Category: television

Netflix Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Sometimes it feels like I’m always last to the table when it comes to reviewing different series on streaming. Then again, whenever I actually write the review, I’m surprised to see many people often haven’t even heard about what I’m reviewing. It’s hard to remember sometimes that just because I keep an ear to the ground on new series doesn’t mean everyone does.

That said, The Queen’s Gambit has been all over the place recently, so maybe this is an instance where everyone really has already heard about it. Still, it’s rated TVMA, and that’s often a deal breaker for some, unless there are extenuating circumstances. This is an instance where I would go ahead and recommend Queen’s Gambit to just about anyone mature enough to think a series about a young female chess prodigy sounds remotely interesting. (It has no nudity, but the main thing getting that TVMA rating is extensive drug use (though it’s very much presented in a non-glorified fashion) and a fair peppering of bad language.)

So why should you give a shot to yet another Netflix show? The Queen’s Gambit stood out to me in a number of ways, and I ultimately gave it a 10/10. It’s a rare show that starts strong and maintains that strength from start to finish. But if my recommendation alone isn’t enough (why not?), here are some specifics:

  • It’s about chess. How many other shows do you have on that subject? Better yet, it makes chess look exciting. It helps to know a bit about chess, but you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy it.
  • It’s a limited run. No cliff hanger at the end of the series. Seven episodes depict the story from start to finish. There are a number of shows that I enjoy for the first bit, but then they turn their focus to lengthening the show instead of telling the story they set out to tell. This one doesn’t do that.
  • The acting is very strong. I found the characters engaging and surprising, but not in a gimmicky sort of way. You really grow to understand them and see why they make the decisions they do, even if you might wish from time to time that they’d just wise up.
  • The finale is a really great piece of television. It’s the strongest episode of the series, building on all the pieces that were strewn throughout the earlier episodes into a climax that really packs an emotional punch.
  • It has, at its heart, a very encouraging theme. I found it ultimately uplifting, and I really need more of that now.
  • It’s also a fascinating period piece, with great attention to scene design and costuming. Even in the lulls, it’s just a pleasure to see what’s on the screen.

All told, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen this year. Give it a shot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Top Ten 80s Cartoons

It’s been a long week. I don’t have another current events post in me, so I decided to turn my attention to something far more pressing. I’m speaking, of course, of 80s cartoons. Not the newer stuff from the 90s. Tiny Toons and Animaniacs? They’re not going to appear on this list. I’m talking about my tried and true go-to’s for when I was growing up. Prime “Kid Cartoon” fodder.

I watched my fair share of television in the 80s, and more than my fair share of cartoons. There might be a few on here that I’m missing (because the 80s is a long time ago now, people), but these are the ones that came to mind, so . . . they must be the ones that really matter, right?

Anyway. Enough with the preamble. That’s about as worthless as commercials. Let’s get to the good stuff!

10–The Smurfs: Yes, you can’t get any less cool than the Smurfs. Not really. They’re a bunch of tiny blue creatures running away from a cat. Plus, they showed a real lack of imagination when it came to their naming. Brainy Smurf. Papa Smurf. Smurfette. Everything was Smurfy. That said, it lasted a whole long time, and I watched a whole lot of the show, so in the end, I guess I was a Smurfed as the rest of them.

9–Inspector Gadget: Another of the highlight shows I enjoyed on the younger side of the 80s. A screwy detective who’s somehow part robot, and he fights crimes against the evil Dr. Claw? I mean, what’s not to like here? It was a bit too light hearted for my later bloodthirsty preferences in animation, but for a good long while, I looked forward to seeing the show any time it was on.

8–Garfield and Friends: If this were straight up Garfield, this would be higher ranked. But it had those “Friends.” Sort of like when you ask a cute girl out on a date, and she brings her cousin along that you don’t really like. This isn’t what you wanted out of the evening. That said, the Garfield specials that came on in the evening were always a highlight, so there’s that.

7–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Yes, some people will undoubtably have this higher. I loved the turtles, but not to the point that I was buying their merchandise. I mean, I played a fair bit of the video games, but those came later, didn’t they? Maybe I just couldn’t connect with a bunch of amphibian martial arts specialists the same way I could relate to robots or scantily-clad barbarians. I don’t know. It’s not you, TMNT, it must be me.

