All the Streaming Video

In which I compare some of the thousands of streaming media services:

  • Netflix: $13/mo for adult content: Love, Death & Robots, Bordertown, dozens of other crime dramas, adult comedies, and a huge backlog of content. In anime they have a bunch of current series, the Godzilla anime, classic Robotech (goddamn I still hate Minmei), and this summer they're replaying Neon Genesis Evangelion. Best media player of any streaming service. One caveat is that because Apple won't guarantee secure HDMI out on Airplay devices anymore, Netflix took down their Airplay support; I watch on a PS3 or desktop in Chrome, so this doesn't affect me, but some people will have to change how they watch it.
  • Amazon: $120/year for adult content: Bosch, The Tick, The Man in the High Castle, The Americans, and a huge backlog of (mostly shitty) movies for free. Second-worst media player I've ever seen, I scream obscenities at Amazon every time I watch something distractedly and want to go back 1 minute. I can't quit, anyway, I rely on Prime too much.
  • Disney+ (November): $7/mo for kids shows, mostly Marvel, Star Wars, Disney/Pixar (Dixar), and 512 seasons of the fucking Simpsons, which hasn't been funny since it left Tracey Ullman's Show. Not much new content, almost nothing for adults to watch.
  • Apple+: Unknown date & pricing. G-rated, mostly mainstream garbage content from what we've seen. Steven Spielberg should just find a rest home in Florida, he won't live long enough for the flooding to be a problem. If Apple makes it free with Apple Music, I'll take a look and mock the shows, but I expect nothing of interest to an adult.
  • CBS All Access: $10/mo for STD, er, Star Trek Discovery, and a lot of mainstream garbage content.
  • Twitch: "Free" with a shitload of ads; not just games, there are several networks streaming content, like Carl Sagan's Cosmos, ShoutFactory playing MST3K, The Prisoner, classic (good) Dr Who, Thunderbirds Are Go, and more. I would happily pay Twitch to get rid of ads.
  • Crunchyroll: $8/mo for currently-streaming anime. Second-best media player and queue manager. Really no longer a high value compared to Netflix and Amazon's anime selections, but sometimes there's new stuff you can only reasonably get on Crunchy. Partnered with/part of VRV, which has a bunch of other nerd media services, but the VRV player is the worst thing I've ever seen, really unusable, and the VRV staff are jackasses.
  • Hulu: $12/mo for "no ads" which has quite a lot of ads before and after shows, but at least doesn't have them in the show. Moderately shitty video player. Very poor new content, lots of old TV shows; Rockford Files was great but it's not worth $12/mo.
  • HBO Now: $15/mo. Usually has 2 current new shows at any time, a moderate amount of older shows and (often good) movies. Only really valuable for brief binges, then disable it; you'd quickly run out of content if you kept it subscribed. Ought to be half the price.
  • Criterion: $11/mo or $100/year. I haven't tried this yet, but I really should, they have dozens of old samurai movies and thrillers, which alone would pay for it. Their new content is very very limited, since good movies mostly stopped being made in the 1990s. There's a "channel" there of Guillermo del Toro talking about classic movies and then you watch the movie! OK, this is next month's media activity for me.
  • Youtube: Did you know Youtube had original content and a paid service? Well, they do, but nobody uses it.

Given this, if you're over 18, you should have Netflix and Amazon, and bang Criterion and HBO Now on the side once in a while. If you like old nerd media and current game streaming, watch Twitch. If you have kids, Disney+ and Crunchyroll are great deals. There's very narrow interest areas for the others.

On top of which, I check out iTunes Movies every month for their deals; never pay full price. This month I got Lawnmower Man (director's cut!), The Crow, and Equilibrium for under $8 each, all of which I can rewatch endlessly in actual HD, better than any streaming service.

What I'm Watching: Hap & Leonard S3

It is 1989. Hot (black) lawyer Florida goes down to a backwoods Texas shithole to deal with rights to a legendary blues man's lost recordings, goes missing, Hap & Leonard cowboy up to find her, and run into the KKK. They have a satchel of guns, it'll work out.

