Tag Archives: television

TV Review – Masters of the Universe: Revelation (2021)

I HAVE THE POWER…to write this review, 3.5 readers.

BQB here to check out Netflix’s sequel series to the popular 1980s cartoon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

3.5 readers, perhaps you’ve heard there is a bit of controversy behind this show. Rather than do a straight up review, I’m going to organize my thoughts into PRO and CON but beware, SPOILERS abound. Frankly, I wish I had watched it before reading about it online, so if you haven’t read about it, here’s your chance to go watch it first, then come back and praise it or kvetch about it, or both, whatever your preference. Believe it or not, I fall into the “or both” category.

THE CONTROVERSY:

Fans of the series were totes stoked that He-Man was coming back in a Netflix series helmed by Kevin Smith, a comic book auteur known for keeping it real when it comes to comics. If K-Smitty is behind it, it must be good, for he’s an OG comic fan from way back and would never, ever sell out to The Man just to make a quick buck.

Alas, in the first episode (BIG TIME MEGA SPOILER) He-Man and Skeletor (the trash talkiest villain of all time, basically imagine a combination of your mother in law, a sassy drag queen, and Donald Trump in their ability to pinpoint and throw shade on your flaws and put them in a skeleton man costume) have the final duel that has been forever in the making. At first, this seems awesome but then, they kill each other and for the rest of the series, the show is helmed by Teela, the longtime friend, confidante and lady bodyguard of Prince Adam, He-Man’s true identity and alter ego.

To boil it down further, there is very little He-Man in a show where He-Man is the main draw.

PRO:

#1 – Teela is voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller which makes me happy as a Buffy fan.

#2 – Kevin Smith’s argument is that he made a show for adult fans of a kids show – people who loved a show when they were little but are now in their 30s and 40s. Often, adults tend to look back at things they loved as kids with rose colored glasses, only to revisit them as adults and realize it was kind of dumb and silly. For example, I like He-Man as a kid. It wasn’t my favorite show, for that role went to GI Joe, but I generally like the show. As an adult, I went back and looked at old clips of He-Man only to find it is campy and silly AF, lots of bad puns and goofiness and what have you.

Ergo, Smith tried to make something where the stakes are real, in other words, where there are consequences and yes, where characters can actually die, as opposed to the show we got when we were kids, where He-Man and Skeletor would just wail on each other for a half hour each week and then the next week, they were fine and ready to go at it again.

He makes a good point. The show has a great musical score that puts me back in the 80s and it has that 80s feel while not being a campy romp. It has about as much of a plot as a fantasy show about warriors battling over the control of a planet’s magic can have and though I was sad to see He-Man go, I did want to find out what happens next. The five episode run is short and bingeable.

#3 – Lena Headey steals the show as Evil-Lynn, a sorceress who rivals Skeletor in her ability to throw shade. He Game of Thrones co-star, Liam Cunningham, is also pretty great as Man-At-Arms, Eternia’s resident weapons-smith.

#4 – The show isn’t a reboot. It starts where the series left off, just with a flare that is more adult yet can be watched by children. In the 1980s, comic book type shows and movies were considered silly by adults, and presented as silly for the kids with the idea that comic books are silly and should be presented as silly for the kids. Today, see the Marvel movies as an example of how it’s almost as if the studios think about the adults first and the kids second when it comes to comic book movies. This is a show with a plot that will appeal to adults yet kids can watch it. Whether or not today’s kids will enjoy it though, I have no idea. I’ll admit I wasn’t enough of a He-Man fan to keep up with it over the years and I had forgotten its main plot points, though the show quickly reminds who in the beginning who everyone is and what they do, what the world and the war is all about.

#5 – To the show’s credit, it is called Masters of the Universe: Revelation. In other words, it’s not called “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” as it was originally titled. This should suggest up front that a) there was a reason why they didn’t include He-Man in the title and revelation means something you didn’t expect is going to happen.

#6 – The show survives by plugging up past plotholes. Namely, Teela never knew that Prince Adam was He-Man and feels betrayed so many of her friends knew and never told her. King Randor never knew either. An ongoing plotline was Teela and the King thought Prince Adam was a wimp and if only he could be half as brave as He-Man. The King’s rage at being lied to leads to a big shakeup in the kingdom. Teela becomes so jaded that she dons a butch haircut and travels the world as a merc, giving a middle finger to honor and duty and just being in it for the money and herself.

#7 – The show pits magic against technology. With magic in short supply as a result of Skeletor’s chicanery, Eternians turn more to tech, which seems like a commentary on the modern age, i.e. people turn to religion for comfort yet are more reliant than ever on tech.

