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Archive for the ‘TV Series’ Category

Bodyguard”  (2018)  —  TV series review  (BBC and NetFlix)
This review is for the BBC series from last year which was made available world-wide (or at least here in the U.S.) via NetFlix.  The series stars “Game of Thrones” actor (oldest Stark son) Richard Madden as Sergeant David Budd, an Afghanistan war veteran and Protection Command (PCO) bodyguard, Keeley Hawes as The Right Honorable Julia Montague, the Home Secretary, Conservative MP for Thames West (the “subject” person being protected), and, Gina McKee as Commander Anne Sampson, Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.  Of course there was a raft of others, but I remembered (finally) McKee as the crippled wife / friend seen in “Notting Hill” (my review of that here).  McKee didn’t get a mention in that review / post, so I’m kinda making up for it with a mention in this post.
Like most BBC series (a “series” on the BBC means one year of shows), this series is relatively short – only six episodes, but each is roughly an hour long.  This means the series is suitable for a single day of binge viewing.  Or, alternatively, you can easily break it up into two viewings – which is what I did.
Because the show is relatively current, I won’t get into a lot of detail as it will ruin the viewing for you.  All I will say is that it is a tense, well acted police drama with a smattering of politics (police, domestic (U.K.) and international) thrown in, as well as some discreetly shown sexual content (male nudity) and action / violence lightly sprinkled in.  The first twenty minutes throws you in the deep end (tension wise) and it’s a roller coaster from there to the end.
Final recommendation:  highly to very highly recommended.  If you’re dying to see Madden’s bum or hear him repeatedly calling his superior female officers (and PC subject) “Mum”, this is your ticket.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope there will be additional years (series) to follow.  There has been no announcement as of this date (to my knowledge), but I understand the show was so popular the producers / writers have said if there is a second series, it will run through four.  If this happens, I hope they don’t run the main topic of each year across the break(s).  Please keep the story arc within each single season.  Then if the BBC or NetFlix cancel the remaining years, we viewers won’t be left in the lurch with an incomplete arc.  (Not that anyone ever listens to me…)
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On This Day In:
2018 And 40+ Years Later?
2017 He Is Alone
2016 Compensation
2015 Charlie Redux
2014 The Crux
2013 Erosion And Rechannelling
Alliance, n.
2012 How Many Thought… (One I Know Of)
Choices And Decisions
2011 Speed Spoils
Simply Intended
2010 A Second 4 Hour Jog

