- Posted by Johanna on July 15, 2009 at 7:01 am
- Category: Movies/TV
The second season of Leverage starts tonight at 9 PM Eastern.
It’s pretty astounding. Timothy Hutton, after interviewing with an insurance company to get back the kind of corporate job he once loved, almost gets hit by a flying car (in a breathtaking movie-level stunt). He rescues the driver and his daughter only to discover that the car had been tampered with and the banker’s briefcase stolen.
After splitting up at the end of last season, the team reunites by accident at one of Sophie’s performances. They’ve been bored over the past six months; helping people was more fun than they realized. In a cute twist, the “bad guys” are now the ones trying to talk Nate into reforming their team to figure out what caused the accident. Watch the clip.
Turns out the con involves federal bank bailouts and mobsters who actually pay their taxes. Because that’s always how they get caught. Great dialogue exchange:
Nate: How do you catch a mobster?
Sophie: Two glasses of Chianti and a story about my grandmother in Sicily.
Nate: How does the government catch a mobster?
About the only thing that made me grumble was how the show has become a little too fond of its one-word descriptors for the team: hitter, hacker, grifter, thief, mastermind. I liked the use in the credits, to bring new viewers up to speed, but having someone actually speak those terms was over the top. And “hitter”? Better than “killer”, I guess.
Here, the team planned carefully to target a particular person, only to discover that they had the wrong leader identified. This isn’t the first time that they’ve had to improvise, thinking on their feet, and those are the best, most creative interactions.
It’s always a pleasure to see Hardison and Parker together, what with their unspoken interest. That they’re dressed as priest and nun is kinky fun. I’d missed all of these characters, and putting them in unusual positions relative to each other — Hardison playing tough guy while Eliot worries about danger, Sophie taking care of Nate while hiding a secret — gives them fresh spark.
- Posted by Johanna on July 13, 2009 at 10:37 pm
- Category: Movies/TV
I found the opening season of the TNT original series Leverage — the Ocean’s 11-style TV show about a group of semi-reformed thieves working for justice — very enjoyable. If you haven’t been watching, you should check out this first season collection for some entertaining escapism as grifters take on powerful people when they’ve done wrong and no one else can set things right.
Timothy Hutton stars as Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator whose son died due to his employer’s heartlessness and their desire to save on (irony!) health insurance costs. When he’s asked to help recover stolen aerospace designs by Saul Rubinek (currently starring on Warehouse 13), he recruits these criminals: Aldis Hodge as Alec Hardison, genius hacker and tech geek; Christian Kane (Angel) as Eliot Spencer, tough combat expert; Beth Riesgraf as Parker, crazy girl thief; and Gina Bellman (Coupling) as Sophie Devereaux, a con artist who really wants to be on the legitimate stage. The British actress gets to do a number of accents, some lesser known, throughout the show.
The team works well together, although all were formerly loners. Many are damaged in various ways and have never been able to share their true selves with others. The character interplay is a large part of the appeal for me, as the different personalities in various combinations raise different moods.
There’s a nice blend of adventure, teamwork, and development, lightened with a comedic tone. It gives me what I want from a good superhero comic: an unusual fight for justice, picking right over wrong and helping innocent victims, without taking itself too seriously and presented in a creative way. It’s a great caper show, with a high tech, mini-movie feel, and as I said before, “seeing underdogs get the better of corrupt corporate big-wigs is immensely appealing these days.”
These are presented in filming order, not the order in which the network aired them.
1. The Nigerian Job — The extended-length pilot is a very strong opening, establishing all the characters and showing some nice double-crosses.
2. The Homecoming Job — A solider was injured in Iraq by government contractors. A cover-up prevents them having to take responsibility, so the team takes down a corrupt Congressman to get the soldier the medical rehab he needs.
3. The Wedding Job — A more light-hearted take, where the gang pretend to be wedding planners to steal money from a mobster during his daughter’s wedding. Guest stars Nicole Sullivan.
4. The Snow Job — A family of contractors are running a scam to take people’s homes after foreclosure. The team decides to take their company in return in a con involving a ski resort. Guest stars Sam Anderson (Angel) and Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
5. The Mile High Job — A “locked room”-style episode, with most of the team on a plane along with Sara Rue (Popular, The Big Bang Theory). They’re trying to find the document that proves an evil company knew their pesticide killed a little girl, while Hardison infiltrates the company back on the ground in outrageous fashion. A lot of character work in a small space, and then the plane starts to crash.
6. The Miracle Job — Nate’s old friend (D.B. Sweeney) is a priest whose church is going to be demolished by a real estate developer, requiring a miracle (provided by the team) to save it.
