Riverdale!

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:14 pm
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 To say that I was pleasantly surprised by this series is an understatement. I'm on Episode 3 and I am riveted. Twin Peaks meets Veronica Mars.
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 While you can't exactly claim that Jurassic Park is an under-appreciated movie, I tend to forget how good it really was. I saw it once in the theater, and believe that I have seen it two or three times on TV. But having just watched it again, I suspect I actually just watched the last half or 2/3 when I ran across it on a hotel TV and COULD NOT TURN IT OFF.  As a result, my memory has mostly fixated on the last 2/3 of the film: the brontosauruses grazing in their pasture, the ground shaking as T-Rex approaches, the terrifying scene in the kitchen, the climactic Tyrannosaurus Ex Machina moment at the end. These set pieces are so powerful that it's easy to forget how well-crafted the whole film is.

Characters are introduced with perfect little scenes that combine painless exposition with vivid windows into their personalities (as when Dr. Grant 'splains velociraptors to little Pugsley, simultaneously tipping us off to his attitude towards children and setting up poor Muldoon's final scene. Oh shit, they attack from both si....)  By the time the whole cast comes together at the park, we know exactly who they are and we're ready to roll. The pacing of the movie is exquisite, rolling in smooth parabolic curves from swelling sensawunder to absolute terror, to glorious relief of tension before starting the next round of wonder/terror/relief. I had forgotten that the beautiful scene with Dr. Grant and the children in the tree watching the brachiasaurs came right in the middle of the movie, just when the audience desperately needed a break. Do they even make movies like that any more? Seems like nowadays it just gets faster and louder the closer you get to the end.

And I am totally a sucker for the type of monster movie that doesn't actually show you the monster until half way through the movie. Who could forget the glass of water quivering as Rexie lumbers towards her first appearance? But I had completely forgotten the opening scene (possibly we got to the theater late and I never saw it?) -- a 5-minute teaser that gets your hair standing on end without actually showing you anything but reaction shots. Definitely sets you up for the kind of movie this is going to be. 

I enjoyed Jurassic World (hey, DINOSAURS!) but Jurassic Park is so very, very much better: the characters, the pacing, the scary parts, and of course the ineffable John Williams score. The first 3 Jurassic Park movies are available on Netflix streaming for just a few more days (end of April and they're gone). Don't pass up this great chance to re-experience one of the great movies of all time.



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I finally watched the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. I didn't get it. 

Westworld!

Feb. 24th, 2017 02:46 pm
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 So, is everybody watching Westworld?  

Why not???  I need people to talk to!
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I discovered that I could have a free month of HBO access without having cable through HBO Now. It's $15/month after that, which seems outrageous to me, so I'll just cancel in 29 days.

My whole and entire reason for doing this was so I could watch Westworld, which has now been begun.

Besides that, I'd like to see at least a few eps of Game of Thrones so I'll feel like I'm living in the same century as everybody else on the planet. Beyond that... is there anything else on HBO worth watching? Although I've never had HBO access before, I have seen a surprising amount of this content on Netflix and/or Amazon: Carnivale, Deadwood, Sopranos. Is there anything else I should sample? Nothing really jumps out at me.
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Just saw Rogue One. It's a big, fat video game with really really good graphics. I didn't hate it. After all, I did play Half Life 2 all the way to the end, and that took way more than two hours out of my life. The primary mechanism in games like this is: you start with a little bit of information and a limited mission - go here, find this or that thing, and along the way shoot everything that moves. Then you finally make it to a beautifully animated cut scene where you have a chance to catch your breath and make a new friend who starts to explain just what is going on, when SUDDENLY....

Oh no! Here they come - run! Take this thing and go THAT WAY! Give it to Dr. Whatsisname! Quick quick quick!! You scamper off in the indicated direction, shooting everything that moves, leaping over crevasses, clambering over walls, creeping through tunnels. Finally you get to the next destination and meet somebody who starts to explain everything (finally) when SUDDENLY....

