16 years ago, Samurai Jack premiered as an animated show where a honorable samurai travels through time to destroy the demon Aku, who has taken over the world and made it evil. With Genndy Tartakovsky's genius behind it, this tale of good versus evil never seemed too simple or too idealistic, something movies today and in the future need to learn. However, after only four seasons, the show was not renewed, leaving fans with the bitter sweet conclusion that evil will triumph if no one fights against it, especially in the world of movies and series.

And people fought and the series received its continuation... and its ending, a season 5 that ends in a glorious finale. What comes next is a spoiler for the last season and the show's finale, you've been warned.

Click to show spoiler

For Entertainment Weekly, Геннадий had this to say: This is it. This is the definitive end, and it’s a great end. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve storyboarded it, and I think it’s super satisfying, and it should close the door for me for Samurai Jack. … Now, look, there’s 50 years between season 4 and season 5, and if somebody wanted to jump in and do some stories in between, but for me this is the end

Anyway, I really hope Tartakovsky comes with something new soon, something that is just as creative and just as actual as Samurai Jack was. He somehow made a show about a samurai feel futuristic. That's not easy. And even his most childish shows, like The Powerpuff Girls, were great. He will be directing Hotel Transylvania 3 next, but I really wish he wouldn't burn out and stick to movies, especially stupid ones like this, when his shows were the highlights of my youth.

Here is my IMDb review for the film: A gold standard in documentary films and a very interesting story
Once you go beyond the automatic dislike of computer screen hexadecimals turning into beautiful 3D animations, which is the norm in all popularizing documentaries, you can see not only how interesting the story is and how well the film is done, but how much effort came into the gathering of the information in it.

This two hour film describes how Stuxnet changed the world, first from the eyes of malware researchers and how they discovered the worm and how they started to analyse it and realize how advanced it is and what it does, then goes into the political realm, describing how the US and Israel did this to Iran, then narrows down, showing not only how this was something the US did to prevent the Israelis to do even worse things, but how Stuxnet came back to bite its creators in the ass. In the end we are shown the true reality of a world in which anyone can do horrible damage with no attribution while the security institutions keep everything secret and out of public discussion and decision.

A very informative movie, filled with useful tidbits, showing the story of Stuxnet from start to end and to later consequences, interesting to both technical people and laymen alike. Well done!

I particularly liked the idea that the more aggressive the worm got, the less effective it was. Israelis pushed and pushed the US until the malware became more autonomous and the whole operation blew wide open and the Stuxnet worm infected American computers. It was funny to see how scared American agencies were about this new sophisticated malware attacking their systems, while other American agencies, the ones that created it, were prohibited by secrecy to reveal it was them.

I also found really interesting the fact that the most effective versions of the worm were subtle pieces of code that attacked very specific targets and needed a human operative to insert them into the system. The "public" version of Stuxnet, the one that became so visible antivirus people noticed it, that is the version that used stolen certificates and four zero-days exploits, but wasn't the one that actually delayed the Iranian nuclear operations for a year with no one the wiser about what was causing the damage. Blunt tinkering in the elegant code of the initial software led to its discovery and, indirectly, the creation of cyber warfare units in all national intelligence agencies.

So I heard that there is this fan made cut of the series, two hours long, that encompasses the entire story of Breaking Bad. I got a hold of it and watched it. Pretty good. Just some lazy editing in some places, but overall good quality. Therefore, if you want to see what happened in the series overall, without bingeing on 62 hours of TV show, you might want to check it out.

My problem with the film is that it validated my decision to stop watching the series. It focused primarily on Walter's decision points, which were mostly related to his problems with his family (mostly his bitch of a wife that I believe is one of the most irritating characters of all time), friends and coworkers. The only part that I really enjoyed about the series was the first season, where there was actual chemistry involved. Just like other shows that start off with a brilliant specialist that is rather annoying otherwise but gets away with it because he is a flawless craftsman, it begins great then devolves in stories about his personal life. Why would anyone want to for years follow the personal issues of someone who they only became interested in because of their work story is beyond me, but this is what happens. Dr. House, Numb3rs, Elementary, Weeds, even lawyer, doctor and cop shows slowly force their heroes to stop doing their work and instead deal with all kinds of problems in their off duty life; they all lose me at season two, usually. Because of this focus on personal life, the chemistry part got removed from the movie, which makes is all the more boring.

