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Daredevil: Season 2  —  Netflix TV Series Review
This week I completed my mini-binge of Daredevil: Season 2.  (For my review of Season 1, click here.)  I say “mini-binge” because the season is only thirteen episodes (roughly the same number of hours) long.  I promised myself I’d mini-binge the entire first season to get myself in the mood for Season 2, but in the end, I didn’t.  I just jumped in.  I must also admit I really enjoyed seeing DD in his own TV series.
Season 2 is a lot more of the same…  Dark and very violent.  Once again, this is not a series for children viewing.  And I emphasize, very violent.
Having said that, is it any good?  And, is it interesting?  All the stuff which made year one a good-to-great show are back in Season 2: great martial arts choreography and very good character development.  The down side?  Sometimes the dialog felt more like monologues and kind of dragged.  The season introduced two new characters: Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) aka “The Punisher” and Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung).  Both of which were pretty awesome.  Of the two, Castle is more fun to watch and root for.  Yung makes you almost completely forget the “other” Elektra (Jennifer Garner).  Bernthal is powerful and Yung is almost campy.  Both are deadly, but one is brutal while the other graceful.  The contrast is truly Yin / Yang.  And the over-arc story of each with the “no-kill” philosophy of Daredevil is equally stark.  This contrast is what leads (ironically) to the dull-ish dialog.  I guess “dull” isn’t the correct way to analyze the writing, but we had to listen to the same arguments in every single episode.  Enough already.  Daredevil, although a vigilante, is a hero.  He saves lives and doesn’t kill.  We get it!
Last season, DD got his uniform / costume.  This season, DD gets his baton.  We don’t know all of what it does, but it’s very cool so far!
So, final recommendation: very strong!  This is an excellent adaptation of the comic book character into a TV series.  I highly recommend you watch the whole of the first season before trying to dive into season two.  It’ll make a lot more sense.
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On This Day In:
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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I recently finished bingeing on the four seasons of the “Longmire” TV series on Netflix.   Wow!!  What an excellent series.  The show focuses on a Sheriff in a fictional Wyoming town of Absaroka County.  The show is actually filmed in New Mexico – which appears absolutely beautiful in a desolate kind of way.  Walt Longmire (the Sheriff) is recovering from his wife’s recent death while dealing with major crimes, politics and a changing society.  The show is both a police / detective  drama and a series of mini-soap-operas.  Oh, and he’s OCD about litter! (LOL)
The two main characters are the Sheriff  and the local bar owner (“The Red Pony Bar”).  The Sheriff  is white and the barkeeper is Cheyenne Indian.  They are lifelong friends and demonstrate their “classic” Western bro-mance with strength, integrity, loyalty and stoicism.  Seriously, can you have a Western “man’s man” without cowboy stoicism?  Of course not!  And the two actors (Aussie Robert Taylor and Lou Diamond Phillips) are excellent in their roles: Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear.
The show works as a police procedural.  It works as a Western (albeit Cowboy-buddy).  And, it even works as a soap-opera – with every family appearing to be somehow dysfunctional.  The best news is that Netflix has recently agreed to run another series.  The terrible news is that if you start watching the series now, you will probably end up bingeing on it and (like me) you’ll have to wait another 10 or 11 months for the next (fifth) season to come out.
My son, James, recommended this show and he definitely hit it out of the park with this one.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole four seasons and already hope it goes on for at least several more years.  Highly recommended!!  As an aside, the show was originally on the A&E network, but was cancelled after the third season because its demographics were “too” old  —  55 to 60 year old males  —  for the network’s sponsors.  (Well, I’m so sorry for that…)  This despite the fact the show was the network’s 2nd most popular show.   Go figure…  The result of moving to Netflix is the show went from 45-ish minute episodes to 60 to 90 minutes episodes.  I say, “All the better to enjoy the series.”  Nice work, A&E.  Is someone actually paying you to make these boneheaded decisions?
