What I’m Watching : TORCHWOOD MIRACLE DAY

miracleday

Russell T. Davies the man who nearly single-handedly spearheaded the resurrection of the DOCTOR WHO franchise after its decades long demise, created the boundary pushing spin-off series TORCHWOOD. Revolving around the popular Doctor Who character Capt. Jack Harness, Torchwood allowed Davies to create a show for adults. While American audiences are relatively comfortable with violence, Davies wanted to create a more mature show, laced with sex and sexuality and relationships in this fragile 21st century.

From a rough and awkward first season, every subsequent season of TORCHWOOD became better both in terms of budget, story and scope, until the third season, CHILDREN OF EARTH, which is largely and I think rightly considered some of the best and most ambitious and heartfelt television the BBC has produced.

So it’s in the shadow of that huge popularity and success of season 3, that season 4 of TORCHWOOD, MIRACLE DAY was born. A ten episode series, it met with less than stellar reviews upon its release. Season 4 set in the US, and financed by a US company, possibly fell afoul of an American audience expecting the standard Sci-Fi tropes, an audience possibly unprepared for the depth and level of sophistication and level of sex and sensuality, sometimes transgressively so, showcased in the season.

For the mythological middle America demographic that ratings are supposedly based on, MIRACLE DAY had a lot in it to buck the expected trends, Black guy on White woman, guy on guy, multiple characters of color, characters of color as heroic and smart, non-stereotypical writing. Davies (whose take on characters of color in his early work on Doctor Who bordered on the minstrel and offensive) in all categories is pushing the boundaries of his latest adult scifi epic, and especially in exploring the sexuality of its protagonist.

So MIRACLE DAY took its share of hits from those threatened by all the above, as well as the British audience feeling the show had gone American, and to be fair there is a bit in here to make even me uncomfortable. But if Davies comes down a bit heavy on the skin and sexuality, to push his own inclinations, it is his right, and thankfully the excesses never come at the expense of the story, and for the most part are always done artistically; and scifi has always been the perfect place for pushing boundaries and being a little bit dangerous.

And here watching MIRACLE DAY for the first time, courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku, I have to say ignore the naysayers, Season 4 of TORCHWOOD stands the test of time as some of the best and most epic writing Russell T. Davies has produced, which means this ten part epic is among the best and most satisfying TV produced… period.

It’s not perfect, the first couple of episodes are a slow build, the character of Rex perhaps more annoying than he needs to be, or perhaps it’s the actor Mekhi Phifer who tends to grate and be a little too belligerent and obnoxious for me in all his performances [I think the series would have been better with another actor cast, say Michael Ealy (ALMOST HUMAN) or Taye Diggs (DAY BREAK], and while a strong Season, CHILDREN OF EARTH still edges it out as the high-water mark for Russell T. Davies and Torchwood and arguably BBC. But those stumbles along the way just make MIRACLE DAY sticking its landing all the better, and stick its landing it does, a great end to a great season.

And an especially valid watch (episode 10 in particular) on Father’s Day! Grade: Highly Recommended.

Watch it for free courtesy of streaming [Get a free 30 day Trial of Amazon Prime (One Year Membership) here!] and then if you are as impressed with it as I was, buy it and the other seasons of TORCHWOOD, here:

Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series [Blu-ray]

Torchwood [Blu-ray]

Torchwood: Miracle Day [Blu-ray]

AMAZON and Food Network chops CHOPPED!!

chopped


CHOPPED as any of you long term blog readers know, was one of the best shows on AMAZON Prime, and seemingly one of the better reasons to have AMAZON prime… to view the seasons for free. Well Amazon has responded to the popularity of the Food Network show, very poorly, by making none of the seasons available for free.

Add to that that Food Network has, for reasons completely inexplicable, chosen not to release any of the seasons on DVD, and that makes for no cost effective options to see this show, if you don’t want cable.

It’s unfortunate that Amazon chose to remove all the free seasons of the show, and even more unfortunate that Food Network has not yet put out DVDs of CHOPPED. It’s a show crying out for DVD extras and extended episodes, etc.

One reviewer referred to Amazon’s decision as “BAIT & SWITCH”, and I can see that. They lure you into Prime with content, that becomes unavailable at no set schedule. It’s antics like this that make streaming at best a try before you buy medium.

It’s great for sampling a bunch of content, however for shows or movies you love, or intend to watch again, DVD/Blu-Ray is the only way to

  • a/get the show in a quality format, not subject to variable quality due to connection speeds and
  • b/ensure you have it available when you want to watch it and
  • c/get the show with quality extras such as Director’s commentary or making of features.

So for these reasons streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are great alternatives to cable, and great for sampling tons of content, but DVD and Blu-Ray are still the name of the game, when it comes to a quality viewing experience in your home. And here’s hoping someone at Food Channel gets wise and decides to put out CHOPPED dvds.