Anyway, my duty is complete on informing the Internet on this film. It is amazing how people spend their time doing something like this for nothing as much as recognition (because then lawyers would bust their chops about using copyrighted content), but do such a lovely job. I would love to have this sort of edits for every show on the planet. Then I would be able to keep up with all of them! :D Also interesting is that there is an IMDb page for the movie found by Google, but then when you navigate to it you get a big 404 page, meaning someone probably created it and then it promptly got deleted. Even if illegal, it is still a movie, assholes! Here is the Google cached version, for how long it will work.

And BTW, if you want to still write a review on the movie, as deleted as it is, you can do so by following this link. Maybe that will force the guys from IMDb to undelete the page.

About 25 years ago I was getting Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia CD-ROM as a gift from my father. Back then I had no Internet so I delved into what now seems impossibly boring, looking up facts, weird pictures, reading about this and that.

At one time I remember I found a timeline based feature that showed on a scrolling bar the main events of history. I am not much into history, I can tell you that, but for some reason I became fascinated with how events in American history in particular were lining up. So I extracted only those and, at the end, I presented my findings to my grandmother: America was an expanding empire, conquering, bullying, destabilizing, buying territory. I was really adamant that I had stumbled onto something, since the United States were supposed to be moral and good. Funny how a childhood of watching contraband US movies can make you believe that. My grandmother was not impressed and I, with the typical attention span of a child, abandoned any historical projects in the future.

Fast forward to now, when, looking for Oliver Stone to see what movies he has done lately, I stumble upon a TV Series documentary called The Untold History of the United States. You can find it in video format, but also as a companion book or audio book. While listening to the audio book I realized that Stone was talking about my childhood discovery, also disillusioned after a youth of believing the American propaganda, then going through the Vietnam war and realizing that history doesn't tell the same story as what is being circulated in classes and media now.

However, this is no childish project. The book takes us through the US history, skirting the good stuff and focusing on the bad. Yet it is not done in malice, as far as I could see, but in the spirit that this part of history is "untold", hidden from the average eye, and has to be revealed to all. Stone is a bit extremist in his views, but this is not a conspiracy theory book. It is filled with historical facts, arranged in order, backed by quotes from the people of the era. Most of all, it doesn't provide answers, but rather questions that the reader is invited to answer himself. Critics call it biased, but Stone himself admits that it is with intent. Other materials and tons of propaganda - the history of which is also presented in the book - more than cover the positive aspect of things. This is supposed to be a balancing force in a story that is almost always said from only one side.

The introductory chapter alone was terrifying, not only because of the forgotten atrocities committed by the US in the name of the almighty dollar and God, but also because of the similarities with the present. Almost exactly a century after the American occupation of the Philippines, we find the same situation in the Middle-East. Romanians happy with the US military base at Deveselu should perhaps check what happened to other countries that welcomed US bases on their territory. People swallowing immigration horror stories by the ton should perhaps find out more about a little film called Birth of a Nation, revolutionary in its technical creation and controversial - now - for telling the story of the heroic Ku-Klux-Klan riding to save white folk - especially poor defenseless women - from the savage negroes.

By no means I am calling this a true complete objective history, but the facts that it describes are chilling in their evil banality and unfortunately all true. The thesis of the film is that America is losing its republican founding fathers roots by behaving like an empire, good and moral only in tightly controlled and highly financed media and school curricula. It's hard not to see the similarities between US history a century ago and today, including the presidential candidates and their speeches. The only thing that has changed is the complete military and economic supremacy of the United States and the switch from territorial colonialism to economic colonialism. I am not usually interested in history, but this is a book worth reading.

