Categories
entertainment tv

Media Diet: September 2019

I did one of these earlier in the summer, so this one will be a little shorter. I was sick for a while, and we had to evacuate for a hurricane, so I’ve watched a bunch of stuff.

  • Bahubali 1 and 2: On Netflix. Two of the highest grossing movies in Indian history. They’re both gorgeous, and because I have no background in the underlying mythology, completely insane and inscrutible. Highly recommended just for the sheer spectacle of it.
  • The Spy: On Netflix. This kind of developed into a theme the past couple of months. Sasha Baron Cohen plays a spy who infiltrates the Syrian government. Saying more would spoil it, but it’s compelling and heartbreaking. The acting throughout is amazing.
  • Our Boys: On HBO. Another based on a true story, around murder, retaliation, mistrust and politics. Heartbreaking, tense and frustrating. Very worth watching.
  • Operation Finale: On Prime. About capturing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley are great in it.
  • Mindhunter Season 2: On Netflix. Another one of those anxiety-ridden shows. I wish they’d left out the bit with the son and spent more time on BTK, but I’ll still anxiously await the third season.

That’s not everything I watched, but I started several shows and kind of sputtered out on them, or have forgotten them, which might be worse. I am thrilled that The Great British Bake Off (cough, sorry) Baking Show is back and it’s still perfect. I wish there were more competition shows that could feel that fun.

Categories
entertainment movies tv

Summer Media Consumption

I’ve been a fan of Jason Kottke’s Media Diet posts forever and decided it’s time to start my own, because I consume so much, I forget what I’ve seen, what I like and what to recommend to folks. So, consider this the first in what will hopefully be a series of “stuff Kevin’s watched so you can watch it to” posts.

  • Crawl (might still be in theaters?): I saw this on vacation with my kids, my brother, his wife and daughter. It’s a great summer scare, and lots and lots of alligators. Rating: B
  • Black Spot (Netflix): If you like Twin Peaks, but wanted more procedural elements and 99% more French, and a little less David Lynch, this is the show for you. Set in an isolated small French town in the mountains next to a huge forest, there’s spooky creatures in the woods, personal drama, weird murders and compelling characters. Rating: B (I think the show needs to pick whether it’s supernatural or a police procedural… it’s not enough of either to be an A)
  • American Gods Season 2 (Starz): I caught up on this one with a free preview week on Prime (it’s great – if there’s only one show you want on a network, get the 7 day free trial of the channel on Prime Video and binge it, then cancel). This is one of the most beautifully produced things I’ve ever seen on television and watching Ian McShane and Orlando Jones chew through that beauty, stealing every scene they’re in, is a joy. Rating: B+ (it’s a little uneven)
  • The Deadwood Movie (HBO): You should read this profile of David Milch before you watch the movie. This is a loving (well, what Deadwood thinks of as loving) farewell to one of my all-time favorite shows. The characters are all older, a little worn down, calcified or fading, and I couldn’t think of a more beautiful send off. It’s gorgeous, and the last 2-3 scenes are beautiful. Rating: A
  • The Boys (Prime): The antidote to OD’ing on Marvel and DC. More Watchmen than Spiderman. Rating: A+
  • Undercover (Netflix): It’s a Flemish cop show based on a true story about an undercover operation against one of the largest MDMA producers in Europe. Lots of fun. Rating: B+
  • The Mechanism Season 2 (Netflix): Brazilian show, also based on a true story, about fighting large scale government corruption. The second season moves a little slower than the first, but the last three episodes are worth the wait. Rating: B+
  • Big Mouth (Netflix): Gross, juvenile (it is about puberty) but ultimately sex-positive and kind of joyful. One of the funniest things I’ve watched in a long time. Rating: A+
  • Blown Away (Netflix): It’s The Great British Bake Off, but glass blowing. It’s way better than I thought it would be, and the contestants are all great characters. Rating: B
  • Taco Chronicles (Netflix): Short light series about tacos! Each episode concentrates on a different variation and you’ll definitely learn something. Rating: B+
  • Street Food (Netflix): It’s Chef’s Table for street food and just as good. Just turn on subtitles and the original language, or it’s hella confusing. Rating: A
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (OMG, it’s a book!): I know, I’m as shocked as you are. This is a short book, but beautifully written and compelling. It’s got old myths, old gods, young men, old women and one of the most satisfying relationships I can remember in a book. Rating: A+

There you go, my first media diet! I’ll try to do these more regularly so they’re not this long. Happy viewing (and reading)!