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On This Day In:
2014 Days And Years
2013 Currency And Transport
2012 Something Which Did Not Exist Before
2011 True Magic

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A few weeks ago I finished binge-ing on the first two seasons of “Arrow” on Netflix.  The series is an adaptation of the “Green Arrow” comic books series by D.C. Comics.  First, a little background bias aka “full disclosure”:  I am not really a D.C. person.  When I was growing up, the comics were basically D.C., Marvel and everyone else.  D.C. had (mostly) single issue stories which were generally run of the mill superhero fare.  Marvel tended to tell individual stories, but within story arcs which could last six or more months.  This made Marvel seem more like literature than “just” stories.  Anyway, even within the D.C. universe, there were major and minor characters.  Green Arrow was one of the most minor of characters.  He was essentially a low budget Batman in a Robin Hood suit, shooting arrows (and little else).  Bottom line: I started off with very low expectations I would like this series.
Because the comic book wasn’t one I followed, the T.V. series is a “new” story for me.  When I say “new”, I mean only for the “Arrow” character as the storyline is basically lifted from Batman “The Dark Knight” movie series.  This doesn’t make it bad, just not very original.  Here goes: rich / spoiled, under-achieving college student is in a shipwreck and gets stranded on an island for five years where he learns a number of martial arts and survival techniques from various folks on the island.  He returns to civilization and becomes a vigilante trying to clean-up the city his father loved.  He starts off as a killer, indiscriminately disposing of bad guys, but at the end of the first season he resolves to try to avoid killing anyone while still bringing them to justice.  All the while, there is an over-arching soap-opera going on about his love life and the love lives of the people around him.  And, of course, all while trying to run the company which makes him a billionaire.
Does the series work?  Surprisingly, yes!  At first I found the soap-opera-ish-ness tiring, then I kind of got used to it, then it was boring, then I had kind of an acceptance of it as a means of bringing a humanizing facet into the show.  I’m sure it (the humanizing) could be handled in a different way, but I guess the soap is there to keep the teen-and-tween audience tuning in.  The action scenes are mostly pretty good.  Not up to the level of Daredevil, but still pretty good.
All in all, pretty good entertainment for TV – certainly better than “Marvel – Agents of SHIELD”, but I digress.  So, now I wait for season three to become available on Netflix and then season four, which I understand is still broadcasting.  A final note: I’ve found this serial (as in one after another) binge-ing makes the series enjoyable in a way that going week to week would probably have never been for me.  Once again, a big “yes” vote for “the binge.”
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On This Day In:
2014 Overdone
2013 The Courage To Remake The World
2012 Minor Gifts
2011 I Love It When A Plan Comes Together…
2010 Eloquence
Cleaning the Chalk Board

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Last night I finished binge viewing the new Marvel super-hero series “Daredevil” on Netflix.  My initial reaction was / is: “Wow!!”  Charlie Cox plays Matt Murdock (the good guy) and (so far) Vincent D’onofrio plays the arch-enemy (the bad guy) Wilson Fisk aka: the Kingpin.  This is comic-book storytelling writ large in a 13 hour multi-episode/chapter story for the first season of the Netflix show/series meant for adults.
First off, this is not a show for young children.  I would give it a solid “R” rating for graphic violence and topics.  I am less bothered by the “adult” language because it is infrequent and consistent with the storylines.  If any use of foul language upsets you, you will have a problem with this show.  Like I said, “meant for adults”.
The show is dark and gritty in an oily, smudgy, inner-urban way.  Even when it’s sunlight out, the city mostly looks run-down.  Now, I’ve only been to New York City once and I’ve never been to Hell’s Kitchen, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the show’s rendition of the area, but that’s the impression I came away with.  That’s not good or bad, it’s just the impression I have.  This is important because this is the “goal” for the protagonist and antagonist is to “win” Hell’s Kitchen and help to drive it’s fate into the future.  Of course, the good-guy wants it for the benefit of the common man, while the bad-guy wants it for his own wealth and ego aggrandizement.
