A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘netflix’

Breaking Bad

Over the past week or week and a half, I’ve done something I never thought I could have: watched an entire show on Netflix. Many, many hours being watched in the space between homework and sleep (sometimes the three overlapped). But I did it.

I am all caught up in Breaking Bad.

I started last Thursday. Erin is a huge fan, my brother is a huge fan, and so naturally I knew I would be a huge fan. I am, and I am so glad I got into it before the series finale, which is tonight.

So for those of you who don’t know what it is, let me describe it.

For one thing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever watched. It’s about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is diagnosed with cancer. Fearing he will have no money to leave to his family when he passes, he begins manufacturing methamphetamine and getting irrevocably involved with serious and dangerous criminals. The series mostly deals with his struggle to keep the details of his second life from his family, and simultaneously meet the right quotas and serve the right people.

What I like most about the show is that it’s clever. It has some of the biggest “holy shit” moments I’ve ever seen. It’s dirty, messy, and gritty. And above anything, it just seems real. It feels like the kinds of crazy and unexpected outcomes are what would occur in real life; nothing goes as planned, Walter (the main character) or his other partners always get hurt, and someone always suffers.

The show’s characters really shine as well. The cast went from relatively unknown men and women to celebrities in a matter of a couple of seasons. Walter White is played by Bryan Cranston, best known for his role in the decade-old sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle.” Anna Gunn is his wife, Skyler White, and his young street partner Jesse Pinkman is portrayed by Aaron Paul. These three actors are mostly the show’s focal point, and they are all fantastic; but the surrounding cast is awesome as well, particularly the villains that Walter is pitted against, and others like Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration Agent.

What most fans like to speculate on is the moral ambiguity seen in Walt and others. As the series progresses and the characters wade deeper into crime, it is difficult to tell what their true motives and beliefs are anymore. Walt always restates that his reasoning in doing anything anymore is for his family, but playing that card so often muddles its effect and makes it seem like he’s only trying to excuse himself from any blame. It is evident later on that Walt receives some sort of sick thrill from producing and dealing drugs. The kind of power he exercises over people is arbitrary and sickening in some cases, and it truly turns some fans off. Fans want so badly to root for him, but it is made impossible sometimes.

His partner Jesse is a bit less offputting. What is interesting about Jesse is that he is technically the definition of a hoodlum, and yet I always find myself rooting for him. The reason is because he is shown to have more heart and humanity than Walt has. Walt tends to use Jesse and manipulate him sometimes, while Jesse ends up losing interest in the money and clout that Walt strives for. Jesse tries establishing relationships with women and finding some modicum of normalcy, but is always torn away by the drug business. And while he is an addict and has many low points in the series, as a fan I only want him to renounce all of his misdeeds and remove himself from the show’s negative influences.

Those two main characters properly introduced, I will now go on to say that (I will not spoil a thing for you guys!) they get into some serious trouble together. That is, to me, the appeal of the show. Fans sometimes define Breaking Bad as

“that show that leaves you lying in a fetal position at the end of every episode”

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And it’s true. Astoundingly difficult-to-deal-with curveballs are thrown at the viewers all the time, assuming they understand what’s happening. The main characters are always facing down a problem, whether they know it or not. As soon as they let their guard down, something happens to bring them back to the forefront. Walt is always in danger, and understandably so is his family. Walt is the target of gang crimes, kingpins’ hitmen, and the DEA alike. The latter means that he is in conflict with his own brother-in-law.

So why watch this show? If it hasn’t been made apparent yet, I’ll restate it: there’s never been anything like it. I remember watching the premiere in 2008 and being completely enthralled (although I didn’t quite have the stamina back then to keep up with it). If shows in the future take pointers from this show, we can expect cleverly-written, well-acted, and insanely gripping masterpieces soon to come. And with the finale occurring tonight, I’m sure that I’ll be in the fetal position, wondering what to do now that it’s all over.

For those of you who haven’t seen a lick of this show (and now want to), happy watching; for those of you who are all caught up and will be watching the finale tonight–happy watching.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Attack on Titan

Hey guys! Guess where Erin and I are now? You guessed it: college. And it has been quite a time for us both–since we’re both separate we’re keeping in touch as best we can, and with schoolwork in between we’re making do. We plan to see each other soon, and I dunno about you guys but I’m pretty good when it comes to sending Erin all things, all the time. God bless the internet.