CON

#1 – MOTU without He-Man is like buying tickets to an Insane Clown Posse concert only to arrive and find that ICP took the day off and have been replaced by Flo from the Progressive commercials strumming a ukulele. It’s like turning on a new Batman movie only to discover Batman has decided to go to a spiritual healing retreat while Robin takes over for 2 hours. It’s like showing up to a Mets vs. Yankees game only to discover both teams have gout, and the only entertainment will be Mr. Met dancing the Macarena for 4 hours. It’s like showing up at the alter, ready to marry your beloved, only to pull back the fall and discover she has been replaced by a chimpanzee in a dress.

In short, when He-Man and Skeletor buy the farm so early in the show, you can almost hear the WOMP WOMP.

#2 – I’m not 100 percent sure this was the case here, but in today’s super woke world of ultra woke wokesterism, it’s hard not to believe that some suit at Netflix HQ didn’t decide that there was no way a show helmed by a character who is a super muscular stud-muffin blonde barbarian man who is so frigging straight and macho that he probably bangs hot chicks two at a time in between sword battles was going to fly unless he gets straight up ganked in the first episode and is replaced by a female character and said female character needs a butch makeover. I mean, for Christ’s sake, He-Man is so freaking macho and manly that his name is literally the combination of HE and MAN (which hey, by 1980s standards, the dude put his pronoun right in his name and in retrospect was hella woke) but no way such a macho sumbitch can be allowed to be in charge in this day and age. I’ll admit, that was my first reaction when I learned He-Man kicked the bucket early but then I admit once I started watching, I was intrigued.

#3 – I’m not sure what to think of K-Smith’s involvement. It feels like he was brought on board to give the series that OG Comic fan street cred. As of late, he’s been ranting online about how the fans are being jerks yet a comic guru like himself should realize you can’t just waste He-Man without there being some blowback.

#4 – Eighties kids have been through this already. Corporate suits loved to straight up murder characters we loved all the time, often just to sell toys. The Transformers movie ganked both Optimus Prime and Megatron and their top cronies, all for them to replaced with all new characters, which little kids of the day openly realized was just a cheap marketing trick (though we demanded our parents buy us those toys anyway.)

The Transformers move was so poorly received that Optimus had to be revived in the show and the GI Joe movie had to scrap storyline where Duke dies and it ultimately went to release straight to video. In short, we didn’t like it when our TV show cartoon pals died as kids and we don’t like it as adults either.

BOTTOMLINE – Whenever I want to criticize a show or a movie, I take stock and admit that hey, at least they made something, which is more than I did. I’m a frigging adult, so it’s not like I’m crying over the demise of He-Man. Though he is the main draw, I did binge the show because I found the storyline interesting and wanted to see where it went, so perhaps ultimately Smith and Netflix found a way to get the show a lot of free press and to draw viewers in. Would a show where He-Man wields his sword and kicked ass while Skeletor mocks his loin cloth been just more of the same? I don’t know.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, though I’m not sure where the show goes from here. A MOTU show without He-Man and Skeletor probably can’t last forever and yet, if you bring them back with a magic wand wave, that sort of cheapens the idea that this show has adult level stakes. As much as I have enjoyed watching Teela’s storyline, I wonder if, in the long run, you do need the buff barbarian and the trash talking skeleton to go at it because really, who doesn’t want to see more of that?

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TV Review – Manifest (2018 – Apparently Cancelled)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This show’s cancellation is as mysterious as a missing plane.

BQB here with a review.

Remember a few years ago when there was a missing plane, no trace of it found and all the cable news channels talked about it ad nauseum for hours and hours on end? (Not that it wasn’t a tragedy but it was to the point where you’d wake up in the morning and there’d be a guy on TV talk about the missing plane, then you’d go to bed and someone was still talking about a missing plane.)

Well NBC made an entire show about just that, only the passenger and crew survive. They take off in 2013, get struck by lightning and then miraculously land five years later in 2018. Ironically, while this show began in 2018, news of its existence took three years to reach my brain, with Netflix delivering said news.

The rest of the world has moved on without them…hard since for the passengers, no time has passed. Yet in those five years, friends and family have gotten older, some have even passed away. Spouses have found other romantic partners. Kids have grown up, leaving siblings on the plane behind.

I have to admit, I generally despise network television. It’s all very bland, formulaic and predictable. It’s that way so that Joe Blow McNoCable can tune in on any episode, pick up what’s going on instantly and then keep watching without bothering to go back and watch the earlier episodes.