Great new and old rogue's gallery of weird characters, from Sneed the creep cop from last season, useless Sheriff who's doing Little Bill from Unforgiven with a busted nut, Deputy Hitlerella, Brown the KKK cult leader, creepy mechanic, Bacon the step&fetchit who's more than that. Andrew Dice Clay does a good turn as a DJ, I know he's vilified by the Kids Today™ but I loved The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and clearly the producers did, too.

Not a lot actually happens until E5, but there's good banter and threats and some Twin Peaks-like weirdness.

So that's where I got up to by last weekend. Now, to finish…

Finally the shit hits the fan. Fights and shootouts and a Mexican standoff… and then it ends abruptly and wrongly, without resolution. Are they planning to do more of this season? What the hell?!

I was like ★★★★★ up to this point, but now I'm angry.

What I'm Watching: More of Love Death Robots

Apparently Netflix is doing 4 different ep orders, they say it's completely at random, though some people think it's based on gender, sexuality, age, etc. What horoscope does my robot show order reveal? Humans are idiots.

The Dump: Joe Lansdale story of a weird dump thing, videogamey CGI of of slime & trash, quick and obvious, but amusing. Not shown: Fuel-air bombing of the dump after missing persons are tracked there. ★★★½☆

Shape-Shifters: Military werewolves, realistic CGI, clearly the next Call of Duty game. Too much werewolf dick. The transformed state isn't as convincing as the Human. But not bad at the personalities and how shitty the military is. Author's Marko Kloos, a military fanfic writer. ★★★☆☆

Helping Hand: This is perfectly designed to piss me off (or any educated person). As anyone who's ever seen a spacewalk knows, astronauts don't work without a tether and a tight grip on their ship or station. It just does not happen. That was bullshit in Gravity, with idiots flying around on 5-minutes-of-fuel maneuvering packs that haven't been used since the '80s, and it's bullshit here, too. Dumb astronaut—again like Gravity a woman, which is so insulting to Peggy Whitson and other skilled woman astronauts—is knocked off station by space junk. I don't buy a cheap company sending out a lone astronaut, either: Launch cost for an extra body isn't much compared to a whole ship. And then her first solution is dumb, maybe 1kg of reaction mass thrown half-assed overhand won't move a 50kg body anywhere. Her second solution is even dumber—in reality, heat radiates away from a body very poorly in a vacuum. THAT'S HOW A THERMOS WORKS! YOU INCOMPETENT FUCK WRITER! Vacuum of space will chill you eventually, especially if you touch cold metal or regolith, but a floating body won't freeze solid for days. ☆☆☆☆☆ Claudine Griggs, hack "sexual politics" writer, I hate you and want you to get an education and then die of shame at your stupidity.

Fish Night: Interesting look, motion-captured CGI but so cel-shaded it looks hand-drawn. Probably took 10x as much time and money as simple rotoscoping and hand-drawing would've. Alas, I care nothing for the characters or the situation. Stop talking and start doing. Hunter & Dr Gonzo had "The drugs took hold around Barstow, on the edge of the desert", too, but then they did shit. Supposedly another Joe Lansdale story, but it's just nothing but a screensaver. ★★☆☆☆

Lucky 13: More Call of Duty, now in a space dropship but carrying Marines to terraforming stations on some planet. And the writer keeps calling the Marines "Soldiers" which at least modern ones don't like much. Love affair of a pilot and her dropship (AI? Maybe. It never speaks, but gets a camera POV.) is nice, and the dogfight videogame sequences are fine. It's not clear who the enemy are supposed to be, they're just as well-equipped, so are they a rival nation of Humans? Why would anyone bother shipping military to space to fight over an uninhabitable rock? Stupid premise, unexamined. Author's Marko Kloos again. ★★★☆☆

Zima Blue: Another Alastair Reynolds adaptation! Perfectly animated and told. The joke of Zima the beverage is a little weird against a serious story. The theme of transforming and abandoning unneeded complications is done several times in Reynolds (Diamond Dogs is another), but here is the best of those. ★★★★★

Blindspot: Mad Max/Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors/GI Joe do a train job with no planning, and get hosed down amusingly for it. All the nonsensical robot-on-robot violence we grew up with, but more swearing. Fuck yeah! Vitaly Shushko makes more of these ridiculous animations, too. ★★★★☆

Ice Age: A very light microscopic civilization take by Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers!). Almost too silly to publish, the characters are utterly passive, but cute graphics for the micros. ★★★☆☆

Alternate Histories: Multiple ways for Hitler to die and consequences. Trivial, and I hate the stick-figure art, but amusing. Surprisingly by John Scalzi, who managed to make several actual jokes in a row! Maybe he wrote this before the brain injury that made him a humorless Internet troll. But it's about Nazis, so it gets no score according to Godwin's Law. He should have done the Lincoln one instead.

