Ken Burns’ Country Music

KenBurnsCountryMusic-DvdLast night I watched on PBS the first episode of Ken BurnsCountry Music documentary and I was mesmerized! I don’t really like country music (or at least I thought I didn’t) but I was fascinated by this documentary about the history of country music in the USA. In fact, it is much more than that: it is the history of America and its culture — mostly of the deep America. It is very interesting and educating. Like all documentaries by Ken Burns it is very well researched. It is very interesting to see all those old pictures and footage, as well as to ear such music from another era (the documentary covers until 1996)… Certainly a must see.

Country music is certainly a pretty large musical genre that has evolved a lot and encompass many sub-genres (hillbilly, bluegrass, western, etc.) and cross-over styles. It is difficult to define and I am looking forward to learn more about it. For instance, Bob Dylan sang many songs from the country music pioneers (and adopted their style) but he is considered a folk singer. What’s the difference between country and folk? Is folk a sub-genre of country music? I am just wondering…

Country Music is an eight-part mini-series (120 mins each) that premiered September 15, 2019 and airs on PBS every week day until September 25. It is also available for streaming on PBS website (U.S. only). stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

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Carnival Row

5860359.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxWith a serial killer loose on Carnival Row, and a government that turns a blind eye to the deaths of its lower class citizens, Rycroft Philostrate, a war-hardened investigator, is the only person willing to stop the murders and maintain the fragile peace. But when Vignette Stonemoss, a faerie refugee, turns up in the Burgue, she forces Philo to reckon with a past he’s tried to forget.

I was quite intrigued as soon as I watched the teaser for this superb dark fantasy (“neo-noir”) TV series on Amazon’s Prime Video. The world it offers is really interesting. It doesn’t feel entirely original since it is constituted by a blend of mythos that oozed from our collective psyche (legendary creatures mostly from celtic or classical lores) and it seems inspired by various literary classics (you’ll find little hints of Shakespeare, of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, of Alexandre DumasCount of Monte Cristo, of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, or a little Jack The Ripper and even a bit of Lovecraft), but it is all put together in a very clever and inspiring manner.

In an alternate Victorian world, a British-like country (a city-state named The Burgue) is fighting a German-like folk (The Pact, which remains quite mysterious throughout the series) over new territory to increase their colonial empire. It seems set in a period similar to the Boer War mixed with some aspects of WWI. Strangely, this society looks almost like the Victorian or Edwardian era from our world, but with slight differences in technologies and with everything having akin but different names. For example, the religion they practice is very similar to Christianity (with the typically puritan attitude of the Victorian England) but the Christ is called the Martyr and is represented as a hangman on the gallows instead of a cross! 

As The Burgue is losing the war, refugees from their invaded colonies are starting to flow into the London-like city-state creating social problems and racial frictions. It would be a normal historical drama if those population were not made of mythical creatures like faeries (fae), goblins, pucks, kobolds, werewolves, centaurs, etc. In the middle of all this, Rycroft Philostrate — a police inspector with a mysterious past and an identity crisis — is investigating a series of gruesome murders and is somewhat reunited with his long lost lover, Vignette Stonemoss.

CarnivalRow

Carnival Row is an excellent steampunk story (they still use coal but also telegraph, electricity, airships, gatling guns and small rockets). It is full of mystery, moral (battle of good vs evil, high society vs the slums), politics, forbidden love (inter-racial and LGBTQ+) and even sex (faeries are apparently quite sexual creatures). It tackles very contemporary themes, like social inequity, immigration, feminism or racism. This series is a real advocacy for tolerance and diversity, a call to rediscover and preserve the magic that is in our hearts. It makes me realize that steampunk (and Neo-victorian), as a genre, is really getting popular — we start noticing it more and more in novels, in anime and manga, and now even in TV series.

This series is quite captivating (I binged the first season in a couple of days) and incredibly well-made (superb special effects and costumes), with a great cast (Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Indira Varma, Jared Harris) and an excellent storytelling. It will surely be the event of the season. I found it both fascinating and entertaining, and cannot understand the poor reception it got from the critics (54% on Rotten Tomatoes !) although it was better appreciated by the public (87% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1 on IMDb). I admit that the ending of the first season was a little predictable and disappointing (aren’t they all — but this one does solve the identity crisis of the main character and the murder mystery). Some people complained that the folks of the Pact were never properly introduced or developed, but I am sure that more will be explained in the second season (I can’t wait to see where the plot will take us). No, this series is definitely a must-see (be sure to check also the behind the scene videos) and I highly recommend it. stars-4-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleIMDbPrime Video  Wikipedia ]

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Arzak Rhapsody

ArzakRhapsody-DVDPerché sur son fidèle Ptéroïde anti-gravité (où rien de grave ne peut l’atteindre), Arzak explore le Désert ‘B’, un monde parallèle peuplé de créatures étranges, situé aux frontières du rêve et d’une réalité au-delà du réel. Mais Arzak ne rêve-t-il pas d’un univers qui est en lui…ou en chacun de nous ?

