Tag Archives: Netflix

Is Daredevil A Perfect Show?

Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix has set_daredevil_netflix_640gotten a lot of praise since its release earlier this month. I have actually only seen one article run counter to that trend. Not bad.

Aware of how positive the reception has been, I posted said article on my wall to see what would happen. And I’m glad I did. The ensuing social media melee, while generally cordial, did get me organize a few stray thoughts I’ve had about the show. Things that hadn’t occurred to me, in part, because of the group-think mentality surrounding the show’s reception. Everyone loves it, so it’s probably good. 

And it’s hard to consider Daredevil without looking at its peers. Up to now, the CW has offered the most competitive non-cartoon superhero shows on television. I suppose Agents of SHIELD deserves a nod, but I was so bored with the first season that I never went back.

That’s not the only way to measure a show. Certainly, there are programs like True Detective that stand well above Daredevil in terms of gritty realism, plot execution and character depth. Sherlock does a far better job dramatized crime-solving. I’d even argue that some of DC’s animated properties better explore the moral complexities of vigilantism.

Still, comparing against peers means going apples to apples. CW is a modern superhero television pioneer. Smallville was well-past the syndication point when the Marvel Cinematic Universe started. Arrow and The Flash are successors to that legacy. But at their core, those shows are still about character drama (and non-stop lying to friends for no reason) that moves the plot rather than the reverse.

That’s something I really appreciate about Daredevil; the willingness to skip the BS in order to tell a tighter story with more interesting characters. A part of me wonders, however, if the bar isn’t set too low to have an honest conversation. 

To be sure, there’s definitely a good show here. For example, I really appreciate the show’s take on Wilson Fisk. He’s a fantastic inversion of the sympathetic villain. Fisk plays complicated and morally nuanced when, in truth, he’s just a bad guy that thinks the rules don’t apply to him. He has no empathy for similarly situated people, getting bent out of shape when someone involves his family or steals from him, while extolling about how he wants to do something good. His story is a pretty blatant power grab from a monstrous character. He is uncomplicatedly evil.

Fisk’s actions don’t appear in any way to be intended to better the city. He certainly does things and says they’re going to help, but he and the show never really connect the dots. I’d like to believe that’s because Fisk, like an alcoholic,  rationalizes his actions with excuses that in no way reflect the reality of the situation.

Except for Vanessa. He seems to genuinely care for her; though, it’s hard to say if it’s out of self-interest (wanting to be loved and have a family) or actual caring for her well-being separate of himself.

There were also genuine disappointments. Foggy’s discovery of the Devil’s identity played out in a very by-the-numbers way for me. We’ve seen a version of all parts of the ensuing argument over and over again. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on them, the secret identity trope is so old it’s hard to do the reveal differently, but I expected more. 

Karen Page is a flat character for me. I actually couldn’t remember her name, even heading into the season finale. It started promising, with her saving her own life in her initial episode. That’s a big deal in a superhero show, but somewhere along the way her arc started feeling like a time sink. 

This post is a bit if a false flag; there is no perfect show. Daredevil is probably the strongest showing we’ve seen in live action television since the superhero boom started. There’s certainly room for improvement, but it stands well above its predecessors.

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Superheroes and the Small Screen

With Marvel and Netflix inking a deal to bring “Marvel’s Flawed Heroes of Hell’s Kitchen” to the small screen (Netflix being an internet version of television), there is the potential for even more heroes to follow the same path.

"The Man Without Fear"  [image property of Marvel Comics]

“The Man Without Fear”
[image property of Marvel Comics]

After regaining the rights to Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Blade, fans have been wondering what plans Marvel had for their darker properties. Now we (sort of) have an answer. Starting in 2015, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones will each have their own 13-episode runs on Netflix, culminating in a “The Defenders” mini-series. Depending on how successful this deal ends up being, it could open a lot of doors for other Marvel characters. And maybe even characters from other comic publishers.