The Secret War: More Call of Duty with Soviets in fur coats in the snow during WWII, hunting monsters. And a story of making monsters, and the futility of being right in the Soviet Union. The monsters look like crap, almost literally, like the Xen in Half-Life. Written by David W. Amendola, another military fiction/horror writer. ★★★☆☆

Fin and Philosophy

And that's it for this season! More dumb combat and horror than robots in this half, and I do not appreciate that.

When I say "Call of Duty", that's not a compliment, I think the lowest form of Human slime make and play these mass murder simulators, and stories which are just "then I shoot everything wooo!" are by and for morons.

I have no objection to monster-killing if it illuminates something in a story, or in games if it's a drain on strategic resources (tactical RPGs with HP, MP, and gear to keep an eye on, and that's why my games are bright and happy AND bone-crushingly hard), but otherwise you leave those monsters alone, it's their world and you're just a morsel in it. Compare especially Beyond the Aquila Rift, where there are no "monsters" but these Call of Duty fuckheads would see one.

Total ratings are not bad, Scalzi and that incompetent Hand ep are all that's really bringing it down, but that glut of mediocre military content is hard to wade thru.

☆☆☆☆☆ 2
★☆☆☆☆ 1
★★☆☆☆ 1
★★★☆☆ 7
★★★★☆ 5
★★★★★ 2

What I'm Watching: Love Death Robots

Anthology series of adult SF cartoons, produced by David Fincher and Tim Miller (Deadpool director). Which is like Netflix said "hey, Mark, we made a thing exactly for you!" I <3 you too, Netflix!

18 episodes, I watched 8 so far, will see the rest next binge.

Sonnie's Edge: I instantly recognized this, but couldn't place it—how could I have seen it already? Impossible! Turns out it's adapted from a short story in Peter F. Hamilton's A Second Chance at Eden. What's weird is I remember it visually, where most of my SF reading I remember as text/lore with a few mental illustrations. Nicely animated 3D, a little bit videogamey and exaggerated. I already knew the twist but I don't think it's hard to figure out. ★★★★★

Three Robots: Walker, tiny walker, and weird pyramid robot explore a ruined city and talk too much. Despite withering contempt for Humans (which is entirely deserved), they don't have enough intelligence to avoid a trap. Meh, I don't like cats much, but people infected with Toxoplasma gondii will find this hilarious. CGI is adequate. Ah, it's a short story by John Scalzi, "Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind from the Era of Humans for the First Time", which is why it feels like obvious jokes driven into the ground by a humorless boot. ★★★☆☆

The Witness: Rear Window/Run Lola Run with a stripper. Characters look like painted dolls, unfocused "camera" like an Italian giallo flick. Striptease could be erotic if they weren't so toy-like. Neatly tied up plot, nonsense surrealism but I like it. Alberto Mielgo has a number of other good animations and paintings. ★★★★½

Suits: Farmers in mecha fighting bugs. Weird 3D with cel-shading to look like a cartoon or plastic toys. This is pretty much daily life in Rifts, they even call the bugs "DeeBees" (dimensional beings in Rifts, no definition given here but maybe Damn Bugs?). Decent combat story, a little personality for the farmers, but not deep. ★★★½☆

Sucker of Souls: Archaeology/adventurer team explore a tomb and are not alone. Hand-animated mostly, I think they had to have traced over 3D in several places. Very aesthetically similar to Castlevania. Not much plot, and no chance of further adventures, but I like the team. Written by Kirsten Cross, who writes hack military-horror shovelware books; short form clearly suits her "talents" better. ★★★★☆

