Tag Archive: Burn Notice


Review by C.J. Bunce

After a twelve-year break, the best, award-winning police procedural and crime drama is back.  For twenty seasons Law & Order delivered the best “ripped from the headlines” twists and turns, featuring the best shifting casts, long-term regulars, and returning characters.  Its split episode format with two detectives and assistant district attorneys blended the best of all the cop shows before or since with the #1 series ever created about lawyering (it helped get me through criminal procedure in law school two decades ago, and I’ve seen each of its 456 original episodes at least four times).  Well, now the best is back, with a mix of familiar faces and some promising new ones, beginning with this week’s first episode of its 21st season, a twist on the infamous Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein cases.  It’s the return of the best two assistant district attorneys in the history of the show.  And it hasn’t changed a bit–a good thing–like the series kept going after we last watched it way back in 2010.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

You don’t need to be familiar with the Bad Boys franchise to love L.A.′s Finest, the two-season 2019-2020 series that missed most of its audience by streaming first exclusively on Spectrum’s cable platform.  Sure, it’s technically a spinoff of the raunchy buddy cop flicks starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.  Yes, Gabrielle Union reprises her role as Syd Burnett (sister of Lawrence’s character), a former DEA agent turned L.A. detective.  But this sharply-written action comedy cop show, with a leading duo that parallels both the drama and the antics of Smith and Lawrence, has much more going for it than its big brother movie series.  Starring Union (Bad Boys II, The Lion Guard) and Jessica Alba (Dark Angel, Fantastic Four) as ex-U.S. Navy intelligence expert, now detective Nancy McKenna, wisecracking partners in the Bad Boys mold, the series moves from its Miami roots to Los Angeles, and digs into local culture, politics, and above all, crime.  That’s really all you need to know about the show, whose 26 episodes at last made it to Netflix this summer.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After the 2019 Academy Awards recognized genre films Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and gave top awards to Green Book and Roma, ABC aired the pilot for a new series.  Whiskey Cavalier begins with a solid pilot episode, and you can find it in its weekly timeslot beginning Wednesday evening on ABC.  It borrows from two familiar sources for network TV: the spy genre, like Mission: Impossible, iSpy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Avengers, and Chuck, and the “will they or won’t they” investigation shows like Moonlighting, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, and Private Eyes.  Whiskey Cavalier–the military/NATO spy call sign for FBI agent Will Chase (yes, that’s his name), stars Scott Foley opposite CIA Agent Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge, played by Lauren Cohan.  It’s more action and fun than drama–a good thing that works for this offbeat new series.

The first episode finds Agent Chase as a sad sack agent, recently dumped by his French girlfriend, crying as he listens to songs from his break-up mix tape, assembled from recommendations from other FBI agents.  Those familiar with Michael Dorman’s lead character in Amazon Studio’s series Patriot will see much in common between the leads.  Chase doesn’t have his heart in his job until he’s in action, and then he becomes full-on Jack Ryan (actor Scott Foley has a vibe crossing Jack Ryan series star John Krasinski and White Collar co-star Tim DeKay, and the pilot includes a humorous reference to his Chris Evans’ Captain America appearance).

As Chase tries to intercept an alleged hacker/thief/traitor, CIA Agent Trowbridge steps in, and that’s when the chemistry begins.  You can almost hear the 1970s movie trailer voice-over: “What can happen when we combine this sensitive FBI agent and this tough-as-nails CIA spy?  Can they work together to save the world without killing each other?”  And yet, the pilot was edited into a fast-paced drama, not at all bogged down in origin story, and it supplies a supporting cast of characters that seem to gel from the start, played by Ana Ortiz, Vir Das, and Tyler James Williams.  In brief, it’s fun and it works.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Today a new young heroine arrives in the pages of a graphic novel called Scoop.  In Volume 1 with the first story arc titled “Breaking News,” we meet Sophie Cooper, a 14-year-old Cuban-American high school student in Miami.  It’s not the red hair and freckles that make her an outsider, it’s her dad.  He’s under investigation by a local bank for money laundering–under house arrest he’s trapped in his own home with an ankle monitor, while Sophie’s mother serves as a lawyer in the mayor’s office.  Sophie is ostracized by her peers at school and decides to take an internship with a local TV station in the hopes that she can learn something to help prove her dad is not what everyone says he is.  Sophie can’t help but make friends along the way, including a has-been TV anchor at the least popular station in town, who proves to be more valuable than she could have imagined.  While investigating a lead they encounter a strange otherworldly force that wrecks his car, and an undersea creature who helps her escape a pursuer who thinks she is getting too close to the truth.

“Scoop” becomes Sophie Cooper’s clever handle, her nickname (the first letter of her first name and first four letters of her last name), assigned to her by the news station.  Scoop has the framework to become the next Liv Moore from iZombie or Veronica Mars.  Sophie gravitates more toward the Veronica Mars angle–your basic teen crime detective–since this first volume primarily introduces the main characters, but writer Richard Hamilton and artist Joseph Cooper plant the seeds for a supernatural, X-Files-inspired future for the teen sleuth.

