Category Archives: netflix

I Just Don’t Get It

I have had more than a few friends tell me not only what a great, but also hilarious television series “Arrested Development” is/was. That coupled with the fact that Netflix is going to bring it back for fifteen new episodes, which would serve as a prelude to a feature film. Well now, that sounds to me like there must be something unique and exciting about the series to have all that going on for it.

What did I know about “Arrested Development” however? Virtually nothing. I knew it lasted three seasons on Fox and was canceled because of low ratings. I knew that the musical group Arrested Development sued and settled over the use of the name. I knew that it starred Jason Bateman, and that Ron Howard was somehow involved. That’s it. Until very recently, I had never even seen one episode of “Arrested Development.”

Seeing how the whole series, in anticipation of the new fourth season, was available on Netflix, I decided to give it a shot. Wow. As Queen Victoria was often said to say, I was not amused. This thing was just not funny, or at least just not funny to me. When described to me by friends, or read about online, it sounded hilarious, but actually watching it – nothing. Crickets, baby.

What confounded me the most is that there are cast members who are on other shows or other endeavors who I think are hysterical. There’s Jessica Walter in “Archer,” Portia de Rossi in “Better Off Ted,” Michael Cera in some things, and David Cross in everything – yet in “Arrested Development,” it’s as if they are performing at a funeral.

I tried. I got through seventeen episodes before giving up, and not submitting to masochism. I just don’t get it. The new season will be available on Netflix starting this Sunday, May the 26th.

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House of Cards

I’m about a month late to the party on this one, but there’s still time for the rest of us. This fabulous Netflix exclusive TV series starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and Kate Mara, is probably the best thing I’ve seen outside of pay cable in a while. And that’s probably the coolest thing about it – it’s not cable at all – it’s only available on Netflix. Welcome to the future.

“House of Cards” is based on the book(s) by Michael Dobbs, and the BBC miniseries that followed by Andrew Davies. Originally set in British Parliament, show developer and producer Beau Willimon adapted the concept to Washington DC and the US Capitol for American viewers. Spacey is an ambitious Congressman manipulating his way to the top with almost demonic precision and sly fourth wall breaking asides to the viewers at home. There are Emmy caliber performances by all involved, but I wonder if it will be eligible for the Emmys?

Netflix, observing viewing habits and trying to keep ahead or at least abreast of cutting edge technology, has gone into the entertainment business, creating their own shows. Seeing that many folks will watch an entire series at once, sometimes a season at a time – a practice called ‘stripping,’ Netflix created shows meant to adapt to that. In that spirit, the entire first season of “House of Cards” was released all at once on February 1st.

The compelling characters, I tense stories, and terrific performances will keep you coming back episode after episode. It also has the likes of David Fincher, James Foley, and Joel Schumacher in the director’s chair.  This is a series worthy of HBO, Showtime, or AMC, yeah, it’s that good. I highly recommend it. I just don’t know what I’ll be doing until season two comes out…

A Christmas Story 2

A Christmas Story 2 ~ This review should have been timely to the season, but Netflix never delivered the disc until we reported it undelivered. Not their fault, and I’m really not complaining. They’ve given our household superior service for at least a decade. One would just think with their delivery technique becoming obsolete, their technology outdated, and their selection diminished – they might just try a but harder is all.

On to the movie, and the review. I was very wary of this flick when I first heard about it. I am a huge fan of Jean Shepherd, both his numerous TV series and movies, and his books and stories. The original A Christmas Story was brilliant, as was its underrated and largely forgotten first sequel My Summer Story, also known as It Runs in the Family. From all indications, only the characters are the same in A Christmas Story 2, and it does not include any of Shepherd’s work, or charm.

From the opening of the film, I was ill. The narration, the voice of the adult Ralphie, formerly that of the late Jean Shepherd, was now taken by screenwriter Nat Mauldin, doing a shamefully bad and consistently out of breath Shepherd imitation. So bad is this almost never-ending narration that it completely distracts from, rather than holding together the film. I found myself wanting to tell him to take a break, catch his breath, we would wait. Yeah, it’s that bad. And the narration sets the tone, as everyone is doing a cheap imitation of the original movie.

