- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A legendary television police drama and a story about thieves highlight Blu-ray home entertainment releases this week.

The Wire: The Complete Series (HBO Home Video, Rated TV-MA, $199.99) HBO’s critically acclaimed police drama returns in the Blu-ray format to expose viewers to an urban American landscape fraught with violence, corruption and dysfunction.

It’s arrival could not be more timely considering current events happening across many major U.S. cities, as this dramatized chronicle of Baltimore often focused on a too-realistic portrayal of the relationships between police, politicians, criminals and its often helpless citizens.

Creator David Simon and his team offered a complex narrative played out through interactions between groups such as the Barksdale drug trafficking gang, Baltimore Homicide, Inner Harbor dockworkers, the Baltimore school system and the reporters of the Baltimore Sun.

The 20-disk set compiles all 60 episodes from the five seasons that ran from 2002 to 2008 in a remastered format.

That translates into a pristine digital transfer, now in 1.78:1 aspect ratio that fills home theater screens, replacing the original HBO broadcast presentation that was in 1.33:1 (4x3 aspect ratio).

Purists may complain, but the contrast, color and detail are impressive throughout while artist intentions remain intact thanks to Mr. Simon and executive producer Nina Noble overseeing the transformation.

Viewers do not just get a great television show but a steady stream of extras on the disks with many culled from the DVD box set release from 2008.

The best extras include:

• 22 optional commentary tracks presenting an incredible amount of information courtesy of the cast and crew. Some of the most critical to hear include Mr. Simon on the very first (“The Target”) and last (“-30-“) episode. Also, the fifth season, set of 6 tracks, are worth the time with many touching on memories of the entire series.

• A two-part, behind-the-scenes documentary from 2008 offering a near 60-minute overview on the characters and creators of the show as well as what’s involved in creating an accurate vision of Baltimore and its cultural infrastructure.

• A reunion of some of the cast for the 2014 PaleyFest (a pop culture event sponsored by The Paley Center for Media) featuring an 85-minute discussion with 13 principals including producer Ms. Noble, Mr. Simon and Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little) with even Dominic West (Detective Jimmy McNulty) offering an apology for not attending via what looked like a Skype call.

Focus (Warner Home Video, Rated R, $44.95) — Will Smith lent his overtly charming acting skills to a romantic comedy earlier this year about the finer points of stealing from clueless humans.

As seasoned con man Nicky Spurgeon, he finds an apprentice and love interest in Jess Barrett (played by a spunky Margot Robbie) and ends up in one of the bigger cash grabs of his life tied to motorsport racing.

Its speedy arrival to the Blu-ray format gives viewers an entertaining plot with a roller-coaster ride worth of twists and turns along with a digital transfer that offers some stunning visuals in locations such as New Orleans and Buenos Aires

Extras are a bit too light. They include an alternate opening to the film, showing an interesting way to rob a jewelry store; and a trio of brief promotional featurettes, about 20 minutes in total, that focus on the artisan of deception and master pickpocket Apollo Robbins.

As a consultant on the movie, he discusses training the actors, the finer points of a con and actually breaks down a diversion theft, often featured in the film.

The Blu-ray is worth a rental to appreciate a fun performance by Mr. Smith.

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