Roma


To be honest, I didn’t plan to out myself as a hater (again, after last year’s Academy Awards disaster that was «The Shape Of Water»), but with the Oscars warming up and 10 nominations for this year’s frontrunner, I feel forced to reveal my two cents about «Roma – The Watching of Paint Dry».

Full disclosure: I like color. I like it in paintings, comics, in magazines, on flowers, even on vegetables: I like broccoli or pickles, which are green. Peter Jackson even coloured World War I to make it more fun, for cryin’ out loud!

But I digress…

Netflix’ Oscar vehicle «Roma» is like Alfonso Cuarón’s earlier multiple Oscar-winner «Gravity» but not set in space. And with the difference that I found «Roma – The Emperor’s New Clothes» to be boring and that I didn’t like it. And it doesn’t even come in color. And as I mentioned earlier, I like color.

One could state that «Roma – The CCTV Experience» is like «Children of Men», another masterpiece by Alfonso Cuarón, but not set in the future. What sets it apart from «Children of Men» is that «Roma – Arthouse, Schmarthouse» doesn’t have a story. I like story; it’s high up on my list of priorities: I even live in a 26 story building.

I’d even go so fare to compare «Roma – They Might Be Your Memories, But Why Should I Care?» with Cuarón’s «Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban», another great one that is entertaining and fully satisfying; unlike «Roma – Fast Forwarding Through The Second Half». I like to be entertained. And I like what I like.

In conclusion, 
I wished «Roma – I Already Miss The McRaclette» was more like «Y Tu Mamá También»: I’ve never watched it but I heard it’s great.

McRaclette – I’ll see you in another life when we are both fat.

Black Mirror: «Bandersnatch» or why I broke up with Netflix

For a few days I was very hesitant to watch this latest episode of «Black Mirror» where one can choose how the story goes. I don’t want to work for my TV entertainment, I have video-games for that, I reckoned.

But, oh man, did «Black Mirror» prove me wrong! «Bandersnatch» showed once again that «Black Mirror» remains one of the most entertaining, innovative and original series out there, this time turning it all up to 11 and the whole «pick your own adventure» concept on its head.

But «Bandersnatch» did it in such an ingenious and jaw-dropping way that it makes most of the latest Netflix exclusives sorely stay out as the lazy, uninspired, cheap crap that they probably are (IMHO).

So after having finished all available episodes of the great «The Good Place» and «Rick and Morty» (both not Netflix exclusives, mind you) and the admittedly pretty good «The Kominsky Method», the sensible thing to do after being extremely bored out by «Bird Box», «Next Gen», Russel Brand’s latest special, the publicity stunt that was «The Cloverfield Paradox» and, sad to say, even Alex Garland’s «Annihilation», seems to be just leaving Netflix for a while.

(And the cancellation of the Marvel series and the rather disappointing «Star Trek: Discovery» didn’t help either).

That’ll teach them…

Mad Men

Better late than never, I finally got to the end of this beautiful show yesterday and I’m still flabbergasted about just how masterfully the last season was crafted and the series’ top-notch quality overall.

Though «Mad Men» sometimes tended to be on the earnest, almost (almost!) dry and depressing side of things,  I’ve always loved the series thanks to its social relevance, the rich characters and its on-point art direction, cinematography and music.

Where other shows fail, «Mad Men’s» seventh and last season feels fresh, positive and satisfying as hell and, above all, cathartic and extremely enjoyable. For a program that serious and ambitious, that means a lot!

So, for all the fans of inspiring storytelling,  compelling drama, fine humour and perfect characters who have been living under a rock since 2007, check it out and proof me wrong.

Marvel’s Daredevil Season 3

While «Iron Fist» and «Luke Cage» got cancelled some days ago I’d almost forgotten that there still was a very enjoyable Marvel show to premiere that very same week:

«Marvel’s Daredevil» might have been the first attempt of bringing one of the less spectacular superheroes in a smaller scale to Netflix, but with season three the man without fear still remains the best and most solid installation of all the Marvel superhero series on the streaming service by far thanks to struggling and evolving characters and some risk-takingly spectacular cinematic moments of storytelling and montage.

But characters is what «Marvel’s Daredevil» really is all about: The show proves that Superhero stories CAN work on a smaller scale, as an action-infused drama, when done correctly (I’m looking at you «Gotham»).

