Sacred Games & Mr Sunshine – The Review (preview) (with age conundrum)

Either because the censorship goons block things or because Netflix severely restricts content by region I don’t have access to most of my queue out here.  As a result I’ve watched a lot of random stuff lately.

If I get around to it (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll review all of Sacred Games and the first few episodes of Mr Sunshine.

In the meantime, help me, please help me with this huge crisis.

From Mr Sunshine, Lee Byung-hun is how old?  See him below here in his US Marine Corps regalia and snazzy early 20th Century bespoke suits?   How old?

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Wrong.  Dude is 48.

Now here’s Kim Tae-ri.  She’s how old?

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Wrong.  She’s 28.

At first I couldn’t get around the fact that to me, Kim looks like she’s 16.  So it got weird where Lee is involved in this relationship with an underage girl and all.

But she’s not, she’s 28.  But I still think she looks under 20.

Then there’s Lee.  Dude looks like he’s 28 but is in fact 48.

And so:

1) I’m an idiot.

2) There is nothing that makeup or costumes can’t cure to make actors look two decades younger than they really are.  Think science will conquer death?  Wrong, immortality lies in a makeup drawer.  I guess.

3) Should it be considered a little weird that these two folks have two decades age between them in what is at least half a love story’s worth on content?  Maybe.  But this happens all the time in the entertainment industry.  And probably is accurate to the period as well.

4) In real life, the situation would be reversed.  They’d each look two decades older than they really were.  Korea was a complete mess of tears, conquest, unforgiving weather, and brutality during that time.  In many ways, it still is.

5) Is Lee supposed to be 48 in the Series despite his looks?  If so, it makes sense that he’s only just a captain because it shows flashback scenes where he’s fighting as an enlisted man.

6) Is Kim supposed to be 28 in the Series despite her looks?  If so, it makes sense as she’s essentially referred to as an old maid for not being married yet many times in the Series.

7) In conclusion, I”m still and idiot.  See you soon.

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Godless – this was good

Netflix has rolled the dice on an awful lot of content.  They’ve placed their faith in a business model where they generate their own stuff and not show other people’s stuff.  In short, they want to be HBO, not a distributor like Blockbuster [cue scene of creepy cemetery with Blockbuster jingle playing in background].

The problem is as they’ve transitioned to this model they’ve ended up producing or contracting a large amount of garbage.  In other words, Netflix is no longer infallible and falls into the same trap as other content creators.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they’d don’t.

If you’re looking for one where Netflix mostly succeeds, you can safely go with Godless.  This was good.  It wasn’t great, but good.  With all the recent Netflix failures I’ve had, I’ll take good, and be happy for the experience.

As Western’s go, this one’s pretty straightforward.  The plot almost doesn’t quite matter.  What you get is incredible acting, set design, costumes, etc.  And you can then check out your brain and enjoy the experience.  The plot isn’t magical, but it works and works well.  You care what happens to these people.  You’re invested in what’s happening on screen.

Where it nearly comes off the rails is in tone, which is why I can’t consider it great.  I could list several examples.  Instead I’ll just list one:

Is this a shocking, horrific Western like Unforgiven?  It certainly starts out that way.  The very first scene is a town massacred with a child hanging from a church.  But, then later in the series they seem to forget about this horror and it becomes some kind of cooky Western where in a battle where thousands of bullets are flying they won’t allow themselves to show one horse shot (because everybody loves horseies) and an important villain comically gets shot out a window into a pile of flames.  Not the biggest of problems, but often in Godless the tone just didn’t make sense.

My biggest two positive takeaways:

1) They take their time.  Did you ever think a modern series would take 15 minutes of screen time just to show how a cowboy tames a wild horse?  I didn’t.  And I loved it.  In a world where studios think the viewer’s attention span is eight seconds this idea is to be supported.

2) Jeff Daniels.  I don’t get why people don’t think Daniels is one of the great actors of our time.  This is a dude who can play an outstanding role as random dude (a), George Washington, a comedy idiot, a Civil War general, and here in Godless an absurdly creepy villain.  Daniels is simply amazing.  Godless is worth it just to see him go at it.

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This was good.

having had some time to think on it

I probably first discovered Bourdain in about 2007.  This was during his time at No Reservations back when I still had cable.  It was well before anybody really knew who he was.  At this point he was just another obscure cable television host.

