NYPD Blue’s Fifth Season Proves Why Series Still Stands As One Of TV’s Best Dramas

Courtesy:  ABC/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: ABC/Shout! Factory

NYPD Blue was one of the biggest and most talked about crime dramas on television over the course of its twelve years on ABC.  The reason for that is that in comparison to the likes of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order franchises and CBS’ CSI series, it was far grittier than any of those programs.  One could easily argue that the success of NYPD Blue is to thank for FX’s The Shield rising to fame.  Of course, that series was itself based on a British series from the 1970s known as The Sweeney.  So it goes without saying that NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking series for its time.  And now thanks to Shout! Factory, the fifth season of the hit crime drama is now available in its entirety on DVD box set.  NYPD Blue Season Five is one of the favorites of fans everywhere.  That’s because it really exhibited the talent of the show’s writers at their peak.  The writing is just the starting point for the success of Season 5.  While it’s somewhat minor, audiences will agree that Season Five maintains the show’s image totally separate from the other crime dramas on television.  That will be explained later.  Just as much worth noting is the show’s music.  The music goes right along with the show’s image.  It wasn’t that perfect spit-shined sound that all of the other crime dramas used (and still use today).  These factors and so many more make NYPD Blue Season Five a fantastic trip down memory lane for any true fan of what was and still is one of ABC’s most revered series.

The fifth season of NYPD Blue stands out as one of the series’ best to date.  It is such an exceptional season first and foremost because of its writers.  The writers proved yet again with Season Five their ability to tell multiple stories without letting them get bogged down in each other.  This is something that still remains problematic for so many crime dramas today.  It was especially the case for the CSI franchise for many years.  The show’s writers relied more on sex appeal to try and cover up the fact that their stories were relatively shallow and had a tendency to get caught in themselves.  Just as much to the credit of NYPD Blue’s writers, their stories had substance.  Sure, there was some sex appeal.  But it largely took a back seat to the storylines that leave audiences on the edge of their seats right up to the end without audiences even realizing it.  A prime example of this was the season opener, “This Bud’s For You.”  This episode finishes off the cliffhanger that was started in Season Four’s finale.  The Joey Salvo homicide is finally figured out. And in the process, audiences see some personal character development among the cast. There’s more than enough drama to go around.  But none of it overpowers any other part of the episode.  That is a true sign of a well-written show.  And audiences will see that, again, throughout Season Five.  It’s just the starting point of this season’s success, too.

The writing behind NYPD Blue in its fifth season is the primary reason for the show’s success thus far into its run.  Another reason for the show’s success five seasons in is the show’s image. When put alongside its competition, NYPD Blue didn’t have the spit shined and streamlined look of perhaps a CSI or even any of the Law & Order series across the NBC family of networks at the time.  Those that are familiar with Dick Wolf’s varied series will agree with that argument.  The series in question attempted for years to have a certain grit and realism about them.  But they could never escape the more standard look established by Wolf’s company. Even today, Law & Order: SVU still suffers from that issue.  For lack of better wording, it’s almost as if Wolf’s series always held back.  NYPD Blue on the other hand took the road less travelled even five seasons in.  It wasn’t afraid to show a meaner, tougher side of police work.  Both then and now, few if any shows try their hand at such realism.  It continues to stand today as a tribute to the show’s ability to stand out in the crowd, even today.  Audiences will agree when they check out Season Five for themselves.

The writing and the look of NYPD Blue in its fifth season are both important elements in the show’s success.  There is still one more aspect of the series that while minor stands out among crime dramas of its time.  And it is related directly to the show’s image. That aspect is the show’s soundtrack.  Again, one has to note NYPD Blue’s competition at the time to understand why it is in fact so important.  The CSI’s, Without A Traces, and so many others had a specific soundtrack to go along with their relatively spit shined looks. NYPD Blue on the other hand, had a more generic soundtrack.  The show’s writers and creative forces used a soundtrack of music that one might hear on an inner city street, instead of paying royalty fees for a set of catchy tunes or just having a general marketable sound.  It helped even five seasons into its run, to prove how pretentious those other crime drams really were.  On the same branch, it showed once more how hard the show’s writers and creative heads tried to make NYPD Blue stand out.  It did just that.  And set alongside the show’s look and feel, and its writing, it is one more piece proving why even years after its initial run, NYPD Blue’s fifth season remains one of the show’s best. It is available now on DVD and can be ordered online direct from the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/nypd-blue-season-five. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pawn Holds Its Own Against Other Crime Thrillers

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new crime thriller, Pawn is an interesting work.  For a movie that was filmed in roughly fifteen days, and helmed by a first time director—David A. Armstrong—it turned out to be not the standard crime thriller.  Rather, it’s a story that requires audiences to completely invest their attention on the story.  If viewers can do this, then they will find that despite some scripting issues, it still turns out to be a movie that is worth at least one watch.

One of the main positives to Pawn is that it wastes no time jumping right into the story.  The story is simple enough.  On one side, audiences get a crime thriller that’s front loaded with lots of crosses and double crosses; so many in fact that some viewers may need a program to follow exactly what’s going on.  In direct relation is the story of a young man who simply wants to turn around his life after having gotten out of jail only hours before the standoff at crime boss Yuri’s café.  The young man is used as a red herring for one specific aspect of the story.  Though, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is used in such role as the story advances.  Because of this one can’t help but cheer for him and hope that he gets out of the café alive and in one piece.

