Tag Archive: Timothy Hutton


After watching nearly five complete seasons of a TV series you’re fond of you sometimes take it for granted.  For me Leverage is one of those series I watch and enjoy and don’t think a lot about.  Then you focus on two hours of mid-season finale episodes that really blow you away and you want to watch the season all over again.  Just one year ago I raved here at borg.com about the fourth season’s mid-season finale for Leverage, highlighting director Jonathan Frakes’s role in directing some key episodes.  I re-watched that episode, “The Queen’s Gambit Job,” and I’d say the same things on re-viewing the episode as I said last year.  The chemistry of the Mastermind, Grifter, Hacker, Hitter and Thief was completely stirring a potion of fun TV, and Mark Shepard’s on and off again villain Jim Sterling was cemented as possibly the ubiquitous actor’s best recurring role.

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If you happened to watch this week’s episode of TNT’s hit TV series Leverage, you’ll have seen one of the best constructed episodes of the series so far.  The “Brains” Nathan Ford, played by Timothy Hutton, brings his team to track down his father, who broke into the federal patent and trademark office.  Soon we learn everyone has been set up, and a small town’s worth of SWAT and local law enforcement surround the building.  In strategizing the Leverage team’s way out, “Hitter” Eliot, played by Christian Kane, poses as a police officer to communicate with a cop outside the building–a cop played by Michael Paré (The Philadelphia Experiment, Greatest American Hero, Eddie and the Cruisers) already getting brow beaten by the local head of Homeland Security who has taken over the investigation of the break-in.  As with most episodes of Leverage we get an ample dose of great pop culture references (“Hacker” Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) sports a tie and mimics Doctor Who saying “bow ties are cool”).  Here Eliot maintains all his dialogue in the voice and drawl of Die Hard’s John McClane, just as Bruce Willis did, in order to get through his walk of the gauntlet in the original Die Hard movie.  Die Hard interest is alive and well, after four movies in the franchise since 1988.

This winter Twentieth Century Fox announced that Bruce Willis will be returning as John McClane in 2013 with the fifth film in the franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard.  Fox indicated Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Picard) as a possible villain, to play a disgraced Russian general plotting to assassinate the visiting president.  John Moore is scheduled to direct a script by Skip Woods (X-Men Legends: Wolverine, The A-Team).  Bruce Willis has stated he wants to bring back Bonnie Bedelia as his wife from the first two films.  Shooting is scheduled to begin this month in Budapest, Hungary.

A Good Day to Die Hard is to follow John McClane as he goes to Moscow to convince the government of Russia to let his son John McClane, Jr. out of prison.  Somehow his son gets caught up in a global terrorist plot, and the inevitable McClane getting-in-over-his-head story will emerge.  It sounds like the story is in initial stages, but since the first and third movies were pretty good, maybe the curse of the even-numbered movie sequels here will get us back to the Willis we love to watch.  Casting for McClane Junior has included auditions by D.J. Cotrona, who will play Flint opposite Willis in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games).

But while we’re waiting until the scheduled release date of Valentine’s Day 2013, you can get a good dose of John McClane in comic legend Howard Chaykin’s graphic novel Die Hard: Year One.  Here was BOOM! Comics’s blurb for the comic series spanning eight issues through April 2010:

BOOM! Studios is proud to present America’s greatest action hero translated into the sequential art form for the first time! Every great action hero got started somewhere: Batman Began. Bond had his Casino Royale. And for John McClane, more than a decade before the first DIE HARD movie, he’s just another rookie cop, an East Coast guy working on earning his badge in New York City during 1976′s Bicentennial celebration. Too bad for John McClane, nothing’s ever that easy. Join legendary industry creator Howard Chaykin on a thrill ride that’s rung up over $1 billion in box office worldwide and become the gold standard for classic action! Yippee Ki Yay!

 

Hype aside, as with nearly everything Howard Chaykin touches, Die Hard: Year One is pure gold.  Twelve years before the Nakatomi building siege in Die Hard, Willis is a beat cop in Manhattan.  He is working with a loud-mouthed training officer that might as well be played by Dennis Franz.  The art by Stephen Thompson is well done, and McClane is drawn to resemble a young Bruce Willis, enough that you never doubt it with McClane’s trademark dialogue style.

