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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Gangster > Murder > Miami > Cable TV Series > Magic City – The Complete First Season (2012/Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray set)/The Samaritan (2012/IFC/MPI Blu-ray)

Magic City – The Complete First Season (2012/Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray set)/The Samaritan (2012/IFC/MPI Blu-ray)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C/C-     Main Programs: C+



Crime stories are not as easy to pull off as you might think and some trying to categorize any one of them that is darker than a TV police procedural only complicates matters.  Here are two ambitious releases that at least try to get it right.



First we have a new cable TV series Magic City – The Complete First Season (2012) which wants to be in the same league as Las Vegas, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire without necessarily imitating them.  Set in Miami 1959, it focuses on a hotel run by a smart, streetwise manager (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who knows things are about to get shaken up.  After a disturbing dream, he awakes to slowly find his problems mounting.  Frank Sinatra is going to play his place for New Years Eve, but he has a strike on his hands, he’s got women to juggle as well, financial issues to consider, a mob boss who wants to squeeze more out of everything and even ignores warning signs of changes to come (watching the Batista Cuban Government under siege, he scoffs at the possibility of an overthrow) so things are not going well.


The show has a good look (production design, clothes, locales, cars) but not enough is made of the locations.  It does have a period feel to it enough, though it could get moiré out of them.  It has a fine supporting cast including Olga Kurylenko, Steven Strait, Kelly Lynch, Leland Orser and Danny Huston among them, but the scripts are not as effective and expansive as they could be.  I wanted to feel more of the crime story, the period and have more of a build-up for various things happening, which hits me every time an event happens that reminds me of a gangster or crime film or TV episode that already covered that territory.


Still, the show also has potential to grow after this debut season with everything set up, though later episodes put the storylines in a corner that are at least partly formulaic.  Still, I don’t understand why this is not getting more press, though it does not feel like we are getting the whole inside story of hardcore criminal tales from Miami then (which would also be about now, give or take new De Palma Scarface-type of real life activity) so the show has a ways to go to be a pier of those other shows.  Still, it has the potential and I look forward to seeing where they go the next season.  Carl Franklin directed the pilot and the behind the camera talent is just as good.


Extras include six featurettes: Starz Studios: Magic City, The Cars Of Magic City, The Style Of Magic City, Building An Empire, The Golden Age Of Music and Miami Beach: The Real Magic City.



David Weaver’s The Samaritan (2012) stars Samuel L. Jackson as a convict who has finally been released from prison and upon that is returning to old haunts and old contacts to find out what has been going on, where there are resources he could use and what he will do next.  The son (Luke Kirby) of a man he killed also wants to talk to him, not knowing how his father died, a young man who is involved with a deadly high-class gangster (Tom Wilkinson) of his own.  In all this, world will collide and that is not all that will collide.


This too has some really good actors and performances, plus the screenplay by Elan Mastai and Weaver is not bad, but it also has more clichés than it needed, too many obvious, convenient connections and only the combined performances of the cast make this one more watchable than it should be.  I will not reveal anything that might be more of a surprise, though expect some blood and gore.  I can see why all involved signed up for this one, though.  Debra Kara Unger also stars.  A Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.



The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Magic and 2.35 X 1 on Samaritan are well shot and have good style choices to them respectively, but they are both still a bit visually styled-down as productions and are HD shoots.  Considering that, the choice for a little less depth and detail does not hurt either narratively and the resulting playback could not be better with that intent in mind.


The sound is the same story too, with Magic having lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes on all eight hour-long episodes and Samaritan offering a decent DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix.  Both are well recorded, are often dialogue-based and have good mixing, but the soundfields in both cases can be more towards the front speakers than I would have liked and a slight sense of inconsistency is also present, though the playback is warm and smooth enough in all cases.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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