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Tag Archive: A-Team


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Last week we reported on Funko CEO Brian Mariotti’s “12 Days of Christmas” daily blog posts revealing the company’s new product offerings for 2015.  This included the increasingly successful Kenner-inspired, ReAction retro action figure line, which has spread like wildfire now that the various lines are hitting the masses thanks to Barnes & Nobles carrying the products in stores.  Mariotti revealed last week that 2015 will see new action figure series for the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jaws, Terminator 2, The Dark Crystal, Gremlins, Breaking Bad, and Boondock Saints.

Today Mariotti revealed the rest of the licensed properties that will be turned into carded 3 3/4 inch action figures by the end of next year.  As we had hoped, one of those properties is John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.  But now we know of twelve others.

Big Trouble in Little China movie poster

So what are the rest?  Drumroll, please…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Jonathan Frakes has directed nine of the 60 episodes of Leverage in its first four seasons. Leverage is a good series that lacks some consistency, maybe because it has several creators that have been rotated in and out in the ordinary course of the series. Each of the episodes directed by Frakes demonstrates a knowledge of the material, which includes a level of informality and humor between the characters that is rare in episodic television.  You wonder whether he learned it as cast member Commander Will Riker in his seven seasons and four Star Trek: The Next Generations films, a place where he got to work with a close-knit family of actors that reflect their camaraderie on-screen.  If you happened to see this season’s finale, then you witnessed a perfect episode of TV, with a great ensemble cast, and everyone in prime form.  Frakes and me at Comic-Con in 2008:

Leverage is a good series in its simplicity.  It’s a fun show and never takes itself very seriously.  We’ve compared it before to shows like The A-Team.  There is a mission, these are the good guys, they are understood.  They always get the job done.  And episodes are peppered with the best character actors.  And one of our favorites of any series popped up in this season’s finale–Mark Sheppard as Jim Sterling.

This season’s finale, “The Queen’s Gambit Job,” was a great action drama on several fronts:

Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton’s Nathan Ford got to revel in his mastermind role, playing a high stakes game of chess in a Casino Royale story with the fate of a nuclear weapon up in the air.

Parker gets to get stuck in a vault, only to figure her way out and end up on the roof of the second tallest building in the world, the Skyspire of Dubai.  And she gets to free fall over the edge because of a parachute packed by Hardison.

Hacker Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) get closer and become even more of a team, thinking like each other and covering each others’ backs.

Hitter Eliot (Christian Kane) actually loses this round for once, to none other than Sheppard’s Sterling.  Eliot and Sheppard’s verbal sparring rival any actual fighting Eliot has encountered in the series so far, as well as his verbal sparring with Hardison in several episodes.  This episode shows Sheppard at his best–his normal dark and quiet demeanor gets stretched here and he seems to really lose it when engaging with Eliot in the car.

The only character who doesn’t get much screen time this round is grifter Sophie (Gina Bellman).  For the most part her role is the weakest and some focus from the writing team on her character next season is overdue.

There is always a double cross on Leverage, and clues are carefully laid out for the viewer to catch what is really happening before the big reveal.  The team always gets caught, but are they really?  In this episode, even though team members feel a loss, everyone actually wins.  It is a good spin on the normal Leverage story.  The cast has such chemistry at this point you just hope they can keep it up for a few more seasons.  And while they are at it, since this was his second appearance, why not make Sheppard a series regular cast member?

And how about Frakes as the permanent series director?  His other episodes were also top-notch shows: The Lonely Hearts Job, The Wedding Job, The Snow Job, The Juror #6 Job, The Fairy Godparents Job, The Bottle Job, The Reunion Job, The Studio Job and The Morning After Job.

For the fun of it, here is E.C. Bunce and me at Comic-Con where we ran into Mark Sheppard in the Gaslight District in our Chuck meets Alien Nation garb.  Photo courtesy of the gracious Mrs. Sheppard:

BTW, Sheppard said he read this borg.com article on him in a prior post.  Definitely our favorite guest star on nearly every all of our favorite TV series.

   

Review By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Two of my favorite TV shows made their season premieres this week:  TNT’s Leverage began its fourth season, with USA’s Burn Notice moving easily into its fifth.  Anyone who’s seen at least a couple episodes of both series can’t fail to recognize that they’re pretty much the same show.  They’re both basically an update of The A-Team: a crew of lovable outcasts who use their unconventional skills to help desperate people fight back against the corrupt and powerful.  I remember The A-Team as being rather campy, so I hope that Leverage and Burn Notice are a little more sophisticated than the ’80s cult favorite I recall from my childhood, although Hardison’s van, Lucille, does look a little familiar.

