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Ray Donovan – Season 1 (Blu-ray Review)

Ray-DonovanWhen it debuted, Ray Donovan was a pretty high profile release.  It championed Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight on premium cable in a modern LA-esque Bostonian mob story.  The premiere broke Showtime records and became the highest rated debut in Showtime network history.  But, somewhere along the line I feel like Ray Donovan floated away from the conversation (maybe I just don’t read Ray Donovan-heavy film/tv sites).  Which is strange, because I felt with each episode this series got stronger and stronger with potential to be one of the most intense powerhouse television series in the future.  Maybe season 2 will hit it huge again with people catching up.  Because this is a really groovy show and has loads of potential to end up being something special if it ends up becoming fully realized.  So, yeah, go check out Ray Donovan.

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Series 

Former Bostonian Ray Donovan is a “fixer” for a powerful Los Angeles law firm.  He cleans up messes for the rich and famous, helping them to keep from embarrassment and danger in the public eye.  Ray’s father is unexpectedly released from prison and shows up in Los Angeles.  A lot of the past starts to get dug up, confronted and the FBI begins taking an interest in taking down Ray Donovan, his operation and his father.

I was pretty excited when Ray Donovan began last year.  Since Ransom, I’ve been a pretty big fan of actor Liev Schreiber.  And of course I loved him in the Scream movies.  When I discovered he was headlining a new series on Showtime, of course I was in.  The sucky thing about Ray Donovan is it got paired on Sunday nights with the absolutely terrible (and unforgivable) final season of Dexter that many of us are still recovering from.  After Dexter would end, it would make it hard to watch any more TV for the night sometimes.

Ray Donovan was far better than Dexter.  I must admit, for the first four episodes of the show I kind of was like “this is some good acting and is competently made, but what is this show’s thing or why I tune in every week?”  But, then it strikes around that fourth episode and you finally get what’s really going on.  From then on, Ray Donovan became a much more intense and engaging show that made you sort of eager for the next week after each episode ended.

One thing I do enjoy about Ray Donovan is that its premised is hardly limited.  While the first season dealt with Ray’s family and past coming back to haunt him, future seasons need not follow.  There are so many angles that could play.  You could easily do a season long storyline based on something to do with his “fixing”, an angle of the show that sucked me with the first episode that still has a lot of room that can be explored.  Whatever it is, this show is really set with some great side characters and potential plot threads, that each season could easily be its own unique flavor.

Ray Donovan also is really good at turning the tables on you once you’ve made your choice about who these characters are and their motivations.  Seriously, you’ll be just like Ray and think his father Mick is scum of the Earth and root against him.  In an odd twist of fate, by the end, you’ll be pulling for Mick and begin to start doubting and questioning Ray by the season’s end.  Its all so naturally and well developed too.  Oh yeah, can I mention there’s a fun turn in a recurring guest role for this season by the legendary James Woods?  He’s here and he’s intimidating and great.

I know I didn’t give a deeper overview of the season, but I wanted to remain as far from spoilers as I could, because I think people need to be turned onto this show.  Its first season was pretty great and showed a lot of potential for it as a series.  This Blu-ray release will give you a month to go ahead and catch up in time for season 2 on July 13th!

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Episodes

“The Bag Or The Bat”

“A Mouth Is A Mouth”

“Twerk”

“Black Cadillac”

“The Golem”

“Housewarming”

“New Birthday”

“Bridget”

“Road Trip”

“Fite Nite”

“Bucky Fuckin’ Dent”

“Same Exactly”

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Clarity/Detail:  The overall picture is very detailed, clear and sharp.  It’s a very lifelike image with lifelike motion.  Detail on clothing fabric and surfaces is very very high.

Depth:  Depth is pretty solid here.  Characters appear 3 dimensional in regard to the surrounding settings and in regard to foreground and background.

Black Levels:  Blacks are a bit rich and can disguise or hide detail at some points.  Light crushing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are a little more downplayed and set for a lifelike appearnce.  They hold very strong and are striking in their own right, but are held in check for the most part to keep things “real”.

Flesh Tones: Consistent and warm.  Detail on faces is very high.  Every wrinkle, blemish, freckle, stubble or acne is accounted for.

Noise/Artifacts:  None.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish 2.0 Stereo, French 5.1 Surround

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Dynamics:  This is a very good track.  Everything feels loose and natural.  A fantastic balance between effects, vocals and score.  There are varying volumes and plenty of interplay between channels.

Low Frequency Extension:  There is a solid range of use with the subwoofer.  From gunshots to punches to door slamming, it gets a varied bunch of usage.

Surround Sound Presentation:  A great display of setting and environment.  While the rear channels are mainly for ambiance and score, the front speakers get plenty of play and show a range of diverse volume and sound.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is very crisp and clear.

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Extras 

They want you to believe the Showtime Sync app is a bonus feature for the Blu-ray.  But its not, it has nothing to do with the disc and you can use it no matter the platform you’re choosing to watch it.  The bonus content lies there, not on these discs.

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Summary 

Ray Donovan is a pretty awesome first season.  It starts strong and ends up building throughout the season.  The world and setting of Ray Donovan is one with many great possibilities for its future as a series.  This season 1 Blu-ray’s recommendation is based on how much you really loved the show.  Its presentation is grand, but the supplemental portion stinks.  There’s really nothing here.  I definitely recommend the 3 disc set based on the strength of the show and the performance of the Blu-ray audio and picture quality.  Get ready for season 2 on July 13th by grabbing this Blu-ray and catching up on June 10th.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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