Netflix/Hulu

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My addiction levels of Netflix and Hulu reach pretty high, but I’m working on not having it dominate my life.  The primary focus will be their original material whether movies or TV shows.  You also might find something you can stream, but aren’t produced by either one interspersed throughout this page.

*******

Quote from Blacklist by Raymond Reddington: “Every cause has more than one effect.

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Creator: Jon Bokenkamp

Directors: Many

Writers: Many

Major Cast: James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington, Megan Boone as Elizabeth “Liz” Keen, Diego Klattenhoff as Donald Ressler, Ryan Eggold as Tom Keen, Harry Lennix as Harold Cooper, Amir Arison as Aram Mojtabai, Mozhan Marnò as Samar Navabi, and Hisham Tawfiq as Dembe Zuma, and Susan Blommaert as Mr. Kaplan

Rating: TV-14

Completed Seasons: 5

Episodes in each Season: 22

Running Time of Each Episode: 43 minutes

*******

When Blacklist came onto the airwaves, I was hooked. Here was a show about the FBI about a newly minted agent to become quite powerful in her own way and the opposition she faced regarding a fugitive. Throughout the five completed seasons and now the sixth already progressing with new faces and cases, the relationship between Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen remains in the forefront.

So who is Raymond Reddington? He used to be a former U.S. Naval Intelligence officer who left his position and absorbed himself in areas of the world one can only dream of visiting world, which landed him a spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. He makes a deal with the FBI where he will help them capture criminals that pose a danger to the country. This fulfills two other goals: getting closer to Elizabeth Keen and eradicating the individuals who risk his lifestyle in some way. In other words, Reddington uses his charming personality to persuade others to get what he wants and if that doesn’t work, he doesn’t think twice with using a deadlier option.

This leads to who is Elizabeth Keen and why Reddington has such a fascination with her. Keen is a FBI profiler who is married to a teacher, Tom Keen. As she gets more involved with Reddington and deeper into the cases he provides for the team, her initial loathing for him decreases. He may actually have a redeeming bone or two in his body. She’s the type of person to keep work and personal separate, but over time this proves to be difficult. People aren’t what they seem that leads to more questions with unsuitable answers. The deeper part of her wants to know who she is and the secrets Red seems willing to keep that way at all costs.

My favorite season so far has been the fourth because of the back story of Mr. Kaplan and further insight into her relationship with Reddington. The last season started slower than usual, but it picked up after the first few episodes. Through all the twists and turns, lives saved and lost, and still not knowing all the details about Reddington, Blacklist still keeps my attention. I’m patiently waiting for the next episode to air tonight because the character of Jennifer played by Fiona Dourif (yes, the daughter of Brad Dourif who is known for the voice of Chucky) hopefully proves to be more of a force for Reddington than the normal course of action usually taken. The other supporting actors and actresses are excellent as well with the characters of Mojtabi and Navabi being two of my favorites.

I rate Blacklist NEAR PERFECT at 96%

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February 10, 2019: Netflix Movie Review: Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Quote from Velvet Buzzsaw by Morf Vandewalt : “Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining.”

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Essence of Jake Gyllenhaal

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Claudette Barius/Netflix

I’m not going to lie I watched this movie originally because of Jake Gyllenhaal. He has become the actor I like to watch whether it be a comedy or drama, light or dark, realistic or surreal. This is the one of the few times I had no solid basis of what this movie was about, other for the fact it had him in it. I had no idea it was a horror movie because let’s be honest, the red lettering could also be spray paint. In the opening scene of Velvet Buzzsaw, the viewer is brought into the life of art dealers, critics, and the artists they love to hate. The snobbish energy drips from the ceiling like invisible paint, and this is ultimately what captured my interest once it began. I entered another world, which I would probably not want to be a part of because as quickly as you are sucked in, even quicker can you be spit out. The question of what constitutes art is an itch that continues throughout the movie whether up and coming artists or established ones who have paid their dues. It took a fair amount of time to show the horror elements, but it only increased my interest to see how it would end.

People Behind the Scenes

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Velvet Buzzsaw is a Netflix and Dease Pictures Inc. production with Dan Gilroy as writer and director. Gilroy was the one also responsible for Nightcrawler where Jake Gyllenhaal played a freelance photojournalist. Jennifer Fox was the producer and Robert Elswit was the cinematographer. The main cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vanderwalt Rene Russo as Rhodora Haza, Zawe Ashton as Josephina, Tom Surridge as Jon Dondon, Toni Collette as Gretchen, Natalia Dyer as Coco, Daveed Diggs as Damrish, and John Malkovich as Piers, Billy Magnussen as Bryson, and Alan Mandell as Vetril Dease. This one hour and 53 minutes long movie is about the fine line between art promotion and profit in terms of consumerism, greed, and artist relevance. It has a R rating for profanity, nudity, and frightening & intense scenes.

Summary of Velvet Buzzsaw

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Here is the basic plot that doesn’t include minor or major spoilers. We start out in Florida, Miami Beach to be particular, where Morf (art critic) and Josephina (art agent) pretty much finishes each other’s sentences and has similar opinions. They have a strong relationship that only strengthens when Josephina travels back to her apartment in Los Angeles.

She stumbles upon a man in the hallway and when she realizes he is dead, she swallows her fears and enters his apartment. Once inside, she realizes the potential to make a name for herself especially with her hardened boss, Rhodora. When she finally attachs a name to the recently deceased, Josephina encourages Rhodora to show and sell Vetril Dease’s paintings. The subject matter isn’t necessarily dark, but they have a haunting quality to them as recognized by everyone who sees them. This includes art curator, Gretchen, and an artist, Piers.

To ensure the demand for Dease’s work, half of the paintings are put in storage at the request of Rhodora. In the cut throat art scene, people’s greed can get the better of them and results in consequences. But, people turn a blind eye like Rhodora and continue on like nothing happened unless your name is Coco. She is the only one who truly knows something is not right, but given her status as a failing assistant, no one listens to her. This doesn’t mean others aren’t doing their own research into Dease. He might not be the first painter to use body fluids in his pieces, but what he uses alarms Morf, and this secret must remain with him.

As Gretchen and Rhodora work to popularize Dease even further, a new artist comes onto the scene called Damrish. As he becomes the new “it guy,” Piers is having a hard time finding inspiration for creating new pieces, and Morf continues to suffer mentally from what he has learned and done. Josephina’s life isn’t faring well either as she is now alone. Gretchen and Rhodora hope to survive this colossal mess on their hands before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Piers finally finds some peace near a beach where he draws designs in the sand that disappear when the tide washes over them.

Watch the Trailer

Art Scene Snobbery

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Claudette Barius/Netflix

As I mentioned before, I enjoyed seeing the snobbery of being an art critic or art gallery owner because this does happen and does exist. It’s a culture that is fascinating because the decisions made are usually behind closed doors. The same goes for music and film. Who decides if a person gets paid thousands of dollars for something versus a few pennies. You can have two people with similar technique, vision, creativity, and skill, but one will hardly make any profit as an artist. This is part Velvet Buzzsaw’s strength because even critics are subjective in their criticism. They can be your worst nightmare or best friend. They can end your careers or push you to new limits. I also liked the part of a particular painting or any object for that matter being inherently bad. It begs the question of how much of the intention by the artist matters once it is finished. Besides people creating art as an emotional and energetic outlet, are there layers not seen by the human eye too? Long after the person has died, what is the full impact of the work?

More Buzzsaw or More Buzzkill?

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I’d recommend this because it’s not only a satirical commentary of the art scene, basically the pretentiousness of its players and artists, but it had an interesting concept. This wasn’t so new for me because I’ve watched one too many shows concerning similar types of phenomenon, but Velvet Buzzsaw was more buzzsaw than buzzkill. I liked it for Jake Gyllenhaal, of course, but for the fact the ending was just that, without any gimmicks. Sometimes things are just what they are, and no matter what you do, life keeps going on with or without you in it. How much you think or obsess about it is totally up to you. Yet, I thought there could’ve been a little more screen time between Damrish and Dease. I think you’ll know what I mean if you watch it.

