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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: SONS OF ANARCHY: What happens next, daddy?

When Charles Dickens was at the peak of his popularity, Americans used to wait on East Coast docks for the latest chapters of his serialized novels to arrive. TV dramas are our version of that. The best have that mix of shamelessness and sophistication that Dickens refined into art — or at the very least, artful melodrama — and the FX biker drama Sons of Anarchy is right up there in the pantheon. Its cliffhanger episode endings are among the most addictive I’ve seen, and last night offered a great example: a three-way standoff between the increasingly evil gang boss Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman), his disaffected lieutenant Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and the vengeful Opie (Ryan Hurst), who discovered his dad’s reeking body and was informed that Clay secretly killed him. Everything about the standoff was utterly shameless: the race-to-the-finish-line lead-up; Opie’s tearful speech; Opie leveling his gun at Clay at the precise moment when Jax burst in and screamed at him to drop it; the shot of Clay’s body slamming against a wall; Jax’s horrified close-up. Cut to black, roll credits. Is he dead? Was he wearing a bulletproof vest?
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 24, 2011 11:43 AM
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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The frustrating sci-fi drama “Terra Nova” finally shows signs of life

Stephen Lang and the dinosaurs: Those are the only two reasons to watch Terra Nova. And that’s depressing when you consider that the Steven Spielberg-produced science fiction series is the most expensive show on TV right now, and that it’s still considered a long shot for renewal even though more worthy network shows — including NBC’s Community and ABC’s Pan Am — have effectively been canceled.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 23, 2011 12:16 AM
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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Will HOMELAND turn into another THE KILLING?

It was probably only a matter of time before the executive producers of Homeland, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, reverted to their roots on Fox’s “24,” eroding a lot of the goodwill that this show has built up. I’ve described last week’s episode, “The Weekend,” as the most perfect hour of TV drama I’ve seen since the Mad Men episode “The Suitcase,” and I stand by that rave. Unfortunately, a viewer’s endorsement can be undone by problematic twists, and I have a sinking feeling that’s what just happened on Homeland.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 23, 2011 12:02 AM
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Why did so many Nazis get away with murder?

Simon Weisenthal’s greatest contribution to the world was his dogged pursuit of Nazi criminals who escaped punishment at the end of World War II. His second greatest contribution was his reminder that despite being described as “the Good War” or “a just war,” not enough good was ultimately done, and comparatively little justice was meted out. Some of the most prominent and heinous architects of mass murder simply got on with their lives, and some were the recipients of largesse — jobs, travel assistance, even money and government protection — that was denied to the people who endured their cruelty. And we tend to forget that for every high-ranking sadist or mass murderer who was imprisoned or executed after the war, thousands more who assisted them directly (through action) or indirectly (through silence) were never even called to account.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 15, 2011 7:52 PM
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The Chicago Way: Crime Story back on DVD for its 25th Anniversary

On September 18, 1986, director Michael Mann (Heat) made good on his promising career in TV and film with the debut of his new period cops-and-robbers saga, Crime Story. Not only did Crime Story’s feature-quality production design live up to that of its TV antecedent, Mann’s stylish Miami Vice; Crime Story also fulfilled its aim to present a morally complex world in which it was often difficult to tell those who broke the law from those who upheld it. Set in 1963, the show explores the multiple facets of a young hood’s rise to power in the Chicago Mob through the viewpoints of its three protagonists. Ray Luca (Anthony Denison) is the pompadoured criminal quickly ascending the ranks of the “Outfit.” Lieutenant Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) is the cop in charge of Chicago’s Major Crime Unit (or MCU) who bends the law in the service of justice. And David Abrams (Stephen Lang) is the idealistic young lawyer caught between the two men and their obsessive cat-and-mouse game. Today, a little over 25 years since its premiere, Crime Story: The Complete Series (Image Entertainment) comes out on DVD. At press time, review copies were not made available, so it’s impossible to ascertain if any improvements have been made over the questionable video quality of previous iterations. But this short-lived series, an influential precursor to the well-written serials littered throughout cable this decade (i.e., The Sopranos, Mad Men, Justified, and others), is worth owning despite any potential issues with its digital transfer.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • November 15, 2011 7:15 PM
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RECAP: Dexter heads over the edge

This recap contains spoilers for "Dexter" season six, episode seven; read at your own risk. Something extraordinary happened on “Dexter” this week. As Dexter split into two personas as he struggled to hang on to his remaining humanity, a show that’s been MIA suddenly reported ready for duty.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 14, 2011 12:03 PM
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More: Television

RECAP: "The Walking Dead" Season Two, episode 5, "Chupacabra."

"The Walking Dead" has craft and atmosphere; if only the characters weren't so insufferably earnest and dense. This recap contains spoilers for "The Walking Dead" Season Two, episode 5, "Chupacabra." Read at your own risk.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 14, 2011 4:29 AM
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RECAP: A bear, a baseball glove and Boardwalk Empire

“Powerful” episodes of cable dramas make a huge impression on viewers, and are often acclaimed as the best of their season. Sometimes the praise is deserved; other times it’s a reaction to the sight of characters we like being diagnosed with fatal illnesses, beaten, raped, killed, etc. Meanwhile, low-key but complex episodes often get short shrift from critics and viewers. I hope that doesn’t happen with tonight’s “Boardwalk Empire” episode, “Two Boats and a Lifeguard,” because in degree of difficulty, it’s impressive, in some ways extraordinary. As written by Terence Winter and directed by Tim Van Patten — a dynamic duo on a lot of great “Sopranos” episodes — “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” seems like just a “housekeeping” episode that’s mainly concerned with wrangling subplots and exploring characters. But as I’ll explain in a moment, the episode went way beyond that.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 14, 2011 3:53 AM
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24: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic turns 10

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic debuted 10 years ago this week. To mark this milestone, Press Play is re-publishing the video essay series "5 on 24" which was created by Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas for the Museum of Moving Image in 2010. According to their introduction, "5 on 24" examines various aspects of the show, including its real-time structure, its depiction of torture, and the psychology of its hero, counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. The show tapped into the ticking-clock on-the-go mentality of post-millennial society. And its machine-gun pacing, real time structure, and long-form plotting took aesthetic risks that no other action show had dared.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz & Aaron Aradillas
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  • November 11, 2011 3:21 PM
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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The big tease of "Glee"

Really, Glee? Was it really necessary to end an episode revolving around virginity loss with a shot of a roaring fireplace? That’s a trick question. Midway through its third season there’s little that’s necessary about Glee, save for the underused Chris Colfer’s performance as out gay teenager Kurt Hummel, the even more severely underused Mike O’Malley’s performance as his dad, one out of every five musical numbers, and Sue Sylvester’s surreal rants, which Jane Lynch sells even when the writing is just sassy word salad. And even those compensatory values aren’t enough to make me watch each week.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • November 9, 2011 3:07 AM
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  • 1 Comment

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