Categories
current events tv

What You Won’t See on CNN…

“Here’s what you won’t see on CNN” is my new least favorite phrase. I definitely won’t see it on CNN because I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news networks. Their primary job isn’t to inform me, provide clarity of nuanced issues or situations, or to enlighten mankind about the problems we collectively face.

Their entire purpose is to make money. To do that, they need eyeballs. To get eyeballs, they have to turn every situation into an event. And every “event” has to have good guys and bad guys and has to have an “angle”. And that angle has to be clear enough so even the most mouth-breathing of viewers can understand it in less than 30 seconds between commercials and know who to root for.\
The problem is that nothing that happens is black and white and there are rarely easily identifiable bad guys, just people acting in their own best interest (or what they think is their best interest).

All of the coverage, all of the commentary, all of the fancy graphics, all of the “breaking news”, it’s all there to get your adrenaline pumping and to keep your eye glued to the screen and so you’ll stick around through the commercials.\
So, don’t fall for it. Don’t watch the news. Read the news. Read commentary on the news. Read real journalists who do real research and provide perspective and expose nuance.

Stop helping them treat tragedy as entertainment. Stop participating the outrage cycle. Understand that every source of information has a point of view. It doesn’t make them wrong or right, but it affects how they view and report on things. Don’t trust all first person accounts. Be cautious about joining a movement until you understand the motivations of those involved.

There are better things we can be doing with our time than speaking like pundits on the TV or radio. We could be helping.\
I’m not sure how to help with a lot of the things going on in the world (and in my city) right now, but I can at least not add fuel to an already out of control fire.

Categories
tv

Right Up My Crime-Infested Alley

Grantland has created a tournament to see who the best character was on The Wire. Since I’ve now watched the show all the way through three times now, here are my picks for the final four.

I’ve got a problem right off with Ziggy Sobotka going up against Omar in round one. I love Ziggy, but he’s got no chance against Omar.

  • West Baltimore: Omar Little – No doubt.

  • Hamsterdam: Jimmy McNulty – Clay Davis would win if it was for “most quotable”.

  • The Ports: Bunny Colvin – This one was really close between Bunny and Tommy Carcetti, but I think Bunny is the better character.

  • East Baltimore: Lester Freamon – I know people love Stringer, but Lester is deep, complex and a perfect foil to McNulty.

And your picks?

Categories
tv

My Favorite British Shows on Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix customer for only a few months, but I’m already in love with all the foreign films and documentaries I can get. The best part, though, has to be all the British TV shows! Because someone asked on Twitter last night, here’s a list of my favorite British stuff on Netflix right now:

  • Luther – One of the best psychological thrillers and cop shows I’ve seen in a long time. Idris Elba is fantastic as John Luther, and the rest of the cast is superb. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Fantastic show.
  • Doctor Who – If you’ve missed the Doctor Who revival of the last six years, what’s wrong with you?! This show is aces. It walks a fine line between serious sci-fi, camp, satire and horror. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it can do pretty much every genre and still be OK for kids (I tell mine that the Doctor always wins and that seems to get them through all the scary stuff).
  • Top Gear – Again, how have you missed this? Don’t be afraid that it’s a car show – it’s basically the Three Stooges with insanely expensive toys. It’s one of the funniest shows ever produced, and there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular shows in the world.
  • The IT Crowd – One of the funniest sitcoms ever, and one of the geekiest. Really, just watch it.
  • Downton Abbey – Kind of an Upstairs Downstairs thing, and a little soapy in spots, but the acting and writing are spectacular, especially the servants.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look – Seriously funny sketch show – smart too.

I’ve got to get to work now, but that should keep you busy. I know I’ve missed a bunch, and some of my favorite UK shows aren’t on yet (Misfits is one of my favorites – think Skins with super powers), but keep an eye out.

I’d love to hear about new stuff if there are things I’m missing!

Categories
funny movies tv

My Kids Are Ruining It!

