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+.

Must watch Streaming VOD film of the first week of 2020 – THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS

Must watch Streaming VOD film of the first week of 2020!!

 

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DAY OF THE TRIFFIDSI have often seen this movie come up when looking for something to watch, but have always avoided this film. A film about killer plants, and the ludicrousness of the poster just not really piquing my attention. However, I finally decide to watch it here in 2020, nearly 60 years removed from when it was first released on theaters, and I have to say… allowing for the limitations of the time, regarding effects… it is  surprisingly gripping.

You very much see in it the template for current movies and tv shows, such as BIRDBOX, A QUIET PLACE, etc. Infact the very opening of THE WALKING DEAD and 28 DAYS LATER is borrowed or a homage, to DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS scene of waking up in a vacated and devastated hospital. It is a surprisingly mature take on the end of the world, though it itself being influenced by HG Wells (father of literary Scifi and Cosmic Horror, I add the literary, because you can make a case for there being an oral concept of scifi and cosmic horror going back to the origins of man) game changing WAR OF THE WORLDS. The denouement of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS owing obviously to WAR OF THE WORLDS, that aside DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is a very compelling film of the early 1960s.

Grade: B.

View it courtesy of Amazon Prime.

And then if moved to, get the DVD/Bluray here.

 

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STAR WARS : THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – The Final Word Review :)!

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STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER – TO Set the stage for my thoughts on the rise of skywalker, to help you decide if my review is informative, it is helpful to know what informs my viewing experience.

I go into a film having avoided reviews, or special features, or tirades, or predictions, or pontifications or guesses on what it should be. Beyond the first teaser trailer, for a movie I know I am going to see, I avoid all subsequent trailers, there is no need for them, I know I am going to see the movie.

So I go into a film, as much as humanly possible, there to see the film the filmmaker decides to make, and not hoping to see the idea of a film I have made up in my head.

So off the bat, I liked THE RISE OF SKYWALER. My barometer always being at the end of the film… am I glad I saw this film in the theater? Answer? Yes.

And this is coming from someone who saw the film at a Cinebistro, with spacious selected/premium seating, and meals brought to you. For the two of us it came to about a $140 for movie, meals and drink, and tip. Now obviously for a cheapskate like me who prefers $4 matinees, this is not something I am going to indulge in more than 2 or 3 times a year, and only for special movies. At the end of the day, I liked the film and am glad I saw it in the theater, however I did not love the film.

I think a lot of times when people rail against a film, or say they dislike or hate a film ( not a word I would use for a film, hate is a word best left toward things that have raped and pillaged real things in a real world. First worlders using the word hate, for as innocuous a thing as film, have lived a very small life. Applying words out of proportion to the impetus); a lot of times what they are really saying is, that the film is not the film they were expecting, or hoped for, or wanted.

Whether a politician, or a group, or a show, or a book, or a movement, a lot of times, when we choose to dislike a thing it is  less about that thing being good or bad, than it is about that thing not being a reflection of our prejudices. Not wearing our colors, or speaking with our voice, or laughing to our jokes, or sharing our choices.

A lot of it is about something not meeting our expectations.

And in our current always on, and everything preanalyzied, and pontificated on, and second guessed and armchair quarterbacked before it ever comes out, we build up expectations, that fly in the face of actally enjoying the movie.

A lot of times enjoying the movie is about leaving what you want the film to be at the door, and going in just letting the filmmaker tell his story. Allowing them to not be a mindreader and a puppet, and do more than simply regurgitate the fanfiction in your head.

A lot of people confuse nostalgia with quality. “Oh comics today aren’t as good as they were when I was a kid, and movies, and books, and, food, and candy and cartoons”….and as someone who is older than most of you reading this, and have a fond feeling for a lot of things we have deified, the truth is that nostalgia, while comforting to look back on, the past is not necessarily better. I’ll go further, it is not usually better.

The present and the future builds on the past. The 6 minute mile gives way to the 5 minute mile gives way to the 4 minute mile.

We move, in all things, toward a more perfect union. Not all things surely, but as a median, the quality of things have improved in the hundred years from 1920 to 2020.

