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True Blood: The Complete First Season(TV) (2008)
Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, Academy Award®-winner for “The Piano”) works as a waitress at the rural bar Merlotte's. Though outwardly a typical young woman, she keeps a dangerous secret: she has the ability to hear the thoughts of others. Her situation is further complicated when the bar gets its first vampire patron - 173-year old Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer, "Quills") - and the two outsiders are immediately drawn to each other.
For more about True Blood: The Complete First Season and the True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 8, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Alexander Skarsgård, Valentina Cervi
Director: Michael Lehmann
» See full cast & crew
True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
An unexpectedly engaging series that shows legitimate promise...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 8, 2009
It isn't easy being a bloodsucker in the twenty-first century. Mass media has made their seedy behavior impossible to hide, lore and legend have revealed their snazziest tricks, and armed religious zealots have equipped themselves with better weapons to jab through their unbeating hearts. Gone are the days of romantic delusions of grandeur... gone are the days of prowling on unsuspecting weaklings who foolishly separate from the herd... gone are the days of rule. Such are the challenges faced by vampiric society in creator Alan Ball's True Blood, an ongoing HBO series based on bestselling author Charlaine Harris' nine Southern Vampire Mysteries novels. In Harris and Ball's intriguing alternate reality, vampires have come out of the coffin to a slack-jawed public and began to request equal rights (no subtext there). But even though the invention and widespread distribution of synthetic blood has relieved the creatures of their need to kill, the vamps find it increasingly difficult to integrate into society. Lawmakers debate the extent to which the supernatural beings should be considered citizens, staunch traditionalists demand blood of their own, and everyday people are forced to choose between tolerance and extinction.
While measured debate dominates the tone in Washington, everyone in the small Louisianan township of Bon Temps has made it clear they'd like vampires to stay as far away as possible. Everyone that is except for Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a roadhouse waitress who finds herself drawn to a soft-spoken, Civil-War-era immortal named Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). While her family and friends -- Jason (Ryan Kwanten), her hot-tempered brother; Sam (Sam Trammell), her overprotective boss; Tara (Rutina Wesley), her fiesty best friend; and Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis), a quick-witted cook who moonlights both as a male prostitute and an illegal V-Juice dealer (that's vampire blood to you and me) -- question her motives, Sookie insists her love-life is none of their concern. Even as a rash of mysterious murders begin to panic local law enforcement officers (Chris Bauer and William Sanderson), she quickly bats suspicion away from Bill and sets out to find the real killer. Only her kindly grandmother (Lois Smith) seems to support the young woman's budding relationship, encouraging her to ignore any advice born from fear or prejudice. But when Jason becomes the primary suspect in the Bon Temps murders, a shocking death strikes too close to home, and a gang of vampires with ties to Bill's past arrives in town, Sookie's love is put to the ultimate test.
When it comes to vampire tales, I'm a full-fledged genre snob. It takes something special -- be it the animalistic beasties in 30 Days of Night, the haunted immortals in Interview with the Vampire, or the tragically conflicted monstrosity in Bram Stoker's Dracula -- to lure me into the shadows. Uninspired, superficial reinventions like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series (vampire baseball and bedazzled skin... really?) send me into fits, ranting about misguided ideas and squandered opportunities. As such, I approached HBO's first season of True Blood with extreme caution and exceedingly low expectations. Imagine my surprise when I found myself being drawn into the complexities of its remarkably relevant politics, the lives of its intrinsically-flawed characters, and the intrigue of its central mysteries. Sookie is no ordinary heroine: she struggles to navigate increasingly difficult circumstances, only to realize everything she clings to can be ripped away in an instant. Bon Temps is no ordinary town: its residents are liars and thieves, crafty backstabbing folk whose every thought betrays the true nature of their dark hearts. More importantly, the series' vampires are no ordinary nightstalkers: infighting has split their kind into clans, law is upheld by their own midnight courts, and debate about integration with humans has sparked in their own circles.
But it's Sookie's love interest that provides the series with its most startling gravitas. Compton is a careful creature of habit; a wounded immortal who was forced to abandon his family after being transformed into a vampire by a bloodthirsty seductress. His affection for Sookie is genuine yet guarded: for every gesture of goodwill he makes, a more menacing glimpse of his darkest desires leaves us wondering how much of Bill is human... and how much is carnivorous beast. His distrust of Sam -- an admittedly shady guardian figure who fails to hide his feelings for Sookie -- calls even more into question. Is Bill using Sookie for his own means? Is Sam more than he appears? Will either suitor ever give the poor girl the security she needs? It all leads to a rousing romp through a bayou plagued not only by a vicious variety of vampires, but crafty shapeshifters, possessive demons, deceptive tricksters, and other strange spirits of the night. While True Blood's vamps may be the first to reveal themselves to the public, a teeming underworld of nasties call Bon Temps home. The downside is that most of these avenues are only briefly explored: the series' debut episodes serve as a launching pad for tastier concepts that will hopefully elevate future seasons to loftier heights.
