Tag Archives: tv

TV Review – Cowboy Bebop (2021)

Time to eat some noodles, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of the Netflix series, Cowboy Bebop.

This is a live action reboot of a classic anime series. Anime has never been my cup of tea, though Netflix has rebooted other Japanese cartoons in live action format and Death Note was one of my favorites. I’ve only watched the first two episodes thus far but I am hooked.

The best description I can provide is that it’s as if Quentin Tarantino took all the elements of a Western and a space opera, put them in a blender, hit puree, then added his patented hipness and his unbridled fascination with the 1970s. Tarantino was not involved with the production but whoever was must have been a huge fan.

The plot? In the future, humanity has colonized a number of worlds, making them look just like Earth, but for some reason, Earth as it looked during the 1970s. Space ships, space ports, space guns and so on contribute to an eye dazzling special effects bonanza, yet cars look like something Steve McQueen would have driven and buildings/decor look like Nixon and Carter are still president.

Intergalactic crime is so rampant that police put contracts out on the worst scum, creating a booming bounty hunter (called cowboys) business. Partners Spike Spiegel and Jet Black (John Cho and Mustafa Shakir) travel about in their spaceship, Bebop, looking for bounties to cash in on. It’s all very sleek and stylish and while the music, banter and gunplay are all straight out of Tarantino’s playbook, sometimes there is a cool weapon or device, such as a black hole creating gun that casino robbers use in the first episode to suck everyone and everything not nailed down into the vast nether regions of space.

Spiegel and Black are a typical odd couple. Spiegel wears a flashy suit with a turned up collar, always listening to music on his headphones with a care free attitude. Black is serious, constantly worried about the little details. He bounty hunts so he can raise enough money to provide for his daughter.

So far, at least in my watching, we’ve met Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), a cowboy (cowgirl?) who vies the dynamic duo for a prize only to team up with them. I understand that, at least if the original series is to be adhered to, there should be a plucky data hacker and an intelligent Corgi dog on the way.

Their main enemy? The Syndicate, an evil space mafia that has its vile tentacles in everything.

Space + campiness = Cowboy Bebop. It’s not quite as campy as 1960s Batman, but there’s definitely a fun campy vibe that no one else has brought to space before. You may have never thought too much about how there’s a lack of campiness in space before, but now that it’s here, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

STATUS: So much of Netflix’s offerings are doody, IMO, but this one caught me. The special effects are great, yet the throwbacks to old Westerns and 1970s culture are fun. I haven’t watched the entire first season yet so I can’t guarantee that it holds up but I’m into it so far and feel like this is going to be a winner if Netflix gives it what it needs to thrive and grow. At times it can be a little confusing, and it might merit a rewatch, but then again, it’s good enough to deserve a second watch.

Tagged , , , ,

TV Review – Dexter: Next Blood (2021) – Season 1, Episode 1

He’s baaaack.

BQB here with a review of the sequel series about America’s favorite serial killer with a code.

I’ve often said being a fan of a cable TV show is a lot like being the long suffering wife of a husband going through a bad mid-life crisis. There we stand at the doorway in our bathrobe and hair curlers, begging him to stay. We tell him we have so many more years together, we’ll be more loyal to him that that hot new young blonde will, but nothing we can do or say will stop him from driving off in his new impulse by Ferrari as he chases new projects, i.e. new movies and shows that literally no one will remember and thus we are left all alone, baffled at how we could have invested so many years in a show that was ground to a screeching, unsatisfying halt.

Those shitty husbands have been returning in droves lately, all with shitty store bought bouquets in the form of tangential prequels and sequels. The Sopranos wants us back. They’re sorry for giving us a do it yourself ending where Tony may or may not have been whacked and want to make it up to us with a prequel about Tony’s uncle in the 1960s. Saw it. Doesn’t make up for the lousy ending.

Game of Thrones is back too. They’re sorry they left us with a bizarre ending where the kind and just Khaleesi suddenly orders her dragon to turn King’s Landing into a barbecue, followed by the kid we were told for a decade could never be king becoming king with no explanation as to why the rule against him being king no longer applies. They want to make it up to us with a prequel show about Khaleesi’s ancestors from 10000 years ago. I’ll probably watch it because I have no respect for myself.

And finally, Dexter’s back. He’s sorry about that whole shitty finale where his tough cop sister Deb gets turned into a whimpering simpleton who inexplicably backs him rather than, I don’t know, vows to take him down in the bro vs sis showdown we were long promised…and then somehow Dex drives his boat to the only hospital that has a boat ramp, absconds with his dying sister in his arms (nary a single doctor, nurse or guard notices or cares) and drives his boat into a hurricane to end his murder spree once and for all and for a second we think this is a shitty ending but at least it is and ending, only for the final scene where we see Dexter has moved to the Pacific Northwest to become a lumberjack. WTF?

