I finally finished Season 2 of Bloodline, and like Season 1, it was excellent. This is one of the best written and acted series in TV history.
However, the same issue that made Season 1 a hard view for so many modern TV watchers afflicts Season 2 as well. It's something that I love about the series, but I'm pretty sure it causes the viewership to be low. It comes down to pace.
Bloodline is one of the slowest paced TV series that we've ever seen. It's a deep, painful, adult drama that is centered on the Rayburn family who lives in the Florida Keys. Their secrets sip out very slowly, but when they do, they set up the needed dramatic tension within which the highly talented actors can shine. The first few episodes can be a somewhat of a drag, but they're setting up heavy drama later on—drama that pays off in spades.
When Netflix announced that Season 3 would be the end of Bloodline, it felt like my heart was ripped out. It's strongly rumored that the reduction in Florida film credits caused the cancellation. I hope Sony finds another place to land the show, but I doubt it's going to happen. And that is awful, because Bloodline, although not for everyone, is a series that seems custom made for me.
If I have any complaints about Season 2, it's that the first episodes are a bit clunky. John Leguizamo takes a couple of episodes to completely fit into his role. Jacinda Barrett is fine, but has no chance while acting highly dramatic scenes against Kyle Chandler, who is absolutely superb.
Season 2 does something fantastic, which I think most people won't catch. It has no clear antagonist throughout, which is part of the reason why the early episodes play a little slow. By the end, it has multiple people who you love to hate, though it's still unclear which is the main antagonist. It's pure awesomeness. The writers pulled off something very special, and I don't think they're getting enough credit for it.
If you have an attention span greater than that of a puppy, I highly recommend Bloodline. It's such a pleasure to watch such a fine crafted, well-written, and well-acted drama. The cinematography and blocking are beautiful as well. I can't wait to see what they pull off in Season 3.
My rating: 9.6/10
I've watched all 464 minutes of the five-part, much-acclaimed ESPN series by Ezra Edelman. It's a quality, painful look, not only at O.J., the crime, the trial, and all within, but also at the long, complex racial history of Los Angeles, and how O.J. and Nicole fit within that history.
It's the length and depth that makes this documentary so wonderful to watch. Most of the main players are interviewed at length. The details that we've long forgotten, and many that we never knew about, keep coming at us at a pace fast enough to never allow us not to be glued to the screen. The different, strong, viewpoints, as passionate as ever, twenty-one years after the verdict, hook us back into the story and the drama that went down throughout.
But a word to the wary: this documentary will upset many of you, unlike anything you've ever seen. You will see how the defense team played unconscionably dirty tricks. You will hear and see the history of how O.J. beat the hell out of Nicole on so many occasions. You will see gruesome crime scene photos. You will hear a juror state outright that the majority of jurors thought their verdict to be payback for Rodney King because "We protect our own," and how she thinks she might vote differently had the trial happened today.
In other words, it's ugly. But it's a well-crafted ugliness that teaches us so much beyond that which is O.J. and a knife.
If you can stomach the horrible nature of the content, I'd highly recommend it. Though it might get a bit too preachy at times, especially early on, it's a very satisfying watch at the end of it all.
My rating: 9/10
In preparation, just in case the Titanfall II reviews aren't sub-8.0, I've been playing a round or two of the original game every other day or so. Having not played it much for almost a year, I fell right back into it, and instantly remembered why it's my favorite first-person-shooter of all time (the Bioshocks remain my favorite narratives).
All of the components of the original Titanfall are so well calibrated, that it's a pure joy to play. The speeds and power levels of the Pilots & Titans—perfect. The amount of NPCs, and their strengths—so good. The complexity added with the tremendous variety of burn-cards, all of which players can keep and use, or sell, depending on which ones work better for them—terrific. And the gorgeous maps, with their ample size, both horizontally and vertically, so well designed for the type of combat in the game—such well-crafted staging is a rarity in gaming.
There was only one huge drawback, one that afflicts far too many games: a hard level cap. Get to that level 50, and players start dropping off the game in droves. It killed off the Titanfall player base just as it does with every other first-person-shooter that it afflicts.
Oh, I so hope that beyond all odds, the pre-Alpha tech test was a bunch of garbage compared to what Respawn is going to release in a month. Just in case that slight possibility actually happens, I'm going to continue to sharpen up my Titan and Pilot skills. Besides the waiting around for enough players to fill a lobby, it's an absolute blast.
It was about nine years ago that Bioshock was released on the Xbox. It was developed by Irrational Games, and its co-founder Ken Levine. It played like the best classic dystopian novel you've ever read, and was an experience unlike I'd ever had. In 2010, Bioshock 2, developed by 2K Games, was released to very good reviews, but remains an underrated chapter in my opinion. Then in 2013, Irrational released Bioshock Infinite, which won Game Of The Year in 42 publications, and remains my favorite video game of all time.
A couple of days ago, 2K released Bioshock: The Collection, a remastered version of the trilogy and their expansions. I've been playing it for about an hour every night when I get home from work, and all I can say is that it's an amazing experience.
Never has the underwater city of Rapture looked so beautiful. Knowing the story, but having forgotten the details, playing through the remaster is a chance to absorb all of the amazing visuals and game designs that blew by so quickly during the first run through. It's a whole different experience, like reading a dense classic for the second time, being able to catch all the nuance that was impossible to absorb on the first read. And it's oh, so good. In the realm of videogaming, it just doesn't get any better. And as narratives go, of all types, the Bioshock story ranks up among the greatest.
The original Bioshock has a 96 rating on Metacritic. Bioshock Infinite, a far-too-low 94. Even with all of the perfect tens and multiple awards, I can't state how strongly I feel this series is underrated.