Sure, those in the food scene knew him and he’d written a relatively famous book.  But most average folks had no idea who he was.  I got immediately hooked on No Reservations and ended up watching most episodes.

It was also at this point that Bourdain began to become a wider part of the food / travel scene and also our wider modern culture.  I remember he gave some interview online and I forwarded it to my brothers.  I think they thought this was weird, and were like, who’s this random guy?

But years after that I remember my brother forwarding me a radio interview he’d done.  Bourdain in a few short years had gone from relative obscurity to being well known across a variety of circles.

I kind of kept in touch with what Bourdain was doing over the years but never really got into Parts Unknown.  Whenever I was at the airport or entirely bored in a hotel, if it was on, I’d watch it.  But I never sought it out.

Part of my issue with Parts Unknown is it had a poor food to travel ratio.  This was also the case with later episodes of No Reservations.  I could be entirely mistaken but it seems as time went on, more and more of each episode was just Tony eating.  Whereas in say 2007 most of the episode was travel focused.

Again I could be wrong, that’s just my impression.  I like food too, but the most compelling parts of No Reservations to me was never the food, but always Bourdain traveling and giving his thoughts on life and the local areas.

Ultimately what drew folks to Bourdain was his ability to to put himself into the shoes of anybody on the planet, understand them, capture that, and then explain it to somebody else not there.

This is not an easy skill to master and employ.  And one that if you spend eight seconds on social media and the news, that most folks don’t even care to learn.  Today’s culture seems to be about conquest, not understanding.

And that was never Bourdain.  And that’s why people like me who are just not into celebrities or modern culture sort of worshiped this guy’s message.

One of the most compelling episodes is where Bourdain spends time with Ted Nugent.  A guy who even his most fervent supporters could not deny is a total lunatic.  Bourdain had his politics too, but he always wore it with a light touch, something other entertainers could learn a lot from.

I forget the line, I’m summarizing, but Bourdain essentially says something like: I don’t have to agree with you, to like you.  If I’m remembering this right, then that line should be tattooed onto everybody’s skull cavity today.

I’ve avoided thus far writing about his death, so I could think on it.  In the end, sadly I believe he’ll be known to many as just another celebrity who killed themselves.  I don’t know why he did it.  Nobody ever will I suppose.  It doesn’t matter though.  Life is sacred, but suicide is all too easy.

My coworkers and I found another coworker at a gas station with a whiskey bottle and a loaded pistol in his lap.  I still get the shakes wondering what if we’d been a half-hour late.  Like most people who’ve been to the darkest of places, once or twice I was probably at very serious risk of suicide.  My family, my friends, my dogs, my coworkers helped me back.  But essentially, suicide is no joke, and it’s everywhere.  Even when somebody seems like they’re okay, you should always be there to help, always be there for somebody, because you never know what’s going on inside somebody’s head.  Nobody can do life alone.

I suppose in the end, all I can say is that there are many, many voices in today’s world.  Most of them are simply not worth listening to.  Anthony Bourdain was a voice to absorb, and to pass on.

We need more people like him.

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Hostiles & Fort Apache – and how to properly capture misery on screen

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Misery seems to be the trend lately with just about anything you can watch on screen.  We’ve written about this a lot lately, including just a few days ago.  It’s everywhere.

Take two movies I watched on my last plane flight.  First off, The Last Jedi.  I remember Star Wars growing up, I loved it.  What fun.  So did we really need a Star Wars movie where Luke was sad, tired, and depressed?  Where Solo is a corpse?  Where all the other main characters are confused, angry, etc, etc?  Forget all the plot controversy, it was just an unhappy movie to watch.

The other airplane flick I caught was Hostiles.  This Western had a reputation as violent and covered with despair.  It was certainly that, the opening scene involves the murder of three children including an infant.

Overall, I didn’t hate Hostiles, I kind of enjoyed it.  But it’s not a great movie.  Why?  Because other than the awfulness, I’m not really sure what the movie was trying to do.  At the end of the movie I was asking myself: “What was the point of all that?”

Instead of running my mouth and complaining about all this malaise and darkness in our entertainment again, I’m instead going to contrast Hostiles with another dark movie in Fort Apache.