I leave you with Oliver Stone's interview (the original video was removed by YouTube for some reason):

I have always been bad mouthing the Sci-Fi Channel, later, after 17 years, renamed to SyFy, as if they wanted to distance themselves from the genre they were supposed to promote. Why? Because I was born in Romania, a place of rancid communism and cultural isolation. After the Revolution, Romanian television stations were scarce in showing SF, and when they did it was always if there was nothing "better" to show, like sports or stupid peasant comedy shows. I grew up with science fiction books and a thirst for sci-fi movies and series. All this time I was dreaming of these foreign channels that I've been hearing about. Amazing to think that there was a SciFi Channel out there, where they were showing sci-fi all day long!

Of course, the reality of it is that science fiction only recently started to pay off. While I was dreaming of a channel that was all Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, BSG, even Blake's 7, showing all new SF movies in the interim, the truth was less than stellar. They were showing crappy, mass produced, cheap programs that was all they could afford. Many of them were reality TV. I wasn't actually able to ever watch the SciFi Channel as a television station, anyway. But I have had contact with other similar ones and I was not impressed. So I judged them by their productions, stuff like Sharknado.

Lately though, I feel like I have to swallow my disdain, after they started doing really interesting stuff like Z Nation, which may be low budget, but well written: exactly what I have been waiting for from the Internet, but failed to materialize. Since writing should be the smallest effort in a show, I expected it to far outweigh production values, but until now, I have rarely seen stuff like that. After loving Z-Nation, now they started with a TV adaptation of The Expanse book series and it is amazing!

A well thought out universe in the near future, where the Solar System has been colonized and the three political entities are Earth, the Asteroid Belt and Mars, locked in an awkward standoff of military and economical influences. The show has really good effects and its attention to details, no doubt coming from the book, but well translated to TV, is great! The African ethnic influences on the Belter culture, the East-Asian preponderance in Earth leadership and the weird mixes of cultures all over, are really cool, but what I appreciate to no end is the realism of the space technology. There is a little inadvertence between script and reality, of course, but most of the stuff in the first 4 episodes is really believable (meaning it is achievable within the science and resources that we know today). The characters are deep and interesting, their interactions weaving together and apart in a very well coordinated dance.

But what I like about The Expanse more than all the production values, great writing and complex characterization is that it is a courageous enterprise. While I was watching it with my wife she was constantly pestering me with questions about stuff that she didn't understand. This, for once, is not a lowest denominator kind of show, it is hard sci-fi for hardcore sci-fi fans! And well done enough so that even on and off fans like my wife would be able to appreciate!

To summarize: watch The Expanse. I have high hopes for it!

This is the fourth part of the 2015 autumn TV series pilot review. See parts 1,2 and 3 before this one.

The Frankenstein Chronicles is a terrible title. Inspector John Marlott investigates a series of crimes in 19th Century London, which may have been committed by a scientist intent on re-animating the dead. Sounds like a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein. Interesting enough it stars Sean Bean, who is also the lead in Legends. Does that mean Legends is on its way to cancellation? Anyway, Bean seems determined to not die in movies anymore!

The beginning is quite well done, with Sean Bean being some sort of police officer in a London plagued by crime and corruption. He finds a corpse, apparently made of pieces of several other bodies, and then he is tasked to find the responsible, not out of civic duty, but because it clashes with a planned legislation against unlicenced medical professionals. Quite gritty and quite interesting set up. If the rest of the pilot is as good, I guess this will remain in the list of shows to watch.

Unfortunately, the show is not as good as I would have liked. It tries to shove all too many clichés down your throat, while being slow in pace and low in entertainment. I will keep watching it, like I do Jekyll and Hyde, but I think they both will not be worth watching.

The Last Kingdom. The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred. Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. It sounds like an attempt to follow on the success of Vikings, which I have to say has more to do with casting and music than the story. Anyway, time to watch.

Well, it is with Matthew McFadyen, well known to me from The Pillars of the Earth and Ripper Street, but I believe he will only be in the first episode. Rutger Hauer is also in, however still for one episode only. It smells like bait-and-switch.

The pilot starts with Vikings attacking Northumbria and killing everybody due to their superior training and tactics. They take away a boy and a girl to serve them, the boy being the lord's son. Soon he will become the Dane's earl adopted, but that will change when he is a man. That is his story. Damn it, I wish I had reasons not to watch it, but... I find none. This one stays.