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Personal Ads:  “Got a problem?  Odds against you?  Call the Equalizer: 212 555 4200.
Today’s reviews are for a movie and its sequel:  Equalizer (2014) and Equalizer 2 (2018)
Both movies star two time Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington as the lead character: Robert McCall.  The character and stories are based on a moderately successful TV show from the mid / late 1980’s of the same name starring Edward Woodward as McCall.  McCall is basically a “hero for hire” and the show is pretty similar to another TV series I enjoyed from the same period called “Stingray” (see my review of that TV series here).  The main difference is McCall never really seems to ask for a payment, whereas “Stingray” asked for a favor some time in the future.  Anyway, in this version, instead of a geriatric Brit playing McCall, we have a geriatric American.
Equalizer (2014)  —  movie review
This movie is rated “R” for violence, language and implied sex.  Basically we have a normal looking man who has a history as spy / detective / electronics expert and martial artist.  He is “retired” from his official duties at “The Agency” by faking his death.  Whenever he sees someone being hurt or taken advantage of unfairly, he exacts his sense of justice on the bad guy.  He says he usually gives them a chance to do the right thing (mostly they don’t) and if not, well, they don’t usually live to regret it.
In this movie, McCall makes friends with a young hooker who is beaten and nearly killed by her pimp.  The pimp is part of a Russian gang, so McCall ends up having to bring down the gang, too.  There are lots of great fight choreography – particularly a scene which replays in slow motion.  On watching it, I was reminded of a similar “replay” technique / scene used in “The Last Samurai“, another action movie I also enjoyed.  The scene works because it demonstrates the “temporal shift” it is said happens to highly trained and skilled warriors / athletes in which they say time slows down for them as they fight / perform.  Unless you have actually been in that “zone”, it (the feeling) is hard to relate to, but once you have experienced it, you find an enjoyable sense of déjà vu when you see the feeling in film.  At least I always seem to.
If you are a fan of violent action movies (and I can be), you will enjoy this movie because it is literally a string of increasingly violent encounters tied together by a thread of a plot.  It works because Washington carries the hero’s role and the Russian baddie (Nicolai Itchenko played by Marton Paul Csokas) is equally believable.  As an aside, there is also a scene in which a personal item is stolen from a co-worker of McCall.  The item is recovered and McCall is seen wiping down and replacing a hammer at the hardware store shelf display.  There is no “action” at all, but you know the robber has just had a very bad day.
Final Recommendation: strong recommendation.  While the story is almost unbelievable, the hero and the bad guy both make the movie an enjoyable action film.  It is violent and not appropriate for pre-teens.
Equalizer 2 (2018)  —  movie review
Okay, let’s get this out of the way:  “Denzel doesn’t do sequels…”  What we have here is Denzel Washington in his first career sequel reprising his role as Robert McCall: a guy who goes around helping others and righting wrongs.  I don’t mean stopping jay-walkers and litterbugs; I mean Russian gangsters (in Equalizer 1) and here (in the sequel) rogue killers who work both sides of the political fence.  When an “Agency” asset is killed, a former top analyst is sent to make sure it wasn’t a “hit”.  When she gets wacked, something smells fishy in Denmark (actually Brussels).  Because the lady is a lifelong friend of McCall, he must avenge her death.  Oh, and he’s upset because he will only get to kill them once.
The main bad guy in this movie is Dave York (played by Pedro Pascal), who worked for and with McCall before McCall’s staged death.  York was not aware McCall is still alive and he and the rest of McCall’s “team” go private after McCall’s death.  Anyway, the team kill a bunch of people on assignment and then to tidy up loose ends and there is a big battle at the end which (of course) pits McCall against the team.  After tidying up their loose ends McCall gets asked: “Who are you Mr. McCall?”
Final recommendation:  Moderate to strong.  Again, another violent movie…  The sequel is just not quite as good as the first.  Yeah, I know, big surprise.  It’s well shot and reasonably well acted, but the bad guy(s) just aren’t as threatening.  I guess they are a little too “clean” as professionals and lack the intensity of the actors playing the Russian gang in the first movie.  If you are a fan of Denzel or of this genre, you will enjoy this movie – both movies, actually.  I did.  But, it’s really not quite as good as “1”.   There is talk of a “EQ3″…  We’ll see…  I think I would prefer a re-boot / prequel with a younger actor.
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On This Day In:
2018 Irreplaceable Sparks
2017 Saving For April 15th
2016 First Wish
2015 Tracing Shadows
2014 One Thing
2013 More Is Less
2012 The Screw-Up Gene