Granted, this is unfair.  Hostiles has some top name actors but they’re not legendary.  It’s directed by some random guy.  Fort Apache has two screen legends and probably the guy in the top three of directors all time.  It’s like comparing a rabid panther against a duck in a cage match.  But bear with me, because there are a lot of similarities between these movies.

They’re both traditional Westerns that focus upon the Army, specifically the cavalry.  Both have humanized and sympathetic portrayals of the American Indians.  Each has a substantial number of the main cast die on screen.  And they end with an intent that you reflect upon the misery you’ve just watched.

I’m going to focus on the endings of these movies because otherwise this post would be sixteen pages long.

Hostiles ends with Christian Bale’s character burying Wes Studi in his native land.  Then a stereotypical gang of racists comes up and demands Bale dig up Studi’s corpse.  A gunfight ensues in which everybody dies except Rosamund Pike, Studi’s grandson, and Bale.  Pike and her now adopted son go to Chicago, Bale is going to walk away, but ultimately gets on the train with them as it pulls out.  Roll credits.

Fort Apache ends with Henry Fonda getting most of his regiment wiped out in a foolhardy battle worthy of Custer.  John Wayne actually wants to duel his regimental commander at one point to stop it.  Then Wayne and Miguel Inclan (playing the Apache warlord Cochise) have a poignant conversation about the situation.  Cochise lets Wayne and his remaining soldiers live.  We end with Wayne now the regimental commander and when confronted with the myth of Fonda’s last stand by reporters, Wayne lets the myth live.  As in, Wayne lies.  Roll credits.

So what was the point of Hostiles?  Well, I think what they were going for is at the beginning of the movie Bale hates Studi and only his orders are keeping him from murdering Studi straight up.  Yet by the end of the movie Bale is willing to shoot his own kind to defend Studi’s grave.

Okay, got it.  But the problem is that’s all there is going on.  In the meantime there is the aforementioned on screen murder of three children, three women are raped (off screen), numerous very bloody battles, and the final scene in which pretty much everybody dies horribly.

So if all Hostiles has is Bale simply learns not to hate at least one Indian and his family, then what exactly was the point of all the murder, rape, violence, gore, etc?  Was it to set the scene and mood?  Was it to provide the action and shock that the writers and director seem to think a modern movie demands?  You could have told the story of Hostiles with maybe only one or two people gunned down.

That they didn’t do this means that any character progression in Bale, that he ends up a better person, is simply just lost amidst the gore, the awfulness, the constant death.  It’s why as the viewer I had to actually think about what the point of the movie was afterwards.  Because in the moment all you can feel is the violence shoved right in your face for two hours.

Contrast all of this with Fort Apache.  At it’s heart this movie is a study of Fonda’s character.  It’s about how an otherwise decent, hardworking man can be consumed by arrogance, racism, and narcissism that leads to the unforgivable sin where a military commander loses most of his men in a battle that need not ever have been fought.

It gets even worse with Wayne.  Wayne ends the movie by perpetuating the myth that Fonda’s actions were right, just, and glorious.  Then Wayne takes his regiment and leads them on the attack against the Apache.  All the moments Wayne had where he conversed with Cochise, where he knew Fonda was wrong are blown away by the simple act: Wayne is going to do his duty.

And thus you see the point of Fort Apache is the great wheel that was the Indian wars of the American West.  Everybody gets ground down in what in the end was a series of savage endless wars that lasted decades.  Decent guys in Wayne, Fonda, and Cochise trying to do the right thing, their duty, leads to death where alternatives were still available.  It’s brutal to consider.

Fort Apache accomplishes all of this without a single gory murder, rape, or scene where Wayne and/or Fonda are shown in some kind of vicious traumatic rage, or hatred, or crying or screaming like crazy people, all things in Hostiles repeatedly.  Yeah, this is a movie made in 1948 so of course it’s tamer, but the point remains valid.

I think television and movies are going down two trends.  The idea is that a tale must be an adventure theme park ride or it must shock you.  In both cases, the plot is a side concern.

The Jurassic movie recently came out.  I’m sure that film will make over $1B.  It has a plot that probably makes no sense, but that doesn’t matter.  People see this movie because it’s a theme park ride where dinosaurs eat people.

Where Hostiles could have really taken it’s time with a thick plot full of thought and motives, it instead spends most of its on screen time in the shock category.  And thus, its message gets lost in the darkness.