The first four issues of Die Hard: Year One were compiled into volume 1 of a hardcover editionDie Hard: Year One, Volume 2 comprises Issues #4-8.

In Volume 1, it is the Fourth of July, 1976.  Writer Chaykin describes New York of 1976 almost as if he is there right now.  But he does not sugar coat NYC of 1976.  He describes an ugly place with ugly people, locals trying to rip off every tourist–locals trying to one up each other every chance they get.  Here, a new immigrant to the Big Apple from Indiana witnesses two cops killing another man, they spot her and chase her down.  McClane happens to get a detail as security on one of the tall boats in the bay, readying for the fireworks celebration, babysitting the wife of the third richest man in the world.  All hell breaks loose as an odd jumble of locals, including the two bad cops, led by a local hippy terrorist, try to blow up the rich man’s yacht and escape in a mini-sub with all the money onboard.  Plain clothes McClane hides below decks with the girl from Indiana, and McClane’s first big problem as police officer is underway.

Chaykin clearly knows the people of the 1970s and the streets of New York.  His descriptions feel real and his storytelling is superb.  We quickly get to know McClane, someone we already think we know, and the setting helps illustrate the put-upon cop we will later see on the big screen.  I remember the look and feel of July 4, 1976, vividly, and Thompson here captures the sites, fashions, and images incredibly well.

Die Hard: Year One, Volume 2 follows the exploits of McClane in the black-out of 1977.

Both volumes are available for sale online.

Look for special covers by current popular cover illustrator Jock in the back of the hardcover edition.

C.J.  Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Before I watched the brilliant A&E television series Nero Wolfe, as far as I knew that was the name of the author, as the big print NERO and WOLFE are the biggest words on the cover of all the Nero Wolfe novels.   It makes sense as author Rex Stout’s gruff lead character is physically a large fellow who rarely gets up, rarely leaves his house, and when he does either it is always with purpose.   But as superbly written a character that Nero Wolfe is, it is really hard to compare to our first person narrator, Archie Goodwin.

Goodwin is your tour guide through the murder mystery and the world of Nero Wolfe, the seventy-year old series of 33 crime/detective novels, and in the ninth Nero Wolfe novel Black Orchids, Goodwin particularly is in prime, zealous form.  He likens himself more of a Gary Cooper than a Clark Gable.  Those who don’t know him see him as slick, and chastise his ego, as someone who “thinks he can slide uphill.”  On an errand for Wolfe to inspect three rare black orchids, he happens upon a woman wading her legs in a pool and this image alone puts him in a mode to fantasize her as his fiancée, for nearly the entire story.  As fate would have it, the man she is with is found with a hole in his head of the revolver variety, and Police Inspector Cramer has his sights on Archie as the trigger man since Archie was first to discover it.  Ultimately everyone who appears in the cast of characters becomes a suspect, and like a game of Clue, you can’t really know how the facts come together until the last scene.

Sounds like every episode of Murder She Wrote or Columbo?  Not really, although those series follow the Nero Wolfe model of storytelling.

Archie is so fast talking and quick-witted and drops laughs so effortlessly that the reader feels he must hold onto something for the ride.  Check out this tirade of inner reactions, keeping in mind Archie does not even know this woman:

“I was keeping tabs on Anne, knowing that the best time to get the lowdown on a woman is when she’s under stress.  I thought she was doing fine.  After four straight days in a glaring spotlight as the star attraction of a flower show, with such by-products as having her picture taken with Billy Rose and dining out with Lewis Hewitt, here she was kerplunk in the mire with murder-mud ready to splatter all over her, and so far she had nothing to forfeit my respect, even when I had explained how you could pull a trigger with your toes.  But at this juncture she wasn’t so hot.  She might have spoken up with something suitable about being armored in her virtue and not needing to be looked after by any sourpuss employer or millionaire orchid fancier, but all she did was deadpan W.G. Dill without opening her trap.  I began to suspect she either had depths I hadn’t plumbed or was a bit limited in the mental area–but don’t get me wrong, I was still faithful.  Even as a deadpan, the sight of her face–for the mental side of life you can go to the library.”