But I like this one and I would have never heard of it if it hadn’t shown up on my Netflix radar. Frankly, it’s odd that NBC decided to cancel it as it has gained a lot of fans on the streaming platform.

I’m five episodes in and debating whether or not to keep watching. The overall question of the show is how did this plane land five years into the future? The individual episodes have mini mysteries, i.e. the passengers develop special powers they use to help people, thus the secondary question of how did the plane’s travel through time give them special powers? The mini mysteries are fun, though if the show is cancelled, I doubt we’ll get answers to the big questions.

To that end, it is somewhat reminiscent of Lost. I never bothered with that one but it was about a plane crash and a mysterious island. Plenty of threads let out and then fans tell me they never got any answers. (SIDENOTE: The show also reminds me of early 2000s’ The 4400, about 4,400 survivors of alien abduction who are suddenly returned to earth…so who knows? Maybe the plane’s passengers were abducted by aliens.

And there’s the rub. Whenever I discover a network show I like, I eventually do stop watching, rarely finishing it to the end if an end is even allowed. Years ago, I was into NBC’s The Blacklist and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Both followed the same formats, i.e. the sweeping question solved a bit in each episode, while each episode follows on a singular premise. But alas, the networks just keep pulling those strings without ever really tying them up. You can only follow bread crumbs for so long before you either find a gingerbread house or grow sick of bread crumbs.

I’ll probably watch a few more episodes and who knows? Maybe Netflix will order some more seasons since it’s high on their top ten list this weekend.

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TV Review – Harley Quinn – (2019 – ?)

Grab your baseball bats, 3.5 puddins.

It’s time for a review of Harley Freakin’ Quinn.

At the outset, I have to say this show is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Some thoughts on why that is, in no particular order:

#1 – It’s a Gotham based, DC character infused show, that’s for adults and when I say it’s for adults, I mean, it’s for adults. It’s weird. Watch with the sound down for a minute and you might be lulled into thinking it’s a kids show. I mean, superheroes are for kids, right? But no…there’s swearing and sex and uber violence like very serious graphic violence. You don’t want to let your kids watch this. I know, Batman and Co. are for kids, right? Nope, not this show, which brings us to…

#2 – It’s a parody of the DC Universe and the comic book genre. It focuses on Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and in season one, we see Gotham’s top she-clown break up with The Joker (ala Birds of Prey) and come out from Mr. J’s shadow, fighting to be thought of as a supervillain who stands on her own evil merits and not as the Clown Prince of Crime’s sidekick. Along the way, DC’s long laundry list of main characters (heroes and villains) are trotted out and poked fun of…but the best jokes are reserved for the lesser knowns, the goofy characters you’ve unlikely ever heard of before, or maybe heard of once in passing.

Examples? Harley’s BFF Poison Ivy dates Kite Man, and that’s his power. He has a kite that pops out of the back of his suit so he can fly around. Pretty useless character, right? You’d think so until you meet such lackluster Batman opponents as Calendar Man, Condiment Man, and so on.

Overall, the writers had a fun time pointing out the silliness of the comic book world and yet…

#3 – The plots are well laid out and surprisingly riveting. In season 1, we see Harley recruit a crew of lesser knowns like Dr. Psycho, King Shark and Clayface to take on Gotham’s worst villains and fight her way up to the top of the food chain. In season 2, Gotham lies in ruins and Harley and Friends team up with Commissioner Gordon, Bat Girl and yes, even Batman to prevent the city from meeting its doom. This leads me to…

#4 – It saddens me what DC decided to do with its theatrically released movies. Here, in this cartoon, the writers set out to parody DC and comic book culture and yet, created a more coherent plot than the DC films did. As you watch, bread crumbs are laid out and they lead to something. There’s a laundry list of characters yet they all get their time to shine. Slowly but surely, the writers introduce you to their silly versions of these characters and then build up their silly version of Gotham. Watching actually pays off and you don’t leave feeling like you were jerked around. Ultimately, that’s all the fans wanted from the DC movies.

#5 – At first, I did wonder whether maybe an adult version of the DC universe was something worth making. After all, aren’t these characters for kids? Shouldn’t adults grow up and put away childish things? Drop the F bombs, cut out the uber violence and naughtyness and create something the whole family can enjoy? But then again, that leads me to…

#6 – This is the hands down funniest thing I’ve seen on TV in awhile. Somehow, it walks a fine line between keeping the wokesters happy and delivering jokes that push PC boundaries. For more of what I’m talking about, see Poison Ivy’s takedown of the Condiment King with the help of her sidekick, Frank the Plant (JB Smoove stealing the show as a man eating Venus fly trap). “Change of plans, sauce fucker.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: In the end, all we fans ever wanted is for writers to build a world. Yes, the DC characters reside in a world that we know ad nauseum, so no, we don’t need to see young Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot by a mugger outside the theater for the 1,000 time. We don’t need to see Superman’s baby sized space ship crash in a cornfield behind the Kents’ house for the 1,000th time either. With new TV shows and movies comes new versions of old characters and all we ask is to be introduced to your new versions, get to know them, then let things build. Comedy writers did that here and one day DC might figure out how to make a cinematic universe that the whole family can enjoy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Bonus points for Kaley Cuoco who I think is great in everything she does and is underutilized by Hollywood. See this show on HBO Max.

