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.

 

If you like this post, support today’s deal of the day at the link below:

Deal of the Day!

 

Snowed In? Binge Watch Gerry Anderson’s UFO on HULU!!

If you are like a great majority of the North East, you are very much snowed in this weekend; so let me suggest something perfect for such a weekend.

HULU offers a bevy of shows worthy of binge watching, here is one of the best:

UFO – This series, the brainchild of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson is them making the leap from their very popular children’s Marionette series to, not only Live Action, but also more Adult fare. This show, embodying many of the obsessions of the late 60s, the Space Race, ESP, the James Bond Spies, A more global, diverse perspective, and UFOs,tells an imaginative tale of a secret cold war between these mysterious UFOs and the Earth’s protectors… SHADO.

A few episodes in, getting past the wonderfully kitschy depiction of the far flung year of 1980 (Sylvia’s designs for dress and uniforms, is at once sexy, ludicrous, surreal, and ultimately captivating), and the crudeness of the effects (which I personally love, Gerry Anderson being the king of marionette and minature based effects, which he would further perfect in SPACE 1999, which itself would inspire some of the effects in STAR WARS) and you quickly realize this is a serious and at times shockingly dire and brilliant show. The scripts are surprising, in that out of this far fetched world comes moments of pathos, and thoughtfulness, and sometimes strivings toward the profound. It was a welcome tone, a morality to the writing that would be even more in evidence in the 1st season of SPACE 1999 (avoid Season 2, and make sure you watch Season 1 in the correct order).

But despite its quality UFO was an unfortunately, but possibly understandably, short lived show.

The unfortunate part because the show when originally broadcast in the US, was done out of sequence, which made it just not work from week to week. A similar fate would befall both UFO’s follow-up series and (as a 21st century example) Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY

HULU thankfully presents the series in order, and it makes all the difference, as you get to grow with the characters as they grow with each other. Treat yourself to this 46 year old, way out 60s infused tale of spies and Aliens in the far-flung future of 1980.

Highly Recommended!

Now Watching: CRAWL OR DIE (2014) via Roku’s Amazon Prime VOD Channel

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CRAWL OR DIE – Mixing part ALIEN, part DESCENT, part TANK GIRL and sporting committed performances by its cast, particularly Nicole Alonso as Tank, who carries the bulk of the movie, CRAWL OR DIE manages to be more than its influences. Written and Directed by the fantastically named Oklahoma Ward and co-produced and conceived by star and producer Nicole Alonso CRAWL OR DIE manages to, transcend its inspirations, to feel fresh and be a surprisingly compelling 91 minutes of film.

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Ostensibly a monster movie it becomes for star and audience something of an endurance test, filled as it is with moments of repetition, belly-gazing, and frustration,,, but mostly it is about the will of Man or in this case Woman… to survive. An addictive tale of endurance, and the will to go on, and it doesn’t hurt that you have the fine form of Nicole Alonso to follow through those tunnels (while unlikely someone would strip down to their underwear to crawl through a tunnel, having watched the movie, I for one am quite supportive of the decision 🙂 ).

Add to that a well done creature design, a definite call to the designs of HR Giger, immersive sound design, and an unusual and frenetic title/credit sequence and you have a movie deserving of being far more well known and well seen than it is.

This is the type of film that is a great reason for DVDs and Blurays to still exist in the age of streaming, because yes I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, but I immediately wanted to own this in the best quality available, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, and special features; because for me, and others, documenting the the process can be as interesting (and sometimes moreso) as the movie.

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Unfortunately CRAWL AND DIE currently has no such DVD/Blu-Ray version, and it is indicative of a failing of the industry, companies releasing these bare-bone DVDs without special features. As a rule I do not buy DVDs unless they have director’s commentary and special features.

I think these small independent film productions (such as this or FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY, BLOOD GLACIER, THE ARROYO, CUT TO BLACK, PRAYER TO A VENGEFUL GOD, THE VALDEMAR LEGACY, AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR, THE FORBIDDEN GIRL) are doing themselves a disservice by not mining the, if not large, passionate and influential DVD/Blu-Ray aficionado market, as well as providing for posterity a little bit of documentation of the process and promotion/aggrandizement of their cast and crew.

