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TV Review: Sense8 Season One

The first three episodes of Sense8, the latest creative entry from the Wachowskis and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, were a pleasant surprise for me. I wasn’t sure where the series was going, but I liked what it was doing. This from past-Adam.

“What I have seen so far is a series interested in both people and the clash of collectives – in this case the gestalt of the Sensates (a cluster of eight individuals who can share memories, experiences, and consciousness) versus the institutions of humanity, particularly the medical establishment.”

It’s nothing new to see a science fiction story exploring alternative definitions of humanity. X-Men has been doing that for the last forty years. What sets Sense8 apart from so many superhero-style stories is an odd sort of optimism. Perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age, but this tonal shift away from matters dreary and morally ambiguous is a welcome change of pace.

Make no mistake, there are some profoundly dark elements to Sense8. This is to be expected when human evolution is at odds with state authority and an invasive medical establishment. I’m sure, somewhere, there are grad students frothing at the mouth to apply a Foucauldian discourse to the ways Sense8 explores biopolitics – particularly with respect to transgender issues – the panopticon embodied in an antagonist who hunts “deviants” after locking eyes upon them, and a stream of studies into power relationships. Fortunately for you lot, I’m not such a grad student. I’ll content myself with saying that the Wachwoski penchant for philosophy seems to have grown up a bit since the clumsy applications of Plato and Nietzsche in the Matrix movies.

The optimism in Sense8 is largely due to its subversion of the origin story. Evolutionary differences between humans and sensates may catalyze the series’ conflict, but the emotional core of the story is that of a deep and meaningful engagement with sensates as people. Not super powered people, not even “special” people, despite their talents. Just people.

Focusing on the sensates as complete beings slows the series’ pace from what one might otherwise expect to find on television. The first six episodes deal almost exclusively with individual character conflicts. Only in the season’s second half do the stakes escalate to something that threatens the sensates as a cluster. Even then, so much of the show’s richness is in its introspection. This will probably challenge the attention span of an audience accustomed to things moving at break neck speeds.

Yet the style pays dividends in dialing up the intensity of the character-viewer relationship, ultimately increasing the tension when bad things threaten the sensates. Likewise, the highly-functional interpersonal relationships the sensates bring into their interconnected stories develops even the secondary characters into robust beings. Whatever the series might lose from not explaining things to the satisfaction of every slack-jawed, CSI Miami fan, it more than gains in making the audience give a damn about its players.

Underwriting all of this engagement is a very simple message: we’re better together than we are divided. The sensates demonstrate what can happen when people are stripped of their secrets but given a way to truly understand each other. While this might result in the occasional psychic, pansexual orgy, it also drives home a message of universal understanding as the key to a better world. Again, this is not what audiences have come to expect from television. Narratives powered by genuine optimism are few and far between. Scruffy white men burdened with angst have become the new definition of hero. Sense8, with its incredibly diverse cast and emphasis on cooperation over competition, turns this formula on its head. And somehow it manages to do so without engaging my hair-trigger cynicism; this is no small feat.

I ended my first impressions review of Sense8 with a question: will the denouement of the first season prove worthy of the time invested? I’ll conclude this review by answering my own question. Yes, yes it did. Sense8 is the embodiment of the slow burn. It never wants for story or substance, but it doesn’t rely on singularly action to achieve either end. However, the action sequences are glorious in true Wachowski fashion. More than anything else, Sense8 wants the audience to care about its characters, and in doing so care about people in general – even if some people are assholes. This is a good message, and it’s one that science fiction from time to time. Collective angst and catharsis in form of The Dark Knight is a necessary outlet, but it should not be the end all and be all of popular expression. Sense8 is at its best when reminding the audience that hard times need not produce singularly hard works of escapism.


TV Review: Knights of Sidonia Season 2

As prophesied, I tore through the second season of Knights of Sidona over the Canada Day long weekend. It was something of a bizarre experience. While Sidonia’s first season is a good, if occasionally weird, piece of hard science fiction, the second season is a different type of monster. On paper, the series is still a space opera about mecha pilots protecting humanity from an enemy that destroyed the earth. In practice, Sidonia’s second season opens the door for a lot more slice-of-life story telling, placing any military drama firmly on the back burner.

