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    Divorce: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 17th, 2017

    Look, as lousy as the marriage is, the divorce is going to be much, much worse.”

    The subject of divorce isn’t exactly a laugh riot in real life, so the makers of HBO’s comedy series tracking the dissolution of a decade-long marriage had their work cut out for them. Divorce (not surprisingly) takes a darkly comic approach to the hostile material; the problem is the show seemingly forgot about the part where we’re supposed to want to spend time with these people every week. The series also marks the HBO return of star/executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker…call this new show No Sex in the Suburbs.
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    The Affair: Season Three

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 4th, 2017

    I thought it was dull…unless it was supposed to be a satire.”

    Television has been trending toward shorter, more self-contained stories. Successful shows like American Horror Story, Fargo, American Crime, and others reboot themselves every year with new characters and storylines in an attempt to offer viewers something fresh each season. The Affair seemed ready-made for that formula: each season could’ve followed different adulterous encounters in a wide variety of settings. Instead, the perspective-shifting Showtime drama is determined to chronicle the far-reaching effects of a single Long Island dalliance. So while the show brushes up against some interesting relationship dynamics, it feels like it has stretched a thin concept beyond its breaking point.
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    Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 28th, 2017

    “Everyone outside the family is a mark. Family comes first.”

    Meet the most dysfunctional crime family since The Sopranos. Not quite at the same level either on-screen or in quality, but once again we’re drawn toward another dangerous clan with criminal intent. I guess we could call them The Baritones. Actually Animal Kingdom is an apt description for television’s latest baddies. They’re about to head into their second season of mayhem on TNT where the series was the network’s top ratings winner during its run. Now that first season is out on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers, and it’s one crazy ride, of that you can be certain.
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    Veep: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 20th, 2017

    As it turns out, there’s a virtually unprecedented tie in the Electoral College.”

    If you thought the latest U.S. presidential election cycle was a soul-crushing and unpredictable mess, you should take a peek at what’s happening on Veep. (At least we got a definitive real-life result…eventually.) The show’s outstanding fifth season begins with President Selina Meyer — who assumed the office after her predecessor resigned — locked in a frustrating Electoral College tie as she seeks to become the first woman to be *elected* to the highest office in the land. President Meyer sums up her predicament in a manner befitting HBO’s caustic, constantly-cussing comedy: “didn’t those Founding F—ers ever hear of an odd number?!”
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    Silicon Valley: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 13th, 2017

    “Think inside the box.”

    One of the major through lines in season 3 of Silicon Valley is that our heroes at Pied Piper have created a product so ahead of its time that it is failing to connect with consumers, which puts the start-up company in peril. Fortunately, HBO’s brainy and bawdy tech comedy hasn’t had any problems connecting with its audience: the show’s confident and hilarious third season seamlessly mixes talk of “compression algorithms” with outrageous sight gags involving horses getting, um, familiar with each other.
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    Insecure: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 24th, 2017

    “Black women aren’t bitter. We’re just tired of being expected to settle for less.”

    When people talk about racial and gender equality, they typically point to notions like everyone having the right to vote or the same opportunity to pursue their personal or professional passion without fear of discrimination. The premise of Insecure — HBO’s funny and insightful comedy series about modern relationships — is not quite that lofty, but no less worthy: black women reserve the right to be just as neurotic and lead love lives that are every bit as messy as their white counterparts.
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    Quarry: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 22nd, 2017

    I’m not as comfortable as you are with the notion of killing other human beings.”

    Remember that time about six months ago when NFL star Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy by repeatedly kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest? A big part of the outrage was tied to the notion that Kaepernick’s actions were disrespectful to members of the U.S. military. One of the most striking things about Quarry — Cinemax’s compelling, well-rounded Vietnam War-era drama — is how it depicts a period not that long ago in our country’s history when veterans were openly treated with venom and vitriol that went way beyond someone taking a knee.
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    Vice Principals: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 10th, 2017

    Danny McBride managed to inhabit the role of Kenny Powers to such an extent that I do appear to have trouble keeping them separate. I thought that the arrival of a new series would finally put that issue to rest. I’m discovering there was a reason I had trouble telling them apart. They are indeed the same person. Add to the situation that Vice Principals uses the same writing and production team headed by McBride and Jody Hill, and there are moments when you will think that you’re still watching Eastbound And Out. The wild card that changes things up enough happens to be Walter Goggins. Goggins came to notice as the cold Shane in The Shield and the quirky Boyd Crowder in Justified.
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    From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 3

