Dec 29, 2017

[TV] Madam Secretary: Season 2 Review

So I dove right into Madam Secretary and I totally loved it. It felt like a sort of higher view of the same material tackled by shows like Homeland. Thus it's less on the front lines sort of action and more looking at the larger geopolitical picture. And that really works for me for some reason.

The second season of Madam Secretary continues on building this story and expands on it with timely real-world references, more intrigue and some major power shifts in the global arena of the show. And how they balance things out to keep the story going is a big part of the brilliance of this show.

For the most part Russia is the big focus of this season and in a very interesting way. Such shifts in power can have a number of implications for the counttry and the world at large  and this season nicely explores a number of those nuances.

It's not like everyone can ensure the security of the free world while raising a family, right?

Dec 28, 2017

[Videos] Who Is The First Doctor

This year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, Twice Upon A Time, is one that brings the current Doctor, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi, together with his first incarnation, as portrayed by David Bradley as the original actor, William Hartnell, who had passed away in 1975. Bradley had also portrayed Hartnell in the 50th anniversary documentary An Adventure in Space and Time.

For those not so familiar with the First Doctor and his adventures, the Doctor Who team has put together a quick video with highlights of his career and his time with the TARDIS.

A Guide To The First Doctor - Doctor Who

Dec 27, 2017

[Books] When You Are Engulfed in Flames Audible Review

So my venture into the writings of David Sedaris sort of began and ended with Me Talk Pretty One Day but I took forever to get around to reading more of is books and ironically I didn't even truly "read" the book.

I went with the audio book,

I've mostly stuck with author-read books in terms of my Audible audio book selections as I feel there's something unique about hearing the words from them. It ties to the notion that you're hearing the words as the author may have imagined how they sounded in his or her head during the writing of the book.

I'm not sure if David Sedaris is someone that I'd want to listen to at length after this audio book experience. It's not innately bad, but it's just not something that flows with me precisely right. But I won't let this get in the way of enjoying his writing.

Dec 26, 2017

[Videos] More Facts About Gravity Fall and The Nightmare Before Christmas

Some of my favorite YouTube content tends to include various trivia videos since I can listen to them while working on  other things, including this blog. They go into a lot of crazy detail about things we love and it's a mixed bag of the fascinating to the simply odd. But knowing more is a lot of fun and I have no regrets about things.

So here are some additional 107 Facts videos created by ChannelFrederator for subjects previously visited in such videos - Gravity Falls and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There's a lot of fun insights and things you'd never think to research on your own. And that makes for even more entertaining fandom feels.

So here we go!

Dec 25, 2017

[TV] Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4 Review

So the whole Hive story that dominated season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't really hook me and I was pretty open to the possibility that it was time to drop the show from our active list of things to watch. I didn't quite drop it entirely since it was still part of the iflix library but I didn't really bother dragging Tobie into things. So I continued watching the show with very minimal expectations.

The fourth season  of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was  divided into three major story arcs - Ghost Rider, LMD, and Agents of Hydra. The titles of these segments alone were pretty intriguing but I was still worried that the show wouldn't deliver given by how much they had mangled their Inhumans storyline acrosss the seasons.

But this season turned out to be pretty good, perhaps even among the best in the run of th show as a whole. They finally found a way to use comic book stories and characters more effectively while still remaining tied to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a non-restrictive manner.

Dec 22, 2017

[Movies] Atomic Blonde (2017) Review

In recent years one cannot ignore the almost inevitability of the action movie centered around the strong female protagonist character. They're often male fantasies that just happen to be able to fight well or are handy with a gun. They don't seem to dress with practical considerations in mind and they always look good beating up the bad guys. On the whole it all feels rather simple in approach.

Atomic Blonde is anything but that sort of movie, no matter how much the marketing folks wanted to sell it that way based on the initial trailers. Sure you do have a strong female character beating up people left and right, she's a complex character involved in a very complicated web indeed. And she's not exactly a victim in all those or merely pushed around by the plot but she's very much a character with agency and direction.

It's not a perfect movie, but it's smarter than most of the trailers would have you believe. And that difference is a lot bigger than you think and it pushes this movie to be a lot more than most.