True Blood does have a shortlist of problems, most of which derive from the series' attempts to find its footing in the first half of the season. For whatever reason, Sookie's telepathy is often chained to the plot rather than the character. Even though it's clear from the get-go that she has a tough time controlling her power, it conveniently disappears anytime it might help her uncover the truth of the Bon Temps murders. To a lesser degree, the hypersexual nature of several episodes is also a mild distraction. Specifically, early hookups feel a bit gratuitous -- especially compared to the plot-driving, V-juice-enhanced encounters that occur later in the season. On top of that, a handful of CG-enhanced sequences are laughably bad (particularly the death of a vampire barkeep), a few supporting characters fall prey to tiresome backwoods-hick cliches, and the local police (while undeniably amusing) are often reduced to foppish dolts. Thankfully, the series' shortcomings are relatively minor, rarely detracting from the momentum and impact of the story and characters.
HBO once again proves it can craft a compelling series from what could have otherwise been a cheap gimmick or genre cash-in. With a slew of stirring performances, a mesmerizing storyline, and a wonderfully-realized underworld of vindictive demons and calculating vampires, True Blood has serious potential. I can't wait to dive into its second simmering season this summer.
True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fickle viewers may not appreciate True Blood's grim-n-grainy aesthetic, but HBO has delivered a marvelous 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that faithfully captures every drop of blood, every sweat-soaked hair, and every torn tendon that graces the screen. The series' palette is immaculate: skintones are healthy and natural, primaries are lush, reds practically spill off the screen, and blacks are inky and well-resolved. Regardless of whether a scene takes place in the hot afternoon sun or in a shadowy candlelit room, contrast remains vibrant and lively; rarely succumbing to the prevailing darkness that consumes each episode. Moreover, while the aforementioned grain does occasionally interfere with fine detail, textures are sharp and earthy, edges are perfectly defined (without the help of any unnecessary edge enhancement), and delineation is relatively divine. Better still, the technical transfer doesn't suffer from any hint of debilitating blocking, banding, digital clutter, or pesky noise reduction. Faint compression artifacts occasionally swarm the backgrounds of a few poorly-lit shots (most notably during Bill and Sookie's bathtub chat), but it doesn't undermine the picture's polish and, honestly, isn't very noticeable amidst the series' grain field anyway. All things considered, True Blood: The Complete First Season marks yet another excellent Blu-ray transfer from HBO that will leave fans in a state of ecstasy and help convert newcomers to the fold.
True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Even more impressive is True Blood's potent, hard-hitting DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The lapping waters of the bayou, the hiss of spraying blood, the thunderclap of roaring crowds, the twang of a Louisianan guitar... this is what lossless audio is all about. Dialogue is clean and deftly prioritized: regardless of whether it resides in the restrained hush of Bill's voice or the thick-drawled lull of Rene's cajun accent, every word is crystal clear. Paired with reliable interior acoustics and aggressive rear speaker support, each line takes up precise residence in the wholly-immersive soundfield. More importantly, convincing ambience and invisible pans allow various characters and elements to appear and disappear from the soundstage at will, sometimes hopping from channel to channel in a chilling display of supernatural power. Room-shaking LFE tones fill out the top-tier television track, injecting a startling sense of weight and immediacy into every growl and snarl. A tooth being pulled from a screaming vampire made me wince, the sizzle of burning flesh made my stomach turn, and a particularly pulpy bloodbath left me looking from speaker to speaker. Better still, a deafening tribunal is as overwhelming for the listener as it is for poor Bill Compton -- screams erupt from every direction, feet and fists pound the ground, and the summer breeze imbues the entire sequence with an unsettling, organic quality.
Not to give in to rampant adulation, but True Blood: The Complete First Season boasts one of the most involving and engrossing lossless tracks of any television release I've reviewed. It not only rounds out HBO's stunning AV presentation, it sets the bar for future seasons, series, and Blu-ray releases.
True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of True Blood: The Complete First Season arrives with all of the supplemental material that appears on the standard DVD version, features twelve Enhanced Viewing Picture-in-Picture tracks, and includes six cast and crew audio commentaries. The supplemental package is far from perfect -- it's actually downright underwhelming at times -- but the quality of the commentaries should satisfy fans looking for something to chew on before season two hits next month.
True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Supplemental grievances aside, True Blood: The Complete First Season is a remarkable HBO release worth legitimate consideration. Not only is it available at a reasonable price, it features a gorgeous video transfer, a remarkable DTS-HD Master Audio track, and all twelve episodes of the acclaimed series' twisted debut (generously spread across five BD-50 discs). If you haven't sampled the series yet, I would recommend giving an episode or two a try before committing to a purchase. If you've already basked in its ferocity and latched onto its potential, then picking up the Blu-ray edition of True Blood will be one of the easiest decisions you'll face this spring.
True Blood: Other Seasons
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True Blood: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• First Season of True Blood Blu-ray Bound - February 5, 2009
HBO Home Entertainment in conjunction with Warner Home Video have announced that they will bring 'True Blood: The Complete First Season' to Blu-ray on May 19th, day-and-date with the DVD release. This five disc set will feature every episode from the award-winning ...
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