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I Love Pluto TV!

Hey 3.5 readers. BQB here.

Just want to give a free plug to Pluto TV. I discovered it last week and have been glued to it ever since.

Is it another free streaming service? Not quite. It comes across very similar to your cable service. There’s a guide and a grid and you can scroll through channels of stuff that is already streaming in progress. However, it has an on demand section too where you can see what they have available and pick something.

It’s put out there as a solution for cord cutters. Get TV without cable. Eh, to me, it depends on how much you live TV and movies. Me? Personally? I need HBO, Netflix, etc. But otherwise, it’s got NewsMax and CNN updates so you can stay up on the news and it’s got a lot of stuff to keep you entertained so hey, if you wanted to save money, you could try cutting the cable cord and give this a try for awhile.

Ultimately, it’s another source for free stuff. I could have used it at the height of the pandemic as I went on a binge of old movies I’d always wanted to see but never got around to and they had a lot of them.

Cons – I’ve notice some freezeups and not the best rewind/fast forward options (which a lot of non-Netflix sites have a problem with.) For example, there was one movie where I just wanted to watch a part of the end and I gave up because it only had the back 15 and forward 15 buttons and once you move ahead every 5-10 minutes it makes you stop and watch a commercial.

Otherwise, pretty cool. I reccomend.

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The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1 and 2 Review

Praise be, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Hulu’s big (and perhaps only) hit.

I avoided this show for a long time, largely due to the subject matter. I understand the importance of its message but ultimately, I view movies and TV as a means of escape from the crappiness of my own life, so a TV show about women being forced into a lifetime of sexual servitude at the hands of a cruel, tyrannical dystopian regime doesn’t exactly sound like good time viewing.

But with Hollywood saving their best stuff for post pandemic releases, I dove into it recently and I am hooked, though that probably is not a good thing.

For the uninitiated, the show is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, about an America that has been replaced by Gilead, a fascist, hyper-religious bible thumping regime. There is a passage in the bible about Jacob’s wife, Sarah, who can’t get pregnant, so her handmaid Bilah does the deed with Jacob so that Sarah can raise the resulting offspring of her own. Gilead circles around this passage, as the novel and the series, and as an aspiring writer, I tip my cap to Atwood, because she got a lot of mileage out of that passage.

SIDENOTE to writers – there is plenty of stuff in the public domain that you can build entire worlds from too if you put your mind to it.

Back to the review. It’s funny, I always thought that other show that Elisabeth Moss was in, “Mad Men” gave the best illustration of why women stood up and demanded their civil rights in the 1960s. On the surface, that show was about Jon Hamm’s boozy, womanizing Don Draper, a man who on the outside was the epitome of success but on the inside, torn about by a seemingly endless hole in his soul, one there wasn’t enough success, money, power and women in the world to fill.

But if you dig deeper into that show, you get to know more about the struggle of Betty (January Jones), Draper’s wife who has to put up with Don’s chicanery. She wants to leave but can’t. She has no money and no skills because the culture of the time prevented her from working in any meaningful capacity. Alas, she languishes under Don’s thumb until she meets a nicer, older man who whisks her away, willing to pay for lawyers and whatever it takes to cut Don off.

I mean, it’s nice that Betty finally gets away from Don but the underlying message was clear – women of that time weren’t able to escape a bad man unless they had the help of a good man. Basically, they couldn’t do anything without a man.

But if Mad Men is a testament to why the civil rights movement was important, The Handmaid’s Tale is a look into the nightmare the world would become without it. This show is basically a woman’s worst nightmare come to life on screen, the stuff that keeps them up worrying at night and should motivate us to keep the world from moving backward.

The set-up? In the not-so-distant future (or perhaps an alternate present), environmental disasters leave the world ravaged and most women end up infertile. Populations are dying out, some countries going years before a healthy baby is born.

Long story short, a bunch of bible thumping dudes see their opportunity to seize control of America and put the last few fertile women into slavery as their handmaids and well, I’d rather not get into the gritty details of what that entails. You can get your own Hulu subscription and find out.

