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Today’s movie(s) review is for the Baahubali series:  “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015) and “Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion” (2017).
Now, before I get into my review, a few comments.  I have a few Indian friends from my time in Saudi Arabia, but I have practically no experience with their culture: historic or mythological.  I have only seen a handful of Indian movies and those, recently viewed (mostly in the last five years), on NetFlix.  What I’m taking so long to say is I have little to no background to understand Indian history or its cinema.  I watched the first movie because it was recommended by NetFlix and the second, because I enjoyed the first.
Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015)
This movie stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
Although a “foreign” film, the film’s speaking portions have been dubbed into English, but the movies’ songs remain in the original tongue, so to understand them you have to have your closed captions turned on.  I highly suggest you do this, as the songs add meaning to the movie.  They are not just background filler or for mood setting.
Basically, the plot is a mythic tale of heroism and courage in the face of evil.  The good king’s father is betrayed and the baby king is saved by the courage of a court handmaiden.  The infant (now named Shivudu) is adopted and raised by “regular” folk, but he quickly demonstrates strength and intelligence beyond his villager status.
Shivudu struggles against a cliff / waterfall, meets his future wife, saves his mother from imprisonment by the evil king and then leads a revolt against the evil king.  The royal bodyguard realizes at the end who the real king is (now called by Baahubali) and the movie ends.
“Indian” movies, to me, means bright colors, a cast of thousands, and (at some point) dancing.  By this strict definition, this is an INDIAN movie.  But, is it any good?  Particularly to a “Western” viewer?  Yes and YES!!  This is an action movie, a love story, a drama and a special effects extravaganza.  Much like any comic book adaptation (DC or Marvel) or any Chinese martial arts (fly by wire) movie, you have to suspend your understanding of physics, gravity, biology and human anatomy and then just settle in and enjoy the show.
Final recommendation: if you like action movies with drama, romance (but no sex), color and terrific scale – you will enjoy this movie – strong to highly recommended.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (2017)
This movie (with essentially the same cast) stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king – father and son), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king – young and old), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
This movie relates the palace intrigue which resulted in Kattappa killing the first good king (Amarendra Baahubali), who is the father of Mahendra Baahubali (the second good king).  Kattappa assists the son in reclaiming the throne and everyone lives happily ever after.  (Not so happily for the bad king and his father, of course.)
Is this sequel better than or equal to the original?  Better?  No.  Equal to?  Well, okay.  I enjoyed the first movie more and the sequel really just seems like more of the same.  Does that make it bad?  No.  It just makes it the same.  It should be noted, the Indian people voted with their wallets.  The original was the second most sales (in crore) of all time in their internal market.  What movie did it replace?  You guessed it.  The original / first movie.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly recommended. You can definitely watch this movie without viewing the first and enjoy it on its on merit. Again, good acting, drama, romance and vast scale special effects.  One more comment: this movie is not currently dubbed into English, so you are committed to sub-titles.  This was tolerable, but I definitely would have rated it higher if I could have enjoyed the visuals more and not had to bother with the distraction of reading.
Series recommendation:  Strong.  It isn’t often you can watch a series in or out of order and still enjoy both movies.  I think this is one of those rare series.  One caution for non-Indian viewers: my understanding is this a story about a “possibly” historic / mythological hero and kingdom – much like King Arthur in English lore.   You shouldn’t come away feeling you have any real knowledge of Indian history or geography, anymore than watching Marvel’s “The Avengers” teaches you anything about American politics or history.  Oh, yeah…  You’ll need lots of popcorn because each film is over two hours long.
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On This Day In:
2018 Nothing
2017 Approval First
2016 In Search Of Words
Day 2 – Blending
2015 At What Price?
2014 Intricate And Subtle Order
2013 Attention To Detail
2012 Aequanimitas!
2011 Consider This
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An Interview With God”  (2018)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the “religious” movie which ran in theaters for three days last year and which is currently appearing on Netflix:  “An Interview With God” starring David Strathairn as God and Brenton Thwaites as a religious reporter / journalist Paul Asher who works at a non-sectarian newspaper.  The other main characters are:  Yael Grobglas as Paul’s estranged wife: Sarah Asher, Charlbi Dean as Sarah’s sister (Paul’s sister-in-law): Grace, and Hill Harper as Paul’s boss: Gary.  Paul is suffering a crisis in faith after having spent an extended period in Afghanistan covering the war while embedded with combat troops.  Paul is contacted and agrees to three half-hour interviews with someone who represents himself to be God.  The “GOD”.  The interview sessions are to be conducted over three days and at locations specified by God.