The core of season three is all about family, legacy and relationships – old and new characters all get their chance to explore different angles of this underlying theme. And it’s a bliss:

Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page gets her own superb isolated episode which sheds light on her past, Wilson Bethel as Benjamin Poindexter («Bullseye») reminded me that a great character doesn’t have to be likeable and Charlie Cox as «Daredevil» proofs once again how satisfying and cathartic a tragic (super-) hero can be. But the real show-stealer (even more so than Jon Bernthal as «The Punisher» in season two) is, of course, Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk.

D’Onofrio’s wonderful, tragic, scary, phenomenal, uncanny performance as the «Kingpin« left me in awe. But even the secondary characters get a chance to shine: Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Father Lanthom (Peter McRobbie), Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie and Jay Ali in the Role of Special Agent Ray Nadeem all get their chance to shine or at least support the impact of the main characters’ arcs.

After having stated my doubts about the quality of Netflix’ latest series in general, the fact that I usually don’t take the time to list the whole cast of an ensemble by name might show that there’s still hope, considering how well this season of «Marvel’s Daredevil» was written, performed and crafted… chapeau! I’ll take some more of that, please.

 

Marvel’s Iron Fist Season 2

After having joined the jolly bandwagon of critics stating that TV-entertainment is the new cinema thanks to longer runtime giving writers much more opportunities to develop their characters, arcs and storylines, I lately keep being disappointed by Netflix’s (and similar) productions.
I find most of the current series either lazy, unfinished, blown-up or, even worse, boring and not worthy of my time.

Over at Amazon Prime Video the situation doesn’t seem to be much better: The series I tried to commit to («Hand of God» and «Startup») where just too earnest, unfunny and bland to keep them in my queue. (I’m even going back to finally finish «Mad Men» just because it’s the lighter, funnier, much better way to spend my hours commuting to work).

Looking back now, I even wonder whether the more recent Golden Age of TV Drama has come and gone much faster than I thought (and hoped) it would. The quality just seems to have gotten lost somewhere between Kevin Spacey’s infamous exit and Joel Kinnaman’s gratouitus abs.

Having said that I must admit that the second season of «Iron Fist» is much more entertaining than the godawful first season. The characters are much more likeable and it’s not as easy as it used to be to fall asleep during an episode (though I managed).

Shame though they threw Davos (Sacha Dhawan) under the bus by turning the best thing of season one into an arrogant, delusional prick without the tragedy or depth he deserved.
And many of the most interesting ideas in this season seem to be either an afterthought without much impact or pure build-up for season 3 .

Sad.

Jessica Jones Season 2

After the disappointing «Defenders» and «Iron Fist», «Jessica Jones» remains one of the stronger Marvel Netflix series thanks to Krysten Ritter who really made the character her own.

I’m all in for female-driven storytelling and I guess it worked just fine. But I’m wondering if the best central conflict the creators could choose for our heroine this season really was the fear of turning into her mother? It’s quite the leap from codependency, rape and trauma in the first season to this.

I’m not sure why a similar thing worked much better and more effective with Tony Stark’s Daddy issues. I guess it has to do with the fact that writing a strong female superhero character is still a relatively new, even unexplored field. (Or maybe it’s just ’cause I’m a bloke).

Let’s give Jessica and the audience some credit and let her do some superhero things, shall we? There must be some middleground to this. And there might be: Though it didn’t really lead anywhere (besides avoiding the issue what might happen when the Hulk and Black Widow would «get it on»), Marvel tried it in «Avengers: Age of Ultron» when Natasha Romanoff had to deal with her inability to bear children. And she did it while saving the world.

If not, I fear that «Defenders» Season 2 will revolve around Jessica Jones’ struggle to buy a pair of new jeans that doesn’t make her look fat while Iron Fist tries to become a social media influencer.

Post Scriptum:

I hate to say that I probably didn’t give enough credit for the fact(?) that Jessica Jones Season 2 might be less about her fear of turning into her mother than about coming to terms with a loved one losing the battle against mental illness…

Mea culpa… oh, look: Isn’t that Thanos over there annihilating half of the universe just cause he’s in love with a chick who happens to be frakking death itself? Men are simple…

Binge-worthy series in October 2017

After Marvel’s disastrous «Iron Fist» I must say Marvel’s latest Netflix series «The Defenders» surely was not the redemption all the disappointed fans had been hoping for. And since I haven’t even bothered to download «Inhumans» I thought I’d try to stay positive and share some of my latest «discoveries» on Netflix:

So let’s start there, «Star Trek: Discovery». Is it any good? I’m not sure yet. I was quite disappointed after the first two episodes: No sympathetic character, too much exposition talk and even more Klingon babble. But I rather enjoyed episode 4. Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca might just salvage this property from sinking. I’ll wait and see…


Now to the really good stuff: «Mindhunter» might be more form than function but I enjoyed the hell out of this crime-drama set in the seventies following two FBI agents in the early days of criminal profiling.

