Dumb Watch: Dark on @Netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

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The next time some website says, “This is the best show on Netflix that no one is watching,” I’m going to assume there’s a good reason no one is watching it, and I’m not going to watch it. Last week, I learned that lesson the hard way. Dark (2017) was dumb. It tried to be smart, but failed miserably.

The show centers on a science fiction premise, and I understand that science, law, medicine, etc. always come in a distant second to drama. House M.D. was not medically accurate but still a good show. Armageddon was not good science, but I enjoyed it for the action movie it was. Even shows about the law don’t bug me; I just laugh it off. I’m cool with all that. That said, you shouldn’t throw around catch phrases like “the God particle” without any grounding in what they actually are. The end relies on a trope I see as a great big cheat, but I won’t link to prior posts on the subject. That would be a spoiler for those brave and patient enough to watch this.

A larger issue is that the dialogue is just terrible. I understand that something may be lost in the translation from German to English, and if that’s all it is, fine. It still sucks. But I don’t think that’s what it is. It seems that every other line is someone asking, “What are you saying?” They don’t even change up the wording, such as, “What are you talking about?” It’s always, “What are you saying?” Over and over and over again. It never seems to stop.

The second dialogue-related issue is that people never answer questions. The first person will say, “What’s going on?” or something like that, and the second person will respond, “I have to leave now.” On multiple occasions, this conversation occurs even though the second person just arrived at the location in order to have the conversation. They’re there for the sole purpose of communicating a message, and then they refuse to do so. Again, this happens over and over again. It’s maddening.

The acting is also, for the most part, intolerable. Yelling at people and long, awkward pauses don’t create drama. They must be justified by drama the script has already created. These writers don’t seem to get that. Regarding the awkward pauses, it was yet another way characters avoided answering questions. A lot of time was devoted to one person staring at the other while getting yelled at to answer the question or tell them what’s going on. This could much more easily be blamed on the translation or the screenwriters, so I’ll give the actors the benefit of the doubt and assume that’s the cause. It still sucks. The 10-year-old who played the deaf girl was adorable, so it’s got that going for it. Not much else.

Where have I seen such makeup before? Oh yeah! A dumb movie from 1989.

But take all that with a grain of salt. It has great scores on Rotten Tomatoes. My only assumption is that you’ve all lost your minds. (Metacritic doesn’t seem to have an entry.) If you do watch it, just make sure to take note of who’s related to whom and how. Try to remember which kids belong to which parents, and, of course, who is who’s sibling.

Really dumb.

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Nostalgic Watch: The Americans @MatthewRhys @HollyTaylor97 @CostaRonin @TheAmericansFX @hulu @RoysRestaurants #TheAmericans

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I’ve been binging The Americans on Hulu (FX Network). I had never seen a single episode before I started but had heard good things. I knew the premise: Soviet spies operating in America at the start of the Reagan administration. When the current young guns talk about their time in the war, they’re talking about Viet Nam, not Desert Storm. When the older crowd is talking about fighting the Nazis, they mean fighting actual Nazis in World War II. I admit that it drags at times, and it relies on the far too frequently used trope of emotional idiots making huge mistakes to create the needed drama. The latter is especially frustrating considering that it unnecessary in a show where the anti-heroes are being chased by the FBI and CIA. However, it’s a good show overall with a solid cast of actors, some of whom are new to me. The first five seasons have 13 episodes each, and the sixth has 10 episodes. They do a good job of demonstrating how most spies are recruited; most aren’t government workers. Each episode is about 45 minutes, but with a Chrome extension that allows me to speed up the episodes to 1.25x speed, I’m blazing through it.

I love period pieces because of the music and current events that they work into the script, some worth remembering, and some worth forgetting, but this one is particularly special to me. It takes place in the Washington, DC area, and the creators did a remarkable amount of research (perhaps because they grew up there as well). They get a lot of small details correct, from long gone television commercials playing in the background to various restaurants. The spies live in in Falls Church, Virginia, and though I didn’t move to Northern Virginia until 2000, I grew up in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland. I know all of the areas portrayed. As a recent graduate of the University of Maryland in the 90s, I started spending my weekends bar hopping in downtown DC and Northern Virginia. Honestly, the night life in Montgomery County was atrocious around that time, so the spots the show visits are where I hung out. I hope they visit the “Exorcist Stairs” before the show ends. I urinated down them when I was a stupid, young adult who had a lot too much to drink. It’s not an uncommon thing to do, though I doubt you’ll find mention of it on many websites.