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 10th, 2017

    Season 1 of From Dusk Till Dawn gave us a ten-episode remake of the hit original movie while setting up a mythology to stretch its story over numerous seasons. Season 2 took us deeper into the culebra syndicate, and we got to see how they operate in their world as Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama) searched for an ancient blood source and sought to sit at the throne as the leader of all the culebras (a snake/vampire hybrid of sorts).  All while the baddest outlaws North and South of the border, the Gecko brothers Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richie (Zane Holtz) were forced to work out their differences ever since Richie was made a culebra.
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    Ballers: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 2nd, 2017

    American football has been making the news of late, and not just in the sports pages. For the last couple of years there has been an increasing concern for players’ safety. From our former president declaring he wouldn’t let his fictional son play the game to the hard-hitting Will Smith film Concussion, football has taken some heat over its violent nature. Players are retiring early, and the subject of life after football becomes more of a social question than ever before. That’s where HBO’s Ballers comes in. It’s a half-hour look at the NFL from the player perspective, both current and retired. It’s intended as a light bit of dramedy, and it certainly is that. Even so, the series doesn’t hide from some of the brutal realities of the sport, from the trappings of fame and fortune to the realities of its eventual end.
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    Broad City: Season 3

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 23rd, 2017

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: single gals looking for love — among other things — in the big city. On television, the trope dates back to the days of Laverne & Shirley and continues with more contemporary entries like Sex and the City and Girls. It’s an effective, timeless story hook that has gotten a funny, druggy, tremendously weird spin thanks to the queens kweens of Comedy Central’s Broad City.
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    Girls: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 11th, 2017

    “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore, and I don’t know how to get out.”

    A TV show’s fifth season is around the time it starts to feel like you have to see things through to the bitter end. I mean, it seems downright irresponsible to ditch a series after five years of investing in its characters’ lives, no matter how flawed and frustrating they are. And there’s no doubt the self-absorbed millennials on HBO’s Girls are among the most flawed and frustrating people on TV; so I was delighted to find that the series produced one of its strongest seasons as it nears its conclusion.
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    Greenleaf Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 14th, 2016

    relatively out of the spotlight as she has worked on making her cable network channel, OWN, a success.  While I wouldn’t ever say I was a fan of Oprah’s work on the screen, I could appreciate what she did in The Color Purple and Beloved. This being said, I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to take a title that at first glance seemed to be a show that would be heavy-handed with its subject matter centered around the church.  Despite my concerns, I’m glad I picked up this title, because despite how it handles some very familiar topics, it’s presented in a manner that not only feels fresh but is truly an engrossing show that manages to suck the viewer in and kept me wanting to see what would happen next.
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    Looking: The Complete Series and The Movie (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 1st, 2016

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might have been how thoroughly unremarkable it was. The HBO dramedy — which followed the love lives of three gay friends in San Francisco — sidestepped any sort of headline-grabbing sensationalism. However, Looking was often low-key to the point that it bypassed being funny or particularly entertaining. The latter point was a bigger issue early on since the show’s naturalistic tone made Looking more engrossing as the series progressed and deepened its roster of characters. You can see for yourself how the show got better as it went along now that HBO has released the entire Looking saga — two seasons and a movie — in one handy Blu-ray set.
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    Star Trek: The Animated Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 24th, 2016

    “Space…the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one man gone before!”

    Of course, we never did get five years from that original show when it ended after just three years in 1969. The new film series has tried to fix that for us. The latest film picks up the five-year mission just after three years have gone by. It’s a double homage to the original show.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 18th, 2016

    Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?”

    Throughout its first five seasons, Game of Thrones has been relentlessly cruel to its viewers heroes in a way that shocked audiences and upended genre expectations. But as Thrones edges toward its conclusion — and as the TV adaptation becomes more unmoored than ever from the George R.R. Martin novels that inspired it — certain storytelling conventions seem to be inevitably taking over. I seriously doubt this saga will have a traditional “happy ending,” but season 6 is as close as the show has ever come to being a full-blown crowd-pleaser.
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    Billions: Season One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 14th, 2016

    “What we do has consequences, intended and unintended. The decisions we make, the actions we bring have weight.” 

