Netflix, I’m leaving you

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Dear Netflix,

You were the one.

You were the scrappy upstart, the daring pioneer, the one who put established movies, TV shows and  unique content together, showing me that life without cable didn’t have to be all about streaming movies and shows off of dicey websites and downloading files under threat of jail and insidious malware.

You were the one. I went legit for you.

Oh, you delivered. Some of my happiest times were spent on the couch with you and take-out food. We were good together, you and I. We were happy in each other’s company. You were a part of me, knowing what I wanted before I did, keeping a list for me. You never forgot anything and were always solicitous, suggesting things I might want to see based on something I’d already seen before. We were perfect. We were beautiful.

Netflix, I’m leaving you.

It’s the bajillion movies and TV shows you’ve come up with in the past two years, 90% of which are kind of … garbage.

It’s all the comedy specials I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to see.

It’s the suggestions that make no sense.

It’s the enthusiasm for auto-play, which I didn’t mind at first, but slowly began to resent.

It’s my dwindling attention span.

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s inflation.

It’s the unjustifiable price increase.

Netflix, you put She-ra in shorts. Shorts.

It’s not me, it’s you.

It’s both of us.

Netflix, I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Crave. Crave has HBO, and movies I want to see. Movies I want to see right now, anyway.

Thanks for the memories, Netflix. Le Hubs thanks you for the complete seasons of X-files (before you pulled it) and the complete seasons of The Office. I thank you for the complete seasons of House, M.D. (that I never got around to watching again, damnit), the first three seasons of Orange is the New Black, the awesomeness that used to be House of Cards, the first season of Daredevil, the gloriousness that is The Crown,  and finally, for introducing Jo Koy to the world.

In closing, we both thank you for Black Mirror and Stranger Things. It’s been fun, and a helluva lot of bandwidth. I have no regrets.

All the best,

Me

Gratuitous and Meaningless

Gratuitous and Meaningless

I watched Outlaw King for Chris Pine’s peen.

There, I said it.

I’m sorry, but if a big part of the buzz surrounding your movie is that its lead actor drops trou and goes full frontal, that’s going to be the main reason people will flock to see it, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn’t care about a band of scrappy outlaws fighting to regain control of their own country. Like me. To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies. There’s only so much men, muck and dying that an easily bored consumer like me, up to my ears in possible content to watch, can stomach.

So yes, I spent most of the two hours and one minute runtime waiting for my reward. I don’t know what it is about movie star peen, but an episode of Bojack Horseman does come to mind. In its latest season, Bojack plays a noirish PI a la True Detective McConaughey, who, through a series of machinations gone awry, somehow ends up doing a scene where he is required to be stark naked as he changes a light bulb. It’s supposed to represent an honest look at the character, flaws and all but instead is obviously gratuitous and meaningless. Which is where Chris Pine’s peen comes in. Thank you for your bravery, Chris Pine, but it is gratuitous and meaningless. Not that I don’t appreciate it, or the guts it took to let it all hang out.

And yet. And yet. When the benchmark for a medieval Scottish highland fling such as this is Braveheart, the seminal Mel Gibson-helmed movie that masterfully combines romance, catchphrases, fantasy, shady backroom deals and noble men with stout hearts riding forth for glory and honour, expectations are going to be high. It’s got to be more than a Chris Pine peen (Chris Peen?) movie. It’s got to encapsulate the wonder, the magic, the determination of early Scotsmen and one man’s drive to unite the warring clans of Scotland.

What we get are bad haircuts, duels staged for unknown reasons – just as gratuitous and meaningless as random peen – and (for me, anyway) a distracting cast. As a hardcore Thronie, the sight of Stannis Baratheon, Jeor Mormont and Brynden Blackfish Tully in medieval Scottish drag is jarring. I know, I know, actors are more than the parts they play, but HBO succeeded in pushing these actors to inhabit their parts so well, it’s difficult for me to separate them from the characters they have played in Game of Thrones. Pine, Taylor-Johnson and Pugh do give powerhouse performances and it’s hard to look away when they are on screen.

While Netflix’s Outlaw King has manliness and nobles riding out for glory, it is sadly short on the romance and the backroom deals aren’t so much shady as they are desperate. It’s unfair to expect real life events to always be glamorous and fantastical, but too many things go unexplained. Why are there so many pointless duels? Why do all the old kings dying take place so suddenly and with barely any lead up? Why aren’t the Scots sufficiently shocked when their future king kills his rival in a church? Why does the hair on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s beard not match his hair? Why are all the wigs so bad? What does it mean to raise the dragon and why does that sound like a euphemism for getting a boner?

Netflix gets a few things right – the quartered body of William Wallace nailed to a post in the town square, for one. It’s such an effective prop, it makes you believe the sight of it is enough to raise the ire of the Scots and incite riots. I had heard of the phrase “hanged, drawn and quartered,” but I’ve never really seen a fourth of someone’s body on display and I thought I had plumbed the depths of gore with The Walking Dead. There is also a scene that involves the swift punishment of Robert the Bruce’s younger brother c/o a sadistic Prince of Wales, which turns the stomach. Unlike Braveheart, which focused on Mel Gibson’s facial expressions and let the viewer’s imagination do the heavy lifting, this particular scene, scored by the wails of frightened women and children, is a searing punch to the gut. Lastly, the Battle of Bannockburn is claustrophobic, messy, chaotic and amazingly shot, giving the Battle of the Bastards a run for its cinematic money.