   

That said, clearly it’s a formula that works as well in the 2010s as it did thirty years ago, or we would not have two such successful parallels airing simultaneously on competing cable networks.  Even in cable, it takes a lot to make it to a fourth and fifth season–not the least important being loyal viewers.  And speaking as one of those loyal viewers, I’m excited to have both shows back.

Burn NoticeCompany Man joins out-in-the-cold-of-Miami hero Michael Westen working with the CIA team trying to track down the mysterious people responsible for framing him for the dastardly crimes of madman Simon Escher.  It was nice to see Michael back inside for an episode, and nicer still to see the burn notice plotline take center stage for once (instead of being the ongoing series subplot to the “Desperate Client of the Week” main storylines).  Typically, when longterm plotlines are “resolved” in TV series, they’re done kind of ham-handedly, leaving viewers dissatisfied with the writers’ efforts to round off the throughlines that have built tension and momentum for the series. Not so with Company Man.  I was impressed by both the handling of Michael working for the CIA (not as an agent, but as a civilian asset, something I, at least, found totally convincing), as well as the way in which they left Michael’s storyline unresolved.  We feel we got what we wanted from last year’s setup, without sacrificing the core of the show we love so much.  Michael, Fiona, Sam, and Mrs. Westen will continue to look out for the exploited citizens of Miami, and Michael still has questions left to answer from his past.  Last season’s rookie member, Jesse Porter,  played by Coby Bell, returned for the briefest of brief appearances, and although he didn’t have a role in this episode’s story, the writers made it clear he’ll stay part of the team.  I wasn’t altogether thrilled by Sam and Fiona’s roles in the episode; the wounded friend routine felt juvenile and out of place.  These people are professional soldiers; pouting over being left out of a mission is something I’d expect from Buffy’s adolescent Scooby Gang, not an ex-Navy Seal and IRA gunrunner. Overall, it was an excellent conclusion to last year’s cliffhanger, and a smooth transition into Season Five.

As for Leverage, the criminal gang is back for more of the same.  In The Long Way Down Job, the crew “steals a mountain. Again…” foiling a crooked investor (and probable murderer) in a mountain climbing adventure that would do the old A-Team proud!   I’ve been a big Leverage fan since the beginning –can’t resist a great heist– but as much as I love the gang and the schtick, I confess I’m often left vaguely disappointed in the episodes and series as a whole.  Though there have been some terrific episodes (last season’s Rashomon Job was the show at its best), and it’s fun to see familiar faces in guest appearances (from Saul Rubinek of Warehouse 13, to Star Trek’s Q, John deLancie, and last night’s Eric Stoltz) I hardly ever feel that it lives up to its full potential, and I’m not entirely sure why that is.  The cast is great, with Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, and Aldis Hodge being the clear standouts.  And maybe that’s my problem.  “Mastermind” Timothy Hutton should be the standout star; he has the talent and he has the chops and he’s clearly billed as the leader, and yet… sigh.  Maybe it’s unfair of me, but every time I watch an episode, I find myself wishing it was Nero Wolfe.  Hutton’s turn as Archie Goodwin…

…may be one of my alltime favorite TV performances (and from a life spent watching as much TV as I do, that’s saying something!).  He sparkled in that role and took a wonderful show to something sublime.  For whatever reason, Nathan Ford just doesn’t do it for me.  

All of that aside, I do respect the Leverage team’s efforts to raise the stakes with the series–Season Three’s ongoing series plotline about international criminal Damien Moreau was ambitious, and certainly led the crew to some interesting locales and episodes, and yet it, too, didn’t really work for me.  Typically, raising the stakes for your characters and your plot is one of the most important components of better, more compelling storytelling.  So it should work, but I felt like the Moreau storyline was forced and inauthentic–trying to make Leverage something it’s not.  I’m not entirely sure what it is, and it doesn’t always achieve whatever it’s trying to do… but I’m still a fan, and I’m still going to keep watching.  Because whatever silly, convoluted plot they have up their sleeves, I want to see Eliot and Hardison sparring.  I want to watch Parker fumble her way through being a normal person.  And, against my will, I even want to see Nate Ford grow as a character.

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