That aside CRAWL OR DIE (far better than the other, more offensive, title that early on was bandied about for it), potentially the first in a trilogy… comes strongly Recommended. Grade: B+.

For those of you who want to try before you buy go here:

Crawl or Die Streaming

For those of you like me who like the permanence of physical media (not needing access to the cloud to view a given film, or being at the mercy of data throttling) go here:
Crawl Or Die DVD

Currently Watching : THE MACHINE (2013) – NetFlix Streaming VOD Movie of the Day!

 

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THE MACHINE – Directed by Caradog James, is a definitely worth a look scifi thriller, however if you have the slightest familiarity with the Science Fiction genre you are clearly aware the film is breaking no new ground.

Indeed much of it, is you marveling at the stupidity of supposedly brilliant scientists (a stupidity that unfortunately is not relegated to fiction), that open seemingly obvious Pandora’s Boxes of moral and spiritual and existential chaos.  Humanity has enough trouble being humane to other humans, much less the storm of confusion and conflict and potential horror and abuse, that will spiral up around the  very concept of potentially conscious beings that are built or grown, rather than born in the traditional sense.

It is a door that Mary Shelley saw two hundred years ago we were not ready to walk through, and humanity for all its technological leaps, has become no more emotionally or morally responsibly since. Indeed it can be argued that as our technological marvels increase, our humanity decreases. That humans increasingly become drones, in a world were we have relegated the marvelous to our creations.

So THE MACHINE touches on all of this, but it’s a well worn topic, and the movie often feels plodding and redundant rather than an innovative new take on the dwindling of the human spirit. So again worth a look, but ultimately pretty forgettable.

Far more satisfying takes on the subject would be Whales’ BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN or Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER or the enigmatic, but brilliant UPSTREAM COLOR. The latter is also available courtesy of Streaming.

Grade: B-.

 

Movie News: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is it worth seeing in 3D?


Marvel Studios 10th feature film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is breaking on American shores this weekend, and the decision people have to make is… ‘is it worth seeing in theaters and more specifically, is it worth seeing in 3D?’

Well, dealing with the broader questions first, whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Movies, you really have to tip your cap to Kevin Feige and the whole Marvel Studios machine for really doing what seemed if not impossible, highly farfetched; namely creating a critically and commercially successful movie empire based on the shared universe approach of comic books.

It, in many ways, is the return of serial movies, the type popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but done on a massive scale, undreamed of by those low budget quickies of yesteryear.

And Marvel Studios films have managed to be not only popular, but entertaining, sometimes impressively so. I would list their movies from best to worst as:

AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
IRON MAN
HULK

IRON MAN 2
THOR
IRON MAN 3
THOR 2

And now their 10th film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is poised to carve out their place on the above list. I find myself largely uninterested in the film. Nothing about the premise, the characters, or the one trailer I’ve seen intrigues me at all. Add to that they have an unimpressive ‘Before the Window’ 3D rating from CINEMA BLEND, like all previous Marvel Movies, and it is no incentive to see this in 3D.

But what does stand out in opposition to all that disinterest is the director, James Gunn. James Gunn like many of the directors Marvel picks, lacks any pedigree in the action or blockbuster genre, but like other directors chosen, they have a personality to the films they have directed, and a way with actors and characters, they have glimmerings of potential.

I enjoyed James Gunn’s SLITHER and I do think Marvel Studios helmed by Kevin Feige have been nothing short of phenomenal in picking talent both in front of and behind the camera. For all the heat their choices engender prior to the film, their unconventional choices have proven movie after movie, to be great.

And it is hard to argue with great. I have no interest in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as a concept or as characters, but I am interested in seeing James Gunn do a big, fun, space hopping action picture.

So verdict: I’ll catch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on a matinee, or 2nd run, without 3D

Hopes this helps anyone on the fence, and feel free to chime in with your opinions. ENJOY!