Pisaries Creator’s Rating

I was so excited to post this that I forgot to rate it. Therefore, I rate Velvet Buzzsaw NEAR PERFECT at 95%.

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February 6, 2019: Netflix TV Recommendation

Quote by Frankie Bergstein from Grace and Frankie: “Your anger is frightening the sand.”

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Creators: Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris

Directors: Many

Writers: Many

Major Cast: Jane Fonda as Grace Hanson, Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein, Sam Waterston as Sol Bergstein, Martin Sheen as Robert Hanson, Brooklyn Decker as Mallory Hanson, Coyote Bergstein as Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael as Brianna Hanson, and Baron Vaughn as Nwabudike Bergstein

Rating: TV-MA

Episodes Per Season: 13

Episode Length: 30 minutes

*******

Jane Fonda is best known for her Hanoi Jane nickname while Lily Tomlin for her fight with David O. Russell on the set of I Heart Huckabees. If you can put this aside and find some forgiveness, Grace and Frankie is a funny show.  Grace and Frankie deals with all kinds of family and personal issues, starting with divorce and homosexuality, and then spreading into other areas of life such as children, aging, relationships, addiction, and death. The relationship between Fonda and Tomlin, characters Grace and Frankie, mirror their ex-husbands who finally admit to themselves they no longer are into women. It’s hard to say who elicits more laughs, but the whole cast is good. Sam Waterston as Sol and Martin Sheen as Robert give credence there is still time to have your dream relationship, of course with some conflict, when you are past 50 but not yet 80. Their children and friends lend additional humor to Robert’s passion for theater, Sol’s dislike for confrontation, Frankie’s desire to make decisions from her heart, and Grace’s need for mental and physical control over everything. My favorite episode has to be the one where Coyote’s birth mom visits him. There are five seasons and the 6th will most than likely air in 2020.

I rate Grace and Frankie PERFECT at 100%

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January 28, 2019: Netflix Mini-Series Recommendation

Quote from Watership Down by General Woundwort: “You will find the outsiders and when you do, we will destroy their warren, and leave no trace of them on this Earth.”

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Directors: Noam Murro, Peter Dodd, Seamus Malone, and Alan Short

Writers: Tim Bidwell (4 episodes) and Richard Adams (1 episode and novel)

Major Cast: James McAvoy as Hazel, Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, John Boyega as Bigwig, Ben Kingsley as General Woundwort, Tom Wilkinson as Threarah, Gemma Arterton as Clover, Olivia Coleman as Strawberry, Mackenzie Crook as Hawkbit, Anne-Marie Duff as Hyzenthlay, Taron Egerton as El-Ahrairah, Freddie Fox as Captain Holly, James Faulkner as Frith, Lee Ingelby as Captain Campion, Miles Jupp as Blackberry, Daniel Kaluuya as Bluebell, Rory Kinnear as Cowslip, Craig Parkinson as Sergeant Sainfoin, Rosamund Pike as Black Rabbit of Inlé, Daniel Rigby as Dandelion,Jason Watkins as Captain Orchis, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Captain Vervain, Gemma Chan as Dewdrop, Lizzie Clarke as Haystack, Rosie Day as Thethutinang, Henry Goodman as Blackavar, Peter Guinness as Silverweed, Charlotte Spencer as Nettle, Peter Capaldi as Kehaar, Murray McArthur as Farmer, and Lorraine Bruce as Farmer’s Wife

Rating: TV-PG

Episodes: 4

Episode Length: 45 minutes

*******

The original movie made in 1978 was recommended to me about 13 years ago. I watched Watership Down, loved it, and have yet to read the book. I know, I know. The original version has more violence and blood compared to the remake so this is more kid friendly. The drawing animation in the original is timeless, and you can’t stop watching the different rabbit warrens vying for control and survival in either one. There was criticism of the unpolished look of the rabbits given the advancements in technology. This doesn’t hold a candle to movies with a bigger budget, but I wasn’t too bothered by it. I will talk about the Rottweiler later. The other criticism was how the rabbits looked more like hares, but some wild rabbits do have longer legs. If you can look past the less than animation and what is construed as erroneous leg length and facial features, this four-part series is for you. Let me give you a little information before I give a short summary of Watership Down. The rabbits are broken into their respective warrens: Sandleford, Cowslip, Efrafa, and Watership Down. When they speak of Lord Frith, this is their sun-god. El-ahrairah is the Prince that was their leader in the beginning. Owsla is a rabbit police force. The word silflay means grazing and Efrafans belong to the Efrafa warren (as you probably deduced). A word of caution, there’s a lot of rabbits in this, and it’s hard to tell them apart at times especially when they dart back and forth.

The story begins with two brother rabbits, Fiver and Hazel. It is Fiver who has visions of the future and Hazel who partly believes in them. They decide to tell their leader, Threarah, anyway who doesn’t believe them. They are forced to take leave from the Sandleford warren with a few rabbits who believe them including Bigwig. Their escape is full of danger and they eventually find a new home when Hazel meets a peculiar rabbit named Cowslip. It is here Fiver has more visions except this time even darker. He realizes man poses danger everywhere, and the rabbits take leave with Strawberry. This leads to newfound respect for Fiver and humble pie for Bigwig. They arrive at Nuthanger Farm where Hazel meets a domestic rabbit named Clover. He makes several attempts to rescue her, but to no avail. This places him in great danger, and it is Clover’s determination along with Fiver’s vision that help him to safety. The remaining Sandleford warren is just that as Captain Holly barely makes it out alive as it’s destroyed by man. He has no choice but to follow Fiver and Hazel to Watership Down.

What is clear to all the rabbits is the dangers of the Efrafa warren, but Hazel doesn’t shy away from it. Being the Chief Rabbit, he sends Bigwig to infiltrate the dangerous warren in order to gain General Woundwort’s trust as well as Hyzenthlay, a female rabbit. They round-up rabbits willing to risk leaving Efrafa, but the Efrafa Owsla is never far away. You’ll start to feel for the rabbits who have been there much too long. The rabbits fear of failture, but they have no choice. It also helps to have Kehaar, the gull, who eats too much when he’s not flying around. Back in the safety of Watership Down, the rabbits reunite with Strawberry, Hawkbit, and Dandelion who is credited for creating the warren’s underground tunnels that are later used to protect the rabbits when General Woundwort returns with his Owsla. Being ever aware of danger, Fiver has another vision and sets off with Hazel to stop the destruction of Watership Down. They run back to Nuthanger Farm because dogs like to chase things. Remember when I spoke of the Rottweiler earlier? It’s too bad General Woundwort was fearless.

After all was said and done, I enjoyed this version because the rabbits had markings they had been around a while.  Wild rabbits experience a lot of harsh elements.  They have tears in their ears and scars on their faces from fighting.  They are different sizes, some small and large although I’d love to know what the Efrafa warren was eating when they weren’t smacking each other around.  There were some differences in appearance of the wild and domestic rabbits.  Some of the scenes jumped back and forth too quickly, but the actors and actresses that lent their voices were great.  Ben Kingsley as General Woundwart and Peter Capaldi as Kehaar were my favorites, and you have to enjoy the brotherly love of Hazel voiced by James McAvoy and Fiver voiced by Nicholas Hoult.  I only had trouble with how the Rottweiler looked.  The last scene of the Rottweiler left me unimpressed.  This was the only time I laughed in the series.  The relationships between male and female rabbits was more prevalent in this version, which broke things up a bit.  I encourage you to watch the original as well and see which one you like better.

I rate Watership Down GREAT at 90%.

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December 17, 2018: Netflix Movie Recommendation

Quote from Dumplin’ by Willowdean Dixon : “No, I’m not the Joan of Arc of fat girls.”

