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Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season(TV) (2010)
Boardwalk Empire begins in Atlantic City in 1920. Its the eve of Prohibition and county treasurer, Nucky Thompson is looking to cash in! Nucky must battle back room politics, vicious power struggles, relentless federal agents, ambitious underlings, rumrunners and gangsters which include Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone.
For more about Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season and the Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Michael K. Williams, Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Graham
» See full cast & crew
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
It's not Blu-ray, it's HBO...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 27, 2011
January 16, 1919. The 66th United States Congress ratifies the controversial 18th Constitutional Amendment, prohibiting the "manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors." October 28, 1919. The House overrides President Woodrow Wilson's veto of the Volstead Act, a bill designed to grant authorities the power necessary to uphold the 18th Amendment. October 29, 1919. The U.S. Senate agrees. The Volstead Act becomes law and the now-infamous Prohibition era is born. January 17, 1920. Six armed men steal a shipment of medicinal whiskey valued at over $100,000. February 22, 1920. Bootlegging and liquor trafficking explodes. Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey are the only states in the Union that still refuse to ratify the 18th Amendment. August 11, 1920. Organized crime and government corruption, both state and local, are at an all time high. The United States learns that Prohibition doesn't curb crime; it fosters it. Thus begins executive producers' Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter's riveting, critically acclaimed HBO Prohibition series, Boardwalk Empire.
Wiry and gaunt as he is, Buscemi lends unexpected weight to Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, an Atlantic County politico, prominent racketeer and 1920s bootlegger whose seemingly endless connections grant him access to a variety of politicians, socialites and mobsters; a self-made man whose power and influence is unmatched in Atlantic City and the surrounding areas; and a risk-taker whose high-rolling lifestyle begins to attract the attention of authorities beyond New Jersey's borders. Having made a series of shrewd back room deals and under-the-table exchanges, Nucky soon finds himself at the center of the very lucrative but dangerous storm that is Prohibition. Enter former protégé Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt), a World War I veteran who strikes an unlikely alliance with upstart Al Capone (Stephen Graham); federal agent Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon), an immovable lawman impervious to Nucky's charms; and gangsters Charles Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Albert "Chalky" White (Michael Kenneth Williams) and a host of other shifty shooters, each one looking to either bring Nucky down or put a bullet in his head before he becomes too great a threat. What follows is a series that slowly but systematically distinguishes itself from HBO's Other Gangster Drama (The Sorpranos), establishes its own tone and tenor, eliminates potential histrionics, and leaves little room for comparison. Boardwalk Empire is quickly becoming the new HBO standard.
It also oozes historical accuracy, no small feat considering that much of its history, some of its storylines and many of its characters (several of whom are complete fabrications) are steeped in fiction. Scorsese and Winter make it difficult to discern truth from invention, though, blurring the lines between authenticity, atmosphere and creative license. It leads to a sense that little worked out as cleanly and cinematically as it does here, sure, but it also makes every double-cross, underhanded move, sleazy maneuver, suspicious seduction, shady political back-scratch, tragic downfall and dirty business venture that much more gripping. There's an art to manufactured history, and Scorsese is one of the great masters. His craft elevates the entire series -- even when early episodes creep along without the sort of bold direction you might expect -- and Winter (who takes the reigns come "The Ivory Tower") makes it all but impossible to tell Scorsese has retreated into the executive producer shadows and relinquished control to his anointed showrunner. Generous budgets, astonishing production design, smart casting and calculated performances can only take a series so far. Scorsese's Boardwalk Empire could have crumpled the moment the second episode began. Instead, Winter's command of each successive episode only intensifies, his confidence only blossoms, and the series only becomes that much more addicting as it plows ahead. It took me more than a week to make my way through the first five episodes. The next seven episodes? I blew through them in just three days. Season Two? Twelve episodes and a mere two days left me with an insatiable appetite for a third season. Suffice it to say, some will no doubt bemoan Scorsese's distance from the first season's later episodes, but Winter and his fellow writers and directors prove to be more than capable of carrying the torch.