Early this morning, I watched an episode entitled “A Roy Rogers in Franconia.” For those of you from the western United States that have a special place in your heart for In-n-Out, Roy Rogers is my burger joint that I like more than I should due to nostalgia, but with a menu that went far beyond burgers. When I finally moved to Northern Virginia, it was near Franconia, so I visited that Manchester Lakes Roy Rogers more times than I could possibly count. The last episode I watched before this post went live is called Lotus 1-2-3. I forgot that software existed. It was released when I was in high school but was already losing the war against MS Excel and Borland’s Quattro Pro by the time I was out of college and working as a software engineer.

Watching the show really brings me back to several times in my life, from childhood to recent college graduate to recent law school graduate, even though much of that time occurred long after the period in which The Americans is based.

As always, YMMV.

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Medical Watch: House, M.D. @peacockTV #GoodWatch #HouseMD

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Every now and then, I pick a show that for some reason interests me but I’ve never watched, and I binge watch it. It may be because I’ve seen a bunch of episodes that I liked (e.g. The Office and, well, House M.D.); I’ve seen a bunch of scenes via Facebook that I liked, which sometimes worked out and sometimes didn’t; it stars actors that I love; or I just heard really great things (e.g., Parks and Recreation). The past two weeks, I started watching House M.D.

Overall, I like the show, but this isn’t about making recommendations. I just want to make two quick observations. First, other than the Shield, I can’t think of any shows I watched that had multiple antiheroes working with multiple heroes, all working well together. Second, for a relatively short time, I had to walk with a cane, so I know how to do it. You’d think that wouldn’t be a difficult skill to master, but apparently it is. Let me put it this way: I don’t think I’d ever trust a doctor would used a cane with his right hand if his right leg was the problem (or vice versa). You hold the cane with the hand on the same side as the injury.

I didn’t like the last episode of season 2, which turned out to be a massive dream sequence (it could have been worse), and the trope of a disapproving and interfering boss is annoying (especially when the main character is always right), but so far I’m good with the episodes I had never seen before. I’m on season 3, so I have a long road ahead of me.

I can’t wait to see the episode where it actually is lupus.

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Good Watch: At Close Range @SeanPenn @hbomax @RealKiefer @CrispinGlover #GoodWatch

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Based on a recommendation, I’m finally watched At Close Range (1986). Here’s IMDB’s tagline:

Reunited with his career criminal father, tough teen Brad thinks he’s found his ticket to an exciting life of crime, only to find out he’s wrong.

As much a part of the movie as anyone.

It started with music that stabbed me in the heart, which continued throughout the movie where the music had to be subtle. The cast is phenomenal but young. So was I in 1986, so it brings me back even though I’ve never seen it before.

As for the movie itself, it’s a sad tale about a kid with no discernable future becoming mesmerized by his absentee father, and the wad of hundred dollar bills he generates from his criminal exploits. As one might expect, everything falls to pieces. It’s based on a true story, though I have no idea how far it drifts from reality.

Definitely worth two of my hours.

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Brutal Watch: The Northman @TheNorthmanFilm @bjork @neilhimself #GoodWatch #mythology #folklore #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG

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A few of weeks ago, I saw The Northman. I loved it but understand that it isn’t for everyone. It’s a Norse tale, which means it doesn’t fit the formula for what sells in Peoria.

This character was loosely based on me.

The cast was great, but this post isn’t a review. The movie, like several others before it, got me thinking.

I didn’t study mythology because of my interest in 1st Edition D&D (“1e”); it was the other way around. Mythology (and dinosaurs) got me into 1e in the 1970s. I thought, “Wow! I can tell my own stories within these settings and characters?!” However, whether it’s D&D, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or Bulfinch’s Mythology, western literature tends to sanitize the characters and their stories. The “good-aligned” deities are often presented as noble, loving, and helpful. There are certainly some exceptions — Zeus was an asshole — but the sense of right and wrong have been aligned at least to some extent to what the modern audience thinks as “good.” We really do make the gods in our own image. The Northman reminds us that the “good guy” is not someone you’d want to marry your daughter. Life was brutal and uncaring back then, and being that way yourself was an effective survival strategy.

