Category: Review

‘Underground’ Review: WGN America’s Slave Railroad Drama Is Compelling TV

Thursday, Mar 3, 2016

DEADLINE – The journey and escape of thousands of slaves to free states and Canada in the 19th century is one of the most fascinating and defiant parts of American history but one that has received little attention on the small screen. That’s about to change on March 9 when Underground debuts on WGN America.

 

Created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, the not-to-be-missed drama about the Underground Railroad is, as my video review above says, a harrowing and compelling series that will make you uncomfortable, amazed and ultimately inspired by one of the most treacherous and ambitious chapters in this nation’s story.

 

Picked up for a full-season order in February 2015, the 10-episode first season of Underground focuses on the field slaves and house slaves of a Georgia plantation who begin a pre-Civil War 600-mile trek northward for their freedom and dignity. The tenacious ensemble cast includes True Blood’s Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Straight Outta Compton’s Aldis Hodge, Jane The Virgin’s Alano Miller, Jessica de Gouw, Law & Order: SVU alum Christopher Meloni, Amirah Vann and Justified’s Mykelti Williamson, among others. Empire’s Jussie Smollett and Treme’s Renwick Scott also guest star in the show exec produced by Green, Pokaski, John Legend, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius, Tory Tunnell, Joby Harold and Akiva Goldsman. Anthony Hemingway is also an EP and directs the opening episodes of the series.

 

Continue reading ‘Underground’ Review: WGN America’s Slave Railroad Drama Is Compelling TV

Sundance Review: ‘The East’

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013
Sundance Review: ‘The East’

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS

Sundance Review: ‘The East’ Is A Divisive, But Stylish Thriller & Worthy Companion Piece To ‘Sound Of My Voice’

The first images in “The East” – the new thriller from Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, the team who made last year’s underrated cult thriller “Sound Of My Voice” – are grainy footage of intruders breaking into someone’s home juxtaposed with images of seagulls covered in oil. We are told through voiceover that this is the home of a CEO whose company was responsible for dumping millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. Our narrator (Ellen Page) we will learn is one of the members of an anarchist collective called The East, who are determined to enforce a strict eye-for-an-eye philosophy that will make their voices heard. The music pulses, the images are chilling and so we buckle up for a ride.

Outside of Washington D.C. we meet a young woman named Sarah (Marling) who works for a private intelligence organization responsible for tracking down these groups and infiltrating them. She lives with her boyfriend (Jason Ritter) who knows nothing about her line of work and tells her that she wasn’t even this secretive when she worked for the FBI. Sarah is incredibly smart and a little bit cocky, which is why her boss (Patricia Clarkson) selects her from a group of candidates to go undercover and try to infiltrate The East. She tells her boyfriend she’s going overseas and instead begins traveling around the Northeast, ingratiating herself with various street people and gutter punks. After a few weeks of eating out of the garbage, she meets up with Luca (Shiloh Fernandez) who, after helping him through a police attack, leads her to her targets.

She is blindfolded and led into the woods where she comes face to face with The East. After being treated for wounds she incurred during the fight, she is told to put on a straightjacket and join them for dinner. When she arrives she meets Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) who gives her a test: eat first and the others will follow. After struggling for a minute to bring the food to her mouth without the use of her arms, she eventually succeeds, pushing the spoon out of the way. But when the others join in, they do so in concert, passing the food to the next person with the utensils clenched between their teeth. The lesson here, is obvious. The group must work together as one unit. And while Izzy (Page) is skeptical about this new arrival to The East, Benji decides to keep her on.

Once plunged into the group, she’s offered another test but she must agree without knowing exactly what the outcome of her assistance will be. As it turns out, the group are staging a Jam (as they call their operations) to sneak into a party hosted by a drug company whose products are producing extremely harmful side effects. The mission is more than just idealogical, it’s personal as one of the members of their group, Doc (Toby Kebbell), suffers Parkinson’s-like side effects from the drug. The plan is to give them a taste of their own medicine quite literally and by the time Sarah realizes what’s about to take place, she can’t do anything to stop them. The group have two more operations to stage before they disappear, but from here on out it’s best to keep things spoiler-free. Suffice to say the lines of right and wrong start to blur the deeper that Sarah finds herself entangled in the group whose backgrounds may not be as humble as they may seem at first glance.

“The East” is a terrific companion piece for anyone who enjoyed “Sound Of My Voice.” It isn’t difficult to draw parallels between the two films with recurring motifs like cults, initiation rituals, blindfolds, sign language and more all brimming to the surface. At nearly two hours, the film is just slightly overlong and can be deeply silly at times, but nonetheless thoroughly entertaining. Some of the dialogue feels a bit on the nose while the self-seriousness makes some of the more melodramatic turns seem ridiculous. You can’t help but smile at exchanges like, ‘This is MY Jam” and “No, it’s OUR Jam” when it’s delivered with such conviction. Sharp viewers may put together where things are heading early but even though the last act fumbles things just a bit with perhaps one twist too many, it brings it back together for a thematically satisfying conclusion.

Despite my issues with the film, it’s stylish and sincere and comes from a personal place. Apparently Marling and Batmanglij spent a summer traveling around in a similar fashion to see if they could live for a few months without spending money. Though it functions as a thriller, the film still raises issues worth considering (even if they are surface level concerns). Though the script (by Batmanglij and Marling) could’ve used another polish, as a filmmaker, Batmanglij is still at the head of the class of up-and-coming directors. It’s great seeing him able to paint on a larger canvas here and provide Marling an opportunity to turn in another beguiling performance. “The East” is definitely a movie that’s going to divide people but it’ll be a conversation worth having. [B-]

Leverage Series Finale Recap: The Con Goes On

Wednesday, Jan 2, 2013
Leverage Series Finale Recap: The Con Goes On

December 26, 2012 07:03 AM PST

 

The other night, I found myself watching Ocean’s Thirteen for, to be conservative, the 11teenth time. I love heist films. Likewise, I embraced the likes of TV’s (short-lived) Thief and even (the short-lived) Smith. But TNT’s Leverage, arriving when it did, really took the baton from Danny Ocean, offering a small-screen version of that stylized spin on modern-day Robin Hoods, burglars with a cause.

I’d be lying if I said that Leverage never ebbed in quality. In fact, this past season’s Inception-like second episode I frankly couldn’t finish, it had veered so far from the series’ original construct and slightest whiff of plausibility.

But man, did the show manage to go out with a final bang this Tuesday night, delivering one of its best, smartest riffs on the Ocean’s-like “What you think happened, didn’t — but this did” formula.

RELATED | TVLine Readers’ 2013 Wish Includes Leverage Salvation and More

Most “simply” recounted… the caper drama’s very final hour opened with Nate, looking a bit worse for wear, being held somewhere and questioned about a bungled job, one that left several of his friends dead. As related by the mastermind, he and his team set out to breach the well-secured Highpoint Tower, to secure a trial drug that would help a patient of the pediatrician that once cared for Nate’s ill-fated son. To do so, Parker went in through the roof, only to get pinned down in an elevator shaft with Hardison (who had come in through the lobby posing as an alarm service tech). As Parker took a bullet from a cop who saw through their ruse, Hardison plummeted several stories, breaking his leg and busting up his insides. Eliot did his best to fend off other burly obstacles, but even he, on his dash for the getaway van, took a bullet straight through the back. Nate and Sophie, in the front seat, did their best to dodge a police blockade and were last seen about to leap an opening drawbridge. It was all extremely grim stuff that, as directed and presented on-screen, had you wondering if the con was very much no longer on for this band of bandits.

But as Alcatraz‘s Emerson Hauser would say, “That’s not what happened. Not at all.” Instead — as promised by Aldis Hodge back in July — we were finally made privy to the real reason Nate relocated their operation to Portland for Season 5.

The woman interviewing Nate in the “hospital” — revealed to be Interpol agent Casey (played by The Shield‘s Catherine Dent) — saw holes in his story, and gleaned that Parker in fact had entered Highpoint through a tunnel that connected to a theater where Sophie was staging/starring in MacBeth. Secondly, Parker never was after a trial drug but an Internet server room. When Casey’s investigation suggested that Parker was still cowered inside that room, waiting for their target — an incendiary file known as “The Black Book” — to pass through the pipes prime for pinching, the Interpol agent’s boss, none other than Jim Sterling (Hi, Mark Sheppard!), keyed her and a team of agents in to conduct a search. But Parker, along with Hardison and Eliot, had embedded themselves within that team, then stayed behind after Casey turned up nothing. They then grabbed the needed hard drive and exited back through the tunnel, losing themselves amid the cast of Sophie’s play. (Eliot’s “shooting,” meanwhile? All staged for the security camera, with Nate playing the “cop.”)