Maybe it’s the theme of serial killers that got to me. Even David Fincher’s (who produced and directed some of the episodes)  «Zodiac» was mostly talking heads and even more shots of people talking on the phone, and I still loved it a lot. It must be Fincher’s style that I just cannot get enough of. «Mindhunter’s» cinematography, sound, music, dialogue and acting are just phenomenal, even though not really that much happens story-wise. 


Then, «The Good Place» got me by surprise. I didn’t know anything about it and I recommend to watch it in the same way. It’s really funny, thought provoking, clever and… really funny.

I might have known that I’d like «The Good Place» because it’s by Michael Schur, the same guy that created «Brooklyn Nine-Nine» another show I just binge-watch the hell out of. Just because it’s funny, clever and, like «The Good Place» damn enjoyable without having the need to get «dark» as so many series nowadays do (which is not a bad thing per se. I love the good ones like «Breaking Bad» or «Mad Men» but it’s nice to see, that a good series can be light AND relevant today.) 


Let’s get over here to some adult animation entertainment (not what you think). I’ve seen Nick Kroll pop up a lot in the last few years in this or that movie and in even more late night talkshows. But the Netflix version of the brilliant Broadway show «Oh, Hello», his collaboration with comedian John Mulaney made me curious about his Netflix show «Big Mouth» . This pretty dark, naughty, but somehow true and heartwarming series where “Teenage friends find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty”  (IMDb) does the trick and entertained me a lot with some let’s say uncomfortable themes. 


Talking about «dark»: It took much too long for me to finally take a gander at «Rick and Morty». Mostly because I couldn’t believe how a show seemingly drawn this crude could be that ingenious and so exactly hit my pleasure center. It’s deep, it’s mean, it’s funny and it’s full of pop-culture and science references. It’s «The Simpsons» and «South Park» on steroids… or on LSD… probably both.

And it’s co-created by Dan Harmon, the creator of «Community», and it shows… so there’s that. 

Punisher (Netflix)

Torturing a non-nerd friend who just happened to have mentioned once that he kinda liked «The Punisher» (Thomas Jane). 

Correction:

Just realized know, that’s the first Netflix Punisher Season. His character was so strong in Daredevil Season 2 that my memory tricked me. (My friend wouldn’t know any better, of course).

Luke Cage

Is it just me or are the Netflix-Marvel series getting slower and slower? I haven’t completely finished «Luke Cage» yet, but after experiencing the rather unmotivated and quite disappointing twist in one of the last episodes, I kind of wish the producers wouldn’t be as comfortable with their current modus operandi as they seemingly are (e.g. slow-paced drama instead of, well, a little bit of something else, too. A tiny little bit more trust in the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, maybe?)

Granted, as a white male living outside of the USA, I’m obviously not in the immediate focus group of «Luke Cage», and I must say, as far as I’m able to judge, they did a pretty solid job not to alienate folks like me completely. But while watching the episodes I always felt reminded of how little a clue I have of what it must be like to live in country still disrupted by racial tensions. (Not unlike watching «The Shield» or «The Wire», where I felt like I just crashed a party where I maybe, definitely didn’t belong.) Even listening to the wonderful soundtrack, I kept myself asking: Am I allowed to enjoy this music or do I not get to like it because I wouldn’t understand it anyway?

I guess it’s more than fair to give a black male his own show, hell, even the skinny dark haired chick got one, but it feels a little bit like… going through a checklist. Maybe not unsimilar to the creation of «Power Man» when he first was conceived in the comics in the midst of the blaxploitation-thingy of the 1970s. (Nothing wrong with that, I hope they’ll do that in the current presidential election.)

And of course, as always the characters and performances are superb (except the character in the above mentioned twist that felt really out of place) and the soundtrack and photography are well above average… But somehow I didn’t really feel that involved this time. It’s more like the next 007 movie: There is one available,… I’ve been waiting for it, so I’ll watch it. But that’s pretty much it, which is somewhat disappointing, as solid as «Luke Cage» as a whole may be.

I guess I’ll wait for the next caucasian, pale sorcerer to win me back. And not to forget: The references to some comics-related visuals alone make «Luke Cage» a must see for all comic book fans.

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