If I had any dignity, I’d tell all these returning franchises to go to hell. I’m seeing Squid Game now and I know in my heart that they’ll wrap up my new favorite show with a decent conclusion and won’t just give me a lame ending followed by a Squid Game prequel in ten years that no one will want (sigh they will probably do just that.)

But I am sans dignity so I watched the first episode. I’ll say at the outset, its far from what I wanted yet interesting enough that I’ll give it a try.

Here, we see Dexter ten years into his new life under an assumed identity. Posing as Jim, an employee of Fred’s Fish and Game Store, he has invented an entirely new life, yet fans will see old habits die hard. He brings cheesecake bars to work, not unlike how he used to bring donuts so everyone would like him.

He’s dating a cop, which we can assume will give him access to data on baddies who buck the system, and perhaps set up a showdown with his girlfriend (that the writers will no doubt botch).

Deb now serves as Harry, the voice that advises him on what to do.

Dexter has kept his need to kill at bay for ten years but it all comes out when a rich young douche who openly brags about all the people he’s hurt crosses his path.

Oh, and obviously it’s hella woke. Everyone is gay and his arch-nemesis will be a rich oil baron who is hurting the environment.

STATUS: So far, shelf-worthy, but it feels like I’ve lowered myself to take that long lost love back. I’ll trust it for now, but I know inevitably, it will do something stupid…or, will it learn from its mistakes and make it up to us? Time will tell.

Tagged , , ,

TV Review – Squid Game (2021)

I’m good at everything except the things I can’t do, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of this super creepy, uber violent yet oddly addictive pop cultural phenomenon.

In my mind, I view most Netflix TV show greenlight sessions as a chimpanzee in a suit tossing bundles of cash to any old drunk hobo who shuffles in off the street with a half-baked idea for a show. Thus, when I saw this in the line-up of my Netflix account about a month ago, my response was a solid hard pass. All I knew at the time was that it had dudes walking around dressed up like pink Playstation controllers and if that doesn’t sound like a show dreamed up by a hobo and greenlit by a chimp then what does?

Flash forward to this past weekend and SNL parodied it. That and some mumblings motivated me to give it a try and down the rabbit hole I went, instantly hooked.

First off, it’s a Korean produced show and the actors’ voices are dubbed over in English, sometimes to comedic effect. I’ve found some foreign language gems on Netflix – Donnie Yen’s Ip Man series or the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made in Sweden. With those, I preferred to read the subtitles and listen to the actors speak in their language but here I think there’s so much going on that you don’t have time to read and you have to go with the English dub, even though sometimes the words don’t quite match up with the lips – not to mention there are cultural differences, differences in phrasing, word choice – sometimes things don’t quite translate but whatever. It’s good and I tip my hat to the voice over artists, especially whoever did the voice of the crazy eyed lady.

Moving on…the plot! As it turns out, life in Korea isn’t all that different than life in America. Everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs yet everyone still wants more, more, more. When a group of 456 people suffering from enough financial woes to choke a horse are transported to a remote island to compete in a series of kids’ games (the titular Squid Game being a Korean kids’ game, kind of like a combo of hopscotch and football is my best attempt at a description) with the chance to win a big cash prize (you can try to figure out the exchange rate between won and US dollars or just be lazy and assume it’s a lot like I did)…they think their prayers have been answered.

Ah, but nothing in life is that simple…or free. When the losers of a game of Red Light Green Light are shot dead, the competitors realize they have signed up for a far more dangerous experience than they bargained for. Deception, betrayal, intrigue and infighting breaks out amongst the players with everyone trying to cheat and connive their way to the top.

Sadly, the BLAM! of the guns packed by the video game themed guards looms large over the series like a sinister presence, as a simple mistake is all it takes for a contestant to be fed a heaping helping of hot lead. In the true show don’t tell style that all good writers must adhere to, the series never quite comes right out and says it, but the point is clear – life is like a game, and while a mistake, in most cases, won’t (thankfully) lead to a video game man in a pink coat blasting you in the face, said mistake could cause you to lose your house, spouse, kids, career, livelihood, money, friends, family and more. All it takes is one moment of bad judgement and boom, your broke, penniless, outcast and shunned and no, it’s nowhere near as bad as being shot by the pink dudes but there might be times when you find you have screwed up so bad that you might pray for the pink dudes to…no, wait, it’s never that bad, right? I mean, even if you’re a fully grown middle aged man living with your mother, it’s still not that bad, right? Right?