We signed up for Netflix recently, and I love it. I’m not sure why I held out for so long… Anyways, the boys have fallen in love with it too and are now ruining my recommendations by watching nothing but Mythbusters and Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it. Now, whenever I log in, the “Top Picks” list is all Jamie and Adam or Tom Servo and Crow staring at me. No documentaries or alternative standup. Nope.

(Max, if you’re reading this, I’m kidding. I just think it’s funny.)

It reminds me of the Tivo Thinks I Want WHAT?! episode. When Tivo first launched, there was an option to fill up the empty space with stuff it thinks you’ll like based on your recording and viewing preferences. Max was two or three at the time, and into Blue’s Clues big time. We were into The Sopranos, Oz and The Wire. So, what did Tivo think would make us happy? The Price is Right and a bunch of old game shows from the 80’s.

Collaborative filtering is great and all, but when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong.

Categories
tv

The Good Wife

No, I’m not talking about me. I am talking about the show on CBS. It’s a great show and you should check it out.\
CBS got booed by An Important Gay Group for its lack of gays, so like magic CBS added one to The Good Wife, even though there was already a lesbian (bisexual?) on the show. Guess she doesn’t count. But kudos to The Good Wife’s writers as they took a mandated, shoe-horned character and made a fantastic, non-cliched episode. Run, run, run to watch it! And bow down to Alan Cummings! And Mr. Big. And how interesting was it to see a whole different side to Alicia?

Last year I talked my in-laws into watching, yay! I described it as a feel-good, lawyery show where the main character is always on the right side. Kevin said that description made him NOT want to watch it. He’s missing out! Of course as soon as I said that, the show shook things up some, lol. Lots of great actors, interesting cases (and I was wicked burnt out on law dramas before this show), an intriguing on-going plot, and Josh Charles!!! Start from the beginning if you’re new.

This season there’s a push-push between old-time fave Kalinda and new guy Jason Street (from Friday Night Lights). I wonder if he and Logan Huntzberger bonded over macing on Derek Jeter’s (one-time?) girlfriend on FNL. Hollywood is very small apparently and there are only ten actors in all. Who knew?

Categories
tv

The Event, part 2

Both Tony Kornheiser, who is my favorite faux-curmudgeon, and a real-life friend said how great The Event was, so I decided to check out the second episode.

Things I learned from the previouslies and Kevin, proving that I didn’t pay attention well to the pilot:\
Aliens! The big secret is aliens. Except, if the show told us that in the pilot, obviously that is not the big secret. What is bigger than aliens? I am annoyed at the show for presuming there is anything bigger than aliens.

The mean grandmother was killed immediately following the kidnapping of her granddaughter. The lesson here is don’t be mean to children in your care or you will be shot by terrorists. True story.\
Here are my random thoughts of the second episode:

The show continued with its assery of “13 months previous,” “4 days previous,” and “5 years previous.” Ugh! Who cares about when Joan of Arcadia‘s brother met his girlfriend when she is currently being held prisoner?? Get on with the freaking story! I know the back story supposed to endear us the characters and make us sympathize with their potential loss, but I am pretty sure I could’ve done that anyway since I am a real live human being.

Vampire Sheriff is actually a bad guy here. Given that he is playing a politician, that should have been immediately apparent.

Another of the bad guys is played by a tv-version of Megan Fox, without the thumb issues. This woman is way too hot to be on tv. TV is for attractive people but not the super hot. She has quite the tv resume though. I mostly know her as Sam’s first love interest, besides Dean of course (yes, I totally just went there. Rim-shot!) and various CSI’s. She was also on Summerland a million years ago where her character hooked up with pre-Bieber (who later dated Ruby 1.0 in real life! Let’s play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!). Have I mentioned how she is too good looking for tv? Somebody should get her some movie scripts. Maybe she looks too much like Megan Fox though; the public would suddenly wonder when Megan learned to act. Looks aside, I totally fastforwarded through her scenes cuz they were all, “blah, blah, I’m pretending to be your friend” and “blah, blah, do what I say or I’ll pull your hair harder.”

Interestingly, douche #1, the guy with a cast who wouldn’t save his drowning girlfriend because the dr told him not to get his cast wet, wasn’t a “bad” bad guy, but just a douchey, cheating, run-of-the-mill creep. Seriously, it was the most interesting two minutes of the whole show so far. He ended up being stabbed to death. The lesson here, of course, is don’t be a creepy, cheater-dude or the terrorists will gut you like a fish.