I think it is a sign of the times that TV / Internet shows are now using corporate malfeasance and greed as the new “evil” in our urban society.  This show has a heavy political/economic tone/message which has been infrequent or absent in recent years (at least since the early to mid-Reagan Presidency).  So, it seems, we are coming full circle…  Within this context we are asked two additional questions: can one person make a difference; and, how far can a “good” person go before they become a “bad” person.
There are, of course, multiple levels to review this show:  Netflix / binge-ing, super-hero action series, TV drama.  Let’s start with binge viewing:  I did this.  Two days/nights, eight episodes and then the concluding five the following night.  It’s a long haul, but it’s “worth” it.  The stories are well told.  The characters have time to develop depth and quirks which add to the stories.  This is not a story which could have easily been translated into a 2 or 3 hour movie format.  So, yes, the Netflix streaming worked very well (IMHO).  The only question is would I have watched the same episode 4 to 6 times before the next one came out if they were released one per week.  I don’t know – almost certainly – at least when I was younger – for certain.  Does Netflix “lose” by this?  I guess it depends on how many times I go back to re-watch.  I must admit to being a fan of the instant gratification of seeing the next episode immediately if I want to.
Super-hero actions series:  graphic violence and very well sequenced fight scenes.   Interestingly, characters get hurt and take time to heal across episodes.  Is the “graphic” violence necessary to the story?  No.  I don’t think it really is required, but it does add a sense of realism lacking in most TV shows and action movies.  After one of the beheadings, I said to myself: “That could never make it on regular TV!”  Of course, there is no realism in the amount of punishment the hero takes (and survives), but then you have to remember: it’s not just TV, it’s a comic-book adaptation.
TV drama:  Excellent!  Good vs evil and one person making a difference are always (to me) story arcs of interest.  This show tells a story (as unrealistic as it may be) and the characters develop.  Even characters who seem major because they span multiple episodes – are introduced, developed, breathe, have a life beyond the main arc, and (frequently) die.  But, it is mostly very good drama.  To be honest, I was surprised at the quality of the writing and acting.
Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  This sets a much higher bar for TV series super-heroes – particularly comic-book based.
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On This Day In:
2014 I Blame Robocop
2013 Future Trustees
2012 Praise Not The Day…
2011 Educated Living

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Last night I completed watching the science-fiction, war series: “Space: Above and Beyond“.  The series ran for one year back in the mid-1990’s.  The basic storyline is that some outer-space Earth colonies are attacked by an alien race and so Earth is thrown into an intergalactic war.  There are five young folks who join the U.S. Marines for various reasons and they are the focus of the series.  They become Marine Corps pilots, but throughout the series, they seem to spend as much time fighting on the ground as they actually do in space.  The pilots become the 58th Squadron and are nicknamed: “The Wildcards”.
In addition to the principle story line of the war and the sub-arcs for each of the five pilots, there is a sixth principle character (their squadron commander) and multiple sub-arcs which include racial prejudice and subjugation, corporate malfeasance, and a prior war between humanity and a race of artificial intelligent androids/robots.
When I say I “completed” watching the series, that’s a bit of a mis-statement.  The series is available on Youtube.com, but three of the twenty-four episodes are missing.  The series is actually listed as having twenty-three episodes because the “pilot” is a two-part combined episode.  As it stands, watching the available episodes are more than sufficient to give you the flavor of the series.
I am a bit of a history buff and military history in particular.  I like this and the fictionalization of it in all formats – books, movies, songs, poetry, TV series, whatever…  This series is right in my wheelhouse / comfort zone!
About one quarter of the episodes are based on some historical occurrence, fictionalized and then referenced back to the history.  This is one of the classic ways civilizations use their “current” media to create / promote the heroes / legends of their past.  So as someone with a degree in Political Science, I find it is interesting to see a TV series do this “myth-making” for current generations.  I’m sure somewhere (in Heaven) Joseph Campbell is smiling.
