Lock down Survival Binge-watch Recommendations

I love me some good TV and the longer a series is the better. Call me a character development buff because I am, and seeing as many places all around the globe are facing lock down situations this is a perfect opportunity to kick back and watch some good shows!

Here are my binge watching recommendations for surviving lock down!

For a show that started way back in 1993 you would have thought as a 90’s kid I would be down with the X-files but the truth is (no pun intended), I have only just started watching it!

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Now my Mrs finds the show’s theme a little eerie and vividly remembers being scared by the Simpsons X-files episode (which was awesome too) but I will admit this show is great and even for something on the more retro scale it holds up quite well.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s my upshot…

‘Fox Mulder’ (A young David Duchovny) plays a ‘believer’ of a Special Agent in the FBI who spends his time investigating the macabre to the paranormal and everything else in between. These investigations are known as the X-files and Agent ‘Dana Scully’ (an even younger Gillian Anderson) is tasked with finding out if the x-files is a viable resource in the FBI while inadvertently being swept up in the storm of belief.

Their on screen chemistry works incredibly well and very early on they become good friends, their partnership carries the show in what follows a monster of the week formula (anything and everything in sci-fi) while also delving into a longer ‘the man is always watching’ type story arc.

The main selling point is that the X-files is available on at least one platform wherever you are in the world and the amount of episodes (8 series worth) is a sure fire way to spend lock down and survive it! 

We’re going to continue with the Sci-fi theme and look at what I consider to be the best ever Robot fiction show and possibly story…

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Westworld ticks nearly every damn box available for a show with such a high quality. I was blown away by the first season which introduces us to a distant future world with a living, breathing and gun toting amusement park; hence the name of the show.

Guests pay money to basically live and stay in a Red Dead Redemption type world; they can befriend people, go on quests and pretty much do what they like. The world is populated by ‘people’ who are in fact very real looking robots and this is where the performances grip you.

Evan Rachel Wood is exceptional in this as ‘Dolores’ and for television it’s an all star cast including James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and the one and only Anthony Hopkins who brings a master class level of acting to this show that explores the morality of robots in confinement who are forced to do everything over and over again.

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The first season is just the tip of an incredible underbelly with twists and turns but most importantly, revelations! Even for those who think sci fi isn’t their cup of tea, the performances and story will grip you, trust me! 

There are currently 2 seasons available with the 3rd currently being broadcast over the next few weeks!

We’re going to take an almost swerve in another direction now and head into true crime which is a genre if done well that I cannot look away from.

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes sheds a brand new murderous light over one of the most infamous serial killers of the 20th century. This show also introduces it to a brand new generation of folks like me who was born the year (spoiler alert) Ted Bundy was executed…

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The tapes consist of interviews Bundy did while on death row as he reflects on a life that involved brutally murdering many many women. For a 4 part series it manages to cover in detail his chronology in doing what he did. It’s stylishly cut and put together with archive footage and interviews that make it a chilling but ever so addictive binge watch!

Available on Netflix this one will distract you for a while! 

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Continuing with the Netflix documentary theme this one you’ll find to be absurd and a little bit harrowing because the Devil Next Door is like something from a film but it actually happened. Quoting the google (because this pretty much covers it), a Cleveland Grandfather is brought to Trial in Israel, accused of being the infamous Nazi death camp guard Ivan the Terrible…

Trust me when I say this one is addictive, gripping and of course it pays homage to the so many people who faced atrocities during WW2 who still deserve to be remembered for what they went through. Here’s my full review… 

It’s not all Netflix originals or HBO because here at the Hall of Information we have to give credit where credit is due and AMC have put together some awesome shows over the years. Even if it has fallen out of favor from me The Walking Dead is a binge watch institution and I am going out on a limb to say, just watch the first 5 seasons…

 

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The characters, the setting, the special effects, the story and hell the theme song along with everything else cannot be faulted with the first 5 season of TWD. Considering what’s happening just outside our windows this one will capture your imagination and heart.