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Producers: Mohamed Alrafi, Jennifer Aniston, Michael Costigan, Kristin Hofmann, Danny Nozell, Kelly Todd, and Christopher Tricarico

Director: Anne Fletcher

Writers: Julie Murphy (novel) and Kristin Hahn (screenplay)

Major Cast: Danielle Macdonald as Willowdeen Dickson, Jennifer Aniston as Rosie Dickson, Odeya Rush as Ellen Dryver, Maddie Baillio as Millie Michalchuk, Bex Taylor-Klaus as Hannah Perez, Luke Benward as Bo Larson, Harold Perrineau as Lee Wayne/Rhea Ranged, Kathy Najimy as Millie’s Mother, Ginger Minj as Candee Disch, Hilliary Begley as Lucy Dickson, Sam Pancake as Dale, Dan Finnerty as Eugene Reed, Molly McNearney as Delia Shepherd, Tian Richards as Marcus, Ryan Dinning as Patrick, and Andrew Fletcher as Tim

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language

Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

*******

This has minor spoilers.

While it isn’t what I normally watch, I’ve been known to stray here and there. This is one of those movies. It’s a coming of age story about Willowdean Dickson, nicknamed “Dumplin” by her mother, Rosie. We find out the daughter is nothing like her mother. Willowdeen doesn’t have Rosie’s looks or interests. She enjoys lounging in pools, having crushes on guys, and singing along to the radio. We are taken into her life, which includes her love of Dolly Parton who reminds her of her aunt, Lucy. While she feels out-of-place, her best friend, Ellen, serves as a rock in her life when her mother is unavailable. Rosie isn’t embarrassed with Willowdeen’s weight as she believes although she is fully embarrassed by her mother’s fascination with pageants that leads to even more distance between them. A combination of events leads to Willowdeen entering the Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant and in a round about kind of way to understand her mother better. There are rules to this pageant, but she doesn’t care because winning isn’t her goal. It is to challenge the beauty standard and convinces a handful of other girls to do the same. Hannah, Millie, Ellen, and Willowdeen attend the pageant orientation much to Rosie’s frustration. They practice and decide what to wear after the committee has no choice but to allow them entry. Nothing happens without some minor setbacks along the way and after accepting their differences, they seek help from one of Lucy’s past friends, Lee Wayne. In the midst of all this, Willowdeen juggles her feelings for Bo. As the pageant approaches, the outsiders make up their own rules to support of each other. The relationships come full circle and no one really is left feeling alienated or cheated out of something they deserved. This is basically a feel good movie. You can pretty much predict how it will end. This is okay because it has enough substance to keep the viewer interested, but would’ve liked to seen more exploration between Lucy and Rosie.

I rate Dumplin’ GREAT at 87%

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December 10 2018: TV Recommendation Watched on Hulu

Quote from Killing Eve by Villanelle: “Letting yourself into my apartment and drinking from a tiny cup doesn’t make you intimidating, by the way.  It’s just rude.”
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Creator: Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Writers: Luke Jennings, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Emerald Fennell, George Kay, Vicky Jones, and Rob Williams

Directors: Damon Thomas, Jon East, Harry Bradbeer, and Lisa Brühlmann 

Cast: Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri, Jodie Comer as Villanelle, Fiona Shaw as Carolyn Martens, Darren Boyd as Frank Haleton, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Elena Felton, Owen McDonnell as Niko Polastri, Sean Delaney as Kenny Stowton, David Haig as Bill Pargrave, and Kim Bodnia as Konstantin Vasiliev

Rating: TV-14 for Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, and Profanity

Episode Number: Eight

Episode Length: 42 minutes

Killing Eve is an BBC America adaptation from Luke Jennings novella series called Codename Villanelle.  This show is about a cat and mouse game played out beautifully between Eve Polastri (Oh) and Villanelle (Comer).  It begins with Eve and her superior, Bill, being recruited by Carolyn Martens to find the assassin going by the name of Villanelle.  As more bodies pile up, Eve and Bill feels the pressure but more desire to get closer to this assassin in order to stop her.  Villanelle seems to be a few paces ahead of Eve whether in a spacious apartment, sprawling grassy fields, or Russian prison grounds.  While things may seem to come a little too easily for Villanelle, it is the way Comer portrays her that makes it believable.  She is the type of character where it is a fool to call her “crazy” or “psycho.”  She is methodical and her tenacity is what drives Eve on her quest to destroy Villanelle.  Oh’s performance as Eve is the other strong point of this show.  Their need to play mind games with each other is the dysfunctional relationship they crave.  The necessary questions are answered by the final episode to bring you back for season 2 (coming out in Spring of 2019), but whether the puddle of blood on the floor will lead to something Eve can’t even predict remains to be seen.

Pisaries Creator rates Killing Eve at 97%

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December 2, 2018: Netflix TV Mini-Series Recommendation

Quote from Godless by Mary Agnes McNue: “Safe is one of those funny words. Sometimes means something different to the person who says it and the person who hears it.”

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Producers: Mick Aniceto, Scott Frank, Jessica Levin, Michael J. Malone, Mimi Munson, Casey Silver, and Steven Soderbergh

Director: Scott Frank

Writer: Scott Frank

Major Cast: Jack O’Connell as Roy Goode, Michelle Dockery as Alice Fletcher, Scoot McNairy as Bill McNue, Merritt Wever as Mary Agnes, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Whitey Winn, Tantoo Cardinal as Iyovi, Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin, Adam David Thompson as Gatz Brown, Samantha Soule as Charlotte Temple, Kayli Carter as Sadie Rose, Keith Jardine as Dyer Howe, Rio Alexander as Bud Ledbetter, Samuel Marty as Truckee, Justin Welborn as Floyd Wilson, Luke Robertson as Bill Chick, Tess Frazier as Callie Dunne, Joe Pingue as Alonzo Bunker, Russell Dennis Lewis as Daryl Devlin, Matthew Dennis Lewis as Donnie Devlin, Travis Hammer as John Doe, Marie Wagenman as Trudy McNue, Kim Coates as Ed Logan, and Duane Howard as Shoshone Brave

Rating: TV-MA

Episodes: 7

Running Time: 60 minutes

Godless is a seven episode western drama mini-series about a town called La Belle, New Mexico during the pioneering days. It is in this town, primarily made up of women due to an earlier mining explosion that wiped out their husbands, where power and revenge is sought. Three major stories play out. The first is Frank Griffin and his gang seeking revenge on Roy Goode. You learn how Roy came into Griffin’s life and his supposed wrongdoing. While Frank’s only mission is to find Roy, more than one person has eyes on Frank. The second is the sheriff of La Belle, Bill McNue. He is dealing with his own personal issues and searching for answers on the road when he should be staying put. His sister, Mary Agnes, has become a pseudo mother for his children when he is away and is a voice of reason for the women of La Belle. The third is Alice Fletcher and her family including her son, Truckee, and mother-in-law, Iyovi. There are two minor stories involving men offering their services to the women of La Belle and the outsiders who have built up a community of their own. The reason for liking Godless besides it being a western was the overall production value. There was enough realistic dialogue to tell the audience what was happening without overly stating the obvious. Some of the cinematography shots, especially of the horse riding, were first rate. The main cast including the supporting cast had a complete naturalness to their acting. I know these are general things to like about a TV show, but watching this was like eating a four course meal where the dessert tasted just as great as the appetizer.

I rate Godless GREAT at 90%

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November 28, 2018: Netflix Recommendation

Quote from Outlaw King by Robert the Bruce: “I’m done with running and I’m sick of hiding.”