One of the interesting sub-arcs is the proposition that a corporation has placed a colony on two planets they “knew” belonged to the alien species.  The colonies are owned by the corporation, but lightly defended by national troops – in one case, by the U.S. Marines.  When attacked (and slaughtered), the corporation demands the Earth go to war in retaliation for the “unprovoked” attack on their employees / “civilians”.
Another interesting idea from the main arc is the aliens make a point of mutilating our dead.  Earthlings, of course, assume this is an act of barbarism by a dark-hearted enemy.  In fact, we come to discover the aliens have no concept of an afterlife and “discover” this concept only by monitoring our electronic transmissions.  They don’t know how we manage to “rise from the dead”, but they are positive we believe we can.  So their act of mutilating the dead is actually just an attempt to ensure our soldiers don’t rise to fight again.
The series fell victim to time-slot shuffling and poor ratings and was cancelled late in the first season.  However, because the show was allowed to complete the season, the writers were able to come up with a terrific last episode with explanations (leading to more questions) and cliff-hangers galore.
While some of the acting is poor (particularly in the early episodes), the actual battlefield tactics are amateurish (if not suicidal), and the special effects are dated by today’s standards, the series remains very viewable and I highly recommend it.  I’ve read on the internet that the show is frequently re-run on the Sci-Fi channel and I will be keeping my eyes out for it so I can catch the three episodes I’ve missed.
Ooo-rah!  Semper Fi!!
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On This Day In:
2014 Winning?
2013 Still Inventing
2012 Motivated
2011 Waiting In Line At Starbuck’s

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been “binge-ing” on the TV series: “Star Trek: Enterprise“.   There are ninety-eight episodes representing over seventy hours of viewing so it was quite an investment of time!!  The series originally ran from 2001 through 2005 and I saw about twenty-five of the episodes when they originally aired.  I’m not sure why I never watched them all, but I’m nearly positive I didn’t as I remembered so few.  The series is about the first Starship Enterprise and humanity’s first attempts to explore “deep space” with the development of a Warp-5 capable spaceship.
Now, with full disclosure, I am a “Trekkie” and saw all of the original series (Star Trek: TOS) in their initial broadcasts and have subsequently viewed them all at least three times and most of them far, far more than that as I used to watch them back in the ’70’s and ’80’s when they were in syndication.  Back then, you could watch them day after day and so see most of the 79 episodes four times in a single year.  In fact, you could see them more than that as the series ran on a couple of different channels a various times of day.  Yeah, I know, a bit OCD!!
Anyway, as SciFi goes, like most of the other Star Trek franchises, this is not very good.  In terms of special effects, it is pretty good to outstanding – particularly for TV.  In terms of acting, the series starts out MUCH better than TOS (The Original Series) or TNG (The Next Generation).  TOS never had a chance to explain much of its back history and TNG was incredibly stiff in its first season.  Picard (played by Patrick Steward) was particularly wooden.  In terms of “realism”, this series is pretty much the same as all the others – little or none.
Does any of that (bad science, poor realism) matter?  Not one iota!!  The show is about humanity and our efforts to deal with “ultimate” issues: war, racism, sexism, slavery, social justice, etc.   All the things which have always made all of / each of the Star Trek franchise TV series great viewing.
This is a VERY good TV series which I thoroughly enjoyed watching!  I hate to say it, but it is every bit as good as the best episodes of TOS and TNG.
(I was never a big fan of DS9 (Star Trek: Deep Space 9) or Star Trek: Voyager and barely watched any of either.  Just a couple of seasons of each and then the odd episode.  I recognize that both of those series have their fans, but as neither of those series have had a sniff of interest in getting turned into a movie franchise, I think my opinion is justified.  I will admit, though, that now they are available (more or less free) on Netflix, I will be watching them both as and when I have time.  I doubt I’ll be binge-ing on them, though.)