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Today’s “binge” review is for the series “Lie to me*“, which aired between 2009 and 2010.  I purchased two of the seasons (I haven’t seen Season 3 – from 2011) on VUDU while on sale for $5 each.  Season one has 13 episodes and season two has 22, so I watched about 26 hours of the show over the last week (ish).  Season three (13 episodes) is not currently available to purchase on VUDU, and even if it becomes available, I’ll still wait until it’s on sale for $5.  (Cause I’m just cheap / thrifty that way.)  Which means I may be waiting some time before I see / review the final season.  I believe the series was cancelled for lack of audience.  My brother referred this series over a year ago (he said it was terrific / must see), but when I told him I was watching it, he claimed to not remember it at all.  Go figure…
The series is basically a crime drama / investigation / police procedural starring Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, Kelli Williams as Lightman’s partner, Dr. Gillian Foster, Brendan Hines as Eli Loker, a graduate student / employee of the Lightman Group (Lightman and Foster’s company), Monica Raymund as Ria Torres, another employee, Hayley McFarland, as Emily Lightman (the Dr.’s daughter) and Mekhi Phifer as FBI Agent Ben Reynolds, muscle assigned to work with the Group.
The company specializes in “reading” body language and micro-expressions to act as human lie detectors.  The premise is Dr. Lightman is a “genius” at this and can tell if anyone is trying to lie.  Hence, he gets lots of work from the government and various police forces.
The show is based on the actual scientific studies and work of Dr. Paul Ekman who serves as a consultant for the show and who actually performed these duties for real agencies, in the real world.  I was completely unfamiliar with “micro-expressions” or the work of Dr. Ekman.  I read “Body Language” by Julius Fast, way back in the early 1970’s when it was a best seller, so I have been “kind-of” familiar with the general concept of “reading” people for most of my adult life.  Fast’s book was published in paperback in 1970, which is the version I read.  Dr. Ekman has loads of books and has been publishing for over fifty years.  You can find some of his videos on YouTube if you are interested in the topic.
Is the show any good?  Does the “science” work?  Yes and who knows for sure…  I thoroughly enjoyed the series after I got over my initial doubts that ANY of the premise is actual science.  If the show works (as entertainment), who really cares if the science is real or not (see StarTrek, StarWars or any of a million other series).  It IS entertaining.  Mostly because Roth owns this role.  I’m not familiar with much of his other work, so I don’t know if he’s acting or doing a John Wayne (playing himself in every role, over and over again).  I remember Roth from one of the Hulk movies and kind of remember him from “Reservoir Dogs“, but I haven’t seen that in ages, so, like I said, I’m not sure.  The other actors are mostly ok to good in their roles, but to be honest, it’s all mostly attractive yuppie stuff, so I wouldn’t say I’d go out of my way to look for any of them in other roles.
Final recommendation: Strong, but with reservations. I did enjoy the series and found the premise interesting enough that I will look into the scientific basis if I happen to stumble on a used book on the topic of micro-expressions / lie detection / body language, but I doubt if I would ever really try to use any of the info I might glean from the book.  Generally, I think I’m a bit too narcissistic to care about other people’s body language now that I’m retired.  I’m not sure their “truth” is worth all that much effort on my part and I certainly would not devote enough time on it to become expert level.  Like I said: interesting premise and entertaining series.  I’m looking forward to viewing season three.
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On This Day In:
2017 Give And Keep
2016 No Change Here
2015 Campbell’s Law
2014 Dignified Values
2013 Unappreciated Skill
2012 Living Courage
2011 What’s Happening To Us?
2010 Toothbrush, Carbon and Monoxide
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

 