 

Deal of the Day : ANOMALY


DEAL OF THE DAY:
Anomaly-Main-Logo

Anomaly-Buy
The ANOMALY Hardcover is touted as something new under the graphic novel sun, in terms of scale and scope.

At over 7lbs,and nearly 17″ wide by 12″ tall and 370pages… this tale by co-creators Skipp Brittenham and Brian Haberlin that is equal parts STARSHIP TROOPERS meets BLADE RUNNER meets AVATAR lives up to its impressiveness and hype.

In a world racing toward digital, it shows in its tactile art object glory, why print will always have its audience. There is a wow factor with interacting and touching, and even smelling a well designed art book, that can not be replaced or replicated by a tablet or laptop. Don’t get me wrong, digital has is strengths, and ANOMALY using built in AR codes in the book, and a website, makes digital and tablets and phones part of the conversation if you so choose.

Cover1

But ANOMALY, the book, remains a wonderful experience whether or not you have a signal, or your device has power, which is the strength of the ancient technology of books. It is self sufficient, and does not suffer the obsolescence most technology falls victim to.

I have books from the 1950s and you can hand those books to anyone who can read… and the magic in those books can be consumed with no problem nor external player needed. That cannot be said of most technologies since. Most people can no longer play 8track tapes or laser-discs or records or video tapes or even cds. All of which are mediums far newer than my book of the 1950s however far more temporary based on their dependence on a player to translate the storage medium. A book in that way remains superior technology, being both a storage medium and a player.

pg135

And the rate of technological obsolescence is speeding up, as companies hurriedly race to produce the next thing to get you to re-buy what you just bought, but in a new format. More than likely in less than 10years, your huge collection of mp3s will be as useful (and as used) as real audio files. And no doubt your Blu-rays and certainly your DVDs will (as the players break, and the market stops producing new content and new players) go the way of the Laser-disc, as a format that time, for good or ill, has passed by.

p192

However, books such as ANOMALY, the ancient technology, will remain accessible and valued. Indeed ever more valued as tangible items, and physical quality, become ever more a cost, publishers and manufacturers are unwilling to undergo.

At $75 retail, it is not cheap by any definition, but neither is it overpriced. And to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Henry the Vth, “if you wear it, it will only wear better and better over time’. Add to that Amazon has it at a substantial discount, and you have today’s DEAL OF THE DAY. Details here:

Anomaly : Price your copy here!

If you appreciate this post, and agree this installment’s DEAL OF THE DAY is for you please use the link above to purchase it. You’ll get a great item and this blog will earn a couple pennies to keep the proverbial doors open, and keep bringing you more DEALS OF THE DAY posts. It’s a win/win! :)

NETFLIX Amazon Prime Roku Hits and Misses of the Weekend

NETFLIX Amazon Prime Roku Hits and Misses of the Weekend

shuffle

NETFLIX

  • DEADLIEST CATCH Seasons 6 to 8- I am not a reality TV fan, but I make an exception for this show. Very engrossing viewing.
  • SHUFFLE- Fantastic independent film, about a man living his life out of order. Very touching and well done film.

PBS

  • MASTERPIECE THEATER- The latest episodes of MR. SELFRIDGE are available, and for my money it is a far more engrossing and enjoyable show than the acclaimed DOWNTOWN ABBEY
  • MOTORWEEK- After all these years, still television’s best Auto show.

AMAZON PRIME

  • DOCTOR WHO Season 7 Part 2- The second half of season seven without the annoying character of Amelia Pond, while uneven, is far better than what came before. The character and actress portraying Clara being a more enjoyable fit.
  • THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK- A rare 1976 Paul Naschy film, this one sports high prices for the DVD and inexplicably good reviews. I however, found this all around a mediocre effort, about a house of upscale pleasure deviants, and how they cope when the end of the world happens. Sounds a thousand times better than it is. In a word… boring. But you can see it for free and decide for yourself.

DORADO FILMS

  • THE NIGHT OF THE SCORPION (LA CASA DE LAS MUERTAS VIVIENTES, 1972) – This rare 70s Euro-shocker with tones of Poe, would (in the days before streaming) have cost you a pretty penny. However rare doesn’t translate to good as I found this one, beyond its poor video quality, just extremely slow going. I gave it 15 minutes of my life before I gave up. However see it for free and judge for yourself.
  • NIGHT OF HATE- Off to a far better start is this Italian heist film from the late 60s, NIGHT OF HATE. The quality of all DORADO’s streaming films is pretty awful, but it is a good channel for trying out a film to see if it is good enough to buy in a decent DVD version.
  • COUNSELOR OF CRIME – Directed by Alberto De Martino and starring the great Tomas Milian this film in the first five minutes is more like it. Wall to Wall action in this low-budget God father want to be.