I don’t need all my entertainment to make me happy.  Dark movies have their important place.  But give me the Fort Apache kind any day.  That’s the way to do it.

our extended review of Netflix’s The Frankenstein Chronicles

Sean Bean dies.  Again.  In a comical, near note-for-note recreation of his death at the end of Game of Thrones Season 1, Bean’s character is falsely accused and publicly executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

But it’s okay, because The Reaper was going to get him anyways.  For in the show Bean also has terminal syphilis.  And so no matter what happened, you knew Bean was going to die.  Again.

And the viewer is made to bathe in the awfulness of non-redemption and malaise.  Again.

It looks great though.  All the setting and clothing and steaming hard cider booze mugs and authentic draft horses look great.  So at least there’s that.

Oh, and in the last 15 minutes Bean’s down-on-his-luck grizzled cop (who is explicitly referenced as Richard Sharpe in all but name at least a half-dozen times) becomes Frankenstein and the last two minutes of the show have organ music playing.  I shit you not.

Do not bother.

We give this comical disaster 2 out of 5 stars.

exlpoding planet recommendation 2

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“Oh, hey there lads.  What’s that?  I gotta die again?  Well, that’s the breaks I suppose.  Long as the gig pays well.”

60 Minutes interviews alien smuggler Erga Uticus

A few weeks ago we wrote morbidly about how formerly respectable news organizations had sacked their own credibility in order to get one guy at any cost.  So apparently it’s now perfectly normal to have an interview with a porn star posted everywhere like it’s real news.  But man, things got even more out of hand afterwards.

Next they drug out the widely known Psilon smuggler, scoundrel, slave labor proprietor, jai-alai extraordinaire, and amateur bridge player Erga Uticus for the backstory of his past interactions with Trump.  If you missed this segment, not to worry, below’s a snippet.  For the complete transcript, just write to us, and please make sure to include your credit card info, because producing publications isn’t cheap:

The Arcturus Project – Erga Uticus Interview Transcript

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

Untitled

60 Minutes: So what you’re saying it is was difficult to work with him?

Erga Uticus: Oh, you have no idea.  I’ve dealt with some weird creatures before.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to fence goods via a Silicoid arms dealer?  But Trump, he was the worst.

60M: You were burdened?

EU: I was burdened.

60M: Do you regret working with him?

EU: Well, that’s difficult to explain.  I mean, I got paid, man did I get fucking paid, but I just don’t know if it was worth the effort.  The guy bleeds you, he makes you scrape every dollar out of him.  Don’t get me wrong, I respect, gotta respect a man who knows how to gut the guy at the other end of the table, but by The Emperor’s blessing it’s just too much work.

60M: What did you think when you heard he was elected our president?

EU: You gotta understand, where I come from the rules are different.  I figured (in my own mindset) he’d liquidate all his enemies overnight.  He’d have a pile of skulls dumped on the White House lawn by morning.  But, then I remembered you all have different rules out here.

60M: I see.

EU: Then I thought he would rig the game to funnel cash to his own business interests at the expense of the little guy.  But then I realized that every businessman already does that anyway, so it was kind of a mute point.

60M: That’s very true.

the strange journey of the worst (but just possibly, eventually, the best) Super Bowl viewing ever

The Giant Octopus and Roger Goodell’s Manservant that is the NFL likes to claim the Super Bowl is the biggest game all year.  This is true if you ignore the World Cup final every four years.  It also ignores various one off potential annual events such as a royal wedding, the alien invasion ultimatum beamed from the surface of the Moon, non-existent presidential impeachment proceedings, a cat barking like a dog online, or competitive cheese grating competitions.

So you’d figure the only place the NFL wouldn’t want you to watch the game is on said surface of the Moon.  Otherwise catching your eyeballs is meant to be easy, so that you watch, and they make more money, right?  Nope.  I remain constantly astounded at how traditional media makes it as difficult as possible to watch their product.  If you want to understand why Netflix is eating the souls of traditional television, I give you this tale.

I am abroad for over one year.  I want to watch the Super Bowl.  After extensive research I determine only one local cable television provider is allowed to broadcast the game in this country.  To demonstrate the absurdity of this, I offer you the comparison that say Verizon would be deemed the only cable company in the US allowed to show the game.

I do not possess said cable company.  So my options are to troll a local bar at 4am, which is too much, even for me, or to watch the game online.  Thankfully, NBC Sports is offering and widely promoting that this Super Bowl is special and is going to be streamed online.  Great, done.  I test the NBC link, it works, I go to bed early.

