‘Boardwalk Empire’ among new video releases

by Rich Heldenfels

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

10 January 2012


One TV custom is to time a home-video release to the premiere of a show’s new season. So, for example, “Justified’s” second season landed on video recently, with the third season starting Jan. 17.

But “Boardwalk Empire” has taken its own course. The second season concluded not long ago, and the first arrives on video on Tuesday.

Still, if you have not seen the show yet (and, with what pay-cable channels cost, you may not have), the video release gives you a chance to catch a complicated, compelling series.

“Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season” (HBO Home Entertainment, 12 episodes, $59.99 standard DVD, $79.98 Blu-ray) is based on the true story of Atlantic City, N.J. (and based on the book of the same name). The series starts as Prohibition begins — and the resort town is a prime location for booze, corruption and crime.

Steve Buscemi stars as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, a fictionalized version of real-life political boss Enoch Johnson; Thompson is the go-to guy in the city, the man with his hand in virtually all legal and illegal deals in the town. His story is mingled with that of other characters trying to get by, advance or literally make a killing in Atlantic City; among those passing through are Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

Terence Winter, a veteran of “The Sopranos,” created and was an executive producer of “Boardwalk Empire”; Martin Scorsese is also an executive producer and directed the series premiere. Buscemi is endlessly entertaining — moving from the smoothness of a career politician playing up to a community group to the profane and violent directness of the criminal that Thompson also is. The premiere drags in places, not least because it has to introduce a lot of characters and agendas, but the pace improves.

Extras on DVD include segments on the making of the series, creating the legendary Atlantic City boardwalk and about Atlantic City itself, along with audio commentaries on six episodes and other elements. The Blu-ray adds a picture-in-picture component offering details about the production and Atlantic City history.

At a distant entertainment extreme from “Boardwalk Empire” is “What’s Your Number?” (Fox, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 in a Blu-ray/ DVD combo), the film starring Anna Faris. Occasionally funny other places, Faris is no help — and gets no help — in this witlessly crude comedy about a woman revisiting her former lovers in search of a soul mate. How bad is it? I figured I would give it 30 minutes to show it was worth watching all the way through. In less than 15, I was not only watching the clock but wondering why time was passing so slowly. Spare yourself.

I mentioned “Justified: The Complete Second Season” (Sony, 13 episodes, $39.95 DVD, $49.95 Blu-ray) but wanted to mention it again because this is a show you should not miss. (The third season starts very well, too.) Built around a character created by Elmore Leonard, it focuses on U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), working in his old stomping grounds in Kentucky and so possessing a lot of history with both the good guys and the bad in that area. The second season has him in extended conflict with pot dealer Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale); Martindale won a well-deserved Emmy for her work, which includes a marvelous scene in the season finale.

Extras include outtakes, deleted scenes and a set visit.

Down video road: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” arrives on video on Feb. 11. … “The Ides of March,” the political drama directed by George Clooney (who also co-stars), will be on video on Jan. 17. … Season two of “Rocko’s Modern Life” will be on DVD on Feb. 7. … “Thunder Soul,” the very good documentary about a high school band teacher, will be on DVD on Jan. 31. …HBO Home Entertainment will gear up for Black History Month with the Jan. 17 releases of Thurgood (with Laurence Fishburne) on DVD and Blu-ray, and the Blu-ray debuts of “Tuskegee Airmen” (also with Fishburne) and “The Josephine Baker Story.”

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