From now on when I review movies and shows, I will list IMDb, Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes scores, and then my own score. I’m hoping this will make more sense and make it a little more mainstream. I’m currently compiling movie lists and look forward to using my new rating system.
There’s been some backlash over Netflix, mainly their original programming and what they allow to stream on their service. I find it more user-friendly based on my preferences and needs. I prefer the option of binge watching television shows and seeing older movies. Releasing only one season or a few seasons at a time is cumbersome for shows no longer airing and those with many seasons. I will say Hulu has some original programming I’m interested in watching. So far all I’ve seen is the first episode of Handmaid’s Tale. So far, so very good. I can’t wait to see more. Since I was introduced to Netflix first, I’m giving it some needed love, and my choices are in no particular order.
CAUTION: DON’T TRIP OVER THE SPOILERS ALONG THE WAY!!!
#1: House of Cards
House of Cards (original programming) is a political drama involving Frank and Claire Underwood. It is an adaptation from the book, same name, written by Michael Dobbs. The BBC made a four-part series in 1990. There are five seasons, so far, in the current version. Season one starts with Frank as a Congressman who has high sights of making his name mean even more in Washington D.C. I think we all know politicians can be ruthless and the show doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Some of it may be construed as over the top, but we all have private things we’d like to keep private especially when it involves circumstances where coming back seems impossible and lethal means exactly that. The progression through the seasons continue to focus on the different personas the Underwood’s take including the political stage, as well as their pitfalls and achievement. It is equal part a story about the Underwood’s marriage arrangements and their maneuvering in the political world. Season five ended with more questions to the motives of Claire and how Frank will counteract this in season six. I will say after watching this it gave me more respect for Robin Wright’s acting skills and Kevin Spacey never disappoints. Michael Kelly who plays Doug Stamper is a character I find very intriguing. I’m curious how his character arcs when the show ends. There have been great guest roles. A part of me wants to see what Frank has built collapse at the end of the show, and hope I get to see the next part of his life as the next season is still pending. I’m 99% confident there will be a next season. It’s just plain silly to stop it at such a pivotal moment in quality television making.
Narcos (original programming) is a crime/police drama about the lucrative cocaine industry and those opposed to it. It is created and produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro. There are three seasons and the fourth season is to be released in 2018. I have only seen the first two seasons and one episode of the third. Season one begins with Pablo Escobar and his rise to the top as the drug kingpin in Colombia. Wagner Moura who plays Escobar was highly convincing as the vindictive, egotistical, and family loving billionaire. To give an idea of how he operated, Escobar stapled a cone onto a horse’s head and wings on its back so his daughter could have her very own unicorn. This ended up killing the horse by infection and this real life event is not in the show. He got what we wanted even if it meant death. His cousin, Gustavo Gaviria, was one of the few he trusted. Their relationship was one I enjoyed watching especially when it was tested. The first season involves the interesting relationship between DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, where the latter is not a part of the capture of Escobar as seen later. Season two continues the saga of Escobar’s imprisonment or lack thereof since he planned and built his own prison. He effectively remains hidden due to strict loyalty from his cartel from the police, and only when it crumbles does his life come to an end in the infamous shootout on top of the roofs of Colombia. It leads to the Medellín Cartel to be succeeded by the Cali Cartel. They gained top control of the cocaine manufacturing and distribution before Escobar’s blood turned cold. Season three begins with Peña going undercover in the Cali cartel. I’ve only seen the first episode and it did not disappoint. I suspect there’s going to be moments of surprise and tension as the Cali Cartel operates through bribery versus violence. Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, as head of the Cali Cartel, is both cunning and charming. Season four will set place some of the time in Mexico. I will also say the location manager for the show was recently killed so RIP Carlos Muñoz Portal. No matter how the fourth season ends up, I’m going to like it because it hasn’t lessened its content just because Escobar and Murphy are gone.