That said, there’s a reasonableness to garnering lessons from these myths. In a very narrow, personal way, I relate rather strongly to the protagonist’s backstory (appropriately discussed today). I would never handle our similar predicament in the same way, but the character’s backstory loosely parallels my own. If you dig through the primitive details of the specific culture at hand, you can find some universal truths, or at least something to which you can relate (no more than vaguely, I hope). After all, people take from stories whatever message they want to hear. We tend to cut out the brutality from these stories, and thus also ignore how those that wrote them applied them to real life.

So no, you wouldn’t want to invite any of these ancient people to dinner.

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Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

“What’s Old Is New” Watch: Strange New Worlds Series Premiere! @ansonmount @StarTrek @paramountplus @StarTrekOnPPlus #StarTrek #StrangeNewWorlds #Picard #Borg #GoodWatch

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I got up at 5:30 am this morning to see the second season finale of Picard and the series premiere of Strange New Worlds. As to the latter, I haven’t been this excited for a Star Trek series since Next Generation was announced. First, it’s purported to be a return to the episodic format that I prefer (though I hear there will be an larger, overlayed story, which is fine). Second — I never thought I’d say this — Anson Mount’s Captain Pike has overtaken William Shatner’s Captain Kirk as my favorite Captain.

No cheese zone.

This still looks like a large, ensemble cast, so it won’t likely take over as my favorite series, but you never know. It certainly started off great. TOS is back, but without all the cheesy, 60s-era TV technology that the young-uns can’t seem to get past. Also, season2 of Picard ended today, and I was pretty happy with that as well. Here’s a spoiler for the last episode.

Called it!

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Mythic Watch: Moon Knight @moonknight @MarvelStudios #MoonKnight #MCU #GoodWatch

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So, Moon Knight. Today’s the season finale.

As always, I got up early to watch it.

This isn’t a traditional review that implicitly claims that a show is good or bad based on some make-believe objective standard. I hate that pretentious nonsense. Whether or not you like a movie, song, TV show, or food is purely subjective. Instead, my approach to reviews is to explain why I like what I like and hate what I hate. If what makes me like/hate it applies to you, then maybe you’ll like/hate it too. I say, “maybe,” because there are other factors beyond what I can possibly express, but at least you have a better chance of predicting your reaction.

So, here is the context to understand the place from which my feelings arise:

  1. I grew up reading about dinosaurs and mythology, so anything involving either one of them has an advantage in gaining me as an audience, but are still not all winners.
  2. I’m not a fan of the comic book genre. However, when I was in elementary school, I’d sometimes hang out with my cousin. When it was too hot or cold to play outside, we’d read his comics. I remember them oddly well, but there were very few that grabbed me.
  3. I’m an apologist for comic book movies.

So, what do I think of Moon Knight? I love it. Considering the context given above, I don’t think I need to say much beyond that, as the explanation has already been given. However, I don’t want any of you asking for your money back, so here’s a little more. As with Shang-Chi before it, Moon Knight is opening the door to folklore, legends, and myths of a culture rarely addressed in western media. I’m sure most (non-bot) readers of this blog get that, but for our society as a whole, these other cultures are untapped resources. Disney is just scratching the surface with Egyptian and Chinese cultures. Give me Quetzalcoatl! Give me Shango! Give me Raijin! But please keep Chris Hemsworth as Thor. 😊

I suspect the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder is going to have me lose my shit for the same reason.

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Good Watch: Four Masterpieces @JamesGunn @VancityReynolds #movie #cinema

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James Gunn was (as of the writing of this post) the latest in a long line of people tweeting the following meme (image at the bottom in case the tweet is deleted).

Well, it’s been a pathetic week (or so) of posts from me, so I’m doubling down on stupid with an obnoxious response.

I really do like Green Lantern.

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In case the tweet is deleted, here’s a screen shot of it.

Malpractice Watch: Boston Legal @WilliamShatner @itsJulieBowen @monicapotter @lakebell @ConstanceZimmer @MerEaton @SaffronBurrows_ #GoodWatch #BostonLegal #TV #media #movie #law #science

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Over a week ago — I’m waaaaay ahead of schedule on writing my posts — I finished a massive and tedious binging of Boston Legal. I had never seen the show before, but considering my love of so many of those actors, and the occasional scene hitting my social media streams, that’s surprising, but I’ve remedied it.