If you haven't played through the Bioshocks, please get the Collection. And if you have, consider buying the Collection for the wonderful replay experience. Making those games almost broke Ken Levine as a human being. But what he and his team accomplished is simply some of the best fiction that has ever been created.
Just about every community of a certain size has its share of talented local artists. Certain cities have their artistic distinctions. Frisco is the place for painters & sculptors. NYC is the destination for stage actors. Austin & Nashville are the places to go to become country music stars. But it's Los Angeles that is the center of the American art world as a whole. Whether you're an actor, writer, painter, musician, or any other type of artist, Los Angeles calls you to come and hone your craft so you can share it with the world.
Yet the art world is a funny place. The most talented rarely rise to the top. This city is littered with thousands of extremely talented writers, actors, and every other type of artists, who will never be able to make a living off of their art. It's a brutally competitive scene, which winners are often the best at marketing themselves, and oftentimes, the luckiest.
Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to stay in Los Angeles for the years it takes most people to become exceptional at their craft. In the past, broke artists could live cheaply in massive old apartment complexes scattered throughout the city. Those days are long gone, and it puts even more pressure on artists, because their plausible window of success becomes evermore compressed.
I'm going to start taking the time to occasionally showcase some of the more talented people that I know that are in need of some promotion. Today, I'm going to mention a singer/songwriter that goes by the name Matty O. His first album Gullible's Travels is available on iTunes. He's an alternative/rock type of guy that is putting out some good stuff. Take a listen below to a track called Yuletide Lament, a Christmas song about Los Angeles that I think is rather exceptional. If you like it, please support him by purchasing his album.
I feel that far too many potentially great artists aren't getting the time needed to polish their craft to the point they're capable of reaching. I believe the best way to support them is to go to their local performances, purchase some of their early stuff. Help keep them sustained so they can grow to the point of maturation. It's a way to benefit more than the artists. It's a way to benefit the world.
I hadn't planned on going to see Kubo and the Two Strings, but there was a call to arms on Reddit about the film, since it was flopping pretty hard at the box office, and so many felt it deserved to do better. The reviews by the Redditors made it a must-go for me (along with the 96% RT rating).
Kubo is a charming, odd, heartwarming, adventurous tale of a young boy in search of his true family history. It doesn't shy away from being dark. In fact, it's pretty frightening for a kid's story. Its humor is reserved compared to most animated films (though it does have its moments). Its cast is not broad, and that's a good thing, because the few characters that have a lot of screen-time are well developed. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
But where Kubo really shines is in two particular places:
The first is its absolutely stunning stop-animation visuals. I don't remember seeing an animated film that looked so gorgeous, in every frame. It's enough to take your breath away. Most compositions are fantastic. The blocking of the characters, especially in the fight scenes, is terrific. But the quality of the animation, from the forests and sunsets, to the monstrous waves rocking the ship, is mind-blowingly awesome.
The second place where Kubo shines is in the morals upon which the story plays out. This film has heart, mountains of it, unlike few films you have seen. It, like Toy Story 3, is enough to make a grown man cry.
I only have one minor complaint. I think Charlize Theron was miscast, but it's nowhere near a deal-breaker.
If Kubo and the Two Strings is still playing on a big screen near you, go see it! If you can't catch in the theatre, make sure you see it on the biggest, sharpest screen you can. It's an absolute classic. And keep that Kleenex next to you, to wipe those tears away.
My rating: 9.7/10
The new Madden has been out a couple of weeks, and I've finally played enough to give some brief thoughts. The last Madden I purchased was 15, and since there's no college football game any longer, I have to stick with the NFL. There are rarely any major improvements year-on-year, so I feel comfortable skipping a year or two between purchases. (I'm praying that the college game returns soon).
I like most of the changes that have been made the last couple of years. Here are some of them:
Some of the stuff I don't like:
Due to lack of competition, Madden has been far too sluggish with positive change. I think the lower-than-should-be sales have finally convinced EA to put some money into the development of the series. We're finally seeing some of the positive change that should have happened years ago. Let's hope they keep it up.
My rating: 8.4/10
I've been rather preoccupied throughout the summer with a move, one that has taken much longer than I'd anticipated. As a result, I've been suffering greatly from Netflix Anxiety.
Netflix has been such a game-changer in the world of television--it's not only redefining the way we absorb narratives, it's redefining our lives in other ways as well.
The second season of Narcos was just released. I can't watch it yet, because I'm only about halfway through the current seasons of House of Cards & Bloodline. I've only started the second season of Daredevil. I have yet to start the current season of Orange is the New Black. And on top of it, Stranger Things came out of nowhere, and everyone seemingly loved it.
Netflix Anxiety comes from the fear that you'll start getting more than one season behind on the top shows. If that happens on broadcast TV, who cares? You're not missing much. But with Netflix, you'll start forgetting quality plot lines. Worse yet, you'll be out of the conversations everyone is having. There's legitimate pressure to keep up, and it's hard to do as they keep releasing new high-quality series.
This doesn't even take into account all the other quality shows on cable networks. Yes, Game of Thrones is the one show that you must watch as it airs, but there are other extremely good series as well. I have yet to even start the second season of Fargo.
I take a few months off to find a new place, buy a new place, do a move, and fix up the new place. Next thing you know, I'm dozens upon dozens of hours behind, with the next season of House of Cards is facing me down, only a few months away. How in the world does one keep up?
Having too much of a good thing is usually a wonderful problem to have. The issue, however, is that free time is finite. Netflix is eating up far too much of that time, and there's not one show that I'm watching that I'm willing to put on pause.
It's going to be a busy end of the year. I'm hoping to be in much better Netflix shape by 2017.
Jon David Rosten, author of
Order "The Wicked Trees" off of Amazon, today!