NB: I’m not going to explain season one in this review. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you go watch it. As for watching season two…whelp…

The second season begins shortly after Sidona’s battle with the Guana cluster. Unlike the first season, which took an episode or two to introduce the audience to the seed ship and the bio-hacked humans who dwell within her, season two, subtitled “The Battle for Planet Nine” opens with intrigue, plotting, and a looming sense of bad things about to happen to the last remnants of humanity. All this culminates in the early introduction of a new character, Tsumugi, a Guana-Human hybrid.

This addition hints that the series will dig into the idea of Sidona’s human population, particularly its civilians, rejecting the hybrid and the captain’s turn toward heretical science. As it happens, Sidona’s hatred for Tsumugi lasts but a single episode. When Tsumugi’s capacity for killing Guana proves even greater than Nagate’s, the ever feckless citizens of Sidonia put away their protest placards and conveniently forget that the last Gauna-Human hybrid experiment nearly destroyed the ship. In the span of twenty minutes, the plot goes from an angry mob ready to lynch the hybrid, Kunato – her “father”, and Captain Kobyashi, to accepting Tsumugi as their personal savior. Sorry, Nagate.

From those good vibrations stem a decided change of focus for the middle episodes of the season. Though there are still a few battles here and there, the protracted second act is largely devoted to exploring teenage angst. Ever the typical anime protagonist, Nagate is utterly oblivious to the fact that Izana, his gender neutral best friend, is in love with him. In fact, Izana’s feelings are so powerful she transitions from “middle gender” to female. Given the way Izana is introduced in the first season, and some of the shit she takes from people just for being herself, this transformation is, rightly, a profound moment of change for the character. Yet in true anime fashion, Izana’s transition is handled with all the dignity of a drunk Bostonian yelling “Baba Booey” at a wedding. At one point she literally explodes out of her space suit because – wait for it – her newly formed boobs caused her space suit to explode. Boobs = space suit explosions. I guess I missed that scene in Gravity.

Likewise, Izana and Nagate can’t have a relationship unfold along honest lines because this is anime, and there has to be a jealous third party. In this case, Sidona’s acting first officer plays the role of petty envy monger. Yuhata pulls rank to move in with Izana and Nagate, despite never making a move for Nagate’s attention. When did Nagate change his name to Jack Tripper? That’s right, I made a Three’s Company reference. That’s how fucking shameless KoS has got with things.

I remember when this used to be a show about fighter pilots. Back when Izana would give Nagate a telling off not because he is oblivious to her feelings, but because his ace pilot skills preclude him from seeing how much she, and every other pilot, fears dying alone in the cockpit of a garde. Those were the days when Nagate’s obsession with the Hoshijro-ena was a by-product of the guilt he felt for not being able to protect Hoshijiro in battle against the Guana. There was a Battlestar Galactica meets 2001 A Space Odyssey feeling to the way the series blended the staples of mecha anime with actual physics. Now space battles and the novelty of Sidonian civilization, a place where resource scarcity required genetically engineering humans to photosynthesize, take a back seat to feelings.

Also, tentacles. Holy shit, so many tentacles. Not in the hentai sort of way, mind you. Even though the Guana are weird pink blob monsters whose primary means of attack are tentacles, those images never seemed particularly weird in season one. I am, however, acutely aware of it in season two. Perhaps it has something to do with Tsumugi, who is the size of a Sidonian Garde, stretching out a face tentacle whenever she interacts with Nagate or Izana. If it feels odd for you to imagine a Guana-Human hybrid stretching a face tentacle through Sidonia’s endless labyrinth of pipes so it can have a slumber party at Nagate’s house, imagine how it feels watching it happen. And if that’s not enough to make you go, “Umm, what?” the season’s final battle sequence includes a Guana’s human ena sliding her tongue tentacles (plural!) into Nagate’s mouth while choking him. What in the actual fuck?