When the Yogurt[sic] Took Over: John Scalzi's shitty parody knockoff of Greg Bear's superb Blood Music, adapted into weird stick-figure and frizzy-hair CGI blobs, narrated ("tell, don't show") by The Brain^W Maurice LaMarche. Sadly no relation to The Stuff, which had a better plot, actors, and special effects. Fucking awful, everyone involved should be drowned in yoghurt. ★☆☆☆☆

Beyond the Aquila Rift: Short story from Alastair Reynolds! Spaceship has a bad wormhole jump/technobabble, ends up somewhere wrong, greeted by a person who shouldn't be there. Music is excessively on-the-nose. CGI is detailed but videogamey, and the space scenes look right out of some space shooter. ★★★★☆

Good Hunting: An evil man and his stupid son hunt a beautiful Hulijing (Chinese Kitsune), tragedy ensues. Then becomes a weird steampunk thing in Hong Kong. Then a superhero origin story? Hand-animated, good fighting motion, but very flat, I don't like the style. Based on a short story by Ken Liu ★★★☆☆

Guardians of the Galaxy 3

Hell yeah. I grew up with some of my favorite comics being ROM Spaceknight, Nova, Rocket Raccoon, Adam Warlock (in Marvel Presents, I think?), and so on… the Marvel space series were so much better than their ground superheroes. While the films are a little trashy, they're fun trash, and the music was just awesome.

But then some Nazis doxxed Gunn and Disney was like "I'm shocked, shocked I say, to discover that the writer of Tromeo & Juliet makes dirty jokes!", but happily have seen sense since everyone involved wanted him back.

So here's the music again:

What I'm Not Watching: Umbrella Academy

Trying to watch Umbrella Academy, and it is so slow. The assassins are more fun than the "family", and they're in maybe 5 minutes per ep.

Two of the siblings are absolute monsters who should be drowned; exiling the tiny-headed gorilla to the Moon to fill sandbags until he dies was a good plan, but letting the two-faced mindbender, low-rent Kilgrave ripoff that she is, walk around loose and unmuzzled is just stupid. Doesn't help that I find both their actors/walking meatsticks stiff and incompetent, very obviously hitting marks and reading lines on a stage. Fire whoever hired these assholes.

Of the actual actors, Diego's an acceptable Daredevil/Batman/Punisher ripoff, but nothing new at all. The junkie necromancer would be fun, but played so broad and silly he's completely out of place in grimdark brooding land. "I waxed my ass with pudding!" is not a thing junkies say, dumbass writer. Normal girl who actually plays violin and writes is the only person in the family and she's beat down and useless; and Ellen Page has aged into a mousy little thing. Number Five is good, fucked up but interesting; that's the only positive reason to keep watching.

This bullshit of a CGI/robot ape butler and "mom" in an otherwise modern-tech universe is infuriating. If "dad" had AI and robotics that look exactly like real people or CGI animals, then he was already a superhero, didn't need six superhero kids. The entire world would be very different. It's like the Stepford Wives: You can solve world labor problems, bring about total prosperity and leisure for everyone… you use it to make one robot slave woman and keep going to bullshit job. Unsurprising, then, that the time traveller's "woman" isn't real, either.

And there's 37 other superheroes out there supposedly, zero mention of them by ep 3.

I'd like to see more of the time travel plot, and the assassins, but I don't think I can sit thru these fuckers whining at each other for hours.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Appleseed (1988)

As I noted in Alphaville, Appleseed covers similar ground. Been a few years, so I rewatched it.

But back up a bit to the manga. Shirow Masamune's first manga was Black Magic, about a computer-controlled society of animal-people on a habitable Venus, 60 million years ago when the Earth is full of dangerous dinosaurs, and a powerful young sorceress and her friends who hang out at the Onimal bar fighting the AI throughout the solar system. Rogue AI death machines (in that case cute little "M-66" infiltration/assassination robots) are released, death and mayhem ensue, civilization falls because people lazily give up control to the machines. It's a fantastic book, but too silly at times for the message he wanted to send. There is an "M-66 Black Magic" anime about just the robots but set on modern Earth, incredibly dumb though it does have some T&A which young Mark enjoyed.