Still the story of Robert the Bruce and his fight to regain Scotland is too complicated by far for a two-hour movie. While the cast is able and the premise honourable, ultimately it falls far short of the standards set for movie epics. Too many questionable decisions and not enough concrete answers, and events that obviously took years and could’ve lent a lot more gravitas to the piece are skimmed over or compressed into minute sound bites. The performances are good, and the backdrop of Scotland is beautiful, but a movie is not based solely on crazed performances and an exotic locale, no matter how convincing the madness of the Black Douglas is. Neither can it be carried on the strength of one man’s peen, unless the peen belongs to Ron Jeremy, but that is another story.

GoT Recap: To Catch a Wight

GoT Recap: To Catch a Wight

Our small band of heroes trudges through the snow-capped mountains beyond the wall. The Brotherhood Without Banners is represented, as is Winterfell and the Wildlings. Even the South has a delegate, in the form of Gendry. There isn’t a person of colour in sight, and yet, diversity!

Talk turns to how anyone could keep warm this far north, and Tormund Giantsbane extols the virtues of exercise: walking, fighting, or screwing your brains out.

“There are no women around,” says Gendry.

“Then we have make do with what we’ve got,” replies the wildling with a leer. Good old Tormund. Always up for anything.

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This is Great

This is Great

Who knew I’d be on team Jess?

Never was a big Milo Ventimiglia fan. Because I’d never seen Gilmore Girls until 2016, I knew him first as Peter Petrelli from Heroes, and he was always this emo kid with issues who cared. Then I watched Gilmore Girls and realized he really hadn’t changed, he just got superpowers.

And now Netflix finally has This is Us, a show that generated a decent amount of buzz this year, and Milo Ventimiglia is no longer an emo kid with issues who cares. He’s an adult. With issues. Who cares. Mainly about Mandy Moore and his three little kids.

I can see where the buzz is coming from because This is Us has me hooked. It’s pilot episode ranks very close to GoT’s maiden outing in terms of unexpected surprises that have you sitting up and wanting more. But if Game of Thrones is a river with rapids that churn and foam as it carves through rock on its way to the sea, This is Us is like a babbling brook that flows, gently maneuvering its way past stones and meadows on its way to the big blue yonder.

The hook of this show is that they’re normal people, with normal problems. And it is such a relief. They’re not cooking meth in a Winnebago, or fighting for the right to sit on a chair made of a thousand melted swords, or battling the re-animated dead for a shot at a can of beans.

After a series of what I now realize are emotionally harrowing shows, This is Us is like soul food. It’s comforting to watch a bunch of thirty-six year old adults just trying to figure out how to live their lives without an unnecessary amount of angst or an overly large vocabulary. It feels… kind. It feels… sincere, without necessarily being preachy.

I enjoy This is Us because of its focus on real, drama-free lives where people are for the most part kind, value family ties, and love each other. Their issues are relatable – issues with being overweight and food, with parenthood, with career choices, with feelings of abandonment, with questioning ourselves and all the other little crises we all deal with. There are no overt moral themes about the genderless movement or the new satellite family, or gritty urban realities. It isn’t preachy, and it just takes life with a lot of common sense and heart, not to mention a little bit of humour. It’s how I grew up, and how I was trained to deal with life and living.

It’s a simplistic way of looking at things, but it beats the convoluted mine-field of today, where every topic is a hot button issue and everyone seems to just want to yell at each other and have angry conflict. If I enjoyed Downton Abbey for its focus on good manners and right conduct, I enjoy This is Us for it’s focus on common sense and good, old-fashioned values. It can’t hurt that it’s mostly a show about struggling adults in their mid-thirties who no longer have other people to pay rent for them and yes, I realize I am totally projecting, so I’ll stop now.

Image via NBC

GoT Recap: Inglorious Bastards

GoT Recap: Inglorious Bastards

Do you speed through the opening credits of Game of Thrones? With that swelling orchestral score and educational bird’s eye view, I almost always linger. The places featured in the opening are almost always a sign of where the action is going to be. Eastwatch shows up for the first time, so you know something’s going down out on the East Coast tonight.

Continue reading “GoT Recap: Inglorious Bastards”

GoT Recap: Enough with the Clever Plans

GoT Recap: Enough with the Clever Plans

Still stewing over Olenna Tyrell’s big reveal, the Kingslayer is busily, if not grumpily, getting down to the business of paying off Lannister debts with Highgarden gold. Wanting more than a saddlebag of gold coins (“it’s not a castle”), Ser Bronn makes a play for the home of the now extinct Tyrells, but is rebuffed with a terse “we’re at war.” They never let Ser Bronn rest. Will Ser Bronn ever get any rest?

We’re going to have to see.

Continue reading “GoT Recap: Enough with the Clever Plans”

GoT Recap: Ice and Fire

GoT Recap: Ice and Fire

“I believe we last saw each other atop the Wall.”

“You were pissing off the edge, if I remember right.”

And on that manly note, the reunion episode of this season’s Game of Thrones opens, and we are off to the races.

Continue reading “GoT Recap: Ice and Fire”