Seeing as the amount of time we’re all going to be in lock down may change, you shall probably be seeing more television rec’s quite soon! 

Have you got a binge watching recommendation for lock down?

 

 

 

 

‘I Am Not Okay With This’ – Mini Netflix Review

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This was an exceptional mini series! So much so I felt compelled to pen a pint sized review just after watching the dramatic finale episode and trust me it was both dramatic and a little graphic!  

On the surface ‘ I Am Not Okay with This’ looks like a ‘Carrie’ parody but think of it more as a sophisticated, funny, slick and modern version of it with the volume turned all the way up.

Led by Sophia Lillis of IT 2017 fame is fantastic and carries what is a great diary style story of a young high school girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers amongst her struggle with the many problems of recently loosing a parent. The whole deal unfolds in short manageable episodes leaving you wanting more – this one has got classic Netflix binge-ability written all over it. Another familiar face from ‘IT’ Wyatt Oleff brings the sometimes laugh out loud but endearing comedy of the MC’s love interest as they journey through teenage angst of not fitting in and discovering themselves.

From detention shenanigans to the typical teenage parties this short series manages to pack in one hell of an image that modern kids have of school and their individual struggles. It’s fun, powerful and immersive!

For anyone looking to watch something a little different, check it out! The soundtrack is great also!

 

Do you have a Netflix rec? 

Orange is the new black Season 7 – Review

A show that isn’t afraid to be the mirror of truth displaying a reflection back to the modern world…

Orange is the New Black carved a path for modern television. Being the third ‘Netflix original’ it introduced the entertainment world to a brand new concept; binge watching. But that isn’t all this show is responsible for and quite honestly I’m a little cut up that it’s finished.

There aren’t many shows out there that make you laugh, think, get angry, feel sad and overall feel fulfilled like ‘Orange’ does in one episode. I have always raved about this show and I will proudly say there isn’t one bad episode or one bad series.

Piper is finally on the outside, her struggles intertwine with what it is like to be someone in this day and age struggling the find work and life balance while still trying to maintain her probation. Her story steers this season which feels like a change as the ensemble have had the floor for the past few years. We see Larry again and Piper’s journey seems to close after going full circle. Although I never approved of Alex their relationship finally finds balance.

Taystee is reeling from the shocking outcome that saw the riot pinned to her or at least the killing of Piscatella. She starts with nothing to lose but we see her eventually reform and it probably becomes the most rewarding journey seen in this show, even though she was knocked down, she found a way to get back up and we always knew Taystee was the one of the good guys.

Nicky seems to find only struggle and is caught between her prison family – both Lorna and Red are essentially receding into their own minds and the performance of these three in particular stands out along with ‘Crazy Eye’s Suzanne’ who may be the best actress in the whole damn thing.  

Joe Caputo really is a victim of the times as he is thrown into a ‘me too’ scandal and cannot help himself along with trying to maintain relevance and a relationship with Fig.

The prison itself is thrown into political and moral dilemmas such as the new warden being chosen simply for PR reasons and an ever growing drugs problem.

There are so many other characters I possibly couldn’t name that endure their own journey bringing this show to its eventual close but something happened during this final season, and although I know it has always been there from episode 1 but this show turned everything back towards the audience as if we were looking in a mirror but the reflection we saw was the ugly truth about this world. From corporations, politics, immigration, drugs, mental health, education, race and even harassment we saw it all.  There was even a huge dig towards Donald Trump’s immigration policies adding just another relevant dimension.

The performances throughout display some of the finest acting I have ever seen and known. Some win and others lose in what I found to be an emotional finish to what is a show that ended too soon. A show about humanity’s best and worst – pretty much all of the main characters are women which is yet another big important step for society.

You’ll notice this review is hyper vague because there is so much detail I could go into about how this show gave so much to society and I’m not exaggerating. All those hero stories out there get nowhere near Orange is the New Black. 

