Back in 2005 something odd happened. There was a science fiction movie that came out named Doom. That was a first for me because it became the first film adapted from a video game I actually didn’t hate. Coincidentally it also starred one of the men we’re here to roast today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Back then I only knew the man as The Rock, and somehow I completely missed all his time in the ring within the professional wrestling world, but make no mistake about it you could see the motivation in the eyes of this wrestling turned movie star to break down walls and take no prisoners. However, it really wasn’t until his involvement in The Fast & The Furious franchise in 2011 did I really start to fall for the man. Fast forward now five more years and yeah, Mr. Dwayne Johnson has my full and undivided attention as he lays waste to all in his domination of Hollywood.
Make no mistake about it, my love for Ballers is completely accidental. Let’s call it brilliant marketing on behalf of HBO. They were ingenious enough to shoehorn Ballers in with my Sunday night favorites of Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley during their respective season five and two premiere runs back in 2015. Couple my love of everything NFL and Florida and there was no way in the world that I was ever going to hate Ballers even if I tried really hard to do so. However, I bring this all up because something else happened around this time too, Dwayne Johnson swept me off my feet like a gushing lover. The man embodied and owned his role and now for the first time, even after the lunacy of San Andreas, which I liked, I’m actually looking forward to The Rock in not only the up and coming season of Ballers, but whatever movie role he’s in that comes first. So there! I’m now a Rock fan!
I can’t be the only fan of Ballers because not only is it coming back this July for another season, but it also became HBO’s biggest comedy in a decade. Not bad, eh? The show obviously stars Dwayne Johnson as a retired NFL football star trying to make ends meet as an agent. Actually, it follows a group of past and present NFL players trying to figure out where the game ends and life begins. There’s also a lot of drama, partying and betrayal to go around. Think the opposite of Desperate Housewives in a NFL/sun drenched Miami, Florida setting. Other series regulars include Troy Garity, Rob Corddry, London Brown and Jazmyn Simon. Ballers was created by Stephen Levinson (Boardwalk Empire, Entourage) and executive produced by Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg and many more.
So here’s the 4-1-1. Spencer Strasmore (Johnson) is a retired NFL football superstar who is trying to reinvent himself as a financial manager for current players in the most infamous sun drenched city in Florida I have yet to ever visit, Miami. His “entourage” includes Ricky (John David Washington, a former pro-football player himself), a talented but troublesome wide receiver who seeks to balance his off-field antics with his passion for playing the game (football and sex), Charles (Omar Miller), a retired lineman who’s finding it hard to adjust to civilian life as a Chevy car salesman and Vernon (Donovan Carter), a player with a rookie contract, whose promise never to forget “where he came from” lands him in big financial trouble with everyone he knows having their hands out. It just goes to show you, the game’s not only hard on the field, but extra difficult off as well.
I crafted my last sentence up above carefully because if you think of the life of a professional athlete, rockstar or basically any kind of celebrity it’s almost like seeing wartime in the armed forces. No, these celebrities are not as courageous as the brave men and women of our armed forces, but that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer a familiar form of PTSD when it’s all said and done and they are thrusted back into everyday civilian life. That’s what I love about this show. Ballers is the football version of HBO’s Entourage, but brutally raw, painful, full of identity issues and lots of fun at the same time. Yep! I used that F-word. Ballers is F-U-N! Dwayne, Rob and the rest of the gang make this show a real hoot despite the drama flying left and right everywhere.
The success of Ballers may have a little something to do with The Rock’s cool demeanor, character and charisma, okay a lot, but it’s really all about the excess off the field and how to control it. One can learn a lot of valuable lessons from Ballers. You can take that to the bank. However, one can also argue the real star of the show is the gorgeous Miami, FL. Make no mistake about it, the Miami sun, water and landscapes play a big role in what makes this show simply tick and work. It all adds an extra layer of authenticity to everything and when you combo that with these actors all having such a genuine good time and really getting into their roles like they do here on Ballers, you have one hell of a force to be reckoned with. July can’t come fast enough. Bring on the second season of Ballers. Daddy needs a new pair of Air Jordans!
- Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Clarity/Detail: Maybe it’s the sun-soaked Florida landscapes or the obvious stretch marks across the Rock’s upper chest, but things look phenomenal here. Detail is amazingly impeccable throughout in the textures, skin pigments, backgrounds, clothing, vegetation and the many water environments (pool, oceanside, etc.), not to mention all the Florida honeys, like where I found mine.
- Depth: Because of the clarity and detail on display the onscreen characters all pop in the utmost of 3D-likeness against the deep backgrounds. There are too many examples to list here, but you’re just going to have to trust me…depth of field wears a badge of prominence throughout this 2-disc Blu-ray set.
- Black Levels: The black levels are deep and inky throughout. They brilliantly pop against the contrast of the many Florida neon lights of Miami.
- Color Reproduction: The colors are vivid and bright, but change tonally from scene-to-scene depending upon the amount generous Florida sunshine creeping through. It’s the utmost of realism too as because anyone that knows Florida knows it’s not always sunny 24/7, but gets pretty cloudy and stormy at least once a day. You gotta love it! I love the wild green vegetation and blue waters.
- Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all lifelike and natural, and most importantly there’s a lot of Miami flesh prominently on display throughout here.
- Noise/Artifacts: I did not notice any noise or unwanted artifacts that would keep you from enjoying this perfect HBO presentation.
- Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Latin Spanish DTS 2.0, German DTS 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Latin Spanish, German, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
- Dynamics: The dynamics are well developed and equalized here, but like every other drama without a kicking soundtrack, which this show thankfully has, things just get really dialogue heavy. That’s no fault to this presentation at all, but just the reality of the situation. Other than that dynamics are in check with the utmost of realism and authenticity of how things are balanced.
- Low Frequency Extension: You will instantly notice the subwoofer pumping due to the show’s killer soundtrack and musical selections employed throughout here due in part to the show’s party like atmosphere in Miami, FL where the party just never stops, at least not for ballers. You have to keep the jams thumping and life interesting, right? Of course you do! I even had to turn it down a few times.
- Surround Sound Presentation: Besides the LFE presentation, this is probably the only area I would have loved to have heard beefed up because without atmospheric and ambiance moments, the rears only come alive (in a big way though) during the show’s party-like soundtrack hits and the many club scenes, etc. When sub pumps and thumps, the rears truly do put you in the middle of everything and I love every one of these moments.
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialog is clear, intelligible and loud throughout. I have zero complaints here.
Unlike most HBO Blu-ray box sets Ballers: The Complete First Season is really nothing to write home about in the Extras category. However, the only extras I care about are thankfully both found here, the redeemable Digital HD code for both the UltraViolet and iTunes services. So you really have no excuse to watch Ballers anywhere and however you want. Let’s take a look down below at the only other extras you’ll find in this 2 disc set (episodes 1-5 are housed on Blu-ray disc 1 where episodes 6-10 are on the second disc).
- Inside The Episode (HD) – In typical HBO fashion, each episode contains a short little featurette that dives deeper into that particular episode.
Whether you’re a Rock fan, HBO series fan, NFL fan, drama fan or even an everything Florida fan, I think Ballers has a little something for all to go around here. You just can’t beat the charm and charisma that Dwayne Johnson exhumes in this series. There’s just something magical about the way he moves, talks and that million dollar smile of his. It’s like bling. I just can’t put my finger on it, but I also know I can’t resist it either. Call it divine intervention, brilliant marketing on the behalf of HBO last year or whatever you want, I’m a hardcore fan of Ballers and I highly recommend picking up this 2-disc First Season Blu-ray set this June. Why not work on your pump and get yourself ready for game time before the July premiere of the second season of Ballers? You know you want to!
Ballers The Complete First Season
Will Sack Retails Shelves June 14th