Blu-ray Reviews: Boardwalk Empire / How to Make it in America / Hung / Bored to Death
Article first published as Blu-ray Reviews: Boardwalk Empire / How to Make it in America / Hung / Bored to Death on Blogcritics.
A long time ago, HBO mostly aired movies that — if you were lucky — were only about a year-old. As time went on, the cable network began to produce its own, independent programming of feature-length films. Once TV shows became popular again in the late ’90s, HBO produced its own series as well. Now, here we are today with HBO airing one television program after another — some only lasting a few short seasons. Recently, HBO brought us four different shows of varying genres to Blu-ray for all to enjoy: Boardwalk Empire, and the already canceled How to Make it in America, Hung, and Bored to Death.
· Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season – With the contemporary charms of The Sopranos long gone from the average viewer’s memory, there’s no reason we can’t wind back the clock for a Prohibition Era romp through the world of smuggling, bribery, murder, and more. The great Steve Buscemi finally gets a role he can really sink his teeth into as Nucky Thompson, an Atlantic City gangster who manipulated his way to mayor while still controlling his vast criminal empire at the end of the show’s first critically-acclaimed season.
Now, Nucky and his young protégé Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) start to lost their previously-established grasp over Atlantic City and its surrounding syndicate-friendly areas once our star is arrested for fraud — and both his fellows as well as family begin to decide who’s side they want to be on. Also featuring Kelly MacDonald, Michael Shannon, Dabney Coleman, Gretchen Mol and Stephen Graham. This spectacular five-disc box set comes complete with a two-disc DVD/Digital Copy insert, audio commentaries, character profiles, and numerous behind-the-scenes and making-of goodies that fans and newbies alike will enjoy.
· How to Make it in America: The Complete Second Season – Oh, goody, just what I want to see: a show about moronic, self-important douchebag hipsters. Well, I guess everyone is entitled to the pursuit of the American dream — even scumbags like the characters in How to Make it in America. Wait. No, no, they don’t. Oh, well, they’re here anyway. This sophomore season of this annoying trendy series finds equally sophomoric individuals (Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk) still trying to make their mark on the hip dress scene of New York City, following a trip to Japan.
Of course, there’s always going to be competition — from a local group of meth heads-turned-entrepreneurs to an ex-con-cum-capitalist (Luis Guzmán) — and there’s no shortage of drama here. Eddie Kaye Thomas and Lake Bell co-star in this infuriating show that somehow managed to get renewed for a second season when it shouldn’t have even been greenlit in the first place. Special features for this season include some behind-the-scenes stuff, three audio commentaries with the leads and executive producers Ian Edelman and Julian Franco, and a featurette about several actual trendy industrialists trying to make it in NYC. Oh, joy.
· Hung: The Complete Third Season – He’s just a gigolo — and everywhere he goes, people know the part he’s playing. In this case, the part is played by the always-wonderful Thomas Jane, who inhabits the role of Ray Drecker, well-endowed male prostitute perfectly in this hit comedy. The — ahem — “private dick” is up to new and old tricks galore here, as he and his pimp Tanya (Jane Adams) open a public front for their clandestine operation: the Happiness Consultants Wellness Center for Women. And the money starts to roll on in, allowing Ray to support his ex-wife (Anne Heche) and their children as well.
Alas, we can’t have nice things, and it isn’t long before Ray and Tanya’s old partner, Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) comes out of hiding with a new, younger male ho (Stephen Amell) to entice the ladies with — a newcomer (pun intended) who proves to be very popular with the Happiness Consultants Wellness Center’s own, established clientele. Bonus features for this season include an alternate ending for the season finale, deleted scenes, four audio commentaries with select members (doh) of the show’s crew, and various behind-the-scenes items.
· Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season – Just when I was thoroughly convinced that there were no truly-hilarious shows left on the telly anymore, I had the pleasure to witness Bored to Death. Like the previous entry, it’s about a private dick. Well, the more commonly-published kind, that is: in this instance, we follow the plight of writer-cum-unlicensed-private investigator Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman), whose crazy adventures find him almost getting framed for murder, guest appearing on Dick Cavett’s new show, and trying to track down his biological father.
Sure, Bored to Death has been canned — just as Hung and (thankfully) How to Make it in America have — but it’s still nice to see Schwartzman clown around with co-stars Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis (there’s purportedly a TV-movie in the works). John Hodgman, David Rasche, Stacy Keach, Oliver Platt, Patton Oswalt, Mary Steenburgen, Olympia Dukakis, and Bebe Neuwirth guest star in this final seasonal outing, with comes to BD with audio commentaries on select episodes, deleted scenes, outtakes, and some behind-the-scenes filler.
All four titles honorably (and not-so honorably in one instance) mentioned in this article have received equally-excellent A/V transfers to disc for these, their (in some cases, final) home video releases. The colors, blacks, detail, and contrast look absolutely beautiful — particularly with Boardwalk Empire, which may very well be the best-looking and sounding title out of the bunch. Each show boasts an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack that brings out the best each series has to offer, with additional audio tracks available in French (5.1) and Spanish (2.0 — Boardwalk also boasts a 5.1 DTS Castilian track).
Tallying my various notes up here, kids, I hereby declare Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season to be the finest of the four releases here in terms of both its home video presentation and its onscreen material. Bored to Death: The Complete Third Season receives the prestigious runner-up spot just for being a show that can sit Ted Danson and David Rasche in a show together. Hung: The Complete Third Season drags its own special tail behind itself for being a show about my dream job, and the god-awful How to Make it in America: The Complete Second Season should be avoided at all costs.