The show starts strong. Moss is a boss at communicating messages via her eyes. Offred, her character (Handmaids are called Of plus the name of their “commander,” in her case, Fred. Her real name is June. Offred can’t communicate much on her own, so her eyes do a lot of the talking. When she is forced to feign allegiance to all of this stupidity in public, her eyes tell the viewer that she truly believes this all to be bullshit. Who can blame her? She once had a nice life as a book editor with husband Luke (OT Fagbenle who you might remember from long ago as Meadow’s boyfriend on the Sopranos), daughter Hannah and BFF Moira (who you might remember as OITNB’s Poussey Washington.)

So many long, long discussions could be (and are) generated by this show, more time than I have to dedicate to on this fine blog. From a TV show analysis standpoint, I’d say it starts off strong, but then I have to admit, as it goes on, it loses its way, starts to meander, can’t figure out quite what to do next, though it then veers back on track.

Ultimately, from the very beginning of the show, we see the cruelty of the Gilead regime in all its way too gory detail. Heretics, non-believers and generally people who have pissed the ruling class off in the most trivial of ways are hanged daily, and bodies swinging from nooses left out in public for days on end serve as reminders for people to not step out of line.

Women are divided into classes and forced to wear uniforms as such. The wives of the ruling commanders wear green, the “Marthas” i.e. housekeepers wear gray, the Aunts i.e. the women who boss the handmaids around and keep them in line (usually through cattleprod shocks) wear brown and the handmaids are in red.

Overall, the ability of a show to keep the viewer in suspense is what keeps viewers coming back for more. This is why Game of Thrones put butts on couches on Sunday nights, because it was all too possible that at any moment, a beloved character could buy the farm.

Thus, this show draws the viewer in because we know the Gileadeans are totes a bunch of merciless d-bags, so we are on the edge of our seats as Offred circumvents the rules to improve her life, or the lives of her children, or to help others or whatever she is doing to help in the current episode.

SPOILER – where the show starts to meander is that there are many times when Offred gets one over on the Gileadeans. She scores big victories, it looks like she might be sentenced to death and then, poof, all is forgotten and she’s back to work as a Handmaid for the Waterfords, truly the worst yuppy couple in history (Joseph Fiennes as Commander Fred and Yvonne Strahowski who I always thought was critically underrated and underutlized by Hollywood since her Dexter days.) Here Strahowski has some chilling moments as the complex character Serena Joy- at first, like a Wicked Witch of the West character, gladly selling all of woman-kind down the river if it will help her get a baby and keep her social standing, but then as the show progresses, an ally to the struggle (because, you know, eventually this Gilead bullshit starts to affect her personally.)

SIDENOTE – this is probably Atwood’s key message, among many, namely that it becomes easier for a regime to subjugate women when they turn on each other. The evil male commander dudes probably couldn’t have pulled this off if their wives hadn’t gone along with it. Alas, everyone has their own selfish self-interests and usually can’t be persuaded to stick up for others until their own interests are on the line.

What was I saying? It’s a good show that provokes a lot of discussion, A LOT. However, a formula emerges and they go to the well one too many times with it. Offred screws with the regime. It looks like she’s going to be sentenced to death or worse. Then someone in charge is like wait she’s fertile, so we can’t kill her. So then her crimes against the evil regime are swept under the rug. Close up on Offred’s sorrowful eyes. Back to the Waterford house she goes. Rinse. Repeat. To the show’s credit, the writers try to work this in. Offred mentions in narration her story is disjointed, perhaps because she is recalling it years later and there is so much to tell she has a hard time keeping up with it all. And perhaps certain Gileadean dignitaries are so willing to sweep her disobedience aside because deep down, even they know their regime is crap and they can’t tell if they are part of it because they believe it or if they just feign allegiance to it to save their own hides. (And to be certain, while they don’t kill Offred, the Gileadeans are adept at inventing new punishments where she might be better off).

The book and the 1990s movie were more succinct. Let us peak into Offred’s shitty world then cheer as she escapes…like one time, for good, and that’s it. Not a hundred and fifty times where Serena and Fred just end up wagging their fingers in an impotent (pun intended) rage as if it becomes a sitcom, That Wacky Offred.

But I get why Hulu is dragging it out. This is the service’s first big original success in a sea of other stuff that is mostly junk (though I did enjoy Hulu’s show about Catherine the Great and that Andy Samberg movie where he keeps reliving the same day.)

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. New season in April. I have only started season 3 so don’t spoil it for me. Under his eye, 3.5 readers.

