Okay, so I was Wrong–The Expanse is a Really, Really Good Show!

Picture of the cast of the Expanse with a stylized logo of the show's title.
Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2019/12/12/amazon-relaunches-tvs-best-sci-fi-show-the-expanse-for-season-4-friday/

So, sometime last year, I finished the first season of The Expanse, and to put it mildly, I was NOT impressed. I thought it was okay, but fell too far into the “Game of Thrones” arena where “bad things happen to good people.” It didn’t help that the show was marketed as “Game of Thrones” in space. I tried two separate times to get past the first episode of Season 2, but I couldn’t–I just thought that I didn’t like the show and that it was, while not bad, not something that I was ever going to like.

However, fair is fair. If I called it out on the blog and I change my mind later, then I’m going to let you know.

So I’m saying it now: I Was Wrong! The Expanse is a GOOD show!

Season 2 and Season 3

Part of the problem is that the show doesn’t really hit its stride until about Episode 2 or 3 of the 2nd season. Like Season 1, the first couple of episodes are more about “set-up” than they are about pure plot. Characterization is always present, but in Season 1, I wasn’t really invested in the characters. However, with Season 2 and especially Season 3, the characters are really tested by the plot and they interact to turn the show into something really special (& really good)!

Without spoilers, let’s just say that everything rises to a crescendo, ramps down after the resolution and then rises a second time to an even more insane and awesome resolution. I think the key is that 1) the characters are ALWAYS acting/reacting based on plot. This is the rare show where plot reveals characters and the characters’ actions drive the plot.

Season 4

So, I binged this show a couple weeks ago when my car was in the shop being repaired. I watched all of Season 2, 3, and 4 back-to-back. While I didn’t think Season 4 had the same insane level of wildness as 2 & 3, I did feel that it was still great and much better than Season 1. I hope that they do a Season 5 as I really want to see where they take the story (yes, I know they are based on books, and I may dip into them a little later, but right now the show has its “hooks” into me).

The characters are really well rounded (now that I’ve seen their arc over more episodes than what was presented in Season 1).

Overall Grade: A

Again, as this is a public forum, I feel compelled to let people know when I get it wrong (& this is one of those times). This is a strong show with compelling characters and an absolutely crazy storyline that really shines in Season 2 & 3. While it doesn’t beat The Mandolorian as my favorite sci-fi show, it has leap-frogged quite few series to become one for which I can’t wait to see the next season.

Sidney


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Let’s Talk About the Mandalorian (on Disney+ Streaming)

Image of the Mandalorian (a man in sci-fi armor with a cape and a rifle strapped to his back) walking down a dusty sci-fi street.
Image Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/47935790

Okay, before I begin, I should note that I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. While I haven’t been particularly impressed with some of the later Star Wars movies (The Last Jedi & Solo I’m looking at you), I have been a pretty ardent fan of the series since I was a child. According to my mother, I did see SW is the theaters (although I have no concrete memory of it as I was younger than 5 at the time), but my first SW movie that remember concretely was Empire Strikes Back (and yes, I’m old enough to remember the movies without the annoying Episodes numbers in front of them, so that’s how I’m going to roll). I remember being taken back to see SW again in a discount theater a week later (because I liked Empire so much and it was much better the second time around as I now had some context). I give you all this backstory so that you can understand that if my comments seem too positive, it is because I’m coming at this as a fan and not as a scholar and/or dispassionate viewer.

