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J.A.A. Purves

Boardwalk Empire

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Here's the link to the book.

Here's HBO's link to the show.

The story's set during the Prohibition era about the rise of Atlantic City.

Steve Buscemi looks the toughest I've ever seen him. Also has Michael Pitt (I hated him in Funny Games, or maybe I just hated the whole film), Michael Shannon (Pearl Harbor, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead), Stephen Graham (Sgt. Mike Ranney from Band of Brothers, Baby Face Nelson in Public Enemies), Kelly Macdonald (Choke, No Country For Old Men), and oh yeah, Michael Stuhlbarg (from A Serious Man).

Edited by Persiflage

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A friend of mine is a location-scouter/liaison for this series. He's pretty excited about it. He drove me past a couple of the locations where they've been shooting just last week.

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That is one badass looking preview. After a short drought, HBO is finally getting their act together again.

Damn, and that looked like that was Omar standing there for a second.

Edited by Persiflage

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That is one badass looking preview. After a short drought, HBO is finally getting their act together again.

Seriously, between this and Treme (with little accent on the 'e'), it looks like they're back into high gear. I'm usually a fan of watching stuff on DVD, but I might buy the episodes digitally as they're released.

Oh, was Michael Shannon in the trailer? I couldn't see him in it, and I know he's part of the cast.

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I saw him. He looked a lot like his creepy self from Revolutionary Road.

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This guy got to visit the set -

The Boardwalk I strolled on last Thursday in Brooklyn, N.Y., was not a mythical one. It was a 300-foot, true facsimile of the Atlantic City Boardwalk during that era. It was created as a part of the scenery one will see in September when HBO presents a 12-week series based on Nelson Johnson’s book Boardwalk Empire. From all reports that I have heard, it is destined to be the big hit of the 2010 television season. The series is based on a portion of the life of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who was the “benevolent dictator” of Atlantic City for 30 years. It begins in the era of Prohibition. However, there were speakeasies, otherwise known as clandestine bars, in just about every city in the country. Most fondly remembered are those with a closed door with a peephole. To gain access you would knock on the door and a bouncer could see who wished entrance to their establishment. If he knew you the door opened, if not it stayed closed. It was a time that saw the beginning of the mafia. It is alleged that Nucky helped to bring the leaders of the varied mobs together to a meeting in Atlantic City to get them to work together rather than kill each other. By the way, if you are interested in the exciting history of Atlantic City and its three benevolent dictators who had control of every facet of the city — and in many instances the state of New Jersey and in one instance the election of a president — I suggest you read Boardwalk Empire.

I not only walked along the Boardwalk, I also had the privilege of visiting Nucky Johnson’s replicated suite on the eighth floor of the Ritz Hotel. The producers of the HBO series put together an exact replica of the magnificent splendor of what was known as Nucky’s playroom. Every facet one can imagine from that era was evidenced in those rooms. I had not been privileged to have the pleasure of seeing any of the filming, but the few folks I spoke to who have seen it feel that this will be a great replacement for The Sopranos — the HBO series that ended in 2007. If it goes as well as anticipated, HBO will begin work on the second season in the fall.

Meanwhile, more recently, buyers in the foreign market are starting to notice the contrast between regular blah/cookie cutter network TV shows, and the new quality stuff HBO is coming out with now.

"I'd say overall, the studios played it safe," said Ben Frow, director of programs at Ireland's TV3 and TV3e. "There was no 'Glee' or 'Modern Family' -- nothing terrible, but nothing ground-breaking, either. Instead, there were so many cop shows they all started to look alike."

Crow said he was glad to no longer have output deals with a Hollywood studio.

"I'd rather pay more for less if that's what ends up happening with what's left on the open market," he said. "Too many of the series we had through output deals simply got canceled stateside, and we had to run them off in the middle of the night."

Although most of the focus during the Screenings is on the six Hollywood majors -- they represent almost all new primetime series on the five U.S. broadcast networks -- several indie distributors can make a dent with offbeat, provocative or outstanding content.

Scandinavia-based program buyer John Ranelagh termed "Empire" "the standout this go-round" even though his station, Norway's TV2, isn't forking out for the latest HBO drama series because it goes in an output deal to one of his competitors.

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I cannot access the videos on the site from work...is this newer than the one that played right before the True Blood premier? I am definitely looking forward to the series.

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Wow. I just got HBO and it looks like the timing couldn't be better.

And, since I didn't see anyone else confirm it above: Yes, Michael K. Williams (aka Omar from The Wire) is in the show.

However, I'm probably most excited about seeing Michael Shannon attached to this project.

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It premieres on September 19.

It really can't premiere fast enough.

By the way, am I the only one who has noticed a very important difference between THIS and this?

And between

and this?

Sometimes more modern music really sucks in comparison to old school. I'm hoping one of these is an indication of the sort of music, opening credits we'll get with the show.

