5 topseries in ultieme fantasy streaming jaar 2022

Voor de liefhebber van fantasy wordt 2022 een topjaar. Deze vijf series wil je niet missen:

1. House of the Dragon

Streamen Via: HBO Max

HBO is het huis voor baanbrekende televisieseries. Eind jaren 90’ veranderde de kabeldienst het medium met series als The Sopranos, Deadwood en The Wire. En het vorige decennium deden ze dat nog een keer met Game of Thrones dat aantoonde dat televisie ook een plek kan zijn voor high budget fantasy spektakel. House of the Dragon wordt niet baanbrekend in die zin omdat het voortborduurt op een bestaand succes. Echter, de eerste vier afleveringen die nu zijn verschenen tonen aan dat HotD alles in zich heeft om een hit te worden: fantastische personages, acteurs (o.a. Paddy Considine en Matt Smith zijn fantastisch), speciale effecten en waanzinnige art direction. Als je na acht seizoenen Game of Thrones genoeg dacht te hebben van Westeros met al het brute geweld en politieke gekonkel, is het kijken van de eerste aflevering van HotD genoeg om je op andere gedachten te brengen. Dat was bij mij althans het geval.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Streamen Via: Amazon Prime

De langverwachte serie The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is eindelijk gearriveerd en we kunnen weer ademhalen: het is in elk geval geen complete ramp geworden. Al zijn er de nodige Tolkien fans (en Elon Musk) die daar anders over denken. Naar mijn bescheiden mening hebben de eerste drie afleveringen een aantal forse plussen en minnen. Om te beginnen met de nadelen; er zit geen enkele payoff in de eerste afleveringen. Natuurlijk moet het verhaal opgebouwd worden, maar de beste scriptschrijvers maken van individuele afleveringen bevredigende mini-films. Deze storytelling is een opeenhoping van open vragen en dat werkt niet goed. Ook over de casting van een aantal acteurs heb ik m’n twijfels. Aan de positieve kant: dit is de duurste serie ooit en dat is te zien. Bij de eerste aanblik van het eilandkoninkrijk Númenor viel mijn mond letterlijk open; stunning. Ook zijn er al een aantal geslaagde actiescènes die de potentie van de show laten zien; dit gaat alleen nog maar beter worden. Het verhaal, over de opkomst van dark lord Sauron in Midden-Aarde, lijkt goed uitgewerkt te zijn en is zeker boeiend genoeg voor een serie van meerdere seizoenen. Kortom, de mega-investering van Amazon lijkt redelijk goed uit te pakken. Ik ben voorlopig zeker aan boord.

3. Andor

Streamen Via: Disney Plus

Na The Book of Boba Fett en Obi-Wan Kenobi is dit de derde live-action Star Wars serie die Disney Plus dit jaar naar buiten brengt. De output stelt tot nu toe nog niet teleur en de verwachtingen van Andor zijn dan ook hooggespannen. Voor wie de draad wat betreft het Star Wars universum even kwijt is: Andor (voornaam Cassian) is één van de helden van de film Star Wars: Rogue One uit 2016. Deze serie wordt een prequel van die behoorlijk goede film en zal gaan over de vroege strijd van de rebellen tegen het keizerrijk. De terugkeer van de tot nu toe succesvolste Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian staat gepland voor 2023, dus Andor moet de fans tot die tijd zoet weten te houden. Aan de trailer te zien gaat dat waarschijnlijk prima lukken.