 

Stranger Things 3 Review

The Duffer Brothers have gradually pieced together a universe that fuses gripping story telling with references from their many childhood influences. Now after three seasons Stranger Things relies less upon the retro callbacks of days gone by and more on its own identity even if they do still tribute pop culture of the 1980’s; the greatest thing that has become of this show is the characters.

Before we start its worth a quick mention that this post contains some spoilers for Stanger Things Season 3….

Character development that falls in favor of the viewer is the real wonder of television. Writers and show runners who listen to their audience give them exactly what they want along with a couple of surprises – exactly what the Stranger Things team have done with season 3 and continuing on with the previous season. There are some formidable groupings of the faces we want to see; Dustin and Steve Harrington continue their friendship and carry a chemistry that is great to watch even if it is berated by new face Robin who finds an original way to slot into the cast. I must also mention Erica for her sometimes sassy but always entertaining swagger.

Of course the original group of kids are center piece and it soon becomes apparent that growing up is probably the main theme of this whole thing and it always has been. They are teenagers now and trying to find your way in this world – now that you are aware of it is daunting and so are relationships. Will, the brunt of two seasons feels held back in moments, he hasn’t been able to have a ‘normal’ childhood and is still catching up; full credit for the writers in giving Will a better purpose than being the missing or possessed kid this time around, perhaps his journey is the most emotional.

Law man Jim Hopper is back and we see him experience first hand the perils of parenthood to a mid teen in Eleven, he attempts to ‘talk’ with his adopted daughter but defaults to his thug ways especially as it’s peace time now. And I say thug because Hopper is but in a totally bad ass way. He teams with Joyce Buyers and together they find a common goal in protecting the kids while having some excellent back and forth dialogue capped off by the returning conspiracy man Murray; who is responsible for creating Jonathan and Nancy – a couple that become an important moving part in the whole duration of this season.

There is something lurking underneath the surface of Hawkins and it makes for an original and perhaps absurd direction for the story, but after all the show is called Stranger Things. The influences come out thick and fast from the Terminator and even the Thing; both of which are done exceptionally. I was happy to see a tribute to 1985’s blockbuster ‘Back to the Future’ which I am sure many were expecting. The music was bang on point as usual along with the synth soundtrack viewers have become used to.

The horror concept of everyone being ‘in’ on it works incredibly well – I should know, one of my books carries the same cliche… Billy becomes a great bad guy; he kind of was anyway and they build upon that while fusing it to the mind flayer,  his story then becomes beautifully explored by Eleven.

Creature feature moves to the central theme later on while we see the Star Court Mall attacked and pretty much destroyed in true 80’s style with the shops, the food places and everything else that makes the awesome production design take everyone back. All of the characters are reunited briefly to fight the threat that is consuming Hawkins; a moment which makes for great watching.

In fact the season is a series of moments; some are fun and laugh out loud, others more emotional and raw; Robin confides in Steve about her sexuality; a step in the right direction for LBGT awareness to a main stream audience- something more shows need to be brave about. Carey Elwes joins the cast as Mayor Kline – although brief, very effective in execution to the main plot.

I found myself quite moved by the ending of Season 3 and came to the realization that this story really is about growing up. People move on and move away; life goes on and friends drift; all of this is the reality of the real world. The performances by everyone throughout might arguably make Stranger Things the best thing out there on television right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead…and buried?

 

This weekend see’s AMC’s the Walking Dead stand on the cusp of maybe the biggest fall from grace in television history. Here we stand in the middle of it’s eight season feeling pretty much underwhelmed and somewhat not bothered about it, well that’s my feeling anyway, and I’m an avid fan.

I don’t usually do debatable pieces but I feel compelled to give you all my two cents…

To begin with, this article will contain spoilers of the Walking Dead, you’ve been warned! 

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I remember some years back spending the month of August binge watching seasons 1 to 4 of the Walking Dead readying myself for the remarkable season 5 and the year after which saw possibly the most gripping moment on television. Season 6’s finale episode.