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Now Would Have Been a Great Time for a New Sopranos Season

James Gandolfini passed way, way too soon and among the many, many reasons why this was tragic is that with the roll out of HBO MAX, now would have been a good time for a new season of The Sopranos, one to wrap all the lingering questions that were never fully answered.

Like most 2000s era people, I was glued to this show back in the day. Lately, I’ve been watching it over on HBO MAX and I have to say, it’s a strange experience, comparing how I felt when I watched it when I was young and now that I am old. In other words, when I first watched it, I was around the age of Tony’s kids and now I’m watching it again around the same age as Tony himself. Wow, time moves fast.

So many questions were left unresolved by that series finale which left most of America wacking their TV sets, thinking they’d gone on the fritz when a potential hit on the Soprano clan (or maybe it was just a guy going to the bathroom) was set up only for the screen to go straight to black.

In David Chase’s defense, I’m not sure there was a finale that could have ever made everyone happy. The weird thing about the show is that on one level, nearly every character was either a degenerate scumbag, or a friend or family member suffering due to their loved one’s scumbaggery. On another level, it was about family and yet on another level, it was about strategic planning.

Ergo, there was a lot strange water cooler talk in the 2000s. “Hey, I think Tony should wack Johnny Sack.” and “Really? I think that would just start a war with New York.” Kind of how like the water talk of the 2010s was about dragons and fantasy worlds and crap thanks to Game of Thrones.

Right about now, Tony would be an older man about 60. His kids would be (wow) roughly middle-aged or about there. Some questions that could be answered:

#1 – As the show progressed, Carmella moved from dutiful mob wife to a strong woman who yearned for independence. For years, she blamed Tony and wished he would end his philandering, crooked ways. Then, she eventually wised up and realized in this world, people treat you with the level of respect that you accept. She stuck around through the philandering, so Tony didn’t stop philandering. She looked the other way on the mob debauchery because the proceeds allowed her to live in a nice house and have nice things. Ultimately, she sought to get away from all of this. She got her real estate broker’s license. Began making her own income. Kicked Tony out. I think they got back together but I dpn’t remember for sure how it went down, if Tony mended at least his pervy ways or not. At any rate, it would have been interesting to see if Carmella ever achieved her dream of supporting herself through legit means while having a man who loved her and felt she was enough and wouldn’t cheat and so on.

#2 – Same thing with the kids. The older they got, the more they wised up. Their dad was a crook and all the fancy stuff they got was from the proceeds of mafia crookery. If they wanted legit lives, they’d have to distance themselves from their old man. Meadow was motivated and looked like she was on the way to becoming a lawyer. Maybe in a new season, she’d end up as a Congresswoman or something, dogged by her dad’s evil doings and needing to put distance between herself and him. Meanwhile, AJ was left in the lurch. There was good in him and he had the capacity to succeed but he was also kind of a lazy little prick, too comfortable living off his dad’s money and there was a danger he might eventually either become a wiseguy himself (unlikely as he lacked the toughness) or maybe he’d just become like, a jerk who sat around all day.

#3 – I could go on and on. I always felt like the last season was rushed. Christopher and Adriana going on the run would have been more interesting than the way they resolved the whole situation with Adriana turning state’s witness. Maybe their deaths could turn out to be dreams and it turns out they moved to Vermont to start a bed and breakfast. Christopher finally beat his substance addiction. Then again, it’s hard to watch these episodes where Christopher beats Adriana senseless and it makes me wonder why she doesn’t leave him except I guess money is so hard to come by that sometimes spouses and/or significant others talk themselves into putting up with a lot of shit as long as they are provided for financially.

Anyway, I started watching all the old episodes because of the news of “The Many Saints of Newark” movie, due later this year, a prequel starring Gandolfini’s son about how a young Tony Soprano got into organized crime.

I’m no mind reader, but this new movie makes me wonder if Chase wouldn’t have been open to the idea of a wrap up season to help boost HBO MAX. Does Tony end up on trial? In jail? Does he beat everyone? Does he get killed? Who knows?

As I watch the old shows, I notice Tony has a fear of ending up old and alone like his Uncle Junior, or busted and he notes elderly 80 something NYC crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi reigned till an old age because he gave orders through his son, i.e. his blood and so Tony was grooming Christopher to be his mouthpiece so that it would be Christopher who got pinched instead of him.