(Texte promotionnel — voir aussi la couverture arrière de la jaquette)

Ce dessin animé est une série de quatorze capsules de 3:30 min. chacunes qui offrent un dessin minimaliste qui est terriblement animé. On y retrouve différentes aventures (et mésaventures) du célèbre guerrier solitaire et (généralement) silencieux alors qu’il parcours le désert B, affrontant l’herbe-serpent ou diverses autres créatures. C’est un peu sans queue ni tête mais les récits sont étoffés par une narration et Moebius donne, pour la première fois, la parole à Arzak. Tout comme les planches de Moebius, ces capsules sont un peu inégales en qualité (et en intérêt). L’univers d’Arzak est un peu tourné en ridicule avec des personnages clownesques (où l’on pourrait peut-être discerner une influence de Winsor McCay?). 

C’est mauvais mais tout de même amusant et intriguant. À la défense de cette curiosité décevante, il faut admettre qu’elle est définitivement produite pour un public jeune alors que la série originale s’adressait aux adultes. On s’attendrait néanmoins à mieux de la part d’un créateur comme Moebius. C’est trop court et plein de potentiel inexploité (quoique le graphisme s’améliore avec les derniers épisodes). Cela aurait pu être tellement mieux…

Il est intéressant de constater que l’on voit déjà le début de la convergence des différents univers (et styles) de Giraud / Moebius avec des éléments qui rappellent Le Garage Hermétique, d’autres qui font définitivement partie du monde SF déjanté et imaginatif de Moebius — parfois hilarant et absurde, parfois mystique et obscure (avec des allusions au Arzach original ou à Edena) — et même des relents d’atmosphère western à la Blueberry. Cette série d’histoires nous laisse donc présager la suite — L’Arpenteur

À voir par amusement ou par curiosité.

Arzak Rhapsody: France, 2002, 51 min., série télévisée d’animation (14 episodes); Dir., Scr., Des.: Moebius; Dir. Art.: Alexandre Brillant; Ass. Réal.: Francois Narboux; Mus.: Zanpano; Studio: Millimages Online; Prod.: Wolfland Pictures, Carrere Group, France 2. stars-2-5

Pour en savoir plus vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbWikipedia ]

 

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TV Rant

What is it with this new trend? Many paying TV services like AMC Premiere, HBO Now (U.S. only), PBS Passport (U.S. only), etc., start appearing. Look, I am already paying for the damn channel and now you tell me I have to pay some more to get access to your back-catalog streaming, bonuses, extra, previews or advance screening ? Man, that’s harsh. That’s being greedy. That’s exploitation of the masses. I really effing hate you, TV.

And now a special word for PBS: I am already paying for your damn stations (three, in fact) with Bell Fibe TV. How come when I go to your website I cannot watch ANYTHING because “this video is not available in your region due to rights restrictions” ? And it’s the same damn thing for Passport ! Isn’t your call sign saying “Mountain Lake PBS : Plattsburg, Burlington, Montreal” ? I can even donate some money to your station. And yet I cannot use your website or the iPad app ? That’s nonsense! Just go to hell. I’ll donate money when I’ll be treated as a real customer and be able to use your online service!

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The Boys

The_BoysNow I’ve watched the entire first season. Impressive. It’s funny, dark and, if not entirely original (it reminds me of several other superheroes shows or movies), fresh enough to be interesting. However, not enough for me to increase my appreciation to four stars. So it remains at stars-3-5.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but it looks to me that Vought International is some kind of allegory for the Trumpian White House, where Homelander represents Trump, the rest of the Seven being his cabinet members and the corporation’s high hierarchy being the PAC that finance and control the whole thing… Of course, the comic book was published in 2006-2012 and couldn’t have predicted such a freak president, so it’s probably just my mind playing a trick on me (although the show producers could have put a slight emphasis on this aspect…). 