I awake early morning and am ready to watch.  The link doesn’t work, NBC Sports shows a blank screen.  After much frantic research I get to the fine print of the NBC Sports help page where the answer to: “Why doesn’t your fucking player work like you said it would?”  Is answered by: “Oh, by the way, though we don’t say so clearly up front, if you’re not in the US, the player won’t work, thanks, and go fuck yourself.  Signed, NBC.”

So I guess my recourse is to what?  Go get wasted in a local bar and get into a cage fight with an intoxicated Eagles fan who’s throwing batteries at the likewise intoxicated Pats fan down the bar?  Or, that I should purchase this other one singular cable company just to watch this one game?

Does anybody actually do that, switch cable providers just to watch one game?  Is that what they’re angling for?  Because if not, I don’t quite see the benefit to NBC, or the NFL, or to any Giant Octopus organization gained by denying my eyeballs the opportunity to easily watch the game and thus their advertisements.  If this happened to me, it likely happened to millions of others when you consider the NFL wants north of 100 million worldwide to watch this game.  That’s not a minor rounding error in eyeballs.

I thought, for a brief moment, to just go back to bed.  I did not, because I’m a sucker, and because I really, really wanted to catch this game.  It was important.  For you see, even though folks were calling for a Pats blowout, I anticipated a good game.  Also, while I’m abroad, some kind folks are watching my precious, precious doggies.  They live in Jersey.  They are Eagles fans.

I can’t stand the Eagles.  I love my team.  So do my dogs, they told me so before I left.  But my team is out of it.  So when my doggy host family says to me, gee, are you okay if we put Eagles bandanas on your dogs like we do with our dogs?  I essentially have no choice.  I have to go along with it.  They’re awesome people, so sure, go ahead.

And so my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas (oh god, please help me) on during the Eagles’ underdog win over the Falcons.   And so my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas (oh god, please help me) on during the Eagles’ underdog win over the Vikings.  And after going 2-0 with a backup quarterback?  Well, by that point they’ve got it in their heads that my dogs are the key.

As long as the bandanas are on my dogs, my precious, precious doggies (oh god, please help me) the Eagles’ have an underdog win over the Pats.  So I have to catch the game.  Because I think it’ll be good, and because I’m texting the host family and me Ma during the game.  It’s expected, I have to be a part of the experience because my precious, precious doggies are apparently more important than Jason Peters’ ACL.

So what do I do?  I get the game via radio.  I hang out in my flat for three darkened early morning hours and listen to the game via internet radio like it’s 1937.  During this time, I’m texting me Ma and the host family via WhatsApp.  I get bombarded by incessant pictures of my precious, precious doggies wearing Eagles bandanas.  My oldest is smiling widely in most of these pictures, my youngest is apathetic and asleep.  It’s all good, I miss them.

And I follow along via the radio while they have the live broadcast back home.  They see it, I hear it, and we’re texting within seconds of one another with our wows and surprise at what ends up being one of the great Super Bowls of all time.

I get Kevin Harlan to call the game, and he’s quite good.  Then I get Boomer Esiason as the color and he’s constantly reminding the audience why HE would have called the play differently, thus reminding said audience why Boomer is relegated to a radio vice television existence.  They also have Mike Holmgren to do analysis, which was news to me as I thought Holmgren was either (a) dead or (b) in the toll booth business.

It was my worst Super Bowl ever, loser that I am.  I’m in some dank, lifeless, stale flat alone with cheap beer in the early hours of the morning listening to a game on the radio and texting home and my precious, precious doggies have Eagles bandanas on.  It was one of those: “You’ve wasted your fucking life” moments.

Except that it wasn’t.  Halfway across the world I could connect with family, my host family, and my dogs.  I followed the game with the same level of emotion as if I’d seen it on a screen.  When poor, poor Tommy got strip sacked I screamed out loud with giddy joy.  I was there, and in it.  I’m not an Eagles fan, I hate them, but man did I ever want to see the Pats go down.

And I wonder, years down the road, if the bizarre nature of my viewing experience, and all those wonderful texts, and what a great game it was, will in the end be the greatest Super Bowl I’ll ever live through.

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Oh man, was this ever sweet.  Must have been the bandanas.