Anyway, I could talk Sopranos all day and my last observation is that it really did usher in a new golden age of television. I read that Chase first pitched the idea to network television and I’m glad they turned it down because there’s no way the show could have had the impact it did if it weren’t on paid cable. Here, you saw the mob life in all its gritty horror – people being murdered as a business decision, people being chopped up, men pretending to be good husbands and fathers while grabbing any side pieces they could. Funny, I remember back then their were concerns that the show glorified the mob life but if you watch it, then if anything you realize this isn’t any kind of a life at all. These guys are nuts, paranoid, constantly looking over their shoulder, never enjoying a minute of relaxation or security, always wondering when the hit will be called on them. Money is truly the root of all evil and you get the impression that if Tony could do it all over again, he’d probably become a used car salesman or something.

I do wonder though if the show could make it in today’s woke age. The characters said and did horrible things….constantly…and back then context was understood i.e. the shows creators weren’t endorsing what the Sopranos and co. did or said but rather, where putting the mob life on full display, with all of the dirty, disgusting warts and all.

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Black Mirror Review – San Junipero

Oooh, heaven is a place on earth, 3.5 readers.

SPOILER ALERT! This is an episode where you can’t dive too deep without giving away spoilers so if you haven’t seen it, you should join the rest of the web surfing public and not read this blog.

OK, now that the people who have seen it or don’t care about spoilers are present, let’s discuss.

The first half of this episode seems like a simple friendship story. Two young women, Yorky and Kelly, meet in a seaside tourist town, San Junipero, in the 1980s. Their friendship grows into love, i.e. the romantic variety but sours as Kelly avoids commitment.

SPOILER – by the second half, we realize San Junipero is a simulation. Everyone is either dead or dying in real life. The dying get a free, limited trial to see if an afterlife in the sim is what they want, while the dead have already signed on.

Ultimately, the love story becomes a will they or won’t they as they meet again and again during their free trials. They want to and yet their are issues in their real lives that hold them back.

The main takeaways. It would be great if some kind of simulation like this would be invented. Though as we see, it doesn’t take away from all of life’s problems, but it could give us that piece of mind we need to know that life doesn’t end at death and all our learning, struggling, working, growing…all that experience isn’t lost when we go.

Perhaps the most realistic thought is to enjoy youth while you have it and try your best to extend it. Eat your veggies. Exercise. Stay off the bad food and alcohol and cigarettes because when the body goes, it goes. The contrast between the real life oldsters and their simulated young bodies is something else, and it truly is sad what time does to the human body.

The good news? If you don’t dwell on all the complications, this episode has a rare happy ending for Black Mirror.

The bad news? If you’re like me, this episode will make you feel super old. I was a boy in the 1980s, a teenager in the 1990s, and a young adult in the 2000s and apparently, each time period are now considered as nostalgic places for the elderly and dying to visit in simulated space.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Black Mirror Review – Hated in the Nation

Couldn’t find a Netflix trailer so see this Ending Explained video instead.

Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen it, look away. It’s ok, I have a total of 3.5 readers so I can lose up to 2.5 and still have a full reader. It’s just hard to talk about this episode without delving into spoilers.

Death has become a hashtag. Whenever the Internet folk post a name along with the hashtag #deathto they are voting for that person to be killed under mysterious circumstances, with the name that receives the most votes becoming the victim of the day.

Two days and two victims – a journalist who wrote a scathing, unkind op ed about a handicapped rights’ advocate and a rapper who mocked a young fan’s tribute dance to him, dashing the kid’s dreams on live television.

Detective Karin Parke (of Boardwalk Empire fame) has seen it all and is breaking in her young partner, Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay). Along the way, they team up with British government agent Shaun Li (Benedict Wong of Doctor Strange fame.)

At first, the episode is a slow burn and feels a bit like an episode of Law and Order set in England. As we learn the killer’s method, it picks up the pace.

Spoiler – robot bees! Yes, it’s the future and robot bees have replaced the usual kind, apparently due to a lack of hot and steamy bee on bee intercourse. An entire company has emerged to produce robot bees, setting them to work on the UK’s pollination needs, each robo-bee buzzing from one flower to the next, deliver the special yellow dust along the way.

SIDENOTE: Listen people. We need to save the bees to save the plants and save the world. If you know any bees, please encourage them to engage in a lot of indiscriminate bee on bee fornication to prevent a nightmare world where robo-bees take over.

Like Alfred Hitchcock’s birds, Black Mirror’s robot bees take on a life of their own, buzzing and stalking the prey programmed into their little bee minds by the killer. Many harrowing scenes of people narrowly escaping bee attacks ensue.

Overall, the robo bee concept is interesting and sadly, may be needed one day if all these male bees can’t build up their confidence and start hitting on all these lady bees. Wait, there’s just one Queen Bee right? All the male bees go to work and then return to the hive to service the Queen Bee’s needs? Yikes.

