September 14, 2012

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season (2011)
HBO Home Video

733 mins. · TV-MA
16x9 · 1.78:1

Format
Blu-Ray

Audio
English - DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
French - DTS 5.1
Spanish - DTS 2.0

Subtitles
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Extras
Commentary Tracks, Previews, Recaps, Featurettes

Starring
Stev Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Michael Pitt, Shae Whigham

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(2011)

I am not a big viewer of TV shows and typically do not follow shows much at all. At best, if a show piques my interest, I will wait for the show's DVD or Blu-Ray release and watch it then in one swoop. Some shows excite me more than others and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" is one of those shows. After a spectacular first season, the studio just released season 2 on Blu-Ray Disc and I simply had to take a look.

Back at the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in the roaring twenties, Prohibition is still putting a damper the sale of alcohol, giving rise to mobsters and gangs who make it their business to bring liquor and other pleasures to the paying masses.

Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the treasures of Atlantic City, is at the heart of a huge operation, importing whiskey from Canada, all the while using his political power and influence to cloak his illegal activities. And when words and threads are not enough any more, he will also happily send around one of his boys to mess people up, while another guy on his payroll will happily clean it up an hush it all up. It is all smooth sailing for Nucky and his many associates.

But then again, nothing is truly easy when you run an organization, such as this. Other mobsters will inevitably try to encroach on your territory, some people just can't keep their mouths shut, goody-two-shoes think they need to stop it, people get jealous and above all, there's the Law.

All that is what the show revolves around, the machinations of Nucky's organization and the drama surrounding it. While he has to deal with double-dealing politicians on the one hand, not even his own brother shies away from backstabbing him. As Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) and his father, the Commodore (Dabney Coleman) make plans to take back the city for themselves, Nucky finds that he's not the only one in town with power.

When he is suddenly charged with a lawsuit that could easily land him in jail, he realizes that his opponents are strong, cornering him more and more. but as they say, a cornered animal is a very dangerous animal, and Nucky Thompson is not one to give up easily.

"Boardwalk Empire" is a colorful drama filled with scheming and plotting, along with raw violence and a good dose of sex. It creates a tapestry of decadence, a world in which nothing appears unethical any more, where the law of those with power rules above anyone else, and where such power comes from the ruthless exploitation of the weak. Corrupt and rotten to the core, the world of "Boardwalk Empire" has only a few glimmers of hope, as characters such as Angela and Mrs. Schroeder bring a sense of normalcy and decency to the mix, but even they are corruptible and always on the fringe of losing their path.

There can be no doubt that "Boardwalk Empire" may not appeal to everyone. Some may take exception with the excessive violence on display, others with the nudity. Others may feel that at times, the show is bit too character-heavy or not moving fast enough. I don't have a problem with any of that. To me the show is a perfect mix of depth and action, moving at a great pace while never feeling agitated or drawn. Each episode ends masterfully on a note of expectation - to call it cliffhangers would be too much - that will really want you to continue watching. The season final is nothing short of a dastardly cool turn of events. While I saw it coming from about four episodes away, it was still a season conclusion that has me on edge and makes me feverish for season three. What more can a TV show ask for, right?

HBO Home Entertainment is presenting the show in a 1080p high definition transfer on this release, in its 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is meticulously clean and does not exhibit even the slightest defects or problems. Rich in detail and definition, the image conjures up the look of the 20s with warm colors that are rich in hues and bold in their vibrancy. With solid black levels, the image has incredible visual depth, adding to the sometimes foreboding quality of the images on the screen. One could really not ask for a better presentation.

The same is true on the audio side. Coming as a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track, it leaves nothing to be desired. It offers a dynamic mix that is modern and makes constant use of the surround channels. With a good bass extension, the track sounds natural at all times and has plenty of oompf when it counts. Dialogues are well integrated and alway understandable without problems, further enhancing the quality of the track.

"Boardwalk Empire" arrives on seven discs, also containing a few extras, such as commentary tracks on selected episodes. Also included are previews and recaps for each episode, as well as a selection of featurettes covering the production of the show, as well as the look at the time in history and how the film captures the essence of it with both its locations and the characters.

In addition, the Blu-Ray Disc set contains the DVD version of the show also, as well as Digital Copies of the episodes.

I love "Boardwalk Empire" and can't wait for season 3 to arrive. If you are looking for some entertainment that is not only easily digestable eye candy, but also offers some character, this show might be just for you. Give it a try!

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