4. The Sandman

Streamen Via: Netflix

The Sandman, gebaseerd op de naar verluid briljante strip van Neil Gaiman, is een van de grotere Netflix-series dit jaar. Zoals gebruikelijk lanceerde de streamingdienst de serie integraal op het platform in augustus. De serie bestaat uit tien delen en later werd daar nog een bonusaflevering toegevoegd. The Sandman kreeg overwegend positieve kritieken en de serie is ontegenzeggelijk origineel. Maar het is niet echt mainstream-materiaal. Net als de strip is dit meer een cult succes te noemen. Een nadeel van The Sandman vond ik dat de afleveringen een beetje los zand zijn. Het overkoepelende verhaal wist me niet echt mee te trekken, vooral niet na de belangrijke vijfde aflevering. Daarna vond ik het steeds lastig om niet af te haken. Maar de onbekende Tom Sturridge als het titelkarakter is goed gecast, en heeft iets fascinerends over zich. Ook ziet de serie er fantastisch uit en zitten er genoeg boeiende personages om het toch absoluut de moeite waard te maken.

5. Willow

Streamen Via: Disney Plus

Nog een traktatie (hoop ik!) die in november op Disney Plus zal verschijnen is de serie Willow. Met Warwick Davis in de hoofdrol, maar zonder Val Kilmer (Kilmer’s ex-vrouw Joanne Whalley keert wel terug). Een nieuwe aanwinst voor de cast is Christian Slater. De film Willow uit 1986 kwam uit de koker van George Lucas en is één van de beste fantasy films uit de jaren 80’ (na The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi en Excalibur). Als de serie hetzelfde gehalte aan epische verhalen, donkere magie en heerlijke slechteriken heeft als de film wordt het nostalgisch genieten. De schrijvers en regisseurs brengen de nodige ervaring mee, maar kunnen zij het fantastische bronmateriaal omtoveren tot een moderne interpretatie die precies de juiste snaren weet te raken? We gaan het zien.

Bullets Over Hollywood

Bullets Over Hollywood (2005, USA)

Director: Elaina Archer
Written by: John McCarty (book), Elaina Archer, Tom Marksbury
Features: Paul Sorvino (narrator), Leonard Maltin, Michael Madsen, Edward McDonald, ao.

Running Time: 70 mins.

This Hugh Hefner produced documentary shows the fascination of moviegoers with the mob. ‘Once in the racket, always in the racket’, Al Capone said who became the archetype of the gangster and role-model for some legendary movie characters like Caesar ‘Rico’ Bandello (Little Caesar) and Tony Camonte/Montana (Scarface) This also applies to Hollywood when it comes to making gangster films. Every time you think the realms of the genre have been fully explored, some new masterpiece comes along. After the time that Cagney, Robinson and Bogart dominated the screen, a new generation of filmmakers emerged in the seventies with Coppola, Scorsese and De Palma. Then at the brink of the new millennium, the Hollywood gangster legend continued on the small screen with The Sopranos.

Bullets Over Hollywood opens with the very first gangster film: The Musketeers Of Pig Alley, made in 1912. It then goes on to chronologically move through gangster film history right up until The Sopranos. The documentary combines film fragments, interviews and real gangster footage while Paul Sorvino (GoodFellas) provides the narrative. It is an interesting viewing for enthusiasts of the genre, but misses real insight in the works that it covers. Some interesting facts are revealed such as the story that Howard Hawks was forced by Hollywood to add ‘the shame of the nation’ to his gangsterfilm Scarface, because they didn’t want to glorify gangsters. Also interesting is some behind-the-scene footage of gangster classics, but these fragments are unfortunately a little brief. Altogether this is worth a look. If only to hear Leonard Maltin rave about The Godfather and to re-experience some of the finest sequences in the history of this fascinating American phenomenon.

Rating:


The Musketeers Of Pig Alley (1912, D.W. Griffith)

The Many Saints of Newark (2021, Review)

Directed by:
Alan Taylor

Written by:
David Chase
Lawrence Konner

Cast:
Alessandro Nivola (Dickie Moltisanti), Leslie Odom Jr. (Harold McBrayer), Jon Bernthal (Johnny Soprano), Vera Farmiga (Livia Soprano), Corey Stoll (Junior Soprano), Ray Liotta (‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti), Michela De Rossi (Giuseppina Moltisanti), Michael Gandolfini (Teenage Tony Soprano), Billy Magnussen (Paulie Walnuts), John Magaro (Silvio Dante)

“My uncle Tony…” It is certainly great to hear Christopher’s voice again. He narrates the story in this long awaited Sopranos prequel from the grave. Chrissy forms the link between the spirit world – where the beloved show now resides – and the world of The Many Saints of Newark, which is now coming to life on cinema screens worldwide and on streaming service HBO Max.

