Saturday, July 23, 2016

Five Reasons I Loved Sons of Anarchy (streaming now on Netflix)

When I first broke into the publishing industry, ebooks were just becoming popular and I learned a fast truth about them. Ebooks don't have to go away. Print books (excluding the classics) don't stay in bookstores forever. (Can you even find a bookstore, these days? Two in my town have closed or will be closing by the end of the year.) The books I write are available in digital format and some are also available in print, by request if you can find a bookstore or at the ever-available Amazon and other online retailers.

Netflix and digital streaming do the same thing for television. Shows we may have missed are now available to watch and the good news is it's not one episode per week. In the case of older series, the whole shooting match is available. I was intrigued by Sons of Anarchy when it came out in 2008 but my schedule was busy and after I'd missed a few episodes, I didn't want to dive in. Fast forward to 2016 and I was looking for a series to binge-watch this summer with my (adult) son. We both thought this would be a good one, and were we ever right.

Let me start by saying this isn't a show for sensitive people who don't like to see nudity, sex and violence. My boys and I are Game of Thrones and Walking Dead fans, so we thought we'd pretty much seen it all in those departments. And SOA was on 'regular' TV originally, so how bad could it be? Believe me, the producers pushed the limits on this one and excluding the F-bomb, just about any other swear word can be heard. There's a YouTube gag real which addresses that very same issue, and trust me when I say this is funny, but NSFW.

Having said all that, while SOA may not have been a new show it was new to me this summer, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We blew through seven seasons in three weeks, and that included some long nights of 'just one more episode'. After a few days mulling it around in my head, I've come up with five reasons I loved Sons of Anarchy.

5.  The Music
With a mix of old, familiar songs and new, edgy stuff, the soundtrack was amazing. I discovered halfway through that one of the stars, Katey Sagal, is also a singer and has released numerous songs and albums. Since her real life husband, Kurt Sutter, was the creator and producer of SOA, it only makes sense her singing could be heard throughout. She did a great job, and I've since downloaded a bunch of tunes to my Amazon playlist. Love her renditions of To Sir With Love and Son of a Preacher Man. There were many, many more great songs on the show. Admittedly, while binge-watching, the long music montages toward the end of most episodes got a little repetitive, but the music was always top notch.  

4. The Cast

The stars were a mix of familiar and new-to-me, and the later seasons featured a series of guest stars in smaller roles. Stephen King even appeared in an episode. I used to love Ron Perlman in Beauty and the Beast, and he's aged well. Katey Sagal has had a fruitful acting career but most people remember her as Peg Bundy in Married With Children. (There were several other cast and crew members named Sagal in the credits and I think it's great that Katey and Kurt gave those opportunities to their family members.) I didn't know Charlie Hunnam before he came to my attention in the Fifty Shades flurry a few years back. He declined that role but we get to see enough of his butt in SOA, trust me. I've enjoyed Jimmy Smits for years and Ryan Hurst was a favorite as Gary Bertier in Remember the Titans. Too many more to name, but each time someone new appeared my son would say "He's on Deadwood" or "She's on The Shield" so there were plenty of familiar faces and lots of great acting. Kurt Sutter even starred in an uncredited appearance, and what happened to his poor, hapless character by the end leads me to my next category.

3.  The Humor

In the midst of the violence and horrors, there was just enough humor to lighten the mood and keep you tuning back in. Watch the gag real and you'll see what I mean. These actors are good...and funny.

2.  The Relationships

People who ask me about one of my other favorite TV shows, Friday Night Lights, usually want to know if it's all about football. I'm not lying when I say it's not, it's more about relationships. Sons of Anarchy is about a motorcyle club, of course, but it's the relationships that make the show. Seeing the characters interact, seeing how they can say "I love you" one minute and punch each other the next, is a whole new world to me. Not one that I'd particularly like to experience, but on TV it's a safe guilty pleasure. It's not really a spoiler to say this series doesn't end happily for all the characters, and when it first ended I was stunned and irritated and pretty pissed off. But after some reflection I realized that it ended how it had to. These guys are admitted outlaws, and in our society crime doesn't--or dare I say shouldn't-- pay.

1.  Tommy Flanagan

I know, I know, Jax Teller was the star of the show and everyone's heartthrob. I've always gone against the grain in this regard. As a kid I chose Mickey Dolenz to marry because everyone else wanted Davy Jones, so I figured I had a better shot with Mickey. 

Tommy Flanagan as Filip "Chibs" Telford was one of the true-blue club members, and except for the fact that I couldn't understand some of what he said because of his thick Scottish brogue, he was my favorite. (Thank you closed-captioning.) The scars on his face are real, he was jumped in an alley twenty years ago and give a 'Glasgow Grin'. He says he doesn't notice the scars anymore, and after a short while I didn't either. I enjoyed him immensely, and will look for other shows to watch him in.

If you like action and aren't afraid of rough language and lots of good old fashioned rough and tumble violence, give Sons of Anarchy a try. All seven seasons are now streaming on Netflix.

Coming Soon:  My review of The Newsroom on Amazon Prime. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

TV Review - Bloodline Season 2 on Netflix

Just because I kept my Memorial Day weekend clear, I was able to watch all ten episodes of Bloodline Season 2 and finish by Saturday at 6 p.m. (For those keeping track, I worked Friday and still managed to get a haircut, take the dog to the groomers, decorate graves, clean house and do laundry. So I feel my 10 hour binge was justified.) 

Oh, and I also got a friend request on FB from Bill Kelly, the actor who plays DEA Agent Clay Grunwald on Bloodline, which was very cool. Bill's been posting neat stuff all week leading up to the release and I've been stalking--I mean, following-- him, and leaving nice comments. <grin> He seems like a cool guy.