The story is set six years after the first A Christmas Story, and has much the same plot. Ralphie wants a car instead of a BB gun. The catch is he wrecks the car and has to pay for it before his old man finds out about it. The acting is painful, and the actors should be ashamed for raping the corpse of Jean Shepherd. On the good side, the film does present a reasonably good facsimile of 1940s middle America. I guess that’s where the money went.

Steer as far from this shameful rip-off as possible. You will get a million times more enjoyment watching the original for the hundredth time than you will trying to watch this crap just once. Seek out the real Jean Shepherd in print, audio, and video – and forget this garbage.

Immortals

Immortals ~ Okay, I’ve admit it. I’ve had this DVD sitting on my coffee table for at least two months. I’m not lazy or careless. It’s just that with Netflix’s streaming service to my iPhone, my Nook, my laptop, and the PS3… well, the snail mail discs sort of get forgotten. Immortals sure did, like I said, for at least two months. So if you’re still doing it by mail on Netflix, and have been waiting for Immortals, yeah, it’s me, I’ve got it. I’m a bad Netflixter. I’ll send it back shortly, I promise.

At this point I don’t even remember much about it. I know it’s mythology based. I know it was released theatrically on 11-11-11, a hard date to forget, and that the date morphed into the title in the previews. I also know it’s got a lot of motion capture in it like 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch. Beyond that, I don’t remember much, let alone why I put it on my Netflix queue.

Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes and more into the film, it is dark, and boring. Yeah, I know. They have taken something that I love, mythology, and made it boring. Adding to the difficulty of the task, they have fictionalized it, added state of the art special effects, and made mythology boring. Although, to say they are really sticking to the myths in question would be a kindness. Loosely based is the broad term here. Did I mention how dark the film is? At times it was almost like a radio production.

I was pleased to see John Hurt for the short time he was on screen. He was playing the old guy, you know the Hollywood star of yesterday they always have in these bad myth movies. He at least acts. I am now very worried for the upcoming Man of Steel film, because the cardboard cut out that plays Theseus here in Immortals is cast as Superman. That film could be worse than the last one based on Henry Cavill’s performance here.

I didn’t recognize Mickey Roarke until halfway through the movie. Stephen Dorff equally phones it in. I guess the actors thought that because no one would actually be able to see this movie because it was so dark, they could just phone it in. I didn’t like Immortals, even a little bit. I didn’t hate it, I was just bored. I guess it’s good for a nap.

The Forgotten Spider-Man

Everyone knows the 1967 “Spider-Man” cartoon, you know, the one with the catchy theme song. Most folks know the 1990s series on Fox as well. The fanboys and girls among us know the MTV CGI animated series, the spacey cosmic “Unlimited”, and “Amazing Friends” with Iceman and Firestar. But does anyone remember the 1981 Saturday morning cartoon?

The 1981 “Spider-Man” did not air in the Philadelphia area so I didn’t see it until years later in syndication. It was the wall-crawler first animated appearance on TV since the classic 1967 series. It was Spidey once more on Saturday mornings, and a prelude to “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.” Many of the queues were taken from the sixties cartoon, maybe not actual model sheets and drawings, but they sure tried to copy it, from shots of buildings to angles that Spidey would swing by on his weblines.

The villains were there. Spidey fought the Green Goblin, the Vulture, the Sandman, the Lizard, Mysterio, and the Kingpin. Others who had not yet seen animation as Spider-foes like the Chameleon, Black Cat, Silvermane, Hammerhead, and Kraven the Hunter. New villains were added like the Gadeteer, the Stuntman, and in a hollaback to the ’67 ‘toon, the Desperado-like Sidewinder.

Attempts to expand the animated Marvel Universe were made as Spider-Man also went up against Magneto, the Red Skull, and the Ringmaster. The oddest addition of this type was the seeming ascension of Doctor Doom to archenemy status for Spider-Man. The two clash in six out of the twenty-six episodes. Many Marvel super-heroes show up as guest-stars as well, including Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, Ka-Zar, Medusa and even Namorita.