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Producers: Gillian Berrie, Richard Brown, Brian Coffey, Rob Kettlewell, Danny McGrath, Claire Moorsom, and Stan Wlodkowski

Director: David Mackenzie

Writers: Bathsheba Doran, David Mackenzie, James MacInnes, David Harrower, and Mark Bomback

Major Cast: Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as James Douglas (Lord of Douglas), Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh, Billy Howle as Edward (Prince of Wales), Tony Curran as Angus MacDonald, Lorne MacFadyen as Nigel Bruce, Alastair Mackenzie as Lord Atholl, James Cosmo as Robert de Brus (6th Lord of Annandale), Callan Mulvey as John III Comyn (Lord of Badenoch), Stephen McMillan as Drew Forfar, Squire Paul Blair as Bishop Lamberton, Stephen Dillane as King Edward I of England,Steven Cree as Christopher Seton, Sam Spruell as Aymer de Valence (2nd Earl of Pembroke), Rebecca Robin as Margaret of France (Queen of England), Stewart Brown as the Ginger, Jamie Maclachlan as Roger De Mowbray, Benny Young as Sir Simon Fraser, and Clive Russell as Lord MacKinnon of Skye

MPAA Rating: R for brutal war violence, some sexuality, language, and brief nudity

Running Time: 2 hours and 1 minute

*******

This has minor spoilers.

Outlaw King starts with Robert the Bruce in 1304. William Wallace has recently been killed by King Edward I, but Robert still pledges allegiance to King Edward in exchange for land promised him. He marries Elizabeth de Burgh, and finds himself at odds with the king after he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain. It is here you realize Robert is respectful of Elizabeth’s new role as wife and is a tender leader and fighter. Two years pass between them and his ambition to revolt against the English is solidified when he becomes the newly crowned King of Scots. This doesn’t make King Edward pleased, and Robert is now considered an outlaw. A series of events forces him to leave Elizabeth and his daughter, Marjorie, from his first marriage. He loses men along the way and finds himself under the thumb of the Prince of Wales. Hoping to bring Robert out of hiding, the prince takes Robert’s wife and daughter from Kildrummy Castle to England. They become prisoners, at the mercy of a hanging cage and religious nuns. Robert continues his quest to free them. When King Edward dies and the prince now known as Edward II replaces him, Robert fights him in a battle at Loudoun Hill. The Scots are outnumbered six to one, but with Robert’s plan he is able to overtake the English soldiers, leading to a duel with Edward II. It is a fight leading to more fights where Robert the Bruce’s place in history is secured as well as his descendants. While this movie was good, I wasn’t at the edge of my seat. It scratched the political surface of Scotland when it should’ve dug the nails in deep. In other words, I wanted more screen time between Robert and Elizabeth. I wanted to see more emotions behind Robert’s actions. I wanted to see the power struggles beyond swords and crowns. Usually by the end of this type of movie, I’m persuaded to learn the craft of sword fighting after I gain 20 pounds of arm muscle (even if it lasts for only a few minutes). This time I was not. This doesn’t make it unworthy to watch, but it’s missing some of the energy one feels when the downtrodden (so to speak) rises to the top. Yet, I still recommend it.

I rate Outlaw King GOOD at 80%.

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November 28, 2018: Netflix TV Review

Quote from The Last Kingdom by Ragnar the Younger: “The kingdom of Wessex will surrender or burn.”

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BBC Two, BBC America, Netflix

Executive Producers: Stephen Butchard, Nigel Marchant, and Gareth Neame

Directors: Peter Hoar, Jon East, Anthony Bryne, Ben Chanan, Nick Murphy, Jamie Donoughue, Richard Senior, Erik Leijonborg, Jan Matthys, and Edward Bazalgette

Writers: Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Butchard, Sophie Petzal, Ben Vanstone

Major Cast: Alexander Dreymon, Ian Hart, David Dawson, Eliza Butterworth, Harry McEntire, Arnas Fedaravicius, Emily Cox, Adrian Bouchet, Millie Brady, Mark Rowley, Jeppe Beck Laursen, James Northcote, Toby Regbo, Tobias Santelmann, Ewan Mithcell, Julia Bache-Wiig, Simon Kunz, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Innes, Cavan Clerkin, Adrian Bower, Peri Baumeister, Thea Sofie Loch Naess, and Magnus Bruun

Rating: TV-MA

Episodes: 10

Running Time: 60 minutes

*******

The Last Kingdom finally returned to Netflix. The fans were waiting a long time for this. Uhtred (played by Alexander Dreymon), son of Uhtred, continues where he left off in season two: fighting lengthy battles while trying to knock the reality of being part of a royal family into the head of Aethelflaed (played by Millie Brady). The third season continues with Uhtred continuing his desire to recapture his birthright despite the precarious line he walks in his allegiance to King Alfred (played by David Dawson) and his brother, Ragnar the Younger (played by Tobias Santlemann). The following will not have any major spoilers, but will mention there were a few surprises I didn’t see coming or maybe more wishing it hadn’t ended that way.

Season three’s opening is different because King Alfred is no longer a young king. He is ripe with knowledge, but for the first time you see his body and mind not in congruence. He now concentrates on his family’s longevity and mainly through his son, Prince Edward (played by Timothy Innes).  It also includes his vision for Wessex to ensure its survival and a place in history.  In the land of the Danes, the story continues with the relationship between Uhtred and Ragnar as well as Uhtred and Brida (played by Emily Cox) where loyalties are tested.  Uhtred’s wife remains a part of life, Gisela (played by Peri Baumeister), and Skade (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess) becomes a thorn in his side he’s trying to remove throughout the season. Patience is a key word when it comes to Skade as she is passed around from Sigurd Bloodhair (played by Ola Rapace), Haesten (played by Jeppe Beck Laursen), and Uhtred.

While some characters got what was coming to them, the precursor to it left me stunned because again, I never thought it would play out that way. The last episode includes a jockeying for power among the royalty including Athelwold (played by Harry McEntire) as well as among the Danes where Haesten probably misses Erik and Sigefried from the previous season. We end with Uhtred having the same goal he began with, and whether he got any closer to it remains to be seen. I’m wondering how the relationship between him and Brida play out in the next season as her commitment to Ragnar is fiercer than ever, and what will happen to Beocca. It wasn’t hard for me to enjoy the show because I like historical fiction. For all the other shows out there dealing with kings and queens, mystical beings, and jealous enemies, The Last Kingdom is also worthy of your time.

I rate The Last Kingdom EXCELLENT at 97%.

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November 20, 2018: Netflix TV Review

Quote from Narcos: Mexico by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo: “Business is changing, and we must change with it.”

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Gaumont International Television/Netflix

Creators: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, and Doug Miro

Directors: Andrés Baiz, Josef Kubota Wladyka, Amat Escalante, and Alonzo Ruizspalacios

Writers: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro, Eric Newman, Scott Teems, Clayton Trussell, Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, Andy Black, and Jessie Nickson-Lopez

Major Cast: Aaron Staton, Alejandro Edda, Alfonso Dosal, Alyssa Diaz, Clark Freeman, Diego Luna, Ernesto Alterio, Fermin Martinez, Fernanda Urrejola, Gerardo Taracena, Gorka Lasaosa Guillermo Villegas, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Jackie Earle Haley, Joaquín Cosío, José María Yazpik, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Lenny Jacobson, Manuel Masalva, Matt Letscher, Michael Peña, Scoot McNairy, Tenoch Huerta, Teresa Ruiz, Tessa Ia, and Yul Vazquez

Rating: TV-MA

Episodes: 10

Running Time: Varies

*******

I wasn’t the only one binge watching Narcos: Mexico last weekend, but I’m one of them who waited to review it so here it goes. This spin-off deals with how the Guadalajara Cartel formed to become a dominant force in drug trafficking during the 1980s. Enter Diego Luna as Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and his sidekicks Tenoch Huerta as Rafael Caro Quintero and Joaquín Cosio as Ernesto ‘Don Neto’ Fonseca Carrillo. The convincing portrayal of Gallardo by Luna is equally done through a glance suggesting “this is the way it’s going to be” or through more vicious means. Huerta and Cosío give worthy portrayals of Quintero and Don Neto.