And in my lifetime, while I love the comic books of Stan and Jack, and Neal Adams and Denny ONeil and Keith Giffen and David Kraft, and some of those books remain masterpieces, as a whole we produce more great books in a month than they cranked out in a year. And yes, our share of bad, but I would argue the general level of craft, of art and storytelling and production is as a whole superior now to then.

And the same goes for film. Nostalgia is fine when we understand it for a feeling and not a formula or a fact, when we understand it is something that is not a barometer of quality, or a map to follow, or to necessarily always steer into.

RISE OF SKYWALKER almost from the first frame is a film that steers into nostalgia and sentiment, and those can be powerful and effective parts of a story when used sparingly, when earned. Here the early parts of the film, feel very… contrived. The humor, and the banter, and the reveal of the big bad, all feels…by the numbers,  and … yes contrived, rather than the natural outgrowth of the story.

You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression, and RISE OF SKYWALKER starts off with a lot of telling, rather than showing. There is a lot of ‘we are going here because of this’, and ‘must do this because of that’. And while that is part of many films, it felt very obvious and clunky here, it felt like the one thing it should never feel like… it felt like exposition.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker theatrical poster upper portion with Rey, Kylo Ren, and others

I like JJ Abrams as a filmmaker. I loved his first STAR TREK, and while a huge fan of his 2nd STAR TREK film, concede that it was marred by his need to wink and steer into nostalgia, at expense of the story he is telling. Here in RISE OF SKYWALKER It feels like he is at times making fan fiction, playing to nostalgia, rather than actually having his own story to tell.

Rian Johnson’s THE LAST JEDI was met, I think, by a small but vocal group who wanted the film to be only nostalgia, and only their expectations, and only well trod ground, and Rian Johnson told a story that moved the needle, and was about change, and about the end of old things. I wholeheartedly think it is a masterpiece, that will stand the test of time. And people forget in all the social media bs, all the tornado in a teapot, that THE LAST JEDI was a box office success.

But we have become a very reactionary society, where the faceless mob, the agenda driven mob, and arguably the talentless mob, wants to be the tail that wags the dog.

RISE OF SKYWALKER to me, feels like JJ Abram to some extent capitulating and trying to appease the nostalgia crowd, as well as his own nostalgia tropes. I was and am a huge fan of the late Carrie Fisher, and that he wanted to honor her with this film, understandable. However for me, again it felt a lot of the scenes shoehorned in, at the expense of a more compelling story-line. To some extent, again to me, THE LAST JEDI used both those characters more compellingly than how they were used here.

RISE at times, besides feeling very long, feels like a list being checked off. I am not qualified and virtually no one reviewing this… is qualified to call this a bad film, any more than anyone is qualified to call any of the recent batch of STAR WARS films bad films.These are master filmmakers, all of them, and most of the people weighing in with opinions have not made a single film. It’s like someone who is not a painter, saying this painting is bad or this painting is good. You can say that a thing works for you, or does not work for you, but barometers about the quality of a product, from someone outside the industy, ill-informed at best.

So full disclosure, I like all the STAR WARS films, with the exception of the prequels. And even those I do not call bad, they just were not for me. Not everything is geared for everyone. For the intended audience of kids, those rightly may be their favorite films.

As someone who does not see the world with rose-colored glasses, or confuse nostalgia with quality, or have an agenda of hate to defend, I can say that the new films  I have enjoyed for the most part more than the original trilogy. With the exception of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which is arguably right up there with THE LAST JEDI as my favorite STAR WARS films.

If you take Nostalgia away from the first STAR WARS film, and compare it warts and all to any of the recent films, the recent films are stronger. They are better shot, better paced, more exciting. And that goes for RISE OF SKYWALKER , which is my least enjoyed of the new films.

 

That said, while the story JJ Abrams ended up telling I found less compelling than the less formulaic story that Rian Johnson was embarking on, there were some things I greatly liked about  RISE OF SKYWALKER. I thought the visuals were stunning. Not as Elegiac and beautiful as THE LAST JEDI, but very close.The battles were stupendous, I liked some of the sentiment, and in moments… it wowed.