There were problems however. This DePatie-Freleng production had the same quality as the last two Marvel animations, “Spider-Woman” and “New Fantastic Four,” the latter was the infamous version with H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot. The animation is very slow-paced, Spidey’s webs eject with almost molasses flow sometimes. And of course this was a time in network television when violence was considered to be rotting the minds of young children – so Spider-Man could neither make a fist nor throw a punch, even at someone as evil as a Nazi madman like the Red Skull.

The 1981 “Spider-Man” cartoon has its moments, and it’s closer to comics continuity than a lot of superhero animation out there. It’s worth a viewing or two for the hardcore fans, and is now available from Netflix via DVD or streaming online.

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Attack the Block

Attack the Block ~ Every once in a while a movie comes in under the radar and by pure word of mouth everyone is like, “You have to see this.” Attack the Block is one of those films. Not in theaters, couldn’t find it bootleg, and it took forever to get through Netflix, but I finally got a chance to see it.

Attack the Block has been billed as an alien invasion movie in the style of Shaun of the Dead, and it does in fact have Nick Frost in it and was written and directed by Frost/Simon Peggy/Edgar Wright collaborator Joe Cornish. The premise has aliens attacking South London and a teenage street gang defending their turf. In reality, it’s a theme that dates back to the American 1950s, but Cornish delivers it with flava. The flick begins when the boys kill an alien and descend into the teenage underworld looking for bragging rights and cash.

Once I got my head back in “Eastenders” mode (I’m out of practice, PBS stopped showing it in this area several years ago, and I’m never going to forgive you, channel 12) and was able to understand the thick accents that pass for English, I was all good with these kids, but it did take a while, some concentration, and subtitles. When it turns out it ain’t just one alien out there, the real fun begins. It’s really Shaun of the Dead meets The Warriors meets Red Dawn set in Walford Square under alien siege. Yeah, it’s that much fun.

I really kinda dug the almost Akira-like moped chases, and the aliens are truly frightening – big black furry masses with neon blue jaws of teeth. The colors of this flick are amazing. Intense, scary, brutal, and visually stunning, Attack the Block lives up to the hype, and is a must-see.

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The Nature of Spoilers

Since I’ve gotten my iPhone, with the miracles of streaming Netflix and HBO Go, I have been stripping entire TV series before I go to bed instead of reading myself to sleep. I have gotten to see some pretty cool programs, stuff like “Oz,” “Avatar the Last Airbender,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Big Love” and “Deadwood.” Great stuff, just amazing television. And also through apps like Miso and GetGlue, I’m able to let folks know what I’m watching.

My most recent project has been “Six Feet Under,” and a friend of mine saw I was watching it and offered his opinion that the first season was great (of which I’m only almost done), the second was only okay and that the third and fourth seasons jumped the shark. Now I know that “Six Feet Under” is more than a handful of years old, but it got me thinking about spoilers, and when is it safe to talk about something after it happens without spoiling it?

I would think that news and sports would have the absolute shortest shelf life. News travels at the speed of light nowadays with Twitter. Sports would be only as long as you can keep a secret I suppose. I have a friend, seriously not into sports, who used to make it a game to see how long he could go without knowing who was playing in the Super Bowl each year. He used to do quite well, but this was back in the days before the Super Bowl was about more than football. Now it’s more about middle-aged women exposing themselves or which ancient rocker was going to break a hip in stage this year.

In my tiny world of comic books, where the new titles come out on Wednesdays and most folks don’t buy them until Friday, mid-weekend seems to be safe harbor to talk without spoilers. For TV, even in the age of DVRs and OnDemand, it seems a good idea to avoid the water cooler and not speak until at least the next episode airs.

Movies are a little different and I think fall into my “Six Feet Under” problem. Everyone knows Rosebud is a sled, but how many folks know the calls are coming from inside the house, Deckard might be a replicant, and that Bruce Willis is really dead – or do they?

Should it just come down to a matter of courtesy? If you know someone hasn’t seen something, just be cool and don’t spoil it, or should there be a statute of limitations on entertainment? What are the rules for spoilers?