While the trailer unveils Gallardo and Camarena as the main antagonist and protagonist in this first season, there is definitely more brewing than just this cat and mouse chase although it’s uncertain how close Gallardo was in proximity to Camarena in real life. A nod to Michael Peña who plays the recently transferred DEA agent, Enrique Camarena, known as Kiki. He was a man on a mission and while I missed some of the relationships forged in the previous seasons among the DEA agents, it was fitting he was alone much of the time. Kiki was an open your mouth when it’s absolutely necessary kind of man and his trust was gained with caution. Patience wasn’t one of his strong suits, which was more than necessary since the DEA, Drug Enforcement Administration, was still in its infancy.

This doesn’t mean there wasn’t success as Camarena’s relentless attitude and energy to combat drug trafficking led to a pivotal moment in the season, and one that viewers knew was coming but still find tragic to this day. It mirrors the overall tension between the DEA and Guadalajara Cartel up to the final episode, which serves as a stepping stone for the next season. It points in a new direction for the DEA, meaning bigger guns and rougher looking agents, to make those key players who protected Gallardo pay as well as himself.

I’m hoping there’s expansion of Isabella Bautista as played by Teresa Ruiz. She could become an engaging force Gallardo would underestimate if they deviated from the actual story in the next season. It was nice to see a few characters from past seasons make an appearance in this one. Therefore, I could see a few of the characters in this season included into a minor storyline in the next. That probably won’t happen as the narrator, voiced by Scoot McNairy, signals he’s the next in line to take the drug war to the next level with the focus being on Operation Leyenda. In conclusion, although I preferred the seasons focusing on the Medellín and Cali Cartel, this one shined bright too.

I rate Narcos: Mexico GREAT at 90%.

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November 15: TV Show Recommendation

Nurse Jackie (2009-2015)

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Showtime

Creators: Liz Brixius, Evan Dunsky, and Linda Wallem

Major Cast: Edie Falco, Merritt Weaver, Paul Schulze, Dominic Fumusa, Ruby Jerins, Stephen Wallem, Anna Deavere Smith, Peter Facinelli, Mackenzie Aladjem, Eve Best, Arjun Gupta, Betty Gilpin, and Lenny Jacobsen.
As with many shows, there are many producers, directors, and writers.
Rating: TV-MA
Number of Seasons: 7
Running Time: 60 minutes

Edie Falco is most known for her role in The Sopranos as Carmela Soprano and recently as Leslie Abramson in the Law & Order True Crime mini series covering the Menendez brothers’ trial, but she also shined as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie. This drama/comedy centers around a New York hospital with functional staff trying to keep control over the semi functional staff including Peyton, a nurse with an opiate addiction. She’s the classic work hard, don’t tell type of person. She likes order and routine. She doesn’t like chatty co-workers. She keeps secrets. She minimizes pain. She loves her patients. What makes this show so good is the writing and acting, but the interaction among the cast members is what takes the show to the next level. They couldn’t have put together a better cast selection. Merritt Weaver (Zoey), Stephen Wallem (Thor), and Anna Deavere Smith (Akalitus) are my favorites besides Edie Falco. The relationships between the doctors and nurses is about as real as they come in portrayal (okay, in some respects): the failures, demands, successes, and opportunities. Because Peyton is a highly functioning addict, much of what she views as reality can only be seen through her eyes, but she’s a damn good nurse. She’s also a stubborn nurse with definite wants that she views as needs to keep her going. There’s a good mixture of humor spread throughout each episode, and as the series progresses, you find yourself wondering in what ways her wall will crumble around her because no one can be that lucky.

Pisaries Creator’s Rating

I rate Nurse Jackie GREAT at 100%.

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October 30, 2018: Hulu TV Review

 Bodyguard (2018-)

Quote from Bodyguard by Julia Montague: “That doesn’t require apologizing for the past.”

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Writer: Jed Mercurio

Director: Thomas Vincent and John Strickland

Cast: Richard Madden, Sophie Rundle, Gina McKee, Ash Tandon, Nina Toussaint-White, Stuart Bowman, Richard Riddell, Nicholas Gleaves, Matt Stokoe, Anjii Mohindra, Shubham Saraf, Stephanie Hyam, and Keeley Hawes

Rating: TV-MA for Sex & Nudity, Profanity, and Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking

Episode Number: Six

Episode Length: 60 minutes

I read good things about this show and looked forward to seeing Richard Madden again.  The last thing I had seen him in was Medici: Masters of Florence.  Who knows what to believe about the whole James Bond gossip?  Back to this six episode series where his character, David Budd, is assigned the role of protecting the Home Secretary, Julia Montague.  Yes, he fought in Afghanistan. Yes, he was at odds with his new assignment because of  Montague’s views.  Yes, there were unnecessary sex scenes.  (Sex sells.  Ladies love the romance.  Okay, most ladies).  Sometimes, it advanced the plot forward.  Other times not.  I could have taken it either way.

The first episode hooked me and kept me engaged.  I thought some scenes could’ve been toned down (a touch of overacting), but it led me wanting to know more and why.  I began the second episode, and after that was done, I pretty much decided to binge watch the show in one day.  The tension, both sexual and political, continued between Budd and Montague.  His relationship with his own family gains traction.  He continues to have common issues many go through after fighting a war including flashbacks, drinking, and hiding emotions.  The sixth episode comes to a close with David Budd forced to commit to soul searching.

While this show does highlight the reality of terrorism and terrorists in today’s global world, it’s a tricky subject to tackle.   You don’t want to paint a picture of a certain ethnic group in an unfavorable light, but unfortunately, this does happen at times.  These tragedies repeat itself in many parts of the world and sometimes by the same individuals.  People also can turn on its own neighbors/citizens.  The recent terrorism spreading across the United States last and this week is a prime example.  Because it’s easy to view others as the enemy, it’s also easy to justify deadly means to get a deadly end.  In regards to the show, this model of thinking was present in more than one area. 

Bodyguard is good in the sense of a given a tiny slice of one type of cake to eat.  It allows for complications within and among the politicians and police forces.  It errs on the side of caution when it comes to having a tidy answer by the end (okay, in one story line).  On the flip side, a drawback to this show was the almost band aid like treatment of explaining a few things during the latter half.  There should have been a little more leading up to the answers given.  It’s almost like the creators skipped a letter between X and Z.   We see X happening.  Z was given as a possibility.  Y was the reason given.  There wasn’t enough “ah, that makes complete sense.”  I was left more with “okay, could’ve used a little more detail earlier, but whatever.  I still get it.”  In conclusion this wasn’t the greatest show I’ve seen, but it had enough content to be rated as good overall.

One Sheet by World Productions/Trailer by BBC

Pisaries Creator’s Rating

I rate Bodyguard GOOD at 80%.

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October 10, 2018: Hulu TV Review

 Castle Rock (2018-)

Quote from Castle Rock by Ruth Deaver: “Life used to go in one direction, forward, like one of those people-movers at the airport. But somehow I got off it.”

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I was looking forward to this show coming out on Hulu during the summer. I didn’t get around to it until August, then took me even more time to get back to it in September, and finally finished the last episode not too long ago in October. For Stephen King fans who can forgive his wordiness and copious description in his books, this will be the show for you because he can do no wrong. Now for those who have never read a book of his or cared for his movie adaptations that are centered around evil and good, life and death, sane and insane, have and have nots, well this probably won’t be the show for you. In other words, this isn’t the best adaptation of King that had been made.

The issue is not that it isn’t compelling because it grabs your attention. The issue is there are so many parts to it that you can’t keep left from right, up from down, and front from back. It’s a show where everything including the kitchen sink is found, and because of it, it’s highly confusing for someone who hasn’t and some that have read his books. Not saying you have to explain everything that every character does, but without adequate explanation you are left with too many unanswered questions. It needed a little more purpose for the back and forth between the past and present. The randomness of minor and major characters was okay, but the transitioning caused unnecessary confusion. There were times I was thinking so X happened, then why did Z happen?