    When upcoming heavyweight contenders like Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin get together, you have reason to expect big things. And Billions is very much about heavyweights. The entire show is one big metaphor for a heavyweight prizefight. In one corner you have U.S Attorney Chuck “The Scholar” Rhodes, played by Paul Giamatti. He’s the reigning world champion with a record of 80+ to 0. In the other corner is Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis; he could also be considered undefeated.
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    The Night Of (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 21st, 2016

    You know, I miss James Gandolfini. I know that HBO misses him as well. When The Sopranos finished, Gandolfini signed a development deal with HBO. He would not only work in front of the camera but help find and produce material for the network. We all know what happened next. Gandolfini passed suddenly, just when it seems he was breaking out of his Tony Soprano typecast, and one gets the feeling that he was going to do great things. One solid indication of that promise comes in the HBO series The Night Of… which was one of those passion projects that the man never got to see through.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” Penny Dreadful: The Final Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 12th, 2016

    “…And then all light will end, and the world will live in darkness. The very air will be pestilence to mankind. And our brethren, the night creatures, will emerge and feed.”

    We could be talking about the end of the world. We could also be talking about the untimely demise of Penny Dreadful with just its third season at Showtime. It came with a suddenness, and not without controversy. John Logan originally planned for the series to go 6-7 years.
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    Reign: The Complete Third Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 10th, 2016

    There can only be one queen.”

    After navigating treachery at every turn in French court and having to cope with a deadly plague throughout the first two seasons of Reign — the CW’s campy, compulsively watchable adaptation of the Mary, Queen of Scots saga — season 3 was meant to introduce Mary’s most formidable foe yet. Queen Elizabeth I of England becomes a regular character on the show and Mary’s chief rival from afar. But in telling the story of two warring queens (while trying to service the series’ many established characters) the show stretches itself too thin and loses some of the fizz that made it a guilty pleasure.
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    Banshee: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 7th, 2016

    “Did I miss anything while I was gone?”

    Did you ever. Banshee came to an end with this, the fourth season, and it did not go quietly, to be sure. But it’s not how it ends, but how this final season begins that’s a bit of a mystery. There is a time jump of a little over 18 months that will cause you to feel like you might have missed something. If that doesn’t confuse you, the season’s constant tripping around in time will turn this season into a show very different from the Banshee we’ve come to know and love.
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    Empire: The Complete Second Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 27th, 2016

    “This is when we roar.”

    When Fox’s Empire premiered in early 2015, it became an instant sensation that re-wrote the ratings record books. The show’s mix of high drama and hip-hop obviously struck a chord with an underserved segment of TV viewers. Of course, that also means expectations were sky high for this second season. While Empire has inevitably lost some of the sizzle from its unprecedented debut, this unapologetically over-the-top soap rap-era has also managed to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
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    Supernatural: Season 11 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 15th, 2016

    “This is encouraging.”

    For the first time in a long while, the Winchester Brothers end and begin a season together. Dean’s just had the Sign of Cain removed, and the cost is the approaching darkness. I’m not talking a little storm blowing through. Here in Florida we know all about that kind of darkness. No. This is The Darkness, and it’s the big bad for season 11 of Supernatural. You heard that correctly. We’re talking 11 years with number 12 arriving any day now. Once again it’s “end of days” kind of stakes, and we have another season to save the universe.
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    South Park: Season 19 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 15th, 2016

    “Going on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine.”

    After 20 years or more, they really do feel like friends. I’ve known Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny longer than most real people in my life. Only the Simpsons have been around longer these days. Over those years South Park has always been a series of stories that rarely connect with each other in any significant way. There have been multi-part episodes, and certain experiences have come back up over the years. Still, we’re talking about a universe where killing Kenny had become a running joke and happened pretty much in every episode.
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    All The Way (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 14th, 2016

    Accidental president…that’s what they’ll say.”

    Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th President of the United States under the most tumultuous circumstances imaginable. Besides being thrust into office after the shattering assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Johnson had to immediately contend with multiple political crises. Most notably, LBJ faced pressure from several different fronts as he worked to pass what eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All The Way, buoyed by a funny and ferocious lead performance, offers a thought-provoking and entertaining look at a truly complex figure.
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