For starters, an unrated Punisher series, made in the same vein of the Marvel MAX imprint, would be phenomenal. An unrelenting, bloody, violent, carnage-filled series showcase how truly badass the Punisher is, is exactly what Marvel needs. The same goes for Blade. It needs to be uncensored, violent and bloody. It’s a story about a half human/half vampire that hunts and kills other vampires. But it should definitely not star Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones. I don’t think Wesley Snipes should reprise the role either. We need a fresh perspective for both Blade and The Punisher.

Marc Spector/Moon Knight [image property of Marvel Comics]

Marc Spector/Moon Knight
[image property of Marvel Comics]

From there they could venture into the realm of a character like Moon Knight. He’s essentially Marvel’s version of Batman but with a few differences. He believes he’s the avatar for the Egyptian god of vengeance, so he might be just a tad bit crazy. Where Batman fights crime to avenge the murder of his parents, Moon Knight will kick the crap out of anyone he thinks deserves a butt-kicking because it makes him feel better about all the people he killed as a mercenary. He’s rich and uses gadgets like Batman, but he fights with a different code of ethics, so that could make for some interesting story arcs. After that they could even branch out to Cloak and Dagger, Black Panther, or Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier.

Other comic publishers could take notes from this and bring characters from Hellblazer, The Sandman, B.P.R.D., Preacher, 100 Bullets, Y the Last Man, and so on to life. DC Comics might have some success with this venture, even though they’ve had some recent success with Arrow and possibly even more success with a Flash spin-off, they still had shows for Aquaman and Wonder Woman that never made it past their pilot episodes. This might be the perfect way to set up their Justice League movie. Characters like Aquaman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter might not have what it takes to hold their own on the big screen like Batman (and to a lesser extent, Superman) but they would probably do very well (if written, acted, and directed properly) on the small screen. They shouldn’t be discourage by their previous failures, but be encouraged by the success of Smallville and Arrow.

The big screen has been good for Marvel, and I think the small screen will too. They have been able to dominate the competition quite easily and, from the looks of things, will continue to do so. But in order to stay in the game, the other comic book companies need to step up their game and start trying to make things happen in new outlets. Netflix, HULU Plus, iTunes, Amazon Video…something. The fans want to see their favorite characters brought to life, as long as it’s done well. A season or more of one-hour episodes gives you more time to fully develop a characters story than a few two-hour films would.  A leap to the small screen could be just the way to give them what they want.

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The Office With a Heart

I adore British comedy. From Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to Are you Being Served, the Brits always seem to have something designed to tickle myricky-gervais-david-brent American sensibilities. However with the exception of The Office English comedic television  has seemed as dreary as a November afternoon in jolly London town.

When Ricky Gervais created a vehicle to showcase his brand of awkward comedy he effectively changed the comedy landscape on both sides of the pond. The mockumentery about an inept manager at a failing paper company breathed new life into the workplace sitcom. Gervais followed this with a few terrible movies, a stint hosting the Golden Globes and a fantastic travel miniseries called An Idiot Abroad.

In his Netflix original series Derek, Gervais revisits his roots while stepping beyond them. Derek is shot in the same mockumentery style as the Office. The writer/director/actor plays the title character, a fifty year old caretaker at an end of life nursing facility. The staff and patience make up the remainder of the cast.

Derek seems to be mildly mentally handicapped in a way that is as yet not fully disclosed. He is kind hearted, but often confused by social convention. I expected the outrageous and often over the top Gervais to take jokes about Derek’s disability beyond an acceptable place. Instead of exploiting Derek’s shortcomings for cheap laughs Gervais transcends expectation. He delivers a relatable, and loveable portrait of a high functioning individual.

Some of the funniest moments in the show involve Derek showing YouTube videos to the camera and explaining them as while they are playing. Gervais gives us in these moments what appears to be true laughter and pride coming from a character that is trying to make you laugh with him–not at him. There are how ever plenty of opportunities to laugh at this program. derek_group

The always hilarious Karl Pilkington and David Earl portray Derek’s best friends Dougie and Kev. Both of whom, though younger than him, see Derek as a little brother. They have their fun with him; though, they are quick to prevent others from doing so. Dougie takes many asides with the camera explaining his philosophy of life which is often dark and uproarious. Kev is the resident “horndog” always drunk and always looking for a good time.

