Blu-ray Review “Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series”

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham
Number of discs: 20
Studio: HBO
Rated TV-MA
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Running Time: 3360 minutes

Series: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“Boardwalk Empire” wasn’t a show that I originally was stopping all press to see. I know that Martin Scorsese was involved and directed the pilot but it never really excited me. Despite my interest this show had a very successful run with 56 episodes over five-seasons and was quite the award-winner during that time. “Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series” is bringing this show to Blu-ray with all previously released extras and also an exclusive disc packed with additional never-before-seen content. In fact, this is the first time that seasons one, two or three have ever been released on Blu-ray. With today’s obsessions of bing watching, this show works well for a quick watch. Great performances, worth checking out if you haven’t checked this show out and if you have this is way to own the complete deal.

Official Premise: Throughout its five-season run, the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire stood “at the pinnacle of TV achievement” (Philadelphia Inquirer), garnering 18 Emmy Awards and critical accolades for its superb cast and its unfaltering attention to 1920s period detail. From Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Terence Winter and Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, the series chronicles the life and times of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi) as he undergoes vicious power struggles and deals with opportunistic rivals — including Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone — at a time when Prohibition proved to be a major catalyst in the rise of organized crime in America.

Along with the Blu-ray discs, HBO is also including Digital HD copies of the series as well as either an iTunes or Google Play option as well. The 1080p transfer for each episode looks great presented in its 1080p transfer. Same goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. They are near perfect and really add a lot of the charm of the show. In addition to the hour of new exclusive special features, there are all previously included extras including 28 audio commentaries, 13 episodes Picture-in-Picture tracks and over four hours of production documentaries and featurettes.

The new special features included are worth checking out. “Building The Boardwalk” features Executive Producer/Director Tim Van Patten and crew discussing bringing the show together. “Shooting The Series” features chats with Directors of Photography Jonathan Freeman and Bill Coleman. “Designing The Series” features Production Designer Bill Groom and Set Decorator Carol Silverman discuss the look for the show. “Visual Effects” discusses the show’s work with Visual Effects Supervisor Lesley Robson-Foster. “The Final Shot: A Farewell To Boardwalk Empire” features cast/crew discussing the show. “Anatomy Of A Hit” features Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Terence Winter, Executive Producer/Director Tim Van Patten and Executive Producer/Writer Howard Korder discuss the best kills in the film.

William Forsythe talks about roles in "Happy in the Valley" and "Boardwalk Empire"

After several successful years appearing in various television (“Fame,” “Hill Street Blues”) and film (“King of the Mountain,” “The Lightship”) William Forsythe made an impact on filmgoers everywhere as escaped convict Evelle Snoats in the Coen Brothers comedy “Raising Arizona.” This led to featured roles in films like “Weeds,” “Dick Tracy,” “Out for Justice” and “American Me,” in which he gives one of my favorite performances – that of JD, a Caucasian gang member who acts Chicano. He continued to find success with roles in films like “The Waterdance,” “The Rock,” “Blue Streak” and “The Librarians,” which he also wrote. He also had a memorable turn as Al Capone in the television series “The Untouchables.” He recently completed a stint on the acclaimed HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” and will soon be seen as former boxer Jake LaMotta in the “Raging Bull” follow-up entitled “The Bronx Bull.” While promoting his current film, “Happy in the Valley,” Mr. Forsythe took some time to answer some questions. We traded blizzard stories (I was in the middle of one when we spoke and he had just dug himself out of one the week before) for a few moments before he talked about his new film, “Boardwalk Empire” and what could be next for him behind the camera.

Mike Smith: Introduce us to your character in “Happy in the Valley,” photographer Stewart Fox.
William Forsythe: What kind of introduction would you like? He’s pretty “balls to the wall!” What I think is amazing about Stewart as a character is that he’s a guy that has basically lived on the very bottom of the Hollywood scene. He worked his way up and rose to the top of his profession. He’s now fallen back down.