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Today’s post will be a long one, so if you’re not interested in my reviews, please come back another day…
The three series being reviewed are “Pride And Prejudice“, “Stranger Things” and “The Punisher“.  P&P is on DVD and the other two were both viewed on NetFlix.
Pride And Prejudice  (1940) —  movie review;  (1995)  —  series / movie review
Starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet, this is the black and white version which appears on cable channels periodically – which is where I caught it one afternoon while casually channel surfing.  Because I enjoyed the 2005 version, so much and the 1995 version, too, I thought I’d give it a view.  The story is essentially: small village with landowner family of five female daughters is thrown in a tizzy over the arrival of a very “suitable” bachelor.  Even better, the bachelor comes with a friend, who is also a very suitable bachelor (Darcy).  Lizzy takes an immediate dislike to Mr. Darcy while the oldest sister (Jane) falls madly in love with the first bachelor (Mr. Bingly).  Blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
In this version, I was left with a “satisfied” grin.  It was enjoyable to watch, and, because I’m so familiar with the story, I’m looking for my favorite parts.  Unfortunately, while Olivier and Garson “seemed” good in their roles individually, to me, they lacked the chemistry to make the story believable.  There are also a couple of changes in the film which I found curious.  For one, the costumes seemed more modern and more American than British.  This impression may be just in comparison to the 1995 version.  Another difference was that Darcy’s aunt refuses the marriage to Lizzy as a test of her love, whereas in the other versions, the aunt is doing it for reasons of societal class difference and because the aunt believes Darcy to be “given / promised” to her own daughter since childhood.  Basically, it makes the aunt a redeemable character, which I don’t believe she was meant to be.  I guess, I’ll have to read the book to find out ultimately.
Final recommendation:  moderate.  It’s okay.  I guess anything with Olivier is considered a “classic”.  I say it has historical interest, just as I enjoyed “Bride And Prejudice” (2004) because of the Indian / Bollywood interpretation.  (Review here.)
Having watched the 1940’s version, I decided to re-watch the 1995 BBC version.  Starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, this is widely considered one of the great BBC television productions of all time.  Running time is not quite 5-1/2 hours long and therefore this version has the time to flesh out the characters more than the more recent 2005 film version which I have seen multiple times.  My daughter (Rebecca) says she considers this the “definitive” adaptation of the novel to film.  I beg to differ with my favorite being the 2005 version.  I would put this a very close second though.
With this second viewing and having seen some of his other works, I am thoroughly a Colin Firth fan.  He kills this role.  Even though I’ve seen this version before, I must admit, I didn’t really remember it.  It has time to add a lot more to the story and IMHO, this makes the whole version better.  There is a “famous” scene of Darcy approaching a lake on his property.  If you know much about England, you know that even on the warmest of days, open water is rarely warm.  This is actually one of the reasons accidental drowning is so common there (several hundred each year).  Anyway, Darcy is despondently approaching a lake and my first instinct was “plot twist, this isn’t going to end well”.  But then, of course, we get the now famous and career making wet T-shirt (ok, it’s a cotton long-sleeved pullover) scene of Darcy stumbling upon Lizzy on his way to the house to dry off.  Ladies still swoon…  LOL
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  I struggle to find things to criticize about this version.  Okay, it’s longer than the 2005 movie and Mrs. Bennet and Kitty are much more annoying in this version, but this slight comment is simply evidence of how good the whole is.  Well, worth re-visiting!
Stranger Things  (2016 / 2017)  —  series review
Stranger Things is a two-season (so far) science-fiction, horror, coming of age made for NetFlix series.  There are 17 episodes.  Eight in the first year and nine in the second.  The series occurs in the 1980’s, in a rural / sub-urban town in the mid-west (Indiana).  The series has lots of references and homages to earlier works of music and film from that period.  The series was recommended to me by my son (James), who advised me it was “MUST” see.  Even more than THOR, the (at that time) up-coming Justice League, Punisher or Longmire…  So, okay.  I watched it.  The series is very much an ensemble cast so I’m not going to bother listing all fifteen to twenty of the “main” actors.
Absolutely, terrific!!  The series has adults, older teens, younger teens, nerds, jocks and just regular folks.  It also has hell-hound aliens, extra-dimensions, mind-control, telekinesis and X-mas lights!  My son said, he hopes I don’t scare easily at night or I’ll have to watch all 17 hours straight through.  It wasn’t anywhere near THAT intense, but it is very good.  Basically, I’m (again) late to the party and this was the smash hit for NetFlix last year.  I’m jumping in here, one month after the release of the second season.  As per normal for NetFlix, the whole series for the year is released on the same day to encourage binge watching.  So, I did.  Season 1 on day 1 and Season 2 on the following day.
But, what is the show about?  Well, there’s a government experiment gone wrong.  They are developing children into “X-men”, with various abilities.  Season one is mostly about a girl with telekinesis abilities.  Season two brings in her “sister”.  Not really her sister, but they grew up together.  So, girl escapes and meets young boy from town.  Fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  In the meantime, the government agency has accidentally opened a gate into another dimension, which is a lot like ours, but it has been conquered by an alien (large spider-like shadow) which controls a bunch of little flesh eating aliens.  At the end of Season one, the girl saves her friends and the world by closing the portal.  Season two opens a year later and girl is still missing and the original abducted kid knows the aliens are coming back.  Blah, blah, blah, teen angst, blah, blah, blah, child angst, blah, blah, blah, adult angst.  Big finale, the kids kick alien butt and the girl saves the world.  Afterwards, smoochy, smoochy at the Winter Ball.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly.  This is a well made combination of practically every kids science-fiction movie you’ve ever seen.  Some of the references are almost (but not quite) tongue in cheek, but they work and this is a series well worth the time to watch it.  I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again soon, but I’m almost certainly up for another binge before the release of season 3, next year.  I would caution that although kids play predominant roles in this series, this is NOT for below age-12 viewing.  Some scenes can be intense and there is a moderate amount of alien violence.
The Punisher (2017)  —  series review
This series is a spinoff from the DareDevil series also on NetFlix.  The Punisher appeared in season two – and pretty much took it over – so, now he has his own show.  Basically, the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  In DareDevil, he does most of the work.  In this series, he almost finishes the job.  He leaves one guy, who he promises to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (explosions, excessive violence, gratuitous sexual scenes, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll enjoy this series.  And, I did.  So, I enjoyed it…  The question was is it any good?  As a comic book adaptation, it is very good.  As an action / adventure / who-dun-it, it’s pretty good.  As a realistic portrayal of armed and unarmed combat, uh, it’s a comic book…
The series stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as his partner David Lieberman / Micro, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who ends up being a bad guy), Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson (a confused Vet who becomes a domestic terrorist), Paul Schulze as William Rawlins (the main gov / CIA bad guy from “the war”), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman / Micro’s wife, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The series is mostly dark, in the same vein as the DareDevil series, the Chris Nolan / Batman movie trilogy, and the recent John Wick movies.  It deals with a host of issues, from right and wrong, free press, privacy, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery is essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery is almost instantaneous.  Like I said: comic book…
Final recommendation: moderate.  This series would be rated higher if they had let the actors simply act more and kill / maim less.  It is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  Go figure…
Final comment: I was not a follower of “The Punisher” character in the comic reading days of my youth.  I was reading them when he was introduced in DareDevil and Spiderman, but the character never “really” captured my pre-teen and teen imagination.  During my Army days though, I was an avid follower of “The Executioner” book series written by Don Pendleton, which was the basis for the comic character.  The monthly book series currently runs to over 400 episodes and is being ghost written since Pendleton’s sale of the series and subsequent death.
Thanks to any who managed to make it through the entire post.  Let me know if you agree / disagree with my reviews…
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On This Day In:
2016 Feeling Warm Yet?
Four Documentaries
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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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 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 intragalactic 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
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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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Title script for Stingray TV show