All of this is happening while a mad scientist – the one who nearly destroyed Sidonia with his hybrid experiments – is using brain parasites to assimilate Sidona’s crew with the memories of his past associates. Between the Guana and this human threat, there should be no shortage of material to make for a solid second season. Instead, we end up with two distinct moods for Sidonia’s second chapter. One is distinctly juvenile and flighty yet weird and off-putting. The other wants to be a hard scrabble science fiction series, but it’s markedly toned down from its roots.

While I won’t go so far as to write off  the second season, I will say the series doesn’t feel anywhere near as unique  as when it started. Tonally, KoS might as well be Gundam Seed/Gundam Seed Destiny. If that sort of thing works for you, and you’re good with mouth and face tentacles, then you’ll probably enjoy the second season. However, if you’re expecting the second season to be more of the thoughtful anime meets Battlestar Galactica of the first season, I’d brace for some disappointment.


TV Review: Daredevil, Act 1

Courtesy of Netflix and Marvel Television Studios, Matt Murdoch aka Daredevil is the newest entry into the realm of superheroes making the leap from paper to the small screen. Frankly, I could not be happier with this turn of events.

It’s an odd feeling for me. I’m often the first in line to complain about superhero stories taking over everything while offering nothing but cerebral indigestion. Yet the first three episodes of Daredevil, which for the sake of this review I’ll consider to be the series’ first act, gives me something that Agents of SHIELD couldn’t do with an entire season: a reason to give a damn.

Superheroes, despite outward appearances, resonate with their audiences because they are a criticism of the status quo. For example, Steve Rogers is a reminder that America is getting further away from the progressive politics of Roosevelt and closer to the bad-old-days of Herbert Hoover. An audience identifies with Cap because he believes in something greater than the institutions of the current day. This is why I found Agents of SHIELD to be such an alienating concept.

I want a hero story to break my cynicism. It needs to make me believe in some sort of lofty ideal. Gods help us all when our idealism has to look to SHIELD aka the Team America: World Police for nourishment. By comparison, the blind lawyer of Hell’s Kitchen is a spot-on criticism of everything that’s wrong with America while also offering idealism amid the pragmatism of his vigilantism. That’s a lot of ‘isms.

Where the likes of Tony Stark might try to help people in a conceptual sense, all the while living in the lap of luxury, Netflix’s Matt Murdoch wants to help actual people. As “the man in black” – not yet donning the mantle of Daredevil, he fights for the poor and dispossessed people of Hell’s Kitchen. These are the folks who would otherwise be victims of organized crime and the looming gentrification (a side-effect the private sector rebuilding New York in the wake of the Chitauri invasion of The Avengers) of the traditionally working-class Midtown West.

Likewise, Nelson and Murdoch, attorneys at law, mobilize in about twenty minutes the kind of empathy that Michael Clayton took two hours to produce. Amid a culture where the divide between those who benefit from the system and those crushed under its weight is ever-present, the idea of inner-city lawyers fighting the good fight has become even more resonant since Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Bill Everett created the man without fear in 1964. Everything about the introduction to Charlie Cox’s Daredevil pulls at an audience’s desire to see a champion for real people.

In terms of Daredevil’s visual style, the series is a considerable departure from the clean-cut, everything-is-awesome look of the movies. Even when Captain America was in hiding during The Winter Soldier, the film presented a character besotted with all the best assets of society and a high-tech paramilitary organization. In comparison, Daredevil’s costume is, so far, a black shirt, jeans, and a mask. Even armed with his enhanced senses and righteous indignation, Matt Murdoch manages to take as many beatings as he dishes out. Indeed, the second episode begins with “The Man in Black” being tossed, half-dead, into a dumpster.

In some ways the series feels more high-stakes than the rest of the MCU. It’s not like anybody thought Loki might beat the Avengers. The bad guy is not going to win in a summer blockbuster movie. In the case of Daredevil, Wilson Fisk could conceivably triumph despite Matt Murdoch’s best efforts. Murdoch isn’t simply a crime fighter or a symbol for the good people of Gotham, he’s part of a dialogue on the rights of the individual versus the rights of a nation where corporations are people. Beating Wilson Fisk is about bringing down said system. Likewise, Karen Page, played by True Blood alumna Deborah Ann Woll, will only find justice for the crimes that brought her into the offices of Nelson and Murdoch through the idealism of the fifth estate as a watchdog for society. These are not battles easily won.

