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"Magic City": The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review

Magic City: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Magic City: Season Two (2013)
Show & Blu-ray Details

Creator: Mitch Glazer / Executive Producers: Fred Berner, Geyer Kosinski, Colin Callender, Mitch Glazer

Writers: Mitch Glazer, John Mankiewicz, Eduardo Machado, Ted Mann, Rich Cohen

Directors: Ed Bianchi, Simon Cellan Jones, David Petarca, Clark Johnson, Terrence O'Hara

Regular Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Isaac "Ike" Evans), Olga Kurylenko (Vera Evans), Steven Strait (Stevie Evans), Jessica Marais (Lily Augustine Diamond), Christian Cooke (Danny Evans), Elena Satine (Judith Diane "Judi" Silver), Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Mercedes "Mercy" Lozaro), Kelly Lynch (Margaret "Meg" Bannock), Danny Huston (Ben "The Butcher" Diamond)

Recurring Characters: Yul Vแzquez (Victor Lozaro), Michael Rispoli (Bel Jaffe), Matt Ross (Jack Klein), James Caan (Sy Berman), Esai Morales (Carlos "El Tiburon" Ruiz), Jamie Harris (Nicky Grillo), Taylor Blackwell (Lauren Evans), Alex Rocco (Arthur Evans), Shalim Ortiz (Antonio Rivas), Anthony De Sando (Eddie Blue), Brett Rice (Senator Ned Sloat), Sherilyn Fenn (Madame Renee), William Marquez (Cesar Ramos), John Cenatiempo (Vincent Lamb), Karen-Eileen Gordon (Florence), Todd Allen Durkin (Doug Feehan), Catalina Rodriguez (Theresa), Taylor Anthony Miller (Ray-Ray Mathis), Chad Gall (Ethan Bell), Shane Lynch (Susie Klein), Karen Garcia (Inez), Avi Hoffman (Sid Raskin), John Manzelli (Sol Drucker), Ricky Waugh (Barry "Cuda" Lansman), Garrett Kruithof (Roy Stout), Gregg Weiner (Phil Weiss), Tom Degnan (Pierce Fuller), Patricia De Leon (Pastorita Nunez), Alfredo มlvarez Calder๓n (General Hector Garcia), Manny Hernandez (Alberto Lazaro), Sherman Roberts (Hal Rubinson), Han Soto (Lee)

Notable Guest Stars: Leland Orser (Mike Strauss), Holland Hayes (Jack Ruby), Howard Elfman (Dr. Abrahams), Mike Irwin (Ira Styne), Rick Ross (Butterball)

Running Time: 400 Minutes (8 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-MA on air)

1.78:1 Widescreen / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Suggested Retail Price: $54.99 / BD Release Date: November 5, 2013 / Season Two Airdates: June 14 - August 9, 2013
Three single-sided discs (2 BD-50s & 1 BD-25) / Digipak in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($44.98 SRP), Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video HD

Buy Magic City: Season 2 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video • Instant Video HD

After more than thirty years of sporadic screenwriting on films as varied as Scrooged and The Recruit, Mitch Glazer got a chance to create television. Glazer enjoyed the power of showrunning on "Magic City", an hour-long drama set at Miami's most glamorous hotel during the late 1950s. That substantial-sounding premise demanded to be taken seriously,
a trait uncommon for a Starz series. The premium cable network has defined its brand with guilty pleasure original programming like the sex and violence-filled "Spartacus." "Magic City" seemed more akin to an AMC or HBO series. And now, after just two eight-episode batches, it has joined the majority of Starz shows that couldn't make it to a third season.

Glazer's program seems unmistakably influenced by two landmarks of drama. Only partly due to its period setting, "Magic City" bears a striking resemblance to "Mad Men", the most decorated of modern television shows. The other obvious inspiration is even more famous and acclaimed: The Godfather and sequels. It seems no mere coincidence that two cast members from Francis Ford Coppola's original film hold recurring roles in Season Two, as does the daughter of Part III's Andy Garcia. "Magic City" seems to model itself after "Mad Men" in characterization, composition and design. Its themes of juggling family and work also relate to that celebrated contemporary, but the fact that the work involves organized crime seeping into a legitimate business recalls The Godfather, as do some of its boldest beats.

After a brief stint in jail, Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is relieved to be back on the spiral staircase of his dear hotel. Ike recalls his first impression of the famous dancer Vera Cruz (Olga Kurylenko) who became his wife.

Needless to say, the obvious invitation to perform comparisons to two of the most exemplary pieces of storytelling in their respective mediums does "Magic City" no favors. It's no "Mad Men" and, despite the personnel overlap, it's no Godfather. But "Magic City" was a compelling drama and one that deserved at least as much success as Starz's steamy, bloody ancient dramas.