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The rock'n'roll trailers are SOOOO much better than the other ones.

Since Scorsese is involved I'd be surprised if a little rock'n'roll weren't used as the credits music. It would probably match well with a show about the "roaring '20s."

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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Since Scorsese is involved I'd be surprised if a little rock'n'roll weren't used as the credits music. It would probably match well with a show about the "roaring '20s."

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Qpm8FHodXIM

Any thoughts on the pilot, anyone? Personally, I'm still stoked that suddenly TV shows can be this good. They never used to be, but there's something about the experience of watching a new, first-grade quality, HBO show that meets, and often excels, any experience you could get going to the theater.

Notes:

- Come to think of it, it would be pretty funny if future mobsters, with foresight, actually supported prohibition. Steve Buscemi making his entrance in the show as the speaker for a Women's Temperance League ... genius.

- I've never seen Michael Pitt in anything where I've liked him before. He seemed to fit his role in Funny Games, but I don't think his acting ability was stretched for that one. Just after the pilot, it looks like Pitt actually has a role that's going to demand a wider range of skill. So far, he looks up for the job - displaying different emotions sometimes without hardly moving a muscle.

- Americans celebrating Prohibition by drinking. I love it because it's true.

- Michael Stuhlberg as a confident, intelligent, and dangerous Arnold Rothstein? My estimation of Stuhlberg is also growing.

- Two of the main reasons Prohibition was enacted in the first place seem like they are going to be personified by Kelly MacDonald and Michael Shannon's characters. Both characters keep you interested. MacDonald just makes your heart melt. Shannon is personifying perhaps the best historical example of how the Christian right can go wrong in politics (but I like that the fact that he's using the government to accomplish his goal and that that may not be the most competent of choices seems to already be touched on).

- Stephen Graham will make a good Al Capone.

- I was expecting James Cromwell to show up at FBI headquarters, once they dragged Jimmy there to talk about the "noble profession, fraught with opportunity for advancement" or something like that. The funny thing is "advancement" is precisely what Jimmy is interested in. And while they respect him for his war record, he doesn't respect them at all ... you can see the disgust and mockery in his eyes.

- Steven Buscemi was born for this role. His characters have always been fun, but it's high time he allowed a starring role.

- The reviews by reviewers who have seen the first four episodes are glowing. In fact, they all say the subsequent episodes develop all the side characters better so that you grow to love them.

- Omar - "Tell him I ain't got all day!"

On another note: This isn't over in all the film discussion threads because it's a "TV Show," but if it counted as a film (and I know I've only seen the first hour), I bet it would count in almost anyone's top ten list for 2010.

Edited by Persiflage

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Oh, I am hooked. They did a great job. I cannot wait for the season to unfold. It looks amazing.

One sequence reminded me of a moment from the first season of the Sopranos, but reversed. There was no sympathy for the victim to be had.

Edited by Nezpop

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I'm a big believer in the (growing) notion that television is starting to churn out more high quality programs than the movie theaters (a belief that led me to stop going to the movies as much and invest in DirecTV instead). Sure, there are still great films coming out, but none of them excite me quite like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Treme, etc. So, I was pretty eager for the premiere of Boardwalk Empire. And, while shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc. continue to subvert my expectations and surprise me, Boardwalk Empire was exactly what I imagined it would be. Given the list of people involved in the show, the gangster movies that I've seen, and the look and feel of the trailer, I felt like I had seen most of it before. I was also (forgive me) a little bored at parts during the episode.

And this isn't to say that I didn't like it. Nearly everything about it was great. From the performances to Scorsese's unmistakable direction, I enjoyed just about everything. The only thing that kinda bugged me was that the dialogue was occasionally expositional, particularly during the dinner scene near the beginning in which Nucky explained why Prohibition was going to a boon for he and his colleagues to a room full of people who already knew it. But certainly a show that's this big is allowed a little bit of that in its first episode.

The thing that excited me the most was actually Michael Shannon's performance in a role that he was made for. He's been a favorite actor of mine since I saw him in Shotgun Stories (and since he appeared in Revolutionary Road for ten minutes and stole the whole movie). His intensity as the self-righteous FBI agent was the most exciting thing of the first episode, for me. I really hope this exposes him to a wider audience. I look forward to watching him (and the rest of this unbelievably talented cast) in coming weeks. (Another thing to look forward to: "Omar comin'".)