Two to go: The Romeo Section Lies, corruption, murder - welcome to the world of The Romeo Section where spies are recruited to seduce for secrets. I hope it is not another government agency that solves crime thing. The description leads to some pretty dark thoughts in my head, but it might just as well be beautiful people acting all sexy the entire thing. James Bond without the action or the brain, that sort of thing. Personally I expect people who get recruited as spies in order to seduce secrets away to be soulless sociopaths or tortured souls looking for redemption... or both. Let's see which one is it.

The episode starts with an exotic location: Hong Kong, a well aged gentleman at the horse races and people watching him or giving him "subtle" hints in conversations. Funky jazzy music (almost like a heist movie one - oh no!). 15 minutes and nothing happened other than posturing and fancy musical themes. 10 minutes later some sex scenes in which not even boobs are being shown. That's really brave... More and more talking, posturing, meaningful looks. At the end of the pilot I wasn't interested in the section, the head of the section, the members, the cute girls they are banging without showing their bodies or the fucking heist music that is telling me "wait, this is cool" without actually showing me anything cool.

Conclusion: no way! Dark enough for me to like it, but damn slow, badly acted, horrendously edited and plain dull.

Wicked City. A pair of LAPD detectives track down serial killers terrorizing the Sunset Strip. Cop show. I will watch 10 minutes and if I don't like it by then, it's a no.

The interesting thing is that it is set in 1982. The actors, I quite like: Jeremy Sisto as the cop and Ed Westwick as the first killer. Some more boobless sex... Police investigating, killer wiggling around, killer's girlfriend that may or may not be killed at any moment...

I actually watched two episodes on fast forward. I was still waiting for something to happen. It's better than most cop shows, I guess, but kind of slow and bringing nothing terribly new to the table. I will not watch it.

So, final list of autumn 2015 TV series pilots.
Liked: Blood and Oil, Into the Badlands, London Spy, Jessica Jones, The Expanse, The Last Kingdom
Undecided: Flesh and Bone, From Darkness, Heroes Reborn, Jekyll and Hyde, Limitless, The Frankenstein Chronicles
Discarded: Agent X, Quantico, River, The Player, The Art of More, The Bastard Executioner, The Coroner, The Romeo Section, Wicked City
Ignored: all the rest

Just as in the previous part 1 and part 2, I am exploring the pilots for new TV series from autumn 2015. Some of the shows I haven't even heard about, some of them I flat out refused to try based on the genre or description, but some remained to be tried. Here we go.

The Art of More. The Art Of More exposes the crime and intrigue behind the glamorous facade of New York auction houses. Already sounds boring as hell and a tat pretentious (see what I did there?), but it stars Dennis Quaid, which is one of the actors I like, so let's see where that gets us.

The show starts with a museum, some American soldiers guarding it and some robbers that are trying to steal a valuable crown. We move to present day where the crown is auctioned for 1.2 million and one of the soldiers is now dressed in an expensive suit. This introduction kind of pulled me in, but after the series intro, the very first scenes threw me back out: fancy rap music, quick whooshing moves of the camera, like something from Entourage without it being funny. Then we get this cutthroat auction floor, with agents trying to charm and cheat their way into the pleasure of the money people. Quaid plays a very annoying and terribly rich person that everybody wants to woo. I feel a hook coming up. If it's nothing interesting I will give this up. I fear that it is a sort of Wall Street made serial, with the rich mentor and the resourceful youth.

I was right. The smartass young resourceful man that climbs the ladder, stepping on toes and heads. I am not going to watch it.

Next on is The Bastard Executioner. The Bastard Executioner tells the story of a warrior knight in King Edward I charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. So a knight who decides what to do in medieval England? Like that is at all possible. Is it some attempt of rebooting Robin Hood without paying royalties?

It starts with one of the cheapest medieval battles I've seen so far, where a valiant knight (a poor man's version of Chris Hemsworth) is being grievously wounded then saved by a kid that looked like young Storm from X-Men. She asks him to fulfill his destiny and lay down his fighting sword. Later on, he is happily married with a pregnant beautiful girl while an ominous baron who fucks his wife then insults her, then gives orders while sitting on the shitter and while the Fool wipes his ass. Guess who is going to get killed and who will seek revenge? I can already see it.