This world, which is set in the 1960’s in New Jersey, is inhabited by many familiar characters in their younger years: Tony Soprano, ages 9 and 17, his parents Johnny Boy and Livia, his uncle Junior, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, Big Pussy Bonpensiero, and a couple of others. The main character is Christopher’s father Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who was referred to as a legend in the series, but never seen. Logical, since he was already dead when the show started.

We meet Dickie at the Jersey station, where his father Hollywood Dick, played by Ray Liotta, brings home a new Italian wife from the home country. She is into the handsome and charming Dickie immediately, which complicates the already difficult relationship between him and his mobbed-up father. And soon it leads to a dramatic moment early in the film, which is also none of the highlights of the movie. Both Nivola and Liotta are terrific in their roles. For Liotta, a double role that is; he also plays Dick’s twin brother Sally who’s in jail for life for whacking a made member.

Dickie is a troubled man obviously. He resembles his future son Christopher in many ways: he’s a compulsive law breaker, has an explosive temper and is a murderer. He is also searching. Dickie has the deep desire to do something good, something special to elevate his existence out of the mundane. But he doesn’t know how. Dickie is involved in the numbers rackets in Jersey together with a bunch of black criminals. In the first part of the movie, the 1967 Newark riots take place in which the black riotters, who are structurally discriminated against, face off against the police. In the second part of the film, Dickie’s black business partners get ambitions of their own which leads to a violent conflict in the Jersey underworld.

Besides having his own activities, Moltisanti is also deeply involved with the DiMeo crime family in Jersey whose members love him. But as we know from the show, in this volatile milieu inhabited by envious sociopaths, danger is always lurking. It is this world that young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is inevitably drawn to. Dickie becomes his mentor, but on advice of Sally, whom he goes to visit in jail, he turns his back on him. Although the film was marketed as the story of how Tony becomes a gangster, there is not one defining moment through which this happens. This is really at the early beginning of his transformation. Dickie is certainly an inspiration for him with all his influence, his money and his women. But above all, Tony is just talented, and the invitation for him to join the Family is there.

The casting of Michael Gandolfini – son of the deceased James Gandolfini who became a legend by portraying Tony Soprano – works wonderfully well. He is obviously a gifted actor like his father, but the way he resembles his dad as Tony is uncanny at times. Especially during the scene in which he and his friends hijack an icecream truck and start handing out free ice creams. Another standout performance is given by Vera Farmiga as Tony’s batshit crazy mother Livia. The dynamic between her and Gandolfini is great, and the scene between her and Tony’s school counselor is genuinely touching.

Other positive points of Many Saints are the terrific sixties soundtrack, the dark humour and the many clever references to the show that fans will love. A point of critique is that although it feels cinematic, which The Sopranos also did by the way, the screenplay is written more like a long television episode. Storywise, a few cogs are missing and the ending comes too suddenly.

David Chase has expressed interest in doing another period piece about young Tony Soprano together with Terence Winter, who wrote some of the best Sopranos-episodes. Winter responded positively, so there might be another return to this universe Chase has created. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay by me. The Many Saints is a very enjoyable return to the show that still ranks as one of the best ever. The Many Saints can now be added as a great cinematic companion piece.