Derek is subtle even gentle  in it’s humor, often the big laughs come from trying to imagine similar events happening in your work place. It is quite a bit more dramatic than Extras or The Office. You will alternate between nervous laughter and the brink of tears. All the while truly enjoying a fine comedy. The first 7 episodes of the series are currently available on Netflix instant streaming.

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‘Twin Peaks’: What A Brief, Strange Trip It’s Been

Better twenty-three years late than never. (That’s how the saying goes, right?) It certainly applies to my latest foray into cult television, Twin Peaks. I was a wee tot when the series first aired, but the Internet gods preserved it for me.

On the surface, Twin Peaks is a murder mystery/cop drama set amidst the pines of the Pacific Northwest. Following the death of Laura Palmer, special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes to the aid of local law enforcement. Other notable characters like Audrey Horne, the Log Lady, and Garland Briggs round out the quirky band of townsfolk who help (and sometimes hinder) the investigation. The deeper the law men delve into the secrets of Laura Palmer and her loved ones, the further the show strays from its original format.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 12.01.58 AM

Here we see David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan giving their enthusiastic approval for ‘Twin Peaks’.

Stylistically, Twin Peaks is perhaps the most complex show I’ve seen. Creator and director David Lynch teases viewers with abstract scenes of scarlet drapery and distorted conversations, but he doesn’t fully indulge them until the  end of the series. What he consistently delivers, however, is a combination of parody and pastiche. Overwrought portrayals of love and loss call soap operas to mind, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s jukebox score lends a distinctly retro feel. In turn, these elements find harmony amongst snappy dialogue, shared secrets, and cups of coffee.

What I love most about Twin Peaks–aside from dorky dreamboat Dale Cooper–is its commitment to weirdness. Watching via Netflix, I almost could not believe it had ever aired on network television. The premise of the show is palatable enough; primetime is saturated with dramas that depict similar situations. But the show’s intent can be challenging to navigate.

One could reasonably approach the soapy scenarios with an earnest mindset. Yet, it seems more likely that Twin Peaks is an exercise in the uncanny. Often the characters are caricatures and the subjects are clichés; this only seems obvious when contrasted with scenes that break from convention. (In other words, it takes a giant in a red room to suggest that there is more than meets the eye.) Viewers must possess a fair amount of patience and mental acuity to stick with a show that leaves so much room for interpretation. If one is a fan of the cerebral and the supernatural, however, the journey is well worth it.

 

Note: Both seasons of Twin Peaks are available on Netflix streaming.

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Geek Week Round-up

Usually I fill this space with a complaint or observation about something that I have been watching or reading over the past week.  Well two things have gotten in the way of that: First, what I am watching this week is just not that geeky, and what I am reading I have not digested quite yet.

So how about a round up of things that interested me from various media this week?

I thought you might like that.

 

SingerDays of Future Past is going to be without a doubt the most epic film in the X-men cannon. Blending the casts of the original X-men trilogy and  X-men: First Class should prove big box office bank in 2014. In X-men 3 we got a quick glance at a Sentinel in the Danger room, but this week, director Bryan singer gave us the full monty. Still no word as to whether or not Singer will sew up the plot holes between the films as I mentioned in a previous post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

avatar-1-121109Oscar winner James Cameron announced today that not one, not two, but three sequels to his 2009 smash-hit Avatar are now in the works According to 20th Century Fox, Avatar 2, 3 and 4 will be shot simultaneously, with production kicking off next year, and will be released in December of 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. This should give the writers plenty of time to watch Ferngully again and Ferngully 2.

 

 

 

 

rts programme awards 2 190308The wait is almost over as the BBC announced today that it will announce the next Doctor on Sunday 8/4/13. I somehow doubt it will be anyone I suggested. Read more about the pending announcement in this Modest Wit post. Peter Capaldi seems to be the main contender– probably for many great reasons. I am sure it has nothing to do with his cast credit from World War Z.