Admittedly, I get a little bit down from time to time though, because I miss Erin and my friends and my family, and I’m sure that’s normal. And one of my methods of self-recuperation (besides talking to Erin of course) is to watch videos.

They’re sometimes funny, sometimes weird, but mostly they’re just distracting! And boy, do I like distracting. Long day of school? Watch some Netflix. Sick to your stomach? Watch this guy read you stuff. Feeling like a li’l shit?

Watch Attack on Titan.

You know why? Because the main character is the angstiest li’l shit I think I’ve ever seen. And you won’t feel like half the li’l shit you felt like after watching him yell this.

“Does he have character development?” you ask. “Is he a likable character?” “Does he grow on you?” “Is he romantically involved?”

Sort of. To all of those. He is sort of everything.

And sort of freaking batshit crazy.

Here ya go: the top five reasons you should watch Attack on Titan.

5) It’s Unique

“But lots of shows are unique!” you whine. “Every show is unique!” Well this one takes the cake. This show is not even your typical action-anime show, it’s pretty much in a realm of its own as far as I can tell. Between my brother and I, action-anime shows have been watched in my household, and none were like this.

Is it one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen? Yes. Around 18,600 people believe that Attack on Titan (aka SNK which stands for Shingeki no Kyojin–the show’s Japanese name) uses blood like other anime shows use cherry blossoms, which is a nearly unbearable amount. But is it thrilling? Absolutely. Are you engaged and on the edge of your seat the entire time you watch? Pretty much. Do people die lots of devastating deaths? Let’s just say it’s not normal to go an entire episode without watching someone get killed.

That’s the other thing: characters that are introduced and characterized are literally shown being killed before your very eyes, and it’s hard deciding if you’re more physically appalled or emotionally detached now that they’re gone. But, points for originality. Right? Wouldn’t want the good guys to just kick ass all the time. That wouldn’t be fun. It’d be pointless.

Humanity gets whooped all the time in this show.

4) The Fans

Take this reason with a grain of salt: there is no show on the planet where all the fans are completely sane. Not even Jeopardy. And admittedly, I will often find tumblr posts about Attack on Titan that do not appeal to me at all, involving alternate universes and stranger-than-strange fan fiction, etc. I’m sure anyone with a computer knows what I’m talking about. There are always going to be the oddball fans.

But with that disclaimer, I must say that the *funny* Attack on Titan stuff is absolutely hilarious. Some people are creative and some people have lots of time on their hands–and some people have both of those things. And they spend it making beautiful, AoT art.

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This is the tip of the iceberg. And while you may think “huh, creative” or smile a little, ya gotta realize–watching the show opens up an entire world of jokes that I don’t want to spoil for you. NO SPOILERS. I promise.

Oh, and here is a site devoted to drawing one-minute depictions of the main character, Eren Jaeger.

3) The Characters

Action-anime shows (especially ones with this much blood) tend to have characters that place emphasis on being badass. That’s cool, I understand. But Attack on Titan is a strange offshoot–it is full of cowards.

There are funny cowards. There are funny idiots. There are heroic idiots. A lot of these people die. But when it comes to the way in which the characters combat the titans, it’s honestly incredibly realistic in the sense that they aren’t all hack-and-slash and awesome; the people are genuinely scared. Even the people in charge are scared. There are multiple points in the show where you’re thinking “are people going to rebel? Will people leave the fight to save their own skins?” I won’t tell you the outcome, but the people who are truly talented and badass warriors are few and far between.

I won’t tell you what kinds of backstory is offered on main characters and what their personalities are in general, but I can assure you that at least I am satisfied with what kinds of cool decisions they make and how they move the show along.

2) It’s Artistically Original

The show itself is really interesting. If you compare it to other styles of animation, it just kinda has its own feel. The characters feel more outlined and defined, the colors are kind of dark most times for effect, and the expressions on their faces are versatile, but never typical. Some shows animate their characters in a non-realistic way sometimes to illustrate (in a usually funny way) the way that they’re feeling, but AoT never has to do that. It really helps bring you into the world of the characters a little bit more.

Also interesting is the realistic take on a by-gone age. The show takes place in a strange and undefinable era that can only be described by me as “the Middle Ages with a higher degree of technology”. The people eat bread in mess halls and wear tunics. There are cannons, but apparently guns do not exist. And yet they are able to travel via Maneuver Gear, which is basically like hip-mounted cables that act much like Spiderman’s webshots. They cling to nearby buildings and allow gravity and other factors to build up a certain momentum for the user to travel swiftly about their environment. It’s certainly a really cool concept. Also, they’ve got swords.

