Comic-Con Week–Stranger Things Season 2

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Image Source: SDCC Blog

So the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) or Comic-Con as it is usually referred to, happened this week and this is a celebration of all things comic book related, but also it is a huge intersection for Science Fiction and Fantasy.  While I’m not really a “con” guy myself, I still have found myself drawn to Comic-con because of all the announcements and trailers of upcoming Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book movie properties in the past few years.

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Stranger Things Season 2 (Image Source: CNN)

So this week, like E3, I’m going to take a moment to highlight some of my favorite announcements/trailers from the convention.  Today it’s going to be Stranger Things, Season 2.  My understanding is that this series (Netflix only) appears on Halloween (Oct. 31) and I’m pretty stoked about it.

Even though I’m linking the trailer in this blog post–Stranger Things, Season 2 Trailer–I haven’t watched it all the way through.  In fact, I’ve only seen about the first 10 seconds (the very first scene in the trailer).  If you watch those 10 seconds, you’ll see the kids peering into an arcade cabinet and playing a video game, Dragon’s Lair (pictured above).  That video game is one that I played when I was a kid (& bought on my PS3 when it was offered for sale digitally). To steal a line from popular culture, “They had me at Dragon’s Lair.”  I’m in.  I’m hoping that it won’t veer too far into the realm of horror and that it will stay creepy and thrilling without getting to gory, but we’ll see.

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Image Source: Steam

I’m excited for show and based on just the first 10 seconds of the trailer.  Job well done, Netflix marketing department.  Well done.  *Slow clap.*

Star Trek Enterprise Redux

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Image Source: Memory Alpha

On Friday, I finished the entire 4 season run on Netflix of Star Trek Enterprise.  I have to say that once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.  My overall impression is that it is a good Sci-Fi show that probably ended too soon, Here are some general impressions of the show (with as few spoilers as possible as I will not be discussing specific plot developments, but rather general impressions).

Seasons 1 and Season 2: “Exploration” was the theme of the first two seasons and I seem to be in the minority as I actually liked season 1 and season 2.  Most of the critical reception notes season 1 and 2 as “uneven.”  Yes, there were several episodes that I didn’t like (they tended to be the ones that focused on social issues) in the first two seasons, but they considered themselves as “explorers” and there was an enthusiasm for the “wonder” of it all.  Time travel and time manipulation was a key ingredient in these two seasons.

Season 3: “Conflict” was the theme of season 3.  Apparently ratings, which had started strong from the pilot episode, dropped steadily as the episodes of the first two seasons ran their course.  The writers.producers tried to course-correct and this leads to a season long conflict.  To go into anymore detail is to approach spoiler territory, but season 3 is much more action focused.  While I generally liked the action episodes more in seasons 1 and 2, here I found it made the crew (the captain, in particular) as one note.  They are all driven by the ideals of war and conflict and that leaves little time for wonder.  I liked this  season about the same as season 1 and 2.  There was more action, so it was always tense, but the loss of the shows wonder balanced out the increased tension.

Season 4: “Alternate History” was the theme for season 4.  While not the primary focus of the whole season, 4 of the episodes were given over to alternate history tales with both of the plots being two-part episodes.  I did notice some new names as writers in this season, but after that season long “epic” of the Enterprise’s crew searching the Expanse in Season 3, I don’t think that devoting such a large number of Alternate History stories back into the series was a wise move and towards the end, we also see real-world parallels with the rise of an “Earth-First” movement.  It seemed a little to convenient a set-up to try to get to the idea of the “Federation.”  The Season Finale (which turned out to also be the Series Finale) was also not great.  I like the idea of it (in theory), but for this episode to have worked, the show would have had to have continued.  To end the way it did, seemed forced and anti-climatic.  I know the producers knew that the show had been cancelled and wanted to give resolution, but it was done in such a way that it seemed to demphasize the hard work of the crew of the Enterprise.  I liked this season least of all.