The universal themes of the show such as future uncertainty, past influences, past mistakes, drug addiction, allure to darkness, different personas, effects of prison, and fear of the unknown are not what you have to grapple when the show ends. It’s the significance and meaning of the character played by Bill Skarsgård. I won’t go into detail of his character, but it begs a lot of questions: those with deeper meaning or possible multiple meanings. There’s basically spooky stuff going on throughout the show. It took me a while to be invested.

The actors who shined the most were André Holland as Henry Deaver, Bill Skarsgård as The Kid, and Adam Rothenberg as Reverend Matthew Deaver. Sissy Spacek as Ruth Deaver, Melanie Lynskey as Molly Strand, and Scott Glenn as Alan Pangborn deserve applause too. There were many additional cast members such as Francis Conroy, Rory Culkin, Aaron Staton, Terry O’Quinn, Ann Cusack, and Charlie Tahan. With this in mind, there are 10 episodes with a length of 60 minutes to see these characters interact together. It has a TV rating of MA (Mature Audience). I’m curious what Season 2 will bring. It has been renewed, but no release date yet. I would like to see fewer ideas jam packed into the next season or at least, have more of a direction of the different plots, and if they do intersect, see more definitive answer(s). I feel a little guilty about my rating because King is a master storyteller with great understanding of human interaction and problems. I’m glad I stuck with it to the end, but this is a watch one time only show for me.

One Sheet by Bad Robot/Warner Bros.

Pisaries Creator’s Rating

I rate Castle Rock GOOD at 75%.

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September 30, 2018: Cheers versus Frasier

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When I made the decision to watch all the Cheers episodes despite not having any interest in bars or baseball, I was completely hooked in the first season. I loved the back and forth between Diane and Sam. They were very strong-willed characters, each trying to capture the essence of what they once were as children, and faced with the reality they were now older and facing adult pressures and expectations. The show’s success wasn’t only due to the cast and it had an amazing cast, and the story lines were realistic. The writers were not shy about discussing taboo topics as they sometimes could be in the 1980s. I would say my favorite characters after Diane and Sam were Cliff, Carla, Coach, and Norm. After Diane left and Coach died, Rebecca and Woody replaced them along with Frasier, Lilith, and Paul taking on more central roles. Cheers ran from 1982 through 1993 for 11 seasons. My top picks from each season are the following.

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Season 1 = “Friends, Romans, Accountants” is the 7th episode where Norm throws an office toga party at the bar.

Season 2 = “Manager Coach” is the 8th episode where Coach becomes a ruthless baseball coach to a young baseball team.

Season 3 = “The Mail Goes to Jail” is the 17th episode where Cliff doesn’t rescue Norm when he is arrested for helping him on his mail route.

Season 4 = “Woody Goes Belly Up” is the 2nd episode where Woody overeats when his high school sweetheart visits.

Season 5 = “The Proposal” is the 1st episode where Sam proposes to Diane on his boat after her insistence he do it properly.

Season 6 = “My Fair Clavin” is the 11th episode where Cliff and his date, Sally, go to the bar so his friends can meet her.

Season 7 = “The Cranemakers” is the 16th episode where the Frasier and Lilith go camping to be one with nature.

Season 8 = “Death Takes a Holiday on Ice” is the 7th episode where Carla learns her husband is dead and has kept a secret from her.

Season 9 = “Rat Girl” is the 1st episode where Lilith finds out her beloved lab rat has been thrown into the garbage.

Season 10 = “An Old-Fashioned Wedding” is the 25th and 26th episode where Woody and Kelly marry at her family’s estate.

Season 11 = “Is There a Doctor in the Howe?” is the 16th episode where Frasier is upset that Lilith has left him for another man.

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Then, I made the decision to watch all the Frasier episodes because how could you not like his character? I did and was completely hooked in the first season. Frasier had a pompous attitude, but he was charming as well. He offered good and bad advice on his radio talk show. He was the quintessential Freudian therapist complete with the dead mommy and son issues, but also with glaring father and son issues. The character of Lilith was supposed to be an integral part of the series, but Bebe Neuwirth did agree to come back for a handful of episodes. I can’t put one cast member ahead of another. They were all equally great. The relationships between Frasier and Niles, Niles and Daphne, Daphne and Martin, Martin and Eddie couldn’t have been any better. It was weird to see people who were just breaking into Hollywood as talking extras or had a role for a few episodes. Frasier ran from 1993 through 2004 for 11 seasons. My top picks from each season are the following.

Season 1 = “Give Him the Chair!” is the 19th episode where Frasier gets rid of Martin’s chair and replaces it with a new one.

Season 2 = “Breaking the Ice” is the 20th episode where Frasier and Niles compete for Martin’s affection on an ice fishing trip.

Season 3 = “The Adventures of Bad Boy and Dirty Girl” is the 7th episode where Frasier and Kate try to ignore their attraction for each other.

Season 4 = “Ham Radio” is the 18th episode where Frasier stages a radio murder mystery with the help from the whole gang including Niles.

Season 5 = “The Ski Lodge” is the 14th episode where Frasier, Niles, Daphne, Martin, Annie, and Guy go to the ski lodge for a getaway and a love polygon ensues.

Season 6 = “The Seal Who Came to Dinner” is the 8th episode where Niles holds the Gold Apron Award at the clubhouse he once shared with Maris.

Season 7 = “The Cranemakers” is the 16th episode where the Frasier and Lilith go camping to be one with nature.

Season 8 = “Motor Skills” is the 11th episode where Frasier and Niles goes to evening class to learn more about cars and where Martin overextends himself with Roz’s new dog.

Season 9 = “Bla-Z-Boy” is the 7th episode where Martin accidentally spills oil on the carpet, which sends Frasier into a frenzy of revenge.

Season 10 = “Proxy Prexy” is the 3rd episode where Frasier tells Martin to run for President of the Condo Board.

Season 11 = “The Doctor is Out” is the 3rd episode where Frasier follows Roz’s new boyfriend into a gay bar and realizes everyone thinks he is now gay.

*******

After watching Cheers and Frasier, I would say they are pretty neck and neck in terms of story lines and content within each character. I saw more of the issues play out in person between and among people in Frasier. Yet, there was more variation in characters with Cheers and I laughed more overall. When push comes to shove, I conclude that Frasier edges out Cheers by a dog’s hair.

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September 19, 2018: Hulu Show Recommendation

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

Quote from The Handmaid’s Tale by Commander Waterford: “Thank you. We will certainly discuss the issue seriously.”

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The Handmaid’s Tale is an adaptation from Margaret’s Atwood’s book with the same title. This show is about living in an autocracy where “families” are limited in their freedoms and bound by laws rooted in religious doctrine. The different strata found in Gilead often live their days without deviation and as they go through the motions it’s the same events happening over and over again. It becomes clear to the handmaids, whose only responsibility is to give birth to healthy babies, have little resources offered to them. Therefore, they can and do turn on each other, as well as finding it difficult to know who to trust. Much of the show’s appeal is rooted in the common human desires we all have, and throughout the two seasons the abundant lack of compassion and tolerance doesn’t hurt either. Viewers want to see inside the workings of Gilead. They want to witness the brazenness of the people who follow willingly the rules in Gilead in order to understand it. They want to see how well those who serve the wealthy are able to cope and survive the demands placed on them. The weaving of backstory, sometimes lengthy but necessary, allows you to better understand the current events happening. The power struggle is real between the have and have nots, and the line is not so clearly defined as you might think. As the viewer you want to sympathize with certain characters over other ones, and reminded that not all bad people are bad and not all good people are good. If you’re not hooked by the first two episodes, then this probably isn’t your kind of show. It stars Elisabeth Moss, Max Minghella, Yvonne Strahovski, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, Amanda Brugel, Madeline Brewer, O-T Fagbenle, and Alexis Wiley. It has guest roles superbly done by Marisa Tomei, John Caroll Lynch, and Cherry Jones. It’s an MGM production. It had the release date of April 26, 2017. The rating is TV-MA for sex/nudity, violence/gore, profanity/alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening/intense scenes. Each episode has a running time of 60 minutes. The third season will be ready for viewing in 2019. I can’t wait.