The imagery features a dose of Burn Notice style from the investigation plot, Miami setting, and locals that pop up in the series’ first 96 pages.  Also like iZombie, this is a story and characters not springing from a major comic book universe, so anyone can climb onboard from page one.  Sophie Cooper is exactly the kind of character you might see show up in a year or two on the CW Network, engaging and bright, with her precocious younger brother as an assistant she can tap into the latest technology to hone her investigative skills.

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We last saw Wesley Snipes in this year’s better than you’d expect sequel The Expendables 3.  Snipes has a history of being the coolest guy in the room going back to Passenger 57, Rising Sun, and Demolition Man.   He’s giving his famous tagline “always bet on black” a new spin in his next venture as a high stakes gambler in NBC’s new series The Player.  Only this gambler isn’t just playing cards in a Las Vegas casino.

Originally titled Endgame, The Player stars Philip Winchester (Fringe, 24: Live Another Day) as Alex Kane–The Player–a former intelligence officer working as a security expert.  Think Robert Redford’s character in Sneakers.  When Kane’s wife is murdered he is pulled into a strange world of crimefighting without the supersuit.  Snipes plays Mr. Johnson, a pit boss of sorts.  Charity Wakefield (Wolf Hall) plays Cassandra King–The Dealer.  At stake is whether bad guys will succeed at committing violent crimes.

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The previews for The Player showcase a fast-paced Bourne Identity meets Burn Notice vibe that should bring in viewers.  Check out this trailer:

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Jeffrey Donovan in Sicario

What a mash-up that would be, huh?  Edge of Tomorrow’s tough as nails “Angel of Verdun,” played by Emily Blunt, and Burn Notice’s master spy Michael Westen, played by Jeffrey Donovan?

It’s not a mash-up, but maybe it could fill the void left by Burn Notice temporarily.  Crime drama.  Action flick.  Mystery.  And it’s about a hitman.

Starring Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, and Donovan, Sicario is gaining some critical buzz from Cannes.

Emily Blunt Sicario

In Mexico, Sicario means hitman.  In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elite government task force official to aid in the escalating war against drugs.  Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past, the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.

Check out the first trailer for Sicario:

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

With Burn Notice over and Homeland confined to premium viewing only, basic cable’s best hope for a weekly spy drama fix may be TNT’s new series Legends.  Un-gripping title aside, this new Sean Bean vehicle shows surprising promise.  Although it follows the cliché template for every crime drama of the last ten years (eccentric male expert and his younger female law enforcement handler), the format is elevated by familiar actors and an intriguing added premise.

Based on Robert Littell’s Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation, Legends the series follows Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Patriot Games, National Treasure, GoldenEye, The Fellowship of the Ring, Sharpe series) as undercover FBI agent Martin Odum, the “most naturally gifted undercover operative” in the US arsenal.  Bean himself seems naturally gifted for the role, easing eerily between his “legend,” or cover identity, and his real self, donning accents, hairstyles, and costumes with Mission Impossible-style finesse.  But the ultimate deception may be on Odum himself–according to a shadowy figure with Manchurian Candidate overtones, Odum may not really be Odum.  Martin’s “real” life may be nothing more than just another legend.

Larter in Legends

Bean’s performance is bolstered by a strong supporting cast, including Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), Steve Harris (Awake, Minority Report), and Tina Majorino (True Blood, Veronica Mars, Corinna, Corinna, Waterworld, Andre), although we’re hoping Larter and Majorino aren’t getting typecast–Larter already stripping as she did in Heroes and Majorino as the same tech nerd we’ve seen her play so well and so often.

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How I Married Your Mother finale

It always pays to be wary of grandiose statements and definitive pronouncements.  When I first watched Forrest Gump in the theater, one-third of the way through the movie it occurred to me I might be watching the greatest production of all time, and walking out of the theater I carried that thought with me.  But time changes things.  Now I see it as a fun film, but it’s not at the top of any of my “best of” lists.  Professor Schofield advised that you can’t really objectively analyze something, an art movement, a political figure, a fad–anything worth analyzing–unless several years had transpired and you could have the value of time and distance, contemplation and reflection, to look back with.

So it is with a bit of reservation that I am asserting that the series finale to How I Met Your Mother that aired Monday night should top any list of great finales.  The writers, producers, and actors simply got it just right.  Exactly right.  Airing the first episode of season one just before the finale aired really showcased how this ending was exactly what viewers deserved after nine seasons of sticking with the show.  Consider all the series finales that were promoted over the years, and despite the biggest of viewing audiences, you might find that most last hoorahs miss the mark, try too hard, or just do something that didn’t reflect the best of the series.

