LEVERAGE: THE 4TH SEASON
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Four years ago, I was sent the first season of “Leverage” to review. I hadn’t seen the show before on TNT, but I enjoyed watching it. Still, it was quite fun, albeit a little green. The “Oceans Eleven” meets “Robin Hood” feel to the premise was fun, but the characters hadn’t fully gelled yet. Timothy Hutton was a commanding leader, but Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane were trying to overcome their roles as not-Will-Smith and not-Brad-Pitt, respectively.
BOSS: SEASON 1
I didn’t get the second or third season of the show to review, and I missed watching them in their broadcast run. However, I was happy to have a chance to get “Leverage: The 4th Season” for review. This wasn’t just because I enjoy the show, but also because I was curious to see how the series had come together. (Of course, I could have always DVR’d the show on TNT, but I never remember to do that sort of thing.)
I was pleasantly surprised as how well the show flows now. There were some rocky moments in the first season, as there always are, but those character elements had smoothed out nicely. The team had become an actual team, which had been a source of conflict in the earliest episodes. Now, they work together almost flawlessly, and even Hodge and Kane have found ways to make their somewhat derivative performances their own.
Most of the episodes are fun, especially when they stick to the formula. Now with everyone knowing their place, the characters can work together and do their jobs as they need to. In this fourth season, there is some interpersonal drama. Nate (Hutton) and Sophie (Gina Bellman) have started sleeping together, though they don’t want anyone to know that. Similarly, Hardison (Hodge) and Parker (Beth Riesgraf) are getting closer to becoming a couple, so they have some things to work out as well.
Elliot (Kane) has blossomed the most, turning away from his earlier brooding status to a more comical side character. His performance and handling of the character reminds me of Ronon from “Stargate Atlantis,” who started out as morose muscle but soon became the teddy bear of the group.
The best episodes lean towards the standard heist jobs where an eventual double-cross at the end puts all the elements into place. The show gets points for trying some creative things, though they don’t always work out to be the best episodes. For example, “The Van Gogh Job” tells the story in flashback with the actors playing characters from the 40s. This is commonplace in cable shows, but it results in an overly cheesy deliver that was a bit of a turn-off.
Similarly, “The Office Job” was a fun spoof of “The Office” television show, but the nauseating cinematography proved that it takes more than a guy with a video camera and some shaky movement to pull off the style.
What often bothers me the most about any series is when the first and last episodes of the season turn into what I refer to as “shit gets real episodes.” These deviate from the natural flow of the season, up the stakes and put the characters in more peril. However, the season finale of “The Last Dam Job” was brilliantly done, bringing in some fantastic bonus characters (including Parker’s dad, played by Richard Chamberlain, and Hodge’s nemesis, played by Wil Wheaton) and having more fun than angst for your standard “Shit Gets Real Job.”
Overall, “Leverage: The 4th Season” is even more enjoyable than the previous episodes I’ve seen. I might just have to DVR season five, now.
The four-disc DVD set includes commentary on all episodes, deleted scenes from select episodes, a gag reel and a behind-the-scenes featurettes on the season premiere. Additional features include “Writers’ Room Job” and “The Office Job Parody.”
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
There’s a trend in television today that grim, depressing and dour is instantly lauded by critics as being real and quality television. I get why that happens because a show that does this embraces the darker side of the world and drags the negative emotions out of its audience.
We have seen this happen quite recently with praised shows like “The Walking Dead” and “The Killing,” and now we see it happening with the Starz series “Boss.” Some dismiss this trend as “misery porn,” which shows little hope for the human race. That may very well be the case, and I understand that. I’ve watched my mother-in-law get glued to the TV after a event of human tragedy, weeping softly to herself. There’s something in the human psyche that longs for this depressing display of emotion.
I’m just not into this.
However, with that said, “Boss” is still an exceptionally well-crafted show. But it’s grim. And it’s dour. And it’s about as depressing to watch as a show can get. If only the characters smiled now and then.
The story follows Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer), the corrupt mayor of Chicago as he manipulates the politics of his city and party. He has been secretly diagnosed with a debilitating and incurable disease. He’s going to great length to hide this from everyone on the planet, but in a business of cutthroat dealings and betrayal, it’s hard for him to keep his head above water.
From a purely technical perspective, “Boss” is a brilliant-looking series, and the high definition picture on the Blu-ray really sells this. Even though the series is as dark as they come, the cinematography is often brightly lit if not still drab with a steely gray color palate.
It’s also superbly acted. Grammer, who has proved himself to be a formidable presence on television with several hit shows under his belt, plays the antihero exceptionally well. He nails the two-faced nature of a politician, coming off as an absolute ass but still having the charisma to be likeable when he turns on his public face.
The supporting cast is also quite good with the still-lovely Connie Nielsen as his (privately) estranged wife and Kathleen Robertson as his sizzling-hot (and often partially nude) personal aide. Other great supporting roles are delivered by Jeff Hephner as an up-and-coming politician who is both chosen by Kane to be the new governor of Illinois and seen as a potential rival, as well as Martin Donovan as his senior political advisor.
Aside from having nary a shred of humor or even a microsecond of levity or good feelings, “Boss” falters at times with painfully cliched storylines and plot twists. Of course, I suppose this is forgivable considering arrogant politicians fall into the same traps themselves every year. Still, I expect a little more smart thinking from supposedly smart characters.
The other problem with “Boss” is some of the characters are frankly boring. Kane’s daughter (Hannah Ware) has a full story arc that eventually intersects with her father’s campaign, but she is so woefully uninteresting on screen that it’s a chore to watch.
Still, “Boss” is a solid series that shows the seedy underbelly of American politics. It was recommended to me by a friend after I declared “The Ides of March” to be one of the best movies of 2011, and yes, it hits a lot of the same points of dirty politics. However, it needs a little pick-me-up to really keep me interested and not wanting to slit my wrists.
The season one Blu-ray comes with all eight episodes with audio commentaries on select episodes with executive producers Farhad Safinia and Richard Levin, along with director of photography Kasper Tuxen. The only other special feature is the 20-minute examination of the series “The Mayor and His Maker,” featuring an interview with Grammer and series creator Farhad Safinia. Sure, this isn’t loaded with bonus material, but that’s not the sell of this Blu-ray. If the series is worth watching, it’s definitely worth watching in high definition.
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