Some time back, I kind of gave up on doing Netflix nose dives on the blog, mainly because it’s really hard not to do spoilers on second or third seasons for a show, particularly if you haven’t already seen the first season. So I’ve mostly stuck to posting mini reviews on Twitter under Netflix Impressions, and I plan on continuing that. Meanwhile over on BlueSky, I’ve tended to post my thoughts between episodes, and once X implodes, I’ll probably combine the non-spoiler episode impressions with the overall season impressions.
I started thinking that I could do something to help promote the shows I really loved this year by doing a list. Again, in this way, I avoid spoiling anything for you, but I might also be helping you find something outside your normal viewing habits, which Netflix’s algorithm can hide if you haven’t liked anything similar.
Note that this is not everything I watched in the year, or even that I liked, but it is the shows that left a strong impression. So with disclaimer out of the way, here’s my favorite Netflix shows and movies of 2023… Continue reading
Hoo boy, this show, y’all. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. I watched it because there’s no new Midnight Diner, and Mystic Pop-Up Bar looked to be offering the same balance of food porn and plot based on the trailers. But instead it’s the kind of show that twists and contorts at the oddest moments. One scene, it’s saying, “Oh, I’m just a silly slapstick comedy! Look at these exaggerated movements and facial expressions! Hear those cartoony sound effects? So wacky!”
But then an instant later, the show punches a hole in your chest, rips out you heart and goes, “Are these heart strings? You mind if I pluck out a few sad chords?” It then proceeds to play the saddest song possible, and it’s brutal. There was one episode where I was sobbing with two fistfuls of tissues to catch my tears, and I thought maybe I was just being too sensitive. But I glanced at my hubby, and he was ugly crying too. And he don’t cry for nothin’ y’all. So consider yourself warned. If you come for the laughs, be prepared to cry as well.
With that warning out of the way, Mystic Pop-Up Bar is about an traveling bar owner, Weol Joo, who has been sentenced by the devil to help 100,000 people settle their grudges or face soul oblivion. She does this by entering their dreams and sussing out the best strategy for healing their spiritual wounds. Weol is actually pretty close to reaching her goal, but she’s also begun dragging her heels on solving her last few cases. So the powers that be give her a deadline: finish those last few cases, NOW.
Weol encounters a young man, Han Kang Bae, who has a unique ability: people spill their darkest secrets to him with a single touch. Han considers this power a curse, and Weol promises to help him get rid of his abilities if he helps her find the last few clients to erase her debt to the devil. Continue reading
Right, let’s just get this out of the way and drop a cut: if you haven’t seen season 1 of The Umbrella Academy, don’t read this review unless you’re fine with spoilers. If you hate spoilers, at least go watch the first season and know all the joy it entails to watch a thing spoiler-free. As for the second, I’ll try to be as vague as possible, but there will still be mild spoilers. Right, with the warnings out of the way, cue the cut now… Continue reading
I have to confess that doing these Netflix reviews are a lot harder than I anticipated, particularly for any series with more than one season. How do I talk about anything in season two of The Good Place without spoiling the big reveal at the end of the first season? I can’t talk about season two or three of Stranger Things, nor can I even talk about season one because most of the things I want to gush and rant about are also too spoilery. Don’t even get me started on Dark. (Seriously, don’t, unless you want me to spoil every episode for you. I love that show, so, so much.)
But at least with Maniac, I can feel secure offering a spoiler-free review. It’s a limited series, so there’s no pesky second season to deal with, and the way the show was made, I can talk about their “formula” without actually spoiling the episodes themselves. It’s win-win for you and me.
Based on the trailers, I expected Maniac to be grim sci-fi about a drug lab harming patients by tinkering with their brains. But it’s not very long into the series before it becomes clear there’s going to be a lot of humor of both the dry and wacky varieties. There’s also occasionally some creepy humor too, the sort where I laughed, and then felt bad for laughing. Oh, but the part about scientists tinkering with their patients’ brains is accurate. Continue reading
There comes a point in most evenings where my hands are too stiff to play games, or when my brain is a bit too far along the path to sleep for me to make snap decisions. It’s usually around this time that I swap from games to YouTube to watch cooking videos or something similar. I saw the trailers for Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories and felt that might be the perfect nightcap for a few nights. I was right, but now I’m curious to see everything set in this world.
The thing is, the Netflix series is actually part of a larger collection of movies, both theatrical releases and made-for-television, and a televisions series as well. All of them star Kaoru Kobayashi as the diner owner, known simply as Master to his patrons. This series was adapted from a manga written by Yaro Abe. I only recently learned all of this, and now I want very much to locate more of these stories because they’re so vivid and charming.
The premise of the series is simple enough. The Master runs a diner in Shinjuku from Midnight to 7 AM. Though The Master has a tiny menu, he has a policy of cooking whatever his patron request, provided he has the ingredients. Each episode features a different patron who requests a specific dish, which usually has some emotional significance to them. From that starting point, each episode blossoms and develops in ways that often defied my expectations. Continue reading
The Umbrella Academy marks the first show that hubby and I binged, though that wasn’t the initial plan. We put the first episode on and sat down for lunch, and it was so good we just went into the second, and then the third. After that we were both racing to press the button to move to the next episode. Aside from pauses for bathroom breaks or to grab snacks between episodes, we were hooked. When the final episode ended and we looked up and realized it was bed time, neither of us had any regrets.