So ultimately it was not the movie I would have liked to see, but for what it was, there is a lot of good here, and misgivings about the story-line aside, I overall enjoyed watching it.

Grade: B-.

Book of the Day : ALEISTER & ADOLF

Like most of you reading this I have a backlog of material to get to. Being a collector I likely have more of a backlog than most. Books, comic books and graphic novels, music, cds, movies, streaming, old time radio, podcasts, youtube, and the list goes on.

So it is not unusual for Books that I get with all intention of reading, getting parked in a very long queue. For any of you with Netflix or Amazon Watchlists, you’ll understand this.

So often times books only make it to the top of that list when going out the door.

Case in point with ALEISTER & ADOLF. I have started finding new homes for books I have not had a chance to get around to, ALEISTER & ADOLF became one of those books. I was packing it up to ship to its new owner, and while I had flipped thru it never really had gotten a chance to read it. Well about to pack it up to ship off, I wanted to read a bit of it.

I opened the book, and ended up reading the whole thing, standing in one spot…. and I found it, riveting. I found it an interesting tale of the part symbols play in history, and in our concept of reality. That advertising and salesmanship, while seen as a very modern thing, is actually since time immemorial… at the heart of empires, their rise and their fall. The hearts and minds of people, is where wars and peace are won, and oligarchies sustained.

If you are a fan of writers like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, while not told with the elegaic poetry of these writers, Douglas Rushkoff‘s writing and Michael Avon Oemings‘ art, weaves a succinct and engrossing page turner of strange fiction, based on even stranger facts. 

A worthy addition to the writings, both fact and fiction, on that most pivotal and bloodiest of Wars, what Roosevelt would come to call… The Survival War.

Great read. And I see myself re-adding this to my collection in the future.

Grade: B+.

 

Get your copy here. You may want to hurry as they are almost out of stock.

Horror Movie of the Day : John Frankenheimer’s THE PROPHESY (1979)

Prophecy (1979)

PROPHESY (1979)- It took me three attempts, three attempts, to finish this film. And the only reason I even started it was because the legendary John Frankenheimer’s name is listed as director. But this is a Frankenheimer removed from his 1960s heyday of ‘A list’ stars and ‘A list’ movies.

There is no BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE TRAIN, or SECONDS here. This is Frankenheimer in solid B movie mode, needing to work where he could get it. But even here, Frankenheimer wants didactic films, films that say something, if only obliquely, about real life issues. So we have one of the earliest environmental, EPA tinged horror films. And oddly enough that part works fine. Also Frankenheimer always an actor’s director, gets the most out of his solid cast.

What hampers the film is shown clear in the lackluster poster. The creature does not look great. Even allowing for this being a 40 year old movie, the creature… not good. Add to that the “unbelieving clueless” husband, and the “I have to keep this very important fact, secret from my husband” wife, and that dynamic feels a bit old and stupid. The movie gets a little frustrating around the hour mark, and around there is where I end up bailing on the movie.

However, I stuck with it on the third go around, and around the 1 hour 15 mark you see why John Frankenheimer is a celebrated director. Through pure direction he sells how terrifying this creature is; and the scene where they are driven and trapped underground, one of the most masterfully filmed, and tensest scenes, I have seen in any movie in a long time. Simply brilliant sequence. How he shoots it, how it is framed, how it i s performed. Simply a phenomenal scene. From there to the end of the film, I am officially onboard.

Now moments of, ‘uhh why are you just sitting there being stupid’ still popup, but overall that ending is simply great. Ludicrous, but great. So yeah, it took a few tries to actually finish this film, but having finished it, I have to say… I really enjoyed it, and see myself coming back to it for a repeat viewing.  Grade: B-.

 

View it with VOD courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Thanks for checking and come back for more, next installment!

 

Favorite (or if you are British, Favourite) Steelbooks BluRay/DVD! 2019 HOLIDAY / GIFT Ideas! Part 1!

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ThE FIFTH ELEMENT and CASINO ROYALE Steel-Books are AWESOME!

 

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That FIRST BLOOD and TERMINATOR II Steelbooks are STUNNING!

 

That is just a killer STEELBOOK!

WoW! Stunning JUNGLE BOOK (2016) Steelbook!

 

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