The second season opens with no effort to ease in or catch up new viewers. There's no reset and recaps do not appear via the "Play All" mode. Things pick up more or less where they left off and if, like me, you're seeing this over a year after the first season, it may take a while for the serialized storylines to come back to you and sort themselves out. The most important and easiest thing to remember is that the series centers on Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a Jewish man who rose from nothing to become the wealthy and powerful owner of the Miramar Playa. The widowed, remarried Ike values his family, which consists of young second wife Vera (Olga Kurylenko), barely younger adult sons Stevie (Steven Strait) and Danny (Christian Cooke), and a 13-year-old daughter (Taylor Blackwell). But his first responsibility appears to be the Miramar, a building that represents Ike's rags-to-riches realization of the American Dream.

The Miramar seems to face constant threat in large part due to Ike's silent partner being Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston), a feared and fearless mobster who seems to always get his way, no matter how warped it may be. As their friendship crumbles, Ike wants nothing more than to dissociate from the criminal and the legal heat he carries. Ben is the villain of the series, an unpredictable sadist who derives pleasure from watching his third trophy wife fornicate with Stevie from a window above her bed.

Mobster Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston) unsettles his wife Lily (Jessica Marais) by taking over her massage. Prostitute Judi Silver (Elena Satine) clings to relevance as a love interest to Danny Evans (Christian Cooke).

Season 2 follows Ike's attempt to make a clean break,
a slow process that involves an even more powerful mobster (James Caan, recurring), a determined state attorney (Matt Ross) with gubernatorial ambitions, and the Miramar's expansion to Havana, a move that requires finessing the military powers enforcing Castro's new reign. Meanwhile, Ike's two handsome sons go different routes. Longtime lounge bartender Stevie gets involved with Ben, first as dealer in his regular poker games and then as a partner in an ambitious brothel start-up. It's a sharp, unforeseeable turn for the character evidently designed to generate easy conflict. Law student Danny interns for the state attorney, his duties to that calling and his family somewhat at odds.

While Ike wants nothing to do with gambling and hopes a bill legalizing it does not get passed, Ben is already planning how to maximize the action at the Miramar and get a sizable chunk for himself. Ike's entrance into business with the politically embroiled Cuba draws disapproval from some, including his right hand man Victor (Yul Vazquez), whose wife was killed trying to join her family in Miami. Victor's daughter Mercedes (Dominik Garcํa-Lorido, daughter of Andy Garcia), features less prominently this season as she no longer works at the hotel or loves Danny, but she does get a pregnancy storyline with implications.

Though "Magic City" doesn't get as graphic as the "Spartacus" incarnations or seem to exist purely for unknown young actresses to disrobe, the show doesn't shy from adult content. It's got plenty of profanity and sex, plus a bit of brutality, much of it feeling gratuitous. Of course, who expects these types of characters to use polite language, object to objectification, or kill and cover up in a tidy, humane way?

Its cancellation announced days before what was to be its series finale aired, "Magic City" could have hit home video at any time. Anchor Bay Entertainment chose to release The Complete Second Season to DVD and Blu-ray two weeks ago, near the beginning of the holiday season rush, not too far removed from the show's August final broadcasts, and the same day as the latest "Mad Men" release. The Blu-ray dispenses four episodes on each of its first two discs, devoting a featherweight third platter to bonus features.

Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) takes a trip to Havana in "Adapt or Die." Stevie (Steven Strait) uses his new standing as Ben's (Danny Huston) dealer to land a major opportunity for the Miramar.

Disc 1

1. Crime and Punishment (50:40) (Originally aired June 14, 2013)
As Ike sits in jail with bail set at a $1 million, the hotel's board meets to decide what to do. The case against Ike quickly falls apart in front of a grand jury.

2. Angels of Death (50:08) (Originally aired June 21, 2013)
Stevie saves Bel the bookie's (Michael Rispoli) life with some quick thinking. Vera starts preparing for her dance show. Victor wants to bury his wife. Rich Aunt Meg (Kelly Lynch) is invited to the Evans' family Passover Seder.

3. Adapt or Die (49:19) (Originally aired June 28, 2013)
Ike visits Cuba to see about getting into business there, while becoming enraged by Ben's plan to introduce gambling at the Miramar. Ben invites Stevie to run his poker game.

4. Crossroads (45:30) (Originally aired July 12, 2013)
Stevie lands the chance to host a DJ convention by winning a card game. Vera relies on drug injections to help her endure the rigorous dance training leading to her show's opening night.

Danny (Christian Cooke) is torn between family allegiances and his duty to uphold the law like his boss state attorney Jack Klein (Matt Ross). Ike takes the conversation in a direction that Sy Berman (James Caan) doesn't like and didn't foresee.

Disc 2

5. World in Changes (48:13) (Originally aired July 19, 2013)
Ben sets his sights on bringing Ike down, while Ika moves forward with his plan to rig the lottery to Ben's great loss. Danny gets investigated for his action on the job. Vera needs medical attention.

6. Sitting on Top of the World (50:32) (Originally aired July 26, 2013)
Ike and a team of bettors use advance knowledge of Cuba's lottery numbers to cost Ben a loss of $2 million. Stevie oversees the DJ convention, which is an even bigger mess than expected.

7. ...And Your Enemies Closer (51:09) (Originally aired August 2, 2013)
The state attorney pushes for evidence against Ike. Ben plots his revenge. Victor quits over his disagreement of Ike's Cuban policies. Stevie becomes Ben's new partner, overseeing the construction of their new whorehouse.

8. The Sins of the Father (53:59) (Originally aired August 9, 2013)
After the state attorney resists making a deal to prosecute Ben, Ike and Meg work on an editorial to persuade rejecting the imminent gambling bill. Perhaps because Glazer saw the writing on the wall, a lot else unfolds in this only slightly longer than usual episode that would become the series' last.


"Magic City" is treated to a truly terrific Blu-ray presentation. The 1.78:1 video is always sharp, clean, and vibrant. The show does an admirable job of period recreation, venturing out and about more often than "Mad Men" and actually shooting in the location where it is set. The visual effects are far better than the artificial ones employed on ancient-set Starz shows but they're not quite big screen-worthy as blue screen shots forging coastlines and a pitiful overhead Havana shot show their seams. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack doesn't really command attention, but nor does it disappoint with its solid distribution of dialogue and music. The set includes English SDH plus Spanish subtitles and dubs.

Mitch Glazer, creator, head writer, and executive producer, discusses Magic City in Disc 3's short promotional featurettes. As does his wife Kelly Lynch, who plays wealthy Aunt Meg Bannock on the show.


Aside from Disc 1's opening trailers for "The White Queen" and "Da Vinci's Demons" and the recaps available from episode submenus, the all-HD bonus features reside on Disc 3. Produced in the standard promotional Starz mold that fills time between movie broadcasts, these short featurettes -- composed of clips, comments from creator Mitch Glazer and cast,
and just a touch of behind-the-scenes footage -- seemingly could have easily fit on the first two discs or been merged into one 20-minute documentary. As is, the bonus disc barely needs more disc space than a single-layered DVD could give it.

"The Gamble for Havana" (3:05) discusses one of Season 2's big storylines. "The Criminal Element" (4:47) collects thoughts on all the regular characters, their Season 2 arcs, and their underworld connections. "Tales from the Underbelly" (4:59) celebrates the impact of guest stars like James Caan and Rick Ross as well as the season's most explosive moments.

"Magic City Style" (1:52) discusses characters' fashion senses with remarks from costume designer Carol Ramsey and some actors. "The Music That Makes Magic" (5:52) addresses the use of period songs and new recordings, which seem to resonate more with Glazer than with the viewer.

The Magic City Season 2 Blu-ray's menus divide the screen among clips and stills in a variety of rectangles.

The discs' top menus divide the screen with rotations of clips and stills while the theme music plays. Though they do not support bookmarks, the discs are excellently authored so that you can easily stop and resume a "Play All" viewing, your progress tracked, even after discs are ejected and such. Why can't Anchor Bay equip their movie Blu-rays with similar resuming features?! The episodes are split into a suitable number of chapter stops, with the overlong titles easily being skipped.

Topped by a holographic slipcover, a handsomely-illustrated Digipak holds the three discs as well as ads for other Starz shows and a coupon for $5 off other Anchor Bay television DVDs and Blu-rays.

Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) draws in the sand and looks out into the ocean in front of his Miramar Playa hotel in what would be the final shot of "Magic City."


The second and final season of "Magic City" is not as consistently good as its predecessor and its attempt to cram a lot of story in the final installment proves rather unfulfilling. Still, this was a fairly solid television drama and one that didn't deserve such a swift cancellation.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray features excellent picture and sound, plus an appealingly easy way to view the season. In line with other Starz series, the extras are pretty unremarkable, but worth watching once. Start at the beginning and if you already have seen and liked Season 1, you should keep going here.

Buy Magic City: Season 2 from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video / Instant Video HD

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Reviewed November 19, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Starz Originals, Media Talent Group, South Beach Productions, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.