A friend, who has read the beginning of the comic, told me it was quite violent and he was rather disappointed by how tame the TV series was. The comic intended to out do the violence and sexuality of Preacher, but unfortunately it appears that Amazon Video is not as daring as AMC or HBO when it comes to TV adaptation.

The way it ends offers a little closure, but this end most likely calls for more. Indeed, Amazon has renewed it for at least another season. Now what?

Check my first comment for more information on The Boys.

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Euphoria

euphoria2I’ve caught up to the episodes I had missed at first and even watched the complete first season. This show is a mess — but a beautiful mess. It’s intriguing and even enthralling — almost addictive. It gets better and and better with each new episode. The characters grow on you and it makes the drama created by Rue’s self-destructing behaviour or the misunderstanding and missed opportunities of everyone’s relationships even more painful to watch at time. That’s the sign of excellent writing. That’s not the type of show I would normally watch, but now I feel I would like to see more. Too bad the first season is over… Although it is still available on streaming and the show has been renewed for another season next year… However, if THAT’s the life of today’s teenagers, I weep for the future…

This one definitely deserves to be upgraded to stars-3-5 or maybe even a stars-4-0 !

Check my first comment for all the show details.

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Jamestown

JamestownS03Tonight on PBS, the Jamestown series is concluding with the end of its third season. It started as an interesting historical drama about one of the first successful British colonies in America — although it is not clear how much “historical” it really is (the series is shot in Hungary; they use the names of some of the colonists, like James Read, but mostly of the Governor Yeardley and his wife Temperance, as well as the Pamunkey King, OpechancanoughPocahontas is NEVER mentioned). After the failure of Roanoke in 1585, Jamestown was established in 1607 and the story begins twelve years later with the arrival of the first women and, in second season, of the first indentured “servants” (African slaves). At first, it focuses on the politics of the colony and the schemes behind the Virginia Company. Unfortunately, it quickly turns into fantasy with lots of supernatural plot elements and ends abruptly with the massacre of 1622 — when the local native tribes, the Pamunkey and the Powhatan Confederacy, get fed up with the abuses and false promises of the Englishmen. The reviews were probably so bad in the U.K. (however ratings on IMDb [6.9] and Rotten Tomatoes [78%] were relatively good) that it was quickly brought to a conclusion and terminated. It was an entertaining drama, but it could have been so much more. Disappointing. stars-2-5

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Others

PreacherSeason4Preacher has restarted but it will be the last season. I can’t wait to see how they will end this one. The first episodes are set at Masada, in the Middle East, and then it will move to Australia. Actually, it was all shot in Australia. An amusing splatter & gory series that I will not really miss after it’s gone. Check the trailer. stars-3-0

Poldark is also concluding with a story line that covers the gap between the two book series. So it has more to offer for those who has loved the books. I’ll be sad when this fifth season comes to an end. I really liked those characters. After tonight, there will be only three episodes to go… Check the trailer. stars-4-0

Pandora continues its disappointing run. Its not good enough to really appreciate it, but it’s not bad enough to drop it. So, I’ll continue watching it hoping for improvements… stars-2-5

KilljoysS05Killjoys has also restarted for a fifth season. The team is struggling hard to escape the grip of the Lady… A beautiful and excellent Canadian sci-fi series (second only to The Expanse) that will unfortunately conclude in September. Check the trailerstars-4-0

The first season of Blood & Treasure has ended but the series was renewed for a second season. A cute but quite ordinary action/adventure series. stars-2-5

The seventh season of Elementary will end next week and that will conclude the series. It was an interesting modern adaptation of Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes (more palatable for the general public than the excellent but frantic Sherlock). I liked the idea of making Watson into a woman (played by Lucy Liu!). It was nice while it lasted but I won’t miss it too much as it was getting a little repetitive and stale… stars-3-0

The sixth season of The 100 has ended and there is only one more season to go as it was announced that the series will end next year. It is not super original, but the story and setting are quite interesting — I can’t miss on a post-apocalyptic series! Good sci-fi drama. stars-3-0

Tonight, the second part of the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead is restarting (check the sneak peek). I didn’t like the first season, but now I like this series even better than the original The Walking Dead. I don’t see the horror in it, but I like the post-apocalyptic survival aspect. The fifth season will end in September and it was renewed for at least another season. It’s an interesting drama. stars-3-0

TheTerrorInfamyThe second season of The Terror is starting tomorrow. The first season about the Franklin’s lost expedition in the Northwest passage was quite good (see my comment). This new season offers an entirely new story and cast (including Derek Mio, Kiki Sukezane, Naoko Mori, C. Thomas Howell, and… George Takei !). Subtitled Infamy, it is now set in a Japanese-american internment camp during WW2 as some characters are haunted by a ghost from their past and the camp is terrorized by a bakemono! It airs Mondays 9e/8c PM on AMC. Check the official trailer.

