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Altered Carbon (Season 1 Review)

Altered Carbon Netflix Title Card

It’s well-publicized at this point that Netflix expects around $8,000,000,000 (that’s 8 billion) of original content to debut in 2018, beefing up its library. Altered Carbon is arguably the current face of this expansion effort. The flashy and expensive-looking cyberpunk noir debuted in February. Altered Carbon offers a glimpse of what the future might hold, not only as sci-fi tends to do, but in terms of what Netlflix, as a full-fledged entertainment producer, has in store.

As a work of world-building centered around a top-shelf sci-fi concept, Altered Carbon delivers in spades. As is often the case with cyberpunk fare, Carbon leans heavily into the Blade Runner aesthetic—flush with neon-drenched and rain-soaked surfaces. Despite the all of the future-tech trappings, the world looks grungy and polluted, with the majority living in squalor while the wealthiest live on lush estates high above the ground.

Speaking of the elites, the world’s wealthiest form a god-like clique resembling the Greek gods atop Mount Olympus. Are they really gods? Well, that boils down to your definition, for what the fat cats lack in divinity, they make up for in functional immortality and the utter lack of accountability for their actions. Immortality has been achieved through human consciousnesses being digitized and imbued within a cortical stack, a piece of tech embedded in the vertebrae. With enough money, a person can pay to back-up their stack, allowing them to revert to their latest back-up in the event of their death. “Real Death,” or “RD” as the characters refer to it, is no longer a concept the super-rich are required to reckon with. Read more…

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Ranking The GAME OF THRONES Episodes (Introduction)

Game of thrones notebook

The Game Of Thrones finale (Season 8) is still more than a year away. Whatever shall we do in the meantime? How about developing a rubric and using it to rank every Game Of Thrones episode in existence, and by extension, the seasons? Yes, that’s what we’ll do. Read on for the introduction and methodology.

Seven seasons and 67 episodes in (and eagerly awaiting the eighth), Game Of Thrones has had a singularly amazing and inspirational run. It is a unique and wonderful entertainment experience for a number of reasons including memorable characters, a propulsive story, and immersive world-building, not to mention pure entertainment value, with the added spectacle of medieval fantasy.

A few other websites have compiled a ranked list such as what we will have forthcoming on this site. These lists are always fun to read and compare, but most of them don’t express any kind of methodology behind the rankings. They have ultimately inspired me to design a rubric of my own for ranking the episodes, and by extension, the seasons. Read more…

A.I. Spielberg vs. Kubrick

AI Artificial Intelligence flesh fair

Is “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” more an example of Spielberg doing Kubrick, or Kubrick doing Spielberg?

As Steven Spielberg owns sole credit for both the screenplay and direction of A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), the answer to the above question may seem obvious. Upon closer examination, it gets murkier.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence began as Stanley Kubrick’s concept for a science-fiction take on Pinocchio. The story kernel: a fake boy wishes he were a real boy. In the case of A.I., the fake boy is a robot rather than a marionette. In Kubrick’s words, “a picaresque robot version of Pinocchio.”

Kubrick, with such renowned speculative works as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971) already under his belt, likely had the project penciled in as a possible follow-up to Clockwork. Obviously, and for a variety of reasons, this did not come to pass. Read more…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi twice now. I had initially planned to rush out a hasty review, but I knew I wanted to see it again, and now here we are. Here are my thoughts on the latest Star Wars movie:

“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”

This Kylo Ren line has been getting a lot run in the deluge of reviews and think-pieces written in the wake of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth numbered episode in the saga. This one from Yoda is just as good:

“We are what they grow beyond. That is the burden of all masters.”

Whichever you prefer, each is a nice one-off line that also serves as a meta-message to the audience in today’s self-aware blockbuster age. With as much lore and time-tested fan devotion as Star Wars has, a very important question now and moving forward will be—how much does “new Star Wars” have to resemble “old Star Wars” to still be good? The Last Jedi while still paying clear fealty to the original trilogy, seems to have primed the franchise to grow beyond its master.

Along this line of thinking, The Force Awakens was a mixed bag. I loved it, but at times, the parallels to the original classic were so surface-level, that it felt like Star Wars Mad Libs. Despite delivering a thrilling, energetic reintroduction to the saga, it still ruffled some feathers. If The Force Awakens felt like an announcement that Star Wars would eventually jump light years ahead with its new batch of characters, The Last Jedi feels like the franchise finally being ready to burst down the door to a new, broader Star Wars universe. Mission accomplished. The world is now a Star Wars sandbox, and we’re all just living in it.

To unpack everything that’s great about The Last Jedi is to consider the possibility that it is the greatest Star Wars movie to date, period. On the other hand, to unpack all the things that weren’t so great, would be to consider that it is more on par with the prequel trilogy. It’s not perfect, but The Last Jedi reaches a few rarefied heights that allow it to transcend any unevenness and land among the better Star Wars movies so far. Read more…

A Clockwork Orange – The Stuff Of Nightmares

Malcolm McDowell - A Clockwork OrangeStanley Kubrick made a career of unpacking the darkest recesses of humanity. Along with him, we scoffed at oblivion in “Dr. Strangelove…” We reveled in the ice-cold villainy of computer logic in “2001: A Space Odysey.” We waded the terrors of alcoholism in “The Shining.” Even among those heavyweights, “A Clockwork Orange,” a film about the politics of crime and “big” government, is the scariest film Kubrick ever made.

1971 was the year Stanley Kubrick unleashed A Clockwork Orange on the world. It was still fairly early in his ground-breaking run. Kubrick’s films are uniformly difficult to pin down in succinct fashion, and A Clockwork Orange is no different. While its legacy is probably built on its horrific displays of “ultraviolence” and dystopic hooliganism, Clockwork pivots to a sharp rebuke of big institutions including prison systems and their related politics.

A Clockwork Orange is extraordinary, but it’s not an easy film to love. Its detached portrayal of violent acts is a calculated gambit, turning the stomach and stimulating the senses in equal measure. Even more perverse is how Kubrick sets the scene with a deluge of classical music as the carnage unfolds. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, primarily. An iconic early scene turns a home invasion into a literal song and dance, as Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) does a lively Gene Kelly impression.

You know you’re dealing with something unique when a movie as DNA-level violent as this takes a turn that dares you to sympathize with the offender. Clockwork is a singular Kubrick experience, to be sure. It’s also the stuff of nightmares. Read more…

Discussing Horror Movies (Part 4): Favorites & Holiday Traditions

discussing horror movies part 4 favorites and holiday traditions

Well, we’ve discussed horror movies at length, and we may have even flirted with adequate analysis once or twice. We hope you’ve enjoyed it so far, and now, wind down with the final part of this conversation in which Pat and I talk holiday traditions and some of our seasonal viewing favorites. In case you missed it, click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Tony: Well, here we are: Fall. The dropping temperatures, the crisp air, the color change and the other sensory manifestations of the season, not to mention Halloween, create the perfect atmosphere for watching horror movies. While I do like watching these kinds of movies throughout the year, some just feel enhanced when watched after the shift from summer to autumn.

What are your seasonal favorites? What are your tradition for the run-up to Halloween? Read more…