Title Image

Image of DVD

Image of DVD

As a Valentine’s Day treat, Hil let me buy a DVD.  I chose “Stingray“, and picked it up online for a very reasonable $8 for 24 episodes (supposedly two seasons).  Actually, the show aired its pilot in 1985, ran eight episodes in 1986 and then the last fifteen in 1987.  The pilot is a two-hour episode (run time, with commercials), so the set is advertised as 25 episodes.
The series is about a man named Ray (played by Nick Mancuso), who hires out his services to those in need, in exchange for a favor to be claimed sometime in the future.  The show is supposed to be based in Los Angeles and the first season is shot there.  It looks to me though, as if the second season is shot mostly in Canada.  The creator / producer of the show, Steven J. Cannell, created his own production company and moved it to Canada to create some separation from the major LA studio system which he felt had too much influence on his work.  Cannell is more famous for some of his other series, including “The A-Team“, “Baretta“, “21 Jump Street“, “Hunter” and “The Rockford Files“.  Cannell recently (September 2010)  passed away from cancer.  (You can find his tribute site here.)  Cannell created over 40 TV pilots which became series.
Ray (short for Raymond, not Stingray) is a Vietnam veteran, former CIA operative, martial arts expert and computer/electronics expert.  He is also supposed to be an excellent actor, or more precisely, role player – as he slips in and out of characters needed to assist whomever his current client is for the episode.  Ray finds his clients by advertising in the newspaper offering his 1965 Stingray (one of the “stars” of the show in any age) for barter only, to the right person.  The car is ultra cool.  Still.  As mentioned above, the barter is for your future favor.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the show way back when and watching the whole 24 episodes reminded me why I loved it and (ultimately) why it was cancelled.  I would say about five of the episodes are excellent TV (action and story), five are above average (action or story), five are average (but enjoyable), and the remaining nine are almost painful to watch.  Several of them seem to be actual parodies of the series or so implausible as to be parodies.  There are even instances when you can see the microphone boom dip into camera view.  That’s how bad the show got at some points.  The other thing I found interesting about the show was the credits ran with photos of out-takes.  This was unique in its day and I’m not sure I’ve seen it in many other series either.  It definitely destroys the illusion of reality created by the “hero series”.  On the other hand, it makes the show feel intimate in a way that seems to have been a forerunner of the out-takes and extra features we now expect to find on purchased DVD’s.
Although I really liked Mancuso in this role, he more or less completely fell off of my radar after this series.  The only other thing I remember him in is as the weaselly CIA guy in “Under Seige“.
Finally, the show reeks of 80’s fashion / cool – clothes, hairdos, images of the cities, etc.  It’s on a par with “Miami Vice” on that level, although Miami Vice was MUCH better at using popular music to capture the spirit of the show.  Stingray’s music are pop-rock, but created for the show and not general hits from the airways.
I don’t know if the series is run on Hulu or Netflix, but if it is, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Alternatively, for $8 (plus shipping), you’ll not go far wrong  just buying the series.  In case you’re wondering what brought the show to mind.  There’s a guy down the street who owns a mid-60’s Corvette (but his is fire-engine red).  Pure serendipity…
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