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LIONSGATE

SERIES INFO
Creators:
Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro
Cast:
Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascale, Joanne Christie
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis:
A chronicled look at the criminal exploits of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 492 min.
Price: $29.97
Release Date: 8/23/2016

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary for Three Episodes
• “Establishing the Route” Featurette
• “The Colombian Connection” Featurette
• “The Language Barrier” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Previews


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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


Narcos: Season One [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 29, 2016)

Originally found on Netflix, Narcos brings us a 2015 series about the drug trade. This three-disc set provides all 10 of Season One’s episodes. The plot synopses come straight from the Blu-ray packaging.

Descenso: “Colombian smuggler Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) begins his foray into cocaine production and distribution. Meanwhile, DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) joins the war on drugs in Bogota.”

Like most pilot episodes, “Descenso” devotes most of its running time to exposition – lots and lots of exposition in this case. The show gives us a brief history of the drug trade as well as elements to place us in the series’ era and character introductions.

That means it packs a lot into its 57 minutes, but it covers matters reasonably well. “Descenso” gives enough space to its characters to bring them some life and it manages to introduce matters in a compelling enough manner. All of this launches the series on a positive note.

The Sword of Simon Bolivar: “Murphy’s new partner Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) introduces Murphy to the inner workings of Colombian law enforcement, while a group of Colombian revolutionaries make a move against the Narcos.”

A typical “second episode” tends to continue with more exposition while it also moves the story forward. “Sword” falls into that pattern, as it gives us a little more background about characters but it also creates a narrative that pushes ahead. In that regard, it works reasonably well and turns into a mostly successful episode.

The Men of Always: “Pablo attempts to run for public office and deals with a double-crossing politician.”

Much of Narcos bases events on fact, which is good because otherwise we might view the series’ twists as too ridiculous. Major drug kingpin runs for president? Absurd – but real.

That thread makes “Always” an entertaining continuation of the series. It allows for a mix of comedy and drama that works pretty well, so I look forward to future shows.

The Palace in Flames: “The American and Colombian governments unite in the fight against – and punishment for – cocaine trafficking.”

Another “truth stranger than fiction” moment: a drug smuggler who actually used the alias “Ellis McPickle”. “Flames” gives us another good program, one that moves along the investigation of Escobar with reasonable entertainment as well.

There Will Always Be a Future: “Pablo takes extreme measures in an attempt to influence Colombian officials to reject extradition.”

The biggest development here comes from the race for Colombian president, as a new entrant complicates matters. That side of things adds intrigue, but the rest of the episode seems a little slow. It’s not a bad show, but it seems a bit less compelling than usual.

Explosivos: “Murphy sets out to ensure the safety of Colombian presidential candidate Cesar Gaviria (Raúl Méndez) while also helping to protect Elisa (Ana de la Reguera), a former M-19 member.”

Alluded to at the end of the prior show, “Explosivos” depicts the escalation of war between the narcos and the authorities. The show ratchets up the threats and potential unrest, so it turns into a good push for the main narrative and characters.

You Will Cry Tears of Blood: “The Colombian government and the CIA intensify their pursuit of Pablo, who has now gone into hiding.”

A dramatic event that concludes “Explosivos” casts a shadow over “Cry”, which shows that action’s fallout. We trace additional drama that lacks the literal explosiveness of the prior show but still manages to elevate the tension. That allows “Cry” to bring us another strong episode.

La Gran Mentira: “Pablo and Gustavo (Juan Pablo Raba) narrowly escape capture during a DEA raid.”

Of the many “truth is stranger than fiction” elements in Narcos, the notion that a government would let a criminal build his own prison and keep police away from it seems super-kooky. But it happened, and the facts behind the series’ fiction make it more interesting than otherwise might be the case. “Mentira” escalates the action and drama in a satisfying manner.

La Catedral: “Pablo negotiates a deal with the Colombian government and starts to build his own prison.”

With only one more episode to go in Season One, I expect “Catedral” to heat up matters, and it does. Plenty of violence and intrigue emerges in a good program that pushes us toward the finale.