Now, of course, this is only after one episode. We barely know the characters or the world they inhabit, so I will certainly continue to watch the show with high hopes. And I must admit that my high expectations have probably led me to judge the first episode too harshly. But I hope that the show will continue to maintain its "movie-like quality," while also taking some risks and unexpected turns in the future. Given all the talent involved in this show, it would take some real effort for it to fail.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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I'm a big believer in the (growing) notion that television is starting to churn out more high quality programs than the movie theaters (a belief that led me to stop going to the movies as much and invest in DirecTV instead). Sure, there are still great films coming out, but none of them excite me quite like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Treme, etc. So, I was pretty eager for the premiere of Boardwalk Empire. And, while shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc. continue to subvert my expectations and surprise me, Boardwalk Empire was exactly what I imagined it would be. Given the list of people involved in the show, the gangster movies that I've seen, and the look and feel of the trailer, I felt like I had seen most of it before.

I can agree with you. It's like, at least in cable, the networks and creators are excited by trying to stand out and not just be another clone. None of HBO's or AMC's shows feel like they are trying to cash in on some popular TV genre. Police Procedurals rule the land, but on cable, people toss aside that and are willing to take risks.

You are right...Boardwalk Empire did not really subvert or challenge the conventions of gangster films. We got exactly what the previews promised. And it's very good. It definitely falls into what a "strong character driven gangster story" can be. But it didn't exceed my expectations. Simply fulfilled them. And that is nothing to sneeze at. I don't feel the need to defend it for what it could become. It's good at what it is. But it is a Scorses style period gangster story.

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I'm a big believer in the (growing) notion that television is starting to churn out more high quality programs than the movie theaters (a belief that led me to stop going to the movies as much and invest in DirecTV instead). Sure, there are still great films coming out, but none of them excite me quite like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Treme, etc. So, I was pretty eager for the premiere of Boardwalk Empire. And, while shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc. continue to subvert my expectations and surprise me, Boardwalk Empire was exactly what I imagined it would be ... Now, of course, this is only after one episode. We barely know the characters or the world they inhabit, so I will certainly continue to watch the show with high hopes. And I must admit that my high expectations have probably led me to judge the first episode too harshly. But I hope that the show will continue to maintain its "movie-like quality," while also taking some risks and unexpected turns in the future. Given all the talent involved in this show, it would take some real effort for it to fail.

Yep, I think Boardwalk Empire just became Exhibit A for the case that there is a small collection of TV shows being made now with HIGHER production quality, HIGHER casting standards for acting ability (even for minor bit characters), BETTER script writing, and overall SUPERIOR quality to 95% or more of the lowest-common-denominator bilge currently being churned out by Hollywood and/or your average Indie art house company.

Talk nonstop about the films of 2010 all you want (and there have been some good ones), but this year alone we are being treated with The Pacific and seasons of Boardwalk Empire, Treme, Mad Men, Rubicon, and True Blood; and even other more light-hearted shows like Weeds and Terriers could easily out-compete your average 2010 film in the theater. In a recent interview, Martin Scorsese said he was drawn to Boardwalk Empire because he's fascinated by the idea of approaching film as literature - and that is precisely what a TV show offers a great producer or director, the ability essentially to make a 10-15 hour story, with 10-15 more well-developed characters than normal. It makes you wonder why it seems like it's taken until this decade for anyone to even realize and act upon this.

Thinking over the pilot episode - the potential for exploring Mobster themes and storylines is probably greater than any director has had before (well, except for The Sopranos). I'm already struck by the story's promise to explore every facet you could think of for the Prohibition era. Not just the mobster stuff, but the politics, the zealousness of the Christian right epitomized by Michael Shannon's character, and the horrible affects of drunkeness and domestic abuse as exemplified by the situation Kelly MacDonald's character is in. In fact, now that I think about it, it's pretty ironic that Steve Buscemi's character is (1) the one main guy who has become primarily responsible for providing the liquor just outlawed by Prohibition, and (2) the only guy who has the most direct and pro-active solution for the woman who is being abused by an alcoholic husband.

Edited by Persiflage

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I didn't see the premiere but thought those of you who did might be interested in John Podhoretz's negative review:

Boardwalk Empire is a dud, and a peculiar dud as well. At nearly every turn, it consciously evokes classic gangster movies of the past (and The Sopranos) in ways that only make you wish you were seeing them instead of this mimeographed copy. The concluding scene of the first episode is a headshaking rip-off of the cross-cutting massacre with which The Godfather concludes. The same episode features an important sequence set in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—the location of one of the most memorable Sopranos episodes, also written by Terence Winter, who should have chosen a different setting.

It indulges in every other once-interesting, now-tiresome cliché of the post-Godfather gangster era. Every time a character inaugurates a long anecdotal speech, we just know it’s going to conclude with an act of violence against the person to whom he’s speaking. If the camera comes and crowds in on somebody’s shoulder, it’s a clear sign that in 10 seconds a gun is going to be placed against his temple.

