One of the things I have found myself doing a lot lately is hanging out downstairs on my laptop and watching a fairly steady feed of television and movies. Now some of this I am consuming from the On Demand service from cable and others from Netflix or Hulu. Over the last few years there is a ton of television content that I have wished I had seen, but never actually got around to seeing. With fall coming on, I tend to spend a lot more time snuggled on the couch, and as such I think I am going to start another weekly feature similar to my Sunday “what I have been playing” column to watch about the media content I have been consuming. One of the big things that has changed over the years is I tend to watch an entire television series over the course of a couple days, instead of letting it drag out over the course of a season. In fact I prefer this method of consumption so much that I will let an entire season of a show record on my DVR before starting in on watching it. I blame Netflix squarely for this tendency and right now quite literally the only shows I watch as they are airing are the Walking Dead series simply because most of my development group is hooked on the show and we discuss it Monday mornings. Hopefully folks will dig me going back and talking about what I have been up to.
I started this show on my own a few days ago, but quickly realized that this would actually be something that my wife would enjoy. As a result last night we started in and managed to get about three episodes into the series. Essentially you take the smart and quirky writing of Veronica Mars, mix in a dash or True Calling and Crossing Jordan, and add a dash of Being Human and maybe a sprinkle of a show like Drop Dead Diva… and you end up with the weird mix that is iZombie. The premise is simple… she was a promising surgical resident until she went to a party on a boat… where a designer drug turned people into zombies. She got scratched and wound up as a member of the unliving… completely uprooting her promising career, her engagement and most of the relationships in her life. Instead she now works in the Morgue where she has a ready supply of brains, and a series of misadventures that spring around her ability to see flashes of memory from the brains she consumed. Flat out if you loved Veronia Mars as much as I did… you will love this show. It is more of the same sort of intelligent writing and snarky commentary mixed with crime solving… just of a different sort. I look forward to picking up and continuing watching this show over the weekend.
This one is available on Netflix, and is a British show which means… short seasons. There are two seasons available currently, which only actually mean six total shows to watch. I tweeted that this show was weird, but there is something infectious about it. I like to think of it as Tales from the Crypt for Futurism and Technology. Essentially they take ideas that folks have always thought might be cool… and take them to really dark extremes. One of the episodes featured a device that you stuck behind your ear, that recorded every single moment in your life allowing you to review them later. But what happens when no one ever forgets anything… and can scrutinize every moment and everything you have ever said in full high definition color? The show makes up a series of disturbing what if’s that bring cautionary tales about our own lust for technology and innovation. I managed to make it through four episodes of the series before finally falling asleep the other night, so at some point I will pick up and finish it. The six episodes make it a quick watch and if you are into dark futurism…. it might be down your alley.
This movie combines a bunch of weak spots for me… Artificial Intelligence, Die Antwoord, and Neill Blomkamp. I loved the movie District 9, so when I saw the trailer for Chappie I thought I would probably like it as well. The problem is it just took me a really long time to get around to watching it. The movie is really odd at times… because for most of it, it really just feels like a really long Die Antwoord video. Pretty much every piece of music found in the video is theirs, and it features all of the same odd visuals that you find in their videos. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it just makes the movie feel less “movie-like”. I am imagining there will be a Chappie 2, because they left a lot of things unresolved at the end of the movie. As far as Chappie itself… the robot was kinda adorable… and he is voiced by the same actor that played Wikus from District 9. The robot is vulnerable and childlike and extremely impressionable… but at the same time very loyal to its humans. The movie as a whole asks a bunch of trans-humanist questions about what exactly consciousness and sentience is. It will be interesting to see where this goes if there is a sequel.
Star Wars Prequels
Something that I did last weekend and over the course of this week was watch the Star Wars movies. I’ve talked a bit about how Phantom Menace was a massive let down for me… and how I have been afraid to get excited about Force Awakens because of it. In spite of all of my better judgement however… I am infected with full on hype mode when it comes to Force Awakens and Star Wars in general. I grew up loving this series… and in spite of the prequels I am once again in love with anything and everything Star Wars. As a result I thought to myself… maybe I was too hard on the Prequels, so in my rewatch of the movies attempted to go into them with an open mind. The end result is that I don’t necessarily “hate” them, but objectively they are really bad movies. The pacing feels off, and the characters feel forced to act out awkward dialog at every single turn. There is something however that bugs me even more about them. There are times in movies and television shows when the viewers know more about the movie than the characters on screen… and this can be interesting.
The problem with Phantom Menace is that it somehow pretends that we don’t know that Senator/Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious. Like when we finally find out that he is the Dark Lord of the Sith… the movies act like we should be shocked. Additionally making these movies about Anakin Skywalker just feels wrong. We know from the moment this series starts that he is ultimately going to end up in a fight with Obi Wan and be damaged to the point of needing to go into the suit to survive and become the Darth Vadar we all know. The prequels should have focused on Obi Wan, and told his story… with his failure to steer Anakin away from the Dark Side as being a part of that story. Obi Wan is the interesting character here, not the whiny bullshit of Darth Teen Angst. There are awesome moments scattered among the three films, but I feel like you could make one really awesome movie if you just edited out the bad bits. In fact there is a fan edit that does just this and trims the movie into a 2 hour long epic. The only part of the first film that is shown is the “Duel of the Fates” sequence. I think this would be a much better way to jump start the awesome movies that follow… and really the original movies are awesome. I found myself thinking just how great they were as I watched “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”. I can still however take or leave “Return of the Jedi”, because I feel like it starts some of the bullshit that George Lucas tried to continue throughout the Prequels.
Fear the Walking Dead
Finally I wanted to talk a bit about Fear the Walking Dead, which this Sunday will show its fourth episode. Last week the shit finally started hitting the fan, as the Zombie infection began to finally get noticed. My wife happened to catch the first two episodes before watching the new episode last week because she happened to be downstairs grading. She made the same sort of comments that I had been making internally about how stupid the characters were acting. At one point she made the comment “Have none of these people ever seen Scream?” as another character put themselves in a really dumb position. Over the first two episodes the series played on the fact that we know how the Walking Dead unvierse works, and placed the characters in compromising positions…. only to have the Zombie NOT jump out of the shadows to get them. That however I think is changing, and this week I expect things to start to get really crazy. I love the way the series is playing on the modern riots as the way the public at large is dealing with the zombie epidemic. When the police put down a zombie, it is seen as police brutality and a huge riot breaks out downtown. The show keeps giving us little clues that things are heating up… like the first few zombies took awhile to turn, but now the virus is mutating and speeding up. In one sequence there is a cop being munched on by a zombie… and then a few scenes later that same police officer is munching on a protester. The only thing that really frustrates me is the fact that at no point do people seem to recognize what is happening. I mean are zombie films not a thing in this universe?