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Entourage: The Complete Series(TV) (2004-2011)
A Hollywood upstart and his three closest friends try to make it big.
For more about Entourage: The Complete Series and the Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray release, see Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 22, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ferrara, Perrey Reeves
» See full cast & crew
Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
Hug it out, boys. Hug it out...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 22, 2012
At some point the American Dream was revised to include "being seen and adored by as many people as possible." Celebrity isn't a new marker in the sociological evolution of the species, of course, nor is it unique to modern Western culture. For as long as there have been ordinary men and women, there have been icons, moguls, artists, philosophers and legends; towering titans idolized and immortalized by the masses. But the delusion that anyone can be a celebrity -- given the right viral video, podcast or hot, new online sensation, however inconsequential or ridiculous -- is very much a recent development. And a frightening one at that, born from the insatiable desire to be recognized, praised and worshiped, regardless of whether such adulation is warranted or deserved. So say what you will about the Entourage boys. Take whatever shots you'd like at the divisive HBO series, even with eight successful seasons in the bank and a long-rumored movie on the horizon. At least Vince and his friends have put in ninety-six episodes of blood, sweat and tears to get where they are; each one, star and dreamer alike, having forged a success story all his own.
Loosely based on executive producer Mark Wahlberg's misadventures as a rising Hollywood star, Entourage traces the career of breakout leading man Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), best friend and business manager Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), older brother and struggling actor Johnny "Drama" Chase (Kevin Dillon) and gopher-turned-entrepreneur Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) as they grapple with fame and fortune in the film industry. Lighting the Vinnie Chase fuse is Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven): pathologically devoted agent, hell-raising power player and spittle-flinging rage-oholic. There are others, of course. Ari's sensitive protégé Lloyd (Rex Lee), the irreplaceable Mrs. Ari (a fiery Perrey Reeves), Vince's publicist Shauna (Debi Mazar), hot-headed director Billy Walsh (Rhys Coiro), Warner Bros. VP Dana Gordon (Constance Zimmer), Ari's partner Babs (Beverly D'Angelo), E's on-again/off-again love Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), new agent Scott Lavin (Scott Caan), Ari's former partner Terrance McQuewick (Malcolm McDowell) and too many more to list. But you know all that. Entourage: The Complete Series is a big, bad box set aimed at true believers; those who've followed Vince to hell and back, through highs, lows, unhealthy relationships, cheap flings, dire financial straits, addiction, borderline career suicide and, eventually, something akin to industry enlightenment. And it's those true believers -- those who've followed the show from its humble beginnings -- who will come to see how well it all comes together.
For eight seasons, series creator/executive producer/writer/director/man-of-all-hats Doug Ellin and his producers, writers and directors have gone out of their way to show just how tough and ruthless a town Hollywood can be. Vince, E and the boys, and even Ari have been beaten, crushed, humiliated and broken; chewed up, spit out and chewed up again by a machine built on the backs of fallen stars and fueled by box-office millions. But that's exactly what makes the Chase crew so appealing. The harder Hollywood hits, the harder Vince and his crew hit back. The more aggressive rival agents get, the more aggressive Eric becomes. The faster projects fall apart, the faster Drama pulls himself back together. The trickier the cards that are dealt, the trickier the hands Turtle plays. The more demanding the business grows, the more mountains Ari topples. For all their flaws and mistakes, for all their base instincts and misdeeds, for all their wounded pride, crippled egos, bad luck and failed endeavors -- and especially through their more hit-or-miss episodes -- Vince and his entourage have refused to give up. They retreat, regroup and relaunch their ever-fledgling brand, navigating personal issues and public scrutiny, sometimes by the skin of their teeth, but always living to fight another day.