Dec 21, 2017

[Star Wars] Spacedock Tackles Ships From The Last Jedi

Another YouTube channel that I enjoy following is Spacedock, a channel that focuses on the various space-faring vessels and vehicles from various science fiction franchises. His discussions range from more technical discussions of specific creations to analyses of various fictional battles.

In the months leading up to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and right after its  debut, the channel has tackled various vehicles from the movie in what detail they could manage based on information available. And I expect for there to be more videos to come as more information is revealed.

So here's a run-through of some of the videos focused on The Last Jedi that may be of interest.

Star Wars The Last Jedi: Warships of the Resistance

Dec 20, 2017

[TV] Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 3 Review

So the second season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be a lot more interesting that the first one as it dealt more directly with our intrepid heroes still fighting the good fight even though the cladestine organization technically no longer existed as a sanctioned operation. The group really had to pull together and do their best to manage meager resources to stop the bad guys.

The third season of the show once again felt subsurvient to other trends on the Marvel ecosystem as a whole, in partcular the efforts put into building up the Inhumans as an odd alternative to the mutants of the X-Men and related groups.

This will always feel like an odd track to take as it often manifests as old X-Men stories transposed to apply to mutants, and thus this season has a LOT of Inhuman-hunting by governments trying to control these super-powered individuals. And that tends to come across as cheap and lazy writing to me.

Dec 19, 2017

[Books] Unseemly Science (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire Book 2) Review

So The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter was a bit of a surprise as I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and in a very good way. It was steampunk without getting overly lost in it being steampunk. It was clever and witty and a nice spin on a detective drama, but a little light on the investigation site for my tastes.

Unseemly Science continues this very ominously-named trilogy of Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire and the first book didn't seem to touch on how things were going to be taken down. And so I hoped that this book would tackle that a bit more and help explain why the series is called that. But alas, it's still not there.

What we get instead is another adventue with our daring protagonist in a world that is technologically backwards compared to our own yet particularly cultured in its own right. I like the complexity of her character at times and the lengths she'll go to get things done. And her expanding cast of characters is an interesting one that also gets a bit more development this time around. But again things fall just a little bit short.

Dec 18, 2017

[TV] Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 4 Review

If Brooklyn Nine-Nine's third season felt sort of like a peak period, the fourth season started off in a rather odd manner. It wasn't bad but it was certainly something different. I really wanted to dive into things and embrace but something just didn't quite work and so things dragged a bit and it took me some time before I finally finished watching the rest of this season.

For one reason or another things just weren't flowing the way I would have liked in terms of the comedy and so my interested waned somewhat. Again it's still not a bad show and it has a lot of great moments but it just didn't feel quite as stellar as it could be - especially based on past "performance" in a manner of speaking.

This does get me wondering if the show has really it its peak and that the writing is starting to get tired. Or maybe ithas just become a bit too familiar and my brain wants to move on to other comedy fare. A show can only go on for so long without major innovation. And to be fair this season started off with a significant attempt at shaking things up.

Dec 15, 2017

[Movies] Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

Wow, it's go time. After so much anticipation that really started building up as soon as The Force Awakens screened in 2015 or maybe as far back as when Disney confirmed a new trilogy of films upon acquiring Lucasfilm and all of its related properties. But it is anticipation that has been more than well-earned and now everything has come to a head.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an interesting addition to the franchise that is very fresh in feel while still remaining quite familiar. It goes through familiar beats but it also surprises you in terms of how everything is put together in a new way. It's rathher different from the original trilogy but it also isn't entirely strange or alien either.

In other words, it's a GREAT movie that manages to balance the complex demands of supporting newer fans who only came on board with The Force Awakens while still giving longer term fans something to enjoy and quite a number of winks and nudges to more extreme levels for fans of the Legends and Expanded Universe stories.

Dec 14, 2017

[Videos] What You Need to Know Before Watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Star Wars Explained)

So I just watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night and I'm still processing things for a proper review out tomorrow. But I first wanted to share this video by Star Wars Explained that acts as a quick spoiler-free primer for the movie based on current Expanded Universe material from the books, comics and other media. Not all of the speculations were in the right place but most were pretty close or at least in the right direction.