You can’t not mention the arrival of the notorious big bad known as Negan, and every top story must have the big bad. Soon after his introduction we realized the Governor was a choirboy compared. The S6 finale had us on the edge of our seat, Rick and the gang were on their knees literally and were putty in Negan’s hands. What a huge moment for TV, an introduction like nothing we had ever seen and a monologue sequence by Jeffrey Dean Morgan which put viewers for the first time in a wonderfully weird position, a love to hate position for record breaking viewing figures. Then, we had to wait half a year to see who died. Say what you like about that moment, but that was part 1 of TWD’s peak.

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Season 7 opened where we left off, Rick is a defeated man, his eyes say it all, fantastic acting from everyone in this episode, much like all of the series. That episode did something to the audience which has never been done before. We felt demoralized, down and not wanting to see any more. I didn’t want to watch anymore, seeing such strong characters chopped down.  I have never felt that way about a story before. Two beloved characters fell, Glenn and Abraham, a shocking turn of events and even then it didn’t cheapen the major character death thing that Game of Thrones loves to do, quite well mind. We as an audience were wounded. And that folks was the very peak of this show, it never got better than that.

It just went downhill…

The Walking Dead has never recovered from that moment and the introduction of Negan. I’m not sure the show knew what to do with him next, maybe the greatest thing about the show (him), ended up being its true demise. Looking at the current mood on social media, most people are not happy with the show.

And  S7 had it’s moments, the whole Daryl getting kidnapped easy street thing was good, and the Hilltop seemed intriguing, along with an introduction to King Ezekiel by way of Morgan and Carol. Dwight’s character was perfectly conflicted and full marks for Eugene. All of these ingredients were the perfect recipe for this show to really push forward and move into a whole new chapter, war. Except that didn’t really happen. Season 7 was a sluggish decline all the way to the finale when we finally saw the three ‘good’ communities unite, that was awesome, but was that really enough? We finally saw Negan retreat, just about, and was that enough?

Although the whole long hard season thing worked to an extent, viewers didn’t get anything from it. There was no Negan origins story, no signs of any real fight back and no consistency with how the last seasons dealt with any resolve. Okay, some series are allowed a duff season, I can allow that considering the Walking Dead has a fantastic cast of actors who take their craft seriously. The zombie effects are second to none, but the story; began to show signs of crashing and burning throughout season 7. And then the first half of Season 8 happened.

The opening three episodes opened with a good effort of trying to replace the missing action from the previous season. But it didn’t feel like an ‘all out war’, as advertised. a lot of it just seemed over pushed and over done just to cater for S7. I know this show doesn’t like to explain things and sometimes that’s good for ‘creative scope’ but I began to question what exactly was going on.

Negan looked to be on the back foot but then the resolve of that angle just fizzled away. And again we saw no origins story. We are then led to believe the Saviours are trapped in their own compound but then just got out. The one good thing about S8 was the King, and his epic ‘still I smile’ routine which got dashed and ruined. Don’t get me started on how pointless the tiger turned out to be! Jesus appeared to be a complete flake, a soggy corn flake actually and his confrontation with Morgan was underused.

So the Saviours get out with no real harm and go straight after Alexandria. Quickly they dismantle the place and pretty much level it. We see a brief exchange/fight between Rick and Negan, again not enough. The good guys and characters we have come to love are hidden underground, and then it gets revealed Carl has been bitten.

There’s no real indication as to where Season 8 part two will go. Like many of the seasons they play up to the unpredictable nature of what a zombie apocalypse is but there’s hardly anything left for me to look forward to. I’m not bothered at all about tuning in this monday (sunday for US fans).

If you ask me, there’s something really wrong probably happening underneath the hood of the car as to speak. You can almost sense that in Talking Dead when Scott Gimple sat on the couch. He confirmed Carl will die, a character we all thought would see the finale episode. How many high profile original character deaths can an audience deal with until they call time?