The Sopranos – 100 Greatest Moments: 10-1

10. My Sad Heart

Episode: Long Term Parking (SE5, EP12)
Characters: Tony and Carmela

Tony and Carmela survey the land on which Carmela plans to build her spec house at the end of one of the most poignant episodes in the series. The ground coincidently looks similar to the woods where Adriana was murdered by Silvio a little earlier, as if Carmela is about to build her spec house on blood. Tony expresses sadness, most likely for his cousin. Things are really messed up now. There is the definite sense of impending doom as if the whole thing is about to collapse. This feels very much like the ending of The Godfather: Part II, when Michael Corleone is brooding after having his brother killed.

09. Hello FBI

Episode: Pax Soprana (SE1, EP6)
Characters: The New Jersey Soprano Family and members of New York Lupertazzi Family

The beautiful instrumental version of ‘Paparazzi’ by Xzibit plays when the FBI is introduced in the series. At Junior’s inauguration as the new boss of the family, a waiter is secretly making pictures. Then we see that at the FBI headquarters, the late boss Jackie Aprile’s picture is replaced by new boss Junior’s. The editing of this scene is done excellently, as we get a new perspective on the scope and structure of the Jersey mob hierarchy.

08. Gimme Shelter

Episode: I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano (SE1, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, A.J., Meadow, Artie, Charmaine, Christopher, Adriana, Paulie and Silvio

A storm moves through Jersey, literally, that changes all relations and shakes current positions. The Season 1 conclusion is a beautiful moment in The Sopranos saga. Tony and his family seek shelter from the storm in Nuevo Vesuvio where they also meet Tony’s close mob relations. It is a moment where everybody is still as happy as they can be. When looking into the future it is easy to see trouble ahead, but now the times are good. Later in the series, this will be indeed a good memory for the characters involved like Tony tells his son. The final song of the season is a genius choice; ‘State Trooper’ by Springsteen. ‘License, registration, I ain’t got none, but I got a clear conscience about the things that I’ve done.’ Problems are solved for now, Junior’s crew is finished and Tony is gonna be the new boss from next season onwards. Hurrah!

07. Tony’s True Face

Episode: College (SE1, EP5)
Characters: Tony and Fabian Petrulio/Fred Peters

The Hitchcock-like cat and mouse game in ‘College’ comes to a conclusion when Tony kills Mafia turncoat Fabian Petrulio by strangulation. With this murder – which is Tony’s first on the show – The Sopranos shows to be a truly uncompromising series. The audience comes to the realisation here that they are watching a cold-blooded murderer, a sociopath who enjoys the suffering of other people. It is therefore one of the most confronting moments in the series or television episodes in general. It is especially powerful because of its duality; the murder happens during a trip Tony is undertaking with his daughter Meadow to look for a college. After the murder, when Tony is at Bowdoin College, he is struck by a quote on display by Nathaniel Hawthorne. ‘No man… can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true.’ Very true in Tony’s case. No wonder he is in therapy.

06. Graduation Day

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Paulie, Silvio, Christopher, Furio, Uncle Junior, Artie, Adriana, Davey Scatino, Angie Bonpensiero, Hesh Rabkin, Carmela’s parents and Soprano Family associates

Season 2 of The Sopranos ends the way it started; with a beautiful montage. This concluding montage features happy images from Meadow’s graduation mixed with Soprano Family activities; garbage, porn, gambling, stock fraud, prostitution, et cetera. The very suitable ‘Thru and Thru’ from the Stones plays during the sequence, which is the perfect choice as the lyrics fill in the lack of dialogue and it helps to create the perfect atmosphere. The scene ends with a close-up of Tony smoking a cigar; he overcame all obstacles once again. Then we see the ocean where Big Pussy lies forever… This is a brilliant ending to an outstanding work of fiction.

05. The Last Ride

Episode: Long Term Parking (SE5, EP12)
Characters: Adriana and Silvio

After a long and heavy rollercoaster ride, this is finally it: the end of the line for Adriana. Her death at the hands of Silvio is a surprise during the first viewing because they left out the scene in which Christopher tells Tony about Adriana and the feds (as suggested by actors Drea de Matteo and Steve van Zandt). The way Silvio does it is very cold which makes the scene even more tragic. This is definitely one of the most iconic scenes in the entire series. Absolutely shattering. Adriana really is long term parking now and so is Christopher with Tony.