And Vince comes a long, long way, from breakout star to troubled celebrity to well-adjusted professional. Eric, Drama and Turtle, meanwhile, do everything they can to step out of Vince's shadow. Living large on their friend's dime doesn't sit well with any of them, and it's in that seemingly small but crucial shared trait that E, Drama and Turtle emerge as more essential characters than they might have been had Entourage simply gone the way of a boys-will-be-boys romp. Instead, the series slowly evolves -- season by season -- into an arresting ensemble drama. Don't get me wrong, the comedy is never in short supply. The excess is still excessive. The pride still runneth over. But the series reinvents itself again and again, staying true to its girls-n-glory mantra while digging deeper, going darker, and testing Vince and his entourage's mettle, all without pulling (too many) punches. No, it isn't a perfect ride, and no, there isn't a perfect season to be had. Not its opening eight-episode volley, its fan-favorite second and third seasons, its rickety seventh go-round or its satisfying eighth season eight-episode conclusion. But it has proven itself a far better show than most expected, soared where many thought it would crash and burn, and taken its leading men places few people saw coming. I, for one, am happy I stuck with Entourage to the end. It wasn't always easy, it wasn't always a sure thing, but it's been well worth the time.
Entourage: The Complete Series Season Breakdown
Season Two - 14 Episodes
Season Three, Part 1 - 12 Episodes
Season Three, Part 2 - 8 Episodes
Season Four - 12 Episodes
Season Five - 12 Episodes
Season Six - 12 Episodes
Season Seven - 10 Episodes
Season Eight - 8 Episodes
Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
The first thing that struck me as I worked my way through Entourage: The Complete Series was just how young Grenier, Connolly, Piven and their co-stars looked eight years ago. The second thing that struck me -- and, more importantly, never waned -- was just how proficient and primed to please HBO's eight season, ninety-six episode 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation is, not to mention how worthwhile each season's high definition upgrade proves to be. In other words, bid those DVD seasons a none-too-fond farewell. Even so, there are a few inconsistencies of note; inconsistencies that aren't necessarily apparent over the course of a single season but become apparent when watching Entourage from beginning to end. Thankfully, most, if not all of these non-issues are inherent to the show's source, be it the cameras used, the stylistic intent of each season's photography, Ellin's revolving door of DPs, the series' ever-fluctuating budget and other factors that really shouldn't enter in to an evaluation of an encode's technical quality. Season One, in many ways, looks different than Season Eight. Colors are cooler, soft shots are more common and overall clarity is a touch less refined (although no less revealing). So what holds the presentation back from perfection? A bit of artifacting here, a bit of banding there, slight crush and mild edge halos throughout. None of it even approaches a serious concern, though, and very few anomalies are glaring or downright distracting. Those that are vanish as quickly as they appear.
Regardless of which season you cue up, rest assured HBO has honored Ellin's intentions. The series' palette varies from season to season, sometimes storyline to storyline, but colors are steadfast and satisfying, skintones are natural and well-saturated, black levels are deep, and contrast, though hot on occasion (more so in some seasons than others, Five and Eight being prime examples), is dialed in as it should be. And yet detail is what emerges as the highlight of each season's presentation. Fine textures steal each episode's encode, whether being showcased in the mano e mano closeups of E and Ari in the pilot or brought to light as Vince and his world-weary entourage prepare to board a plane for Paris in "The End." Edges are crisp and exacting as well (with only a hint of intermittent ringing), delineation is rarely problematic, grain is preserved (heavy as it sometimes is, again I'm staring at you Season Five), and only a few select scenes stand out as eyesores. Moreover, the encode doesn't disappoint and each BD-50 disc houses, at most, seven 20-25 minute episodes and a handful of extras. Macroblocking, significant stair-stepping, shimmering and other unsightly nuisances are nowhere to be found and every episode sinks or swims on its own merit. HBO knows how to treat a series, and Entourage is yet another excellent HBO Blu-ray release with another strong HBO AV presentation.
Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
HBO's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is never more alive, never more aggressive than it is when Ellin dials back the show's lightning-quick industry banter, carves out a nook beside the series' barbed dialogue and razor-sharp pop culture riffs, and gives a beat-blasting hip hop beatdown, hard-hitting anthem or indispensable rock-n-roll classic run of the soundfield. Jay Z's "99 Problems," The Allman Brothers' "South Bound," Slim Thug's "Incredible Feeling," Big Boi's "Shutterbug," Aretha Franklin's "Baby I Love You," Kanye West's "Goodlife," N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton," Gnarls Barkley's "Gone Daddy Gone," Citizen Cope's "Let the Drummer Kick," Rage Against the Machine's "Guerrilla Radio," T.I.'s "Bring Em Out," Dead Prez's "Hip Hop," Funkadelic's "Hit It and Quit It"... Vince's Hollywood hijacking often offers up more in a song than it does in an entire episode of womanizing, power playing or soul searching. Fortunately, the LFE channel packs tremendous punch and presence, the rear speakers grab hold of the soundtrack, and near-perfect prioritization ensures that voices and other key elements never drown in the mix. Dialogue is clean and clear too, even though the soundscape doesn't do away with ambient noise, airy interior acoustics or the drone of crowds, busy offices or packed parties.
If anything, the rear speakers aren't always as engaging as the experience. Directional effects are easy on the ears, cross-channel pans go down smooth and overall dynamics are solid. But many a scene features front-heavy sonics and little more. Chalk it up to the endless conversations or the fact that if Vince and the boys aren't talking, music is rushing in to the fill the void. I'm talking about consistency. Ari's offices always look busy but don't always sound the same. Traffic sometimes surrounds the listener, other times not so much. Film festivals and club visits take advantage of the soundfield every now and then, but not reliably enough to declare Entourage's sound design wholly immersive. That's not to say it's never enveloping -- it often is -- only that a more animated soundfield would only bolster everything Ellin sets out to accomplish. Nitpicking aside, though, Entourage sounds great; and that includes Season One's humblest episodes (if there is such a thing) all the way through the eighth season's series finale. HBO earns high marks once again.
Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Entourage: The Complete Series comes packaged in a sturdy black box (7½ h x 6 w x 2½ d) with a heavy outer sleeve that houses a nine-page book-style case. (One page is devoted to each season; the third season being the only one split across two.) Each page folds outward, revealing two BD-50 discs that slide into circular slots/sleeves on the face of the page itself. Unfortunately, removing the discs is a bit cumbersome and risks bending the page itself and/or tearing the page seam near the book's binding. It's not flimsy or poorly constructed, mind you, but I would exercise reasonable caution so as not to put undue wear and tear on the book or its pages. It's also not a deal-breaker, even though it doesn't take much imagination to envision an interior book-style case that's as sturdy as its outer sleeve.
There also aren't nearly as many special features as you might expect from an 18-disc, eight-season Complete Series release. Twenty-one commentaries and four hours of additional extras may sound like a lot, but when dealing with a show that clocks in at ninety-six episodes, it's merely adequate, particularly when some seasons offer far more content than others.
Discs 1 & 2: Season One
Discs 3 & 4: Season Two
Discs 5 & 6: Season Three, Part 1
Discs 7 & 8: Season Three, Part 2
Discs 9 & 10: Season Four
Discs 11 & 12: Season Five
Discs 13 & 14: Season Six
Discs 15 & 16: Season Seven
Discs 17 & 18: Season Eight
Entourage: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It came. It saw. It conquered. Entourage split audiences, drove off portions of its own fanbase and roped in newcomers, season in and season out, right up until the very end. Through it all, Ellin and his cast and crew never lost sight of what made Vince and his entourage so compelling, what made Ari and his inner circle so hilariously endearing and, above all, what made the series the memorable HBO stable it was for eight years. No, Entourage isn't for everyone. It never was and it never will be. But for those who feel some strange kinship with Vince, E, Drama, Turtle and Ari, or just enough of an unshakable curiosity to care, the journey and destination have been well worth the time and money involved. Now all that's left is a movie or two... and a Complete Series box set like this. Exclusive extras and new retrospectives would have made the cost of admission easier to swallow, sure, but HBO's 18-disc, 8-season, 96-episode, 21-commentary box set will be exactly what most Entourage fans are looking for. Terrific video presentation? Check. Strong DTS-HD lossless audio? Check. Every episode, better than they've looked or sounded before? Check and check. It is a chunk of change, I know. But Entourage: The Complete Series will make many an HBO junkie's day this holiday season.
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