This is the Star Wars TV show that You’ve Been Looking For

So, let’s talk about what works. To me, Mandalorian represents a show that does the “Space Western” genre correctly. While I don’t want to “crap” all over Defiance as there are talented actors and crew members who worked on that show, Mandalorian represents a shift away from that nihilistic and “grimdark” show of Defiance that emphasizes recreational drug use and heavy doses of sex/sexual innuendo over storytelling. I’m not a prude, but come on, this is supposed to a sci-fi show where people are just barely surviving rather than (being uncharacteristically crude here) getting their “freak” on. Luckily (and blessedly), there’s none of that “grimdark” ambiguity here. The titular Mandalorian is no hero–he is a bounty hunter for whom remorse and emotions are a detriment, not an asset. This is no wide-eyed farmboy here (one of the many criticisms that early Star Wars fans had with Luke Skywalker. However, we’re only 3 episodes in, but we are beginning to see an arc developing for the Mandalorian. I won’t go into details as they could be considered spoilers, but suffice to say, we’re seeing new depths to the character. One of the things that makes this show so good is the high production values of the show. In many ways, this show looks like a Star Wars movie, but given to us in 30-35 minute chunks complete with storytelling arcs that work both on a shorter level (episodic), but also sustain a longer narrative (Episode 3 had consequences so I eager to see where Ep. 4 takes us).

No Disintegrations

So, what are the downsides to the show. Well, for me, not many. The show seems to really do a good job of presenting a live-action version of the Star Wars show (much like the live action remakes of famous Disney animated movies. If there was a downside, I would have to say length (although that could also be considered a plus as well). I really like getting wrapped up in the mythology of the world and so I hate it when the show ends–it feels like the foray into the world is all too brief. However, the fact that it doesn’t overstay its welcome might also be one of its strengths, so I’m torn on whether or not this is truly an issue. For some, not me, the fact that the hero never removes his helmet might be a problem, but I like the mystery. I also like the “everyman” motif happening as well. And since there is a “matriarch” of sorts who also doesn’t remove her helmet, there’s even an “everywoman” vibe happening as well and I think there should probably be more of that. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that those who want “grimdark” storytelling (in which everyone dies a horribly gruesome and unfair death, people “crapping” all over each other just because they can) probably won’t find much here to excite their interests–it just isn’t that type of show (at least, so far, and thank goodness)!

Not a Mini-Review

While I’m enjoying my time with the show, this shouldn’t be considered a mini-review. I’ll wait until the show is finished its run to pass judgement over it. So far, however, I have to say that I like what I’ve seen and hope that it will finish its first series/season run out with distinction. Finally, a contemporary series that I can enjoy!

Sidney


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Finally Found a New “Starship Show”: Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda

Cast of the Andromeda TV show posing for the camera.
Image Source: https://andromeda.fandom.com/wiki/Andromeda_(TV_series)

So, even though I did a blog post a couple of weeks ago on Defiance, I’ve abandoned the show for now. The first season was fairly good–I would have rated it a B-/C+ as the “alien artifact” storyline did become more prominent during the later part of the season. B- is probably where I would have settled as it had just enough sci-fi concepts (and great acting!) to overcome what I feel is stereotypical and (to me) uninteresting world building, setting, and too much reliance on Western genre tropes instead of sci-fi tropes. However, what got me was that season 2 introduced new characters and gave the old characters new “problems.” I didn’t really cotton to the new characters, but I felt I could tolerate them–and the problems of the old characters. Of course, to be “edgy” (aka Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones), they had to (for me) take it a step too far by taking one of the hero characters from season 1 and giving her the problem of recreational drug use (their version of cocaine). Yeah, I watched one episode and barely tolerated it, but couldn’t do it with subsequent episodes, so I’ve bailed about halfway into season 2. I may skip the episode and go back one day, but for now, I have a new show: Andromeda.

Captain America in Space

So, this is a bit of an anachronism as Andromeda and its “boy-scout” of a captain came first in terms of appearing on screen with that whole “old fashioned hero out of time” routine. Dylan Hunt was frozen at the Event Horizon for 300 years and when he is rescued, he discovers that his “Commonwealth” has fallen. He discovers the worlds have fallen into disarray, so decides to make it his mission to rebuild the Commonwealth (UN for Planets, but not exactly like Star Trek’s Federation or Star Wars’s Galactic Senate) and restore some semblance of order to the galaxy.

