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Tag Archive: Burn Notice


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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The-Player-NBC-hero-1368x506

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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Legends banner

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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Burn Notice finale

When USA Network announced last year that its hit spy series Burn Notice would see its last season this year, it really seemed like the right decision.  The ramifications of Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen getting a burn notice, blacklisting him and leaving him with nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history, stuck in Miami doing whatever came his way for six years with his trigger happy girlfriend/ex-girlfriend/girlfriend again (Gabrielle Anwar), his old friend that used to inform on him to the FBI (Bruce Campbell), his mom (Sharon Gless) and another spy who he burnt along the way (Coby Bell)–it all seemed like there was not much left for the series to show us that hadn’t been done.

But as happens with writers and creators of many TV series who know they are working on their swan song, it’s like someone gave them some java juice, and they delivered the best of their past three seasons.

Jack Coleman in Burn Notice

Much credit goes to some superb casting this year.  Heroes’ Jack Coleman, featured throughout the year as Michael’s CIA handler Andrew Strong, was the best featured character to come along since Coby Bell signed on as Jesse Porter in Season 4.  Coleman was believable and likeable, in contrast with the misery the series put us through with Jere Burns’ black hat villain Anson Fullerton last season.  Veronica Mars and CW’s Cult lead actress Alona Tal was also a welcome and interesting addition this year as Russian spy Sonya.

Thursday night’s series finale even featured a small role for genre favorite Alan Ruck as a scientist working for this season’s villain James Kendrick, played by John Pyper-Ferguson.  If there was one storyline this season that almost turned us off it was leaving viewers to figure out what were the motivations of Kendrick, although Pyper-Ferguson managed to give us the best layered villain of the past several seasons.  Was Kendrick ultimately “doing good” or was he a villain?  Would Michael be justified in a continued support of Kendrick’s causes, or would the other villains–the CIA–win out in the end?  Who would Michael eventually side with?  With the penultimate episode and the finale last night, all of the questions posed over the past year, and even over the entire series, were laid to rest.

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Burn Notice final season

The final season of Burn Notice is now two episodes in and Season 7 is turning out to be as exciting and fresh as the early seasons that got us hooked on the series in the first place.  The series seems to benefitting from that shot of adrenaline that takes you into the home stretch, or maybe some kind of second wind.  The writers have stepped up their game compared to last season and even the actors seem to be better than ever before.  Directed by series star Jeffrey Donovan, Thursday’s episode “Forget Me Not,” was the celebrated 100th episode of the series and it will easily go down as one of the best.  With only 13 episodes bought by USA Network this year compared to a typical 18-episode season, it’s time to soak up all the Burn Notice you can.  Can series creator Matt Nix and the show writers keep up the momentum until the final episode?

When Burn Notice left us last season, Sam (Bruce Campbell), Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), Jesse (Coby Bell) and Madeline (Sharon Gless) had spent a month locked up, and once released they learned that Michael (Donovan) made a deal yet again in return for his family and friends being freed from imprisonment.  This was the last straw for Fiona, tired of Michael’s multiple year obsession with clearing his name from the original Burn Notice, and seeming to always have an excuse for not sealing the deal with Fiona.

100th episode gunfight on Burn Notice

When we catch up with the gang in last week’s season opener “New Deal, ” Michael is now separated from his friends and the woman he loves; he has sank too deep into his undercover role to take out the new series villain.  Gabrielle Anwar’s Fiona has a new beau.  Sam and Jesse have become the sleuthing buddies that used to be reflected in the partnership of Sam and Michael.  Michael’s mom Maddie is now taking care of her grandson Charlie, left orphaned by both Michael’s brother Nate, who was killed last season, and his unfit wife.

Burn Notice Ep 1

Genre fans will love the Heroes reunion we have with Season 7.  Michael’s handler is the Horn-rimmed Glasses Guy himself, played by the awesome Jack Coleman.  Coleman is perfectly cast and in the first two episodes he dances circles around the previous characters that have filled similar roles over the past six seasons.  His character is layered and comes off as a good guy opposite Michael’s often conflicted and flat-out wrong motivations.  Coleman has Michael working a case in the Dominican Republic, to take out Randall Burke, played by Heroes’ Nathan Petrelli, Adrian Pasdar–our Season 7 villain.  And so far Pasdar makes a solid choice as baddie, especially considering his leading man, good guy looks.

Burn Notice Ep 1 heroes

In this week’s episode two, “Forget Me Not,” Maddie has screwed up, revealing to Burke’s lieutenant’s informant that Michael is actually working for the CIA.  Michael returns to Miami, unable to make contact with his mom or friends, and ends up using them all over again.  If Michael is one thing, it’s consistent.  And he makes one last effort to get Fiona back, and in this 100th episode we get to see in flashback the original meeting of Michael and Fiona, the memory of which helps Michael save Fiona’s life.  It’s a great look at these characters.

Creator Matt Nix sums up his plan for the final season: “In laying out the season a lot of it was what have we not done before?  How do we build the season to an exciting climax?”

Burn Notice Season 7 cast photo

Let’s hope Nix & Co. helps Burn Notice keep up the effort for the eleven remaining episodes.  It’s episodes like “New Deal” and “Forget Me Not” that should make networks rethink ending a series.  Check out Burn Notice Thursdays on USA Network.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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