Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Rewatching "The Americans", season 5

Things have been going slower, but I since I received a diagnosis for Long Covid in the meantime, I guess "The Americans" for me will therefore be forever linked to the global pandemic. Cheery times! But oddly fitting, given the material. I now finished the fifth season, and with only one to go, let's take a look back at what was what.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Channingography, part 3: Step Up (2006)


After four movies that turned out way, way better than I expected, would Channing Tatum's filmography hold for the one that actually provided his breakthrough as a leading man and spawned a franchise that rivals the "Fast&Furious" series for longevity? Let's do the short version: no, the movie is shit. 

My stance on various ASOIAF conspiracy theories, Part 26

Thursday is theory day.
This is the twenty-seventh article of the series. Since there are a lot of theories floating out there and I'm asked often enough what I think of them, I thought I write it down. You can then laugh about me when I am totally proven wrong by "The Winds of Winter" or something like that. Rules are as follows: you put a question about any theory or plot element (really, let's stress "theory" a bit for the sake of interesting questions) either in the comments of any theory post or by mail ( and I will answer them in an upcoming post. And if you now ask "Stefan, isn't this a shameless rip-off of Sean T. Collin's "Ask me anything"?", I would tell you to shut up, because you are right.
Prepare for part 27. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously.  

Review: George R. R. Martin - The Rogue Prince

In the newest anthology he edited, "Rogues", George R. R. Martin included the aptly named "The Rogue Prince". Like with his previous anthology, "Dangerous Women", which included "The Princess and the Queen", "The Rogue Prince" is a fragment of a much larger text about the Dance of the Dragons and its inception, the shattering Targaryen civil war that happened way over 150 before the events of the novel series proper. This (shorter) issue concerns itself with the history leading up to the death of Viserys I, where "The Princess and the Queen" began, a story that by a benign reader might be read as dominated by the titular Rogue Prince, Daemon Targaryen. Alas, I'm not benign.
The only picture of the Princess and the Rogue Prince I could find.

The problem with biopics

I recently watched "Darkest Hour", the biopic about Winston Churchill in May 1940. I'm usually not a fan of biopics, which are oscar-bait at best and boring distortions at worst. "Darkest Hour" begins really strong, but it falters in the last third, falling victim to the problems it shares with many other biopics.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Rewatching "The Americans", season 4

Having finally moves past the worst of Covid, my pace in rewatching "The Americans" slowed down a bit. I was still on sick leave, so season 4 was done. Season 3 was the first legitimately great season of the show, where it finally found its own MO of a slow-moving tragedy and procedural. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Rewatching "The Americans": Season 3

Because of my Covid-induced torpor, I was not able to do much but lay back on the couch and binge stuff. There was nothing of interest on, and I had toyed with the idea of rewatching "The Americans" anyhow, so off I went and watched three seasons in five days. Hooray for Covid. I want to talk about the experience, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Rewatching "The Americans": Season 2

Because of my Covid-induced torpor, I was not able to do much but lay back on the couch and binge stuff. There was nothing of interest on, and I had toyed with the idea of rewatching "The Americans" anyhow, so off I went and watched three seasons in five days. Hooray for Covid. I want to talk about the experience, but it comes with a spoiler warning.

There are some series that experience a marked uptick in quality in their later seasons. It does not happen in cases where the fundamentals are rotten, but when there is promise, it can happen. "Halt and Catch Fire" is my favorite example, but "The Americans" comes in a close second. The first season is a solidly "okay", entertaining spy thriller. It's in the second season where things improve, although we're not yet at the great stuff. My colleague Sean T. Collins made the comparison to "Breaking Bad" or "The Sopranos", which also arrived at their peak only in season 3, and I think it's apt. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Rewatching "The Americans": Season 1

Because of my Covid-induced torpor, I was not able to do much but lay back on the couch and binge stuff. There was nothing of interest on, and I had toyed with the idea of rewatching "The Americans" anyhow, so off I went and watched three seasons in five days. Hooray for Covid. I want to talk about the experience, but it comes with a spoiler warning. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Yellowjackets is writing dubious narrative cheques

There was some mild buzz surrounding the Showtime series "Yellowjackets" that was sufficient for the network to immediately order a second season, expected to hit by the end of the year. The series, following the two timelines of a female soccer team crashing in the Canadian wilderness in 1996 and the survivors of same crash in 2021, received critical and audience acclaim for its mix of horror, mystery and survival thriller.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Three hoorays for imperialism!