Pretty original, right?

Oh, and the titans are freaking horrifying.

1) The Premise

Alright, so you’ve gotten this far through my post and you’re probably like “why in the hell have you only given me vague hints as to the premise of this show?” The reason is because it’s the best part. It’s just a really, really cool idea. Honestly whoever conceptualized this show is a creative genius, because in my opinion, few shows come close to the level of awe that this show inspires merely by thinking about it.

It’s a show about a human population that exists within massive walls. A century or more ago, mankind was nearly eradicated by giant humanoid monsters, but they all mysteriously vanished, and mankind was left to repopulate some, and even prepare for the next unpredictable wave. The show begins right when the titans return, and wreak havoc upon the citizens within the outermost portion of wall. Within the wall are more walls, so that external towns kind of act as barriers and buffers against attacks on the interior.

Mankind knows almost nothing about how the titans; their anatomy (they have no genitalia and I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen a baby titan), their weaknesses, and their level of intelligence are all strange mysteries. But the main character Eren, after witnessing something particularly unforgettable, vows to learn to combat the titans, and to kill them all for the sake of humanity.

Sounds neat right? Well there have been more than a handful of twists along the way, and this show is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Add that level of depth, and you’ve got a show you probably can’t stop watching.

Enjoy.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

On Anime

Every so often, I’ll see a great episode of DBZ or something or other on TV that really takes me back to my childhood. I used to be such a big fan of the original Kanto Pokemon series, as well as Dragon Ball and even Yu-Gi-Oh, and some others. I remember how awesome it was to watch those kinds of shows, thinking for some reason that they all had certain attributes that set themselves apart from other shows, attributes that I couldn’t really identify as a kid.

I think now I understand a little bit better: those kinds of shows were animated and yet they had such gripping and intense plotlines. It seems that  American TV programs like Spongebob or Ed, Edd, and Eddy were invariably comedic shows–they were never very interesting. They didn’t have plotlines that spanned multiple episodes or anything. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Spongebob and Ed, Edd, and Eddy. I can quote those shows pretty much all day. But more recently, with the powers of Netflix and other obscure internet sources at my fingertips, I’ve also had the freedom to watch a bit more anime as well as other superbly awesome things.

I have a few go-to friends I can talk to about anime shows, what to watch and what most certainly not to watch. Most of the things I’ve watched have been recommended to me time and time again by these friends, and I don’t think I’ve ever been let down… except with Naruto, which I kind of grew to despise toward the end. I’ll still watch the occasional episode, I guess, but even that’s kind of a lie because I haven’t bothered in months. I invested a pretty little chunk of time in that show, and sadly the plot just kind of dissipated into a meaningless struggle against random dudes (at least in the filler). Apparently now he’s fighting the Akatsuki dudes, but since the Shippuden series has gone on for some 500+ episodes… well… IDGAF. If someone wants to tell me which episodes he fights the Akatsuki members in, maybe I’ll watch. I heard the battles are rad.

I’ll start with some of the childhood series I used to watch: you can NOT go wrong with starting Pokemon from the beginning. I’m sure many of you are familiar with it and love it like I do. It’s great. Also, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were both intense and funny at times, and I loved them both too. I really liked certain characters in that show, and even though some of the main antagonists tended to suck, I still enjoyed it. Yu-Gi-Oh was okay, but it was probably the worst of the shows I watched. It was just kind of unappealing how the characters resolved their problems with card games that had little to no effect on the real world, I guess. Plus Pegasus, the main antagonist, was totally gay.

I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender off and on in my middle school years. We never got into it to the point of watching it religiously, but it was a great show and it was always one of our go-to programs if it was on TV. I finished it on Netflix years later, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I watch Legend of Korra now, whenever new episodes premiere, and am psyched for the new book coming out in April.

Another thing I watched on Netflix was Elfen Lied. It was short, so I thought “what’s the harm in watching a 13-episode show? No skin off my back if it sucks… right?” Actually, it was really insanely good. My brother watched it after me and flipped out too. It was really graphic, and not at all suitable for kids… but at the same time it was a really, really good dark drama. It reminded me a lot of the book A Clockwork Orange because it was so stupendously violent that it kind of scarred you–but at the same time it had a really interesting message–totally worth watching if you can handle it.

