movie focusing on Tony Soprano’s young self. Like many other fans of the show, I expected many scenes form Tony’s youth alluded to in the TV show – the jacking of Feech’s card game, Tony’s brush with his football coach, an exploration of his relationship with Young Carmella. We see none (or very little) of that in the movie, and I couldn’t help but feel taken advantage of.

Overall, the only “prequel” for the Sopranos are still Scorsese’s mob hits like “Goodfellas” or “Casino” for me – especially “Goodfellas,” for its influence on The Sopranos, not to mention the number of casting overlaps between the two. For a fan, I think Many Saints of Newark is still worth a watch – but if asked if the movie stands alone by itself, I would have to respectfully disagree.

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Movie Review: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Julian Cannon is here for another movie review. This time it is a supernatural horror movie I have just seen last week, Paranormal Activity: The Marked ones.


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a 2014 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Christopher B. Landon. It will be released on January 3, 2014 in U.S. theaters. It is a spinoff of the Paranormal Activity horror movie franchise. It is also Landon’s second directorial effort after Burning Palms and the first to be shot in found-footage style.

RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2014


Andrew Jacobs as Jesse

Richard Cabral as Arturo

Carlos Pratts as Oscar Hernandez

Gabrielle Walsh as Marisol

Jorge Diaz as Hector

Catherine Toribio as Penelope

Noemi Gonzalez as Evette

Gigi Feshold as Natalia

David Saucedo as Cesar Arista

Julian Works as Pablo

Molly Ephraim as Ali Rey

Chloe Csengery as Young Katie

The fifth entrant in the Paranormal Activity found-footage series picks up its home video cameras, moves to a new location, and introduces a new set of characters with the same old problem: how do you make a movie about things that go bump in the night a compelling experience for audiences that have already seen all your old tricks?

The makers of this film decided to approach the story from a different cultural perspective. Officially titled Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, I think it’s fair to call it PA: Cuatro y Medio, reflecting its setting in a working-class Latino neighborhood in Oxnard, California. Rather than the spacious suburban dwellings depicted in the first four films, the action takes place largely in two apartments in a small but typical two-storey complex. On the second floor, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) lives with his sister Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) and their grandmother. Jesse has just graduated from high school and received a video camera as a present, which is the only justification the film needs for everything to be presented from a (very) shaky-cam point of view.

Jesse and his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) hear strange sounds coming from an apartment on the ground floor, prompting them to snake a camera down through the ventilation ducts in time to catch a glimpse of a naked woman being painted with an odd symbol (a triangle inside a circle) on her belly. Anna (Gloria Sandoval), the woman who lives there, has long been suspected of being a bruja, or witch, but her subsequent murder, apparently at the hands of her son, Jesse and Hector’s schoolmate Oscar (Carlos Pratts), catches everyone off-guard, especially when Oscar ends up dead as well.

Curiosity leads Jesse and Hector to sneak into the dark apartment, leading to Jesse becoming one of the titular “marked ones.” He begins acting strangely and then, well, the “paranormal activity” part of the title becomes manifest, and it’s off to the races, so to speak, except that the action is doled out in a haphazard manner, with the story stumbling forward like a drunk in search of the floor

The screenplay is credited to Christopher Landon, who also wrote the previous three installments and directs this one as well. His scripts have been more interested in fleshing out the demonic mythology conjured up by the original  film’s writer/director, Oren Peli, than in spending much time tending to the characters. That’s fine. If the picture builds tension over the course of its running time or at least depicts unexpected moments of fright, the more sustained, the better.


For my money, the first film and Paranormal Activity 3 did that very effectively, while the second and fourth installments fell down badly, the latter resorting to a series of cheap fake scares. This time out, Landon adds welcomed intentional levity to early scenes and eliminates the knee-jerk “boo!” cheats. And the decision to explore a Latino environment — complete with  snatches of conversations in Spanish without subtitles — is a good one, though  the story falls back on less-welcome cultural stereotypes in search of a good scare. By the time the ending rolls around, veteran viewers of the first four films  will either appreciate the multiple nods in their direction or roll their eyes in disbelief. I’m afraid that I broke into laughter at its narrative contortions. While I appreciated the attempt to reach out to Latino audiences and explore new territory, the film gets lost in its own mythology and is unable to stand on its own, failing to generate any suspense, much less horror.

PLOT: 7/10


CAST: 5/10



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