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Kevin’s Digital Week #4

Blu-Ray of the Week:
Rome: The Complete Series

One of HBO’s most expensive and expansive series, Rome From the costumes to the sets — much of the series was shot at Rome’s famed Cinecittà Studios—the viewer is thrown into the middle of the republic, whether it’s a slum area, a meeting of the senate or Julius Caesar’s vast villa. These 22 hour-long episodes introduce us to characters that run the gamut from the highest master to the lowest slave, with a pair of soldiers are guides through the stories of love and hate, friendship and betrayal, that escapes soap opera levels thanks to the superb production values, mostly competent filmmaking (the first three episodes were helmed by veteran director Michael Apted) and a superb cast of mainly British and Irish actors like Lindsey Duncan, Polly Walker and Ciaran Hinds, who plays Caesar.

The Blu-Ray release includes 13 audio commentaries by cats and crew, which give an overview of the epic scale of the production, as do several featurettes. An interactive feature that resembles VH1’s pop-up videos shows pertinent historical information onscreen while you watch the episodes. Historical inaccuracies aside, Rome—like Showtime’s The Tudors—is a costume epic worth immersing oneself in. recreates the great Roman Empire in so lavish a fashion that it seems to have been made specifically for the Blu-Ray format.

DVD of the Week:
Paul McCartney: Good Evening New York City

(Hear Music)
Paul McCartney’s concerts at Citi Field in New York City in July were the unquestioned musical highlights of the summer, and this release presents the concert in full: over 2-1/2 hours’ worth of some of the greatest tunes ever written, with a heavy emphasis on the Beatles (21 songs) over his solo work (14 songs), and a guest superstar, Billy Joel, who’s younger than Paul but looks several years older. A youthful 67 years old, the legendary McCartney still has a stage presence lacking in rockers and other pop idols less than half his age, whether he’s playing bass, guitar, mandolin, ukulele or piano. And his willingness to play his underrated and high-quality newer stuff—including two songs from last year’s Electric Arguments album by The Fireman and a pair from 2007’s Memory Almost Full—is a good sign, even though the second half of the concert is a torrid run-through some of the high points of his Fab Four catalog. And who else would be so brazen as to juxtapose the ultimate ballad, “Yesterday,” with the ultimate screaming rocker, “Helter Skelter”?

The DVD concert film includes a DTS 5.1 surround sound mix, which makes you feel like you’re back at CitiField the night of the show. (The two CDs also included also have the entire 35-song set, and if you buy a limited edition package, an extra DVD features a backstage documentary.) My lone quibble with all McCartney concert DVDs is their insistence on showing fans singing along, fooling around for the cameras, and other such nonsense. We get it, Paul: you were a Beatle and everyone loves you. But I’d rather see the musicians onstage all the time, and keep the cutesy visual gimmicks to a minimum.

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