More so than anything else I’ve seen in the MCU, Daredevil is grounding its story in an all too familiar reality, and underwriting its world with some resonant symbolism and thoughtful ideas. There is a sense of consequence to the slow burn of Daredevil that is absent from most super hero adaptations. Finally, Daredevil is proof that a dark story is not mutually exclusive of an idealistic hero.

Stray thoughts:

  • I don’t normally care about opening title sequences, but this one is amazing.
  • A few people have talked Daredevil going to the well of “women being rescued” a little too often. For now, I’m giving it a pass on that front. These scenes are not about gender-specific helplessness so much as a reflection of the people who are commonly the victims of human trafficking and organized crime.
  • Foggy Nelson’s mother clearly didn’t like him that much to name him Foggy.
  • Only in a comic book universe could a murder charge go to trial and be resolved inside of a week.


Fighting Words – Episode 8 – Regulate This

And so it came to pass that Adam did record the eighth episode of Fighting Words, the fastest podcast on the internet.

In this week’s very special edition of Fighting Words, I talk about Netflix being a rebellious teenager, the CRTC acting like its concerned school marm, and gentleman’s unfortunate last name, all of which leads up to, by far, the sexiest third minute this podcast has ever seen.

I think it’s also good form to offer my thanks to Hugo, Zain, Hayden, and Tim for offering up some hilarious Canadian themed porn movie titles. After three takes I still couldn’t get through the list without laughing.

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to Fighting Words on iTunes and get a new episode downloaded to your iDevice each and every week.

Also, does anybody have any recommendations for an android podcasting stream I should be using?

Here’s the audio.

Music Credits

“Pump Sting” Kevin MacLeod (

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


The Season 2 Premiere of House of Cards is Pure Fan Service

Warning: this is not a spoiler free analysis of House of Cards S2E01. If you haven’t yet seen this episode or HoC’s first season, I refer you to my friend Matt Moore’s adroit, spoiler free takedown. Furthermore – I’m only watching one episode per week as to give myself plenty of time to chew through each narrative piece, rather than rushing to print with a hastily constructed review of the entire season.

Between Kevin Spacey’s acting chops and cinematography that blurs the lines between television and cinema, it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed by House of Cards’ outward gravitas. Yet never have I more clearly recalled Princess Irulan’s first line in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of  Dune, “a beginning is a very delicate time.” This lesson is lost upon House of Cards’ season two premiere. In so much as I was thrilled to see Frank Underwood back in action – wherein the episode actually left me smiling at Zoe’s death – the more I actually thought about the episode, the less it stood up to serious scrutiny.

First and foremost, there’s an obvious stupidity in having Frank, the soon to be Vice-President of the United States, push Zoe onto a subway track. Really? He’s personally going to commit a murder in a metro station, one of the most surveilled places in the Western world, while wearing nothing more than a Walter White hat and hipster glasses as a disguise. Come on.

Well hold on there, Adam. He’ll have to deal with the consequences of that.

Will he? Two scenes later we see a news report dismissing Zoe’s death as accidental. Nor should we forget that as Party Whip, Frank put the DC police in his pocket. I can only imagine the scope of law enforcement influence he will command as VP.

Let us then return to the vacuum of finesse surrounding Zoe’s death. TV is rife with examples of powerful people killing those who threaten their station. However, it is one thing to see Tony Soprano strangling an FBI-rat with his bare hands. To witness the anointed VP personally whacking one of his enemies is something else.

Don’t get me wrong, Zoe was a problematic character from day one. Her lacklustre career in journalism certainly generated some pathos from the audience, but when she proved as depraved and amoral as Frank Underwood she quickly spent that initial coin. All the while the character alternated a “save me/fear me” vibe, which only made her that much more of an alienating figure. If House of Cards were a Greek tragedy, which it may well prove to be, Zoe’s grisly death is certainly well deserved. She rose too high, too quickly, and was burned for her hubris.

