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Monday, March 2, 2015
And so it goes that eventually even some of the better shows on television must come to an end. What’s nice is when a series that many have come to love goes out on top rather than wait until half of the cast goes off to star in feature films or passes away. Rather than bring in characters that make no sense or put the main star into something that has nothing to do with what the series was originally about, there are some series that go out big. Such was the case with SONS OF ANARCHY which ended with season seven. Now that season has hit the shelves on DVD.
If for some reason you never watched the show then you’d be in for a big surprise. It was one of the best dramas to air on any network for a long time. If you missed it and want to go back and watch it now just be aware that it pulls no punches and definitely pushed it to the limit with its content, be that drug usage, extreme violence or raunchy sex scenes. But what would you expect in a show about a biker gang that deals weapons, shoots its competition and tries to get out of the gun business and into porn?
For those who did miss it the story revolved around a young biker named Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam), a young man whose father was one of the original nine members to form the biker gang known as the Sons of Anarchy. The Sons have built a reputable business for themselves in a repair shop known as Samcro. In reality it serves as a front for their real bread and butter which is selling weapons via the IRA to street gangs and other criminals.
Jax is a new father when the show opens and his father is long gone, dead as we find out at the hands of his best friend and the wife he once loved. Jax’ father found that the Sons were moving in a direction that he thought would bring about their end. He wrote about what he intended to do in a manifesto that he left behind for Jax but before he could bring it about he was killed. As Jax slowly unravels what actually happened, which took the better part of the series, he was faced with what to do about the information that he had. He also found himself divorced when his wife became a hard core addict.
As the story of Jax unfolded before us we became acquainted with his mother, Gemma (Katey Sagal) the den mother for the group and Clay (Ron Perlman) her new husband, the leader of the Sons and the man responsible for Jax’ father’s death. We also meet the other members of the Sons and as they developed over each season we actually came to feel a certain fondness for each one, setting aside the fact that these were killers and outlaws. Maybe it was that certain bad boy in each of us that made us like them or the fact that the actors involved made us see them as more than cardboard cutouts but in the end if something happened to one of them it felt like a family member had that situation tossed at them. When one of them would die or get hurt it bothered us as viewers.
The story progressed over seven season with problems for the club changing with each one. Jax married again, had a second child and had his second wife murdered by someone he didn’t expect which led to a gang war. One season his son was kidnapped and he learned more about his father’s past while the club went to Ireland to retrieve the child. And each season the law enforcement agencies from the local police to the FBI lost in their battles to put an end to the Sons. Through it all Jax was bound and determined to take the club out of illegal operations and put them into something more legitimate. Those new businesses might have been escort services and porn but they were less illegal than the gun running.
In this final season all stops were pulled. With the loss of Jax’ wife in the previous season he became unhinged, set on a path of vengeance and moving the club forward to the goal he had set from the start but in a much more rabid progression. Gone were the days of slowly moving things along and now Jax was determined that he would make a life for this group, this family of his, that would keep them all safe. And the best way he could come up with to see that happen was to unite various groups with the Sons and destroy anyone who could be detrimental in seeing their peaceful existence happen.
One of the most upsetting things to happen in this season was the body count. Without revealing who, what or when I can say that if I had been a cast member in this season I would have worried that I had a job from week to week. Characters that we loved as well as those we hated were being killed week after week. In the end it advanced the story in as normal a way as could be expected from the situations at hand but still would shock you from week to week.
That’s about as far as I can go with information about this season without giving away details that those who wait for each season to be released on DVD to watch. Trust me, giving away a plot detail to those people is not a pleasant sight to see. Suffice to say that while this season felt different from the rest, it did bring together all lose ends and close out the series with a fitting finale.
Extras include a behind the scenes look at the final season, a short gag reel, a piece about the tattoos of the characters, a look at the final season guest stars and a piece on the motorcycles of the show. While each of these is nice I would have loved something more in depth, perhaps a retrospective of the show, to be included with this the final season. But that wasn’t my decision to make. Maybe that will be included in the special edition box set which has already been released.
In the end this will mean that Tuesday nights are now free to watch something else after seven seasons of SONS. Occasionally I know I’ll be going back to watch past seasons and pick up on things I missed the first time around. And for those who missed it that first time you have the chance to find out what everyone was talking about when it was on the air. It’s rough and raw for a TV series but the story is Shakespearean in its depth. And that’s why it was as good as it was and had the fans that it did.
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Something a little different this time around, a review of and recommendation for a web site I thought some of you might be interested in. The site is Kitley’s Krypt and it’s all things horror related. Put together by Jon Kitley, I’ve been aware of the site for some time now. Jon and my son became acquaintances by both attending the Cinema Wasteland horror fan convention years back and through that meeting I learned of his web site. I’ve been going there weekly ever since.
For those who don’t know I’ll say up front that I am indeed a horror fan. I’m not one of those late to the game group out there who knew nothing of horror until the trilogy of Michael Myers/Freddy Kreuger/Leatherface came into being. I started long ago sitting in front of a black and white screen watching late night horror host Ghoulardi on the Cleveland station while growing up in Akron, OH. That morphed into years of watching Big Chuck and Hoolihan. Through those shows and other Cleveland stations I grew up watching the classics and the biggest stars of horror, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. To this day I rarely pass up a chance to watch ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN and even turned on my horror loving great great niece to that film. From those classic black and white flicks to the full color horrors from Hammer Studios I’ve been a horror fan for many years.
Which brings us to Kitley’s Krypt. There are a huge number of horror movie sites online that you can choose to go to. Many of them are good, some are so so and honestly I’ve not seen too many terrible ones. Some are sponsored by the magazines that focus on horror like Horrorhound of Fangoria. Some have created industries unto themselves. For me those have a polished atmosphere that feels corporate though. While they do provide information I don’t get that feeling that they love the genre so much as they can profit from it. No so with Kitley’s Krypt.