Branagh WALLANDER BBC TV series vs WALLANDER Canal!!

wallanderbbc


My first introduction to Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander is with the Kenneth Branagh helmed WALLANDER BBC series. I found those shows visually striking and emotionally intense. Only recently have I likewise become introduced to the earlier Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson (earliest episodes dating from 2006, with the latest episodes being in 2013).

There is a degree of fatalism and nihilism in the more slick and stylish BBC reworking of WALLANDER that is absent from the earlier Swedish television series. And I feel that that absence is to the earlier show’s benefit.

wallandercanal1

While the Swedish series is no less a captive and mirror of the forlorn land it depicts, there is in the original series and in the captivating and world wearied yet bemused performance by Krister Henriksson a welcome sense of hope, of optimism even in the face of those who have forsworn hope. As such, despite or because of its understated nature, there is something more endearing in the Swedish WALLANDER, something easier worn.

Whereas the BBC version of Wallander is a different animal all-together. First its scale is far grandeur than the Swedish version, essentially each season comprised of three feature length movies, with approximately two years between seasons; 2008, 2010, and 2012 respectively.

Add to that Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of a man ever more broken is superlative. However that degree of depression can be taxing to view. To the BBC WALLANDER’s credit it is a distinct and different take from the Swedish version they were going for and achieved, so it can be viewed as its own thing rather than simply a remake.

wallandercanal2

All that to say you can watch the original series and the BBC series and see two distinct and divergent shows, each deserving of your time. But if pressed regarding the version of Wallander that I enjoy the most, I would have to choose the Krister Henriksson series.

While the BBC version has amazing direction and cinematography, powerhouse acting by its lead Kenneth Branagh, and a wonderful score and introduction (reminiscent of the equally compelling LUTHOR), thematically I prefer the less angst ridden and less dire Swedish version. Its low-key delivery making for less hyperbolic viewing.

Grade: WALLANDER BBC series gets a grade of B/B+, and the CANAL Swedish version edges it out with a solid grade of B+.

Wallander Season 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (This item requires a 1080i compatible player)

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander (Faceless Killers / The Man Who Smiled / The Fifth Woman) [Blu-ray]

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander: The Original Episodes, Set 1

Next up I’ll sample the Rolf Lassgard WALLANDER episodes and bring you my take on those.

Netflix Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE WILD GEESE [1978]


Netflix Streaming MOVIE OF THE DAY : THE WILD GEESE [1978]

the-wild-geese-movie-poster-1978-1020192449

Directed capably, if unexceptionally, by Andrew V. McLaglen, what elevates this tale of aging mercenaries and an off the book mission, is a surprisingly incisive script, that includes three or four exchanges, about Africa, and colonialism, and war, and ethnic cleansing, and bigotry and apartheid, that still resonate today.

Based on a novel by Daniel Carney, the exceptional screenplay is by Reginald Rose of 12 ANGRY MEN fame and involves the rescue of a deposed African president called Limbani (loosely based on the real life Lumumba). Add to that a stellar cast that includes Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Stewart Granger and a host of great British character actors, and you have a movie that exceeds expectations. Strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

The Lost Men Series : Four GREAT films currently available on Streaming!

The Lost Men Series : Four GREAT films currently available on Streaming!

prayerforavengefulgod

boy-wonder-movie-poster

936full-house-of-the-rising-sun-poster

6774

These four films, which did not get theatrical releases, are far better than the vast majority of films that do reach the theaters. Disappointing films such as DEAD MAN DOWN and SPRING BREAKERS get screen time, when visually and thematically superior films such as Tim McCann’s brilliant ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM and Dan Eberle’s enthralling, nearly wordless PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD go unheralded.

And Michael Morrissey’s impressive BOY WONDER is the myth of masked vengeance done better than most big budget super-hero movies. Rounding out the quartet, director Brian A. Miller’s HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN is one of the best neo-noirs seen since the Coen Brother’s BLOOD SIMPLE or Craig Ross Jr’s frenetic and fantastic CAPPUCCINO. Dave Bautista delivering a surprisingly elegant and understated performance.

One of the common threads these four movies share is understated but brilliant performances, as well as a thematic conceit of men either at odds or abandoned by the judicial system, who must themselves find justice for those around them.

From Mike Simmons memorable turn as the protagonist in ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM (A great film unfairly lambasted by the short-sighted crowd, there’s rumors of director Tim McCann and star Mike Simmons in talk to helm the new Luke Cage/Power-Man series from Marvel/Netflix — to which I say… heck yes!) to Director/Writer Dan Eberle, also doing triple duty as star in his PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD. Together these four films create a new and refreshing phase of American cinema, a new wave if you will.

Sample them for yourself while they last on streaming services, and when you find yourself smitten with them… purchase your copies here:

Another Zero in the System

Prayer to a Vengeful God

Boy Wonder

House of the Rising Sun