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    Shark Week: Jawsome Encounters

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 20th, 2016

    Pop quiz! Which of the following titles belong to Shark Week specials, and which of them are the names of SyFy original movies? Zombie Sharks, Sharkageddon, Monster Hammerhead, Lair of the Mega Shark, and Sharksanity. (I’ll give you a few seconds to mull it over…ok, ready to guess?) The answer, of course, is that *all* of those titles belong to Shark Week, Discovery Channel’s long-running, wildly popular, and increasingly ludicrous summertime ritual.
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    Roots: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 8th, 2016

    “Roots: The Saga of an American Family literally blazed across this nation’s screens.”

    In 1977 the entire country became Africans for eight consecutive nights. The name Kunta Kinte would become a household name. It was unprecedented on so many levels that even the ABC executives that made the decision to air it believed it was going to be a ratings disaster. The decision to run it on so many consecutive nights was made to avoid the ratings collapse from lasting more than a week. But by the time the final episode aired, Roots had become the most-watched television mini-series of all time.
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    Vinyl: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 8th, 2016

    “I started at the bottom working every club in New York City. I mopped floors. Swabbed ashtrays. Hauled kegs. You think you work hard? Try scraping Chubby Checker’s vomit off the inside of a toilet stall.” 

    Martin Scorsese is a man who has worked very hard over the years. His list of film accomplishments is too big to list here. On television his recent teaming with Terrance Winter produced Boardwalk Empire. It’s not much of a surprise the two would team up again for another HBO series.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season — Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 6th, 2016

    “All men must die.”

    The official tagline for Season 4 of HBO’s Game of Thrones also doubles as a helpful reminder of author George R.R. Martin’s no-character-is-safe philosophy. But even plastering that quote all over posters and promos isn’t likely to prepare you for the most devastating and thrilling season of a show that specializes in “devastating and thrilling.” Those thrills have now been given an extra kick: Game of Thrones is the first TV show to be offered in all-encompassing Dolby Atmos. After re-releasing seasons 1 and 2 in a pair of handsome Steelbook cases late last year, HBO has given the next two chapters in Martin’s saga the same treatment.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season — Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 6th, 2016

    Even if Game of Thrones had inexplicably wrapped its run after two stellar seasons, the fantasy series would’ve gone down as a landmark in television history because of its unprecedented scale and audacious storytelling. Those qualities have been brought to thrilling life in each of the show’s Blu-ray releases, but HBO still decided to kick it up a notch. Game of Thrones is the first TV show to be offered in all-encompassing Dolby Atmos. After re-releasing seasons 1 and 2 in a pair of handsome Steelbook cases late last year, HBO has given the next two chapters in George R.R. Martin’s saga the same treatment.
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    Hot in Cleveland: Season Six

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 4th, 2016

    Oh crap…I’m going back to Cleveland.”

    I had never seen a single episode of Hot in Cleveland before I sat down to review season 5. So why did it feel like I’d been watching this show my entire life? Turns out, it’s entirely by design. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like I’m the target audience for Hot in Cleveland: I’m under 50 years old, and I’m a man. But if you look beyond the plastic surgery jokes and geriatric humor, you’ll find a show that aggressively channels (and ultimately appeals to fans of) many of the classic, multi-camera sitcoms of the past. In other words, Hot in Cleveland — which wrapped up last year after six seasons and 128 episodes — feels like you’re watching re-runs of a show you’ve already seen…and still enjoy plenty.
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    Haven: Complete Final Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 28th, 2016

    Based on the story “The Colorado Kid” by Stephen King, the SyFy series Haven comes to its end with the last 13 episodes for the final season. When we were last in Haven a fog bank surrounded the small coastal Maine town and Duke (Eric Balfour) accidently unleashed all his “troubles” upon the town.  Things were not just looking bad for the town; in fact this may be the darkest days they’ve had to encounter.  Would 13 episodes be enough to wrap up all the loose ends and finally allow the town of Haven to be normal, or would this take a darker turn and dare to leave the town to suffer its doom to the mysterious Croatoan?  Well, I’m not about to spoil anything, so rest easy, fans, but I should say that not everyone is going to make it through this alive; in fact, I can say this season kept me on edge from start to finish.
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    Veep: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 25th, 2016

    We’re making history with the first woman president.”

