series

Stranger Things – Matt & Ross Duffer (series, season 1-3 2016-2018)

These Netflix series are so popular that I was in doubt whether or not to watch them. So in the end I did and I really enjoyed the first season. The series have a total 1980’ies vibe with a 1980’ies soundtrack, old cars, outdated haircuts and terrible cloths.

Big roles are for children (nerdy kids and adolescents), but in spite of that, season one is nice, gloomy, fairly dark and weird. The story is about the small town of Hawkins which houses an institute in which strange experiments are held. And so a story unfolds of a girl with strange powers, men trying to get her and something evil that lurks in the woods.
There are nice 1980’ies details, the story unfolds nicely, the atmosphere is good and even the child humour and child drama works to a certain degree.

The second season puts more focus on ‘the evil’ with again a well-written story and more of a horror approach to the series. Characters develop, unexpected alliances are forged. Also the second season is pretty good.

The ‘other worldliness’ is mostly gone in the third season which became more of a Stephen King type horror/thriller. The kids really are the main characters this time and the story is a lot less interesting.

Season 4 is announced. I suppose I will watch it when it is there, but I hope the creators will not continue the way down.

The Umbrella Academy (series, season 1+2) – Blackman & Slater (2019/20)

I expected this Netflix series to be a quirky comedy. In a way it is, but it also has many elements of the popular overly violent action and superpower heroes.

On the same day, all over the world, children are born which were not conceived. These children all prove to have some sort of power and a millionaire adopts seven of these children and trains them to be a group of heroes solving the world’s problems.

By the time we meet the characters the father has passed and the adoptive brothers and sisters return after having been scattered over the globe.

In the first season one brother comes back from the future and tries to convince his siblings that they have to prevent a forthcoming apocalypse that he had already experienced. Other people from the future try to prevent “five” from achieving his goal and is slowly becomes clear how things came about.

In the second season the family has travelled back to 1963 allowing the creators to portray the characters that we know by now with different looks. A not uncommon trick nowadays. The apocalypse has travelled back in time with the “umbrella academy”, so they have to once more try to prevent is.

The series indeed are somewhat quirky. It has a talking monkey, a stern dad, a sexy “handler” with an odd sense of humour, black and violent humour, a fish with a human body, etc. Every episode has a few things to laugh and the story is somewhat interesting.

“The Umbrella Academy” is an alright series. Season 3 is already announced. It is not high up my list, but perhaps I will watch it again some time.

The Valhalla Murders – Thordur Palsson (series 2019)

A Netflix Scandinavian crime from Iceland. “The Valhalla Murders” is quite a typical Scandinavian crime too.

In a not unseen story, recent killings can be traced back to maltreatment of children in an institute in the past. The small Reykjavik police force, later joined by even smaller force from in other Icelandic towns, set out to catch a killer on the loose. The story unfolds, has a few obligatory plot twists and new suspects and a wee bit of violence.

The series are shot in the snowy season, so Iceland really looks like an icy land. The acting, as the story, is alright.

Not a high-flyer, but a descent and moody Scandinavian crime series.

Watchmen (series) – Damon Lindelof (2019)

A quite original mini series this is. It is based on a graphic novel of the same name which has been turned into a film by Zack Snyder 10 years earlier.

“Watchmen” plays in an ‘alternative’ past and present. The Ku Klux Klan has mutated into the Seventh Kavalry and they are so powerful and dangerous that the police started wearing masks to prevent their identities becoming known and the Kavelry attacking them in their private lives. These masks became action-hero type clothing giving the series the action-comic feel.

Initially we follow a few of these police officers fighting the bad guys, but as the series continue, the focus shifts to a larger story that becomes increasingly strange. There are ‘off-elements’ such as a guy playing with clones, stories of a “Mr. Manhattan” that for a long time remain but stories.

Towards the end the series become pretty vague, yet interesting. The pre-last episodes brings a lot together. Unfortunately the very last episode is too explanatory and sentimental.