Nate later got led to a prison transfer vehicle, his fate seemingly sealed in the wake of the confirmed robbery and the discovery of dummy corpses he had used to fake a heist-gone-bad. But with Casey none the wiser, Sterling did his longtime frenemy a solid and wished him well, knowing that Sophie was behind the wheel. (When did Sterling get wise, though? Because Nate purposely distracted him when Parker et al sneaked into the server room.) Later, the team reconvened to celebrate their grand theft and watch as Nate proposed to… “Laura” (not Sophie’s real name) (AHO Admin note: Its Lara according to Gina Bellman). And with those two lovebirds now out of the game, the final scene gave us sleek-and-steely Parker, flanked by Eliot and Hardison, explaining to a new oppressed client how they could provide… leverage.

All told and as promised by show boss Dean Devlin, who suspected this could be (and in fact was) it, the season finale played perfectly as a series-ender, delivering a memorable combo of sleight-of-hand and misdirection, serving up a bit of romantic closure and calling in an old “friend,” but also planting a seed to show us how the con ostensibly would go on.

What did you think of the Leverage series finale?
Go here to vote: TV Line

Source: TV Line

Leverage Season Finale Review: Send In The Backups

Monday, Jan 16, 2012

Leverage Season Finale Review: Send In The Backups

January 16th, 2012 1:23 AM by

The season four finale of Leverage, “The Last Dam Job,” really made me want more of the team, especially to see them with their “backups.” Thankfully, we’ll get at least part of that when the show returns this summer for season five.

While it’s not new that Nate and his squad brought down a bad guy (in this case it was Latimer and Victor), what made this episode unique from other takedowns was the interaction of the team members with their counterparts. I loved it!

Nate Confronts Victor

Watching Quinn (Clayne Crawford) and Chaos (Wil Wheaton) attempting to work together with Quinn wanting to hurt Chaos – while the latter spoke down to Quinn as he explained the way they were going to break into the computer – was refreshingly funny and brought back memories of season one.

The sudden appearance of Maggie Collins (Kari Matchett), Nate’s ex-wife, was also welcome. Actually, I want to give kudos to TNT for not showing her in the preview and giving us all a nice surprise when she sat down next to Latimer. Did any else catch her reference to Jim Sterling and her attraction to him? I wonder about the chances that Sterling and Maggie have seen each other again.

By far, it was Richard Chamberlain who stole the show as Archie Leach. I laughed so hard when he tazzered Chaos that I had to pause the show for a minute to wipe my eyes. Then, when he and Parker had the heart-to-heart about how he approved of Hardison, and she cared, it was really sweet.

Speaking of touching and sweet, how awesome was Eliot in his protectiveness of Nate?!? Between him trying to talk Nate out of killing Victor/Latimer to him nearly killing Victor himself, he showed how strongly he cares for Nate.

Many may think that the conclusion with Latimer was a bit rushed; to me it felt like it matched about how often we met him, so I didn’t mind at all. Honestly, I’m glad it’s done and I’m looking forward to this summer to see what Nate and the team gets into.

I do have some questions as we go into season five:

  • When Nate says he has to make some changes, does that mean he is climbing out of the bottle?
  • Why can’t they keep the cave? I like the idea of an “Eliot Signal.”
  • Besides, don’t we still have some other bad guys out there wanting a piece of Nate?
SOURCE: TV Fanatic

Leverage’s fourth season – The good, the bad and the promising

Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012

 

Only one episode left until ‘Leverage’s’ fourth season finale. The viewers on the CliqueClack team weigh in on how they think it’s going and what next week might have in store for us.

 

Leverages fourth season   The good, the bad and the promising [leverage pare] (IMAGE)

Debbie:

I’ve really been enjoying this second half of Leverage‘s fourth season. “The Office Job” was so well-played on all fronts that I can’t believe I didn’t write about it. Then, the “Girls’ Night Out Job” followed by the “Boys’ Night Out Job” were tons of fun. The writers are trying some different things this season, and for me, it’s working to breathe some new life into ths series that was near-perfect in season one and Continue reading Leverage’s fourth season – The good, the bad and the promising

Quotes from The Experimental Job The AV Club Review

Monday, Nov 28, 2011

The other obvious reason that this was the best episode of Leverage in a long while is that it gave both Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge plenty of room to play, while being fairly upfront and direct about Parker’s and Hardison’s feelings for each other. (At the climax, he got in trouble with the villains after the two of them had a fight, so of course, they got to make up in the time-honored fashion of having her rush in to kick the hell out of the thugs who were kicking the hell out of her boyfriend.) 