The movie was sponsored by a conservative Christian who also paid to have the movie released nation-wide in a limited number of theaters – hence the limited three day run.  Now, I did not know anything about the sponsor until after I’d seen the film and was doing research prior to writing this review.  I gather both factors (limited release and sponsorship) contributed to the fact there were very few reviews of the film by “mainstream” film reviewers.  I saw the movie preview last year, but never got to see the film in the cinema.  When I saw it was running on Netflix, I thought I’d give it a look-see because I like spiritual films as long as they don’t try to beat me over the head with religion.  This movie is definitively Judeo-Christian biased, but it is surprisingly more philosophical than “religious”.  That is, it raises philosophical issues about God and the real world, but it doesn’t really try to convert you Christianity (which surprised me a little).
Of the cast, Strathairn is relatively well known actor (Best Actor Oscar nomination for his Edward Murrow role in “Good Night, and Good Luck“.  I have also seen and enjoyed his performances in numerous other roles in films and on TV.  Thwaites is an Orlando Bloom look-alike, whom I gather is coming up through the Hollywood ranks as a heart-throb.  I know Harper from his TV role in the series: “The Good Doctor” – and I like him in that series.  The two females are (were) unknown to me.  I felt all five actors gave very creditable performances in their respective roles.
It is difficult to say too much about the movie because to do so would be to give away plot twists and the movie has only recently come onto Netflix so it would be unfair to spoil the movie given its very limited release.  I will say it is a movie you have to both watch and listen to.  The few reviews I have seen seemed (to me) to miss a number of points which explained / clarified other portions of the movie.  Basically, they said: “What was this or that about?”  My response: “Did you watch the movie?”
So, is this a great movie?  No, but it is thought provoking.  Is it well written, acted, shot?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  Is it a religious experience in and of itself?  Give me a break…  It’s just a movie.  Do I intend to watch it again?  Yes, as a matter of fact I do intend to and I’ve already spoken to two family members about it (recommending it to them).
Final recommendation:  Strong recommendation.  I like Strathairn’s acting and he’s good in this role.  I like thought provoking movies and this is one of those (for me anyway).  I tend to enjoy movies about faith and humanity and this deals with both.  At only about ninety minutes, this movie was actually a better investment in faith than attending Mass today.  As sacrilegious as that may sound, I can (in my own defense) only offer a poem excerpt:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
From the poem: “Light Shining Out of Darkness“, by William Cowper
You can find the entire poem here.
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On This Day In:
2018 History Will Judge Harshly
Father Time, Perhaps?
2017 Odds Are
2016 Prayer, Too
2015 History, n.
2014 See It Sometime
2013 Precious Friend
2012 It Couldn’t Be Done
Feeling Surrounded?
2011 Surprise!

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The Punisher” (2018 – Season 2) — series review
Caution: “some” spoilers in this review.  If you intend to view the series, stop now…  You’ve been warned.  Also, much of this review is the same as / similar to my review of season one.
This is a Marvel Comics Universe “TV” series appearing on NetFlix.  The “Punisher” character was introduced in the (recently cancelled) “DareDevil” series (in season two) – and pretty much took it over – and this review is for the second season of his (the Punisher’s) series.  Basically, (in season 1) the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  He leaves one guy, who he promises (“threatens”) to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…  So, now the guy who survived season one escapes from the mental hospital and the Punisher has to finish the job.
