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Paolo Sorrentino
Jude Law, Diane Keaton, James Cromwell
Paolo Sorrentino

Tagline: Synopsis:
The beginning of the pontificate of Lenny Belardo, alias Pius XIII, the first American Pope in history.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 600 min.
Price: $59.99
Release Date: 6/6/17

• ‘The Making of The Young Pope” Featurette
• “Invitation to the Set” Featurette
• “Inside the Episodes” Featurettes


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Young Pope [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 24, 2017)

Though the title may imply a biographical tale of a real person, HBO’s The Young Pope instead follows a fictional pontiff. This three Blu-ray set offers all 10 episodes of the “limited series” about a relatively youthful American who becomes pope. The plot synopses come from the disc menus.

First Episode: “Newly elected Pope Pius XIII – aka Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) – defies Vatican expectations as he begins his reign.”

To some degree, I don’t worry about how much I like pilot episodes. They need to spend so much time with “shoe leather” that they tend to revolve around exposition and lack a lot of dramatic heft much of the time.

That proves largely true for “First”, as it focuses mainly on character set-ups/introductions. It does so in a competent manner that establishes the main roles and relationships. I can’t say the episode enchants me, but I’m happy to see where matters will proceed.

Second Episode: “Lenny sets down the ground rules for his first speech at St. Peter’s. Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell) spurns an olive branch.”

As hoped, “Second” gives us a more dynamic episode that manages to better dig into the intrigue and personalities on display. Some parts of it don’t quite gel for me – mainly related to Lenny, as I’m not sure I buy him as a religious leader – but the show still manages to develop matters well.

Third Episode: “Voiello (Silvio Orlando) and Spencer consider their options as the Vatican deals with the fallout from Lenny’s speech.”

I don’t know when Young Pope went into production and whether or not American politics impacted it at all, but boy, I find it hard not to view Lenny as a Trump-like figure. A brash, egotistical outsider who ignores traditions and stirs up trouble along the way? While this simplifies matters, I still see strong similarities.

The main difference comes from the manner in which the series paints Lenny as a fairly slippery character, one not open to the black or white interpretations that usually accompany Trump. Three shows in and it’s tough to decide how to interpret Lenny, which seems like a good thing, as his nature keeps the series interesting.

Fourth Episode: “Esther (Ludivine Sagnier) is torn between a threat from Voiello and her devotion to the new pope.”

Through the first three episodes, Pope avoided any clear narrative thrust, and I was fine with that, as I still enjoyed its loopy, off-kilter energy. “Fourth” finally pushes the series towards an overall narrative – maybe. Whatever direction the series goes, it continues to build its characters and intrigue.

Fifth Episode: “Voiello orchestrates a scandalous scenario. The Pope addresses the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel.”

After the obvious story development of “Fourth”, “Fifth” offers something more introspective – and a bit weirder. This makes it a minor disappointment, as I liked the more concrete path “Fourth” implied. Still, it moves along the material well enough to mostly succeed.

Sixth Episode: “Lenny has a contentious first meeting with the Italian prime minister (Stefano Accorsi). Esther’s miracle comes true.”

Always more theatrical than reality-based, “Sixth” takes the series’ dramatic emphasis toward a greater extreme. Some of this feels contrived – like a wholly unnatural conversation between Lenny and the PM – but it manages to work anyway. The character elements crank into higher gear and allow this to turn into another effective show.

Seventh Episode: “Voiello ponders new and familiar scenarios to take down Lenny. Dussolier (Scott Shepherd) longs for Honduras.”

More political intrigue emerges here, as Lenny finds himself embattled and at risk of the loss of his papacy. I like the generally understated manner in which the series explores these topics, for while it favors grand drama at times, it doesn’t go down standard paths for its political themes. Those factors lead to an involving continuation of the narrative.

Eighth Episode: “Lenny and Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) cope with a loss. Sofia (Cécile de France) suggests a first trip abroad by the young Pope.”

In a series that favors the untraditional, “Eighth” feels a lot more conventional than I’d like, mainly due to its predictable depiction of the corrupt nun Sister Antonia (Milvia Marigliano). She seems too trite, and Marigliano’s performance lacks nuance.

I also find it hard to swallow Lenny’s continued ability to hide his face from the press. I half-expect him to show up in a Sia-style wig, and this plot point stretches credulity. Add to that an oddly dodgy accent from Law – whose American tones never quite worked anyway – and “Eighth” becomes a less than successful show.

Ninth Episode: “Gutierrez (Javier Cámara) investigates an archbishop’s (Guy Boyd) misconduct despite blackmail threats against the Pope.”

With so little time left in the series, one might expect a heavy focus on Lenny and his life. Instead, the first third of the episode spends its time with Gutierrez in NYC and we don’t see the Pope until almost 20 minutes into the show.

Even, Gutierrez remains the focus, and that creates an unusual way for the series to push toward its finale. These choices work, though, as they create an involving and dramatic episode.

Tenth Episode: “The young pope changes his travel plans and policy. Sister Mary takes on a new role.”

“Tenth” completes the series on a somewhat ambiguous but still satisfying note. We see Lenny’s transformation and find a few loose ends tied up, with a few left intentionally vague. This isn’t a slambang finish, but it does what it needs to do and gives us a good conclusion.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

The Young Pope appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The episodes largely looked positive.

In general, sharpness seemed good. A few wide shots betrayed a smidgen of softness, but the majority of the programs came across as accurate and concise. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and the shows lacked edge haloes and source flaws.

Pope offered a subdued palette, one that favored whites, browns and ambers. These didn’t exactly light up the screen, but they appeared appropriate for the design choices. Blacks were dark and dense, while low-light shots offered nice delineation. I felt pleased with the visuals.

A chatty series, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio lacked much ambition. After dialogue, music played the most important role, and the songs/score used the five channels well.

Effects didn’t have much to do, but they fleshed out the spectrum in a reasonably efficient manner. Though stand-out sequences remained infrequent, the shows offered a good sense of atmosphere and ambience.

Audio quality worked fine. Music was full and lush, while effects demonstrated nice accuracy and range. Speech seemed natural and concise. Nothing about the audio impressed, but these elements seemed appropriate for the series.

Across all three discs, we get five Inside the Episodes featurettes. These go between two minutes, 18 seconds and three minutes, 20 seconds for a total of 14 minutes 22 seconds of material.

In these, we get notes from creator/director Paolo Sorrentino and executive producer Lorenzo Mieli. They give us character/story basics in these fairly banal and uninteresting clips.

Two additional featurettes appear on Disc Three. The Making of The Young Pope goes for 11 minutes, 26 seconds and offers comments from Sorrentino, Mieli, costume designer Carlo Poggioli, production designer Ludovica Ferrario, director of photography Luca Bigazzi, and actors Jude Law, Ludivine Sagniere, Silvio Orlando, Scott Shepherd, Cecile de France, Javier Camara and James Cromwell.

“Making” looks at story/characters, cast and performances, Sorrentino’s work as director, costumes, locations and sets, and cinematography. This becomes a generally satisfactory piece. It lacks a ton of depth but it gives us some decent insights.

Finally, An Invitation to the Set lasts three minutes, seven seconds and features Law, Sorrentino, Mieli, and Cromwell. “Set’ offers some general story/character thoughts and tends to feel promotional. It seems redundant after the more substantial “Making”.

An introspective and unusual series, The Young Pope threatens to become too self-infatuated to succeed. However, it usually presents a bright, introspective series that looks at its topic in unusual, stimulating ways. The Blu-rays provide positive picture and audio along with minor supplements. Even with some flaws, Pope turns into an intriguing series.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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