7. The Two-Horse Job — Background on Eliot, as the team helps a Kentucky horse trainer who’s the father of his old girlfriend. A rich owner had his stable burned down to kill off racehorses that didn’t do well. This episode introduces Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard), the man who replaced Nate as investigator at his old insurance company, as a nemesis for the team.
8. The Bank Shot Job — Another limited-setting show: Nate, Sophie, and their mark are taken hostage in a bank robbery, and the team has to help the robbers, whose loved one is being held hostage elsewhere, in order to get out safely.
9. The Stork Job — A couple is trying to adopt a Serbian baby from a corrupt orphanage that only wants their money, so the team fakes a low-budget movie production to catch the orphanage’s manager.
10. The Juror #6 Job — Parker gets a spotlight, as one of her aliases is called for jury duty in a wrongful death case involving a supplement pill. Guest stars include Brent Spiner, Armin Shimmerman, and Lauren Holly.
11. The 12-Step Job — Another focus on Nate and his alcoholism. A broker bilks a charity and goes to rehab. Nate and Parker go in as well, but for Nate, it may no longer be acting.
12. The First David Job and The Second David Job — The two-part finale. Sterling and Nate’s old boss come after his firm, complicated by the presence of his ex-wife.
These are pretty forgettable, not the kind of in-depth information I was hoping for, with a few exceptions: Every episode has commentary from the executive producers (who also wrote and/or directed several of the episodes) and any other writers and directors for that episode (including Jonathan Frakes, who directed “Wedding Job” and “Juror #6 Job”). No actors participate, unfortunately, but the result is lots of discussion about structure and pacing and other informative information about how TV shows are made. Many episodes also have deleted scenes, one of which shows up twice with different framing. In addition, there’s:
Behind the Scenes (12 min.): Typical promo reel, with people like Executive Producers Dean Devlin, John Rogers, and Chris Downey and some of the stars talking about the premise; how the show came about; and character profiles. I found the most important part to be seeing their technical advisor on theft and scams, Apollo Robbins, and how the others react to him. (He’s also sometimes a hand double during card stunts.)
Anatomy of a Stunt Fight (3 min.): Christian Kane works out a fight sequence in an airplane hanger with a guest star.
The Cameras of Leverage (2 min.): Tech porn. Wordless footage of the cameras used to film the show.
Leverage Gets Renewed (3 min.): A fake interview setup, where they assembled the cast through video-conferencing to tell them that they were getting a second season of the show.
Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof (5 min.): The woman who plays Parker takes on the writers.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)
- Posted by Johanna on February 2, 2009 at 10:56 pm
- Category: LinkBlogging
I feel kind of weird having caused Tokyopop to have to do damage control all over the net. That certainly wasn’t my intention. (If I stop to think about it too hard, I’ll get writer’s block.) It’ll be interesting to see which of the cancelled titles eventually come out when, but so long as we get the promised continuation of Aria with book 5 in March, it’s all been worth it. (Although I wonder how it’s going to be on sale in March when it wasn’t offered in either the January or February Previews? Probably some other retailer communication I don’t know about.)
I’ll miss Comic Foundry, but the cover to issue 5 made me giggle, due to its completely juvenile tagline.
David Brothers will be posting daily on superhero comics and race for Black History Month. Right now, he’s asking for input on what you’d like to see talked about. I expect he’ll have some great insights to come.
Ka-Blam Digital Printing has announced that they will offer their print-on-demand customers direct market distribution to comic shops though a new service called ComicsMonkey. The discount to retailers, 35%, is lower than standard, which may make this a tough sell. (What incentive does a comic shop owner have to order a lesser-known title when they make more money on a better-known one?) Publishers who sell through the site will receive 40 cents on a $3.99 cover price comic (although that is subject to change), a low profit but one without risks or costs.
The owners of the New York Comic Con, held this upcoming weekend, have announced that this is their last winter show. Next year, they’re moving to October permanently. (Never mind that that the Baltimore Comic-Con and SPX already take place in that timeframe.) More importantly, they’re expanding — and challenging Wizard’s ailing conventions — with an April show in downtown Chicago in 2010.
Thank you, Mad Magazine. Without you, there’d be no Weird Al Yankovic. It was Mad that pushed the case that eventually declared that song parodies were legal. Here’s the story.
- Posted by Johanna on February 2, 2009 at 7:39 am
- Category: Movies/TV
The problem, for me, with good stuff is that I put it off until I have time to enjoy it. (Mediocre stuff, that’s easy to buzz through without having to pay full attention.) Soon, I’m several weeks/issues/episodes behind. On the plus side, that means I can give myself a mini-marathon. That’s how I found myself watching four episodes of Leverage and looking forward to more.