Guess who else is on the show? Mr Toe Pick! I don’t really have anything to say about him since I fastforwarded through most of his scenes too. He mostly just looked menacing and acted out really obvious scenes, like threatening the girlfriend’s life so the pilot dad would be coerced into attempting to crash into the special building where the President was. I am sure I didn’t miss much. I admit to squealing when I first saw him though.

Plotwise not much happened. Joan of Arcadia’s brother ran from the plane that didn’t crash into the president but somehow ended up in a desert where it had a hard landing. All of the passengers were killed by the government, to cover-up whatever the giant white light was.

Aaaaaand, I can’t care enough to talk about this anymore, though there was an annoying scene where Joan of Arcadia’s brother woke up in a hospital and asked to speak to the police, but the nurse, who is another pretty recognizable actress, kept repeating “calm down, sir.” How hard would it to have been to say, “Ok, I will see what I can do about that”?

Have I sufficiently explained how bad this show is, how bad the editing is, how bad the writing is, but has an exceptionally well-recognizable cast?

Categories
tv

The Event recap, Jen-style

I forced myself to watch The Event, Mondays on NBC, because Kevin said it might have potential. We tried watching it a few days ago, but the time-line jumpiness was annoying me so much I couldn’t stand to watch it. The episode should be recut in chronological order, like someone did with Memento. It’s not that I couldn’t follow along, it’s that I didn’t want to. Kevin thinks shows employ this cliche when the storyline isn’t strong enough to hold up to traditional storytelling. In this case, he’s right! He suffered from severe insomnia one night (too much Dexter) and ended up finishing the pilot.

Here is what happened, without the “8 days before” “23 minutes before” “2 days before” stuff. Beware of spoilers, duh.\
Joan of Arcadia‘s older, wheelchair-bound brother, also known as the cute teacher who macked on Lorelai Gilmore on Parenthood, takes his girlfriend on a cruise. She is kidnapped, and all traces of their stuff and information is erased, her cell phone disconnected. Security is set to hold him for something (probably on suspicion of being a stow-away), but he runs away from them. He ends up on an airplane and tries to force his way into the cockpit. He is stopped by an air marshal.\
An attractive Asian man who isn’t John Cho meets with Kerry, the polio-surviving, lesbian, doctor from ER, and they talk about stuff that I don’t recall. Later, attractive Asian man tries to prevent the plane holding the boyfriend from taking off, but he isn’t successful.

The President of the United States, played by Blair Underwood, who hasn’t made enough of a splash as a single character for me to refer to him as anything other than his given name, meets with some advisers and demands to be taken to some secret, special place. The advisers try to talk him out of going, to no avail.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend’s parents, played by Luke from Gilmore Girls (think he and Joan of Arcadia brother bonded off-screen about smooching Lauren Graham on-screen?) and some lady I recognize but don’t know from where, are taking care of the girlfriend’s daughter from a previous relationship while the girlfriend is on the cruise. The child is also kidnapped, through no fault of the grandmother though she was really mean to the girl. This forces the grandfather, who happens to be an airline pilot, to hijack an airplane, and apparently kill the other pilot, to try to crash the plane into the secret, special building where the President of the United States is. This is the same airplane that the boyfriend is on. The boyfriend pleads with the girlfriend’s dad through the intercom to not “do this… We’ll find her. She wouldn’t want this.”

People at the important building notice a giant jumbo jet coming toward them and they flail around a bit. Suddenly a bright light erupts and the plane didn’t crash into the building. Kerry-from-ER, says, “They saved us.”\
The End.

I sort of want to rewatch it just to make sure my details are right, but no. That would be too much torture.

Categories
tv

People of the Internet, read and obey

I have a tv recommendation for you: Undercover Boss at CBS.com. It’s a reality show about the head of a major corporation doing entry-level work for a week. The episode I saw about Waste Management almost made me cry. It’s shmaltzy and uplifting in the best way. I also saw the Hooters episode. It was fine, but I suggest watching the Waste Management episode instead. Run, don’t walk, to watch this show!