So if you don't want to go into the movie blind, this is worth the 6+ minutes of your time to watch it.

Everything You Need to Know Before Seeing The Last Jedi

Dec 13, 2017

[TV] Black Books Review

Around the time we first got into the likes of Miranda and later celebrated Vicious, friends of ours had recommended that we also try watching Black Books given its similar comedic tone. But one thing led to another and we didn't find the time to watch it until recently. Ironically we had managed to watch the entire run of The IT Crowd before Black Books despite having related creative minds behind both shows.

But once we finally sat down to watch the show we were laughing constantly at its subtle yet brilliant humor and its excellent use of proper build-up for a good gag delivered as a visual punchline at the end of the episode. These days you may see this sort of thing once or twice in a season but for this show it was something they aspired to do in each and every episode.

But like many great British comedies, the show had very short "seasons" to use American terminology and a total run that feels briefer than we'd like it to be. But it just goes to show how good writing can only go so far and there's a certain prudence in knowing when to quit while you're ahead. And thus the definitely ends on a high note.

Dec 12, 2017

[Movies] Smaller and Smaller Circles (2017) Review

Good Filipino movies are hard to find since it's a lot more cost-effective to invest mainly in popular stars while scrimping on story since you rely on the star power of the personalities to draw audiences. Movies that begin with interesting stories or explore difficult subjects struggle to find funding and get themselves out there. Completing the movie is hard enough, but then you have to fight to get screen time when cinema operators find it's more proftable to focus on international blockbusters or those aforemented star-driven movies.

Smaller and Smaller Circles is a good movie that's very hard to watch not because of its content but more because it's literally difficult to catch a screening. Case in point, the only theater in the BGC area showing the movie was Market! Market! and that one cinema only showed the movie in the afternoon, with a more mass-market movie taking the more lucrative evening slots.

But this is a movie that deseves to be seen. But by the time you read this review it may already be too late.

Dec 11, 2017

[TV] Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 3 Review

So Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never quite reached the same comedic heights as shows like The Office or Parks and Recreation in my head, but it is a fun little sitcom that delivers a lot of great moments more often than not. Earlier seasons were a bit crazier than you'd expect for something that takes place in a police department. But as the show has progressed over the years, a bit more sensibility has come in to push actual police work and related cases and investigations.

The third season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine actually had a pretty impressive larger story arc that transcended the typically episodic structure of the show that I rather enjoyed. And there were quite a number of developments in this season  that represented significant shake-ups to the status quo. And the way things culminated in the end made for quite the fulfilling entertainment run on the whole.

For me, this third season was one of the best for the show and one that I look back on fondly. As much as more recent seasons have continued to attempt to push the envelope, this season  just had a great balance to it that hit so many buttons.

Dec 8, 2017

[Movies] Justice League (2017) Review

Given the often dark and gloomy tone of Zack Snyder's movies, particularly his work for DC's movies, I wasn't exactly bouncing with excitement to watch the Justice League movie. As much as the Wonder Woman movie was pretty amazing and made  me eager to see the character on screen again, the sour taste of movies like  Batman v Superman still lingered in memory.

Early reviews for this movie were pretty bad, but not quite as terrible as feared. Critics don't usually rate superhero movies all that highly after all but even this movie wasn't trending low. And now that I've seen I can totally see where the criticism was coming from and the many awkward parts of the movie that didn't quite make sense.

But the movie still had its moments when it shined and felt more like a proper depiction of the sort of adventures we'd expect from DC Comics titles brought to life. It had lighter moments of banter that included some genuine-feeling camaraderie among them. Those moments helped keep the movie watchable.

Dec 7, 2017

[Videos] Other Ways to Experience Transformers: The Last Knight

So I still haven't bothered to watch Transformers: The Last Knight yet for obvious Michael Bay related reasons. As much as I love the Transformers franchise, I'm really more of an old school guy in terms of robot aesthetic and I'm too in live with logical story flow to even try to endure most Michael Bay ventures sober. So for the most part, reading io9's Spoiler FAQ for the movie was sufficient.

