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Thursday, June 2, 2016

VINYL Comes to Blu-ray

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Vinyl - The Complete First Season' on Blogcritics.

HBO’s new drama is Vinyl, which only recently completed its freshman run, will soon be available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD. Created by Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter, and Rolling Stone contributing editor Rich Cohen, Vinyl is set in the New York City music industry of the 1970s, and although lots of familiar names are dropped, the main characters are fictional. With deservedly mixed reviews, it isn’t HBO’s strongest entry, but I found it worth watching just the same.
At the center of Vinyl is Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale,Ant-Man, Nurse Jackie), an exec trying to sell his struggling company. Richie once had a real love of music, as viewers get to see in flashbacks peppered throughout the installment, but now he’s older and settled. Married to Devon (Olivia Wilde, Rush, House), Richie seems ready to get away from the chaos and cacophony. Were he able to get back to what he loved about the art form, he might stick around, but surrounded by business crap, he’s ready to be done. If he can just make one last deal to get himself out.
Surrounding Richie is a delightful cast. Among those performers joining Bobby at the office are Ray Romano (Parenthood), Max Casella (Inside Llewyn Davis), P.J. Byrne (The Wolf of Wall Street), and Juno Temple (Maleficent). With this ensemble, I would watch just about any series they choose to do.
Despite this, though, like Winter and Scorsese’s last HBO show, Boardwalk EmpireVinyl starts slow. Really slow. After hour one, I started distractedly playing games on my phone. I feel bad that I wasn’t giving the show my full attention, but it doesn’t seem like anything very interesting is happening, and that is disappointing, considering everything the series has going for it. Richie is boring and the flashbacks don’t really add anything to the present-day storyline, other than to flesh Richie out a bit. It feels tired.
Thankfully, by hour two, things really take a turn. Part of it is Andrew Dice Clay’s (Entourage, Blue Jasmine) character and the events surrounding him. But part of it is that who Richie truly is comes to the surface.
Richie isn’t the bland, typical personality one thinks he is at first. We see him doing drugs and lying to his wife, and it’s easy to pigeonhole him as just another blowhard in a crazy world who puts himself first and gives into his passions. Except, he’s not, and once that is realized, Vinyl comes to life. Once we’re able to see that Richie really does love Devon and is trying to do right by her; once we see the pressure he is under and how much he struggles to cope with it; that’s when the series becomes unique and fresh and makes its mark.
Though, it remains uneven throughout the 10 episodes, never hitting the potential established in the double-length pilot. I kept wanting Vinyl to be something better than it is, do something more. It’s good, but it’s not as great as it could be. Maybe we’ll get to see it reach the peak in season two.
The argument for going HD on this one is how dark many of the scenes are. Set in clubs and nighttime streets, you’ll want to get the best picture quality to see the layers of grey and what’s happening in the shadows. Also, with some great music, it’s worth it to make the best use of the soundtrack. So, as always, I recommend choosing Blu-ray or Digital HD over standard.
The extras are sadly few. We do get an extended version of “Making Vinyl: Recreating the ’70s,” which is appreciated, though mostly seen before if you’re a frequent watcher of the network. We also get the “Inside the Episode” bits that HBO now regularly features as part of their broadcasts. Besides collecting material already released, the only thing new on the discs are audio commentaries. Thankfully, Cannavale, Wilde, Winter, and others participate, so they are worth listening to. Still, I’m hoping season two provides a bit more, this release basically hitting the minimum on bonus features, which far too many seasons do these days.
Vinyl: The Complete First Season is available now for digital download and will be released on disc June 7, 2016.

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