Appleseed's 4-volume manga is a reboot of similar ideas, set after nuclear war, with an artificial city controlled by an AI "Gaia", populated by bioroids (in the manga, they go into detail about just how artificial they are; the older ones are more machine than biological and tied directly into Gaia) as servants to a fraction of Humanity. But servants with power don't remain servants. Athena, city administrator biodroid, is torn between wanting to get rid of the Humans entirely, and fulfilling the original mission of the city; and ultimately she's just a tool of Gaia. Wasteland survivors have been brought into the city and haven't really been domesticated, but are trying to make the city work. And terrorists want to tear down the system.

The 1988 movie covers the first volume, sort of, and a bit of the others, and doesn't use the appleseed of the title. There's been a bunch of remakes, but the original's the only one that addresses the moral issues at all. The first two CGI films (Appleseed (2004) and Appleseed Ex Machina (2007)) are unspeakably bad action flicks with preposterous mega-boob physics and cartoon blowjob-doll face for Deunan (who is not so endowed in the manga or anime), and while I haven't seen the reboot CGI flick Appleseed Alpha (2014), it's a "prequel" which has nothing to do with the manga. There's also a TV series Appleseed XIII (2013) which is more action flicks about WOO DEUNAN SHOOT GUNS.

I wouldn't classify any of these exactly as "cyberpunk", because they're not about the street finding new uses for the military-industrial complex's technology; they're about the military-industrial complex. Hard SF, and in the original with a political axe to grind against AI.

I plan to reread Ghost in the Shell's 3 volumes of manga as well, and then I'll comment on the competent but over-simplified 1995 movie and the other junk around that franchise, which follows a similar pattern.

So, read comic books for big ideas, kids, don't look at fucking moving pictures. But I'll talk about the moving picture anyway.

Obviously, this is peak '80s. Like more '80s than the '80s were. Big hair, shoulder pads in women's suits, pastel colors, neon, sleek but sharp vehicles instead of little melted blobs, battlesuits that look like perfect Japanese motorcycles instead of piles of scrap metal held together with hot glue. The music is new wave and smooth jazz, what the Kids Today™ call "synthwave" but this is real, not synthetic, synth music. Cel animation is expensive and backgrounds are pretty static, there's none of this bullshit of using 3D CGI with light cel shading to pretend you're drawing something, no, Human animators toiled over every frame. If you don't like the '80s aesthetic, get the fuck out, you're not welcome here.

Cop Karon and artist Freya ("Fleia") are soon separated by her suicide, from feeling as trapped in a gilded cage as their pet birds, and as we see later in the film, the city's bioroid administration does not respond with kindness and care, but with clinical research on the survivor.

Cute but deadly Deunan (possibly modeled on Markie Post) and cyborg smoothy Briareus (Richard Roundtree in a cyborg bunny face?) are in ESWAT, cleaning up the messes normal cops can't, and a cyborg terrorist getting away and killing a few of their buddies gets them motivated to investigate, though on-screen that largely consists of them wearing trenchcoats, busting down doors, and body-bagging potential informants.

Hitomi, a bioroid who rescued the main characters and many more Humans from the wasteland and acts as their social worker, gets back into the city, in what might be my favorite view of any city: She wakes on a helicopter reflected in solar panels, rushes to the other side to see the city in light. It's only a momentary shot, but makes me think the city might not be so bad. Hitomi's the heart of the manga, and the anime tries its best, with limited screen time. The party at the Onimal bar (a relic from the Black Magic manga) is the only time her faux-Human relations really come up: She loves all her rescued strays, and her would-be boyfriend/pathetic stalker isn't really enough for that love.

The bioroids as machines isn't touched on much in the anime; those other than Hitomi are shown only as drones or would-be tyrants like Athena, and they're DNA-edited and grown in tanks, but just how much of a replaceable part most of them are isn't brought up until Athena tries to decide who lives and who dies.

The Human Liberation Front terrorists do eventually discuss their motives and objectives, to get hold of a giant spider-tank which is the prototype for a fleet of spider-tanks to be directly operated by Gaia; then Humanity will be totally cut off from power. But to get it, they have to lock out Gaia, and there's a key for that. A failsafe which, very deliberately, only Human sympathizers can use.

