Streaming TV Series of the 1st Week of 2020 : Amazon Prime’s THE EXPANSE 4th Season

THE EXPANSE – So the 4th season of THE EXPANSE has dropped on Amazon Prime, and I said in a recent post having tried the first episode of the new season, I wasn’t loving it. This coming from someone who raved about the first 3 seasons of THE EXPANSE.

However, getting into episode 2 and later episodes of season 4, and the breakneck pace, and engrossing storyline, I’ve come to love kicks in, and it becomes the addictive show I’ve grown to acclaim. It also reminds me that THE EXPANSE has always been a slow burn of a show. The 1st season took a long time to get good, not really hitting its stride till the 2nd and 3rd seasons. And the 4th season is that in a nutshell, slow start, strong finish.

It is dangerous, this continued weak start of THE EXPANSE. These days with so many demands for a viewers time, the first episode really needs to stick the landing, as the saying goes you seldom get a 2nd chance, to make a first impression.

Not everyone made it through the weak first season, to see the amazing show it became. And likewise I’m sure they lost people with that weak first episode of the 4th season. But I can tell you, if you power thru you will be rewarded with an addictive, compelling season. Though not the biggest fan of ending on a cliffhanger, particularly when another season is not definite.

Final verdict: Slow start and some annoying characters aside, it remains the best SciFi show since FARSCAPE. Not as emotionally riveting and likable as FARSCAPE, but far more imaginative and complex and sophisticated in its world building. A very good show. Grade: B+.

TOP 15 FAVORITE DVD Commentaries! Part 1 of 3!


“She loved me. That’s the root of the business. But she knew… she knew I thought more of my wife’s footprint in the mud, than I did of her body and soul.”
— A fantastic performance by Ciaran Hinds as Jim Browner, telling Holmes about the sister-in-law who connived to destroy his marriage, with tragic results. From THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptation of THE CARDBOARD BOX.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Collection
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series

In this age of streaming and Netflix, the DVD/Blu-ray is still the format of choice for those who want to do more than ‘see’ the movie, but explore it and enjoy it. I’m speaking of special features.

Specifically Director’s Commentaries.

As a rule I don’t purchase DVDs/Blu-rays, unless it is a movie or series I intend to watch more than once. And as such a director’s commentary is an essential part of the DVD for a film fan such as myself.

I can watch the DVD once for the program, then go back and watch it for the cast/crew insights into the film. So that said, what are the best DVD/Blu-ray commentaries?

Best is a problematic designation, so let’s go with favorite… here are my 15 favorite DVD commentaries:

Images
The Long Goodbye

Robert Altman’s IMAGES/THE LONG GOODBYE- I put these two films together as one, because they are Robert Altman at his most experimental, and to my mind, while not his biggest or most lavish or most acclaimed films, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE are his most interesting and stylish and surreal films (and they also sport two of the most amazing, experimental scores).

They are my favorite Altman films. And while endlessly watchable on their own, the excellent special features push them over the top. While not really a commentary, the films instead sport brief interviews with Robert Altman, but such informative and formative interviews. Altman gives a great insight into the division of labor between Director/Writer and Actor, and how as a writer a work is 2D, and it is incumbent on the actor and others to make it 3D, to bring it to life. Between the film and the interviews, it’s a class on film-making, for the price of a DVD.

And next…

Michael Mann and Tony Scott are two of my favorite directors, they make fantastic films, and their commentaries are full-on clinics in film-making. So just about any movie they make, I purchase as much for the commentaries… as the film. So you can easily fill a top ten or twenty list with just these two directors.

But for the sake of brevity we’ll limit each director to just one:

Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER [There are numerous DVD and Blu-ray versions of this film, but the link below is the only DVD that sports the Michael Mann DVD commentary.]
Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)

[And as honorable mention check out Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL, from covering using the digital camera to the landscape of mercenaries, to the actors, it is just a riveting commentary. Collateral (Two-Disc Special Edition)]

Tony Scott’s MAN ON FIRE showcases two excellent commentary tracks.
Man on Fire

Another one of my favorite directors is Werner Herzog, and his commentaries are always things of high drama and art onto themselves. Everyone of his films are worth owning as much, and in some cases more for his commentary. Just a fascinating director, and a fascinating man.