#3: Stranger Things
Stranger Things (original programming) is a science fiction drama about a town in Indiana during the 1980’s. It is created and written by twins, Matt and Ross Duffer. There is so far only one season, and the second season is to be released in October 2017. There are plans to have four total seasons. It revolves around a mother, Joyce Byers, and her two sons. Her younger son runs around with a group of children who come across a girl named Eleven. The purpose of her existence is not fully explained, but it is enough to know she has supernatural powers and can use them for good. While Byers and her younger son is reunited in the end of the season, the town has clearly been affected negatively. I’m curious to know more about the portal in season two and hope they delve further into it. Matthew Modine who plays Dr. Martin Brenner works at Hawkins National Laboratory is seen sparsely so far and believe they will go even further in his broken relationship with Eleven in season two.
#4: Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders (BBC) focuses on the Irish gang located in Birmingham, England so it is crime drama. Tommy Shelby, protector and criminal, is the boss of the Peaky Blinders. He lives his life always keeping in mind ways to further advance his bloodline and gang family. It is created by Steven Knight and produced by Caryn Mandabach. The actors and actresses are those you might not recognize and were picked for good reason. You don’t want someone who can’t speak in an Irish and English accent convincingly. Season one focuses on how Tommy’s one decision impacts himself and his family throughout the whole season. I know it is vague, but I’m trying not to spoil it too much. Season two is when the charming Tom Hardy character arrives as Alfie Solomons. It focuses on the horse betting scene and where we get a sense that Tommy loves anything that is profitable. Season three started with a great opening episode and ended with a bang I couldn’t have expected. Get ready for the Russians because they come into various scenes in all their glory. Season four will more than likely be released in 2017.
#5: The Last Kingdom
The Last Kingdom (BBC) is a British historical drama. It is an adaptation from Bernard Cornwall’s book series, The Saxon Stories, and set in late 9th century England. The centerpiece of the first season is Uhtred’s survival that leads to him forming a relationship to King Alfred after he escapes with Brida. It was refreshing to see a female character of her strength, but not losing sight of her femaleness. This relationship between two very different men continues into season two full of tension and respect for each other. You get to see the vulnerable side to Uhtred as one tragedy piles on top of another. These were some of the best scenes of Alexander Dreymon. Season two also involves seeking revenge along the way as Uhtred carries out his allegiance to King Alfred. Be prepared to see battles where blood spills whether Saxon, Dane, or Viking. I’m sure season three will not stray from the dilemma of Uhtred honoring his ancestors and those who raised him. I’m curious what will happen with Beocca and Thyra. Season three will more than likely happen in 2018. There is talk about it being solely original programming, but either way I hope it is released sooner than later.
And there you have it, the five reasons I still keep Netflix at this moment.
Before I moved to Los Angeles, I had removed my bumper stickers from my car. It wasn’t that they were offensive in nature, but when I moved I thought it better not to broadcast myself too much as I drove halfway across the country. The only bumper stickers I have now is a band-aid and a reference to X-Files. The prior sort of goes hand in hand with my view of you can’t have too many band-aids, hand soap, or chap stick. I have one other sticker, Amoeba Records, but I go there more for movies.
Since moving to Los Angeles, I never should’ve gotten rid of my bumper stickers. I’ll always have the pictures as they’re on my computer somewhere under the non original file naming of pictures1, pictures2, pictures3, and so on. I’ve seen a nice variety of bumper stickers and stickers ranging from politics to sexual preference to eating habits to various activists to music bands to those who have no issue letting others know they probably have crude tendencies. I’ve seen stuffed animals hanging from rear mirrors and off hitches. I’ve seen a few cool covers like the one I saw today.
I’ve seen unique license plates and ones where it is obvious why the person would have it printed on his or her license plate. While most of the time I watch the cars and road so I stay in my lane, when traffic is at a standstill or I’m driving insanely slow, I can be a people watcher too. You find interesting things to think about when driving in Los Angeles when the radio isn’t playing anything decent. I think of the time I’m wasting on the road. I could be doing other things. Yet, it gives me a chance to practice patience. It makes me have to relax when I might not otherwise.
