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HBO

MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Terence Winter
Cast:
Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Gretchen Mol, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Kenneth Williams, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
One of HBO's breakthrough series, Boardwalk Empire chronicles the life and times of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi), Atlantic City's undisputed czar at a time when Prohibition proved to be a major catalyst in the rise of organized crime in America. Season 4 picks up eight months after the end of Season 3, in February 1924 - the year jazz "really came into being," with fictional dancers/singers as well as the ubiquitous Charleston dance. Having barely survived an overthrow by Gyp Rossetti in Season 3, Nucky Thompson is laying low at the end of the Boardwalk as the season begins. Eventually he'll butt heads with Mayor Bader, battle with his brother Eli about the fate of Eli's college-aged son Willie, and set his sights on the lucrative drug and real-estate opportunities in Florida. Most of the drama in this season's twelve episodes will take place in Atlantic City, and musical showpieces will be set in the Onyx Club (modeled after the Cotton Club), to be run by Chalky White. Action will also take place in Florida and Chicago.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Castillian
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Castillian
Portuguese
Dutch
Korean

Runtime: 720 min.
Price: $79.98
Release Date: 8/19/14

Bonus:
• Audio Commentaries for Six Episodes
• “Boardwalk Chronicle” Interactive Glossary for All 12 Episodes
• “PaleyFest: Made in NY Panel” Featurette
• “The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time” Featurette
• “Becoming Harrow” Featurette
• “Scouting the Boardwalk” Featurette
• “New Characters” Featurette
• “Season 3 Revisited” Featurette


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 3, 2014)

Without any ado, let’s look at Season Four of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. This Blu-ray includes all 12 shows from that year, and the synopses below come from the Blu-ray’s package.

New York Sour: “Nucky brokers a peace; Atlantic City gets a new Prohibition agent; Chalky opens a new club; Richard reverts to his violent past.” The season’s story opens about eight months after S3’s conclusion, and it launches in a positive manner, though it acts as a “table-setter”. “Sour” mostly works to bring us up to date on established characters and prepare us for upcoming story developments. It does so in a solid manner.

Resignation: “Chalky gets an unwanted partner; Van Alden muscles for Al Capone; J. Edgar Hoover introduces himself.” “Resignation” gives us a quieter show than the sex-and-violence-packed “Sour”, but that doesn’t make it less valuable. It develops story elements pretty well, particularly in regard to new characters.

Acres of Diamonds: “Nucky invests in Tampa; Narcisse makes his mark at the Onyx Club; Harrow buries the past.” Three episodes into S4, I can’t decide if the decision to give Eli’s son Willie a prominent role is good or bad. This thread may develop into something intriguing, or it could be a dead end; I guess we’ll wait and see.

Other than that side of things, “Acres” seems a bit slow. I don’t mind the emphasis on characters, but the show doesn’t appear to move things along quite as well as I might like. Still, it gives us enough useful tidbits to keep us with it.

All In: “Nucky gets an unexpected partner for his Tampa land deal; Willie carries a practical joke too far.” “All In” makes this clear: S4 wants to branch out to concentrate on characters unknown or not that prominent in earlier years. This means more of Chalky and his assistant Dunn, Willie, and Nucky’s manservant Kessler and less of others. Even Nucky doesn’t get as much to do as usual.

Is this a good thing? Probably, though I admit I think it’s a mistake to ignore Nucky to any degree. The series revolves around him, so his decline in screen time is a negative. The others help Empire expand, though, and do a lot to develop the season.

Erlkonig: “Knox looks to exploit Nucky’s weakest link; Gillian is rebuffed; Van Alden helps Capone rig an election.” Much of this episode feels a bit stuck in place, as it doesn’t appear to move characters/situations a ton. That changes by the end, as we get some bigger developments. Those allow it to turn into a solid show.

The North Star: “Nucky considers new partners in Tampa; Knox looks to gain Eli’s trust; Harrow returns from exile.” When I mentioned characters who don’t have much to do this year, you know who I didn’t miss? Margaret, so her return – albeit brief – doesn’t make me excited for future developments. Nucky’s sojourn in Florida also fails to do much for me. Other aspects of “Star” fare better, but the show seems less than scintillating.