Bloodline Season 2 picks up right where season 1 left off. If you haven't rewatched season 1 a dozen times like me (don't judge) then I recommend a refresher before starting 2. There's a quick four minute video on YouTube, but why wouldn't you want to invest the time to watch the full season and see the glory that is Mr. Kyle Chandler? That's my first recommendation.

If you haven't watched season 1, hugo spoiler ahead. Stop right now, don't even look down at the photos. You already did? Too late. Honestly, we found this out in the first episode of season 1. It just took twelve more episodes to explain why.

Since the second season is so new, I won't post spoilers about it yet. I will tease by saying the season has gotten mixed reviews already and I understand why. It's different from season 1 as it had to be, but in some ways maybe better. Kyle Chandler (John Rayburn) gets more screen time because he killed his brother and Danny had a LOT of screen time in the first season. Ben Mendelsohn is a fine actor and both he and Kyle received Emmy nods for season 1. But Danny is dead, people. A pesky ghost, and he needs to go away and leave his brother in peace. Sadly, ain't gonna happen just yet.

Linda Cardellini is great as John's sister Meg Rayburn. I liked her in Freaks and Geeks and especially as Sam in ER, one of my all time fave TV shows.  I even forgave her for her role as Velma in the Scooby Doo movie.  But as of this writing I'm not too happy with Meg Rayburn. And that's all I have to say about that.

Norbert Leo Butz portrays Kevin Rayburn, John's youngest brother. I hadn't heard of him but found out recently that he's a Tony-winning Broadway actor with a very nice singing voice. His sister Teresa Butz was raped and murdered and he is part of a charity project in her memory, The Angel Band Project.  You can check out his amazing voice in the music video below. As for Kevin Rayburn? He needs to grow a pair and man up. Let's just say I'm pissed at him, too.

Mama Ray, Sally, is looking a bit frail in season 2. She's lost a lot, and it's showing on her. She's still mighty gullible, too. Love Sissy Spacek.

Halfway through season 2 the story takes a turn that I didn't see coming, and I can't say I was a fan of it. John Rayburn was popping meds everytime he turned around, and he looked like he might stroke out. I think he could have used some antacids, too. I felt really sorry for him. If Kyle Chandler doesn't get another Emmy nod then life truly isn't fair. Jacinda Barrett is the beautiful Australian actress who plays his wife Diana. Once again, not happy with Ms. Diana at the end of this season. And their kids, especially Janie, are kind of bratty. The son didn't have much screen time this season.

The powers that be at Netflix haven't announced if there will be a season 3 of Bloodline, but fans are really hoping there will be. We need closure after this last wild ride. The Rayburn family and their band of wacky misfits have enough potential to go on quite a few more seasons. They're not bad people, they just did a bad thing. 

Or so they say.  After season 2, we need proof. 

Bodies get buried. 
Secrets don't. 

Bloodline, Season 2
Streaming now on Netflix


Saturday, April 9, 2016

TV Review ~ The Ranch on Netflix

If you know me you're aware that I'm a Netflix convert and thoroughly enjoying what I find there. Some days I even venture away from my umpteenth viewing of Friday Night Lights and Bloodline reruns...some days. When I do, I find some nifty little jewels.

The Ranch is a new Netflix original comedy starring Sam Elliot (plus side) Debra Winger (love her), Ashton Kutcher (ehhh) and Danny Masterson (didn't know him). Apparently Masterson and Kutcher worked together on That 70's Show, but I haven't seen that one. There's a good supporting cast including Elisha Cuthbert and Kelli Goss. Aimee Teegarden from FNL even had a cameo. I see Kathy Baker's name in upcoming credits. I liked her on Picket Fences very much.

The language is coarse because it's Netflix and they can. I found it funny and while some of the jokes are totally lame, some made me Laugh Out Loud. There were enough of those LOL moments that I kept watching and have to say I enjoyed the first 10 episodes. Rather than make us wait a year, Netfilx will introduce another 10 eps later in 2016, calling it season 1, part 2. I like it.

The year plus wait for Bloodline to come back has been interminable. Don't judge me if I can quote scenes from memory for watching it so much. (You haven't seen Bloodine? It's good quality romantic suspense, which we all know is my favorite genre. Another caveat on the language, they drop the f-bomb a lot. Personally, I love to hear it coming out of Kyle Chandler's mouth. You know Coach Taylor used the f-bomb, they just couldn't show it on network TV!)

Here's a good trailer for The Ranch.

And just for the f*#@ of it, here's the trailer for Bloodline. If you haven't seen it, you don't know what you're missing. Bloodline comes back for season 2 May 27 and I'll post my take here on May 28. LOL No, seriously. <grin> Oh look, it's Kyle Chandler. You're welcome.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

TRR Valentine's Party in Full Swing

I'm giving away a copy of Cover of Darkness in this month long event. Click on the photo to go see what else you can win.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Now Available: Cover of Darkness, Witness Security, Book 3

Now available from Books We Love:

Hill-CoverOfDarkness200x300Cover of Darkness
Witness Security, Book 3

It’s US Marshal Ben Markham’s job to keep witnesses alive, but providing protection to BDSM social club owners who stumble onto double murders isn’t at the top of his bucket list. Still, protecting Mitzi Pomeroy until trial has its perks. Like close contact with gorgeous, smart-as-a-whip Assistant DA Addison Decker. Too bad Addie doesn’t come with a warning label. Who’d have thought an ADA could have so many secrets? Or that those secrets will find Ben and his partner Nick Pierce scrambling to keep them all alive?

“The attraction between them sizzles from the opening moment. The twists and turns of this book brought some delightful surprises. Enjoyed and thoroughly recommend.” ~ 5 Stars, Janet Walters