Except I’m not an ancient Athenian watching this series, thus I demand more than base appeals to simple notions of justice in my story telling. I demand subtlety and intentional manoeuvring, neither of which is apparent in this episode. The only thing we see therein is three characters acting in the way we would imagine them to act if they were left unguided along an existing trajectory. In other words, fan service.

It’s easy for the audience to imagine Frank murdering a reporter because Frank is a terrible person; RIP Peter Russo, you never had a chance. We can also imagine Claire Underwood forging signatures and setting out to commit infanticide by proxy because she’s a miserable human being and a complete narcissist. Furthermore, Stamper is such a perfect union of Wayland Smithers and Patrick Bateman that it’s easy to see him psychologically dominating Rachel into compliance, alternating fear and reward in an almost Pavlovian way – also, wouldn’t it make more sense to kill the prostitute instead of the potentially useful journalist? Given the perilous and marginalized nature of Rachel’s work, shouldn’t it be a lot easier to murder and cover up her death?

Nothing we see from the three remaining principles is innovative, unexpected, or sophisticated as a story telling device. Frank/Claire/Stamper’s actions are just tropes meant to engage (or re-engage) the audience on a dull and fundamental level. It also raises a question on where the story goes from here with this motley crew?

Having the principle characters be terrible simply because the audience expects them to be terrible is horribly safe writing for a high stakes political drama. In fact, I read it as a cowardly ploy to remove a character that isn’t testing well so there’s more time to revel in Kevin Spacey being evil. Meanwhile, killing Zoe has the benefit of sending a “the stakes have never been higher” message without actually having to do anything. Now the only challenge to Frank will have to come from secondary characters (probably either Janine or Christina) which in turn will require extensive time to develop those characters to a point of significance. Simply put, Caesar needs a new Brutus.

In the interim, the show can default to giving the people what they want without really having to do anything new. That, in my estimation, is the definition of fan service, and House of Cards is capable of better than that. Obviously there is plenty of time for things to get better. I won’t judge a whole season on a single episode. I am, however, finding it just a bit harder to rally behind Frank Underwood without questioning my own moral compass, and I fear two or three episodes of him being evil while the writers break in a new foil will further drive Frank toward inaccessibility.


TV Review: House of Cards

That’s right, I’m reviewing House of Cards. Even I like to take the odd break from genre in favour of something a little more mainstream. Though I wonder if mainstream is the right word when this high stakes political drama has been adapted from a BBC series and novel of the same name and is distributed exclusively on Netflix. Perhaps this is an ontological debate best saved for another day.

I suppose the easiest place to start with House of Cards is that it made me break my own rules for television reviews. Unless I’m reviewing a program on a week-to-week basis, I like to write a television review after watching three hours of the series in question. By my count, three hours is more than enough time to figure out everything required, save for the finer points of plot, for putting together a thoughtful ‘yea’ or ‘nay’. In this instance, I wanted to see everything there was before committing myself to a review if only because House of Cards demonstrates a majestic ability to turn on a dime.

A review-in-progress also seemed askance given that there’s little about House of Cards that makes it seem like television as we’ve come to understand the medium. In terms of storytelling and cinematic artistry, each episode of the series feels like its own feature film. Once again, I don’t want to open this review up to a huge tangent on what Netflix, HBO, and the like are doing for the way we use pictures and sound to convey a story, but from Kevin Spacey’s first soliloquy it’s clear that House of Cards is playing on a level often reserved for capital “F” Film.

For example, one of the series go-to camera tricks is to use static objects and ancillary characters to physically frame a more important character thus symbolizing their prominence within the episode and the broad story arc. Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood, a loyal majority whip within a Democrat controlled House of Representatives, is almost always framed in a shot. Corey Stoll as Representative Peter Russo, a freshman congressman from Pennsylvania, is often found as part of a frame for other characters within a scene. When Russo, who never quite comes to understand that he is a pawn in Underwood’s game of political chess, thinks he has made it across the board, so to speak, the cinematography changes such that we see other people framing him. How often do we see television using camera work to build subtext and offer foreshadowing?