There isn’t a memorable character to be seen here. The protagonist, a bizarrely whiny political boss named Nucky Thompson, is entirely uncompelling. The usually wonderful character actor Steve Buscemi is utterly lost in the role. He is as comfortable portraying a corrupt politician’s glad-handing fakery as Mike Castle would be attending a Tea Party convention. Even worse is Michael Pitt’s Jimmy Darmody, the second central character. We watch him for hours, with girl troubles and job troubles and post-traumatic stress disorder from World War I, and every moment is an endless agony of pointless boredom. And on it goes.

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Like others have said in this thread, I love how the last decade of TV has really embraced the novelistic possibilities in its format, and it's that sort of promise that will keep me coming back to Boardwalk Empire. I found more of the pilot than I liked to be somewhat dull, ho-hum gangster stuff (for the same reason that Gavin cited), but for a start it was solid enough and the cast is definitely in top-form.

Two out of three Michaels were outstanding (Stulhbarg and Shannon), while Pitt has potential to become more interesting. I really like how WWI haunts the background of the story and I hope the show further explores the psychological fallout of that conflict, especially in how the larger society deals with such unprecedented loss.

Even though Scorsese only directed the pilot, it's kind of funny how the young male lead is so DiCaprio-esque (albeit more subtle).

Also enjoyed Stephen Graham putting another real-life Prohibition gangster role on his resume, playing Al Capone (the other being Baby-Faced Nelson in Public Enemies).

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I found last nights episode quite strong. Especially Nucky Thompson, who is proving more and more complex in my eyes.

Show hidden text
On the one hand, he demeans Michael Pitt's Jimmy by demanding $3,000 dollars, and then throws it away casually in from of him. On the other hand, he seemed genuinely uncomfortable when the Commadore mocked his maid simply to make a point.

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John Podhoretz's negative review:

You're always going to have naysayers who want to go against what everyone else likes, but Podhoretz here is just sounding like Armond White.

Meanwhile, Alan Sepinwall on last night -

When you have a pilot as expensive as last week's episode was, and when you get a noted feature director to helm it, there's always the fear that episode two will be a disappointment. But Tim Van Patten very much carried on the Scorsese style, give or take a few of the pilot's little flourishes. (The episode didn't open and close with an iris the way the pilot did, for instance.) Big Jim's Chicago funeral had the visual sweep of many of the pilot's bigger sequences, the shot of Van Alden lighting his match at Margaret's house looked very much like a Scorsese shot, and the sequence where Van Alden tells his boss how Nucky's business works was very evocative of Henry Hill doing the same for the "Goodfellas" audience.

So the show still has the visual flair Scorsese brought. It still has that incredible cast, and Terry Winter giving those actors great material to play (and not having to lay out quite as complicated a story this week), and it has a world with storytelling possibilities as limitless as Nucky's power seems at this moment.

No let-up. At all ...

I may have to start a regular This Week in Van Alden Creepiness feature, though here I'm not sure I'd be able to choose between the moment where he tells the clearly bruised and battered Margaret that he's sure Hans was a fine and decent man, or Van Alden writing a letter to his wife lacking any degree of warmth or affection. I've only ever seen Michael Shannon play weirdos (even the guy in "World Trade Center" was unsettling in his military focus), but he's fabulous at it.

My two favorite bits of dialogue from last night -

"What are you doing?"

"I'm making a statement."

and

"What do you want me to do?"

" ... Vote Republican."

Edited by Persiflage

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I think episode two was definitely stronger. We got to see new sides of a couple characters, like Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon). And a much more sinister side of Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg is going to be great in this...quite a change from his turn in A Serious Man-- I shivered at the conclusion of the billiard ball story). I also think Stephen Graham is doing a great job as Al Capone. It's going to be exciting to see how all these characters-- most of whom don't hesitate to resort to violence-- will interact with each other as the story progresses. The only two actors that are bugging me right now are Michael Pitt (he's doing OK, I think, but his character is probably the least interesting to me right now) and, surprisingly, Steve Buscemi.

Let me be clear, I think Buscemi's doing great work in this, I'm just having a tough time buying that he's this powerful man who strikes fear into the hearts of those who cross him. Perhaps, it's because I'm used to seeing Buscemi play characters who act tough and then get thrown into a wood-chipper. Right now, Rothstein seems to possess a much more frightening persona (especially after the billiard story) than Nucky. But, perhaps Nucky isn't that type of person yet, and we're going to watch him become a much more evil person. Or perhaps, his beating of Margaret Schroeder's husband in the first episode was meant to show us how vicious he can be. Another possibility is that Nucky is meant to be more of a sympathetic character, who we'll sort of love and hate at the same time. The only dude we've seen him personally manhandle was a wife-beater, who, in a show full of terrible people, managed to be the worst person in the first episode. Nucky is a fascinating character to be sure, but not really an intimidating one, in my opinion.

Incidentally, my pregnant wife felt our baby move for the first time last night while we were watching Boardwalk Empire, so now we're thinking of naming the baby, "Nucky."

......just kidding.

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