Escapism or Research

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We all remember during lockdown and the US presidential election, how so many of us struggled, while others flourished. There was an outpouring of creativity and community and I was in awe of what could be done when given the chance. I was not one of those people. I was in the first group.

I was not creative. I barely wrote. I couldn’t watch anything “heavy”; there were a lot of bad movies viewed. I developed anxiety.

It was a strange time.

It was the year that will go down in infamy – 2020.

We couldn’t wait for it to go away. So many of us looked to 2021 as a magic reset button.

It was not.

I was determined to make 2022 different. With the new year and new goals, I decided to stop wasting my TV viewing time on things I’ve watched a dozen times over. I would watch those “must see” movies and shows in my genre. I would read the books I “should have” read. I would read more screenplays because you know, that’s what I want to do in life.

I had a new perspective and I wanted to make an impact.

Then, when things felt like they might be getting better, ever so slightly, a megalomaniac chose that moment to make things that much worse.

It’s easy to use TV, movies, and video games as a means of escapism in a world turned on its side. It’s easy to rationalize it all as research when you’re a creative.

It’s a little column A, a little column B.

So, despite the current situation, I thought I’d share the 3 shows I’ve watched so far that I’ve enjoyed if you’re in need of a little escape (or research ūüėČ ). They’re all available on Netflix.

  • Arcane – By far the best show I’ve watched in some time. The animation is beautiful, the characters are all intriguing, and the world is unique. Considering it took 6 years to make the first season, I’m guessing it will be a long wait for season 2, but it will be worth it.
  • The Witcher Season 2 – I am a big fan of the third installment in the video game series – I even wrote a review about it – so I was always going to watch the show. While season 1 was a little convoluted and hard to follow if you weren’t familiar with the material, they did a great job with the second season.
  • Shadow and Bone – This series kept being suggested to me, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had not read the books, or even heard of them beforehand. I have since read the first novel. Don’t waste your time, just watch the show. It’s a magical land, actually, they don’t call it magic, and there are some fun characters, and it was better than I thought it would be.

I’ve started a few other shows and if anything else resonates, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Do you have any shows or movies to recommend? What shouldn’t be missed?

Happy Watching!

4 New (to me) Favorite Shows + 1

TVblueIt’s hard enough to keep up with the shows I’ve been watching for years (because I haven’t paid for television in¬†nearly 5 years and generally have to wait to stream), let alone stay current with the torrent of new shows available on the numerous outlets nowadays, but since I want to be a part of it all, I¬†had to make a concerted effort to watch some new things.

I decided to go through my various lists and watch the first episode of a number of shows, and see what struck me. ¬†Here are the “new to me” stand outs:

lastkingdom4. ¬†The Last Kingdom – A wonderful show I discovered via Netflix is the BBC import The Last Kingdom. ¬†Set¬†before England is a united nation, the story follows the life of a young Saxon prince who is captured by an invading Dane army and becomes their earl’s slave. ¬†As the years pass, he becomes more Dane than Saxon and eventually becomes the earl’s adopted son. ¬†His journey is a strange one as he discovers that despite his true heritage, he is a man that doesn’t really belong in either world,¬†and yet finds himself at the center of the great changes that are to come.

It’s a period piece set in England. ¬†For me, that’s all it really takes, ūüėČ ¬†but there is something unique and captivating about this show, and I definitely recommend watching the first episode like I did – I’m sure you’ll be hooked too.

galavant3. ¬†Galavant – A comedy musical set in Medieval times starring Timothy Omundson?! ¬†I was in from the moment I saw the first preview, but because of the not-having-tv-thing, it was just another show that got pushed to the wayside…until Netflix. ¬†The first two seasons popped up and I was hooked from first song – Thank you, Alan Menken! (of Disney movie fame: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled to name a few).