And so on. Sometimes the characters you meet are sort of interesting. Sometimes the little bits of exposition start to cohere into an actual back story. And the environments get more and more spectacular until eventually you are careening down a cliff-side road in an open jeep shooting at giant ant lions, or climbing through the girders of a breathtaking suspension bridge. Big fun! (I loved those levels in Half Life 2). But ultimately, the plot consists mostly of running frantically from one place to another and shooting at everything that moves. And solving puzzles. But that's just in the video game version. The movie is mostly just running and shooting and never really knowing what the heck is going on.
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It's a documentary series called Tales by Light.  Briefly, somebody follows some obsessive photographers around and makes movies of them taking pictures. Just watched the first episode featuring a couple of guys free-diving with cameras in a pod of whales, New Guinea volcanoes, and a WWII airplane covered with coral. Gorgeous. 
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Galavant. Kind of the love-child of "Once Upon a Time" and "Camelot."  It's a series with 2 seasons. I've just watched the pilot, but it kind of won me over. Tissue thin plot with handsome, funny actors and lots of singing and dancing. 
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Mr. Robot, Season 1 is now available for free on Amazon Prime. I wish more people would watch it so I can talk to people about it. It's the best short TV series I've seen in a long, long time. Maybe ever.

Season 2 starts this Wednesday on the USA network. Since I don't have cable, I don't think I can watch it (USA isn't a local broadcast channel, is it?)  
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I finished "Mr. Robot!"  Now what do I do?  And who's that knocking at the door???

Wait - what's this? A new season of Bloodline has dropped on Netflix. That should satisfy my dark side for the next week or two (I'm a slow binger - just one episode per night).
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Extant. Season 1 was intriguing but just a little off somehow. As often happens in the science fiction world, the characters were kind of 2-dimensional. And something about the pacing was off. But the series got a serious reboot and new show runners, and now it kicks ass. I'm not a binge watcher, but I can no longer stop with a single episode. Watched two last night, and just watched another two. If I didn't have to get up at a reasonable time tomorrow I'd have watched another.

It was a CBS summer filler show, and now it's streaming on Amazon Prime. Aliens, robots, government conspiracies, and a lot of reflection on what it means to be human. I recommend it, especially Season 2. 
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Is anybody watching "Extant" or "The 100"?
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I figured I was done with Scandal after the muddled and repetitive 3rd season. But here I was at loose ends after finishing OITB, so I thought I'd just take a peek at the premiere for Season 4. Wham-bam! It drew me in. I think I'll give Season 4 a chance. 
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It took me quite a while, but I finally slogged through Season 3 of Orange is the New Black. Most of it WAS kind of a slog, as this season was a pretty big step down from Seasons 1 and 2. Mostly just the same old unresolved story lines swirling around with no forward movement at all except for the occasional sudden traumatic disappearance of a major character or two (or maybe three). But the actresses are just too compelling to walk away from, and at least one of the unexpected new character pairings this season was pure gold, so I stuck with it. And then, surprisingly, there was a dynamite season finale that left me feeling bereft. You never know how long you'll have to wait for the next season of something on Netflix. So what now?
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... because it was a special show reserved just for cable TV subscribers. But I admit to googling around during and after the debate to see how it was being covered online. CBS had this:

A still picture of the chosen 10 on stage with a list of all their names. That's it - just the cast list.

Followed by a little box with additional suggestions that "You Might Also Like"

  • "Kanye West throws down mic, walks off during performance in Canada."

  • "Missouri man kills 160-pound python terrorizing neighborhood."


Wow, how did they know that's what I'd be looking for next? They must be using that powerful Netflix algorithm for suggesting other movies for me to watch!
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Had me a raptor and her name was Blue,
But never forget she's a predator too.
Old Blue never do me any harm,
But this morning she ate my boss's arm.

Hey, Bluuuu-uuu-uuee,
You're a predator too.

Now Blue's the leader of the raptor pack,
And whatever they hunt ain't comin' back.
Heard the raptors hiss and I ran to see,
They was chasin' a critter as big as a tree.

Hey, Bluuuu-uuu-uuee,
You're a predator too.

