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The Shelf: THE WALKING DEAD, SONS OF ANARCHY, ELEMENTARY

This week’s releases include several more complete seasons of television, a movie depicting a very important part of modern history, a movie in which people are stuck in the scariest house imaginable, and a movie where its stars got a free trip to South Africa in exchange for saying words while being filmed. I ain’t gon’ play Sun City. This is the Shelf.

The Walking Dead Season 4
The fourth season of AMC’s monster hit (pun intended) focuses on the survivors in the prison attempting to lead a quiet life while the undead and narrative functions make it so their lives are as close to a living hell as possible. This season introduced the characters of Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Bob, and Lilly, and brought back the evil, insane, and angrily one-eyed Governor whose whereabouts had been unknown since the end of the previous season. There’s also a deadly flu attacking the prison population and eventually their safe haven falls and they have to attempt to, separately, make their way to a fabled safe zone known as Terminus. It means “The End.” So that can’t be good.

Sons of Anarchy Season 6
FX’s long-running biker club drama ended its fifth season on a bit of a cliffhanger, with the future of SAMCRO very much uncertain and Jax having to come to terms with his own growing role as leader. The sixth season continues exploring darker and darker territories as the SoA’s longtime leader, in prison, contemplates taking a deal and Tig confronts a torture porn filmmaker. Weapons are also being supplied to kids in Charming, CA, and the club is being targeted for having the gun in the first place. As Sons of Anarchy nears its end, things are bound to get volatile. Or, you know, MORE volatile.

Elementary Season 2
The show that isn’t Sherlock did well enough to get a second season, and is actually doing quite well for the Eyeball Network. After a first season with shocking revelations about Irene Adler and Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes and his lady partner Watson have to deal with an even bigger problem in the second season: Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft (Rhys Ifans), who is being framed for murder, is working for MI6, and is attempting to convince Sherlock to move back to London. There’s also an episode this season called “The Hound of the Cancer Cells,” which I think is pretty funny.

The Musketeers Series 1
Before he was the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi portrayed the vile and ruthless Cardinal Richelieu in BBC’s action-drama version of the famous Alexandre Dumas novel, The Three Musketeers, which is always a silly title to me given that there are four of them: Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan. Capaldi isn’t the only Doctor Who connection the series has; eight of its ten episodes were directed by former Who helmers, including Toby Haynes, Saul Metzstein, Richard Clark, and Farren Blackburn. It’s a good ol’ ripping yarn of a show, with Musketeers who look about as 17th Century French as a J Crew catalog.

Blended
Does everyone remember Punch-Drunk Love? It was a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that starred Adam Sandler and in it the comedy actor proved he could actually act. It was very impressive. Since then, Sandler has done little to remind people of his prowess and instead, if he’s producing anyway, uses the fact that people see his movies (I don’t know why) to be reasons to treat himself and his friends to vacations in exotic locales. In this film, Sandler gets everybody to go on safari in South Africa under the guise that a movie is being shot wherein he is playing a single father who meets a single mother, played by frequent co-star Drew Barrymore, and they don’t like each other at first and have little in common until they go on a shared trip with their kids and they eventually grow close. Basic, lowest-common-denominator humor ensues and eventually the credits roll.

The Legend of Hell House
This is exactly the kind of movie I like; a 1970’s British haunted house movie. Oh it’s delightful. Written by Richard Matheson from his own novel Hell House, the film stars Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, and Gayle Hunnicutt as four people paid to spend a week in “The Mount Everest of Haunted Houses,” once belonging to a famous sadist and cannibal, in a bid to clear the home of evil ghost forces. Franklin and McDowall’s characters are psychics of different schools of thought and Revill plays the physicist trying to exorcise the demons using science. Hunnicutt plays his wife, who ends up as the play thing of one of the entities in the house, much to everyone’s embarrassment. Full of amazing practical effects and decidedly ’70’s cinematography, The Legend of Hell House should be on heavy rotation this Halloween.

Click here to read my full review of the film.

The Normal Heart
The growing AIDS epidemic and the struggle for gay men in the United States are at the forefront of HBO’s acclaimed The Normal Heart, written by Larry Kramer who adapted his own play and directed by Ryan Murphy. Mark Ruffalo stars as an openly gay New York writer who becomes a spokesperson for the outbreak of HIV and AIDS among gay men in the 1980’s as people finally learn what the disease is, going from it believed to be a rare cancer, to GRID (gay-related immune deficiency), and eventually to what it actually is. His plight becomes more and more painful as friends of his continue to die around him and, because it’s perceived to be a “gay problem,” the authorities offer little to no help. The drama received 9 Emmy nominations, including six members of the cast, Murphy, Kramer, and the production itself.

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