As with both TOS and TNG, the stories all center around the senior staff and the most interesting characters are the Captain (Jonathan Archer played by Scott Bakula) and the main alien – as in TOS – the Vulcan First Officer (T’Pol played by Jolene Blalock).  Over the course of the series, the former goes from being an idealistic explorer to a military commander and diplomat while the latter goes from being an emotionally suppressed Vulcan to an openly emotional “almost human” female.  As such, the stories are mostly self-contained episodes with sub-story arcs which span a couple of episodes to the entire series.  Watching the whole series in compressed mode, therefore, made it seem much more understandable to me as I was easily able to remember nuances which I almost certainly would have missed (or forgotten) if I had viewed the series over a four year time span.
If you consider yourself a “Trekkie”, you must watch this series.  If you just want enjoyable SciFi about space exploration and humans meeting alien species, this is a great series.  As I said, it’s well written and character driven and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and highly recommend it.
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On This Day In:
2014 Astonishing Choices
2013 Three Hard Tasks
2012 The Only Remains
2011 Personal Capability
What Price Failure?
Both Of W’s Elections
Tea (Baggers) Anyone?

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What we learn as children,
That one plus one equals two.
We know to be false.
One plus one equals one.
We even have a word for when you
Plus another
Equals one.
That word
Is “Love”.
  —  Narration from the final scene of the last episode of the TV Series “Life
The episode was titled: “One” and originally aired on 04/08/2009
[A couple of weeks ago I went on one of my TV binges on Hulu and watched the two seasons (32 episodes) of the canceled series “Life” staring Damien Lewis as the main character (Charlie Crews) – a cop recently released from prison after serving 12 years for a multiple homicide he didn’t commit, co-starring Sarah Shahi as his new senior partner Dani Reese, and Alan Arkin as a released white collar felon Ted Earley, who is Crews’ financial advisor (and housemate).  Charlie “annoys” everyone with a dual fixation on Zen philosophy and fresh fruit (which you supposedly can’t get in prison).
The show has an over-arching story of finding the real killer and then finding out why Charlie was set up as the fall guy.  Each episode has the “main” case which is being worked as Charlie proceeds with his personal investigations.
Lewis, Shahi and Arkin are all touch perfect in their roles, with Lewis getting the best lines, Shahi the best facial reactions and Arkin as a strange kind of “glue” in the arch storyline.  At various points Ted asks Charlie: “Am I Robin to your Batman?” Then later: “I’m Alfred, aren’t I?”
My viewing wasn’t a “true” binge, as most nights I was only able to watch two episodes, and on a weekend a string of four, but it was still a compressed version of viewing the series which ran over two seasons, but was less than 40 shows because one of the years was during the television writers strike.
As I was going through the first season (11 episodes) I thought, wow, this show sure seems familiar, but I know I haven’t seen this before.  About half way through the second season (21 episodes) I started hitting shows I had seen and which I did remember generally, but not specifically.  I particularly did not remember the over-arch story, so it was interesting to see how much I’d missed and probably never understood in the first going.  As it turns out, NBC moved the series around in several timeslots, which explains why I never saw the series ending – they moved the time and I missed the initial viewing.  Although the main arch gets resolved, there are still a number of unanswered questions which we’ll now never know anything more about.
Anyway, while it is not the most realistic cop show on TV, I found it to be very entertaining and, if you have the time, I highly recommend it!  As mentioned, I found it on HULU, for free, both seasons.  The drag is if you’re not on HULU+, you will have to sit through annoying advertising.  Still, a small price to pay for otherwise quality entertainment.
I wish someone would bring the show back, but they’d probably have to re-boot the series with new actors, so I guess that ain’t gonna happen and if it did, it would probably ruin the show’s chemistry.   C’est la vi…  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2013 Reason Is Your Light
2012 Bordering Manhood
2011 Even Christ Couldn’t

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