Dylan Hunt is very much in line with the current Marvel Universe incarnation of Captain America. He fights for ideals and is idealistic. He is the hero and pretty much always wins, but the adventures are exciting. This probably will not appeal to most of the millennials who crave “bad people screwing each other over” and who call that “complex,” but if you’re looking for adventure and excitement and traditional space opera (which is my preference), then this one, while a bit hokey at times, still mostly works and is FAR more appealing than Defiance with its pseudo-Western and illicit drug use. And for those who would “nope out,” and claim Andromeda has no complexity, it actually has a character who is dealing with addiction issues, but it actually has the character fall, pay the cost, and then work to rise above and stay above their addiction and is referenced several times over the course of the first two seasons that I’ve watched.

2 – 3 Episodes Per Day

So, I try to download (it is currently available on Amazon Prime) 2 -3 episodes per day. I don’t always get through that many (sometimes I manage all three, but usually it’s 1 or 2). However, I really feel that the show, while not as consistently good as Babylon 5 or the Stargate shows, is still a very strong show and (for me) it is better than the nihilistic shows of Defiance or The Expanse (again, I really like the actors on both of the shows, but I don’t like the “tone” of the shows). With nihilistic shows, it feels like a slog to get through, but I always look forward to most of the episodes that I’ve watched so far.

I’m currently into season 2 and I’m deep into it–I think I only have maybe 4 more episodes before the end of the season. There are 5 total seasons, so I still have a way to go before I finish it.

I have to say that (at the moment) I really like this show and I have to say that the characters have (so far) grown on me. We’ll see if that continues to be the case.

Sidney


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Defiantly Watching Defiance

Defiance TV Show Poster (w show's main characters standing in alien fauna by the backdrop of the St. Louis arch in the background.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2189221/

I am watching a show that I’ve had in my queue for a while: Defiance. It is a Sci-Fi show (post apocalyptic) that is currently streaming on Amazon Prime (not sure if it is elsewhere, but I know its been on Prime) for a while now, so I thought I’d watch it. So, when my late creative writing professor, Ken Smith, opened my eyes to the fact that Science-Fiction’s antecedent genre was the Western, I was aghast. Star Wars and the original trilogy were my favorite movies at the time (this was in the era where the Prequels were still a couple years away from release and the Matrix hadn’t quite changed the landscape for science-fiction films (although Aliens & Terminator 2 had made significant in-roads). And yet, as I watch Defiance, I can’t help but recall Ken’s assertion as this show is every bit the Western.

Alien Backstory & Mythos + Western Plots and Characterization = Defiance

So far, about mid-way into the show’s first season, I’m slogging my way through it. The show takes the approach to adding aliens to Earth via a “failed” attempt (or maybe incomplete) at an alien race terraforming Earth. The Earth has been transformed into a (mostly) post-apocalyptic wasteland complete with alien species and races complicating life for the remaining human residents. One of the things that I like about the show is that it doesn’t just focus on humans, however, but seeks to show a town (Defiance) that has multiple alien and human inhabitants and how they can survive and life together despite their prejudices and differences. In many ways, it tries (again early times, at least) to present a hopeful, unifying front, no matter the individual prejudices that flare up.

All Western, All the Time

And yet . . . the show really hasn’t grabbed me. Even though there are aliens, what looks like an ancient alien mystery, and quite a few alien cultures that have traditions different from our own, all of the stories so far have had a decidedly Western (genre) feel to them. Their has been a feuding pair of families with young lovers on each side of the families (a la The Hatfields & McCoys–and yes, they are of two different races just to ratchet up the tension). The protagonist becomes the town’s “Lawkeeper” in the “pilot” episode. The episode I just finished had to do with a “Bounty Hunter” friend of the Lawkeeper (a “trope” of many a Western). There are deputies, a doc with a possible bad past, prostitutes with hearts of gold, and the like.

Now, all this to say, that the actors and the story isn’t bad–it just skews heavily into the Western motif, where I might want it to do so a little less.

And this is Why I Like “Space Ship Shows”

Defiance (and shows like it–The Walking Dead comes quickly to mind) is that it devolves into the same tropes that a Western might: be quick with a gun or be dead, protect yourself at all costs because your neighbors won’t, the frontier is the big open space of badness, with little pockets of safety coming by way of cities.

