Netfix Recommendations

Here are my recommendations for Netflix. Your mileage may vary….

Recommended

Luther–  Nobody does brooding detective shows better than the BBC.
Daredevil– A blind, vigilante lawyer somehow it works.
Luke Cage– One the best Marvel series.
Sherlock– The BBC gets Sherlock Holmes.
Jessica Jones– Another good Marvel series.
The Fall– Creepy and great.
Peaky Blinders– Period crime piece.
The Crown– Royal drama.
The Defenders– Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones team up. Iron Fist shows up too.
Better Call Saul– Great prequel/sequel to Breaking Bad.
Turn– Revolutionary War spy drama.
The People vs OJ Simpson– Cuba Gooding as OJ,
House of Cards– Chilling.
Narcos– The Godfather in Columbia.
Stranger Things– Horror in the set in the 1980’s.
Marvel Agents of Shield– Comic book action, awesome guy names Phil (Lol)
Gotham– A different take on comic book world.
Atypical– A deals with a their autistic son.
Last Chance U– Interesting reality TV football drama.
Broadchurch– The BBC rock police shows.
Boss– Really good, cancelled before conclusion.

It Depends

Iron Fist– Maybe Marvel is running out ideas, not horrible but not great.
Sens8– Interesting premise, series cancelled final movie to wrap up loose ends on the way.
Marco Polo– Cancelled before conclusion.
Orange is the New Black– Early seasons good, later seasons not so much.
Master of None– Hit or miss.
Lillyhammer– a thinly veiled sequel to the Sopranos.
Longmire– Old style cop show.
Black Mirror– Hit or miss.
Making a Murderer– Not exactly even handed.
Orphan Black– Early seasons great, later seasons not so much.

Meh

The Discovery– train wreck.
Borgia– Insufferable, the end I was rooting for everybody to get wiped out.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt– Everybody like this but me.

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Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review- A Great Summer Blockbuster, A Disappointing Star Trek Film

star-trek-into-darkness

As a long time Star trek fan I had high hopes for Star Trek Into Darkness.

After ST:TNG (if you don’t know what that stands for you should probably stop reading now) I went through an similar pattern of initial excitement followed by disappointment and finally ambivalence on each of the Star Trek on television shows (DS9, Voyager, Enterprise) to the point where I didn’t even watch the final few seasons of each.

Each had its problems; DS9 (how could it there be an interstellar war and the Enterprise not be there?), Voyager (ugh, another alpha quadrant race in the delta quadrant, again with the Borg?), Enterprise (snore…) and after an absence that saw the ST:TNG movies sputter (another ugh- Nemesis) on the big screen I was excited when JJ Abrams was selected to reboot Star Trek.

I enjoyed the reboot more than I expected. It payed homage the original series and incorporated enough of the Star Trek canon while entertaining a new generation of movie goers. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty darn good. I liked it so much I even ignored some of the nits that would have driven me crazy in a lesser movie- shiny phasers? Interwarp beaming?

The stage was set for a new movie, with a great new cast and a ton of story possibilities in the alternate time line created by the reboot.

I scored early preview tickets and settled in to watch after a a year or so of diligently avoiding spoilers and internet leaks. I had limited myself to only the official trailers. I thought I had pieced together the plot but was pleasantly surprised by some of the twists and turns.

SPOILER ALERT

Like Star Trek at its best, the movie delivers action with equal parts commentary on current events. The plot revolves around a terrorist, John Harrrison, a former ally who has turned against the federation whom he believes has murdered his crew. Harrison is eventually revealed to be Khan one the most famous villains in Star trek lore. And this version of Kahn is a badass. Genetically engineered to be superior in intellect and physical strength with a ruthless nature to match, it’s hard to imagine how he and his crew were ever forced to leave to Earth in the first place. The parallels to 9/11, drone warfare, and hunt for Osama Bin Laden are obvious as the Kirk volunteers to take the Enterprise to the edge of Klingon space and launch special long range torpedoes to kill Khan when he goes into hiding on the Klingon home world. An act of sabotage leaves the Enterprise crippled unable to escape and vulnerable to the Klingons who are expected to destroy the ship and starting a war desperately wanted by a faction of Starfleet who crave such a conflict.

There are plenty of ship chases, battles with Klingons, and explosions to keep the average movie goer entertained. On that level I enjoyed the movie.