When the day brings you unexpected crap to deal with and I’m not talking about work related issues, I tend to shift my brain eventually and focus on positive things in life. I read on someone’s blog, and it isn’t on WordPress over two months ago, that he doesn’t like uplifting quotes and thinks they are more or less stupid. Each to his or her own, but this doesn’t prevent me from posting them. This person is in his early twenties and has some similarities in personality I had at that age. How time changes things, and as I’m approaching my middle age years, yeah my vision has changed literally and figuratively. I don’t see as well and now have bifocals. There’s an edge that isn’t so rigid and thick to my armor. My psyche is able to bend a little more when things don’t go as expected. I’m learning to let go of negative situations sooner and sometimes they don’t bother me at all where they would in the past. It’s all a part of growing up. Maybe, one day I will write something as if I had the mindset of a twenty year old. It would probably be a challenge, but these are the things I think about when things seem to get more complicated the older I get especially when I thought they’d get easier.
This review will contain some spoilers, but I’d venture to say the ones who wanted to see IT have already seen it and the ones who didn’t really don’t care, but for the ones who will wait until it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray this is for you.
THIS WILL CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS BECAUSE I’M DISCUSSING THE MOVIE LIKE NO ONE’S BUSINESS OR PUT IN ANOTHER WAY I’M POPPING ALL THE RED BALLOONS!!!
But not quite yet. I need to get a few observations out relating to the movie and other audience members. First things first. I realize Bill Skarsgård is not Tim Curry, but this did not detract in his performance playing Pennywise. It is incredibly hard to fill someone’s clown shoes especially the likes of Tim Curry. I noticed the shout out to Curry during the scene when Richie Tozier, played by the child actor from Stranger Things, was in that room full of clowns. I stand by my conviction. No one will beat Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown. NO ONE. Did anyone see him as the serial killer on Criminal Minds? Yeah, watch it. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Ryan Gosling as Pennywise though. Food for thought. Second things second. Because I read the book although I don’t remember it word for word because it was so long ago, but I do remember more the TV mini-series, I did some comparisons while watching the movie. Third things third. A handful of teenagers had no idea the story continued after the supposed defeat of Pennywise in the Derry sewer pipes. The groans alone was evidence enough. IT has to come back to terrorize them as adults. It’s only logical. It also reminds me to maybe wait to see the Chapter 2 after opening weekend. I’m not sure I can sit though a movie being so crowded again. Fourth things fourth. I never once jumped or screamed during the movie although I did laugh once or twice, but for all the right reasons. Richie Tozier could have used a nice cleansing of his mouth, but again 1980s were the 1980s. I’m curious what will transpire in the next chapter beyond the obvious.
Information about IT
IT is the story by Stephen King and adapted for the world to see. The story is of a handful of children coming together in a small town in Maine called Derry to fight the disappearance of people especially children. It is a fact that children disappear at a faster rate than any other town in the United States in comparison to Derry, and has been happening since they can remember. The TV miniseries took place in the 1950s where the movie is set in the 1980s, and while I would have much preferred the 1950s, the story had to progress forward as with any adaptation. I’m glad the director, Andy Muschetti, decided to give the characters back their original names after Cary Fukunaga left due to creative differences. I’m sure I could have figured out who the child was compared to the 1990s version, but it would have detracted from the experience. This movie had enough freshness to it where I would rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars because I looked at my watch once and couldn’t forgive one thing in the movie.