Like Mann and Scott, every one of his commentaries could fill a best of list, but again for the sake of brevity we’ll narrow it to one.

AGUIRRE WRATH OF GOD- cause it’s always entertaining hearing him discuss Klaus Kinski

Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski: A Film Legacy

Werner Herzog Collection

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS- Put together a novel from one of my favorite writers, a few of my favorite actors, and one of my favorite directors in Carl Franklin, and you have a movie that makes anyone’s purchase list. Add a riveting commentary from director Carl Franklin, and you have DVD as film and film-experience.

Devil in A Blue Dress

And rounding out the first five for this list of 15 Favorite commentaries is

THE COMPLETE FARSCAPE- People who are fans of this show, a show that at its heart is this great love story, are fans because they are so connected to the characters that the actors and writers bring to life. Outside of possibly BABYLON 5, FARSCAPE is the most emotional and best acted show of the fantastic (Browder giving wrenching, award worthy performances). So the chance to reconnect with these shows, especially by listening to Ben Browder and Claudia Black, who obviously have as much chemistry off screen as they do on… is just a joy. Even lukewarm episodes of FARSCAPE, rare but they do exist, are made ‘must-haves’ by the commentary. A fantastic series, adorned with fantastic commentaries.

Farscape: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Farscape: The Complete Series

So that’s it for the first five favorite commentaries. Join me in the next installment as we cover #s 6-10! And in the interim feel free to leave comments about your favorite commentaries.

BEST AND WORST DVDs OF 2011!

‘Nasty things [Orchids]! Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.’
— 1946’s THE BIG SLEEP

“When one tries to rise above Nature one’s liable to fall below it.”
— Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in Robin Chapman’s THE CREEPING MAN

Like most people I like lists. As a writer, perhaps more than most.

Hence with everyone tossing out their best of 2011 lists I thought I would compile my own rather eclectic list. But this being a best and worst list, if you will. The main thing to note about my favorite and least favorite things of 2011, are that they are largely things made in previous years and I discovered in 2011. But that said there are some actual 2011 produced items.

Okay, onto the list:

My Best and Worst DVDs of 2011 (Best meaning I enjoy it and I’m glad I bought it, and worst meaning I disliked it, and it was a waste of money):

BEST
Day Break: The Complete Series – Taye Diggs – Dvd Set- One of the first DVD sets I purchased in 2011, and a year later still one of the best shows I saw all year. Not just one of my top ten of 2011, but one of my top ten of all time. I love this show. Have bought it as presents, and everyone I buy it for loves it. Just one of the best shows I’ve seen in years! Essential DVD. There are two versions however, make sure you get the 4 DVD BCI set, and not the poorly compressed 2 DVD set being put out by moneygrubbing scumbags like Navarre and MillCreek, it’s a crime how awful their version looks. Unfortunately the 4 DVD set appears to be super hard to find since BCI went out of business. Versions of it are not even on Amazon. This is a gorgeous looking series and deserves to be on Bluray.

The Hire BMW Films Clive Owen – BMWFilms.com Presents The Hire

Doctor Who – The Complete Third Series- This was the series at its best. The current, Matt Smith, Doctor is okay, but his companions of Amy and Rory are unwatchable. Just nail on chalkboard annoying. Very bad writing throughout, so re-watching the third season keeps me happy until Dr. Who gets good again. – Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series

Detective Story (DVD)
Takashi Miike, Media Blasters –Detective Story

The Prowler (DVD)
Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Joseph Losey, VCI ENTERTAINMENT –The Prowler

WORST

Chaos Starring Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Ryan Phillippe, et al. (2008)

BEST
Let Me In (DVD)
Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Kodi-Smit McPhee, Matt Reeves, TCFHE/ANCHOR BAY/STARZ

Black Dynamite (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders – Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]

The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin (DVD)
The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin

WORST

Footprints on the Moon ( Le orme ) ( Primal Impulse ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import – United Kingdom ] (DVD)
Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Ida Galli,

Stagefright (DVD)
David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Martin Philips, Michele Soavi

BEST

Undisputed II – Last Man Standing (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins (II), Ben Cross – Undisputed II – Last Man Standing

Rififi – Criterion Collection (DVD) – Rififi (The Criterion Collection)

Darkness (Unrated Version) (DVD)
Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen- The ending is a mess, but there’s enough good in this film, that’s it’s a keeper and I see myself rewatching

The Girl By the Lake (Sub) (DVD)
Toni Servillo, Valeria Golino,

The Russian Specialist (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren – The Russian Specialist

Sauna (DVD)
Ville Virtanen, Tommi Eronen – Sauna

WORST

The Killing Machine (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren

The Tournament (DVD)
Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu

BEST

Delirium (DVD)
Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni- US language version is surprisingly far superior to the Italian version, and the US dub, better acted, and just a longer, better cut of the film. – Delirium

WORST

From Within (DVD)
Steven Culp, Adam Goldberg

Fangoria Frightfest Presents – Fragile (DVD)
Calista Flockhart, Elena Anaya

Belly of the Beast (DVD)
Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Monica Lo

BEST

Splinter (DVD)
Paulo Costanzo, Shea Whigham – Splinter

Boss (DVD)
Fred Williamson, D’Urville Martin – Boss

Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye (DVD)
Jane Birkin, Boschetti, Bruno – Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye

British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne) (DVD)
Penny Irving, Pete Walker – British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne)

WORST

The Nameless (DVD)
Emma Vilarasau, Karra Elejalde, Tristán Ulloa, Toni Sevilla, Brendan Price, Jordi Dauder, Núria Cano, Isabel Ampudia, Carles Punyet, Aleix Puiggalí, Susana García Díez, Pep Tosar, Xavi Giménez, Jaume BalaguerÃ-
A great begining, stylish film, but like most Balaguera films falls apart at the end, becoming just inane

BEST

Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (DVD)
Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Malin Akerma- Don’t be fooled by the 9 million other versions, this is the version to have. And one of the few Blurays I think enough of to own. –

Tombstone – The Director’s Cut (Vista Series) (DVD)
Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer- This is the version to have, with excellent commentary – Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray]

Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition) (DVD)
William Petersen, Kim Greist- This is the version to have with excellent commentary – Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (SLIMLINE) (DVD)
Patrick McGoohan- One of my top ten DVDs of the year – Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set! (DVD)
John Cassavetes – Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set!

Farscape: The Complete Series (DVD)
Ben Browder, Claudia Black- One of my top ten DVDs of the year, The Bluray is not worth paying more for. Video Improvement by all reports is negligible.- Farscape: The Complete Series

Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition) (DVD)
Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel- This is the version to get! – Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition)

Robin of Sherwood: Set Two (DVD)
Jason Connery

Kings – The Complete Series (DVD)
Ian McShane, Christopher Egan – Kings – The Complete Series

WORST

Justified: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Timothy Olyphant- Talk about overrated. Was bored by the whole season

Alexander the Great (DVD)
Richard Burton, Fredric March- Not a bad film, but ultimately pretty forgettable

BEST

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series (DVD)
James Purefoy- Lasted only seven episodes it’s one of my favorite television shows. Just brilliant – The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

The Well (DVD)
Richard Rober, Gwendolyn Laster

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (DVD)
Belafonte, Inger Stevens – The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Dead Man’s Shoes (DVD)
Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch

WORST

The Dark Hours (DVD)
Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine

BEST

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue) (DVD)
Sam Peckinpah- One of my best deals of 2011. 4 Peckinpah movies, full versions with commentaries for under $15! – Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

WORST

Isolation (DVD)
Essie Davis, Sean Harris, Marcel Iures, Crispin Letts- This started out great but lost its way

Community: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Joel McHale, Chevy Chase- Had 2 great episodes, the others just annoyed me