When Boardwalk Empire idles it's all for good reason, although that reason may not be apparent until "A Return to Normalcy" (or, in some cases, Season Two). Yes, Nucky is a survivor, willing to sacrifice just about any stance to further his standing. But he's also a very human survivor; a man whose greed and lust for life has its limits, however loose they might be. Whereas Tony Soprano had to work to earn our affection, Nucky steals it almost immediately and with ease. He's a killer but not a hardened killer; he's a criminal but a criminal of opportunity; he's sharp but conflicted, crafty but loyal, cautious but driven. He isn't a gangland gimmick, a one-note guns-n-gangsters caricature or an out-and-out crooked politician. Oh, he's corrupt -- a thief, a liar and a conman -- but he's also a man of the people; a position he doesn't take as lightly as the letter of the law. His is a curse of justification, ego and self-delusion, and Buscemi makes one thing abundantly clear: Nucky knows it. When the series seems as if it's ambling along, chasing tangents and dead-end subplots, it's stretching Nucky, subtly priming him for the trials ahead. Like the best dramas (of which HBO has quite a few), Boardwalk Empire hinges on a long con. Scorsese and Winter could have roped viewers in from the start with cheap spectacle, operatic flourishes and other tricks of the period television trade, but to what end? Better to lay the groundwork, build something more substantial, and transport viewers to 1920; to allow Nucky and his enemies to inhabit a believable world, to come together and grow apart as real people would; to struggle, coerce, bend, break and persevere as a genuine (and genuinely corrupt) career politician might. And I would rather watch a carefully paced, character-driven drama than one that didn't rest on a proper foundation. I hesitate to compare Boardwalk Empire to The Wire -- yet, anyway -- but the two share more in common than you might think, including an affinity for slowburn storytelling, compelling characters, steady trigger fingers, and a wholly convincing setting. 1920s Atlantic City and 2000s Baltimore aren't so far apart after all.
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
The premium cable network that launched a dozen irreplaceable dramas continues to sit at the head of the BD-TV table with a lovely, lifelike, embarrassingly proficient 1080p/AVC-encoded Boardwalk Empire presentation. Decadent when decadence is called for, submersed in endless shadow when something more sinister is required, every episode stands apart in one way or another. Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter, Jonathan Freeman and Kramer Morgenthau's Prohibition palette is overflowing with sumptuous period colors, evocative sepia tones and cloudy hues, lavish Atlantic City reds and golds, earthy browns and Depression era grays, and rich blacks. Moreover, contrast is unflinching, as is delineation, which, without exception, reveals and cloaks as much or as little as the showrunners intended. Detail is wonderfully preserved as well. While a certain, unmistakably cinematic softness and smokiness prevails, closeups showcase every stitch and tear, every inch of rust and grime, every bit of stubble and spill of hair, every twitchy trigger finger and nervous tremble, every wrinkle and weary brow line, every scar and scratch... everything the already impressive production design has to offer those willing to step away from the story and go exploring. Textures are filmic but refined, edges are nicely defined and clean shaven, and there isn't any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing, noise reduction or any other distraction to note. Above all, it's clear the showrunners had complete confidence in their production, from beginning to end, and it shows in every shot and scene. HBO has done it again, and there's no better evidence than Boardwalk Empire's first season Blu-ray release.
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's a reason the 1920s were dubbed the Roaring Twenties; a reason that didn't escape Scorsese and Winter during the series' development. As impressive as the sets, locations, costumes and production design are, the period soundscape the Boardwalk Empire showrunners have crafted is perhaps even more impressive, if only because such cinematic sound design is still a relative rarity in television. So how well does Scorsese and Winter's meticulous attention to sonic detail translate to the home theater experience? More importantly, how does the series' DTS-HD Master Audio mix fare? Let's just keep it simple and say HBO's 5.1 lossless surround track is as savvy and superb as its video presentation. Dialogue is clear, intelligible, snuggly grounded and perfectly prioritized, without a lost line or buried word to point to. The rear speakers roar and retreat on cue, brandishing convincing ambience, excellent acoustics, head-spinning directional touches and silky pans. The LFE channel pulls its own weight too, and then some. Jarring gunfire, throaty car engines, heavy footfalls, falling bodies, meaty punches... it all boasts remarkable weight, assertive aggression and undeniable presence. And then there's the series' Prohibition era soundtrack which sounds every bit as alluring and absorbing as it should. As furiously as I scribbled notes while listening to the mix, I didn't jot down one gripe or complaint. Boardwalk Empire sounds as amazing as it looks. Prepare yourself.
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season is yet another outstanding Blu-ray release from the premium cable network that changed the face of television. Stunning video, engrossing audio, seemingly endless supplements, and the first character-driven season of Terrence Winter and Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed period drama. Little disappoints and even less comes up short. This is television and Blu-ray at their finest, and those who purchase this 5-disc set will be thrilled with the results.
Boardwalk Empire: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season (1 bundle)
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray - June 7, 2012
In August, HBO Home Entertainment will bring Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season to Blu-ray. The critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning series stars Steve Buscemi (Fargo) as Nucky Thompson, the real-life figure who ruled Prohibition-era Atlantic ...
• Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray - October 8, 2011
Next year, HBO Home Entertainment will release Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray. The critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning series stars Steve Buscemi (Fargo) as Nucky Thompson, the real-life figure who ruled Prohibition-era Atlantic ...
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