The Stork Job
A couple is trying to adopt a baby in Serbia, only to be fleeced. I thought this ran the risk of being sappy, especially when it started triggering crazy thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf)’s orphanage memories, but it soon got terrific, with a con involving an overseas low-budget movie production. Hardison (Aldis Hodge) does a great job of balancing out Parker’s crazy by providing balance and sympathy to her sometimes one-note character.
That setup allowed the crew to take on ridiculous personalities, with Nate (Timothy Hutton) as the overbearing director, Eliot (Christian Kane) as the bankrolling cowboy, and Sophie (Gina Bellman) as actress, of course. It’s the throwaway dialogue bits that I enjoy most. When discussing tracking someone who was a former French fashion model, several of the group turn out to be nostalgic Emmanuelle fans. It’s familiar hearing phrases like “that’s when they rebooted the franchise”, although I wonder when that becamse common enough language to use on a TV show.
The Wedding Job
A more humorous premise this time, as the gang sets themselves up as wedding planners for a mobster’s daughter’s ceremony in order to steal money the crook owes a patsy’s family. Parker and Hardison again set up as a pair of FBI agents, which works well, since they’re both capable of saying almost anything with a poker face, and they’re both the most honest and direct about their thefts, which makes for tasty contrast.
Hardison has become my favorite character. Later, he and tough-guy Eliot are talking about past heartbreak:
Eliot: “She married somebody else.”
Hardison: “Damn, what did you do?”
Eliot: “What did I do? I liberated Croatia.”
Hardison: “Well, see, now, me, I’d've just got fat and started up a comic book shop.”
This episode wasn’t as twisty as some of the others, unfortunately, and it succumbs to some obvious jokes — like a ridiculously atrocious bridesmaid dress — but still entertaining. Nicole Sullivan (MadTV) does a good job as the crazy mob wife.
The Mile-High Job
A little sanctimonious, which is the show’s biggest flaw. They’ve helped orphans and wounded war veterans and priests already, for goodness’ sake. Here, they have to find a “smoking gun” document to prove an evil company knew their pesticide caused a little girl’s death. It’s all just setup to get them onto a plane quickly for a locked-room-style episode in a limited setting. I don’t mind — I think constraints of that sort show the characters off well. “The Bank Shot Job” was similar, where Nate and Sophie were taken hostage in a bank robbery along with their mark.
Then Sara Rue (Popular, The Big Bang Theory) showed up, as a nervous passenger. She’s a very talented comedian, but Hardison, left on the ground, once again steals the show as a BS-ing management consultant type. Favorite geek moment: Nate’s aliases are all actors who’ve played Doctor Who.
The Snow Job
It’s another timely economic villain: a greedy contractor taking advantage of a hard-working man whose house was foreclosed on. The contractor, played by Sam Anderson, previously worked with Christian Kane on Angel, by the way, while one of the sons is Danny Strong (Jonathan from Buffy). A few too many characters for a clever triple cross; instead, the con’s just about getting the marks to trust them until necessary.
Tuesday night has “The 12-Step Job”, about a swindled charity (timely!) and a broker in rehab. Then, the week after (February 10), comes a nerd-fest: guest stars include Star Trekkers Brent Spiner and Armin Shimmerman (as well as Lauren Holly), and the episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker).
I’m kind of surprised I’m still enjoying this series, but for every bum episode, there’s a better one. I would gladly buy a DVD set with some juicy extras.
If I’m watching a bunch of TV vigilantes with amazing powers work outside the law to bring justice to those who can’t achieve it on their own, then no wonder I don’t feel like reading many superhero comics any more. This is more rewarding, and even if they don’t have costumes (only disguises), they’re still a great adventure team with interesting personalities and quirks.
- Posted by Johanna on December 23, 2008 at 6:50 am
- Category: Movies/TV
Tonight, TNT airs the Leverage episode “The Miracle Job” at 10 PM Eastern. It’s not a Christmas episode as such — too early in the show’s run for that, although I’d love to see one — but it does deal with a case involving a church, St. Nicholas, and redemption.
D.B. Sweeney plays a priest, an old friend of Nate’s (Timothy Hutton) whose sanctuary is about to be demolished by a developer building a mall. The team decides to try and find a miracle … or fake one if necessary … to save the church.