Despite the subject matter and technical prowess of the production, House of Cards is anything but pretentious in its delivery. Underwood’s soliloquies and asides create an instant rapport between character and audience. In so much as Frank’s story is one of power politics at its zenith, it is underwritten by more accessible narratives on substance abuse, the glass ceiling, labour rights, and urban poverty. For every scene depicting power and privilege, the writers are adroit enough to offer another that shows the cost of that prestige. The title, which is an apt and enduring commentary on the stability of the power bases that various characters build, is also a continual reminder that those on top only get there on the backs of others.

Though the first season is quite satisfying when viewed as one complete narrative, there are some moments when obvious flaws emerge. On that note I would submit that the first episode, while a powerhouse of a premiere, is something of a red herring in terms of setting a tone for the series. When the President passes Frank over for promotion to Secretary of State, thus precipitating the season’s long term conflict, the audience is led to believe that Frank is going to set himself on knocking down the President’s house of cards. Perhaps this is another reason why I didn’t write about the series after the first three episodes; I thought I was witnessing the initial movements of a long con against the establishment. What follows the first episode is not the active sabotage and subversion of the BBC series, but a more subtle shift toward motivated self-interest on Frank’s part. By the time I fully appreciated that the underlying message of the first episode is simply that Frank Underwood is no longer content to be the good soldier, I was too enraptured with the shifting narrative to really care. In retrospect, I can see it as a slight overplay of the part of the writers to hook the audience, but I remain more than willing to forgive it after the fact.

What I’m less certain about is Robin Wright’s role in the series. As Claire Underwood, NGO director/philanthropist and wife to Frank Underwood, I was expecting Wright to emerge as the power behind the throne: Livia to Frank’s Augustus. As the series moved forward her importance became more opaque, her plot points less relevant, up to and including her flight from Washington to New York for a fling with an ex-lover, and Wright’s acting more stiff and taciturn. In the end, Claire is little more than a liability to Frank’s political ambitions; her NGO, for all the good work it does, appears as little more than a hobby shop compared to Frank’s much more lofty aspirations for the presidency. Set against the likes of Kate Mara, who plays the ruthless upstart journalist Zoe Barnes, Wright’s character and performance are two-dimensional and somewhat unremarkable.

By the time the credits roll on the season’s final episode these shortcomings do little to distract from what is an outstanding piece of long-from political story telling. The pace of the meta-story may ebb and flow from episode to episode, but each entry’s individual offerings always work to build deep character motivations while layering another level on the ongoing house of cards that is House of Cards. For those still uncertain of if there’s anything on Netflix worth watching, I humbly suggest that this may be the series which settles the question once and for all.


Shaftoe’s Rants: Netflix Revisited

The Short Version: Much as I try to like Netflix, they keep doing stupid things that make me doubt if I will give them my money once the free trial is up.

The Long Version:  Well the long version goes a little something like this.  Sunday morning I recorded a podcast with Jane Espenson and Cheeks to help promote their new web series, Husbands.  I won’t lie, that was a good day for me.  Then Monday came along and I had no idea what I would do for a follow up.  I mean, really, do I follow up such awesomeness with a Thundercats recap?

I knew I could spend hours, days even, trying to come up with a way to top that podcast.  Then it struck me, unless Nathan Fillion calls me up and invites me out for beer and nachos, I’m probably not going to beat that interview, at least not right away.  So I decided to side step the whole issue and go with something a little light hearted.

How does this connect to Netflix, you ask?  In light of the fact that a certain movie studio is trying to bring “fishing expedition” copyright lawsuits to Canada, I thought I would see what legitimate alternatives there are for people who want television and movies delivered online without having to resort to bit torrent.  The results of my investigation were not at all impressive.  Sufficed to say the crux of this copyright issue can be distilled down to one simple idea: the content providers need to get their heads out of the 20th century and make their services more appealing and more convenient than piracy.