Also, it’s a meditation on when Internet anger goes too far. People are stupid. They do dumb things. They say dumb things. Much of this stupidity went unnoticed back in the day but now that the Internet preserves everything, people often engage in a social media pile on, spewing all kinds of vitriol toward someone who they believe has crossed a line. Sadly, this leaves no room for a person to apologize and seek redemption.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, mostly because of the bees. I do remember enjoying Boardwalk Empire back in the day and thought it was cool to see Nucky’s GF in the present day.

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Black Mirror Review – Arkangel

BQB’s Black Mirror marathon continues.

It’s not easy being a parent. This is the understatement of the year.

You want to protect your child, extend their youthful innocence for as long as possible – shield them from everything and yet, the more you shelter them, the less resilient they become.

You don’t want them to scrape that knee yet they won’t learn to not run around like a goofball until they get that scraped knee. It is indeed quite a slippery slope. Maybe the best you can do is safeguard them yet as they grow up, hope your lessons take hold and they make wise decisions or at least learn from their mistakes.

Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) wants to keep her daughter, Sara, safe. After an incident where she briefly loses sight of her kid at the park, Marie signs Sara up for Arkangel, an implant that reports everything and anything about what Sara is up to directly to Mom’s tablet.

There’s good news. Mom can monitor daughter’s health. Put her on supplements as needed. Mom can block out anything that is scary, i.e. that scary dog in the neighbor’s yard just becomes a blur.

However, the as the years past and the more protective Mom is, the less able to comprehend the dangers of the world Sarah becomes. Ultimately, you don’t want your kids to see violence and yet, until they see one kid shove another kid and cause a boo boo, they don’t learn to keep their hands to themselves.

All this control and lack of learning about the world seems like a powder keg a brewing and how it will explode…well, you’ll have to watch.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Black Mirror Review – Nosedive

We’re living in a social media world, 3.5 readers, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays a social media girl.

This is by far the best episode of Black Mirror, such that if they had added a half hour, they could have released it as a feature length film. It’s dark, yet also funny and sadly, given the direction we are headed in, the one I would dare say is most likely to happen.

Bryce plays Lacie, a hard working, cheerful young woman who lives in a world where society ranks everyone based on a social media app. People have an implant that allows them to look at anyone and see their ranking number next to their head and they can add or delete stars on that person with their phone. Ultimately, every interaction you have with another human is a chance to move up or down in the world.

Lacie is a respectable 4.2 but she dreams of becoming a 4.5. You see, the higher your ranking, the more access you have to life’s perks – i.e. promotions, opportunities, open doors and so on. If she can be a 4.5, she can secure a loan needed to move into a luxury condo complex, one where she’d be able to go to fancy parties, meet trendy people, perhaps even meet a fantastic mate and better yet, she won’t have to be room mates with her dopey 3.7 brother anymore.

When Lacie is asked to be the maid of honor at her highly ranked childhood friend Naomi (Alice Eve), her reputation consultant (yes, people pay big money for advice on how to move up their rankings) advises this is her chance to send her numbers sky high. She immediately goes to work on her speech, hoping to dazzle the wedding party into throwing plenty of stars her way. Her brother reminds her that Naomi was a terrible friend but Lacie doesn’t care. She wants that damn condo and who can blame her. It does look like a fabulous condo.

And so, Lacie sets out on what inevitably becomes the cross country trip from hell, one that makes “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” look like “Roman Holiday.”

When her flight is cancelled, she makes the mistake of shouting at the airline clerk, a move that causes the police to attach the ultimate punishment – no, not jailtime. She is put on “double damage” meaning for the next 24 hours, any rating she receives, good or bad, counts as half.

As she attempts to make the long drive, one mishap after another happens, causing her mood to worsen and of course, this leads to one star sapping encounter after another with multiple jerkwads with itchy rating fingers.

Worse, as her social rep plummets, she is afforded less opportunities and thus, her travel amenities become crappier and crappier. The great irony is that the less stars she gets, the less craps Lacie gives, and her ability to tell people to eff off becomes her superpower in a world where everyone is going out of their way to impress everyone.

You might laugh and think this is impossible, but aren’t we all ranked in a way by social media? Don’t we dream of building that idyllic life, the one we can snap photos of and rub in our friends’ faces online? Hell, in some businesses, the number of followers you have is a bankable commodity.

Not to give it away, but while it is standard for all Black Mirror episodes to have a bad, depressing ending (and this follows suit) this is the closest this series gets to having a happy ending…or perhaps a humorous ending. It is still, when you think about it, unhappy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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