And much later when the exhausted Anne is asked by Wolfe to stay the night because he wants to speak with her before she must meet the New York City district attorney early the next morning, Wolfe offers her Archie’s bedroom.  Archie narrates:

“That meant my room and my bed.  Anne started to protest, but not with much spirit, and I went and got Fritz and took him upstairs with me to help change sheets and towels.  As I selected a pajama suit for her from the drawer, tan with brown stripes, and put it on the turned down sheet, I reflected that things were moving pretty fast, considering that it was less than ten hours since she had first spoken to me and we never had actually been introduced.”

   

And what you learn having read one of Rex Stout’s novels is how incredibly well the TV series was produced.  Archie was played by current Leverage star Timothy Hutton and Nero was played by the late, great Maury Chaykin (no relation to artist and writer Howard Chaykin, who once told me he and comics writer Archie Goodwin were also fans of the Rex Stout novels, and Howard Chaykin loved the TV series).  In fact, like any time you read the book after watching the series or movie, it is darned near impossible to construct the characters any other way.  But it doesn’t matter, as each character has his place, and they are as well constructed as you’d expect with such a celebrated series:  Nero, the food and plant connousieur, Archie the senior of a small band of Wolfe’s personal assistants and sleuther on the spot, Fritz the cook and butler, Inspector Cramer the Chicago-sounding angst-bitten griper who in any other brownstone but Wolfe’s would be the smartest guy in the room.

In Black Orchids, you get a taste of these classic characters in a typical Stout atypical crime and a puzzling web of lies set in a backdrop of 1940s stylishness.  You also can get an education in Wolfe’s hobbies, here, flowers and plant diseases.  Wolfe and Goodwin play off each other beautifully and the plot twists are seemless, a credit to this great writer.

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

One thing every woman knows, from childhood, is not to watch movies about serial killers when you are home alone.  It’s as basic as “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t wear socks with sandals,” but it’s hard to manage when October wanes, spookiness abounds, your husband has gone to visit his parents for the weekend… and Lifetime airs Alphabet Killer, which the DVR cable guide announces stars Eliza Dushku, Carey Elwes, Timothy Hutton, and Michael Ironside.  Had I read in advance of this film’s dismal box office showing and even worse reviews, I might have passed it over for Haunted Hotels or a Psych rerun, but I was nevertheless drawn in by that intriguing combination of genre favorites.

Although critics and viewers panned the film on its tiny (No, really–all of two theaters, according to Wikipedia) theatrical release in 2008, it’s actually entirely watchable, if you come at it as if it’s a made-for-TV movie (which is what I thought. Eventually the bleeped-out curse words gave it away, but by then I was committed).  The story is more or less loosely based on a true crime from 1970s Rochester, NY, when three young girls with “double initial” names (i.e. Melissa Maestro, a character in the film) were murdered, their bodies dumped in local towns also starting with the same letter.  I say “more or less,” because the details of the crimes are very similar to the real case, but the story is set in the present day, and all of the characters and circumstances of the plot are entirely invented.

The film follows unstable homicide detective Megan Price (Dushku) as she works the case, all the while losing her grip on reality, due to adult-onset schizophrenia.  Elwes plays her superior officer and fiance, in a casting move that really ought to be creepy (especially in a movie about a pedophile), and yet somehow works.  We don’t mind Elwes and Dushku together, thanks to Dushku playing a bona fide adult with no trace of the teenaged characters that made her famous.  Hutton appears in a nice role as the head of Price’s mental health support group, and the only character who seems to consistently believe in her.  Ironside’s role is small, as the stock, uncooperative small-town sheriff, but he’s always fun to watch.  Overall, the film (at least the edited-for-TV version) shies away from gore and horror, instead relying on psychological suspense and an incredibly moody setting.  While the identity of the killer is somewhat predictable, in the tradition of films like Clint Eastwood’s Bloodwork, it still plays out well, treading the tricky path between Price’s efforts to solve the mystery, and her efforts to hold onto her sanity.

If the film succeeds, which I think it does, it’s mostly because of the cast.  I wouldn’t seek out the film, necessarily, but if you have a gap to fill in your Carey Elwes marathon, it’s worth a view.  Luckily Netflix has Alphabet Killer available as streaming video, should you find yourself alone on a late October evening with nothing spooky to watch.

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.

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