At any rate, ever since my “Netflix vs The AFI top 25” post, there’s been no short supply of people trying to convince me that Netflix has improved its service to Canadian users and I should be less of a grumpy cynical bastard therein.  At the behest of all the Netflix boosters, I thought I would give the service an honest trial run.

After signing up and completing a survey that took longer than my last census report, I was immediately disappointed.  I told Netflix’s survey that I never watch “Family Friendly” or “Children’s” programming.  The very first thing in my “recommended” stream was Pingu.

Grumbling inaudibly, I typed “Star Trek” into the search bar expecting that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan would be an easy hit.  It was not.

As my vision has only just recovered from a case of acute lens flare blindness, I passed on the 2009 Trek reboot.  Then, I came upon…it.  Something so strange that you’re probably going to think I made it up.  A search for Star Trek yielded Time Travel Through the Bible.

“”What the shit is this?  Rebecca, you have to come here and see this,” were my exact words.

The connection between “Star Trek” as a search operator and Time Travel Through the Bible is one Jonathan Frakes of ST:TNG.  Honestly though, how stupid is Netflix’s search engine that it would put those two things together?  I mean Star Trek is clearly science fiction and Time Travel Through the Bible ought to be in fantasy.

Of course it didn’t end there.  I tried another experiment.  Hypothesis: If I search for The Manchurian Candidate it will give me Murder She Wrote because they both feature Angela Lansbury.  Result: The Train, – another John Frankenheimer movie which does make some sense – the remake of The A-Team, and Jackass 3.















“Come on, how in the name of Zeus’ asshole does cold war intrigue connect with douche bag idiots being idiots?”  I yelled at my computer screen.

It was the indefinite article “the” in the description of the latter two movies that joined them to Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey.  (Click the above picture to see what I mean)  Netflix, I’m being totally honest with you when I say this, but my university library circa 2000 had a smarter search engine than yours does now.  Consider these three words: powered by google.

I know, it seems like I’m just piss taking at Netflix’s expense, but I’m really trying to give it a chance.  Yet time after time it disappoints me.  It categorized the seminal 80s series Robotech as children’s programming rather than Anime.  I asked for Cowboy Bebop and it offered me Cool as Ice, the much ignored 90s musical comedy featuring Vanilla Ice as a hip-hop motorcycle rebel.  And yes, it was as painful for me to type that as it was for you to read it.  The only saving grace I’ve seen so far is about fifty episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and the complete series of Farscape.

In the final assessment, I don’t think Netflix has improved.  The search engine is as terrible as the selection is limited.  Despite my best efforts otherwise, I can’t get over the fact that if I had a account rather than I’d have ten times the library to choose from.

Next month, I try  Shaftoe, out.

PS: Feel free to click here for my interview with Jane Espenson and Cheeks.  It’s awesome.


Shaftoe’s Rants: Netflix Canada vs The American Film Institute

I had a little time to think over the last week.  Indeed, one sleepless night I found myself reflecting on my last rant about Netflix Canada’s library.  Perhaps I was a little unfair, I thought to myself.  After all, I’m an alpha level nerd and likely not their target customer.  Perhaps Netflix Canada caters to an audience with a more general interest.

With that idea in mind I decided that I would weigh Netflix Canada’s library against the top quarter of the AFI’s most recent top 100 list.

The results speak for themselves.

Back to actual reviews in the next post, I promise.

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Shaftoe’s Rants: 20 Reasons Not to use Netflix

Once upon a time, I was having a conversation with my mother a devoted Page of Reviews reader and she asked me, “Adam why don’t you review more recent movies?”  A fair question if I’ve ever heard one.  The short answer has to do with the fact that the Page of Reviews has generated a grand total of forty cents worth of advertising revenue.  Apparently, Google doesn’t find four thousand page views particularly impressive.  Since reviewing “current” motion pictures requires a bit of investment capital, I’m limited to things that I can see on-demand or that which I can bit torrent rent off iTunes.

Perhaps there is a third way, I thought to myself.  I know more than one person who swears by Netflix now that it is available to Canadians.  To see if Netflix would meet my movie screening needs, I picked nineteen movies and one television series and searched for them in Netflix library.  The results were less than impressive.