Willie Wilson: “Eli confronts Nucky about Willie; Margaret has a surprise encounter in New York City; Gillian goes cold turkey.” Any hopes that Margaret’s appearance in “Star” was a one-off become dashed here, and even though that “surprise encounter” provides a mild twist, I still don’t feel wild to see her again. Other aspects of “Wilson” work better, though, as a few situations complicate in an intriguing way. This seems especially true in the Chalky thread, as it shows signs of life.

The Old Ship of Zion: “Nucky receives an unexpected delivery; Eli’s backed into a corner; Chalky throws down the gauntlet.” Some of S4’s new characters work better than others. Dr. Narcisse? Complex and intriguing. Sally Wheet? One-dimensional and annoying. Because those two tales dominate “Zion”, it becomes a spotty show, but it manages enough depth to keep it going.

Marriage and Hunting: “Chalky’s conflict with Narcisse boils over; Julia makes her case in court; Van Alden comes clean.” Has any Empire character followed a more bizarre, improbable path than Van Alden? While I like these twists in theory, Van Alden was more interesting back when he was with the Feds.

That said, the character shows signs of life here and might finally start to feel relevant again. Add to that more complexity in the Chalky/Narcisse narrative as well as other areas and the episode moves well.

White Horse Pike: “Nucky follows up on a tip from Sally; Margaret considers a deal; Torrio irks Capone.” As the season nears its conclusion, matters definitely heat up and become more dynamic. Heck, even the Margaret story demonstrates some interesting elements. “Pike” sets up the run to the season’s end in a strong manner.

Havre de Grace: “Nucky takes inventory; Chalky and Daughter lay low; Gillian considers a future with Phillips.” After major dramatics in “Pike”, S4 goes for a quieter vibe as it sets up the finish of the year. These threads work well, as they come across in an appropriate manner to pique our interest for the finale. Throw in a few major character developments and “Grace” satisfies.

Farewell Daddy Blues: “Eli braces for the worst as Knox aims to take down Nucky; Chalky looks to settle a score.” While S3 went out with a literal bang, S4 finishes on a more somber, introspective note. We get more than a few touches of tragedy and heartbreak, with an emphasis on the difficulties characters experienced when they tried to escape their pasts. This becomes a wholly satisfying – if largely depressing – conclusion to a solid year, and it might be the single best episode of Empire to date.


The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Boardwalk Empire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. After three seasons, should you expect the visuals of S4 to differ from what we saw in the past? Nope – the picture quality remained consistent with the initial years of the show/

For the most part, the programs delivered good definition. Some softness crept into occasional wide shots, but that stayed minor and the episodes usually delivered positive delineation. I saw no jagged edges or moire effects, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also didn’t become an issue.

Once again Empire opted for a subdued, fairly sepia look. A couple of shots in Tampa or on the Atlantic City beach boasted a bit more pep, but the desaturated brownish tint dominated. Given the stylistic choices, the hues seemed fine. Blacks came across as dark and rich, while shadows showed mostly positive presence. A few low-light shots were a bit murky, but not to a serious degree. This was another good presentation.

Lather, rinse, repeat when it came to Season Four’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. Like prior years, the series tended to be fairly dialogue-oriented, so much of the material remained environmental. Nonetheless, the occasional action sequences brought the mix to life in a fine fashion, as those used the spectrum well. This mainly meant lots of guns and explosions, all of which presented appropriate bang for the buck.

In terms of audio quality, the track satisfied. Music was rich and full, while speech appeared distinctive and natural. Effects showed positive delineation, as they boasted clean tones and nice impact. Bass response appeared taut and delivered a good punch at the right times. As was the case in the past, the audio lacked the ambition for a high grade, but the material seemed worthy of a “B”.

