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    The Casual Vacancy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 3rd, 2015

    How do you follow up the biggest publishing phenomenon of the last 20 years? Well, if you’re J.K. Rowling, you excise all talk of horcruxes and Hogwarts and supplant it with warring parish council members and the idyllic village of Pagford. That’s the setting for The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s 2012 follow-up to the Harry Potter series. The book has been adapted by BBC and HBO into a three-part miniseries. With its small-town setting and 23(!) main characters, the series simultaneously feels quaint and sprawling. It also made me wish I was able to spend more than three hours with these people.
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    The Newsroom: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 19th, 2015

    “We’re not in the middle of the third act. We just got to the end of the first.”

    Aaron Sorkin almost definitely knew The Newsroom had been simultaneously renewed for a third season and canceled when he wrote those words, which come at the end of the season 3 premiere. It’s a winking and bittersweet bit of writing for a show that seemingly infuriated as many more people than it delighted over the course of 25 episodes. (Which apparently amounts to a single season of Pretty Little Liars.) So how else would you expect The Newsroom to go out than with moments of singular brilliance mixed in with a few controversial bangs?
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    The Wire: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 9th, 2015

    “Some things stay the same. I mean the gamer is the game.”

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A newspaper reporter and a cop go into a bar… It sounds like a setup for a pretty lame joke. It’s actually the story of how one of the greatest television shows to ever air got started. It was the brainchild of two real-world players who hadn’t yet seen their worlds portrayed accurately in television of film. They set out on a mission to change all of that. And, changing all of that is exactly what they did.
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    Boardwalk Empire The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 19th, 2015

    “As you know, in less than two hours liquor will be declared illegal by decree of the distinguished gentlemen of our nation’s Congress. To those beautiful, ignorant bastards. Rest assured that, dry though the country may be, I am in the midst of concluding arrangements that will keep Atlantic City wet…”

    HBO has finally released a full series set of Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray. This is an HBO trend that has gone full tilt in the last year, seeing such hits as The Sopranos, True Blood and soon The Wire all coming in wonderful full-series releases. They look great on your video shelf. Together they create a tremendous number of hours of quality television. I love having it all in one place. If you’re new to the show, what better time to climb on board?
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    Veep: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 2nd, 2015

    For the first time in four years, I can say what I really think.”

    It may have taken four years for fictional U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer to make her boldest political move yet, but Veep was finally able to achieve all-around greatness in just three. I know there are fans of HBO’s caustic comedy series who would argue the show was already great, and I agree there have absolutely been many flashes of foul-mouthed brilliance throughout its run. But it wasn’t until Veep had Selina Meyer try to outgrow the show’s title in season 3 that the series itself ascended to another level.
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    Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 30th, 2015

    There’s money flying all over Silicon Valley, but none of it ever seems to hit us.”

    There’s a lot to like about HBO’s Silicon Valley, which debuted last year with a confident, clever freshman season that took merciless aim the tech capital of the U.S. My favorite thing about the show — besides hyper-specific jokes aimed at geeky targets like the many endings of “Mass Effect 3” — is that it portrays (and makes fun of) each aspect of the cutthroat tech industry, from the self-important, aggressively eccentric billionaires to the scrappy, proverbial guys in a garage.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 19th, 2015

    “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, promos, and the cover of this exemplary-in-every-way Blu-ray set isn’t likely to prepare you for the most devastating and thrilling season of a show that specializes in “devastating and thrilling.”
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    Olive Kitteridge (Blu-ray)

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

    Why are you so hateful, Olive?”

    Olive Kitteridge — Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel —has been adapted into a four-hour HBO miniseries. It’s probably the best possible outcome for Strout’s story, which deals with the legacy of depression, along with several other box office-unfriendly themes that would almost certainly prevent any proper Kitteridge adaptation from sniffing a multiplex. The miniseries is well-made, and the acting is top-notch. The problem for me was that, even with that four-hour running time, we don’t get a ton of insight into why the title character is so hateful.
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    Boardwalk Empire: Season 5 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 22nd, 2015

    “If we’re good today, we’ll be better tomorrow.”