The capers aren’t quite as prominent — the scams they pull are penny-ante stuff; the complication comes when their first instinct gets everyone in worse trouble and they have to figure out a way to undo it — but it’s a nice episode for seeing more character interaction as the group reacts to another of Sophie’s (Gina Bellman) plays and what they find out about Nate’s background. I liked seeing the two rugged guys acting together (although I did find myself wondering when we’re going to reach a point where women of that age with that much character on their faces will feature on TV).
- Posted by Johanna on December 9, 2008 at 7:17 am
- Category: Movies/TV
So, did you check out Leverage on Sunday night? The second episode, “The Homecoming Job”, airs tonight at 10 PM on TNT with this description: “Leverage Consulting & Associates opens for business as the crew reunites to help a reservist who’s been wounded in Iraq by private military contractors.” The mercenaries are refusing to pay for his medical care, so the team gets involved.
I was pleasantly surprised by it, enjoying it enough to keep watching. Timothy Hutton does a good job as an honest guy at the end of his rope put in charge of a group of super-thieves with flexible morality. I appreciate the way he motivates them to do the right thing by using the way they think about things instead of arguing from his perspective.
And there just aren’t any other good caper shows! The double-double-crosses are fun, as is the acknowledgment that someone who would think about hiring them in the first place may not be the most trustworthy client. I liked that there wasn’t just one big set piece, but several smaller cons.
The characters are all cliches — super-hacker (the black guy, who usually gets to be tech-savvy in some way), the crazy-damaged-beautiful sneak thief, the silent-but-deadly tough guy (Lindsey from Angel), the con artist chameleon (if this was The A-Team, she’d be Face) — but they’re played with charisma, enough to make them watchable on a weekly basis. And seeing underdogs get the better of corrupt corporate big-wigs is immensely appealing these days.
(The way Beth Riesgraf, as thief girl, says her deadpan crazy lines has just the right level of “is she serious?”, while Christian Kane’s laconic modern cowboy is attractive in the way he wisely says what everyone else is thinking.)
This isn’t a rave, but it is a recommendation. The show is fun light entertainment. There’s also an online game at LeverageHQ.com with a top prize of $100,000.
- Posted by Johanna on November 1, 2008 at 3:36 pm
- Category: Movies/TV
I enjoyed Blue Beetle largely because of John Rogers’ writing. He’s not writing it any more. (Matthew Sturges (House of Mystery) has taken over.) Instead, Rogers has moved to television, with a new TNT series called
He’s executive-producing this “action-packed drama” along with Dean Devlin (Independence Day). Timothy Hutton stars as the leader of a team of thieves and con artists who steal from those who deserve it in order to help those not so well off. It’s got a 13-episode commitment, and Rogers co-wrote the pilot. (He also wrote and produced the unsuccessful pilot for Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency and co-wrote the movies Catwoman and Transformers.)
In addition to Hutton, I recognize the brunette, Gina Bellman, who played Jane in Coupling, and Christian Kane, who played evil lawyer Lindsey McDonald on Angel.
The show premieres, commercial-free, December 7 at 10 PM Eastern. You can watch a promo trailer here.
- Posted by Johanna on September 14, 2007 at 7:46 am
- Category: LinkBlogging
Today’s example of valuable advice that will likely not be listened to by those who need it most. Tom Brevoort in response to a question about how you break into writing comics without having comic-writing experience:
it seems like what you’re really asking about is brand new, never-before-published writers walking in cold and pitching something, without any appreciable experience anywhere else. And the frank answer to that question is no, at a major firm like Marvel, you don’t really have a whole lot of chance of that happening. …
Inherent in this question is a sense of entitlement, though, a feeling as though you don’t want to “slum” with the smaller guys, or work your way up through the trenches, or another field, or whatever. “I just want to write Spider-Man!” Well, sadly, the world doesn’t work that way. Practically every reader who follows comics secretly believes that they could write a comic–and virtually none of them statistically really have the necessary chops.
I’ve talked to some self-publishers who admitted that they were putting out their non-superhero comic only to create portfolio pieces that would hopefully get them noticed by DC or Marvel, because all they really wanted to do was write those characters. And frankly, it showed.
If you want to work for those companies, there are better ways. Starve for a few years while interning at one of them or working in the mailroom. Become an editorial assistant, make your contacts, and then leverage those as a reliable guy who’s already known.
But “I only want to write superheros, and only those characters”… that’s not being a writer. That’s fanfic dreaming.
A remarkably honest commenter responds:
I think part of it is that I don’t read anything except what the big two puts out. So to me, “comics” means Marvel and DC. On the other hand, I have made a webcomic in the past, and probably will again. It’s an odd thing, somehow webcomics seem more real because I read them, despite the fact that I know plenty of people read comics from companies other than Marvel and DC.
That’s just weird.