But ultimately as a Star Trek fan I was disappointed. First I want to acknowledge this article, The Braver, Better Movie That Star Trek Into Darkness Could Have Been from Wired which makes some great points.

The good Star Trek movies have been about loss, consequences, and the search for one’s true self.

In Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP) both Kirk and Spock struggle with their destinies. Kirk makes a choice to reject his promotion to Admiral and reverse his career path to get back to his “…own best destiny,” commanding a starship. Spock learns that rejecting his human emotion isn’t worth the life of isolation from his friends that it would require.

In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (ST:TWOK) the Enterprise crew suffers the loss of Spock who sacrifices the himself “…for the needs of the many.” The decision to maroon Khan and his followers and without ever checking on their progress has dire consequences the Enterprise and her crew. Kirk also comes face to face with his life that could have been- a son who despises him.

In the Star Trek: The Search for Spock (ST:TSFP) the crew sacrifice their careers and ultimately the Enterprise herself to recover Spock. Kirk’s son is also murdered by the Klingons.

Ignoring Star Trek: The Voyage Home and the unwatchable Star Trek: The Final Frontier

Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country (ST:TUC) has the Kirk struggling with change. Will he allow his distrust of the Klingons and bitterness over the death of his son start a new war for the federation, “…If there is going to be a ‘Brave New World’ our generation is going to have the hardest time going to live in it.”

Star Trek Into Darkness (ST:ID) was looking great. Khan had been re-introduced, still ruthless but with a legitimate gripe against the Federation and this version of Kirk had come to realize that he needed to temper his gut feelings with the input of his stellar crew. And in a flipflop of ST:TWOK he sacrifices himself to save the Enterprise.

“It’s a miracle!”

“There is no such thing,” replies Spock.

I was stunned with the notion that they would kill Kirk. And if the movie had stopped there it not only would have been a great summer blockbuster but a great Star Trek movie as well.

In 1982, when I saw ST:TWOK I had no idea what to expect. I can remember sitting in the theater watching Spock die after saving the Enterprise in utter shock.

“…I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?”

http://youtu.be/dhcR-w-56tA

At the time I had no idea that Spock would be resurrected in the next movie. For all intents and purposes that was it and probably the end of Star Trek movies altogether.

Flash forward to ST:ID. The tension and dread of Kirk’s death were washed away in the final minutes of the film. Kirk is revived by Khan’s blood  (I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker), Khan is recaptured and put back into deep freeze, and the Enterprise embarks on its five year mission of exploration. Roll credits.

Maybe JJ couldn’t help himself. Since he’s moving on to direct the next Star Wars movie, perhaps he couldn’t resist leaving Kirk’s return to another director.

Fair enough.

But the resolution is too trite, too clean.

How did Spock change? Why not have him compromise his values to save Kirk? “The needs of one outweigh the needs of the many…”

No play on the “I have been and always shall be your friend?”

Why put Khan in deep freeze? Isn’t a universe with Khan escaping a lot more interesting then leaving him in a freezer at Starfleet command? The next movie wouldn’t necessarily have to be about Khan just because he escaped. Isn’t that a decision best left up to the next director?

What’s the deal with McCoy synthesizing an formula to help Kirk recover from death. Haven’t you taken the jeopardy out of death for the rest of the series?

Ultimately JJ Abrams took ST:WOK, considered by nearly everyone to be the greatest of the Star Trek movies, and re-imagined it as a Star Trek episode ending with a giant reset button.

There is no price paid for Kirk’s recovery.

There was no character growth by Spock to make it happen.

There are no fans eagerly waiting for the next movie to see how Kirk will be recovered and wondering about what Khan is up to…

In short while ST:ID is a fun movie it adds little to the Star Trek mythos.

Long suffering Star Trek fans deserved better and certainly the potential for greatness was there but unfortunately ST:ID comes up short.

To paraphrase James T. Kirk from ST:TWOK, “…like a poor marksman, JJ keeps missing the target!”

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Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert Review

Had a chance to the see the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert at our local theater here in Ann Arbor.

Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals and I’ve seen it performed a number of times from local touring productions, to Broadway and in the London West End so I brought many preference to how I prefer each part to be performed.

First the technical production was good, it was displayed digitally and the picture quality only broke up a few times and even then it didn’t detract that much.  I would have preferred a little more volume but overall the sound mix was good.

The cast was very accomplished, and did the material the credit.  My only disappointment was that I prefer the  Javert role to be performed by a “low” baritone to contrast with Valjean which is usually a tenor.

One annoyance was that the Marius role was played by pop sensation Nick Jonas whose pained facial expression is matched by the audience when he sings.  Seriously, I had almost convinced myself that he wasn’t *that* bad  until the concert cast was joined by the original 1985 cast in an encore, and the 1985 ‘Marius” reminded me what a truly talented performer could bring to role.

Overall the concert is well worth seeing and will be available on DVD.  One note is that this might not be the best introduction for someone who has never see the full stage production.  The show has been edited down (most of which I heartedly agree with) but some of the scene transitions may confuse someone unfamiliar with the stage production.

An added bonus is the previously mentioned encore where the 1985 cast joins the concert cast and members of the current London production.

A final note, as much as I love Les Miserable the Musical, anyone who enjoys it should really take time to read the original book by Victor Hugo which is an amazing work.  Knowing the back-stories and connections between the characters detailed by Hugo adds extra layers of depth to the musical.

You can video and images from the concert on the official site  here and many unofficial clips on youtube.

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Where does innovation live? Despicable Me

Sometimes humor can stealthily deliver a powerful message.

Take the new movie, Despicable Me, a new 3-D feature that debuted this weekend.

When GRE, the “despicable” protagonist, needs an innovation to get his evil mojo back where does he find it?

In the past he might have stolen it from the Army or maybe a hapless inventor working out of his garage.

In 2010, he goes to Asia and steals it.

The message is subtle but stinging.  The United States which historically has been viewed as the technology leader of the word has slipped.  GRE approaches the Evil Bank (humorously referred to as being formerly named Lehman Brothers) to fund his dastardly endeavors but for technology innovation he goes to the Far East.

I’ve been researching book on technology innovation so maybe I’m reading too much into it after all it’s just a movie.

But a generation of children are being exposed to the notion that cool technology doesn’t originate in the United States.

Hopefully someday we’ll look back at this film and laugh at the notion of cool new technology being the exclusive domain of the far east.  Let’s hope so…

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Toy Story 3

When I heard that a new Toy Story was in the works, I was a little concerned.  It had been long time since the first two movies had come out.  Could Pixar recapture the magic?  The answer is a resounding YES.  The third installment of the Toy Story saga has all the story and heart of the first two movies.  Andy is on the way to college and future of the toys is at stake.

I highly recommend this movie with one slight reservation.  Near the end of the movie the toys find themselves in danger of being recycled and the scenes might be a little scary for toddlers.  But don’t worry, a happy ending soon follows.

Pixar once again has crafted a technological marvel that will pull the heartstrings of the most jaded viewers.  Young filmmakers would be wise to to study the films of Pixar.  While relying

on advanced computer technology to create the film- every second of film time is made up of 24 frames and each frame took 7-10 hours of computer rendering time and that doesn’t include the thousands of hours needed to create the character models, the story never is neglected.

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Gods and Generals

Just finished watching God and Generals during my treadmill time.

Gods is a prequel to Gettysburg (1993) and covers the beginning of the Civil War.  The movie begins with the Robert E. Lee being offered command of the army- the Union Army- which he rejects to lead the Army of Virginia on the Confederate side.  

Interesting points

  • Many soldiers felt more aligned with their particular States then the United States government.  Many were driven by this loyalty instead ideology.
  • The southern states felt provoked by the Union raising an army.
  • The Union side was hamstrung by poor leadership

The movie ends with a Confederate rout of Union forces setting the table for the event in Gettysburg.

Originally, Gods and Gettysburg were intended to be the first two parts of a trilogy with the final movie chronicling the rest of the Civil War, to be called The Last Full Measure.  At this point, it appears that the final movie will not be made.

God and Generals Wikipedia Entry

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The Last Starfighter

Just finished watching The Last Starfighter during my treadmill time.

One of my favorite movies, it was nice to see it again.

I fondly remember not only the movie, but the unofficial game developed by Atari.  I acquired a copy that was leaked to the gamer community at the time.  The game eventually was released as Star Raiders II with all of the Last Starfighter content removed.

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