    That statement may or may not become a reality in a matter of months, but HBO has real-life politics beat either way. Season 3 of Veep, the caustic, constantly-cussing comedy series, concluded with U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer ascending to the highest office in the land. But lest you think the show jumped the shark by having VP Meyer outgrow the show’s title, there’s more than enough sharp-tongued mayhem to go around once Selina and her staff — referred to as “an infection of mediocrity” in season 4 — have their finger on the button.
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    Silicon Valley: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 20th, 2016

    Billionaires are people too.”

    HBO’s Silicon Valley, which takes merciless aim at the tech capital of the U.S., was impressive right out of the gate. The series struck comedy gold in its debut season by making fun of both self-important, aggressively eccentric billionaires and the bumbling “guys in a garage” who are trying to get to their level. Season 2 is both nerdier and more confident in its skewering of corporate soullessness and the scrappy underdogs who often can’t get out of their own way. (I’m not sure there’s another show on TV that would use a SWOT analysis to decide whether a douche-y stuntman lives or dies.) The result is a very funny sitcom that has gotten even better.
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    Grace and Frankie: Season One

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 15th, 2016

    Am I irrelevant? I refuse to be irrelevant.”

    Outside of The Golden Girls, there haven’t been too many TV shows where the entire main cast is eligible for social security. Then again, chasing the 18-49 demo that advertisers covet isn’t much of a concern for a subscription-based service like Netflix, which debuted Grace and Frankie last year. Naturally, the series — whose four main actors are each 75 and older — has its share of geriatric humor. (Although the broken hip doesn’t occur till Ep. 5/“The Fall”.) More importantly, it also has some genuinely funny things to say about companionship and reinvention.
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    Banshee: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

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

    “There’s always room for improvement.”

    Banshee is one of those improbable plots that finds a way to pull us into the action all the while ignoring how unlikely any of this might really be. Of course, we do that all the time. It’s certainly unlikely we’re going to face a zombie apocalypse or run into a super-powered hero. That’s a different kind of unlikely. This kind of real-world fantastic is usually a bit harder to accept. Credit folks like Allan Ball for keeping us engaged with some of the most entertaining sleight of hand on television.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 16th, 2016

    “Perhaps we’ve grown so used to horror, we assume there’s no other way.”

    Given the quantity and quality of death and destruction we’ve witnessed over the previous four years, the most shocking thing Game of Thrones could do in its fifth season was offer a tiny glimmer of hope. After all, optimism in Westeros and Essos is an even rarer commodity than dragons. Yet this batch of episodes probably gives us the clearest glimpse at the endgame of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga. (Even as the author’s deliberate pace continues to drive book readers mad.) That being said, don’t think for a second the show has gone soft in its old middle age: Thrones still has the unmatched ability to dazzle and devastate in equal measure.
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    Manhattan: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

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

    “There’s always some variable you didn’t account for.”

    Manhattan is one of those variables. It’s one of those dramatic stories where mankind is altered forever. If it weren’t absolutely true, someone would have had to make it up. Every child in schools around the world knows about the atomic bombs that ended World War II. We’ve all seen the terrible destruction that exceeded even the expectations of the scientists and engineers who designed and built these bombs. We all live in the aftermath of these events.
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    The Americans: The Complete Third Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 9th, 2016

    They are hard to get…”

    Naturally, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings — the Soviet spies next door at the center of FX’s The Americans — have proven to be exceedingly elusive. Over the course of three seasons and 39 episodes, they’ve dodged numerous close calls from the federal government, enemy agents, and from within their own household. But while various parties have tried to catch the main characters in the act, the thing that makes The Americans one of the very best shows on TV is that it’s actually incredibly easy to “get” Elizabeth and Philip; their efforts to keep their (unconventional) family together are universal.
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    Strike Back : The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 4th, 2016

    “One last mission.” 