Trek TNG All Good Things

The granddaddy of all finales was the 1983 M*A*S*H extended episode “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”  Although some elements were right, like a bounty of typical and appropriate sad goodbyes, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, (one of the best characters of all time) after more than a decade of using laughter to beat the odds and help his unit survive the Korean War, cracks at the very end.  NBC’s comedy spy series Chuck made a similar mistake, wiping the memory of Chuck’s hard-earned love interest Sarah after we cheered him on all those years, requiring the story to basically start over from scratch in some far off place after the series wrapped.  Another less than satisfying but at least appropriate-to-the-series finale was the end of the monumental 20th year of the original Law & Order.  We basically got to see a fairly typical episode of the series, which certainly fit the seriousness of the show’s drama.  But we also got a goodbye scene and were left on a positive note with “Lieut’s” good news about her hard-fought illness.

Before that, you might have seen the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Nick at Nite or other classic rerun network if you weren’t old enough to catch it in its initial run.  The TV network that was the subject of the series fires everyone including Mary at the end, except Ted Knight’s character Ted Baxter.  The annoying guy that we loved for being annoying gets to stay.  A funny series with a funny end, as well as the requisite bittersweet goodbye scene.  A similarly funny sitcom, Psych, wrapped its eighth and final season last month, tying up all its remaining loose ends.  Psych took a different path, taking its angst-inducing character, Detective-then-Chief Lassiter, and with a redemption of sorts, switched up his role in the last two seasons to become a guy viewers could cheer on.

Newhart finale

Another comedy, Newhart, gave us a completely bizarre ending for an otherwise enjoyable comedy series.  Yet it was saved literally in the last two minutes by a brilliantly concocted stunt–bring back Bob’s wife from his original series, The Bob Newhart Show, the lovely Suzanne Pleshette, revealing the whole series was just a dream.  It’s a gimmick that didn’t work for a series like the original Dallas (recall Bobby Ewing died then came back to life with a “poof”), but for a comedy wrap-up, it couldn’t have been better timed.

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Black Widow 2 cover Noto

If you’re still waiting to see who is going to pick up the reins and turn Gentle Giant’s Honey Trap Army into a comic book series, the next best thing may be at your local comic book store right now.  It’s Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s new Black Widow biweekly series from Marvel Comics.  What does it have to do with the Honey Trap Army?  Nothing really, except that Natasha Romanoff as realized by the 1960s style art of Phil Noto would fit right in with the mod-inspired team of high-end assassin action figures.

You’ll get the feeling you’re reading something with plenty of potential, storytelling on par with Jason Aaron’s Thor, God of Thunder.  In a similar way as Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye created a story of a second-level Avenger apart from the world of the Avengers, Edmondson’s Black Widow is on her own and carving out her own life in this new series.  She’s still working with the Avengers, but this story is about how she spends the rest of her time.  And like Hawkeye has his pal Lucky Dog, Natasha almost has her own pet cat.  Almost.

Black Widow Honey Trap Army look

She’s an assassin turned paid killer, a distinction that has real meaning for Natasha, who is taking on her own mercenary projects for good pay but not for personal gain.  It’s all part of her atonement for past sins, a process she is both forging ahead and wrestling with.  She has an able if not seemingly foppish aide in this endeavor, a buttoned-shirt lawyer named Mr. Ross, who selects assignments to take any subjective influences away from what projects are selected for Natasha to pursue.  At her request.  And we learn even he is full of surprises.

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Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany as everyone

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and we’re certain we read more and reviewed more content this year than ever before.  And that in no less way was true for TV watching.  At the same time we waded through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre films we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our 25 picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on the moving image, and tomorrow we’ll run through our picks for the best in print and other media.  We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2014!

Year’s Best Fantasy Fix — The Wizard of Oz in Theaters.  It’s a film that has been viewed on TV so many times you might take it for granted.  It’s historically been on many movie reviewers’ Top 20 movies of all time.  But when you watch The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the middle of a year of modern blockbusters you realize how it can stand up against anything Hollywood has to offer today, even after 70 years.  Remastering the print for a new generation to see it in theaters was a highlight for movie watchers this year.

Almost Human partners

Year’s Best Sci-Fi Fix — Almost Human, Fox.  Like Continuum last year, the new series Almost Human created a future world that is believable and full of extraordinary technologies based in today’s science and touching on social issues of any day.  And even putting aside its buddy cop and police procedural brilliance, every episode plunged us into future police grappling with incredible technologies–DNA bombs criminals use to contaminate a crime scene, identity masking technology to avoid facial recognition video monitors–it was the best dose of sci-fi in 2013.

Best TV Series — Orphan Black, BBC America.  What rose above everything on TV or film this year was BBC America’s new series, the almost indescribable Orphan Black From its initial trailers that piqued our interest, to the surprise series consisting of one actress playing multiple roles that dazzled from out of nowhere, magical special effects, and a unique story of clones and X-Files-inspired intrigue propelled Orphan Black to be our clear winner for Best TV Series of 2013.

Sleepy Hollow

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