6–DuckTales: You can jam this together with the other Disney block of shows. Talespin? Rescue Rangers? Gummy Bears? They were all high caliber viewing experiences. They didn’t quite have the impact on me as the higher shows on this list did, and they sort of blended into the 90s in many ways, so they just don’t stand out to me as the epitome of 80s cartoondom. But they were tons of fun anyway. DuckTales was the best, hands down. Who knew a show about an elderly billionaire duck living with his three nephews could be so captivating?

5–Voltron: I think I would have liked Voltron even more if I had ever been able to watch it all the way through. But I would always miss weeks and episodes, and so it never made complete sense. Plus, there was the vehicle version of Voltron, and the lion version of Voltron, and that really made a kid scratch his head and wonder what was up with that. Not too much, though, because sci-fi lion robots are cool.

4–GI Joe: Yeah, yeah. It should probably be higher, but in my day, you either liked GI Joe, or you liked Transformers. You had to choose. And I was a Transformers fan, through and through. So while I watched the show and had a great time, I never really embraced it. That was for my brother. Plus, who needs the constant PSAs after every episode? Yes, Duke. I know I shouldn’t play with fire. Just let me watch my cartoons in peace!

3–He-Man: The show had it all. Cringer. Castle Greyskull. Orko hiding out in each episode. Skeletor! Lady Teela. (It also had She-Ra, which I deeply resented for reasons that made sense at the time. Probably because I didn’t want girls getting anything cool. What can I say? They had cooties?) I had a load of He-Man merchandise. The Castle Greyskull was particularly awesome. Dungeons! Skulls! What’s not to like?

2–Thundercats: This isn’t a terribly complicated show to understand. There are people that look kind of like cats, and they fight a guy who looks like a mummy. Also, it’s science fiction. With swords! It also had Cheetara, which was a definite point in is favor. (Then again, it also had the twins. I didn’t like the twins at all. They were annoying. Kind of like Snarf.) But in the end, it’s that sword that really set it apart. Who doesn’t want an extending sword that will blast a Thundercats signal into the heavens? (We will not do a Freudian reading of this show today, folks. In fact, we will never do a Freudian reading of it . . . )

1–Transformers: The flat out most awesome cartoon for me back then had to be Transformers. I mean, giant robots that turned into everything from tanks to dinosaurs? What’s not to like about that? I was a huge transformers fan, and I had a ton of the toys. I would happily sit there switching them from robots into airplanes and back. Transformers was epic. (And it’s a shame what Michael Bay did to them. But I won’t go there.) When I think “watching cartoons in the 80s,” the first thing that always springs to mind is this show.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Series Review: Perry Mason

Denisa and I finished the new season of the Perry Mason prequel last night on HBO. I’d been excited for the show. Matthew Rhys (of The Americans fame) is a solid actor, and I wanted to see what they did with the character. I watched a whole ton of the Perry Mason made-for-TV movies that came out in the 80s, though I’ve never seen the original TV show. What would an HBO version of the character be like?

Pretty excellent, it turns out. As a prequel set in the 30s, they went full noir with the material, and that’s a genre I’m already very inclined to like. The season focuses on several main character arcs and one central trial. It shows how Perry went from being an embittered private detective to a slightly-less-but-maybe-more embittered defense attorney. It fleshes out the back story of his supporting cast (Della Street, etc.), diving into some of the racial tensions that would have been present at the time, but not doing it in an overly preachy way. (I prefer it when a show or a film trusts me enough to be able to reach conclusions on my own without being hammered over the head with them, something many historical pieces just can’t seem to hold themselves back from.)

Beyond the main characters, there are some great side arcs as well. There’s Perry’s lawyer mentor, played by John Lithgow in another good round of acting. There is a revivalist-style church that’s swept through Los Angeles, with a vibrant woman at its center. And then there’s the main case: a kidnapping gone wrong, with a dead baby at the middle of it all.

It’s a pretty bleak series,which is very fitting for the noir tone to it all, something that is heightened by the trumpet soundtrack. I mean, all it’s really missing is Bogart giving a voice over, and you’d be set. Perhaps this would be too much for some. I loved it.

Being an HBO show, it (naturally) has to prove how gritty it is with the inclusion of adult material. For the most part, however, it refrains from anything gratuitous, and it keeps the entire thing character-driven. That’s what I enjoyed the most about the series. I found the characters to be complex and riveting, able to surprise me in good ways and not gimmicky twists. While the central case may not leave you guessing all the way up to the final episode, the narrative arc will keep you hooked to the end for sure.