Now, you could say this about my beloved spaceship shows (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dark Matter, Stargate (& spinoff shows), etc), but one thing that spaceship shows do better than their post apocalyptic cousins is that sense of “wonder.” There is the chance that some scientific concept or paradigm will be explored in some unique and awesome way that completely explodes the traditional/contemporary way of looking at the world. For instance, Star Wars has a lot of western tropes early in the movie, but moving to the later parts of the movie, we see the tropes of medieval knights (Kenobi vs Vader fight on the Death Star) and even WW2 fighter tropes (the iconic Trench Run). As a child, this blew my mind. Another example, from the world of books this time, was a scene in one of Elizabeth Moon’s books where a main character walked on the ship’s outer hull while the ship was in freakin’ HYPERSPACE. I’d never read the like and this one scene helped make me a lifelong fan of Elizabeth Moon’s work.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to stick through it to the end and report back with a mini-review. We’ll see–while I like and respect the western, I would prefer my science fiction to show a little less western tropes and a little more wonder than I’m currently seeing in Defiance. But who knows, maybe they’ll lean harder into the “alien artifact” mystery and it will have the wonder I’m looking for in my sci-fi.

Sidney


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Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars, Hello Farscape

Image Source: https://reelgood.com/show/star-wars-the-clone-wars-2008

So, I’ve been away from the blog for a while due to school and reading for the tests for this semester. I’ve been consuming media on the weekends, but I just haven’t really had a chance to blog about it. There have been several major video game news items that I’ve wanted to blog about (& with luck, I still will), but basically, today I wanted to talk about the “streaming future” and the way it will work in the future.

Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars

After trying to get through the series when it was first released and not being able to due to the erratic nature of its broadcast schedule originally, I tried to get through it on Netflix when it first appeared. There was an episode that I couldn’t get through–the one where Padme and Annakin have to use Padme’s former boyfriend to get information on the Separatists–and so I dropped it. This was when Star Wars: Clone Wars (SWCW) had first entered the Netflix catalogue. I recently (this year) finally got past that odiuous episode and was making my way through the series when I got the notice that SWCW would be leaving the service on April 7th. As I was in the midst of studying for tests, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it–no major binges or anything like that–so I was only able to get to Season 3 (first episode) before the show was pulled. Now, it isn’t gone forever–more than likely this show is going to appear on Disney’s new “Streaming” service.

Obviously, I don’t really like this. To the best of my knowledge, Disney’s new service will not be “free.” If it costs money, then I have to decide whether I need Disney’s service over Netflix’s service, or whether I can afford (notice I didn’t use the word need as I don’t need either service, but I want them for entertainment). I don’t really like this idea of starting new services when there are already market leaders in the market. I’ll explain why in a moment. For the moment, the point is moot as Disney’s service hasn’t actually premiered.

Hello Farscape

Farscape is a early to mid 90s Sci-Fi show that, like Babylon 5 (B5), I saw a few episodes when it first premiered. Afterwards, it was one of the first shows on streaming. I managed to see approx. the first 2 seasons before it went away (again, much like SWCW where it went away before I could finish it). I’m starting over again. It has been long enough that I really don’t remember the characters or the relationships well enough to try to pick up where I left off. I will try to finish this series this time around (again, like B5), and if I do so, I will post a review of the series on the blog.

Streaming: Hello and Goodbye

So the thing about streaming is that it is almost a lot like broadcast network: you are at the whim of the providers and licensors as to what you can watch when. It takes away choice. The providers go out and acquire the content and you watch it. However, not all providers have all the content, meaning subscriptions to multiple providers to get a good coverage of old and new content. Now, content provider sees these subscription fees as way of guaranteeing revenue (hence, CBS All Access, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and the myriad of others who want in on the act, like NBC Sports). However, the market cannot and will not support all these services, so just like all other markets, most will fail until an oligopoly has been established of the main players (usually 2-3, sometimes more, but rarely) and equilibrium will be established. There will always be smaller players (a fair amount), but in the end, there will only be a few major players. The problem is that everyone, no matter how late they are to the party (I’m looking at you Apple) wants to be a part of the oligopoly. And while the consumer may ultimately win through competition, we’re about to enter a phase where the consumer will be the ultimate loser since the only way to get all the content will be to buy as many services as one can afford–not great on the consumer’s bottom line.