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Fright Night 2011

Fright Night ~ Now I’ve never seen the original film that this 2011 remake is based on but when I saw that there was a special movie premiere on board the Disney Dream of Fright Night starring fan favorite “Doctor Who” David Tennant, I had to be there. The audience, mostly tweens for an R rated flick, was the polar opposite of the other experiences I had had in the Buena Vista Theatre on board the ship. The kids weren’t all right. Let’s put it this way, up until about five minutes into the film, I might as well have been at the Cherry Hill Loews. It chilled out after that except for one or two comments (clever for the most part) and of course about a dozen screams and jumps during the scary parts.

I was surprised at how clever this was, and rumor has it the original was as well. I will have to Netflix it to find out, but that’s a good thing as it’s not necessarily a movie I would. I’m rather ambivalent about slasher movies – which to my misinformation this isn’t even though I thought it was. Some are good and some are bad, I’m not a lover or a hater, they’re just not usually my thing. Vampire flicks on the other hand, even after the recent deluge of vampire media in the last decade or so, are a guilty pleasure, but again, some can really stink as well.

This new Fright Night stands up well on the good side. There’s a lot of sarcasm, injokes and nudge-nudge-wink-wink going on here but it’s a lot of fun. Anton Yelchin, Checkov from the new Star Trek, is a young man whose neighborhood is quickly vanishing one by one and all the evidence points to his new neighbor, Colin Farrell doing a Bullseye imitation sans accent, being a vampire and doing the dirty work. He turns to a Criss Angel type entertainer famed for his vampire slayer magic act, the tenth Doctor, David Tennant, for help. Toni Collette is always a joy to see on the screen, and the cameos by Chris Sarandon (from the original film) and Lisa Loeb were fun.

At first appearing to be quite a jerk, Tennant is the highlight of the film, along with Farrell’s subtle but decisively evil vampire. There are shocks and blood galore, but not much real gore, more humor than gore really. There are a few very frightening scares, but if you’re paying attention you should be able to see them coming. The new Fright Night is a fairly entertaining horror movie, worth checking out.

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Head Case

My buddy Q turned me on to this original comedy series from Starz that I have recently caught up with via NetFlix DVD. I really enjoyed it, I just wish that the DVD had been clearer about what order to watch the episodes in. What is featured on the second disc as “bonus shorts” is actually the first season, and what is called the “first season” on the first disc is really the second season. Major suckage ensued after watching it out of order, sort of like watching “Firefly” for the first time after having seen Serenity.

In “Head Case,” Alexandra Wentworth from “In Living Color” plays a therapist to the stars whose unorthodox methods bring the funny. The pseudo-documentary style of the series vanishes after a while and it becomes a real sitcom. It’s a treat to see Steve Landesberg of “Barney Miller” fame on TV again and Michelle Arthur steals the show as the receptionist Lola.

Be warned however, don’t watch on an empty stomach, as Fatburger plays a big role in the series. You’ll be craving fast food sooner than later. Recommended.

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Turkish Double Bill

I recently picked up this recent double feature from Netflix claiming to spotlight the best in Turkish pop cinema…

Tarkan Vs. the Vikings ~ Also known as Tarkan Viking Kani, this 1971 entry is based on the Turkish Tarkan comics. This is supposedly a classic example of Turkish pop cinema, a low budget Conan done in bright colors and vibrant orchestral music. It’s a visual feast if not an intellectual one, especially when some scenes have the same texture of a Monty Python sketch or a Carol Burnett spoof. The violence (cartoonish by today’s standards) and degradation toward women gets to be a bit much after a while, but if you drink every time a German shepherd is on screen the movie will get better or perhaps you just won’t remember it.

The Deathless Devil ~ Also known as Yilmayan Seyton is a loose remake of the movie serial The Mysterious Dr. Satan, which was in fact a rewritten Superman serial with the man of steel replaced by a new hero called Copperhead. The same is true here albeit updated, or at least updated to 1971. It has the feel of a Mexican wrestling flick mixed with just a touch of Superargo and Danger: Diabolik thrown in just for kicks. This second Turkish feature is also a potpourri of genres including comedy, violence and sex. Oh those wacky Turks.

I had expected to like the latter over the former, me being the superhero geek and all, but all in all, the first held my interest more. That said, this wasn’t a wild night of entertainment either. Given the choice between say, an enema and more Turkish genre flicks… I might have to take a moment to consider my choices…

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