Dexter: The First Season (DVD)
Michael C. Hall, Erik King- CSI meets Hannibal Leckter. Just find the main character/premise not something I want to root for support, plus find the supporting characters annoying as hell

BEST-

Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season (DVD)
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul- Rarely does a show live up to its hype. Wow, was that good – Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season

Kidnapped – The Complete Series (DVD)
Jeremy Sisto, Timothy Hutton- Another brilliant show, unfairly cut short. Just when you think its losing its way in the middle, wraps up with a powerhouse couple of episodes. Plus it stars Delroy Lindo. The only reason I picked it up actually, and he’s great. Wish the DVD had commentaries, but that aside is just a must watch and must own series – Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Well that’s it for my best and worst DVDs of 2011. If intrigued by any of my recommendations please use the links as purchases through them help to fund and keep this blog going. Thanks and enjoy!

A Storm of Issues: On Farscape, Wrightson, and Software Patents

The above is my poster of the day, a beautiful Polish 1sheet for one of my fav flicks JERIMIAH JOHNSON. Okay… onto the post…

Hey just thought I’d shoot out a quick midweek message.

In between an insane work week, I’ve found time to finish Farscape. Despite some uneven moments, that is one, really great show. And the season 4 ending… wow. And the commentaries… double wow.

Come’on guys there has got to be some Farscape fans out there, because I really want to get a group watch going and discuss these shows. Makes me want to start my own web show . 🙂

On the book front, I’ve been reading a few books. One particularly is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN gorgeously illustrated by Bernie Wrightson with an introduction by Stephen King. I read a chapter a night… it is good, and the art… drool worthy great. And the quality of the paper, the binding…

This is the reason digital, for me will never replace the lavish, joy of a real tactile book.

Have you seen this book? Published by Dark Horse, Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN is AMAZING!!! I mean you can get the book for like $30 retail, and it is designed like a $300 book. I tell everybody, you want a good investment, forget the stock market, invest in books.

Because of a storm of issues, real books, and real DVDs, anything you can physically own, anything that’s not streamed, and hosted on corporate servers, and locked down with encryption, will become (if we don’t fight against the Microsofts and Apples and Software patents) in the next couple of decades increasingly a niche item, and increasingly rare… which translates into increasingly expensive.

So definitely pick up a copy while you can:

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

Frell! Frell! Frell! Thoughts on Season I – III of FARSCAPE Pt 2 of 2!

I just finished watching the season finale of FARSCAPE Season III, the episode entitled DOG WITH TWO BONES. In many ways the episode starts off with everything that has been wrong with season III, the meandering, unfocused, and often forced nature.

That said that ending of this particular episode is absolutely FANTASTIC! Much like the first season the creators draft this finale, not knowing if there would be a 4th season, and what an audacious, ballsy, and just absolutely merciless cliffhanger to end the season, and arguably the series on. Absolutely brilliant ending, that makes you shout at your tv!

Can you imagine how this hit people seeing this cliffhanger and not knowing if there would be a 4th season. Just takes a huge amount of gall, and balls to do something like that. And it helps an otherwise lackluster season go out with the audience definitely wanting more.

I just wish the writing could be strong throughout the episodes and the seasons, rather than just being impressive for cliffhangers.

But thankfully I have the whole series on DVD, so season 4 here I come!!

Frell! Frell! Frell! Thoughts on Season I – III of FARSCAPE Pt 1 of 2!

Frell!

Frell!

And effing Frell!

So as stated previously I bought the complete FARSCAPE on DVD. A series I have fond memories of from catching episodes of the 1st and 2nd seasons, during its initial run on SCI-FI.

Let me tell you, those two seasons don’t prepare you for the frelling train wreck that is the third season. What… the…. effing….eff?!!!

Talk about a show that is off the frigging rails.

The third season is so out there, uneven, often contrived and forced, and definitely often uncomfortable and frustrating, that you really, really have to give HUGE, HUGE, HUGE kudos to Sci-Fi Channel (back when it was named the Sci-Fi Channel, instead of the idiotic SyFy- I still say the moron who signed off on that name change should be effing stoned!) for sticking with this show, and giving it a fourth season.