Until the shakeup happens and content providers stop there own services and partner with larger companies, the consumer loses. And will this happen? I point you to the immenient shutdown management platforms like VUDU and the like. They wanted to be a place where you dumped all movies that you purchased so as to diffuse the power and domination they felt Apple had in the marketplace. Now they are going away and Apple still maintains its dominance in purchased content, but has seceded its in content to the “streaming” platforms.

My point is that capitalism is NOT always good for the consumer, especially whenever there is market upheaval. The market doesn’t always work in the consumer’s favor and we need to stop gushing over capitalism as if it is a “perfect” system. Like all human inventions and endeavors, it has its flaws, and the fact that I no longer have access to watch a show through no action of my own that I hadn’t finished highlights just one of the many flaws in the system.

I guess I’m writing about this, not to gripe or to propose a better system, but in the hopes that by pointing out the flaws, someone (an economist or theorist) many be able to implement ideas that can correct these flaws.

Sidney

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Mini-Review: Netflix’s The Dragon Prince (Season 1)

Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/7/17826544/the-dragon-prince-review-avatar-last-airbender-netflix

Okay, with the impending release of Season 2, I thought I’d take a moment to come back and talk about my reactions to Season 1 of the show now that I’ve taken I’ve seen the first season all the way through. This will be a shorter entry as I have a packed schedule today, but I’ve been meaning to revisit this series for a while.

Characters

So, one of the main reasons that I didn’t initially like the show was that the main character was just too close to their earlier creation–Sokka from The Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Prince Callum (pictured in the above image on the left) is very much in tone, spirit, and vocal inflection a “spiritual successor” to Sokka. While I like Sokka, I can only take him as a “side” character. As the main character, he grates on me (or at least he did until the 4th or 5th episode). I think they toned down his character and gave him a “specialty” which made him seem more in tune with the other “main” characters and less of a walking “joke.” The other main characters were fine and I didn’t really have any problems with them, but Prince Callum really turned me off at first.

Plot

I actually liked the way the plot unfolded after say the 4th episode. The main characters find something and must return it to its rightful place — in other words, a quest. This was missing in the early episodes. Once they set out and began their quest, things seemed to fall in place for me with the show and I began to look forward to watching it, rather than it being a chore to get through.

The main villain seems a little off, however. He seems to use the best interests of the Empire as his justification, but his actions are at odds, and much of what he does seems like a “power grab.” I can’t tell if the creators are trying to create a “complicated” villain (and just not reaching it, in my opinion), or if they are trying to show the villain’s “two-faced” nature (i.e., the Palpatine/Emperor duality from Star Wars Prequels).

Final Observations

The show has potential–which Netflix seems to have seen as they greenlit a second season of the show. They’ve added a new “main” character–so I’ll be interested to see how that works out in regards to the characters’ dynamics as they go about their quest. They’ve added several side characters, so I’d like to see how they are going to be used over the upcoming semester as well as I kind of like their side characters as much as the main characters–probably not their intention, but they are still varied and fun.

Overall Grade: B

So, due to the earlier part of the season, I would have rated this as a B-, but based on the stellar last half of the season, I’m raising my grade to a solid B. If you can get past the early humdrum episodes, I think there’s a worth fantasy series that is worth checking out. It’s no Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it isn’t that bad as fantasy series go.

Sidney




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Netflix’s The Dragon Prince

MV5BMjA5MjEwODU1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk0MzA5NTM@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_
Image Source: IMDB

I had a chance to watch the first episode of this Fantasy show from the creators of the Avatar: The Last Airbender and I found that it was pretty good.  I don’t think, at this early stage (and having seen only one episode), that it is a good as their previous show, but I think that it has promise.