Ah, Stephen Moyer is here, playing the baron's best man. To me it feels like this series is a little sssssuckie! Heh. Faith, prophecies, cardboard characters. This I will not watch.

The Coroner is next. A UK crime/drama that doesn't even have a description on IMDb. On Wikipedia we find a more detailed description: Jane Kennedy takes over the job of coroner in a South Devon coastal town she left as a teenager. Matt Bardock stars as Detective Sergeant Davey Higgins who was Kennedy's childhood sweetheart, and together they investigate local deaths. Oh, hell no!

This one I will gladly not watch.

The Expanse just started. The crew of the Rocinante discover a derelict vessel which holds a secret that may be devastating to human existence. Yeah! A new sci-fi! I just hope it's good.

I have to admit that this series might appeal to me more than to others, but I am going to tell you that I loved the pilot. It's about life and politics in the asteroid belt in the 23rd century. They took great lengths to make it realistic, as much as a TV show can do that with space physics and biology. There are several points of view: a relaxed officer on a cargo ship, a semi-dirty cop on Ceres, an Earth matriarch of a security company and a missing young heiress of a Luna based corporation. The ship interiors are too big, some space maneuvers are not quite accurate, but the post-colonization of the Solar System world is believable and the acting and production values are high.

Decision: this one I am going to watch!

Continued in part 4

Continuing with the autumn TV series pilots that I started in part 1 we reach Into the Badlands. A mighty warrior and a young boy search for enlightenment in a ruthless territory controlled by feudal barons. Even if the series has been advertised, they were smart enough to be vague. The only thing I get from those advertisements and the description is that it might be a post apocalypse, motorcycle knight kind of thing.

Oh, wow! The introduction is great. The knight is played by Daniel Wu, an American-Chinese actor who knows Kung-Fu (pardon the pun) and it shows. The world is indeed a post apocalyptic one, after wars that devastated it. The Badlands are now ruled by 7 barons who banned all firearms (and maybe even all ranged weapons? it's unclear). The show starts with Daniel Wu destroying a group of about 10 armed people with only his hands and feet. And it's not one of those pacifistic knocking people down or hitting their pressure spots or whatever. He breaks hands, arms, legs, necks, spinal columns and kills them all brutally. You know what? Based on that alone and by Daniel Wu's acting as well as fighting, I am going to greenlight this one. Oh, and the main title theme is by Mike Shinoda.

After watching the whole pilot, I remained equally impressed. The actors are good, even the adolescent ones, the production values are high, the battles are impressive and the baroness... hmm hmm hmm. BTW, Orla Brady, the actress playing her, is 54 years old.

Next on the list: Jekyll and Hide. 10-part drama set in 1930s London focusing on Robert Jekyll, the grandson of the original doctor. The show will follow Robert Jekyll's quest to discover his real identity and the true nature of his family's cursed history. Sounds like an attempt to follow on the success of Penny Dreadful and Sherlock. I kind of dread "the son of..." concepts, but who knows?

The story is set 50 years later, where Robert Jekyll is a doctor in Ceylon. Apparently his adoptive father is hiding him from the world there, until he is lifting a 10 ton lorry of the back of a girl and gets into the attention of a British lawyer. The first 10 minutes set the stage, but I find them amateurish and bland. I can only hope that it goes better than this further along. It seems that this adaptation moves away from the psychological roots of the original story, instead going with a paranormal "old gods" idea. Richard E. Grant is in it, too, as the head of a shady government organisation and there seems to be an evil organization as well.

I am not ready to dismiss this, yet. It might be interesting. After all, I do watch a lot of fantasy and sci fi and I usually like British dramas. I will leave this undecided.

Limitless. A man gains the ability to use the full extent of his brain's capabilities. A television adaptation of the 2011 film, 'Limitless'. This series I will leave for later. I haven't seen Limitless and it seems bad form to not watch the movie first.

London Spy Story of a chance romance between two people from very different worlds, one from the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, the other from a world of clubbing and youthful excess. Oh, my, another spy series. Spies, the new vampires? Anyway, it has an interesting premise, that a young clubber would enter the world of spycraft for love. Funny, that: the two main actors come directly from Spectre and Kingsman.