Of course, if what people really wanted was a Perry Mason encore, they might leave disappointed. This feels much more noir than Mason, and while that might be perfect for me, I did wonder if some might object. (It was a nice touch that they threw in the old theme music at the end of the finale, though I didn’t particularly care for the jazzed up version of it.)

All in all, it made for a thoroughly entertaining ten episodes. If you’re in the mood for some noir and you’ve got an HBO account, this is a great season, and I’m looking forward to more in the future. 8/10

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Netflix Series Review: Dark Season 1

Denisa and I finished the first season of another series last night: Dark. The best way I can describe it is “A more adult, German version of Stranger Things.” It has a tremendous learning curve involved in watching it, but if you can get over that, I’ve found it to be one of the best hard science fiction shows I’ve ever watched.

The premise is very timey wimey. In a small German town in the present day, someone has been abducting children. This may or may not have something to do with another series of abductions 33 years ago. Worse yet, bodies begin to be found, but not necessarily the bodies of the children who went missing . . .

I don’t want to say too much about the premise, because a lot of the fun of the series is figuring out the connections and who’s doing what where when and why. Denisa and I had to pause the show multiple times an episode to remind ourselves who the person was we were following at the moment, and why they were doing what they were doing. Under normal circumstances, that would definitely be a problem for a television show, but Dark is that sort of show. It would be like critiquing a crossword puzzle for having clues that were tricky to understand. This show is very much a puzzle, and (better yet) it’s a puzzle that fits together extraordinarily well. (I can’t imagine how much effort went into getting all the pieces hashed out properly ahead of time on the page.)

Obviously this is going to appeal to some people more than others. For me, it was a great way to delve into a show and try to figure out the mysteries. We guessed some of them ahead of time, and some were complete surprises. I’m really looking forward to getting into the second season soon. (There are three seasons total at the moment. I can’t speak for how good the other two are, but the first works well as one frustratingly whole narrative, with a cliffhanger at the end. Because of course.)

What might cause you to not watch the show, if it’s intrigued you so far? It’s TV-MA, but there’s not really a lot of blood, and the profanity is actually much worse in English than in German (I found some of the translations to be odd that way), but even then it’s hardly profanity-laced. There are a couple of steamy scenes, but they’re short and you can see them from a ways off, and you don’t really miss anything by skipping them. (Warning that the most graphic is in the first episode.) That said, this is definitely not an HBO TV-MA.

Anyway. If that sounds intriguing to you, I really encourage you to check it out. I’d give it an 8.5/10. It’s the #56 ranked show on IMDB at the moment, so I’m clearly not alone in my assessment. Let me know what you think!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Television Review: Alone

A few weeks back, I heard good things about a new-to-Netflix show (that originally airs on the History Channel) called Alone. The premise is straightforward: bring 10 people into a remote area of the world, and drop them each off in corner of their own, where they won’t be able to meet up with anyone else. Then, leave. They’re allowed to bring ten items of their choosing with them, along with an emergency medical kit and a satellite phone. (Items can include knives, fire sticks, bow and arrow, a tarp, axes, etc.) No shelter. No food. They stay out and rough it for as long as they can. Each person can give up at any time. Just get the phone and call it a day.

The last person standing at the end wins $500,000.

It’s really a fantastic show, mainly because it does a few things really well. First of all, it picks people who all seem to be supremely qualified for the show. People with extensive experience living outdoors with minimal supplies. I mean, it’s not like they took ten people like me who you’d figure would last all of two days before they’re eaten by a bear. No. These are all really rugged individuals. People who you really don’t know how long they’ll last. Who you think, “Man. They sound like they’ll be able to last for an entire year.”

But they don’t put them just anywhere. In the only season on Netflix, they take them to the arctic in September. Just in time for them to hit some autumn and then get the full blast of winter as it sets in. Food is scarce, and they’re competing with other predators like foxes, bears, and wolves. So you’ve got really competent people competing in a punishing environment.

That makes for some fantastic television, especially with so much money on the line.

As the season progresses, people you think are a surefire lock to go the distance end up making really stupid mistakes. Other people who seem like they’ll fold relatively soon end up surprising you. There’s run in with wildlife and natural dangers. You really don’t know what’s going to happen next, especially since the competitors end up being out long enough that they’re not just fighting nature, they’re fighting their own sanity, as some of them really crack under the strain of being alone for that long.

In any case, it’s a highly watchable show. If you’re squeamish about seeing animals get cut up and eaten, you might want to pass, but other than that, I can’t think of a downside. Check it out, and be glad you’re not quite as quarantined as some people . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: