Historic Watch: Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan @Netflix #Japan #Samurai

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A new docuseries just dropped on Netflix this past week, and I watched all six, 45-minute (or so) episodes on Saturday. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan discusses the quest for power in 1500s Japan. It’s presented through recreations narrated by historians. As you should expect, those from the 16th century seeking to rule a nation were often cruel and selfish. Some were arguably insane. All of them, however, were master tacticians, and some of their techniques have earned the respect of modern militaries.

I read a thread on Reddit in which several people stated that they didn’t like how the show was presented. For example, when the show cuts away to the historians, “who where paid to speak like stupid 9th graders,” the video goes to black and white for dramatic effect. Another stated he “had to turn it off with all this pandering.” I find all of this criticism to be at best inaccurate and at worst dishonest. Yes, the historians made sure to present the material as dramatically as possible, but they didn’t sound like they were in high school. The black and white shots provided a clear contrast between reenactment and dialogue. It’s a nice effect. Finally, I don’t see how there was any “pandering.” Japanese honor is often romanticized, and this show doesn’t do that at all. It clearly shows how cruel, deceitful, and selfish these leaders were.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience approval sits at 57%. Technically, I’m in the majority, but that’s considered a bad score. But none of the commenters disputed the truth of what was presented, and that’s what matters to me. Unless you’re a true student of history (I’m not), there are a lot of interesting, significant events in history of which you’ll never scratch the surface. This series helps in that regard.

As always, YMMV.

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Current Watch: Future Man @jhutch1992 @ImKeithDavid @futuremanonhulu #FutureMan

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I mentioned this past weekend that I’ve found my next streaming obsession, Resident Alien. However, that show is currently being aired, which means I can’t binge watch it. That leaves me with a hole in my viewing schedule. Well, I suspect many of you have repeatedly seen that same clip in a Hulu commercial where Abe Lincoln says he’s having the worst theater experience in his life, and Jesus thinks he’s an idiot for saying so. Some quick internet sleuthing informed me that the clip is from Future Man, so I decided I’d watch it.

I finished season one over the weekend and am about halfway through season two, which was easy to do because each episode is about 25 minutes (as opposed to 50 minutes). It was okay, but I’m still intrigued by the clip. It’s not getting better, but I’m confident it will because I learned Seth Rogan will eventually show up. (Believe it or not, I like Seth Rogan a lot.) Like Resident Alien, it’s a dramedy with a bit of science fiction. If you’re into video games (I’m not), that’s mildly relevant to the show and may make it a bit more interesting for you. If you’re into the Hunger Games, the lead is someone from that cast, Josh Hutcherson, but the supporting cast is pretty good. In fact, I love Keith David, and he plays an important role in season one. He’s worth the price of admission by himself.

Here’s a review from Looper that coincidentally hit my stream today. Google is watching me!

As always, YMMV.

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My Next Watch: Resident Alien @AlanTudyk @ResidentAlien @SYFY #ResidentAlien #SyFy

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I’ve found my next streaming obsession. I think. The SyFy channel has a new show called Resident Alien. It stars Alan Tudyk as an alien, Harry, living in a small town in Colorado. If, like me, you’re into science fiction and so-called dramedies, this could be for you as well.

But as I’ve said before, you shouldn’t care about someone else’s opinion about a show unless you understand why they hold that opinion. I’m a Star Trek fan (duh!), and one of my favorite aspects of the show is how they examine humans from an outsider’s perspective. Humans are stupid; even the smart ones. Our emotions make us do silly things. Spock and Data are both characters that make interesting observations about how this occurs, but they also show how such a thing can be a strength. Our emotional connection to others is the essence of what makes us “social creatures,” which leads to tribal cooperation and eventually to civilization. Harry, does this very well. If this is up your alley, then this may appeal to your interests.

I wish I had a psychology degree.

One thing that’s different: Harry is definitely a bad guy. Like Vic Mackie from The Shield, he’s an anti-hero, but being largely comedic and clearly involved in a moral growth process, my guess is that the resident alien will come around to the good side. We’ll have to see, because this is a new show, and as of this moment, only four episodes have aired.

As always, YMMV.

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Relevant Watch: The Next Karate Kid @CobraKaiSeries @McSchlossberg @healdrules @jonhurwitz @ralphmacchio @WilliamZabka @MartinKove @Xolo_Mariduena @marymmouser @KarateKidMovie @netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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Cobra Kai inspired me to watch the often-maligned Next Karate Kid, which I recently learned is on Netflix. It wasn’t Highlander 2 bad, but it was bad, and I was happy when the final credits rolled. I just wanted it to be over. The writing was garbage, but you could still tell that Hilary Swank was going to become a good actor. I love when movies connect (perhaps explaining my obsession with the MCU), so despite its weaknesses, it would be great to see her in a future season of Cobra Kai. The primary villain, Michael Cavalieri, could return, as could Michael Ironside (who really sucked in this) and Jim Ishida. Ishida is the one still-living actor that played a monk. Hell, Walter Goggins could return. Walter Goggins! Despite all its flaws, I’d love to see this movie recognized in Cobra Kai.

After all, it’s not as if Karate Kid III deserved any awards, but we all want to see Terry Silver and Mike Barnes, right? As always, YMMV.

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“Screw You!” Watch: Surviving Death @netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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I’ve watched only one and one-half of the six, 50-minute (or so) episodes of this show. That’s enough. This is an important show to watch, but not for the reasons the show advances. It’s important to see how low humans can get. It’s important to see how assholes will take advantage of peoples’ trauma to make a buck, leaning on the trivial point that “we don’t know everything” to justify making up bullshit at which traumatized people will throw their money. Seriously, to hell with anyone who gives these charlatans a voice.

That’s not to say that this couldn’t be a good show. It could be. There are patterns to near-death experiences that are impossible to ignore, but they should be studied from a psychological perspective to know why we perceive what we do.

Screw you! As always, YMMV.

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Apocalyptic Watch: #Spycraft @eoneill @netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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I just finished Spycraft on Netflix. At first, my thoughts were, “Great. Even more ways in which I have no privacy. Maybe I should take more seriously all these spam emails that claim to have me compromised.” It eventually got worse. Much worse. Now I’m thinking, “Oh, so Armageddon is a real thing. I didn’t know that.” Well, then . . .

“So murder and mayhem. Standard procedure.” (1:58)

This was quite horrifying and educational even though I’m apathetic and technically literate (if not a bit behind the curve after all these years of lawyering). The one thing I didn’t like is that they addressed Robert Hanssen without interviewing Eric O’Neill (or even mentioning him). Eric’s a friend and was the center of the operation that caught Hansen. But that means nothing to most of you.

This was far better than the Social Dilemma. I actually learned something with this one. As always, YMMV.

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Classic Movies: Top Secret @valkilmer @CBSAllAccess #TopSecret #movie #CBSAllAccess #ClassicMovie #GoodWatch

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The other day, I was thinking, “I’d really like to see Top Secret again.” This weekend, I watched the latest episode of the Stand, and afterwards went browsing through the movie list on CBS All Access and found — you guessed it — Top Secret.

This category, Classic Watch, is reserved for classic movies like Casablanca and Citizen Kane. Perhaps it was inappropriate to include the Nightmare Before Christmas, but I make no apologies for including this one. This movie is a classic as far as I’m concerned. It’s stupid fun. Some of the gags were dated, in part because younger people won’t get the references (e.g., the exploding Ford Pinto), and in other part because people today are far more sensitive than they were in the 80s. I must admit that the latter makes me snicker a little bit.

As always, YMMV.

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Improved Watch: Disenchantment, Season 3 @disenchantment @netflix #Disenchantment #netflix

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I watched the third season of Disenchantment this weekend via Netflix. The first two seasons were a big meh for me, but I kept going back to the well because I’m such a huge fan of Futurama. Just hearing, for example, the voice of Mom’s oldest son now recast as “Eyeball” makes me laugh a little bit. But this third season was a definite improvement. There were several gags that made me laugh out loud during the first two-thirds of the season.