The action scenes in this aren't Gundam quality, and they're not bloody like many later versions, but they're fine for telling the story. The couple of times the terrorists fight up close brings home just how deadly Landmates (mecha) are in close combat and as mobile infantry/artillery. I'm not sure the "BAN LANDMATES" graffiti is ever visible in the anime, but it's constant in the manga, and kind of an in-joke for old anime fans. While the anime has cyborgs with various levels of replacement, there's no robots, which are a major element of the manga, as a thing even lower than bioroids but also threatening to replace Humanity.

Where this falls down is the final sequence inside Gaia; they have maybe 10 minutes to squeeze in half a volume of arguments and action. In the manga, this is a place where Deunan has to make a moral decision which will change the course of Human history: Free will and endless wars, or inhuman tyranny, or is there a third path? Here, it's just resetting a machine, and what the machines think of that isn't discussed.

★★★★☆, it'd be 5 if they'd ever adapted the rest of the manga, but nobody seems interested in making movies with political philosophy against AI control, I wonder why.

What I'm Watching: Alphaville (1965)

I've seen Jean-Luc Goddard's bizarre SF film every decade or two. It makes no more sense each time but a different kind of non-sense. A Rorschach test for where society is.

Lemmy Caution 003 (Eddie Constantine, reprising his role from Poison Ivy and something like 20 other spy flicks), ostensibly a reporter for Pravda, wanders a bizarre artificial city, with a short target list. Everyone he meets is a drone, but often a drone with a non-drone social role, such as the "Seductress, Level 3" (what's level 1 or 2?!), or the scientists "Heckel & Jeckel" (from the cartoon crows). Or, ultimately, Dr. Nosferatu née Von Braun; they're as subtle as supervillains ever are.

His former colleague Henri Dickson (Akim Tamirof) is a dissolute wreck, unable to adapt to life in Alphaville, but unable or unwilling to betray it or leave before it consumes him. A buck for a room, a buck for a beer, and a buck for a whore, is a good way to kill a man. The analogy that ants started as individuals, with art and creativity, and then became part of the hive and now have nothing… it's very like Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive, but that relies on biology not technology. The theme's also used in Shirow Masamune's Appleseed (read the manga, but the '80s anime deals with this part exceptionally well too), where the 20% natural Humans (using the term loosely for cyborgs like Deunan and Briareous) in Olympus are maintained by 80% Bioroids who pass as Human under the city's all-controlling artificial intelligence, and still the Humans despair and kill themselves because they're birds in a cage.

The extreme conformity and social control making everyone march along to their destruction is very familiar. The execution theatres are more humane than our current model of persecuting anyone who has ever made Human mistakes; they get shot and drowned by pretty girls, while we continue persecuting them forever. One can never expiate sin in 21st C society.

The croaking voice they used as the voice of the computer Alpha 60 is awful; HAL 9000 in 1968 is more like the real future of Siri. And yet obviously you should not ever watch movies in dub, only in the original language with subtitles. The slideshow/exhibition as art of the artificial society is plausibly unbearable to watch for a normal Human, not one of the mutants/controlled people of the city.

The metaphor the city uses of distant planets and galaxies confuses many viewers, and for that matter I don't know that Goddard didn't mean it literally himself even though it's bullshit; but it makes more sense that Alphaville is what it seems, a city in some isolated wasteland, transformed by Alpha 60, and everyone has been taught they're on a distant planet, along with all the other Newspeak and programming they endure. There's no evidence of spaceships, they drive in and out of Alphaville, and it's merely set 10 years in the "future" (stated: 30 years since America & Soviets got nuclear weapons, so 1975 from the film's 1965). And of course Lemmy Caution makes no sense wandering into a science fiction world, rather than just doing his James Bond-like spy shit in a mad genius's experiment.

The city looks great as long as all you can see are dark skylines and brightly-lit office windows, but in the occasional lit street scenes it looks like a sad ex-Warsaw Pact country. Star Trek managed a few large-scale sets in 1966, even though it often cheated and just had a matte and some styrofoam rocks, not actual street scenes. The car chase later is comically bad, slow-motion and visibly just a shitty suburb with cars saved from a wrecker.