Cause looking at the third season, I would have pulled the effing plug.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not horrible, and I’m glad there is a 3rd and 4th season, but there are a lot of episodes of Season III that I’m not crazy about.

I mean the first season was good, and hit its stride in the last several episodes, ending great, with a powerhouse performance by Ben Browder and a fantastic cliffhanger. Season 2 ratcheted it up quite a bit, building on the strength of season 1. Though by the season finale, they were pushing the melodrama a little hard, walking uneasily the line between brilliance and banality.

Unfortunately that uneven nature, and wild shifts in quality and storytelling would be the defining theme of Season 3. A season that had as much to dislike as to like.

That said you do have to admire just how imaginative and experimental that 3rd season was/is.

DEALS OF THE DAY! From comics to DVDs to bookbags to survival gear!

So I’ve been putting off buying a lot of this stuff, but I can’t wait anymore!!

All of this stuff gets the big BUY from me today. I think when you see the list you’ll agree:

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue) – Four Peckinpah movies with special features including commentaries for less than $20!!!??? Nearly 80% off??? Duh! Talk about a no-brainer.

I’m on the whole sustainability/self-sufficiency kick, so the following wacky items were priced right for me today:

SE 6-1 Camping S. Steel Detachable Knife 4″ Body

SE 6-1 Camping S. Steel Detachable Knife 4″ Body- I’m a hobo at heart, so this well-reviewed stainless steel mobile cutlery set has my name written all over it. Just think how much plastic wouldn’t end up clogging up landfills if everyone carried around their utensils with them! 🙂 (Yes, I do know I’m crazy. :)) And currently priced at nearly 70% off?! Comeon!! What more can you ask?

Well how about a candleless candle that burns for 100 hours.

100 Hour Plus Emergency Candles, Clear Mist – SET OF 3 Long-Burning Survival Candles

100 Hour Plus Emergency Candle Clear Mist – Emergency Essentials

Man my power goes down more than a hooker when the fleet comes in, so this candle was for me. I buy one every week or two, so now I have one in every room in my house. They don’t call me Heat Miser for nothing! (I have no idea, what that means. 🙂 ) [One note on this, be careful of poor shipping from the seller, particularly if you’re getting the 3 pack. Stress that they securely pack and ship it.]

Brown Vintage Wayfarer Tear Drop Backpack with Leather Accents

Brown Vintage Wayfarer Tear Drop Backpack with Leather Accents

It takes me a lot of research before I decide on something worth buying. I mean minimum of a couple hours per item, just comparing styles, prices, reviews, construction. This book-bag is a case in point. Up all damn night, deciding on the right bag. Both stylish, and yet functional for carrying books, laptops, etc. My time… your gain.

And let’s round all this functional stuff off with some pure enjoyment:

THE SHADOW: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930 – 1954

THE SHADOW: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930 – 1954
Huge Old Time Radio and Shadow fan, so this exhaustive 800 page book is a must own.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great (1956) and Anthony & Cleopatra DVDs for less than the cost of rental??? Say it with me… No Brainer.

Targus CityGear 320 Capacity CD/DVD Album Case TDP019US (Black with Grey Contrasting)

Targus CityGear 320 Capacity CD/DVD Album Case TDP019US (Black with Grey Contrasting)- Holds over 300 DVDs/CDs for only $30 shipping included. SOLD!

Farscape: The Complete Series

Farscape: The Complete Series- The Bluray is coming out so you would think the DVD would go down in price. But Noooooo! The stupid thing has gone up over $20 from the cheap prince of $49 that it was at. But even at its new price… it’s a great deal.

The Well

The Well (1951)- Is a nice little 50s Drama/thriller that plays as a nice counterpoint to THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL.

Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus- I own the comics and am still buying the Omnibus. Great stuff!

X-Men – Volume 2 Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

X-Men – Volume 2 Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)- Neal Adams great run collected in over-sized format. Nuff said.

Okay, I’m broke now.