I rate Handmaid’s Tale GREAT at 97%.

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March 17, 2018: Three Short Netflix Show Reviews

Altered Carbon (2018)

Creator: Laeta Kalogridis

Stars: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Connor, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh, Kristin Lehman, Trieu Tran, and Renée Elise Goldsberry

Episodes: 10

Running Time: 60 minutes

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Altered Carbon is a sci-fi show incorporating elements and concepts found today. The dichotomy between the have and have nots will always be a part of civilization. There is a pecking order in any social organization or particular culture. This futuristic world is no different. The main character is a highly trained soldier named Takeshi Kovacs (interesting surname choice played by Will Yun Lee and Joel Kinnaman). He is brought back from the dead to solve the mystery of who killed Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy). There is not going to be an easy task for Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) even though he walks around with a little backpack you’d more likely find on a little girl who’s into trendy accessories. The path he follows zigzags from past and present, the backstory woven well, until the end. There is some nudity in the show, and while some of it may seem excessive, it does lend itself to the story. I’m thinking of a particular fight scene between Reileen (played by Dichen Lachman) and Kristin (played by Martha Higareda). Let’s face the fact of Reileen being a badass fighter who defends first and doesn’t bother to ask questions later even when naked. She is that sure of herself. The fight scenes in and out of the ring are also some of my favorites. While I like Joel Kinnaman as an actor, I hope they don’t bring him back. The appeal of the show is the same characters taking different “sleeves.” But, I do hope they bring the character name of Takeshi back as well Kristin and the comic relief of Poe (played by Chris Connor). While this show included unfamiliar concepts and thoughts, it was not so radically different that you get completely lost. However, there was mild confusion in one of the sub-stories. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Altered Carbon a rating of 95%.

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Seven Seconds (2018)

Creator: Veena Sud

Stars: Clare-Hope Ashitey, Michael Mosley, David Lyons, Isaiah Butler, Regina King, Peter Jablonski, Nadia Alexander

Episodes: 10

Running Time: 60 minutes

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Seven Seconds is a crime drama involving racial tensions and corrupt cops in New Jersey. It’s created by Veena Sud, the same woman who gave us The Killing. This show threw everything into it, including a few sinks along the way. I understood the reasoning, but it seemed to leave some characters only scratching the surface when they could have dug deeper. I might liken it to jam packing everything into a tiny suitcase, hoping you’re able to sit on it efficiently to close it. Sometimes it works better to leave a few things out or save for a later date. The show follows the Butler family after a tragedy occurs. It takes you into the heart of the police department, court system, lawyers, gang activity, racial and sexual stereotypes. There has been some grumbling about the ending, but it is a realistic portrayal of what could and does happen. The characters of KJ Harper (played by Clare-Hope Ashitey), Fish Rinaldi (played by Michael Mosley), Latrice Butler played by Regina King), and Isaiah Butler (played by Russell Hornsby) were the best in the show. The pacing is slower than The Killing. It does not have as many twists and turns compared to it either, but it kept my attention. It has not been renewed for a second season, but more than likely will be and cast to be determined. I give Seven Seconds a rating of 90%.

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Ozark (2017)

Creator: Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams

Stars: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Jason Butler Harner, Marc Menchaca, Esai Morales, Michael Mosley, and Charlie Tahan

Episodes: 10

Running Time: 60 minutes

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Ozark is a crime drama involving a Chicago family that is uprooted from their home when a business deal sinks further down a hole that does not seem to end. This show hooked me from the start and never go. This show is about power, control, and expectations within the Bryde and Langmore families. When you add questionable FBI tactics, drug cartel laundering, and church services held on a lake in boats, things only get better for the viewer. The characters of Marty Bryde (played by Jason Bateman), Wendy Bryde (played by Laura Linney), Ruth Langmore (played by Julia Garner), Russ Langmore (played by Marc Menchaca), and Del (played by Esai Morales) were some of my favorites. This is a well-constructed script and the casting is on point. Some may be offended by the stereotypes of the people, but this is bound to happen in writing. While not everyone is in need of major dental work and/or enjoys shooting animals just because there’s nothing else to do, these people do exist in the Ozarks and beyond. When you mix together city life people with smaller town people, it tends to be a good story. It has been renewed for a second season, but the specific story line is to be determined. In conclusion, I give Ozark a rating of 97%.

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November 25, 2017: TV Recommendations

Police, Detectives, and Agents! Oh my!

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Outstanding police departments can make you feel safe in your community. I would venture to say they are cities not heavily populated, which are basically small town U.S.A. Corrupt police departments can dampen a whole city’s image. Los Angeles comes to mind, which The Shield is loosely based from, and in particular the Rampart Division. The rest who carry a gun and badge are in between the two. When you talk about the FBI and CIA, there appears to be more gray areas when it comes to procedural affairs. It might be because these institutions are so large compared to police departments. Nevertheless, these are the shows that have stuck with me over the years, and the ones I want to watch, but not finding the time.

*******

The ones I have watched!!!

21 Jump Street

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This show catapulted Johnny Depp as a heart-throb centerfold for teenyboppers. I was not one of those teenyboppers even though I was ripe for the age. I swear on my own hands, I was not, but, oh, Tommy Hanson and all the characters of 21 Jump Street. It ran from 1987 to 1991. It had a total of five seasons. Its creators are Stephen J. Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh. It even had a spin-off show, Booker, with Richard Grieco that lasted one season. I can hear the theme song, Hot in the City, to Booker now. 21 Jump Street involves an undercover police unit whose focus was on solving crimes committed by primarily young people in high school. I remember the ex-hippie Captain Jenko that was in the first season’s episodes before Captain Fuller came and stayed. The topics ranged from alcoholism to racism to child abuse to promiscuity. It had an overall seriousness with sporadic goofiness to make it realistic, primarily done by Peter DeLuise’s character.

Homeland

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This show has gotten criticism for how they portray certain Middle Eastern people, but it goes to show you can’t please every living person. This heavy laden topic is important, not the purpose of this blog. I’ve watched up to season three. Remember the shows collecting dust on my shelf. This is one of them. I have yet to watch the other three seasons. It premiered in 2011 and the seventh season starts in 2018. Its creators are Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. Homeland is about a CIA operative, Carrie Mathison, whose personal complications with her bipolar disorder often get in the way of being taken seriously by her co-workers. The end of the third season brought full circle the story of character Nicholas Brody. I look forward to what happens in season four because another personal complication arises for Carrie and her prevailing is what she does best.

Quantico

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I watched Quantico twice so far, both two seasons, because it was that good. I’m a sucker for learning about different characters and what makes them tick, question, scream, and punch their way through life. It premiered in 2015 and the third season starts in 2018. Its creator is Joshua Safran. The show is about a group of FBI recruits who train at Quantico. The mystery unravels to find out who is the terrorist or if one even exists. The main focus is on the characters of Alex Parrish and Ryan Booth. The ending of season two leaves it at a nice spot to leap into a new story line, sort of, but whether it goes there remains to be seen. There are some borderline knocking on 90210 door moments, but not enough to turn me away.

The X-Files

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This is another show I watched partly in high school. It ran from 1993 to 2001. It had a total of nine seasons. The X-Files picked up again in 2016, but have not watched them. Its creator is Chris Carter. The episodes involve unsolved cases with questionable and often un-explainable phenomenon. Its main characters include two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who eventually come to the same conclusion about the government agency they work for and their personal and work related discoveries. If you are fascinated with the extra-terrestrial as I am, then this show is definitely up your alley. Yes, I saw the movie too.