Ok, that’s pretty much what I expected from the end of season one…  And, it’s almost what you get in season 2.  The thing about the “Punisher” series is it is NEVER about the dozens of people he kills.  It is ALWAYS about “justice” for the guys behind the violent criminals.  The ones who are actually pulling the strings.  (And in this series, discovery means execution.)  In DareDevil, it was finding out who had his family executed.  In season one, it was about who actually did the executions.  Because that season ended in a non-fatal way, the antagonist could be a returning villain, but they could not be the “main” baddie.  Like season one, a new string-puller has to be introduced: in this case a husband and wife team who use religion to make themselves wealthy and powerful.  And, then they have a puppet (on a string)…
This season, the series still stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ben Barnes returns to the second season as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who was the bad guy in season 1), Amber Rose Revah returns as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Corbin Bernsen and Annette O’Toole as Anderson and Eliza Schultz (the “real” bad guys for this season), Josh Stewart plays John Pilgrim (the hyper-violent “religious” puppet of the Schultz’s), Giorgia Whigham plays Amy Bendix (the “innocent” who must be protected by Castle), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The season is dark but not as dark as the first season.  Literally.  There just seemed to be a lot more daylight / outdoor scenes.  But the killing is mostly done at night or in darker / indoors lighting.  (I think it’s meant to be a metaphor, but it’s easy to make this type of show more sophisticated than it really is: always remember, it’s “just” a comic book adaptation.)  The series continues to try to deal with a host of issues, “BIG” philosophical issues, from right and wrong, to innocence, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of gun violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery remains essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery (from blows, gun shot wounds, knife cuts and broken bones) is almost instantaneous.  Like I said: comic book…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (same as season one: explosions, excessive violence, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll continue to enjoy this series.  And, I did.  The question was: is it any good and was it better than season one?  Everything I said about season one remains true: “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…”
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This season is rated higher than season one because they let the actors act more and kill / maim less (slightly).  In typical Marvel fashion, Billy Russo “almost” becomes a sympathetic character as we are introduced to his childhood and his earlier relationship with Castle.  Again, the series is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I (again) enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  I particularly enjoyed the four part twist at the end of the season.  This was a better season and I hope Marvel and NetFlix give “The Punisher” another season to see where Castle’s wandering takes us.
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On This Day In:
2018 Choose Goodness
2017 Developing Translations
2016 Think Like A Hero
2015 Reductionism
2014 Gravitation, n.
2013 Ups And Downs
2012 Nerd Heard – And Good-Bye
Your Continuum
2011 Career Tips (Part 2)

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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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 The Fifth of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
V For Vendetta” (2006)  —  movie review
V For Vendetta” is a political / action / thriller / drama set in a future United Kingdom / England, dystopian / fascist state.  The movie stars Hugo Weaving as V (the hero of the movie), Natalie Portman as “Evey” Hammond (the naive initiate), Stephen Rea as Eric Finch (the good cop just trying to do his job), John Hurt as High Chancellor Adam Sutler (the evil ruler), Tim Pigott-Smith as Peter Creedy (the head of the state police / the muscle).  The basic plot is a secret governmental agency is trying to find a disease (and cure) they can use as a weapon and gain control of the country / world.  They get the disease, but end up creating “V” as the cure (by accident).  “V” escapes, as does the disease and it becomes a world-wide pandemic.  To “protect” the U.K., the governmental agency seizes power and the state becomes a means of keeping a few (Sutler and Creedy) in more or less absolute power.  Except “V” comes back to exact his revenge.
So, damsel in danger.  Saved by hero.  Hero tries to convince damsel he is hero.  She doesn’t believe him and almost gets them both killed.  Hero goes to “extraordinary” lengths to convince her he is “good” and she finally believes.  Meanwhile, hero is playing all kinds of heck with the government.  The good cop is trying to capture the hero.  All the bad guys get their due.  Hero dies.  Damsel promises to remember him.
This movie is somewhat of a classic at this point – in the dystopian and anti-fascist movie genre.  Shockingly, this is the first time I have seen it all the way through!  I had previously seen lots of parts and a couple of times almost all of it, but I bought the DVD on sale for a $1, so what the heck.  It’s also on TV and NetFlix a lot, but I don’t enjoy watching movies with commercials (most of the time) and I just never got to it on Netflix before this.