Characters

So, this is where I’m still undecided.  The characters that they introduce are mostly interesting, but unlike Avatar, they don’t fully flesh out each character’s relationship to each other.  There is an extended “history” of the world at the beginning, but the writers also use quite a bit of dialogue as “exposition” in the episode as well.  There are some funny character moments as well as some dramatic ones, but especially for the first episode, I would have liked to have had more grounding in the relationships and motivations.  There are, of course, analogies to the old series, a serious sister, a jokey, but ultimately heroic brother, but there are also some new ideas, that of a “step-brother,” which hasn’t really been explored too much in animation, but is pretty much a fact of life in many Western families.

Plot

So, I won’t go into too much of a plot summary here, but basically humans have killed the Dragon King and are pressing the borders of the other races (elves) now that there is no “guardian” on the borders.  I understand that the humans are being portrayed as the “bad guys” here (colonists, or as Shuri from The Black Panther might term it–colonizers), they are portrayed on-screen remarkably sympathetic.  The writers want you to form an attachment to these humans, even though they are on a mission of war and conquest, and after the first episode, I can’t quite reconcile these two disparate elements together, and it took me out of the plot.

Will I Continue?

Yes, for the moment, I think I will.  I’ll probably watch one episode a week (my normal viewing speed) and I’ll report back after the season is done.  I really like what they’ve set up, although I can’t quite decide if I’m going to like it as much as their original show, which (although I’ve not seen every episode, I’ve seen enough to know that as a Fantasy and Sci-Fi person, as long as it doesn’t go crazy, I’m probably going to enjoy most of it, even if I don’t enjoy it as much as Avatar: The Last Airbender.  However, I’m reminded of the old adage: “Perfect is the enemy of good.”  While Avatar looks to have been perfect, this seems perfectly fine as well.

Sidney




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Mini-Review: Man of Tai Chi (Netflix movie)

v1
Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen star in Man of Tai Chi. Image Source: Rotten Tomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/man_of_tai_chi/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 21 (+1)
    Goal = 3 Pages a week. 20/20 Pages (for artist). 21/32 pages (for completion of 1st issue)
    Actual = 1/5 Pages done so far this week.
    Wrote the Page that I’d rough drafted the day before. Moving along slowly. Don’t think I can finish the entire first issue by Saturday, but we’ll see.
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Exit the 13 Assassins

So, even though I’d taken a Tai Chi class on this previous Saturday and even though I had this movie in my Netflix queue, I wasn’t actually going to watch this movie this past weekend. No, rather I’d intended to watch 13 Assassins, another martial arts movie on Netflix dealing with 13 Assassins who are tasked with killing a poor ruler in Japan’s feudal period.  The movie was slated to go off Netflix at the beginning of the month (today as I write this post) and I’d had it in my queue for ages. However, when I sat down to watch it, it was far more violent of a movie than I really wanted at that time. There was a “hari kari” scene at the beginning of the movie and in the next 15 minutes there were two other fairly violent scenes. In short, it just wasn’t what I was looking for after a Tai Chi class and a fairly grueling drive home.

Enter the Man of Tai Chi

After debating with myself for about 5 minutes and scrolling through some more of Netflix’s martial arts movies, I decided to give Man of Tai Chi a try (I had just taken a Tai Chi class after all).  It actually wasn’t all that bad. Not great, but not a train wreck either. Directed by Keanu Reeves, the movie tells the story of a young man, who is outstanding in the ways of Tai Chi as a martial art, but not so great in understanding Tai Chi’s philosophy. The protagonist (who is not Keanu Reeves, by the way, although Keanu does star as in the movie as the primary villain/antagonist role) of the movie is ‘Tiger’ Chen Lin Hu played by an actor named Tiger Hu Chen who I’ve not seen before but who is expressive in that earnest and determined “Peter Parker” sort of way that many actors are able to bring out in their performances.  The movie follows “Tiger’s” descent into the abandonment of Tai Chi ideals by using Tai Chi to fight in tournaments and later, for money.