I also really enjoy Studio Ghibli movies. I watched Spirited Away as a kid, and remember being pretty scared of it. It was like nothing I’d ever seen–the plot was somewhat nonsensical, and everything was so random and fantastic that I was just kind of overwhelmed. Also, when the parents turned into massive pigs, I guess I kind of lost it. But now I’m older, I’ve rewatched it, and can say that I really do enjoy it. Recently Erin and I saw Grave of the Fireflies, and really liked it. At the same time, though, that movie is an incredible tragedy. I love it but it is the most tear-jerking, emotion-destroying thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Whisper of the Heart, and others.

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist on Netflix because my brother suggested it to me. I really liked that one too, although there were a few slow points before the final climax. It was around fifty or sixty episodes and the characters in it were really inspiring and funny. It’s all about the magic of alchemy, and it’s set in a World War I setting. It’s one of the more creative shows I’ve seen. I also saw High School of the Dead. That show is wicked. It’s 13 episodes and crazy bloody.

Cowboy Bebop is one I finished not too long ago as well–I really enjoyed this one. It’s got the best main characters and the best, loosely-grounded plot ever. It’s 26 episodes long and follows three bounty hunters–Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine–in the future. They survive by catching criminals who travel through space, and then turning them in for cash rewards. The basis of the show seems a little corny, maybe–it did to me at first–but the show itself was so radical. Definitely up there in my list of favorites.

And then there are a few that I’ve just watched a couple of episodes of–I’m working on one on Netflix now called Fruits Basket, it’s alright. And I’ve seen a few episodes of One Piece before, it seemed funny and interesting. Watched a couple episodes of Fairy Tail but gave up because apparently they stopped English Dubbing the episodes not too far in. I can tolerate English Subtitles, but only up to a point… so I quit that one. It was moderately interesting.

And I think that about sums up all I’ve ever seen. If you have any others you’d like to recommend that I watch in my free time, please be my guest. They’re very addicting and they help me pass the time and relax. Or if you’d like to dispute any of the concise little reviews I’ve already offered, you can totally be my guest on that too. Do what you’d like!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Tumblr

I recently fell into a big gulch. That gulch is tumblr.

But it’s such a wonderful gulch, and I can imagine that most readers are nodding their heads like “yeah, I feel more at home scrolling down my dashboard than I do laying in my bed.” I do too, guys.

The thing about tumblr is that it bombards you with all the right things, and all the right quotes, and all the right fandoms. And you can pick and choose, too. Oh, and you can customize your own themes and upload whatever the hell you want, even if it isn’t yours. And all that crazy jazz. People don’t pay as much attention to as you like to fantasize about, but still- it’s marvelous. Oh, and I still hate Twitter.

I tried Pinterest, too, and I liked it a lot. My only major qualm is that it’s geared mainly towards girls who like clothes. And that’s fine. Girls are fine liking clothes. It’s just not for me, all that much. I tried my best unfollowing the ‘clothes’ boards that people set up and only following funny things, but the thing is that inevitably, you will find that you are following more clothes boards than you think, and it will be overwhelming. I have never seen so many dresses on one webpage that are sparkly and expensive.

Tumblr is much more fandom-based, and we can all see the virtue in that.

I tried Twitter. Sort of. I quit.

I also love “Reddit” which is a huge forum community with subsequent sectors called “subreddits” that are optimized for your viewing needs. Everything on that website is hilarious.

I also am a complete Netflix-addict. I stream everything, compulsively. There are so many good shows, don’t listen to what people tell you about their selection being crappy and their… well, that’s probably all that people will tell you about Netflix anyway. The thing is, there is SOMETHING on Netflix for you. At least one thing, if not two, or ten things. I have no complaints when it’s as accessible as it is, I have the app on my iPod and I have the website bookmarked.

But back to my main point: I’m currently very addicted to Tumblr. And I believe I’m at the point of no return; there’s just so many good things that it offers, so many lovely pictures and funny posts and clever users. It’s like being a part of a big club of people who are all funnier and more attractive than you, but they don’t call you out for anything. If it were REAL life, it’d be like me trying to sit at the cool table at lunch. They’d beat me up. But Tumblr is the cool table. Automagically. You just pull up a seat and eat fandoms.

Follow me:

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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