Despegue: “Pablo’s activities in prison prompt the Colombian government to take extreme action, while Murphy and Pena deal with a problem of their own.”

Season One finishes with some resolution but a lot of outstanding questions. The semi-cliffhanger nature seems a bit frustrating, but the episode still concludes matters well enough to be a fitting finale.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Narcos appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The visuals held up fairly well.

Sharpness usually looked appropriate. The series used a mix of archival elements and stylized photographic choices that could lead to some softness, but most of the time, the shows seemed accurate and concise. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes or source flaws.

Like focus, colors tended toward stylistic choices. This meant a lot of the usual orange and teal, but other hues mixed in as well, and these seemed fine within the series’ visual decisions. Blacks were pretty dark and tight, and low-light shots displayed reasonable clarity. While not excellent, the visuals appeared positive.

As for the series’ DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, it opened up matters in a satisfactory manner. Much of the time, the episodes focused on music and dialogue, but effects broadened circumstances fairly well. Occasional scenes with guns/violence added the most active material, but general atmosphere also fleshed out the spectrum in a positive way.

Audio quality seems more than satisfactory. Speech remained natural and distinctive, while music appeared lively and full. Effects displayed good accuracy and heft. This turned into a solid auditory experience for a TV series.

Three episodes come with audio commentaries. Here’s what we find:

“Descenso”: executive producer/director Jose Padilha and actor Wagner Moura;

“Explosivos”: executive producer Chris Brancato;

“Despegue”: executive producer Eric Newman and director Andi Baiz.

The discussions look at story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and shooting in Colombia, music, fact vs. fiction, and connected details.

For the most part, the commentaries work well. All give us good information, though all suffer from bouts of dead air as well. Still, we learn a fair amount along the way, so these tracks deserve to be heard.

Disc One opens with ads for Hannibal Season 3, Orange Is the New Black Season 3, Mad Men “Complete Collection” and Sicario.

On Disc Two, we find two featurettes. Establishing the Route goes for 24 minutes, 49 seconds and includes Newman, Brancato, Padilha, Moura, editor Leo Trombetta, composer Pedro Bromfman and actors Paulina Gaitan, Maurice Compte, Joanna Christie, Diego Catano, and Boyd Holbrook.

The program covers the series’ origins/development and working with Netflix, casting, characters and performances, fact vs. fiction, visual choices and influences, editing and structure in the age of “binge watching”, music and pushing toward Season Two. “Route” offers a pretty good overview of production areas, especially the way the Netflix distribution model – which released all 10 episodes on the same day - affects the series. It becomes a positive program.

The Colombian Connection lasts 11 minutes, 41 seconds and features Brancato, Newman, Padilha, Moura, Holbrook, Compte, Gaitan, Christie, associate producer Jesse Moore, production designer Diana Trujillo, co-executive producer Andres Calderon, and actors Stephanie Sigman and Alberto Ammann. This piece examines shooting in Colombia and various locations, story/character elements, and related domains. “Connection” expands on the first featurette to give us useful material about working in South America.

Disc Three provides another featurette. The Language Barrier runs 11 minutes, 40 seconds and offers info from Newman, Brancato, Padilha, Moura, Catano, Holbrook, Gaitan, Christie, Trombetta, Moore, and Sigman. The piece looks at the series’ use of language and its impact on the actors and crew. “Barrier” provides an interesting view of the subject matter.

Seven Deleted Scenes take up a total of seven minutes, 23 seconds. In an annoying choice, the disc presents these as one running reel that fails to identify from which episode each clip comes. Is it that hard to add a title card to provide some perspective?

As for the scenes themselves, they offer minor additions. We get a little more exposition – mainly behind the scenes with the US ambassador – as well as some character bits. These can be interesting but not important.

Through its 10 episodes, Season One of Narcos provides a largely compelling take on factual events. It spins these in a fictionalized manner and it creates a good new take on the drug wars. The Blu-rays offer positive picture and audio along with average bonus materials. Narcos delivers a satisfying series.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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