Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Eyes On...April 6, 2010

I'm catching up, it seems, to the stack of movies and TV shows on DVD that I have by the television. My oldest son, Matt, is now playing baseball, and I'm coaching. This means when I'm not at practice or games, I'm trying to catch up on sleep.

Spring Break helped a little, though, and here is what I've seen lately that you need to know about.

Sons of Anarchy (2008)
Season 1
Created by Kurt Sutter

Gotta say I absolutely fell in love with this show from the moment I laid eyes on it. I've always had a thing for stories about anti-heroes, and Sons of Anarchy does not disappoint. It's about a motorcycle club in the fictional town of Charming, California. The club runs guns through Northern California and Nevada, and gets involved in all sorts of deep shit.

The story centers around Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), a Hamlet-like character who serves as Vice-President for the SOA. Jax begins questioning the way his step-father and club President, Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) does business once he finds a copy of a book his father wrote back when he and Clay founded the SOA in the late 60s. Because of the rules -- both written and unwritten -- of the club, Jax can't openly ask much of anything, but his issues rise to the surface as the club starts getting hounded by ATF agents.

In addition to an electrifying central plot, the stories of the supporting characters are equally compelling. Katey Segal as Gemma Morrow, Clay's wife and Jax's mother, is especially noteworthy. Her character arc as the club matriarch, who seems equally Lady MacBeth and Donna Reed, is can't miss television. Gemma needs to take care of her family, but to do so has to hold on to some very rough secrets. It makes you ask dark questions about how far a person will go to protect what they love in the face of moral standards.

I can't wait to see season 2 when it arrives on DVD/Blu-Ray in August. Season 3 begins in early September on the FX network.

The Devil's Backbone (2001)
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Before Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro was making super cool indie horror films like this one in Mexico. The Devil's Backbone is a moving story about an orphanage in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The boys are a group of kids whose fathers were soldiers for the Republican army, but are now homeless. The new kid, Carlos, is brought to the orphanage, and he begins to make contact with the ghost of one of the children who died there on a night when a dud bomb was dropped on the orphanage courtyard. Carlos not only gets involved with the ghost, but with other conflicts within the orphanage culture involving kids and caretakers.

del Toro's achievement here is creating a story where pretty much everyone is a ghost in some form or another, whether physically or emotionally. These children have all been removed from their lives by the deaths of their families, and are essentially in purgatory. How can they achieve redemption? This is a major question at the heart of the film. I highly recommed it. If you go in expecting a frightfest, though, you will be disappointed. This is a horror film, yes, but not in the traditional sense.

In the Loop (2009)
Director: Armando Iannucci

Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and perhaps the greatest political satire ever put on film. In the Loop tries really hard to capture that magic, but fails incredibly. It's basic premise is this: war is caused by bureaucrats who talk themselves into it because of political gain. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and spend the majority of their time talking (or screaming) at each other in cell phones. One of the biggest rules in movies and TV is that characters should never spend too much time sitting and talking. It is not visually interesting. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino have found ways to have people sit and talk and make it cool and exciting, but he is rare. Armando Iannucci's direction is dull and laboring, his camera moving all over the place as it tries to keep up with characters we don't care very much about.

Soon, I'll be posting about the current season of Breaking Bad, which is going to require some time, especially since LOST is still in full-swing. In the meantime, though, I'll keep these mini-posts coming.

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