Is this a “great” movie?  No.  But I do think it is a “classic”.  How’s the  acting?   Pretty good…  In a BBC / Masterpiece Theater kind of way.  Plot?  Action?  Special effects?  I found the plot a little confusing.  There are some “memory” scenes and I was a bit confused by the beginning / intro.  The action is mostly good to very good.  The crescendo death battle is definitely “classic” at this point and you can find multiple versions of it on YouTube.  That, and the two buildings which get blown up (the “Old Bailey” and Parliament) are both also done well as special effects.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended!  It is a movie which left me thinking it about it, so it’s difficult to describe it as an “action” movie, but it is also that, too.  I enjoyed it and now that I’ve watched it all the way through, I definitely want to watch it again in the not too distant future.  If nothing else, to make me think about it a little more deeply.  On its own, that’s a pretty good recommendation for any movie – genre classic or not.  Oh, yeah.  The verse above (which is recited in the movie) is from the poem referring to “Guy Fawkes Day”, which is 5 November each year in England.  Back in 1606, Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators wanted to blow up King James and Parliament.  They failed and were all executed.  “V” had better luck…
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On This Day In:
2017 Black And White
Advice For #DumbDonald
2016 Mirror, Mirror
2015 Speaking With Forked Tongue
2014 The Code
2013 Eventually Formed
2012 Remember To Vote Tomorrow
2011 It Sounds Like Chaos Theory To Me

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — movie review
Today’s review is for the Marvel Studio comic book adaptation of the Thor character story: Ragnarok.  The movie came out last year, but because I rarely go to the theater any more and because I’m too cheap to pay full price for a movie, this review is from my first viewing of the movie which is now on Netflix.  For those not familiar with Norse mythology, “Ragnarok” is supposed to be the end of the universe and the death of the Norse gods.
Thor’s (Thor, the god of thunder, is played by Chris Hemsworth) father Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins) dies and his death frees Thor’s older sister Hela, the goddess of death (played by Cate Blanchett) who seeks to claim the throne of Asgard (the place where the Norse gods live).  Thor and his adopted brother Loki, the god of mischief (played by Tom Hiddleston) are defeated in initial combat with Hela, but manage to escape with their lives.
Thor is captured on a foreign planet by a former Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) and meets and fights the Hulk / Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo).  Meanwhile, Hela goes to Asgard seeking the throne and her revenge.  Blah, blah, blah.  Most everyone dies fighting the goddess of death (makes sense), but a few escape, led by Heimdall (played by Idris Elba).
Blah, blah, blah.  Thor convinces Hulk and the Valkyrie to join him in fighting Hela.  They escape from where they are imprisoned and go back to Asgard to defeat Hela.  And then we all live happily ever after (kinda / sorta).
In my review of the first Thor movie, (this is the third in the series), I said it was a bit schizophrenic and needed to decide if they were going to have the movie in Asgard or on Earth.  This one is almost exclusively off-Earth – and it is much better for it.
This movie is fun AND funny.  It has the requisite fights and special effects.  The movie runs about two hours, but felt shorter to me.  That’s a good sign.  The movie seems to be an almost immediate lead in to the Avengers: Infinity War movie, and that’s okay.  It’s okay, because (like in Infinity War) almost everyone in Asgard dies and so, whatever happens to bring back everyone in Infinity War II, probably also brings back Asgard and all of the folks who get killed in this one.  I guess we’ll have to see, next year.
The movie tries to inject a bit of philosophy by repeatedly stating it is the people who make the place and not the place which makes the people.  It kind of works, but not really because the vast majority of the Asgardians are slain by Hela and the rest appear to face capture / doom at the closing credits.  Like I said, we’ll see…
Anyway, final recommendation: highly recommended!!  As stated earlier, this movie is both fun and funny, with action, lots of humor and great fights / battles / special effects.  I would say this ranks right up with Iron Man and the Black Panther as among the very best of the Marvel Studio’s comic book / movie adaptations.  It is rated PG-13, so it might be a little too intense for very young (pre-7 years) children.  As for 7 – 13, it’s probably not too intense, but it may get them too excited and have them running around acting crazy trying to imitate the movie.  Just sayin’…
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On This Day In:
2017 For Some
2016 Fragile And Explosive, Provocation And Privacy
2015 Bound Up
2014 Economic Engines
2013 Weren’t You Supposed To Be Reading?
Absent Friends
Where I Stand
2012 Hangin’ With His P’s
Help Save
2011 Six Facets Of Good Leadership

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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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