Enter Gi-Hun (Greg Chun) as the protagonist who holds it all together. Somehow, despite being the quintessential nice guy who always finishes last (one time he did something noble and his reward was to lose his wife, daughter, job and end up living with his mother who as mothers go is pretty nice but still, no self respecting single dude wants to live with his mother) will have to find a way to survive against contestants adept at cheating to get their way…another life point as unfortunately, rare is the person who goes through life without having to get their hands dirty, who doesn’t have to do something that leaves a bad taste in their mouth and those who don’t sometimes end up as noble yet poor and alone, wishing they’d done X dastardly deed back in the day so they could be rich now.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Not for the squeamish as it does put the U in ultraviolence, such that Stanley Kubrick’s droogs might even clutch their pearls at the scenes that lie within. Life is definitely cheap in this competition, the underlying argument seeming to be that life is treated rather cheaply in the real world as well. Heartbreaking, as it might dredge up your old memories of times when you had to put yourself over others and neither option felt totally kosher.

Finally, I’ll just say this. It’s been two long years since Game of Thrones ended and since then, I’ve felt like a stranger in a strange land when it comes to TV. There just hasn’t been anything with the same chutzpah or level of storytelling, that trail of breadcrumbs that lures you in and rewards you by tying up all of those pesky loose threads.

So ultimately, that’s what I’m saying. A bunch of plucky Koreans in track suits playing kids’ games to the death somehow adds up to the best TV show since Game of Freaking Thrones…at least in this humble blogger’s opinion.

But do think twice before watching if you are squeamish.

SIDENOTE #1 – I have to give props to this show for not only allowing the hero to be played by a man in his late 40s, but to actually come right out and say that Gi-Hun is 47. His childhood friend/competitor Sang-Woo is also in his late 40s. The ages of the competitors run from early 20s to 40s and one very old man but I assume this is a cultural difference between America and Korea. In an American reboot of the show, Gi-Hun’s character would be like, a worldly 21-year old who somehow has seen it all and done it all and is very wise despite being twenty-freaking one. (Honestly, in my own personal experience, I’ve found that life sends the equivalent of the pink coated video game guards to blast you in the face the second you hit 30, 35 tops. Had I known this when I was 21, I would have pushed myself much, much harder but unfortunately, I was dumber than a box of rocks when I was 21…not like all the super wise all knowing 21 year olds on TV today.

All I’m saying is kudos to Korea for supporting a show where a 47 year old character isn’t treated like a useless piece of trash ready for the dumpster. I mean, his family, friends and potential employers still treat him like that, but competition wise he hangs in on those games with the best of them.

SIDENOTE #2 – Often when a show or movie takes off overseas, it is treated to an American reboot, often with disastrous results. Ironically, Netflix is one of the chief perpetrators of such reboots. Since the show has become popular in its own right, I doubt you’ll see an Americanized reboot. I’m not dumping on American movies/shows but it’s just…sometimes something is good in part because of the world in which it is created and it was interesting to learn about Korean life as I watched the show.

SIDENOTE #3 – If I’m reading the figures in other reports right, it cost $21.4 million to produce but raked in 900 million for Netflix. Mmmm boy that’s a good return on investment!

Tagged , , ,

TV Review – Brooklyn 99 (2013-2021)

It came. It went. I’m sad that it’s over but I’m glad that it happened….title of your sex tape.

BQB here with a review of Andy Samberg’s long running police comedy series.

It’s funny, I watched the first season of this show regularly when in the first season. I enjoyed it and a year later, I meant to stream the next season, then the next…and the next. I always considered myself a fan, but whoops, in the literal blink of an eye, 7 years flew by and finding myself devoid of new stuff to watch during this pandemic, I checked into it and discovered I had a lot of catching up to do.

Timely, because half way through my binge (I started this summer and just finished the last episode this week) I realized the show concluded this month. Amazing how time flies.

For those new to it, SNL alum and wacky funnyman Andy Samberg heads up the cast as Jake Peralta, a goofball detective in a Brooklyn police precinct. If you think too hard, its an odd show as in it takes place in a world where funny rarely happens. Jake and his colleagues solve crimes, catch crooks and murderers and yet somehow, wacky hijinx always transpire. In the real world, these types of shenanigans would probably get people killed and cases thrown out of court, but this is the comedy world, so you must suspend disbelief. To the show’s credit, they do manage to walk that fine line of providing goofball slapstick yet the bad guys are still always caught.