To start, I’ll say that I’m most certainly not one of those people that complains how badly movies and TV shows get things wrong. I have a physics degree. I’ve worked in software engineering for almost a decade. I have a law degree, and have worked as an attorney for more than twice that time. Some of you have medical degrees. Many of us have practical, professional experience that makes us experts in our respective fields. Every single expertise seems downright ridiculed by entertainment media, and sometimes experts get uptight about that. I don’t. I get it. Most people are not experts in any given area, so most people don’t notice the ridiculousness in any given show. That means that, even if what’s presented is utterly ridiculous, most viewers won’t know or won’t care. Moreover, experts in one area will be annoyed by only those shows getting their expertise wrong, meaning that they’ll usually wind up in the category of not knowing or caring. It’s about playing the odds, and the odds are stacked in favor of drama over reality. That makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with it.

But c’mon! Sneaking firearms into court and firing them off, and not getting disbarred and thrown in jail!? Are non-attorneys not annoyed by that?! Really?! There were just so many insane things that happened that would land these “lawyers” in jail long before the state bars could disbar them, though that would happen eventually.

But okay, okay! It’s fine. It was a fun show. The political pontificating was annoying at times, but it helped me relive the emotion of those days which are over a decade behind us. It genuinely triggered my nostalgia. Having my favorite actor, William Shatner, as one of the main characters certainly helped.

William Shatner!

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Classic Movies: Movies That Scar(r)ed Me as a Kid @bernieh #movie #ClassicMovie #GoodWatch

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A couple of days ago, I pointed out two, unassuming songs that filled me with dread for some unknown reason. Today, I’m going to try to remember the movies for which the trauma they caused to me endured the longest.

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

This is the earliest movie I remember generating a long-lived fear. We saw it in the theater upon its release. For the life of me, I don’t remember a single frame from this movie. I could watch it in its entirety on YouTube, but I doubt it’s worth two hours of my time. I still haven’t watched Archive 81 or the final season of Ozark. I have higher priorities. Here’s the entire movie.

I feel like I just challenged myself to watch it.

The Fly (1958)

This was the one movie that traumatized me the most and for the longest period of time. I was fine throughout the entire movie, but this final scene is what wreaked havoc on my elementary school psyche.

I became a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum because of the 1986 remake.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

This movie is perhaps not as bad, but it road on the coattails of The Fly. This scene was the kicker.

I’ve had an irrational hatred for bugs ever since. All of them. Not just spiders.

Alligator (1980)

Do you know how you handle a monster like this? Shoot it in the head. Problem solved. But nope, “once it escaped, there was no way to stop it.” This has to be the dumbest one on this list, but I was 13. I sincerely thought that there was no way to stop it. I remember trying to calm my nerves and fall asleep after watching it, but I heard breathing from under my bed. (There was nothing under there but dirty laundry.) Here’s the trailer. Try not to laugh at it or me.

On second thought, laughter seems appropriate for both.

Exorcist III (1990)

At this point, I was too old to be afraid of movies, but I’ll be damned if this scene didn’t freak me out. Go to 0:40.

Seriously, the only scene that made me uncomfortable was an elderly lady crawling atop the roof unnoticed. I guess that it’s because I’ll never feel safe knowing that elderly ladies are capable of kicking my ass.

I also remember seeing a TV documentary on astronauts and suddenly being afraid that gravity would stop working. I didn’t want to float off into space. And while the Alien franchise didn’t particularly scare me even as a 9 year old watching it for the first time at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC, one of my few recurring dreams are nightmares of the Xenomorphs chasing me. Some things just stick with you.

Alien Loves Predator #14: Speed Dating
C/O Bernie Hou

I wish I know what made each of these movies scary for me. At some point before I was 9 years old — I remember I was still living in Silver Spring, MD — being the rational intellectual I always was, I realized my fear was irrational. I said to myself, “Even if such a creature exists, how would it know to come to my house to kill me only after I saw a movie about it? Why didn’t it show up last week? In the case of a phenomenon, why would it not manifest until I was made aware of its existence? That makes no sense. So, be afraid. Eventually you’ll fall asleep, and when morning arrives, you’ll wake up alive and well, showing you how stupid it is to be afraid of such things.” I was between 5 and 9 years old when I thought about this, and it kept me from being afraid of the dark for most of my childhood. But these movies still rattled me. There’s got to be a pattern, and it’s clearly not as simple as bugs (or even animals generally). It probably involves immediate circumstances of the time lost to my memory.

But it’s okay. Unlike the songs, these movies no longer have any effect on me. In fact, I find them (and all horror movies) silly considering the relatively primitive movie-making technology they use (not to mention the premise and execution of horror movies generally), but there you go. That’s what made me uncomfortable.

Again, I should see a shrink. if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity.

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