Final Grade for the Series: B- (Good acting, special effects, and characterization let down by questionable story and plot choices, especially in the last season).  While Enterprise may not have had a seven year run like the other major ST series did except the first (to my knowledge), had ratings not declined and/or had the network had more faith, I think we could have gotten to see the Federation “born” more concretely in this series and ST fans would have been the better for it.

Cutting the Cord

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Welcome to the first post of the blog for 2016!  Huzzah!  My goal (not Resolution, but goal) is to post on a weekly schedule.  I did so during the last of November and most of December, even with the craziness of grading and deadlines, so it seems doable.

This post was supposed to be the last post of 2015, but it took longer to put into put into place than I anticipated.  This post is all about cutting the cord (or moving from a cable-based future to a streaming one).

Yesterday, I finally turned in my cable boxes and remotes and I’m completely based on streaming content (for TV/Movies) or pulling content from over-the-air (local & live sports).  Yes, I know that with a few tech options I could eliminate the over the air part and do it all digitally, but it works better for my workflow to have at least 1 TV dedicated to local programming (news) and live sports.

APPLE TV

AppleTV

My main source of streamed content is via the new AppleTV.  I have an Apple ecosystem and having the new AppleTV gives me the most flexibility.  I can buy shows and movies through iTunes, download digital copies from iTunes from the Blu-Rays that I purchase, and I can AirPlay apps and games that I purchase on my phone and iPad to the TV if I so choose.

The key is to set a budget and stick to it.  There are so many things out there and available that it is easy to overspend if you overdo it.  I’ve found that if I focus on one or two series at a time and finish them before buying anything else, I can stay within budget.  I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV anyway, so focusing only on shows and movies that truly interest me seems to be a more cost effective and efficient way of consuming content.

ITUNES, NETFLIX AND AMAZON PRIME

With Netflix and Amazon Prime, I get many of the shows that I’m interested in (of course, Science Fiction/Fantasy) like Star Trek (the various spinoffs), Dark Matter (new 2015 show), Stargate (older shows like SG-1), and Farscape.  These are just the few that I’ve investigated.  I’m sure there are others.  I also get access to a few movies, though not as many as I’d like (again, genre-based).  For the movies, this is where I use iTunes to supplement Netflix/Amazon.

Here, though, is a drawback of streaming only.  The movie industry saw the lowering of prices of music and fought that vigorously arguing that lower prices devalue their product.  Yes, the link is a bit old, but it is only to illustrate a point.  Movies are artificially higher in price than they are truly worth.  You can’t tell me that Jack the Giant Slayer (a 2013 release with below average ratings) is worth $14.99 which is the same price that The Martian (a 2015 release which will contend for the Oscars more than likely).  Jack the Giant Slayer should be in the 7.99-9.99 range by now.  It is the problem with many digital pricing structures–prices do not seem to go down over time, while the physical prices do because retailers need to clear shelf space for the next new thing.  You never have to run out of the digital item so retailers don’t lower the prices over time.

The easiest way I can think of not to spend a ton of money on movies is to set a budget that roughly equals 1 movie ($14-$20) per period on viewing media per pay period and not go over that.  Include Season Passes for shows that I want to watch that aren’t on Netflix & Amazon Prime and I’ll need to limit myself and make a choice–1 big purchase of a movie or 1 Season Pass which will last several weeks (or less if I binge watch the show).

Still, even this is preferable to paying a premium every month for TV & movies that I never will watch.

THE FUTURE

So, this will be an interesting experiment.  Can I watch the shows that I want to watch and the movies while not breaking the bank so to speak?

I think I can as I just watched the entire Series 9 of Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman), in addition to the Christmas Specials of Dr. Who and Sherlock via iTunes, and I’m watching/rewatching the entire series run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix before turning my attention to Star Wars Rebels via iTunes.

I’ll keep you all posted periodically on my successes and struggles as I try to embrace a (nearly) streaming only household.