HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season
HTS Overall Score:80
“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own.”
“Mature” dramatic TV shows have been on the rise for the last 15 years or so, and it has been a mixed bag, just like any TV show genre. People had gotten tired of the same tired and cliched “family friendly” shows that dominated the airwaves and the rise of Cable TV shows like “Game of Thrones”, “Dexter” and the like made for the perfect opportunity for other stations to create their own. Most of these shows tend to get relegated to the world of Cable TV or Netflix/Amazon originals due to the fact that “mature” usually means lots of blood, nudity and knowing that is typically reserved for an adult audience. HOWEVER, several other public broadcast stations have taken to molding themselves after their cable TV brethren, just tweaking a few things here and there to make sure that they’re able to pass FTC guidelines for public broadcasting (although some of what they can get away with on broadcast TV is pretty loose compared to what they could get away with 30 years ago). “Animal Kingdom” is the result of that effort. A TNT broadcast show that skirts the line between broadcast friendly and the desire to compete with the harshness and epic brutality of their Cable TV brothers.
The show opens with a shot of 17-year-old Joshua Cody (Finn Cole) calling in the cops as his mother dies from a Heroin overdose. Living as the son of a junkie leaves him with no other family member to call except for his estranged grandmother Janine “smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin), who takes him into her home with open arms. The thing is, Janine is not exactly your average grandma. She certainly bakes cupcakes and takes care of her family like any mother/grandmother should, but not in the way most of you would think. Instead she’s the brains of a criminal operation that spans multiple generations. Her sons Barry (Scott Speedman), Andrew (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) all still live with their mother and coordinate massive heists under the very noses of the law.
At first Josh is pretty enamored with his new life, even though he’s running a bit scared. He’s got near unlimited money at his fingertips, Janine lives in a giant house in a good part of town, and he’s taken care of. However, soon the young man starts to cross a line as he’s brought “into the fold”, so to speak, and begins to gain a foothold in the crime family, meaning the young 17 year old who was the son of a junkie is now gaining entrance into a new world. One that very well may protect him, as long as you’re not the prey.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96025[/img]The first season of “Animal Kingdom” is kind of an interesting bird, so to speak. It feel like a strange hybrid of the original 2011 film of the same name (great movie by the way) and Ben Affleck’s “The Town”. TNT tried to keep this one as mature as possible without breaking FTC nudity guidelines etc, but it comes REALLY close to being a full-fledged Cable TV show in those respects now and again. It’s definitely a mature show, but it also takes part in some of the cliched hiccups that so many other TNT shows suffer from as well (there’s a bathroom scene where one of the sons ends up having a gay relationship that feels shoehorned in just for the sake of making him “different”) and the lack of knowing actually takes away some of the intensity of the show (I’m not saying that foul language is a pre-requisite for serious cinema, but that it makes perfect sense for the rough and tumble criminal “white track to kingpin” roots of the Cody family, so it’s lack of presence feels “odd” to say the least).
What makes the show inevitably interesting and different than the rest is the relationships and the TYPE of crime that we’re dealing with. Most of these TV shows are about drug lords, drug kingpins and the like, but “Animal Kingdom” takes a different approach. The family are a bunch of petty thieves (just acting on a pretty impressive scale), so it takes on a more action oriented vibe rather than the standard thuggish drug dealer vibe. Not to mention that each of the Cody boys are distinct in their differences. One’s a short fused runt of the litter, another a cold blooded psychopath with mommy issues, and another is a strung out coke/oxy addict with a penchant for bedding women left and right. Andrew “Pope” Cody is the creepiest of the bunch at first, but turns out to be one of the most fascinating and still disturbing characters in the show. Finn does a good job with the burgeoning young criminal Josh, but they’re ALL upstaged by Ellen Barkin who just dominates every scene she’s in as the criminal matriarch.
Dynamics of the show change and flow as the 10 episode show goes on, but it’s one major weakness is the fact that it still follows in the footsteps of the classic crime show mantra. A figurehead criminal runs an entire operation and the new guy is the one who rise up through the ranks to prove himself a valuable asset. Relationships will be strained and loyalties tested, but the outcome is always the same. I say this not as a detriment to the show, as it does REALLY well with those tropes thanks to some terrific lead acting (I can now understand why Scott Speedman didn’t want to return to that abomination that is “Underworld: Blood Wars” after seeing him on the show) and good set design. Just pointing out that the rut of “crime dramas” is still well deserved as every show seems to want to imitate those that have gone before them a bit TOO much.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96033[/img]The 1.78:1 framed show has a very likeable image that is pretty much par for the course when it comes to modern digitally shot TV shows. The glossy look of the show goes well with the Southern California setting, with brightly lit scenes of the Cody family surfing the waves, or jumping off of roofs into their pool during a party. Colors are kind of burnished and bright, while there’s a slightly green filter applied to some of the indoor scenes that, when combined with dim lighting, can look a bit murky. Fine detail is stable and very pleasing to the eye 99.9% of the time, showing off every cut and sculpted ab lines of the shirtless Cody boys (I know they only wear a shirt about 20% of the time), and intimate clothing details show up perfectly well. Black levels are very solid, and deep, with the only times that I noticed any washing out of the levels was when that green filter combined with darkness would show up.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=96041[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is well balanced with crisp and intelligible dialog, subtle surround usage, and a robust use of the LFE channel. Vocals are always above reproach, even when the boys are whispering in the dark. The surrounds are subtle, but actually utilized very well for a TV show. The sounds of the surf and SoCal beaches bleed in from the background, and you can hear people talking in the distance over your left shoulder at one point in the series that made me actually do a double take. The LFE channel throbs with energy during the more action oriented bits of the show, and adds some nice weight to many other aspects of the track as well. Overall it’s not going to compete with a “Transformers” Atmos track, but ranks as one of the better TV audio tracks that I’ve heard recently.
• Inside Animal Kingdom
• Animal Kingdom: Stunts
• Meet the Codys
• Getting Into Character
• Setting The Stage
• Family Comes First
• Deleted Scenes
I wasn’t sure what to expect with “Animal Kingdom” season 1, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the crime drama show. TNT kept it to a tight 10 episodes in length and that helped cut down a lot (but not all) of the filler. Ellen Barkin is phenomenal as the warped and twisted matriarch of the family and the rest of the shows dynamics work after some clunky exposition episodes that solidify their different personalities. Audio and video are up to par for modern digitally shot shows and I was rather impressed with the amount of extras that Warner Brothers threw on the disc as well, considering how few shows and movies get many extra at ALL these days. Definitely worth checking out in my humble opinion.
Starring: Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman, Finn Cole
Created by: Jonathan Lisco
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 500 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: Own on Blu-ray and DVD 4/25
Buy Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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