Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition

Pop quiz: What scenes in "The Godfather" contain Christmas elements (see answers below)?

Technically, this is NOT a Christmas CD... but I did receive it for Christmas... and this isn't the first time I've reviewed something that wasn't a Christmas album. It has been part of an amazing change here with my "family"...

Back in August, 2006, my wife went into our Toys R' Us for a last minute birthday present. When she arrived, an employee was taping a handwritten sign that simply read "We have Wiis". She bit the bullet and purchased one for our kids for Christmas. The only problem was my wife's anticipation began playing games with her.

She wanted to play the games, see how the system worked, and couldn't wait to sample the updates in technology. The last video game system we both owned was the venerable Atari 2600 from the early 1980s (we both received them as Christmas gifts separately in the same year of 1979). We never got hooked on Nintendo, PlayStation, Gameboy, or XBox or any game system since then!

The wait was too much for my darling wife; it was her NEW birthday gift in late October. Since then, we've all enjoyed playing the Wii and mastering the remotes and movements needed. My three kids haven't fought much over the game and we've only had two injuries (my youngest daughter got whacked twice when she strayed into the playing area).

This game (released in 2006 for Xbox, PS2 & PS3) was revamped for the Wii and released last year, thanks in large part to the Wii's amazing motion control. Not only can you shoot guns and set off bombs but you can swing baseball bats, garrote people, and go several rounds with a prizefighter. My Atari never did any of that...

The plot: a former associate of the Corleone's is killed and Don Vito Corleone takes an interest in his young son who witnessed the murder. Flash forward to Connie's wedding (also where the movie begins) where Luca Brasi is asked by the Don to take the now young man under his wing.

You learn how to extort businesses, sniff out rackets, bribe cops and FBI agents, fight, shoot, and kill as the game progresses while following the movie plot as well. Along for the ride are Sonny Corleone (voiced by a gravelly James Caan), Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall's voice sounds the same, just older and wiser), and for several scenes Don Vito Corleone.

Marlon Brando agreed to lend his voice to this game as the Don. Brando was in such poor health that they recorded his parts in his living room. Only fractions of what he recorded made it to the game. It's chilling to see a "recovering Don" in the game and hearing Brando recite old "Godfather" lines in what may have been his last paying acting gig!

FYI, Al Pacino is nowhere to be found on this edition despite lending his voice to earlier versions of the game!

As the game plays out, you earn money, respect, and power as you help the Corleones. On one mission, you travel with Tom Hagen to Hollywood and help put the horse's head in the bed of the movie producer. Another mission finds you and Clemenza taking Paulie for a ride ("Leave the gun, take the cannolis...").

I must admit, it's been a helluva lot of fun being a Corleone and driving the streets of New York! However, as the game moves along and the movie plot runs its course (you help eliminate the five families while Michael attends the baptism), the game becomes more about completing missions like "take down a Barzini warehouse" or "blackmail the police chief of Little Italy".

It was a bit of a letdown after Michael is made Don and your mission is to take down the remaining families' operations. After all this is done, your crowned "the next Don" and the game is over.

What fun is that? I don't want it to end there! There are two other movies that they can use... I want to travel with Michael to see Hyman Roth in Miami, I want to go to Nevada and blackmail Senator Geary, I want to fly to Havana and rub out Johnny Ola!

Electronic Arts, the makers of the game, have announced that a "Godfather II" game is in the making and haven't set a release date. I can't wait to row out to the middle of Lake Mead with Fredo.

The scenes from "Godfather" involving Christmas:

1.) Kay and Michael are seen Christmas shopping / Luca Brasi puts on his bulletproof vest (both scenes tied in with Bing Crosby singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas")

2.) Tom Hagen is Christmas shopping and picked up by Sollozzo

3.) Tom Hagen is released by Sollozzo (in front of a Christmas tree lot) and learns the Don is still alive

If I've forgotten any other Christmas scenes or references, let me know...


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