Old Blue's a credit to her sex,
Decided to bag an Indominous Rex.
Indominous Rex is fierce as a lion,
Sent those velociraptors flyin'.
They fought that monster right down to the shore,
Thank God the park had a Mosasaur.

Hey, Bluuuu-uuu-uuee,
Bit off more'n you c'd chew.

Blue's raptor pack all died with a hiss,
Thank God for parthenogenesis.
Hope Blue comes back with her babies too
When it's time for Jurassic World Two.

Hey, Bluuuu-uuu-uuee,
You old predator, you.
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... although a little disturbing. If all you know is that it's about a young programmer and an AI/robot who might be falling in love you might expect a romantic comedy. Not. It's actually more of a psychological thriller. Meticulously written, perfectly acted, and beautiful to look at. Definitely worth seeing in a theater. $5 and change at the 4pm matinee. 
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So I signed up for a free month of Hulu Plus, more or less on a whim, because I wanted to watch "Last Man on Earth."  After a few episodes, I think I've had enough of that (clever setup but way too heavy on the potty humor). I've got 28 more free days here - what should I watch?

I checked out "Community" and enjoyed the first few episodes. Laurel, I looked for "Person of Interest," but it's not here. It's not anywhere, as far as I can tell. Not on Netflix, not on Amazon Prime. Not sure how anybody watches it?

I was hoping to find the current season of "Orphan Black," but no luck there. Oh, look, "Jane the Virgin." I've heard that's good. But... only the most recent 5 episodes???  WTF?  How exactly is this service supposed to be worth $8/month?  There's a limited list of shows with full seasons available, but there doesn't seem to be any way to search them except to scroll through big colored icons in what appears to be random order. The search engine mostly turns up links to network websites. Well, at least I won't be tempted to continue this subscription. In the meantime, I guess I'll just keep watching "Community," unless somebody's got a better suggestion.




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Having finished the latest Netflix series I was working through, I found myself adrift last night. Netflix still fails pretty much all the time in their attempts to predict movies that I would like ("Trailer Park Boys"??? Seriously, Netflix?). But I am increasingly amused by their batty ideas for sorting their offerings into theme collections. My absolute favorite, just as a concept, was "Movies watched by Tobias Funke on Arrested Development." Not that I had any interest in watching any of them, but the idea was hilarious.

Several collections down the line from that I ran into a little gem called "In a World."  It's a charming, surprisingly subtle indie movie about a young woman trying to deal with the burden of being the daughter of the world's greatest living voiceover talent. You could call it a romcom, but I wouldn't because the romance is a relatively minor part of the plot. It's more of a coming-of-age story. It's funny and heart-warming and has a lot of family drama/comedy in it. But it's also about how we present ourselves and judge others (and the mistakes we make in both) with particular focus on the voice. Since it's about a family of voiceover artists, after all. It's also about feminism and female empowerment, so it  triumphantly sails through the Bechdel test. And  it has the adorable Demetri Martin cast in the boy next door role, which he aces. The rest of the casting is also pretty brilliant for a teeny tiny little Sundance film by a brand new filmmaker. Highly recommended. 
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I was tired of making resolutions that were hard, so Thorin and I agreed on a joint resolution for 2015. We vowed to rewatch all 3 of the "Back to the Future" movies together (in celebration of the fact that 2015 was The Future in the second movie).

None of them were available on streaming Netflix, but we still pay for a single-disc option, so why not use it?  Anyway, we watched the first movie a few nights ago.It held up really well. It was a little more of a kids' movie than I had remembered, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the great movie comedies of all time. Definitely one to keep in mind if you ever find yourself casting about for a good family movie to share with kids aged 8-13. It's funny, heartwarming, and has a wholesome but not totally sappy message. And while "thought-provoking" might be putting it a little strongly, the plot is meatier than the average comedy. It also features great use of sound. I'm pretty sure that it fails the Bechdel Test, however.

Back to the Future II is next on the queue.

Fun fact. When they made the first movie they actually weren't planning a sequel. What appears to be a plug for the next movie was actually just intended as a final joke. The director says they would have done that part a little differently if they had really thought it through, and they ended up having to work around the setup.
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