World War Z

Peter Capaldi…………………………..W.H.O. Doctor

I rest my case.

 

Netflix now offers individual profiles and instant queues for everyone in your household. Which means Netflix can now screw up “because you liked ” for your whole family.  I will no longer have to see a recommendation of The Backyardigans next to a recommendation for Silent Hill Revelation–neither of which I want to see but the mixture is just weird.

 

QueenThe BBC also released today the script written just in case WW3 ever broke out. Meant to be delivered by Queen Elizabeth and dating back to 1983 the speech encourages those survivors of a  direct assault on The British Empire to “move on and rebuild”. A speech written for the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also released. Full text available here

 

 

 

 

Finally a new Thor poster debuted this week. Still my least favorite Avenger, but it is still better than most things coming out this fall.

Thor

 

 

 

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Arrested Development: 7 Years Later

At the point when FOX finally canceled Arrested Development, its ratings were pretty bad. In the Nielson cycle that sealed its fate, the doomedskate comedy lost out to long forgotten quality programs like Skating with Celebrities and Apprentice: Martha Stewart. There has never been a program quite like Arrested Development. It can be difficult explain the show’s multi-camera  mock-umentary style. The jokes are subtle just as often as they are completely overt. Arrested did the heavy lifting for several more successful shows that followed  30 Rock, Community, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have benefited from the game changer that no one watched.

Something interesting happened,  however, when Arrested Development was released on DVD; the infinitely rewatchable series developed a massive following. The new lovers of the show found each other online and created a community that brought relevance back to the dysfunctional Orange County family and their off color antics.

Arrested Development, the last four episodes of which FOX aired back to back on a Friday night in February, launched the careers of several cast members while rejuvenating those of others. So when Netflix agreed to produce 15 new episodes of the series ahead of a feature film due out next year, coordinating the schedules of Michael Cera, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman became pretty difficult.

Getting the nine actors who portray the main characters together in one location was often impossible. This posed quite a problem for writer/series’ creator Mitch Hurwitz. The solution was a combination of creative writing and modern technology. The episodes of the fourth season of this ensemble comedy  are written to focus on just one character. Green screen is utilized to bring some of the other main characters into subplots within them. Some of the actors only shared the screen in one episode yet appear together often throughout the run.

Despite losing seven years, Arrested Development has not lost a step. The unfolding serialized comedic scenarios that run through this entire season howardare just as uproarious as in previous seasons. The inside jokes are supplemented with new ones. Fantastic in this season is the role of actor/director/narrator Ron Howard. Though serving as narrator since the show began, Howard appears in several episodes and plays a hilarious parody of himself. Howard pokes fun at  his acting past, baldness and early projects (Fantastic Four anyone?)

The show has a good time with itself and its unsuccessful past. It’s a great way to blow 7.5 hours. Or 15 if you have already watched it twice… Like I have.

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2,000 minus 500 plus 1 (Taste the Happy)

mayday1911

Happy May Day everyone! A sort of holiday celebrated on college campuses the way most things are celebrated on college campuses-with binge drinking. Think of it as New Year’s Day but in the spring. Netflix is celebrating by removing over 2,000 titles from its ever shrinking movie rolls. Classic titles like Cleopatra and less classic ones like Barb Wire will already be gone by the time you log in today. You can check out the whole list here.

In a statement for the online magazine Mashable, Netflix communication director Joris Evers explained:

“Netflix is a dynamic service, we constantly update the TV shows and movies that  are available to our members. We will add more than 500 titles May 1, but we  also have titles expiring, this ebb and flow happens all the time. We are selective about what’s available to watch on Netflix. We often license  TV shows and movies on an exclusive basis, so we can provide a unique  experience. We’ll forego, or choose not renew, titles that aren’t watched  enough. We always use our knowledge about what our members love to watch to  decide what’s available on Netflix. Our goal is to be an expert programmer,  offering a mix that delights our members, rather than trying to be a broad  distributor.”