MS: What about the character drew you to the project?
WF: What drew me to the project is that this guy has seen it all in the course of his life and he’s been at the top of his game. And now, at this point of his life, he’s back at the very bottom. He’s become bitter. He has a drinking problem. He has a drug problem. And what really drew me to this picture is that you have this world that is really seedy and ugly as the backdrop. It’s really a story about his epiphany. One of the main things is that this guy, who has been everywhere, really learns that he needs to go back to the beginning…to where it all began. It’s such an uplifting story, especially for a film that’s set in the porn business.

MS: Stewart is described as “The World’s Greatest Erotic Photographer.” What exactly does that entail?
WF: I think it entails different things that occur during his life and career. In the beginning he was touted as one of the great photographers. He did very classy shoots…very classy and erotic shoots. But at this point in the game…as the porn world goes from film to digital….it’s like boxing is being replaced by crazy cage fighting…this world that he once knew has changed. In order to support himself he has to take himself to the bottom of the industry. He makes money but the amount of dignity he can take home with him is literally none.

MS: You’ve had such great success in both film and television projects. Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
WF: I love to make movies. Movies are my favorite. I love to take a story and tell the whole story from beginning to end. I enjoy television too but basically every week you get handed new pages and you don’t have a lot of control about where the story is going. And there are so many types of films. I’ve done my share of big studio pictures. But when you take on a beautiful independent film like “Happy in the Valley” you can see the magic happen…it’s the closest thing to the old feeling I used to get on stage. It reminded me of going off and doing summer stock.

MS: Speaking of getting pages and finding out you’re no longer on the show, do you miss the experience of working on “Boardwalk Empire?”
WF: I had a great time working on that show and I miss all of the people involved. The one thing about “Boardwalk Empire” – to the man and woman – is that people were dedicated to putting out something special. And that is not as common as it used to be. And that aspect of it I miss. But I knew….when I entered “Boardwalk Empire” everything was rolling along fine…but I knew the minute that I killed those two girls that I had a thunderbolt hanging over my head. And it’s true. You do find out on the day. They hand you your pages and you’re dead!

MS: You wrote the film “The Librarians” and you’ve produced several projects. Do you ever see yourself sitting in the director’s chair? WF: I do. I’ve had a couple offers and I certainly have a lot of scripts that I’ve written. So yes, I do.

MS: Any word on when “The Bronx Bull” will be released?
WF: I’m not sure on the exact date. The last time I spoke to the producers they were shooting for late spring. They’re hoping for an initial theatrical release of 20-25 cities but they haven’t set a release date yet.

MS: Thank you again for your time this morning.
WF: Thank you. And stay strong in that blizzard, buddy!

DVD Review “Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story”

Directed by: Kevin Tostado
Narrated by: Zachary Levi
MPAA Rating: G
Distributed by: New Video
Running Time: 88 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love “Monopoly”? Everyone has played this game at least once in their lives. This movie is a great showcase of the game and its biggest fans behind it. This game has been around for the last 75 years and I am sure that it will continue to be successful for many more years. If you are ever wondering what is the back story to how this game came to where it is today, this is the movie for you.

The film is told in two parts. One part focuses on the history of the game and how it started and spread like a virus worldwide during the depression. The second part focuses on the competitive nature of the game. It takes us through stories during the 2009 Las Vegas and World Championships of Monopoly. I never even knew that these events took place, prior to watching this. We get to meet the people that compete for these events and some of them are laughable for there devotion to the game but some are normal people like lawyers and teachers.

The special features on the disc are very impressive for a documentary. There is a thorough commentary from director Kevin Tostado. They have completed match from the 2009 World Championship final game. I enjoyed most the featurette “The Methods, Math & Myths of Monopoly”, which into mythology behind the game. In case you didn’t realize, Zachary Levi (“Tangled”, “Chuck”) narrated this film and they have a great outtake reel of this work on the film. There are a few extended scenes included but I felt the film was already paced well. Lastly there is a fun (but challenging) interactive Monopoly quiz included.