04. All Through the Night

Episode: Denial, Anger, Acceptance (SE1, EP3)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, Hunter Scangarelo, Christopher, Brendan Filone, Mikey Palmice and Junior

In The Sopranos’ very own Baptism scene (from The Godfather) beauty is mixed with ugliness. The beautiful part is Tony and Carmella attending Meadow’s school choir performing ‘All Through the Night’ (while on speed, but they don’t know that). Simultaneously, the ugly part takes place in which Junior extracts his vengeance on Christopher and Brendan Filone for hijacking his trucks. Christopher gets a mock execution, while Brendan gets killed for real. Junior’s hitter Mikey Palmice puts one in his eye, because his eyes were bigger than his stomach (‘Hi Jack, Bye Jack’). There are few scenes in The Sopranos in which the contrast between the dark New Jersey underworld and Tony’s ‘normal’ family life are shown more effectively.

03. A Very Good Year

Episode: A Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist’s Office… (SE2, EP1)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Paulie & prostitute, Silvio, Raymond Curto, Christopher, Dr. Melfi, Irina, Uncle Junior and Livia

Tony and his crew are back! The introduction sequence of the second season is a wonderful montage of all the major characters in their day to day activities. Tony is now boss and the money is flowing in. Livia is still in the hospital, while Junior is doing the perp walk in an orange jumpsuit. Christopher is watching gangster movies and snorting coke, Paulie is doing a Bada Bing girl and Silvio is out buying new shoes. Tony is also hiding his infidelity, while Carmela is baking one dish after the other. Dr. Melfi is practicing therapy from a bungalow home. A.J. is worrying about his hair and Meadow is taking her first driving lessons from her father. The audience is all up to date again. The Frank Sinatra song ‘A Very Good Year’ perfectly sets the moods for Season 2. This is how you tell a story without dialogue.

02. Bon Voyage

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Pussy, Silvio and Paulie

“They had me, Tony.” After being confronted during a boat ride by Tony, Paulie and Silvio, Pussy confesses he has been ratting for quite some time. He briefly panics, but then accepts the fact that he will not be coming back to shore. They have a round of tequila, a few final laughs and then his three former best friends take shots at him, but not in the face as he requested. This is the first time the guys have to take out one of their own. It’s a bittersweet moment, but in Mafia terms; what has to go down, has to go down. Goodbye Big Pussy Bonpensiero.

01. Pussy on the Brain

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony and Pussy (as fish)

In possibly the best episode of The Sopranos – Season’s 2 finale ‘Funhouse’ – Tony is having fever dreams while suffering from bad food poisoning. All dreams have certain elements in common; danger, cancer (destruction from the inside out) and Pussy. It all leads up to this final dream; the dream in which Pussy – in fish shape – reveals to Tony that he is working for the government. It is in moments like this that The Sopranos is at its most powerful; using a dream as a method to really push the plot forward. In the first season, when his mother wanted him whacked, Tony was in denial and started fantasising about a Madonna. But he didn’t acknowledge the truth until he heard his mother speak on the FBI tapes. Now, Tony has learned to listen to his subconscious. He has been having a strange feeling about Pussy for a long time and now he is open to the ultimate truth. When he wakes up he knows. The fish is also a brilliant find. In a macho gang like the Sopranos, it is considered unmanly to betray your friends. Therefore, it is Pussy – the guy with the feminine name – who’s a rat. There is also a pussy joke in there, pussy smells like… you get the picture. The reference is also to death, as in ‘sleeps with the fishes’, and it foreshadows Pussy’s ultimate resting place, the ocean. This dream is the perfect crossover between the series’ essentials; the mob and psychiatry.