The other thing the show does well is character development. It’s a large ensemble cast, yet somehow each character gets their time in the sun. Jake’s crew includes Sgt. Terry Jeffords (uber strong ex-football player Terry Crews who wows us with his strength and pecs), Jake’s partner Charles Boyle (Jake’s partner, a loser who starts the series dating elderly women and living in his ex-wife’s basement, only to slowly but surely dig himself out of that hole over the course of the show), Amy Santiago (Jake’s love interest who worships organization and drools over file folders), Rosa Diaz (a tough, no nonsense detective with a permanent scowl and a deep voice, a far cry from actress Stephanie Beatriz’s real life bubbly, girlish voiced personality), civilian administrator Gina Linetti who ignores her duties to concentrate on social media and trash talking the rest of the gang, and of course, the glue that keeps the precinct together, Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher of Homicide: Life on the Street fame, a tough police captain, the running joke of the show being that Holt is often forced to say absurd, ridiculous things in his deep, authoritative voice. Somehow, IMO, that joke never gets old even after 8 seasons.)

Last, but not least, Scully and Hitchcock. Do you have an old, washed up person in your office? Someone who probably had a real zest for life when they were young but the years crushed their spirit and now they just loaf away at their desks, eating snacks while they count the days till retirement? Dirk Blocker (yes, the son of Dan Blocker aka Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza and Joel McKinnon Miller) plays these sometimes wastes of spaces and occasional fonts of wisdom whenever one of the younger cops dares to wade past their buckets of chicken wings to seek the rare tidbits of wisdom rolling around in their heads. One episode that gives us a flashback to the 1980s when these two were hunky studs, kicking mafia ass and taking names is equal parts funny and sad, a hilarious yet grim reminder that we all must make the best of our youthful primes, because it all goes downhill at a certain age.

Overall, I enjoyed the show very much, though the show got very real in the last season, reflecting a real world and a difficult time period in recent history that has more realness than a zany comedy can handle. Andy Samberg is great at what he does, but IMO, he is, perhaps, one of the last true funnymen, “true” in that his comedy is just that…comedy. If you watch his sketches or listen to his albums, his repertoire consists of silly voices, silly faces, silly premises, silly songs. He was in it for the laughs, never the type of comic who feels the need to impart political or special messages or take a serious turn. Alas, 2020, between the pandemic and the public outcry over police brutality forced the show to tackle serious issues, a challenge the show tried its best to do, and I’m not knocking it but a show such as this isn’t really equipped to do it. Asking Andy to be serious for a moment is like asking Andre Braugher to be serious for a moment. Somehow, when the very serious Braugher says uncharacteristically funny things, it comes off as funny, yet when the consummately goofy Andy says serious things, we just check our watches and wonder how much longer we have to wade through this attempt at drama until he acts silly again.

Unfortunately, in a climate that saw the cancellation of the Cops reality show where cameras follow the police and even the kids’ show Paw Patrol about police officer puppies, the powers that be behind Brooklyn 99 apparently felt a show about silly cops who bungle their way through saving the day wasn’t going to make it in a world that’s doing a lot of introspection about policing. I do think the show was one of the last of its kind, a silly comedy with a primary goal of making the viewer laugh. So many comedies and comedians now feel the need to make us think, give us a message, or to demand that we pick a political side and it’s just…sure, we live in a free country and comedians can do whatever they want but its unfortunate because the best comedians always realized we turned to them for escape and distraction, to get that laughter that makes us feel good…and truly adept comedians might even be able to sneak in a message or two that makes us laugh and think (not the political rallies that the late night talk shows have become.)

One last criticism of the final season, I get they had a tough challenge to be funny while tackling serious but, and spoiler alert…there were one or two moments that left me scratching my head. Turn away if you haven’t seen it, but for example, Jake has a long running friendship/enemyship? with renowned car thief Doug Judy (Craig Robinson) aka The Pontiac Bandit, constantly trying to bring him in yet he either eludes Jake or he and Jake have to team up to catch a bigger fish. In one of the last season episodes, it is implied that Jake helps him escape prison which…I mean I know its a comedy but the implication of a cop helping a crook escape? Holy shit. I always gave the show credit in that it managed to straddle the line between silly comedy and yet reminded us that cops have hard jobs and are expected to make tough calls…so as much as a cop might think a perp got a raw deal (Judy ends up going to jail over a dumb thing he did as a kid years ago), a cop can’t just assist the bad guy in getting away. They dont come right out and say Jake did it, but it is heavily implied.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Great show that unfortunately was a casualty of its time. From here on out, I guess sitcoms will just be a smorgasbord of millennial navel gazing and ennui.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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?

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,