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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Football > Action > Epic > War > Cable TV > Documentary > Baseball > Ballers: The Complete First Season (2016/HBO Blu-ray Set)/Game Of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (2013) + The Complete Fourth Season (2014/Limited Edition HBO Blu-ray Steelbook Editions w/Dolby At

Ballers: The Complete First Season (2016/HBO Blu-ray Set)/Game Of Thrones: The Complete Third Season (2013) + The Complete Fourth Season (2014/Limited Edition HBO Blu-ray Steelbook Editions w/Dolby Atmos upgrades)/Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball (2015/First Run DVD)

Picture: B-/B/B/C+ Sound: B-/B+/B+/C+ Extras: D/B/B/C+ Main Programs: D/B/B/C

Now for titles on sports, games and HBO...

We start with Ballers: The Complete First Season (2016), a new and really, really awful series about people in the world of football (like the NFL hasn't had enough horrid publicity of late) with Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson playing essentially a really bad variant of himself as a know-it-all observer and participant in the ups, down, ins and outs of this world now that his character is also a manager. It also takes place in Miami, home of the infamous, scandal-plagued Dolphins, one of the worst NFL teams of all time since their 1970s peak. We get a different football team in the city here, but YAWN... the show can't escape the rottenness of that legacy either.

Co-producer by Mark Wahlberg (who usually does good) and Peter Berg (who badly directs the pilot show, but he's not alone!), this is an extremely sloppy, cynical, predictable and unintentionally funny mess that starts out really bad and just gets worse and worse and worse and worse in what is the poorest piece of fiction on american football ever made. I thought maybe the problems would wear out after a few episodes, but 10 episodes are pretty hideous and what it considers humor is juvenile and definitely the nadir of HBO. I thought it played like bad 1980s programming on the USA Network, but remembered those exploitation series were actually less cynical and moire ambitious.

Needless to say, this is a piece of the 'rock' you can all afford not to buy. Lame!

The few extras are Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray only offers Inside The Episodes clips.

Fortunately, HBO has so many better shows and Game Of Thrones is one of them. Though I'm not a big fan, I can see why people like the show and are impressed. Its realism is balanced with intelligence and script writing that always goes for something different. HBO has decided to start reissuing the show in new Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook Editions with Dolby Atmos upgrades, making this the first TV series to get an 11.1 sound release. Bigger fans of the show reviewed the latest seasons to get this upgrade and here are the links to their coverage...

The Complete Third Season (2013)


Extras are the same as the previous box set, but you get a collectible sigil magnet.

The Complete Fourth Season (2014)


Except for Justice of the Seven Kingdoms (Bronn), the extras are the same as the previous box set, but you get a collectible sigil magnet.

I think these are the editions to own now and hope it inspires more TV (including a few classic shows that have already been upgraded to 5.1, even if they were monophonic when they originally aired) to get the Atmos treatment (or DTS:X, et al) as the 11.1 makes it like having never seen the show before and allows the sound to breathe and expand. More on that in a moment.

Finally we have Drew Taylor & Matthew Taylor's far too short Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball (2015), a real sports story (yeah!) how this 1960s baseball icon went from that to Vietnam, to deciding to become a medical doctor and then move back to baseball helping other players. It is an interesting story and a good one, but we only get 20 minutes of it. Yes, 20!!!

Fortunately the extras last an hour and include festival Q&As, Recording The Music, Playable Soundtrack and a Filmmaker Interview. However, that is no excuse for the main program to be so short and small. You mean to tell me Major League Baseball and TV networks covering baseball in the 1960s did not have more archival footage for this?

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Ballers has few balls as we get quick cuts, motion blur and denatured images throughout, furthering the fakeness, phoniness and problems of what is the worst TV series HBO ever featured. Good luck trying to watch it and actually enjoy it

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on both Thrones Blu-ray sets are the same high quality transfers from the previous Blu-rays and you get demo shots sometimes, but not enough for me to rate it higher, yet fans will be more than pleased (until a 4K Blu-ray wave arrives?).

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Baseball is a mix of old and new footage, edited well enough, though I wish some of the older film footage was upgraded to HD transfers. Otherwise, this plays as well as expected.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Ballers is a mixed bag of too loud in dumb ways and not-so-well mixed and presented in others with minor location audio issues and just a general sense of inconsistency, much like the show.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 on the Thrones sets are definite improvements over their DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless presentations, giving us a bit more detail and just generally having a more naturalistic sense throughout. Though the show was not produced with this kind of sound in mind, the recordings were top rate enough to do the upgrades and it is a success.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Baseball is a mix of simple stereo and some older mono audio, which is expected for such a documentary. Location audio is never a major issue either, so not bad.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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