Expect bonus content that echoes what we found with the first three seasons. Six episodes boast audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:

“New York Sour” - executive producer/writer Howard Korder, executive producer/writer Tim Van Patten and actor Steve Buscemi;

“All In” - creator/executive producer/writer Terence Winter, writer David Matthews, director Ed Bianchi and actor Michael Stuhlbarg;

“Erlkonig” - Korder, Van Patten, and actors Anthony Laciura, Brian Geraghty, and Gretchen Mol;

“The Old Ship of Zion” - Korder and actors Erik LaRay Harvey, Michael Kenneth Williams and Margot Bingham;

“Havre de Grace” - Korder, Williams, Bingham and director Allen Coulter;

“Farewell Daddy Blues” - Winter, Van Patten and Buscemi.

Across the various tracks, we hear about cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, period details and historical elements, themes and story elements, and other areas. Fans who screened the prior three seasons will know what to expect from these inconsistent chats.

Normally I like to select the best and the worst commentaries from the season, but this time, they all seem pretty similar. This means that the strongest – and the weakest – have the same traits. We get a reasonable amount of useful insights but we also find more banal chatter than I’d like. The commentaries still merit a listen, but they never become especially memorable.

Found on all four platters, we get Boardwalk Chronicle. The components run alongside all 12 episodes and split into these categories:

“CHARACTERS: displays which characters are in the current scene along with a brief biography”;

“LOCATION: shows where the current scene takes place”;

“FACTS: The history of the people and events that inspired Boardwalk Empire”;

“SCOUTING THE BOARDWALK: In each episode an icon will appear and a video featurette will show you how the Location Managers of Boardwalk Empire finds the unique buildings and neighborhoods that bring the 1920s to life.”

All of those “Scouting” clips will appear on Disc Four, so I’ll discuss them there. For the time being, I’ll focus on the “Characters”, “Facts” and “Location” aspects of “Chronicle”. These give us a reasonable number of useful details about the series. They cover the expected subjects and throw in interesting elements in a manner unobtrusive enough to one can watch the shows with “Chronicle” activated and not lose track of the stories.

Disc One provides a featurette called Season 3 Revisited. Hosted by Terence Winter, this 14-minute, 32-second piece gives us a quick overview of the series’ third season. It’s a nice refresher, as it gets us back up to date before we launch into the fourth set of shows.

On Disc Two, we find a panel discussion called PaleyFest: Made in NY. It runs 26 minutes, eight seconds and features Korder, Williams, Mol, Winter and actor Jeffrey Wright. They discuss story/character areas, cast and performances, and other series areas. Nothing memorable pops up here, so expect a fairly flat chat.

Everything else appears on Disc Four. The Onyx Club: A Step Back in Time fills nine minutes, 12 seconds with info from Winter, Van Patten, Korder, Bingham, costume designers John Dunn and Lisa Padovani, set decorator Carol Silverman, production designer Bill Groom, historian/author Burton W. Peretti, Tulane University Director of American Studies Joel Dinerstein, authors Lucy Moore and Jonathan Eig, choreographer Pat Birch, and music supervisor Randall Poster. We get notes about set/costume design and music/choreography as well as historical reflections on the era/circumstances. This never becomes a deep program, but it offers a decent overview.

We focus on one actor/character via the seven-minute, 40-second Becoming Harrow. It delivers notes from Van Patten and actor Jack Huston. We find thoughts about the character and Huston’s performance. The show covers the subject well.

Similar to programs on earlier sets, New Characters goes for five minutes, five seconds and features Winter, Wright, Bingham, and actors Ron Livingston, Patricia Arquette, Morgan Spector, and Domenick Lombardozzi. As expected, this piece gives us character overviews for S4’s new participants. It’s useful if you watch it before you view the episodes but it lacks value if seen after you check out all the shows.

Mentioned earlier, Scouting the Boardwalk lasts 23 minutes, 10 seconds and offers details from location managers Audra Gorman and Amanda Foley. They tell us about the various sets and locations used in S4. The individual featurettes remain brief but they add up to a nice take on the different spots.

Season Four of Boardwalk Empire may present its best year to date. It develops its characters and situations well to culminate in a fantastic finale. The Blu-rays show good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Fans will continue to enjoy the series through this satisfying collection of shows.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main