The Shield

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This show I could watch a million times and never get sick of it. Okay, maybe I’m stretching it a little too much, but DAMN is this a good show. Someone recommended this to me before I moved to Los Angeles. Thank you E.H. Then when I moved here, I saw the taping of The Shield by accident on one of my runs (when I actually ran instead of now jogging). In addition to seeing Michael Chiklis smiling in a doorway not very far away, I’ve seen a fair number of cast more than once: Walton Goggins (many times with family), Jay Karnes (airport), Benito Martinez (what a nice guy), and Kenny Johnson (many times with family). I’m still waiting to see CCH Pounder, Catherine Dent, and David Rees Snell. Michael Jace will die in prison for a killing his wife in 2014, which is a shame, because he played his character so well. It ran from 2002 to 2008. It had a total of seven seasons. Its creator is Shawn Ryan. The episodes involve the lives of a dirty cop and those that serve with him on his anti-gang task force. The notable guest stars of Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Anthony Anderson, and Laurie Holden, to name a few, made it all the better. The final episode is hands down one of the best I’ve seen.

The Fall

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Forget about Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. He blows his character, Paul Spector, out of the water in terms of creepiness. Then again, how many teenage girls are turned on by serial killers. Well, maybe some, but not to the level of C.G. This is a slower show, but once you get past that, you are able to see it for what it really is: a masterpiece showcasing a serial killer from Belfast going head to foot with law enforcement. It becomes a cat and mouse game between a methodical killer, Paul Spector, and driven police officer, Stella Gibson. It premiered in 2013, and has three seasons so far. Its creator is Allan Cubitt. I have yet to watch the last season, but it was the last for Dornan, so I’m sure it will blast the pressure to maximum force.

Criminal Minds

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The ever revolving door of actors and actresses for this show, but I’ll still take it. I’m still a little upset I’ll never know how Hotchner really was supposed to finish. This is a long running show. It premiered in 2005 and the thirteenth season is going on now. Its creator is Jeff Davis. Criminal Minds is about FBI agents, part of the Behavorial Analysis Unit (BAU), who are profilers hunting serial killers and those committing heinous crimes. It is led by Emily Prentiss. Her team uses the ever catchy term: unsub or unknown subject. I’ve seen all except the current season. This is the reason Netflix exists. I do a dive bomb when it is released, and don’t leave until I’ve watched them all.

24

24

I’ve watched this show about three times, and each time the ticking of the clock bothered whoever was around me. 24 ran from 2001 to 2010. It had a total of eight seasons. Its creators are Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. The episodes involve Jack Bauer, director of a counter-terrorist unit in Los Angeles, and his team. I prefer to think of him as a bad ass who walks the thinnest of lines between sanctioned protocol and what’s on the other side of it. It’s hard to think so much action could happen in one day, and how the people involved are still functioning by the end. Yet, it does happen so it makes the show all the more impressive. There was a mini-series 24: Live Another Day that aired in 2014. There was a spin-off, 24: Legacy, that aired in 2016. It had one season.

The Blacklist

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This show has basically replaced The Shield, for me, in terms of caliber. The level of corruption is astounding where it grabbed me from the start. The well-developed characters was a pleasant surprise. The character arc of Mr. Kaplan at the end of season four was one of the best I’ve seen. The Blacklist premiered in 2013 and season five resumes in 2018. Its creator is Jon Bokenkamp. The show involves primarily two characters: Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington. Keen is a newly married FBI profiler. She comes face to face with Reddington, and throughout the show questions his motives and behaviors at every corner. It will be interesting to see how the second half of season five progresses since a major bomb was dropped on Keen.

The Killing

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This show was slow to start, and admit I had to give it another try. I’m glad I did because it is well worth the watching. Stay invested in it because I eventually didn’t want to turn it off, but had to because I needed sleep. The Killing ran from 2011 to 2014. It has four seasons. Its creator is Veena Sud. Its main characters, Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder, work as a team in a police investigation. As they uncover pieces to the story of what happened to Rosie Larsen, things get unhinged on personal and political levels. It is a great whodunnit and whydunnit show.

NYPD Blue

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This show had the ever revolving door of the main actor that would bring a sex appeal factor to the television screen. David Caruso left the set, never to glance back, and actors kept replacing the last. This never detracted from the show because the writing was superb, but I wish actresses were given more credence to their profession. I think of A.D.A Sylvia Costas and Detective Connie McDowell. NYPD Blue is about the professional lives of detectives in their precinct, and how it often bleeds into their private lives. It ran from 1993 to 2005. There were twelve seasons. Its creators are Steven Bochco and David Milch. It is led by Lt. Fancy and later Lt. Rodriquez. The mainstays throughout most of the seasons were Detective Sipowicz, Greg Medavoy, Bobby Simone, and Connie McDowell. NYPD Blue was a groundbreaking show for a reason.

Mindhunter

mindhunter

This show surprisingly I had to give another try as well because my eyes weren’t cooperating at the first round. But the second time, I was all in and ready to go. Mindhunter has one season so far, and can’t wait for the next one in unknown. Its creator is Joe Penhall. It involves the formative years of FBI research into the mind of killers by the hands of two agents: Holden Ford and Bill Tench. Both actors are excellent in their roles, but Holt McCallany knocks the ball out of the park. They forgo the old method of looking at crimes and delve deeper into a criminal’s modus operandi. This show is based from actual research and events. I’m willing to watch anything psychologically and/or criminally related. It’s one of the few things that can keep me up at night when I’m bone tired. Enough said.

The Assets

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This mini-series was discovered as I was surfing Netflix. I’m not sure if it is still on there, but it’s worth the watch. It keeps you invested. The Assets is about the ultimate capture of a CIA mole by other CIA officers. This is a cat and mouse game between Aldrich Ames and Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille. This is based on actual events where Ames fed classified information to the Soviet Union. It aired in 2014.

*******

There you have it: the shows I’ve seen that stuck with me. I’ve purposely left out other notable shows for a time factor. On that note, let’s move to the ones I have yet to see.

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The ones I still need to watch!!!

Graceland

Graceland is a show about a rookie FBI agent trained by a FBI legend in a beachfront residence. Its creator is Jeff Eastin. It had three seasons.

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The Wire

The Wire is a show about the Baltimore inner-city drug scene from the view of the criminals and police department. Its creator is David Simon. It had five seasons.

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True Detective

True Detective is a show about police investigations. It follows different cases in each season. Its creator is Nic Pizzolatto. It has two seasons so far.

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Justified

Justified is a show about a U.S. Marshal going back to his poor, rural hometown in Kentucky. Its creator is Graham Yost. It had six seasons.

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Luther

Luther is a show about a genius detective who is dedicated, obsessed, and consumed by his work in the Serious Crime Unit. Its creator is Neil Cross. It has four seasons so far.

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Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake is a show about a detective attempting to solve crimes while keeping herself in check. It has a gap in between the seasons. Its creators are Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. It has two seasons so far.

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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is a show about forensic evidence team in Las Vegas. It had sixteen seasons. Its creator is Anthony E. Zuiker. (I haven’t watched enough episodes to say I truly know about it.)

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Southland

Southland is a show about the LAPD. It had five seasons. Its creator is Ann Biderman.

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The Americans

The Americans is a show about Soviet spies in America. It has five seasons so far. Its creator is Joseph Weisberg.

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There you have it: the shows where people wear badges and/or affiliated with crime in some way. I could say so much more about this topic, but given the lack of time, I won’t. On that note, happy television watching because there’s a lot out there.

September 20, 2017: Five Reasons Why I Still Keep Netflix

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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

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.

#2: Narcos

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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

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

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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

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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.

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