IT script was written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman. The characters are Bill Denbrough (played by Jaeden Liberher), Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly Marsh (Sofia Lillis), Richie Tozier (Finn Wolfhand), Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff), and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs). There are the nemeses to the Loser’s Club of Henry Bowers (played by Nicholas Hamilton), Belch Huggins (Jake Sim), Victor Criss (Logan Thompson), and Patrick Hockstetter (Owen Teague). We all know who Pennywise is played by, but if you need another reminder it is Bill Skarsgård. You can also see a glimpse of him in the trailer below if you dare.
There are a few parts I enjoyed in this movie not in the TV version. The first was getting to know the home of Pennywise on a more intimate level. I felt one of the strongest scenes was not so much in the rescue of Beverly after Pennywise had captured her and brought her to his lair. I was more interested in what was around her and above her. It hits home seeing all those toys and bikes and other things children would play with in a tall heap. I enjoyed seeing the connection to the past in regards to the circus beyond the newspaper clippings in the scrapbook as in the TV version as I was able to see him perform as a clown on his makeshift stage in the film. The suspended bodies in the air yet to be eaten had a macabre feeling to it. The gore of what Pennywise was capable of and did was more in your face, literally as the scene in the bathroom with Beverly showed, the blood was everywhere.
The director’s vision of the opening scene was exceptionally executed. It couldn’t have gotten much better when Georgie Denbrough (played by Jackson Robert Scott) loses his arm. It is implied in the TV version he probably loses his arm, but in the movie there is no denying he lost his arm. There is a slim chance he might get away with one arm as he hobbles away, but I knew there was not a chance in Derry Hell he would survive. He eventually gets sucked into the drain, which ended the scene just as well as it began. This brings to me the portrayal of Pennywise. While I prefer Tim Curry’s version because even with the clown paint and costume, there was a slim chance he actually was a friendly clown until he changed his voice and opened his mouth, showing his razor sharp teeth. On the other hand, Bill Skarsgård’s version had the appearance of being really, really off due to his makeup and costume. I’m sorry to say, but when a clown has two messed up two front teeth, semi-coiffed hair, and a clown outfit sporting something similar to an Elizabethan collar, I’m going to say you aren’t right from the start. It also had to do with contacts Skarsgård wore. They were a little scary. Okay, actually quite a bit scary. I’m sure if he was chasing me while cackling in that menacing tone I would be screaming my pretty little head. I thoroughly enjoyed him transforming from the various things the children were afraid of into Pennywise. My favorite was when he was the headless man slowly coming after Ben in the library, turning into Pennywise, and BOOM he is there. The other scene I enjoyed was the garage scene where the children are looking at the Derry’s sewer system from projector and before you know it the clown makes his grand appearance.
What Else I Liked About IT
Despite all the gore and scare, this story does have resonance beyond trying to survive a killing eating clown taking different forms. This movie comments on the need for acceptance when particular children don’t find it whether related to physicality, race, or sex. It’s about how easy it is to overlook children and not listen to them. It’s about how children understand more than sometimes adults give them credit for. It’s about how groups survive better than one person acting alone. It’s about how karma sometimes happens in not so mysterious ways. It’s about reminding us to be cautious despite knowing most of us are safe. It’s about being aware there are things out there to hurt us, but even through the darkest of darks, there is a glimmer of light. And one more thing about this movie, it left me wanting to know who is going to play the adult characters, and hoping it doesn’t end with the non-scary ending as the TV version.
One Thing I Did Not Like About IT
This was the reason I gave it 3.5 stars out of 5. What was with Pennywise’s shaking head? I did not like it. I did not like it. I repeat. I did not like it. Call me intolerant. I couldn’t stand it. I’d much rather have him creepily come out of cabinets or closets. Give me his three rows of CGI teeth. I hope they take this out in Chapter 2. This is all I’m going to say about that because I’m probably in the minority here.