The series follows Galavant, a knight on a mission to reclaim his lost love, but as you can expect in a comedy, things don’t always go as planned. ¬†The show is¬†more adult oriented despite the light hearted presentation, special guests make regular appearances, and without commercials, the 18 episodes are only about 20 mins long, so it’s an easy binge watch. ¬†And then I discovered the horrible truth –¬†Galavant had been canceled. ¬†I think the show is really wonderful, and cleverly done. ¬†I’m sad to learn that there won’t be any more of it. ¬†If you’re looking for something different and just plain fun, I highly recommend Galavant.

vikings2. ¬†Vikings – This was a show I longed to watch, but again, did not have access to, and then I got access to Hulu and voila! ¬†Even if I hadn’t been entranced by the first episode, which I totally was, this show was one I was willing to put a little effort into. ¬†Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. ¬†It’s fantastic! ¬†Vikings are often¬†portrayed as this brute invading force, but this show takes us inside their world and, in particular, the life of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Tired of the routine set by his earl of sailing east to lands they have repeatedly pillaged, Ragnar¬†makes a daring-rogue decision and builds a boat of his own to travel to new destinations. ¬†Ragnar, besides being easy on the eyes, is a compelling character to watch. ¬†He’s a clever man played by a subtle¬†actor who says a great deal with his eyes. ¬†(I’m a sucker for that, hello, Mads Mikkelsen.) ¬†And then there’s his wife, Lagertha, a famous warrior known as a shield maiden. ¬†She is an amazing character and¬†my eyes are drawn to her whenever she’s on screen. ¬†She’s a force to be reckoned with, and it’s satisfying to find a character like her.

I’m only on season 2,¬†and there’s already been betrayal and sacrifice (literally) and loss. ¬†I can’t wait to see what else is in store for these characters.

strangerthings1. ¬†Stranger Things – Everyone was talking about Stranger Things¬†so I decided to watch the first episode to see what all the hype was about. ¬†If you’ve been on the fence, get off of it already and watch this hit from Netflix Originals.

Set in the 80s in a small town, this sci-fi series follows a group of friends, four 12 year old boys who are sort of the geeky outcasts. ¬†(In hindsight, they’re the boys I wish I would’ve befriended when I was 12 to learn how to play D&D.) ¬†When one of their friends mysteriously disappears, a new friend mysteriously appears, and a¬†“strange” series of events follow as this tale unfolds.

There was a lot of information about this show on every social media outlet (there still is as season 2 is close at hand), and it was hard to stay ignorant to the premise, so if you’re like¬†I was, I won’t give too much away because it is really well done and a lot of fun to watch. ¬†I have to say I was surprised how much I enjoyed this,¬†because I didn’t know what to expect, so maybe that’s a good thing…I’ve been disappointed more often than not recently when I’m looking forward to something…and despite the fact that Winona Ryder is one of the leads, she is still not a good actor, the show is worthy of your time.

And the +1 is currently in the ¬†“undecided” section:

blackbutlerBlack Butler – The Sis has already watched all the available episodes and is a fan, but I’ve only watched a few, and am still on the fence. ¬†I really like the premise which is about a young boy,¬†the heir to a vast fortune in Victorian England, who makes a deal with a demon to avenge his family. ¬†The demon then becomes his constant companion in the way of his butler, and he is “one hell of a butler”. ūüėČ

Japanime seems to be a cross between a couple of animation types, a beautiful, stylistic art, and this odd, campy, almost childish variant. ¬†Black Butler has both, which sometimes pulls me out of the story because the two styles are drastically different, but this is a mainstay in their animation, I’ve discovered, so it’s just something you have to get used to.

Black Butler is available on both Netflix and Hulu and the Hulu version has both the dubbed and subtitled versions, I believe.  I would recommend the subtitled versions, because Sebastian, the butler, has a wonderful, soothing voice.

Have you watched any of these shows? ¬†What do you think? ¬†Wanna talk about any of them? ¬†Let’s chat!

A Rambling Review: Les Revenants (aka The Returned)

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I love any show or film that keeps you guessing after it’s over. ¬†Days later, you find yourself still wondering what some things meant and still have some pretty big questions. ¬†The French supernatural drama, Les Revenants aka The Returned is just this type of show.

Currently contained within two seasons of just 16 episodes, with no talks of a third season, you will find partial closure and yet be left with that open ended feeling knowing there are no answers to be found. ¬†At least not yet, if ever. ¬†It’s one of those rare gems that¬†lets you ponder its meaning – something I consider very French.

I’m not sure how I discovered the show initially, I think it was recommended by someone I follow somewhere, and I’m glad to have found it, although the wait between seasons was unbearable at over two years. ¬†Both seasons are now available on Netflix.