    That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s the last mission for our brave Section 20 team. Strike Back follows the exploits that elite and secret British military team called Section 20. On paper they do not exist, but they’ve got all the best new high-tech toys, and they’re going to need every one of them. But after this season they will no longer exist. This is the fourth and final season of Strike Back. It’s time to say goodbye, but there’s a farewell party planned, and this release is it. Let me assure you that Strike Back is going out with a bang… literally.
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    Frankenstein – The Mini-Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 2nd, 2016

    When certain stories become public domain, you just have to expect that there will be a lot of people creating their own “unique” versions of the same tale all in the name of making a few bucks.  When it comes to adaptations of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, I think we can all agree every attempt to tell the story has not been in the name of preserving the art.  What I do find surprising: despite all the attempts to bring the story to the screen, there still isn’t a version that I can say is a perfect retelling of the tale, though each may have its pros, for the most part it just never seems to translate well.
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    Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 24th, 2016

    Taking the next step in a series of random steps.”

    Those words are part of a toast near the start of this season, as chronically neurotic and self-absorbed writer Hannah Horvath prepares to embark on a mini-adventure that will temporarily take her away from her natural habitat of New York City. They also double as a tidy summary of the entertaining (and appropriately messy) fourth season of HBO’s Girls, while simultaneously capturing what it’s like to progress through your 20’s.
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    Togetherness: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 19th, 2016

    “…Be like we were when we were 28. I think that would be awesome, right?”

    It certainly seems awesome to the four main characters in Togetherness, who are each dealing with their own set of anxieties as they hover around 40. If that previous sentence doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for laugh-out-loud comedy, then you’re on the same wavelength as this impressive HBO dramedy. Togetherness takes a bittersweet, refreshingly humane approach to portraying marriage and friendship.
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    From Dusk Till Dawn: Complete Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 9th, 2016

    Season one 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 two wastes no time in blazing its new path as it continues the blood-soaked adventure that departs from the famed Titty Twister and takes us deeper into the vampire syndicate.  How does season two fare?  After making it through the 10-episode season, I can say I survived this bloody, testosterone-laced thrill ride, but it does have a few missteps along the way.
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    Falling Skies: The Complete Fifth Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 5th, 2016

    Our final fight didn’t go as planned. But one thing was clear…this would be the bloodiest battle yet.”

    TNT’s post-apocalyptic, alien invasion war drama has never been short on casualties. So hearing that the last episodes in the show’s run would result in even more losses — human and otherwise — wasn’t exactly a shock. Following a fairly ludicrous cliffhanger, the final season starts off quite promisingly before falling back on some bad habits. Unfortunately, it all culminates with a semi-disastrous series finale.
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    Da Vinci’s Demons: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 4th, 2016

    “It all begins with seeing. So what do you see?” 

    The term “Renaissance man” is often used to describe a person who has a very wide range of interests in which they have become quite skilled. It’s taken from the traits of the many artists, innovators, and writers of the 15th century. And while the term might well apply to any number of such historical figures, there is none for whom it is more apt than Leonardo DaVinci.
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    Show Me a Hero (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 4th, 2016

    “Justice is not about popularity…”

    “…but politics is.”

    The title of Show Me a Hero is taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”  So it’s not a surprise that in the hands of David Simon — creator of an all-time great drama with The Wire — this HBO miniseries is short on conventional heroics and long on personal, political, and institutional tragedy.
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    True Detective: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on January 10th, 2016

    Popular opinion and so-called critical opinion often seem to careen off cliffs like lemmings in increasingly unpredictable ways guided by whims and subtle shifts in the proverbial winds. I find myself shocked by things praised and things condemned. Sometimes I feel like a little boy who sees a naked emperor while everyone else is shrieking how much they love the new elegant ensemble. In this case, I’m seeing a lovely presentation while there are many who are whining. Part of the problem is that Season 2 of True Detective is considerably distinct from Season 1.
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    Ray Donovan: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

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

    “A good family business is not the same as a good family.” 

    You can say that again. The television landscape is changing, at least on cable. Ray Donovan is the latest in the string of new shows that are attracting talent once thought out of reach for television. A show starring Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight: this Showtime series looked to be something very special… and it has gotten better… perhaps a lot better.
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    Getting On: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 16th, 2015

    The geriatric care wing of a hospital — where the employees are undermanned and overworked, and many of the patients are in a near-catatonic state — is not the most obvious sitcom setting. That’s partly the reason it took me a while to warm up to the first season of HBO’s Getting On, an adaptation of the British series of the same name. The biggest drawback, however, was that those initial episodes didn’t seem very interested in shaking the grim specter of the original show. But what a difference a year makes!
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