The Umbrella Academy is basically Uncanny X-Men, if the writers had dropped the metaphors for prejudice and admitted that Professor X was a child endangering bastard. Reginald Hargreaves is one such bastard, ill-equipped to handle raising children. But on a certain date, all around the world, 43 women give birth to babies despite not being pregnant the day before. Hargreaves buys seven, takes them to his place, and begins training six of them to be super heroes.
In the “present day,” Hargreaves has kicked the bucket, and the remaining members of the disbanded Umbrella Academy gather for a funeral. Luther, or Spaceboy, or Number 1, is the last remaining person still feeling loyal to their estranged father, and he suspects that Hargreaves did not die of natural causes. He has a hard time convincing the others, who mainly want to get in, say a few words over the old man’s ashes, and get back on with their disastrous lives. Continue reading
Before I begin, I want to apologize if this post is too long or rambly. Temperature shifts here in Pavia have rendered my brain somewhat useless, and I have trouble focusing. But we just finished watching this show, and if I don’t review it now I’ll forget all the finer points I feel need mentioning. But if you decide the review is too scattered or long for you to finish, I’m okay with that. In fact, for you, the early bailer, I will give you my final verdict now: 3 stars, a mixed bag of good, bad, and absolutely pathetic.
Let’s also get the spoiler warning out of the way because to unpack the hot mess that is Penny Dreadful, I’m going to have to spoil pretty much every story arc and character. I could in theory just write up a blurb of a review that spoiled nothing, but that blurb would leave you with the impression that I hated the show. The truth is that my feelings are more complicated, much like this series’ stretching attempts to make a grand unifying evil theory.
But I’ll be kind enough to put all the spoilers behind a page cut, so if you long to see this without knowing anything about it, bail out now. Continue reading
I am sick to death of zombies, and have been for a few years now. In films they’re the laziest monster, laying around for years without reaching an expiration date, yet always seeming to last just long enough to catch their victims. (Seriously, you want me to believe that 20 years after the pandemic infection event, there’s still armies of fresh corpses waiting to snack on four people? Oy.) In video games, they’re a programmer’s dream come true, since they barely need any AI or pathing coded in. Just fill a map with a hundred copy-pasta enemies and clock out. Problem solved.
More to the point, zombies in any medium just don’t scare me any more, I think because I’m over the hill and looking at a real death more squarely in its hollow skull sockets. Besides, if there ever really was a zombie apocalypse, I’m in lousy shape and would likely die in the first five minutes. I’m okay with that, and I’m making my peace with death rather than whistling past the graveyards. It’s just that now, it takes more than an shambling corpse to scare me. (Side note: killer sharks still seem to work on me for some reason I can’t explain.)
So what would it take to convince me to watch yet another zombie show? Turns out, adding political intrigue during the late Joseon period in Korea. Give me a scheming handsome prince with muddled but mostly good intentions, an evil young queen and her equally evil daddy, and suddenly I’m hooked like a catfish to stink bait. Despite being the centerpiece to this story, for me the zombies fall by the wayside under the weight of fascinating characters and even more intriguing political machinations. Continue reading
Oh, man…am I glad I started Aggretsuko late, because now I know there’s a second season coming, and that eases the torment of this show ending way too soon for my liking. That alone should tell you I loved this series. I’d seen in a couple other reviews that it was very melancholy, but that wasn’t my experience with it. I laughed until I hurt during most episodes except for the last and the Christmas Special (Which I’ll also cover in this review.)
Also, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can avoid spoilers for this one, so if you want to go into the show clean, just stop now.
Also, this is my first exposure to the cast, as I never saw the 100 one-minute episodes that originally set up the story. So any experts who note mistakes in my review, please, keep your snickering to respectable levels.
With that out of the way, Aggretsuko is a Sanrio show for adults. The main character is Retsuko, a red panda who works as an OL (office lady) for a big company. She’s part of the accounting department, and after five years working in the same dead end position, she’s a bundle of raw nerves that seek release through singing death metal. That’s the whole premise in a nutshell, and it’s what drew me in, the curiosity to see where that angle would go. Continue reading
I went into Happy! not knowing what to expect and having low expectations because I’m not a fan of Christopher Meloni. He’s one of the main reasons I gave up on Law and Order: SVU because the writers forgot that all these cases still have to go to trial, so if you have a detective strangling, punching, or attacking suspects, then those suspects just got a get out of prison free card. So no, the ends do not justify the means no matter how badly the writers want to peddle that fantasy.
After two episodes of Happy! I sort of made my own head canon that Detective Nick Sax and Eliot Stabler are actually the same person, and that this is what happens when a cop with anger issues finally goes too far. Nick isn’t just a slightly bad cop at the start of Happy!, though flashbacks in later episodes show he was long before his fall from law and order. (See what I did there?) No, now he’s a hit-man working freelance for the mob in a town where pretty much everyone is a bad cop. He’s an alcoholic and drug addict, looking like a homeless person that collects change fiending for their next fix.
Nick’s life changes when he suffers a heart attack and during the ambulance ride sees the imaginary friend of a kidnapped girl. Happy is a cheerful blue…there’s probably a words for a horse with a horn and wings, but it’s escaping me. It’s not pegasus, and it’s not unicorn…unisus? Pegacorn? Chaka Khan? Continue reading