Rumour and induendo suggest that Gimple has been removed from his current position and there have been talks of a ‘shake up’ but again this gives me little faith for S8 part 2. More news has recently surfaced that Lauren Cohan (Maggie) hasnt signed on currently for Season 9. Another top character death will bring the walking dead on the verge of being buried and with no signs of retribution for Glenn’s death by the birth of their child.

My conclusion is simple, if this was a show based off my books, I would have stepped in a long damn time ago and never let this show get to this stage. Negan is slowly becoming a pointless novelty, albeit well portrayed like all of the cast who I imagine work so hard to convince us and immerse us into this world. Time is quickly running out for probably the most watched television in a generation.

Netflix are becoming stronger and stronger, they started out with producing low budget high performance quality shows. Now they are producing high budget, high quality performance shows at an increasingly quick rate. If they were to create a high budget zombie show, then it could be curtains for TWD.

There are some great shows currently streaming; Altered Carbon, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Westworld, Black Mirror to say a few.

Broadcast television has to catch up in terms of quality story. And for the network that brought us Breaking Bad, AMC are a far cry away from those days now.

I will be tuning in, but the Walking Dead currently sits on probation/ last chance saloon for me. In the words of Shrek, it could be ‘all ogre now’…

 

Stranger Things: A review: More like Better things

So many of us know that one day the post-apocalyptic survivors will consist of Trump, Google and Netflix.

Right now I’m happy with the latter surviving especially if they keep providing decent original series like Stranger Things. An eight part mystery horror set in 80’s small town America. The cliché boxes are literally being ticked as the first few minutes of the show play out, what I can say is that on this occasion, cliché is your friend.

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We don’t do spoilers here at the Hall of information, but we do our best to persuade you, valuable reader, to go out there and watch the shit I watch. Then we can converse over a few vodkas one lunch time about such things. Yes, my lunchtimes are wild.

So the Duffer brothers have done their absolute best to bring you all a show which from the very beginning pays homage to Stephen King and John Carpenter style story telling . This is also completed by the postmodern synthy type music that plays as we see the red neon writing that reads this show’s title. There are numerous 80’s greats that this show tributes, something which JJ Abrams tried to do with super 8 but just missed the mark.

Some of these tributes include the goonies with a great group of leading kids whose characters contribute to believable situations in an unbelievable situation. When they are not on their bikes they are forever referencing geek stuff such as dungeons and dragons, Star Wars and x men stuff.. An escaped mystery girl with telekinetic powers even mirrors Carrie in some senses.

The first billed actress Winona Ryder plays an older single mum struggling to meet ends when her youngest of two sons mysteriously goes missing. Although she does over play it sometimes, her performance is mostly positive.

The town’s nearby department of energy are more than just a power station and so the premise of mystery along with this kid going missing quickly ensues.

We see the town’s rugged and somewhat over the hill police chief, very well depicted by David Harbour bring a performance of a man whose witnessed great loss but will do anything to find this missing kid. His solo scenes are something which can only be described as a joy to watch, all the more reason to get behind him. His chemistry with Winona Ryder make two brilliant leads along with some of the older kids. All of them with one goal. To find out what happened to this missing boy and what is going on in their town.

Even just as a look back at a time of such rich pop culture makes Stranger Things probably the hottest show on Netflix right now. The music, clothes, cars and look are all something an immense amount of effort has gone into.

We’ve all seen orange is the new black, now its time for horror to rule for a while.

The pacing, atmosphere and characterization are well achieved by the writer/director brothers who have brought an instant cult classic which I urge you all to watch. Yes you may cower behind the sofa but you’ll be better for it.

It really is about time that we stopped relying on House, Buffy and breaking bad to re watch for viewing pleasure. There is new stuff and its good.

The show can either be seen as a stand alone or with plenty of stories left open. If a season two is on the cards, it has my vote.