I did like this movie overall and despite me looking at my watch. I wanted to be scared, but I wasn’t and probably because of who I am as a person. I sort of went into it knowing I wouldn’t be scared although there were plenty of teenagers and children who did scream. I’ve said before if any child tells me his/her doll is possessed, I will believe it thanks to the movie Chucky. The same goes for this movie. If any child tells me a clown is trying to kill them, I will believe it. This is trending into supernatural territory and a topic possibly to be discussed later. As I was coming back from getting ice tea today, I saw someone carrying a bunch of red balloons and kid you not they were stacked similar to the ones held by Pennywise. So on that note, this review is officially done and sweet dreams.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is 295 page book reinforcing that certain people follow their pursuits even when they don’t adhere to the standards of family. James McBride, the product of interracial marriage, is the “half White” and “half Black” author of this book who grappled with his identity as a child living in the 1960s. He tells the story of his mother’s plight growing up in the South, Virginia, in a Jewish family, and the hardships of not following Judaism set by her father who was abusive and racist. She was eventually disowned by her father. She moved to Harlem and married James’ father, Dennis McBride, and had more children than you can count on both fingers. Her religion was most important to her as she converted to Christianity, but she fiercely protected and guided her children with firm hands. This book is not only a tribute, but a statement of who James McBride is today. Although his plight growing up in Harlem, New York and Wilmington, Delaware, he had the intelligence to ask the right questions of his multiracial and multicultural roots. It led to him being who is today, realistic of the social world around him, but cognizant of his ancestors’ contributions on both sides.
I’m recommending authors where the book was their first novel. Are there signs pointing to a newly minted author versus one in the middle or end of their career one? Who knows? They are now published authors and that is all that matters (sort of). I will say if you are looking for something where you have to take notes on who is what and what is not, these books are NOT for you. They are predictable in some sense, but yet I wanted to keep reading both.
In a dark, dark wood is written by Ruth Ware and the 354 pages went by fairly quickly once I devoted time to it. Once I got past the setting of England, Nora’s invitation to the hen party, and her eventual acceptance to the party, the wheels started to move faster. The book did an adequate job switching between the past and present, meaning it did not overly focus on one or the other, and served its purpose. The characters had enough depth to them that they felt three-dimensional and by the end of the story it was satisfactorily wrapped up with a few loose strings, but that was intentional (I believe). I consider this an easy read book like Water for Elephants.
Reese Witherspoon is adapting this into a movie and feel it could definitely come alive on the screen although it must be done in the right way. The author faltered with some of her scenes especially near the end. Ware should have extended the last scene of Nora and Clare because that was the reason the story was written in the first place. What transpired prematurely ended between them, and if she dug a little deeper into her creativity well, I believe it could have been stronger. I will say the scariest part for me was the psychological make up of the characters Clare and Flo, which I’m not sure what was intended, compared to what actions any of them took. I will say enough information was given for why certain things happened, and that is why I’m recommending this book.
This Burns My Heart is written by Samuel Park and the 322 pages contains a love story set in South Korea. The story weaves between the 1960s when there was rapid change after Postwar Korea to the more current time of today. It focuses on the role of women, often having to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their husbands and children, and how they navigate in this culture with strict rules. The characters of Soo Ja, her husband Min, and an acquaintance from her youth, Yul, were equally developed to satisfaction.
Soo Ja, the main character, is married to a man who loved her in his own way, and yet that was not enough. She bore a child named Hana. Her story continues and the ridicule she is forced to endure. How do you find your strength when you are married to someone who treats you poorly, where his family treats you even worse, and you are the one ultimately holding everyone together? The interactions and dialogue between Soo Ja and Min were the best parts of this book and the interactions and dialogue with her in-laws came a close second.
I would have preferred Hana to be a little less helpless during some scenes, but now looking back if she had acted in a different way it might have not seemed as realistic. There was too much usage of Hana’s name when Soo Ja spoke to her daughter and detracted away from certain scenes in my opinion. I really enjoyed the ending because there was proper closure to the main characters and most everything came full circle. This book edged out the other one by a few hairs, but again I recommend them both as first novels because let us face it, it takes quite a bit effort and time to write any novel.