Hardison’s role in the con called for him to charm the bad guy with his brains and nerve, which, as he pointed out, meant that he had to basically impersonate himself, except “cooler.” Naturally, he was uncertain about his own ability to pull this off. Parker gave him a pep talk that went, “Remember when you took the thing with the glowing thingie and then you used it to kill the guy who was on the shiny stuff, and then, also, there was all this magic? That was so cool!” She was referring to his prowess at video games, but it was also a better review of a good Leverage episode than I’m ever likely to write.

 

source: A.V. Club

Quotes from Another The Queen’s Gambit Job Review

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

I was also thrilled that the episode didn’t disappoint. I loved every minute of it, from opening car chase to the concluding toast. In fact, had Parker and Hardison smooched during their touching dance-dance scene, or after she got in the van, it would have received a perfect rating from this critic. 

Speaking of Parker and Hardison’s dance-dance training, how awesome was his reassurance that she wasn’t alone? And then to follow that up by having packed her a parachute, knowing she might need it? 

It was also very cute that she needed him to hum the music so she could remember the steps they practiced. I adore the two of them together. I just wish the powers that be would let them move forward a step. Would a kiss really kill anyone?!?

I agree completely!

Source: TV Fanatic

Quotes from a review of Queen’s Gambit Job

Monday, Aug 29, 2011

Just loved these quotes:

Still, even at their cutest, they had nothing on Parker and Hardison. In years past, Beth Riesgraf, as Parker, has dominated the show’s brightest moments, so it only balances out things a little that Aldis Hodge, as Hardison, has pretty much run off with this past season.

 

 Suggestiveness and flirtation, especially on a TV series, can be sexier than seeing a couple of actors crash into each other all over the furniture. But knowing how successful Hardison has been in getting past Parker’s emotional armor would help make it less sticky when she says things like, “Quick and light, that’s how I survive. You slow me down, you kill me,” so that he can then tell her that she used to have feel that way because she used to be alone, but now she’s part of a team, and “I got you, girl.” As it happens, Hardison was literally slowing her down, by strapping her into heavy, weighted-down boots that made her lumber about like Frankenstein’s monster. There was a really sweet moment when they danced together, ostensibly because he needed to help her get over her frustration at not knowing how to move in the things–those, despite being one of the best-thought-out scenes this season, it wasn’t the haymaker romantic moment it could have been, because Leverage doesn’t really seem that comfortable dealing with romance.

 

Source: AV Club

Leverage 4.08 The Boiler Room Job Review

Monday, Aug 15, 2011

By Brittany Frederick

August 14th, 2011 11:03 pm EDT

 

If you’ve seen the movie Boiler Room, you’ve got a fair idea of tonight’s second Leverage. Minus Vin Diesel. However, there is chocolate, and one heck of a final twist, so it’s all good.

Leverage

The bad guy is Greg Sherman (The Shield star David Rees Snell), who gives bombastic speeches about being “on top of the food chain” because he’s that corny. Unfortunately, Hardison’s cover gets blown quickly – it’s really not a good week to be Alec Hardison! – and he’s forced to spin a tale about a faux play with Sophie playing a mark known as “the chocolate whisperer.” Now that would be a TV show I’d watch.

Continue reading Leverage 4.08 The Boiler Room Job Review

Leverage 4.07 The Grave Danger Job Review

Monday, Aug 15, 2011

By Brittany Frederick

August 14th, 2011 10:08pm EDT

The first of two all-new Leverage installments tonight looks, at first glance, to be a take-off on the recent Ryan Reynolds flick Buried. How did Hardison end up trapped in a coffin in a cemetery? That’s one heck of an open.

Leverage

It has something to do with a funeral home run by Darlene Wickett (Anne-Marie Johnson, last seen on Fairly Legal), who likes to swipe money at the most inappropriate time and hide it in her spiffy wall safe. The team’s attempt to search the funeral home takes a turn when they realize Darlene is also stealing the identities of the deceased. Nate decides to give Darlene a not-so-helping hand, but her greed puts everyone on the wrong side of some nasty drug runners who kidnap Hardison as their own kind of leverage.

Continue reading Leverage 4.07 The Grave Danger Job Review