Nearly 22 years ago, “The Sopranos” crime drama debuted on HBO. Created and largely produced by “Rockford Files’” veteran David Chase, the series went on to amass a staggering 26 Emmy and Golden Globe awards amidst over 100 nominations. The show centered around middle-aged mob boss Tony Soprano (played with a volatile and buffoon-like gusto by late actor James Gandolfini) and his organized crime family in northern New Jersey. With a supporting cast featuring some of the most colorful scenes in American television history, the show was aptly mixed with drama, comedy, and scenes of ultra mob violence. Since the show ended in 2007, a long gestating prequel film was said to be in the works chronicling the early days of organized crime in 1960s New Jersey backdropped against the bloody Newark Riots. Written by show runner David Chase himself and directed by “Sopranos” veteran director Alan Taylor, “The Many Saints of Newark” is quite the modern mob masterpiece.
The film stars actor Michael Gandolfini as a young Tony Soprano. His father, James, who held the titular role, passed in 2013, but the physical resemblance and impeccable Soprano mannerisms here are a spot on match. He’s mentored in the film by a cousin-in-name-only, Dickie Moltisanti, who is as violent as he is charming. Their up and coming mafia exploits are juxtaposed against the riots taking place, which heightens the drama for all involved. The fierce performances and underworld dealings make for a mob film that hits in all the right places. For the many fans of HBO’s award winning crime drama series “The Sopranos,” virtually no explanation is needed as to why you should watch this film. For those who have never seen an episode of “The Sopranos,” what could you possibly be waiting for?
Throughout the many years, actor and director Clint Eastwood has given audiences more film westerns than just about any other working actor in Hollywood today. In his latest acting and directing romp, “Cry Macho,” Eastwood manages to put together a clever amalgamation of his all his western films with a subtle nod to some of his non-western films, as well. He stars here as a former rodeo star and broken down horse wrangler named Mike Milo. With his family long gone and out of the picture, Mike is approached by his former boss, Howard Polk, played musician/actor Dwight Yoakam. He asks Mike to rescue his son from abuse in Mexico, where he is in his mother’s care. Mike makes his way to the city to learn that not only is the ex-wife a woman of criminal power, but young Rafael is a juvenile delinquent who relishes illegal cockfighting. Eastwood’s gravelly voice convinces the kid and his cute pet rooster, Macho, to come along back to the States so he can meet his dad. Sure enough, there are bits of trouble along the way. Watching “Cry Macho” made me think about all the hard-edged cowboy toughs that Eastwood has played over the many decades, and how once those films ended, you never knew for certain about character’s fate. Here in “Cry Macho,” we are treated to a memorable scene. Suffice to say, if this is to truly be Eastwood’s farewell, he ended his career on a magnificent note.
Both films are in theaters and available for streaming,