The story is based on the 2004 film They Came Back, and is about the return of a small town’s deceased residents for no apparent reason. ¬†They don’t all return at the same time, and many of them died at different times throughout the years, leaving the townspeople and their loved ones confused and frightened.

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They don’t look like zombies. ¬†They don’t even look dead. ¬†They don’t bear any marks of how they died and many of them have memory issues¬†depending on how long they’ve been gone, so they’re just as confused. ¬†It makes for an interesting story to see how some of them are welcomed back to their lives¬†while some are not.

Then there is the trouble with the town’s dam. ¬†The entire first season I remember looking at the water and thinking, “What’s really going on in there?”

It’s hard not to go into too much detail with only 16 episodes and four “families” primarily to follow. ¬†This review could easily be much longer, but I want to keep all the mystery alive (pun intended?). ¬†ūüôā

With so much to watch nowadays, I’ve become rather picky with which shows I stick with and which I give up. ¬†If a show doesn’t grab me within the first few episodes, I don’t want to waste my time. ¬†I know I’ll get flack for this, but I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad or, more recently, Daredevil – two shows loved by nearly everyone I know. ¬†You may find the pacing of The Returned¬†a bit slow initially, but that is part of the magic of this¬†series¬†in particular. ¬†You get to see quiet moments in these people’s lives, and because of that, you feel you understand some of the characters better.

The Returned has an American spinoff that was airing nearly simultaneously and I don’t understand why. ¬†This is one aspect of the Hollywood system that baffles me. ¬†Why was creating a new show based on a current show necessary? ¬†Are subtitles too difficult or cumbersome for the American audience? ¬†Besides, the American version was cancelled after one season. ¬†So no closure for you guys.

I hope for a third season because I would love to see a bit more of this story and its¬†people, and get some answers to those questions still rattling around, but if that doesn’t happen, we can feel some of that unsettling closure that comes with foreign film.

Have you seen the show? ¬†Or its American counterpart? ¬†What are your thoughts? ¬†I’d really love to discuss some of my theories, so join me in the comments!

A Discrepant Writer Reviews: The Quest

The QuestI am not a reality show watcher. ¬†Other than RuPaul’s Drag Race, I have only seen snippets of shows, mostly through The Soup. ¬†Randomly searching through the Netflix options, The Sis and I came upon a reality competition show called The Quest. ¬†We turned it on out of curiosity, but not only were we hooked, we’re ready to sign up for next season.

Here’s a quick synopsis: Contestants are transported to a magical realm to help a kingdom under attack from a dark force. ¬†Through a series of adventures where new skills are learned and tested, one will rise above the others to wield a magical weapon that will help them defeat the impending evil.

Now here’s what I liked about the show. ¬†It’s a fantasy world created and filmed¬†in a castle in Austria. ¬†The queen of the realm, her advisors, and her kingdom played their roles wonderfully. ¬†They had backstories and stayed in character, adding an authentic feel to this world. ¬†It’s a combination of role playing and competition where the contestants, aka paladins, actually helped one another to succeed. ¬†There was very little in-fighting or backstabbing, something I generally expect from most of these “reality” based shows. ¬†Also, there was never any mention of prize money. ¬†A trip to Europe to live out your childhood fantasy of saving a kingdom as a worthy knight is prize enough. ¬†This is another reason I feel the competitors¬†were inclined to be kinder to one another.

The elimination round is judged by the Greek mythological¬†Fates (and you know how I have a soft spot for them), and you’re guided and mentored by a knight of the realm. ¬†Now for my cosplayer friends and fellow fantasy genre enthusiasts, doesn’t this sound like the ideal competition for us?! ¬†*A spoilery bonus, the eliminated contestants return for the final fight, so there is an honest sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

There is no telling who will be the winner. ¬†Size and speed don’t necessarily give you an overwhelming advantage, as some rounds required a variety of skill sets. ¬†Overall, the show is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it to those who prefer to¬†spend their time in the books and movies of other worlds; where dragons rule the sky and heroes are created, where you can live in a castle, make friends with the queen, and save the day.5stars

It makes me want to cosplay all the more and join the Society for Creative Anachronism, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Give it a watch, or if you already have, share with me your thoughts.