I watched "The King's Man" yesterday, the prequel to the Matthew Vaughn vehicles Kingsman and Kingsman 2. In it, an impeccable Ralph Fiennes plays Orlando Oxford, the founder of the British Kingsman secret service agency. It's a fucking mess and tonally the most inconsistent movie I've watched in quite a while. 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

They don’t make them like that anymore

For the first time ever, I watched “Born on the Fourth of July”, the 1989 feature by Oliver Stone. Tom Cruise is playing Vietnam veteran Ronnie Kovic, who got paralyzed after taking a wound in battle and was traumatized before by killing civilians and a friendly-fire-incident. If you’re interested in my assessment on the quality of the movie – it’s pretty good and still watchable, mostly thanks to Cruise, who proves his dramatic qualities here (it’s so weird he turned to action movies late in his career after starting out as a drama actor). So if you’re interested in the subject matter and can cope with the somewhat unusual structure (getting there), then by all means, give this classic a go.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Book report: A Feast for Crows

In the reviews of the previous three books I repeatedly mentioned, that while they are intricately and expertly plotted, the literary quality of the series performs a leap with the next two books, which together form the "Feastdance". We can see this quite clearly with "A Feast for Crows", which, when it was released in 2005, created some consternation. After the flurry of endings and payoffs that was "A Storm of Swords", this book seemed like a letdown to many, not following up on the breathless quality of its predecessor. That is understandable, as it began its inception as a written-out version of the ill-fated five-year-gap.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Book report: A Storm of Swords

Continuing my reread, I've now finished "A Storm of Swords", and once again, I won't assume you need any kind of synopsis and quickly delve into the analysis. In the first book, my main theme was early installement weirdness, and in the second book, I focused on the expanding scope of the story and the developing of some themes. "A Storm of Swords" continues along these lines, but the two major aspects I want to discuss is the flurry of endings and what they're purpose is, namely setting up the five-year gap.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Book report: "A Clash of Kings"

After I tackled "A Game of Thrones" in BLAP 58, concentrating on Early Installement Weirdness, I recently completed my reread of "A Clash of Kings", and so I want to give you my report here. Of course, you know the book, I knew the book, so I'm not reciting the plot and tell you it's a damn good book, but I'd rather make some stray observations.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Season 8 Episode 6 “The Iron Throne” review – A Feast of Conclusions?


Valarr morghulis. Everything needs to come to an end, and so does the greatest series of all time, the popcultural phenomenon to end all popcultural phenomena. Unlike the preceding episodes, this one isn’t exactly subtle or multi-layered about what characters are doing and why they’re doing it; nor does it need to be. Everyone is stating their motivations clearly. Every ambiguity left is deliberate. It’s always thus with endings. We know that Samwise is happy in the Shire. We don’t know whether Frodo will be in Valinor. And so we know that Samwell Tarly has the right job and becomes happy in it. We don’t know whether Arya will ever succeed. And that’s just how it’s meant to be.

Season 8 Episode 5 “The Bells” review – A coinflip


Sometimes, everything comes down to a choice. Sometimes, everything comes down to the flip of a coin. As the popular saying goes, each time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin, and the world holds its breath. As Varys says, he’s quite unsure on what side Dany’s will land. From there on out, one metaphysical question, old as human deliberation itself, hovers over everything: Do we possess free will?

Season 8 Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks” review – Castle of Glass


Last week, I wrote that it was so hard to assess the impact of the larger plot and themes as long as the show hasn’t finished the story yet, and the same still holds true today. For this reason, I’ll start with a disclaimer: I will try to call out the themes and larger developments as I see them unfolding right now, in the clear possibility that some red herrings will lead me astray. So I’ll not judge next week’s episode on the basis of whether it delivered on my readings of this one, as I hope my readers will not judge this review on the clairvoyance of its predictions.

Season 8 Episode 3 “The Long Night” review – Too big to comprehend


I think this is the first time that I’m at a total loss writing one of these reviews. We’re standing here, at what’s likely the apex of a development that speeded past us in the last half decade. If you had told me in 2014 that in 2019, we’d be watching a battle involving thousands of people on both sides, three dragons and a zombie giant IN THE MIDSEASON FINALE OF A TV SHOW, and that we’d complain about how much sense the battle tactics made, I’d have declared you a bit lucid. This a show that couldn’t scrape the money together to show more than two horses and twenty people for the Tourney of the Hand only seven years ago!

Season 8 Episode 2 “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” review: A Storm of Reunions


My illustrious co-host Sean T. Collins wrote in his terrific review of the first episode that while all the joy coming from the reunions in the season’s first episode lacked a bit of the bitterness that was the trademark of “Game of Thrones” all the time, ending with the knife-sharp conclusion that “poison helps the sugar go down”. It’s a staple by now to point to George R. R. Martin’s rare statement about the endgame of the series that it would be “bittersweet”. This episode showed how this can look in practice.