That said, it wasn’t all good. The writing inexplicably returned to its stale, unfunny self by the last few episodes, relying instead on its cliffhangers to keep us watching. Why? Also, the fate that befell King Zog was supposed to be funny and sympathetic. It was neither. It dragged on way too long and became annoying quickly.

So, was it worth the watch? For the most part, yes, but it’s still having troubles. It’s taking far too long to hit its stride. If it keeps getting better, I’ll keep watching, but if season 4 is a step backwards, it’ll be the last season I watch. If it gets cancelled, I won’t miss it. There’s too much good content out there waiting for me.

As always, YMMV.

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Letdown Watch: Star Trek Discovery, Season 3 @StarTrek @CBSAllAccess #GoodWatch #StarTrek #DISCO

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I love Star Trek: Discovery, but season 3 of DISCO ended with quite a let down. There were two basic premises of the season that really hooked me: A jump to the far future, and the mystery of the “Burn.” The crew probably won’t ever be going back in time, so we’ll always have that. The mystery of the “Burn,” however, was quite disappointing. That’s a lost opportunity to tell a cool story. I did like that they had a good reason to show Doug Jones without all the makeup. 🙂

The one constant complaint I have about all seasons is that the crewmembers are often people that have no business serving on what is (despite the claims to the contrary) a military vessel. This season exacerbated that by, among other things, having characters asking permission to be leaders. Seriously. More than once. That’s not how leadership works, but it’s how non-leader types want to believe it works, and that’s a lot of the fanbase. That’s harder to believe than warp drive and energy beings.

Still, I don’t regret watching the show. It’s Star Trek. I’m always going to watch, but I’m very concerned with the direction of the writing. A shake up behind the curtain is probably needed. DISCO has a lot of haters, and I don’t want this new wave of Star Trek television to fail.

YMMV.

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Emotional Watch: The Midnight Sky. I Liked It, but You Probably Won’t. @midnightskymov @netflix #GoodWatch #MidnightSky

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When I provide my opinion of movies and TV shows, I try to explain why I liked them. That is, I share a personality trait or life experience that likely made me like or dislike it. If you and I share that trait or experience that the movie or show triggered, then you can reasonably rely on my review. Otherwise, my opinion shouldn’t mean anything to you.

For example, imagine you’re a professional food critic. You tell me that there’s this new product from Kraft called, let’s say, Cocktoasten. You tell me that the combination of herbs and spices are phenomenal and like nothing you’ve ever tasted. I should absolutely try it. The problem is that it’s simply a new form of mac and cheese, and I hate cheese. (I know, I know. That’s weird. Try to stay focused on my point.) It doesn’t matter how good the cheese is; it’s cheese, so I hate it. That’s true of any food. It’s all subjective and pretending that your critique is solely objective is dishonest to your audience and probably yourself.

Clearly, the same thing is true of movies and TV shows, though it’s anymore complex analysis. Certain themes draw some of us in that may leave others uninspired. These often override any objective measures of filmmaking (though these measures are still important). After all, I liked Green Lantern. Because movie and TV critics tend to arrogantly think that their opinions are objective truths, I never listen to them.

The Midnight Sky

This movie is getting hammered by the critics, and obliterated by the audience, and I understand why. It’s not good storytelling, bouncing between two stories that meet at the end in the most predictable of ways. Some people make some dumb decisions along the way. Nevertheless, I really liked it. Why? Because it hit a particularly strong chord with me. As predictable as the ending is, sharing this nature of this chord would be a massive spoiler. That demonstrates yet another reason why reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. The things that may turn you off or on may not be sharable.

I can’t expect anyone else to like this movie, but if there’s a lesson in this post, it’s that ultimately you must form your own opinions, which can vary wildly from the masses. Hence, the notion of guilty pleasures. Unfortunately, with all the content out there and limited time to watch, that can be frustrating.

Obviously, YMMV.

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