“Watchmen” make a very interesting series which brutally displays the racism of the imaginary and real past and present.

The Defenders (series) – Petrie & Ramirez (2017)

A while ago I felt like watching a bit of a gritty action series and ran into “Gotham”. As the title suggests, this is a “Batman” series. Well actually the series are from before Bruce Wayne became Batman. The series are alright, but there is a lot of drama, little action, soap and Hollywood moralism (like in the films). I wanted something with more action and started looking for Marvel series. Something amusing, action, superheroes. I found “The Defenders”.

Extra plus: there is but one season (Netflix does have a season two trailer). I had hoped for more over-the-top action with humor and funny villains. That did not entirely work out.

There are four people with “abilities” all working to make the city of New York safer on themselves. Circumstances bring the four together to fight a common enemy.

After a while it started to dawn on me that the four characters are action heroes in their own right. Indeed, each has a series of his/her own. “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones”, “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist”.

There is a lot of ‘kong fu fighting’, but it all remains a bit ‘teen’. The story is a bit thin, but there is something to laugh here and there. No superheroes flying from one building tot the next, running up and down walls, but there is the Matrix-like action and the occasional dress-up party.

Not boring, but not what I hoped to find.

Game Of Thrones – Benioff & Weiss (series 2011-2019)

I doubt that there is anybody who does not know the biggest hype of the past millennium. I do not remember exactly when I started watching GOT. When something is popular, it usually drops on my priority list. At some point I probably ran into a not too expensive DVD box of the first season and decided to see what all the fuss is about.

From the beginning I found GOT alright, but not too interesting. After finishing the first season, I doubted I would watch the second, which I obviously did some day and so on.

I do not get the 9.3 rating on IMDb.com. After almost a decade of watching the eight seasons, I think think GOT is alright, but nothing too great.

Anyway, should you have lived under a rock, the known world is divided over seven kingdoms ruled by families. There are friendships, but mostly feuds and a lot of intrigue. GOT shows how politics work where the people in charge are not necessarily the most powerful, while others want to expand their might. The “iron throne” is the desired seat for the ruler of all seven kingdoms.

This leads to a massive amount of plots, subplots, etc. which makes it quite hard to keep up with who is who and what was what. A red line is a thread coming from more Northern that the Northernmost part of the realm, the “winter” that is coming.

A massive soap opera with interesting and less interesting characters around which interesting and less interesting stories are woven, a massive budget which shows of. Indeed, GOT is the contemporary version of Tolkien books.

Like I said, not boring, but not 9.3 on a scale of 10 either.

Lilyhammer (series)

Some time ago I was looking for a somewhat lighter series to watch and I ran into “Lilyhammer” on Netflix.

The main character is played by Steven van Zandt whom “Sopranos” watchers (which I am not) will know. He plays the Brooklyn mafioso Frank Tagliano who testifies against his former associates and moves to Lillehammer, Norway and takes the name Johnny Hendrickson, because he was impressed by the winter Olympics held in that place. Another main actor in the series is Trond Fausa who we have met before in “The Bothersome Man“.

Johnny is used to getting his way and he has got several ways of persuasion. Norway is a whole different game though, but Johnny manages to blend his old nature with his new.

The series are made by mostly Norwegians and is largely spoken in Norwegian too. It makes fun of the Norwegian way of life with its extremely social system, men in healthcare, immigration policies, etc. Then there is the blunt approach of Johnny who is a heartily man to the people he likes, but you do not want him as your enemy.

Johnny opens a club which allows the creators to put in quite some music in the series. Besides his club, Johnny puts his fingers in about every pudding that comes by. These situation make fairly thin (and usually short) story-lines which are only to make a couple of jokes in a few episodes.

The series are amusing. Van Zandt is a funny guy and the enlarged differences between American and Norwegian ways of handling things is amusing too.

Not a high-flyer, but if you are looking for something light. Three seasons was quite on the edge for me though.

X-Files (series season 11) – Chris Carter (2018)

So did I fail hearing of season 11 or did it end up somewhere low on my watch-list?

Season 11 is very similar to season 10. There are pomp episodes bringing you up to speed on the ‘big story’ and trying to knit yet another angle to it and there are more comedy like episodes or general X-Files experimentation so to say.

Just like with season 10 this is done with limited success. The ‘big story’ now involves Mulder and Skully’s son, of course there is the “CSM” (“cigarette smoking man”, but I still prefer the description “cancer man”) who is portrayed as the most powerful man in the world. Especially the drama / romance in these episodes is pretty damn boring.

Then we have weird episodes with aliens, episodes about technology, boring vampires and a very amusing episode in which a new character has been montaged into early episodes, which made a good laugh.

That last episode is probably a lot more funny when you know the old series. For the rest, oh well, it is just Carter and co working on some themes and ideas that are familiar to people who have seen the X-Files before, but there is hardly need to know all the previous seasons in detail. Just a few episodes, some are nice, some less so.

Mindhunter (series) – Joe Penhall (2017/9)

I guess I missed why these series are so lauded. 8.6 At IMDb.com? Not by far in my opinion. Not that “Mindhunter” is boring, but neither did it live up much to my expectations.

We mostly follow Holden Ford, a young FBI agent who in the 1970’ies wants to use psychology to profile delinquents in order to be able to catch them faster. This is completely new in the time. He teams up with Bill Tench who has been doing something similar in the Behavioral Science Unit. Through Tench they come in contact with psychologist Wendy Carr who eventually joins the team.

In order to create profiles, Ford decides that he is going to interview convicted people who have committed multiple crimes (not yet called serial killers then). They start with Edmund Kemper, immediately a success as Kemper is a very talkative person. With Richard Speck things do not go as smooth and when the star of the team rises they even talk to Charles Manson.

The team records the interviews and starts to categorize the perpetrators adding new categories as they go along. Slowly but surely they are able to use the knowledge in running investigations.

The main part of the series is interesting. The first season has some unnecessary drama. Holden has a girlfriend who studies sociology so I expected her to get involved in his work somehow, but she does not and that storyline is pretty superfluous. In the second series a new angle is brought in when Carr proves to fancy women rather than man. The series put a magnifying class on a few elements of society of the 1970’ies. Homosexuality was still taboo and through an investigation also the treatment of blacks in American society is dealt with.

Actually, both these extra storylines again do not add much to the series which also suddenly stop. I expect work is done on a third season.

“Mindhunter” is alright, but not more than that.

American Gods – Bryan Fuller & Michael Green (series, season 2) 2019

The first season had its flaws, but I liked it a lot. I looked forward to seeing seaon 2, but it took a long time before I found a reasonably priced DVD box.

The flaws of season one are still there. There are again only 8 episodes and again the story suddenly ends. Indeed, season 3 is already announced.

Perhaps the novelty is gone, but even though season 2 is very similar to season 1, I liked it a lot less. In fact, I do not even know if I want to watch season 3. Perhaps I will wait to see if after 3 comes a 4 and…

Anyway, in season 2 it is obvious who “Mr. Wednesday” is. He is gathering “old Gods” to wage war against the new Gods, particularly “Mr. World” and “Media” (the latter is not played by Gilian Anderson this time). Mr. World is quite annoying. Wednesday is a fun as he was and he is a very ambivalent character just as the God he was styled after.

Again there are all kinds of known and unknown Gods and other spiritual beings, many references to known and unknown myths and stories with sometimes great dialogues if you understand the pun. There are also ‘intelligent’ dialogues and monologues and also critique on the modern way of living.

As I said, I liked season 2 less than I did season 1. There are some great scenes, amusing situations and weird characters, but nothing really ‘happens’ and the story about Shadow Moon and his dead wife is not really interesting.

Just alright.