    The final season of Boardwalk Empire breaks the mold of what the show has been for the first four years. The action jumps ahead several years to 1931. It’s a necessary plot point if we’re going to be ending the popular series in the fifth season. I understand the jump and why it works. I guess my only real question is: why are we jumping ahead to end what is one of the best shows on television?
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    Banshee: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 14th, 2015

    “There will be casualties”

    Alan Ball got my attention in 2001 with HBO’s black comedy Six Feet Under. It was one of the most original shows I had ever seen, and to this day I find it hard to characterize the series when asked to do so. It was there that he also introduced me to Michael C. Hall, who continues to amaze me in the role of Dexter over at Showtime. When Six Feet Under left the airwaves, Ball didn’t waste very much time in bringing his quirky style back, this time to the horror genre
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    Girls: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 12th, 2015

    Writers are a ridiculous class of people who make everything about themselves.”

    For many, the current face — and oft-naked body — of “writers who make everything about themselves” is Lena Dunham, the creator/star/writer/director of HBO’s Girls. The equal-parts brilliant and maddening quarter-life crisis comedy became one of the most polarizing shows on TV over its first two seasons, as self-involved heroine Hannah Horvath sought love and a career as a writer in NYC. At the start of season 3, Hannah has both of those things…which is why I’m astounded — and, frankly, pretty impressed — that she remains as egotistical as ever.
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    Looking: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 6th, 2015

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might be how thoroughly unremarkable it is. This is a double-edged sword for HBO’s dramedy, which follows the love lives of three gay friends living in modern-day San Francisco. The series sidesteps the headline-grabbing sensationalism that accompanies many other shows that prominently feature gay characters. (Looking at you, Ryan Murphy.) On the other hand, Looking is often low-key to the point that it bypasses being funny or particularly entertaining. What the series does have on its side is a naturalistic tone that makes the show more engrossing and immersive as the first season progresses.
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    Getting On: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 10th, 2014

    It’s noble work. It is useful. You are angels of mercy…I just never thought that I would end up here.”

    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. As a result, HBO’s comedy series Getting On isn’t exactly what I’d call a gut buster. But even though much of the humor seems hyper-specific to this particular circle of workplace hell, anybody who has ever been underpaid to do a hard, crappy job should be able to relate.
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    The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 7th, 2014

    – “We don’t have the trust of the public anymore.”

    “Get it back!”

    The Newsroom took a pretty decent beating during its first season. Sure, plenty of people praised the show’s exceptional acting and ambition, but too much of the conversation seemed to revolve around its flaws and its polarizing creator. In this Blu-ray set’s bonus material, Aaron Sorkin cops to being “overly earnest” and “aggressively uncool” in his work.
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    Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 22nd, 2014

    Billy Crystal has built a legendary career as one of the most multi-faceted entertainers in all of showbiz. He’s a successful actor, comedian, writer, producer and director. At various points, Crystal has been a major star on television, on stage, and at the movies. He’s entertained everyone from musicians to movie stars, thanks to his gigs as a three-time Grammy host and nine-time Academy Awards emcee. But what works best about his return to the stage in 700 Sundays — Crystal’s Tony-winning one-man show — is how it illustrates the idea that virtually every entertainer gets his or her first round of applause in the family living room.
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    Boardwalk Empire: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 27th, 2014

    “It’s like Prohibition never happened but for one thing. Prices will increase twenty-fold. We got a product a fellah’s gotta have. Even better is that, we got a product he ain’t allowed to have.”

    The fourth season of Boardwalk Empire began pretty much the only way it could have after the bloodbath that ended the previous season. It was an explosive season that delivered the best gangland war in television history. Now there has to be some kind of peace or at least status quo after the end of the violence. Nucky is making his peace with Arnold Rothstein and his people. He also owes Chalky White for saving his behind when war broke out.
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    The Normal Heart (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 26th, 2014

    “Could you please reduce your level of hysteria?”