Though I often complain about what is available to watch instantly on Netflix, I am not that upset over the departure of a portion of their content. It should help to clean out my bloated Instant Queue. At the beginning of each month I search through the recently added section to fill my instant queue with a large selection of things I “may” watch: documentaries I never got to see, feature films I was unwilling to pay for or rent but I would watch for free if beamed directly into my home. The Instant Queue taunts me and shines a light on two things: first, that I believe I will enjoy far more programs than I will, and second, that I would actually have time to view all of these programs without breaking my leg or catching the flu.

On May 24th, Netflix will silence many critics when it launches all 13 episodes of the triumphant return of Arrested Development. The show thatarrested1 broadcast television could not wait to cancel returns after a seven year hiatus. Finally someone was able to SOB and I can taste the happy already! It  seems only fitting that the show that made me believe in television again will help many believe in Netflix once more. So fire up the Cornballer, put on your cut offs and eat a whole thing of candy beans!

 

 

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Shuffle up and Deal: House of Cards

 

 

image property of netflix

image property of netflix

 

When Netflix announced it was nearly doubling its rates by separating its by mail DVD service from the instant streaming,  they claimed the additional revenue would be used for two purposes. The first purpose was to purchase better content (I’m still waiting on that one to come to fruition). The second was to venture into creating original material. Lilyhammer, the first such attempt, was mostly a flop. It was a story about a mobster in witness protection played by Steven Van Zandt. Van Zandt played basically the same character he played on the Sopranos and the six episodes set Netflix, and probably original streaming content, back about two years.

Netflix has become something of a misleading name for the company as almost 60% of its available content and the vast majority of its new content comes from broadcast television. Currently, the provider is producing a return of the ground-breaking situation comedy Arrested Development. Much to the delight of its die-hard fan base, new episodes of the show FOX seemed determined to cancel  will begin airing this spring (though, I guess “airing” is an outdated phrase now). Netflix will make a full season of content available on the first day.

It has done the same with the new drama House of Cards.

image property of Netflix

House of Cards, based on the BBC series of same name, is a political thriller that opens with a new president taking office. It’s obviously fiction, because the new prez is moderate.

The president-elect is expected to nominate Majority Whip Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, for secretary of state… but, he doesn’t. Considering himself  “in the know,” Underwood is shocked to learn he won’t be nominated to the post.

Underwood sets out to destroy the secretary of state nominee by drudging up a less than flattering story written for his college newspaper. The senator then uses a young contact from the press named Zoe Barnes (played by the lackluster Kate Mara) to push the story beyond a single news cycle.  In doing so, Underwood ensures the nominee will be forced to decline the post. This allows Underwood to place someone loyal to him within striking distance of the president.

Underwood is a borderline sociopath who has his hands in everything in Washington. People are simply assets to him in his gradually unfurling quest for the White House.

While glad-handing and schmoozing with everyone he encounters, Spacey’s Underwood tells us his true feelings and ambitions by way of asides with the audience. Underwood uses Barnes, the reporter mentioned above, to exploit the 24-hour news cycle and Twitter-verse to serve his purpose. He makes use of the congressional gridlock and partisanship to shame dissenters.

 

image property of Netflix

image property of Netflix

The dynamic between Underwood and his wife, Claire (played by Robin Wright), is by far the most interesting part of the series. They have an open marriage — provided they are honest with one another. Though, it’s interesting to note that this is one of the few areas that they are actually honest about. She uses his connections on the Hill (do real people ever call it that?) to further the efforts of her nonprofit. When their ambitions are at odds, the sparks really begin to fly.

House of Cards is a murky depiction of our current situation in Washington. Everyone is dirty or waiting for the opportunity to be dirty. The scenery is dark and dreary. In the fictional DC, it is always raining or about to. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the show is aptly titled and far more functional than Netflix’s recommendations algorithm.

Seriously, how do they get that? Just because I enjoyed Ken Burns’ Baseball, they think that I would enjoy Jackass 3? Is there a place where I can input my IQ in order to stop them from suggesting professional wrestling titles? Sorry, I just got a little off topic…

House of Cards is a solid B+. Watch it if you love politics or Kevin Spacey.

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