The nonsense of "love" in the film is the one thing I really can't stand. Lemmy and Natacha have no connection, barely any interaction; she might at best be infatuated with the weird stranger, and her charms are superficial. I know, the French don't necessarily need such depth to start calling it "amour", but this is a weekend fling.

(reading "bible" aka redacted Newspeak dictionary): "Conscience. Not there. So nobody here knows what it means anymore."
—Natacha Von Braun (Anna Karina) describing Silicon Valley

My Rorschach reading for this viewing is conscienceless men using artificial intelligence to plan the destruction of Humanity and annihilation of home systems, to wit Facebook and Google (Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple being more of a Brave New World/THX-1138 style of consumerist dystopia). Sadly it is not so simple to solve as a few bullets and asking an AI some dumb riddles to blow its fuses (Alphaville, Logan's Run, and Star Trek got their computers from the same substandard maker, it seems). HAL goes crazy, but he's not defeated by anything as lame as a Sphinx.

I… IN… FIN, the ending spells. Is Alpha 60 saying "I am finished", or is it trying to spell infinity?

★★★★★ but it's madness.

What I'm Watching: Close

Dumb rich party girl Sophie Nelisse (of The Book Thief) with a new inheritance goes to Morocco with new bodyguard Noomi Rapace (from the good Dragon Tattoo movies), shit goes bad, and bodyguard has to keep her alive and try to figure out who's behind it. None of which is particularly new or interesting by itself, but the movie pulls out a few good moves.

The fights are good close-up struggles, a little jump-cut-heavy instead of the long tracking shots I prefer. The fortress kasbah is interesting, security system's not complete movie bullshit but visual enough to follow on screen.

I think they wanted to make another Man on Fire, but Creasy is a far more complex character than Sam, and there's more plot and bonding in that film; this isn't slow, but there's nowhere near enough plot, and it just kinda trails off at the ending.

★★★½☆ which is what Netflix originals seem to get for the most part.

What I'm Watching: Kingdom (2019)

The Joseon period (14th-19th C) of Korea's their formative period, but a big blind spot for most Westerners. I know a fair amount about the ancient Mediterranean thru fall of Rome, and the Dark Ages thru Charlemagne; some Japanese and Chinese history because of chanbara and kung fu movies and books like Outlaws of the Water Margin; some American history, but not so much the Texas School Board approved bullshit; only the most cursory details outside those time/space bubbles. Even tho it's right on the border, and like Japan was heavily influenced by China, Korea's isolation and outright weirdness keeps it in the dark. What I've managed to learn is: They tried very hard to be strict Confucians, they recorded everything (seems like half their upper class existed to spy on the other half), and they treated women and lower classes like animal property, worse than China or Japan which were hardly egalitarian.

What I'm learning from this show is: A) Their architecture's so Chinese the Chinese look like they're the bad copies, B) They have fantastic hats and rather nice machete swords, and C) Their aristocracy are shit at covering up zombie outbreaks.

The Crown Prince tries to find out if his sick father is alive or dead, in the hands of a wicked, pregnant stepmother half his age. Yeah, this is gonna end well. Happily, he has a fat but competent Sancho Panza sidekick and sets off on an epic quest.

Hanyang, where they start, is the equivalent of Seoul today; Dongnae's a southern port. The show explains none of this, be ready to read a lot of wiki pages to get at least some geography and fact-checking.

The peasantry might as well be Dennis the Shrubber from Monty Python & the Holy Grail, they're charmingly filthy and stinky.

The dead here are like Chinese jiangshi mixed with Return of the Living Dead zombies and a bit of 28 Days Later rage-infected. They're bestial, awkward, and stupid, but not slow or incapable of cunning.

And there's a lot of Evil Dead comedy in the fighting and zombie-eye camera in some scenes. The little zombie children are adoraterrible.

As in any good zombie story, the living are the worse threat.

This is a very gameable series. It's just like my old Dungeons & Zombies campaign, with wandering knights/fools with swords fighting undead or trying to find shelter every night.

★★★★★