    There is a lot of yelling and a lot of outrage in The Normal Heart. The film chronicles the confusing, terrifying onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in the early 1980s and how a group of gay men (and one intrepid doctor) in New York fought to draw attention to the deadly disease. Their efforts are alternately frustrating and futile, which leads to a higher decibel level for much of the movie’s second half. Thankfully, The Normal Heart is shrewd enough to note that there’s more than one way to make a point.
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    True Detective (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 12th, 2014

    “You got a chapter in one of those books on jumping to conclusions?”

    It’s easy to jump to conclusions with a name like True Detective. The moniker conjures up images of the true crime pulp magazines of the 40’s and 50’s. You might get a sense that this is one of those “based on a true story” type of shows. There was even a second when I expected we might have our first “found footage” television shows. Whatever ideas you have going in, expect your perceptions to change.
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    True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 3rd, 2014

    I don’t know why death still surprises me.”

    As someone who’s seen every single episode of True Blood, I suppose nothing should surprise me by now. HBO’s vampire drama has given us more than its share of head-turning sex scenes and a hearty helping of over-the-top violence. However, the further the series ventured from Bon Temps and its core group of characters, the more it seemed to lose its way, even as a satisfying guilty pleasure. This penultimate season still relied on an overly-crowded cast of supernaturals. But it was ultimately an encouraging sign that the show might get back to basics as it prepares to end its run this summer.
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    Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 22nd, 2014

    Jackie Mabley, the trailblazing subject of this HBO Films documentary, earned plenty of superlatives during a comedy career that spanned more than 50 years. She was touted as “the funniest woman in the world.” The DVD cover art crowns her as “the Original Queen of Comedy”, and one of the film’s interview subjects calls her “the original cougar” thanks to her on-stage predilection toward younger men. Of course, Mabley would probably prefer it if you just called her “Moms.”
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    Eastbound & Down: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 15th, 2014

    “This is the story of a man who won by choosing love over fame, fortune and countless adventures…”

    Danny McBride managed in inhabit the role of Kenny Powers to such an extent I do appear to have trouble keeping them separate. Now the countless adventures continue for McBride who is going to have to get us all to see him in a new light as he leaves troubled Powers behind and moves on to other things. For fans it’s a bittersweet goodbye to Eastbound & Down. The final episodes have aired and now they are available on this 2-disc Blu-ray swansong.
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    Veep: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 27th, 2014

    “…I’m the f—ing Vice President of the United States, and I have something to say.”

    If you’ve seen Veep, you know it’s almost impossible to quote the show without including an f-bomb or any of the show’s crassly creative put-downs. The sitcom’s central joke remains that the vice presidency might be the most high-profile unimportant job in the world. As a result, the second season of HBO’s caustic comedy sees VP Selina Meyer making moves to improve her political standing. Of course, she and her harried staff can’t avoid the humiliations and indignities that come with the job.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 20th, 2014

    “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

    Even if Game of Thrones had inexplicably wrapped its run after two stellar seasons, the HBO series would’ve gone down as a landmark in television history because of its unprecedented scale and audacious storytelling. But then fans wouldn’t have gotten season 3, an adaptation of (roughly) the first half of “A Storm of Swords”, the third novel in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. “A Storm of Swords” is considered the “Empire Strikes Back” of Martin’s novels, which is a terrifying prospect considering the “Empire” in the world of Thrones has been “striking back” since the very first episode.
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    Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 11th, 2014

    “I know many of you are probably wondering, ‘What the hell is Mike Tyson gonna do up here on stage tonight,’ right? Frankly, I’m wondering the same thing too.”

    If you or I decided to get a face tattoo, it would almost definitely be the craziest thing that’s ever happened to either of us. On the other hand, I’m not sure Mike Tyson’s now-infamous facial ink even cracks the Top 5 list of most insane things he’s ever said or done. That very unpredictability is what makes him an ideal, endlessly compelling subject for a one-man show.
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    Treme: Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 29th, 2014

    Creator David Simon (The Wire and Generation Kill) has never been a show runner concerned about cliffhangers or plot twists; instead he thrusts his viewers into the day-to-day life of the everyday Joe and shows that real life generates more conflict than most fiction can ever deliver.  Ever since I first watched The Wire I’ve considered myself a fan of Simon’s work, and I feel it could be argued that what Simon did with The Wire is a large factor in why we have the quality of television that we do today
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