I like that the romance between the two guys is realistic and drawn out, not just a smile, some adventure and a kiss. Most romantic films could learn from this one. On the other hand... it's being drawn out :) Nothing interesting happening after the first 20 minutes. But the characters are well fleshed out and the acting is good. It gives you that feeling of "if they make so much effort to define the characters, how much more wonderful the story will be?".

I think I am ready to mark this as a keeper. It might grate homophobic people, but the actual homosexual scenes are few and far between. I am really curious on how it will go on.

Following on the list is Quantico. A look at the lives of young FBI recruits training at the Quantico base in Virginia when one of them is suspected of being a sleeper terrorist. I am already sick of police or other government agency series and it also features a nonwhite female lead. It also has something to do with terrorism. It feels all like a big cliché. I hope I am wrong, of course, after all Homeland was kind of the same and I love it. Let's see what is it like.

After watching the pilot, I can tell you that it is all of the above, but also more. It is not acted badly and the story, while playing on the artificial fears of the Americans, is intriguing. I would have rather seen more about their FBI training at Quantico than see a character being singled out and then the story turning into The Fugitive, though. The perfect physical specimens, the pop music telling you what to feel and the "fancy" editing reminiscent of so many mass produced series didn't help either. Oh, and the second episode starts with "My name is...". As a friend of mine said, one should run away from shows starting like that.

I was tempted to let it undecided and watch a few more episodes, but I realize that it is just me having problems letting go. This is a recipe TV series with all the classic hooks. Just in order to make sure I watched the "previously on Quantico" bits and they sucked. I will remove it from the list and not watch it.

River. John River, a brilliant police officer whose genius and fault-line is the fragility of his mind - a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest. Really? A brilliant whatever with emotional problems solving police cases? Again?! I am tempted to not even try it out. However, it is British and stars Stellan Skarsgård.

Well, all respect for his acting, but Stellan alone won't make me watch this series. Retroactively I think for the same reason I should not watch From Darkness. It's about a cop who hallucinates his female partner and obsesses about who killed her. His singular focus makes him able to solve cases, even when his entire department feels sorry for him and wants him to get a compassionate leave.

While it might be a well done series, the subject is completely uninteresting for me. This one I will leave out.

Next on: The Player. A former intelligence and FBI officer, who now works as a security expert in Las Vegas, is recruited by mysterious pit boss Mr. Johnson to, based on his tips, try to prevent crimes, while the rich place bets on his chances of success. Solving crimes again? The only thing that makes me try this on is that Wesley Snipes is in it.

It starts with action hero strong jaw "security consultant", the obligatory black cop and the professional and compassionate and really cute girlfriend who gets killed and motivates him. Then an all powerful shadow organization which can "predict crime" and employs him as an agent... in order to bet on him.

Wesley Snipes does a fighting routine at the beginning, only to show us how fast he still is, but his role is that of a puppet master, not a really main character. Therefore, dismissed!

Marvel's Jessica Jones A former super-heroine decides to reboot her life by becoming a private investigator. Now, I feel a little bit hypocritical. It is about special person solving cases, right? In all intents and purposes is yet another of those shows that I don't want to watch. But it is part of the Marvel universe and, best of all, it's another Netflix show, following the footsteps of Daredevil. All episodes in a season arrive at the same day. The very concept of "pilot" loses its meaning. Add to it David Tennant as the bad guy and I can't help myself.

Jessica Jones is an interesting character: a failed female superhero, with PTSD after she was basically mindraped by a villain, hiding as a private investigator in New York, overdrinking and having nightmares. Different from most female fronted shows, this one is well made, with a believable and strong character, without it being a guy with tits or a damsel in distress waiting for the queue of men to save her. I will personally watch this, especially since I can go through a season in a day or two. Plus, Jones is a respectable comic book superhero, not the female version of an already established one, like Super Woman, so there is a ton of material to inspire the screenwriters of the show. Verdict: I am keeping it!