Jon is an avid horror fan. Like me he goes back to the classics as well as the newer items coming out. The web site also has that feel as well, as if it was made for fans of the genre as opposed to someone sitting at a desk in some high rise office telling underlings what he wants next month. Jon does it himself. He does a good job of it. And he’s been doing it enough years that fans have come to trust him when it comes to things horror.
He’s developed enough of a fan base that he now writes a monthly column for the afore mentioned Horrorhound (don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bad mouthing the magazine, a fave of mine, but talking about the polished look of web sites in general) called “They Came From The Krypt” which won the Rondo Hatton Award for best column in 2014. He’s been nominated again this year. He wrote part of the book HIDDEN HORROR. Let’s just say he knows his horror.
So there is some background on Jon, what about the site? Well the site is wonderful for fans who like all things horror, not just one item. While the site has been recently revamped it has offered fans things like updates on famous horror connected icons/performers/behind the scenes people who have recently passed. It offers reviews of horror items from books to soundtracks to movies. It has interviews. It has history. It talks about books and toys that are horror related. It passes along news items about everything from coming movies to coming events. I especially love the information passed along about various drive-ins doing special showings of all night horror movie marathons. Hopefully I can attend one of these days…er nights. If gives you history. Each month is a contest to identify a picture that Jon posts. And there is plenty of convention news. Part of that is because you can find Jon at those conventions selling items and partly because he actually loves to attend them. Did I mention that Jon loves horror films?
Jon will also let you know about the Krypt family that happens at various times. Yes this might include his real family (who would think in today’s world you’d find someone with a loving and supportive wife when it comes to your favorite thing!) but his extended family as well. They get together for their own movie nights, at special screenings and for various parties most notably Turkey Day Marathons. One such party they gathered items for the local food pantry. I guess horror fans aren’t all that dangerous after all eh?
In the end the thing about the web site is that it offers a chance for fans to hear about things from a fan’s perspective rather than from a CEO looking to top off that quarter’s sales figures. Jon loves horror and it shows. If you love horror then all I can do is recommend this web site. If nothing else you’ll get a glimpse of some of the horror items being released during the year. My guess is that most local libraries don’t carry all of the books you’ll find being released that Jon mentions. I’ll bet most Toys R Us stores don’t carry all these toys. Redbox doesn’t carry all of the movies discussed. But if you want to learn more about these items and more then check out the site. Who knows, you might end up becoming part of the Kryptic Army.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
One of the joys in watching movies is when you come across one you know little about, that concerns a topic you will probably never be involved in and that offers some of the most captivating performances seen on screen in years. While WHIPLASH made a splash on the indie scene this past year garnering praise for the performance of J.K. Simmons (as well as an Oscar win) it wasn’t a must see movie that many heard of. All that will change now with that win and the respectful speech Simmons gave asking people to get off their cell phones and computers and to call and talk to their parents saying thank you.
But on with the movie.
Miles Teller stars as Andrew Niemen, a talented drummer enrolled as a freshman at a prestigious music academy where everyone seems to be waiting for the chance to become part of the Studio Band, a jazz oriented group led by teacher Terrence Fletcher (Simmons). Hearing Andrew practicing alone he offers him a suggestion and encourages him to continue practicing. Within a few days he approaches Andrew to join the Studio Band.
Once there Andrew learns that it isn’t quite what he expected. He witnesses Fletcher demolish a student for not being in tune. Then while on break he has a calm conversation with Andrew and learns about his life, family and what he wants from his time here. When they return to the practice room he puts Andrew on the drum set and then cajoles him, starting and stopping the practice with only a few notes played and ridiculing him using the information he just gathered in the hallway. Andrew has just experienced the wrath and teaching methods of Fletcher.
As I watched I kept thinking back to the movie THE PAPER CHASE and the character of Charles Kingsfield played by John Houseman. It was the same sort of in your face method of teaching employed except that here we have a much more intimidating person who could physically break you and who has no problem with hurling expletives your way to get what he wants. What he wants is perfection and the chances of that happening with any member of this band are unlikely.
A series of back and forth encounters between the two main move the story forward with side issues at play as well. Andrew picks up a girlfriend along the way that he dumps shortly after for fear that it takes time away from him practicing to become what he wants which is to be recognized as the best. This also stems from the life he shares with his father (Paul Reiser), a teacher who wanted to be a writer. Andrew wants more out of life, he wants that elusive dream of being known.
The movie runs at a frantic pace with excellent use of editing to move it back and forth creating a tension in the viewer while at the same time moving the story forward. That story eventually leads to a small conflict between Andrew and Fletcher that seems finished. And yet not long after that in the last act of the film a showdown between the two results in a twist that involves not one but two twists of fate that make the film’s climax worth watching over and over again.
Having just heard that BIRDMAN won for best picture this last year (more to come on that soon) I would have given the title to this film before that one. While both are equally compelling in storytelling I felt that this one touched me stronger and harder than BIRDMAN while at the same time entertaining me to no end. It is one of the best pieces of storytelling I’ve seen in some time and never once made me feel like looking at the clock to see how much longer it would last. Couple that with the previously mentioned editing seen in this film, some amazing cinematography, fantastic music and two lead performances here that are a sight to behold and you have one enjoyable movie that should be seen by all.
A word of caution to some, the film can be brutal at times both physically and mentally. Not only that the language can be quite raw at times. If you can get past those two items you will find a movie that will grab you by the throat and won’t let go for the next 107 minutes. Movies like this are what making watching film a way to get the best that Hollywood has to offer. Let’s just hope both Teller and Simmons can give us more to watch in the future. .
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