But now CinemaSins has finally applied it's particular brand of sarcastic nitpicking to the latest Transformers movie and it was a fun little ride. As much as it's interesting to see how they find little errors in movies that are universally celebrated as good, it's even better when they roast the obviously bad ones. And there is just so much to pick apart in this particular movie.

Everything Wrong With Transformers The Last Knight

Dec 6, 2017

[Movies] Coco (2017) Review

It is interesting how Disney Pixar has become such a trusted name in animation. Perhaps that statement is still inaccurate - we trust Pixar as storytellers and year over year they consistently manage to find new ways to tell highly personal and engaging stories in a variety of ways across a variety of story genres and all that good stuff. Long story short: Pixar makes good movies.

Coco was a little hard to read at first, but the general trust in the Pixar brand was enough to get us to the movie theater. The risk was how this felt of too similar a tone to The Book of Life, another movie that focuses on the mythos and aesthetic of the Mexican Day of the Dead - Dia de los Muertos.

But as has been often the case with many Pixar movies, it was a totally different animated experience and one that had us really amazed at how a seemingly simple story could be told so elegantly and so beautifully. This is an amazing movie.

Dec 5, 2017

[Videos] All The Intros of UNHhhh

So I've made it clear across my social media accounts that I've quite the fan of drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova. The pair had become an internet sensation after RuPaul's Drag Race thanks to their web series UNHhhh and now they've gone on to their own Viceland show, The Trixie & Katya Show.

YouTube user Michell Wiggs has done us all  a favor by putting together a compilation of all of their unique introduction spiels from UNHhhh, which is definitely one of the highlights of the show. This alone should be enough to get your laughing and wanting to see more.

UNHhhh Intro Compilation - Every Episode - Trixie & Katya

Dec 4, 2017

[TV] BoJack Horseman: Season 4 Review

So I think I hit peak BoJack Horseman fandom by the third season. The show has reached a point where the characters have developed into these fully functional creatures whose actions and motivations dictate the stories more than any writer could, I feel. The best stories are the ones that make sense.

But logic has never been BoJack Horseman's strong point as the show can get pretty crazy at times. Or maybe it's less about our sense of logic and more the logic of this world of "Hollywoo". And as much as their lives mirror our own, the writers know when to take some sharp left turns here and there to really shift things around.

There's a point in this season when it actually feels like there's hope for everyone - something of a rarity in this show. And it was kind of nice to see everyone doing okay and at the very least having something to live for. But at the same time the show won't be the same unless this go terrible for someone, or more likely everyone

Dec 2, 2017

[Star Wars] Win Exclusive The Last Jedi Swag with Grab!

Right before my recent Singapore trip I spotted an interesting Grab sedan vehicle dressed up to promote the Resistance featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and in the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It turns out Grab and The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia have a special tie-up that allows Grab riders to get chances to win exclusive movie merchandise and some major prizes as well. This is the last week for the promotion but don't fret, there's still time to compete!

The in-app Star Wars trivia quiz wasn't too difficult, but then again I'm quite the Star Wars geek so maybe my perspective is off. But it's totally worth trying for as the movie's premiere is just around the corner!

After  the cut is a full infographic related to the promotion and the full press release.

Dec 1, 2017

[TV] Designated Survivor: Season 1 Review

As a guy who didn't get into 24 for one reason or another, I wasn't quite sure if I'd get into Designated Survivor. On the surface it felt like it was going to be another 24 but set in the White House, but thankfully it wasn't.

This is not to say that Designated Survivor isn't a little ridiculous as well. It's a show with a massive conspiracy at its heart and to make it work they're trying to stretch things out for as long as possible. And it seems the best way to do this is by throwing in crazier and crazier ideas to add further complexity to the larger story.

But as much as there's the conspiracy angle, the show still has a strong political drama slant to it that appeals to my sensibilities. Sure it's not as high impact as the likes of Madam Secretarybut it does have it's interesting moments. And while it does meander a bit, I think the way things were resolved does leave some interesting plot threads to pursue for the second season.

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