Season_4_SDCC_2019_PosterThere’s now a longer trailer for the Watchmen playing on TV (HBO, October 2019). The visuals still doesn’t excite me and the story will definitely be different from the comic or the movie, but it looks intriguing. We’ll see. There’s also a longer trailer for His Dark Materials (HBO, late 2019), which seems even more intriguing and appealing. I can’t wait for this one…

You will be glad to learn that The Expanse is coming back in December for a fourth season and that it has even been renewed for a fifth !!! However, it moved from SyFy to Amazon Video (check the production trailer). Also, there is still no news on the third season of Westworld set for broadcast in 2020… Finally, everyone is asking where is the twelfth season of Doctor Who ??? Apparently it is currently in production, but the release has been delayed to 2020.

While writing this article, I have discovered Carnival Row, a very intriguing victorian (“Neo-noir”) fantasy that will start on Amazon Video on August 30. It certainly deserves a look. Check the trailer. 

It really seems that there’s a lot of good TV series coming ahead. The competition between all those independent or internet pay channels (like AMC, HBO, Prime Video, Netflix and soon Apple TV+) is bringing out all the good stuff. Where/when will I find the time ?!

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More on TV

Beside the usuals (season 5 of Poldark, season 7 of Elementary, season 5 of Killjoys), this week I also watched episode 12 (season 6) of The 100, a Hunger Game look-alike; the third episode of Pandora, a Star Trek wannabe; and episode 12 of Blood & Treasure, an amusing Indiana Jones facsimile. Yes, I was entertained, but could only wonder: “is there any really original TV shows left for us to watch?”

The third episode of Pandora offers good enough writing (nothing genius but that’s okay). The plot thickens, the special effects improve and the actors seem to find some sort of balance — but it is still not a stellar performance. Maybe worth continuing watching…

TheBoysPosterAnother new show is The Boys on Amazon Prime Video which is based on a comic book that I haven’t read or even heard about until now. It is a superheroes TV series with some dark humor (a little like Deadpool) which shows the darker side of the supes (it also reminds me a lot of Watchmen), presenting them just as merchandizing pawns of a corporation — each one is a kind of parody of an existing superhero: Superman, Flash, Wolverine, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, etc. They are being targeted by a rag tag group of people who all suffered from the superheroes exploits’ collateral damage and want to get back at them. It is entertaining, well made and, so far (after three episodes), good enough to keep my interest (ratings of 9 on IMDb and of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s well worth watching.stars-3-5

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[ GoogleIMDbPrime VideoWikipedia ]

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Puzzling young TV drama

This week-end I watched a few episodes of two puzzling Teen/YA TV drama with enigmatic titles.

Pandora

pandora-posterSet in the year 2199, a young woman who has lost everything finds a new life at Earth’s Space Training Academy where she learns to defend the galaxy from intergalactic threats.

The first one is titled Pandora and is a Star Trek wannabe with poor special effects and quite average acting — after all they are young adults in college so maybe it’s normal if they sound contrived. With just two episodes it is difficult to judge the writing, but so far it is intriguing enough that I might watch more. After all, series like the original Star Trek or Doctor Who have managed very well despite their low-budget production. Everything is in the writing. We shall see. It airs Tuesdays on The CW at 20:00 ET. It’s too early to have a rating on aggregators (but IMDb gives it a 3.8). stars-2-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ CW GoogleIMDbWikipedia ]

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Euphoria

MV5BMDMzZDkyNzEtYTY5Ni00NzlhLWI4MzUtY2UzNjNmMjI1YzIzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDM2NDM2MQ@@._V1_A group of high school students navigates drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.

The second is a teen drama based on a 2012 Israeli series and is titled Euphoria. So far seven episodes have already aired but I’ve seen only the latest. It is diverse, brutal, scary even, sometimes psychedelic, but seems brilliantly written with generally pretty good acting. It is really modern: filmed video clip style, crazy fast-paced, with lots of violence and nudity, and, of course, it is making use of social media as narrative device. The main character is a bipolar drug addict who’s trying to make sense of her world… A little exhausting to watch, but promising. It airs Sundays on HBO at 22:00 ET. It has been rated 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.2 on IMDb. stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleHBOIMDbWikipedia ]

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