Magic City Season 1 Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Magic City Season 1 Blu-Ray Review

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Olga Kurylenko, Steven Strait, Jessica Marais, Christian Cooke, Yul Vazquez, Taylor Blackwell, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Elena Satine, Michael Rispoli, Kelly Lynch and Danny Huston.

Series created by Mitch Glazer

New this week from Starz Network and Anchor Bay Entertainment comes the first season of the acclaimed series Magic City. The lavishly conceived and staged production set in 1959 Miami Beach is a crime ridden gangster drama with a gloss and charm set to draw you in and make you stay a while. Producer Mitch Glazer used recollections, both fantasy and fact, to craft this series based on the Miami Beach he knew growing up. But does Magic City hold up with the quality of other contemporary cable shows?

As Ike Evans (Morgan) rings in the New Year, with the Chairman of the board himself Frank Sinatra crooning in the Grand Ballroom at his luxurious Miramar Playa Hotel, Castro’s rebels seize Havana just 200 miles offshore.  Miami is turbulent but the Kennedys, the mob and the CIA all hold court here. Evans must deal with the Mob, his complicated family and a city in the midst of dramatic change. Ike is the King of the beach and the Miramar is his crown jewel, but everything comes at a price. To finance his dream, Ike sold his soul to mob boss Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Huston). Ike’s wife Vera (Kurylenko) and his three kids, Stevie (Strait), Danny (Cooke) and Lauren (Blackwell), all think he’s an honorable man, but he can’t break his pact with the devil. In fact, nothing at the Miramar Playa is what it seems. The days are sunny but the nights are full of intrigue, excess and bad decisions that come with a price. As Ike’s world threatens to implode, he fights for his family, and the Miramar Playa, in Magic City.

The strength of Magic City is the layered universe it has created. The main plot playing out is the struggle of Ike to stay afloat and ahead of the Mob and a Bulldog District Attorney determined to go through Ike to Ben Diamond. But all around this we get the sub plots of Stevie getting involved with the “most wrong woman possible” played by Marais, The D.A. trying to pit the ambitious Danny against his family with the promise of a prestigious Assistant D.A. position once out of school. Also, a call girl by the name of Judi Silver (Satine) who manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time many times over, Ike’s General Manager Vic (Vazquez) tries to liberate his wife who is trapped in Castro’s embargoed Cuba and Ike’s new bride Eva tries to prove to everyone that she does have a place in the business and the family. These storylines bleed and thread themselves throughout the fabric of the main story and enrich the final product as a whole.

Morgan is fantastic as Ike, he carries an old school swagger and charm about him that just oozes onscreen, and his charisma is a perfect fit for Ike. I’ve been listening to people tout Strait as a talent to watch ever since 2005’s Undiscovered and Sky High, but this may be the first time I have started to agree with them. His Stevie makes bad decision after bad decision, but you see that even he knows he is making the wrong decisions he is smart enough to realize them for what they are, though his nature prevents him from passing on temptations. Olga Kurylenko is a bit of a revelation here. I’m not sure I have ever seen her so confident and in charge of herself onscreen. She seems to have melted into Eva effortlessly and the show is all together better not because of her sex appeal but her acting ability. You can tell Huston loves being the scenery chewing, cigar chomping mobster for whom violence is reactionary and without remorse.

The other star of the film is the Miramar Playa. Meticulously planned and executed to resemble the posh and opulent hotels of Miami Beach’s yesteryear. You can tell that creator Glazer has spent hours upon hours of research on the setting, making sure everything is just right. From the pool to the Atlantis Bar, complete with windows into the bottom of the pool outside, where naked women often casually swim by, the lobby, and Ike’s suite and office,  no detail is too small to be out of place and the show often takes minute rest stops in plot to emphasize these details. The amount of smoking going on here could give Mad Men a run for its money and ashtrays, as the late 50s would dictate, are everywhere.

Where Magic City loses its luster a bit is in the dialogue, which at times goes too far into Soap Opera territory, and a couple of side stories involving an ex of Eva and a burglar and his clumsy ransom demands. The actor portraying the cat burglar is pretty awful and the role of Cliff, Eva’s ex, forces actor Steven Brand to try and execute the duality of a charmer with impure intentions towards Ike’s wife, something he does not quite pull off.

The Blu-Ray comes equipped with a good handful of special features. Six behind the scenes featurettes that explore the cars, style and music of Magic City as well as other Starz specials about the creation of the series and the history behind it. The Starz Studio feature is a 15 minute behind the scenes piece with plenty of info about the series and its creation. The rest of the features are two to five minute segments about various aspects of the production.

Magic City may not be one the best shows on TV…yet, but it’s addictive as the nicotine, narcotics, booze and women who inhabit it. Magic City is a strong recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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The Possession Review (Kirk Haviland)

The Possession (2012)

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Madison Davenport, Natasha Calis, Grant Show, Matisyahu

Written by Juliet Snowden and Stiles White

Directed by Ole Bornedal

Late August has long been a staple for horror film releases, and also a dumping ground for lacklustre fare like last week’s The Apparition. Trying to buck the trend this year is the newest releases from Alliance Films, The Possession. Produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, The Possession was an idea Raimi had been pursuing for years, now finally coming to realization through director Bornedal. Featuring a fantastic poster and creepy trailer, the question remains, does The Possession deliver on its promise?

Supposedly based on a true story, The Possession is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde (Dean Morgan) and his recently divorced ex-wife Stephanie (Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em (Calis) becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. At first chalking the shift in behaviour to the divorce, Clyde starts to sense there may be something more as Em’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic. Unable to convince Stephanie and new boyfriend Brett (Show) or his eldest daughter Hannah (Davenport) that there is something wrong, Clyde sets out to discover what is happening on his own. Clyde fears that there is a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host, and this dibbuk happens to prey on the young and innocent.

The Possession starts out strong. A particularly effective scene of a woman as she tries to destroy the box and the nasty comeuppance which that act brings. Sadly all the good work here is squandered by the end of the film. The script is tight until the lunacy of the final act. Inventive and daring, although perhaps relying a little too much on computer generated imagery, the film drives along at a sharp pace, not leaving copious amounts of time to catch your breath, but still taking enough time to explain and delve into the characters. The lead cast deliver good performances, especially Dean Morgan as the perplexed and devoted father, and Calis as the object of the possession. Calis will be one to watch as her performance here is seasoned well beyond her years on the planet, excellent work.

Now to the disappointment, The Possession falls apart in the last 20 minutes due to poor choices and poor script work. The ending is truly awful and leaves a sour taste in your mouth as you exit the cinema. The CGI is clumsy and a particular CGI creation is just simply the wrong decision. Everything gets wrapped up nicely, complete with a nice little bow on top, except the box moves on, in a completely predictable and underwhelming final couple of minutes. The CGI in the film works quite well for about 90% of the production. A lot of the gags involving Calis work like a charm, it’s just too bad the commercials/trailers ruined most of those moments.

Definitely not the least successful genre film in the multiplex right now, The Possession works for most of the film as a taught piece of horror, but the last 20 minutes waste all the positive work. The Possession is a very mild recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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