TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

Film Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Release Date: May 8th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Joby Harold, David Dobkin
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana

Warner Bros., Safehouse Pictures, Ritchie/Wigram Productions, Village Roadshow Pictures,Weed Road Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

Initially, I was not excited about this movie, as I am not a fan of Charlie Hunnam. I also wasn’t aware that this was directed by Guy Ritchie until the credits on the film started rolling. However, I saw a lot of positive reviews about the movie, so I figured that I’d check it out. I’m really glad I did.

To start, this is the first time that I liked Charlie Hunnam in something. While I adored Pacific Rim, when it came out, I thought he was the weakest part of the picture. I also hated Sons of Anarchy even though it did feature some great actors. Hunnam’s Jax Teller was just an awful character with a fake American accent that was trying too hard to sound cool. Now that isn’t necessarily Hunnam’s fault, it’s the directors’, producers’ and creator’s, but he’s the face of that character. A stupid character that I grew to hate and be annoyed by.

In King Arthur we have Hunnam talking in his real voice and it is refreshing, since I’ve really only seen him play Americans. He also feels at home in this role and maybe that is because Guy Ritchie is just an awesome director to work for. Whatever the reason, I would follow Hunnam’s King Arthur into battle. Granted, he has a kaiju-sized snake in his army and that’s just friggin’ cool.

Yeah, a giant snake! There are also a lot of other fantastic beasts, which I really wasn’t expecting. You see, I didn’t check out the trailers and I only heard it mentioned on television, in the background, when I was cooking or writing or doing something else.

This is lightyears ahead of that uber boring King Arthur picture with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley from a decade or so ago. It has bigger balls, more style and certainly isn’t an Ambien party.

The Ritchie touch in this picture was an awesome flourish added into this tale that has been told more times than the “guy walks into a bar…” joke. The editing, the music, the action style was all great and set this film apart from other similar stuff.

The only complaint, really, is that sometimes the CGI looked a bit clunky and cheap. It isn’t something that is noticeable throughout the picture but some action sequences almost turn into video game boss battles. While I like the approach and how it is executed, the CGI just takes it down a notch. I’m sure the budget was somewhat reserved but I hope Ritchie has more money to work with if he does make this into the planned six-part film series.

Jude Law was pretty damn amazing as the villain in this. He’s worked with Ritchie before and the two know how to make magic happen when they collaborate. Law is pretty great in most things but seeing him as the embodiment of evil was really cool. The monster he transforms into is bad ass as hell, by the way.

It was also good seeing Eric Bana, who I feel should be in everything.

For a picture I had no hopes for, I left feeling really happy. The movie is balls to the wall bad ass in every regard. This is how fantasy epics should be. Got that, Game of Thrones? In fact, this is superior to Game of Thrones because people actually STFU and go Ginsu City. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is to Game of Thrones what a bone-in cowboy ribeye is to a saltine cracker. It’s like what old school Spike TV (when it still had testosterone-fueled entertainment) is to C-SPAN 3.

*Author’s note: I don’t like Game of Thrones.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Pacific Rim (2013)

Release Date: July 1st, 2013 (Mexico City)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman, Brad William Henke

Legendary Pictures, DDY, Warner Bros. Pictures, 131 Minutes

pacific-rim-poster4Review:

Let me start by saying that it has been a long time since I’ve had as much fun at the movies as I had the first and second time I saw Pacific Rim. Yes, I saw it twice. That is incredibly rare for me, as time isn’t a luxury I usually have but I enjoyed the film so much that I wanted to experience it on a big screen one more time before it left theaters. Besides, good or bad, how often do we get to see a kaiju versus mecha live-action cinematic feature?

Yes, this film is at parts cheesy and over the top and relies on a lot of CGI, things I am often times critical of. However, in the vein of kaiju films, these elements are almost customary. There is a place for such things and a film about giant robots fighting massive kaiju is that place. Regardless of those more traditional giant monster movie elements, this film still delivered a serious and emotional story that was entertaining despite the giant battles.

Have you ever seen Idris Elba in anything and not been pleased? Once again, in this film, he delivers and gives a great epic speech that rivals Bill Pullman’s speech in Independence Day. Apart from Elba, Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia played a smart version of the character people have loved on his FX series. Day was awesome and I wish I’d see him in more roles. Ron Perlman, who shared almost all of his scenes with Charlie Day, played an entertaining character that was a perfect marriage of goofy and bad ass. Perlman’s Sons of Anarchy co-star Charlie Hunnam was the film’s lead but he was just as drab as he always is and I really didn’t care about him or his struggles. The other characters made up for Hunnam though. On a side note, with all these actors from FX shows packed into this film, I anticipate it being in regular circulation on that channel, all the time.

The action sequences in this film were spectacular. Pacific Rim actually has one of the best openings that I’ve ever seen in a summer blockbuster film. The Hong Kong battle is also a high point of the film, as a trio of Jaegers (the giant robots) take on a pair of kaiju. The big confrontation starts in the harbor and carries over into downtown Hong Kong.

Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and many other films) serves up his patented visual style but does so on a much larger scale. This is my favorite of his films and has me hopeful for its sequel, even though he isn’t directing it.

There are only two negatives I want to point out about the film.

The first, is that the score is mediocre. The music is generic sounding and really repetitive. It does its job for the most part but it also distracts from the picture. There is nothing memorable about the soundtrack, other than it just feels like the same damn theme playing over and over again and it isn’t that good to begin with.

The other negative was the design of the kaiju. They were fairly cool but there wasn’t much to make them unique or anywhere near as cool as the kaiju of the 1960s and 70s. They all generally had the same look with a few minor tweaks here and there. The coolest was the one with the big knife on its head but that was really just a modern version of the much more awesome Guiron from the Gamera franchise. But then again, this is a movie where giant robots fight giant monsters and it was pretty effective, regardless of mediocre monsters.

If you want a film that is just a smash’em up ass kicking epic blockbuster, this is your movie. If you don’t want that, you are probably dead inside.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Pacific Rim: Uprising, 2014’s American Godzilla remake, Kong: Skull Island.