A Real World Martial Arts Movie

Set in today’s world (the movie was released in 2013 according to IMDB, although I don’t remember if there are dates in the story–I don’t think so, but I could be wrong). This movie takes place in China/Hong Kong and throws a light bit of police procedural in along with the martial arts with a young female detective who is trying to crack the case of this underground fighting circuit even though her boss is telling her not waste her time. As mentioned, Keanu Reeves’ character tempts and corrupts “Tiger’s” character until he is at the breaking point. I will mention that the final fight scene is vaguely reminiscent of the initial Morpheus and Neo “training” scene where Morpheus shows Neo the Matrix for the 1st time. To be clear, it ISN’T their first fight scene I’m referencing, but the first time they “jack” into the “training” simulation. The fights, while stylishly correographed, lack a bit of polish that would have elevated them from good into the great arena (especially the final, climatic battle). There is a master who sees “Tiger’s” character going over to the “dark side” and tries to use Tai Chi philosophy to stop it and their was a Tai Chi move used in the movie that my friend and I had practiced earlier that day, but mostly the movie was a typical martial arts movie.

Still, I enjoyed it all the more for its earnest main character and the fact that it at least genuflected (or bowed in this case) in the direction of Tai Chi as a healing art, not as a destructive one.

Overall Grade: B-

Yes, I’m being a bit generous here–it is a typical martial arts movie and nothing special. However, I like the way the actor transitioned from earnest to “hard” and I’d had the Tai Chi class earlier in the day, so I feel a bit generous and lenient towards this than I might have otherwise.

Sidney




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Babylon 5 on Amazon Prime–Woot!

babylon_5-show_2707_tvtropes_org
Ambassadors and Crew of Babylon 5 (D’lyn, G’Kar, Kosh, Londo, Susan Ivanova, Captain John Sheridan).  Image Source: TVtropes.org

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

I’m So Excited, I Just Can’t Hide It

A few readers will know that late last year I started Season 1 of Babylon 5 even though I knew the ending series.  Like I said in that post, I only got to see the first season and the latter part of the last season.  I didn’t really get a chance to see how the characters and story got where they were at the end of the show.  As a poor student, I didn’t have a chance to get the second season (although I was planning on doing so in the fairly near future).  However, after logging into Amazon Prime last night, I discovered that ALL five seasons of Babylon 5 are on the streaming service!  Yes!  I watched Season 2, Episode 1 last night, and would watch Episode 2 tonight if not for E3 coverage of Bethesda’s Press Conference tonight.  Unfortunately, school is back in session next week, so no binging the show for me, but I will try to check out 1-2 episodes every weekend and post a Season Review at the end of each season that I see.

What Amazon Gives, It also Takes Away

So, just like any streaming service, as new titles come on the service, old titles go away.  I have quite a few shows that I had on my Watchlist that are no longer free (including another “starship show” Firefly.  I’m going to have to purchase that series it looks like, but as it is only one season and the episodes appear to be .99 at iTunes, it should be okay.  I just wish that when series are scheduled to go away (on all services), that a little countdown timer would start in the bottom right hand corner with the months/days/minutes until the series were going away.  I would prioritize my viewing to those series that I really wanted to watch before they “disappeared.”  I often experience “Media Overload” where I can’t decide what I want to watch because there are so many choices, so I end up watching nothing (or only pieces of a show because it isn’t what I really want to watch).  A timer on shows that are ending at the end of the month (or maybe as far out as up to 3 months would help me in those cases.

But I’ll Take It

Still, I’m grateful as it saves me approximately $80 (19.99 for 4 seasons).  Having already paid approximately $110 for Amazon Prime when it renewed in March (for me), I wondered if it was a sound investment considering my status as a “poor” college student these days, I find that it has almost earned back the value that I spent on it with this one series alone.  If they get another good sci-fi series to go along with this one later in the year, I will feel comfortable about the value of the service and will endeavor to “re-up” next year.

Well, that’s it for today!  Have a great one!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

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