The writing behind Pawn forces viewers to fully engage and immerse themselves in its world.  It’s just one of the movie’s positives.  What can also be noted of the movie is that the acting on the part of both Chiklis and Common was expert once again.  This should come as no surprise, especially considering that Chiklis has quite the extensive resume when it comes to crime thrillers.  He worked for seven seasons on FX’s The Shield, not to mention an equally extensive stage resume, too.  And Common played the role of a crooked cop himself in the 2010 movie, Date Night.  What’s most interesting is hearing Chiklis pull off a British accent.  Typically American actors don’t have much success trying to pull off foreign accents.  But somehow, he pulled it off.  Though he did sound somewhat like Bob Hoskins as Smee in Hook.  And considering that Hoskins is a U.K. born actor, this is actually quite the compliment to Chiklis.

Next to the outstanding of the movie’s all-star cast, one can say of Pawn is its cinematography.  The angles and the fast paced shots help keep the suspense throughout the story.  Even in less action packed moments, the camera work does an impressive job of keeping viewers entirely engaged.  One such example comes late in the story when the unnamed “Man in the suit” (played by Ray Liotta) attempts to feel Amanda’s (Nikki Reed) baby bump after having spent quite an amount of time threatening her life and that of her husband and her unborn child.  The tension in the room is thanks in large part to the camera work.  The angle of the shot leaves viewers wondering what he’s about to do.  It’s just one of so many impressive shots achieved throughout this crime thriller.  And it’s just one of so many moments that make this a crime thriller that is worth at least one watch.

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The Sweeney One Of The Year’s Best Action Flicks

Courtesy:  Entertaniment One

Courtesy: Entertaniment One

The Sweeney is one of the best action movies of 2013.  This direct to DVD and Blu-ray release was not received to the most shining reviews by a  critics in its original release.  Most of the critics that lambasted it did so perhaps not even realizing that it was based on a British crime drama from the 1970s.  Something else that most American critics and audiences perhaps never took into account with this movie is that it (and the TV series on which it is based) is also the basis for the former hit FX series, The Shield.  Taking all of this into account, anyone that is a fan of action flicks and crime dramas, and that is open minded enough will agree that The Sweeney, while not a major motion picture, is just as good as any major theatrical work released by any of Hollywood’s big guns (no pun intended).  Ironically enough, it is noted in the movie’s bonus features that this movie had in fact been eyed by 20th Century Fox and its independent offshoot, Fox Searchlight Pictures, but ended up instead with Entertainment One.  That’s one company’s loss and another’s gain.

What is it that makes The Sweeney so worth the watch?  Let’s start right from the top.  The story is simple.  This is the most obvious factor in the movie’s success.  The story centers on old school cop Jack Regan (Ray Winstone).  Jack hardly goes by the book (sound familiar yet?)  He and his department—The Sweeney—is anything but conventional in its methods.  The thing is that because of its unorthodox methods, it gets set up and put in danger of being disassembled in this story when one of its operations goes wrong, and it’s made to look like it arrested the wrong individuals in a big case.  When Jack is disgraced as a result of this, he sets out to clear not only his name, but that of his squad.  And thanks to the help of a younger member of the squad, he’s able to do just that.  Thus the action ensues, leading up to one of the biggest car chases and shootout scenes that the action genre has seen in a long time.  As a matter of fact, the amount of action in the final climactic shootout and car chase is more than enough to make any action movie buff squeal with glee like a little schoolgirl. 

Understanding the central portion of what makes this story work, one can move on to the movie’s cinematography.  The shooting style moves just as fast as the story.  This helps to really heighten the story’s tension even more.  It’s not one of those movies in which the cameras keep the audience at bay so to speak.  Rather, the cameras are right up there with the squad quite often in an almost guerilla style shooting manner much like that of The Shield.  It is that heightened sense of action that will keep any open minded action movie fan engaged from the movie’s opening fight scene to its final moments.  This is especially the case with the big Trafalgar Square shootout scene.  This scene gets its own bonus feature on the new Blu-ray release.  Anyone that has any interest in cinematography will appreciate the discussion on how this scene started out with actual storyboards and eventually after dealing with certain agencies came to life.  The cast and crew discuss in this feature how this scene alone had been planned and developed for two years.  Keeping this in mind, the final product came out in outstanding fashion.

Staying on the topic of the movie’s bonus features, the bonus features included in the new home release of The Sweeney are extremely in depth.  As already noted, there is an extensive discussion on the massive climactic gun battle at Trafalgar Square that any production nut will appreciate.  It’s just one of the many bonus features included that help enhance the overall viewing experience of this flick.  Also included is a discussion on everything that went into bringing the movie to life, as well as an equally in depth behind the scenes making of featurette.  Fans of the original crime drama will also enjoy the discussion on “The New Regan and Jack” as well as the crew heading to “The Shooting Range.”  Audiences are always crying foul over movies that are not realistic.  While this feature is short, it does add to the ability of a viewer to suspend his or his disbelief.  That’s because audiences see that the crew wanted to get a detail as small as proper weapons handling correct.  They show through this feature that they made the valid attempt to learn how high powered weapons were properly held because of the kick of said weapons.  Big things come in little packages.  And as small as this package was, that tiny, simple factor made a big difference, making the movie so much better and more believable.  It, along with everything else noted that went into bringing The Sweeney to life, makes this movie one of the best action movies of 2013 and one of the best independent movies of the year.  It all came together to make The Sweeney a movie that any action movie fan should see at least once before the year is out.

Action movie fans can order The Sweeney online now at http://www.amazon.com/Sweeney-Blu-ray-Ray-Winstone/dp/B00B999EZS/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1367960408&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Sweeney.  A trailer for the movie is available to watch online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBk8At1YfRI

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