Continued in part 3

It's almost winter and the TV scene is filled with new series, there are new movies at the cinema and there is also what people call "life", whatever that is, apparently something that is not about films or books or even online videos. In order to be able to experience this strange concept, I have to abandon some TV series without even watching them. Unfortunately, after doing that, I am still left with several which sound interesting from their description and could be either great or really awful. In order to make a decision, today I am going through the pilots of several of these television series and blogging about them while doing it. I will watch them in alphabetical order, not sorted by any type of value.

So here we go. First one in the list: Agent X. Hidden from the view of the public - and even from the President - there is a top secret agent who is trained and ready to serve, deployed only at the careful discretion of the Vice President. Already a pretty annoying description, again putting intrinsic value on government agencies and their decision making prowess rather than on a lawful democratic system. I would have hoped they would present this as an antihero story, where the guy is an interesting person, but works for a shitty agency, but that would be putting too much faith in writers and production companies.

In the first 5 minutes we see a CIA agent captured by some Arabs, insisting he is actually a missionary. His Bible is actually a bomb and he kills his captor with his legs only, while hanged by the ceiling by the hands. Why would they think a Christian missionary would be a good cover for a Western agent in an Arab country is not explained. Then he gets recruited and 4 years later he goes after targets completely unprepared, fighting with sloppy movements and without backup, but having a flashy car and making puns. A poor man's version of an American Bond, in those five minutes he manages to shoot a guy in his left shoulder, who then miraculously gets up with a wound in his right one. The lead actor is not charismatic, the series presentation puts Sharon Stone as the first billed cast member and it features pictures with American presidents throughout their history guarded by "agents X". Well, if it's for the president, it must be good...

After five minutes I've decided not to watch this anymore. If it goes on like this, I am going to finish fast.

Next one in the list: Blood and Oil. A young married couple of newcomers looks to cash in on the modern-day oil boom in North Dakota and becomes involved with sly local oil baron, Hap Briggs, and his troubled family.. Not to be confused with the Blood and Oil 2013 reality show, this serie's description reminds me of Dallas. Let's see if I am wrong.

Set in the present day, in the area of the Bakken formation, a place where almost 10% of the US oil production comes from, the series starts off with a car accident. The actors seem charismatic enough, the setup intriguing, but the accident leaves a lot to be desired. Do they always have to have the scene where someone turns completely to watch the person next to them while they are driving? Doesn't anyone in the movies watch other movies that repeat the same trope over and over again? The show is set in cowboy territory where people wear the hats and have conflicts with the native Americans and the big boss man is played by Don Johnson! The sheriff is played by Delroy Lindo, as well.

To me, the first fifteen minutes of the pilot proved that the show has potential. The actors are decent, the production values are high and, besides some rather amateurishly written scenes, I believe this to be able to become a classic. It feels like the story is about innocence corrupted by money, as evidenced by the young hopeful and loving couple and the roughness and mercantilism of the people and the area. I will try it on my wife, see what she says.

Next stop: Flesh and Bone. Claire, a talented but emotionally troubled dancer, joins a company in New York City, and soon finds herself immersed in the tough and often cutthroat world of professional ballet. Sounds like an interesting show... but not for me. The wife will have to consider this as well.

I kind of hoped it would be connected with the Flesh and Bone song by The Burning Brides, wonderfully used in the vampire comedy Suck. Well, it wasn't. More likely is an attempt to bank on the success of Black Swan. Although if the show is serializing that, I will watch it!

Following is From Darkness. The story of Claire Church (Duff), a former police officer who moves away to the remote Western Isles in an attempt to escape the violent past that still haunts her. British show, it sounds like an attempt to continue shows like Broadchurch and put in a female lead while at it, so they can fill their diversity quota. Let's see what it's about.

I was right. Dark, brooding, depressing, about emotionally scarred police people going to solve cases. Verbal and emotional violence, flawed personalities, well fleshed out characters. I may end up watching it, but I am not certain yet. On IMDb it's rated 5.2 and the people's comments are quite negative.

Oh, dear. Heroes Reborn. A year ago, a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas, left the city decimated. Blamed for the tragic event, those with extraordinary abilities are in hiding or on the run from those with nefarious motives. A direct followup of the Heroes series that I eventually ended up not watching anymore. If the pilot is good, though, I might keep it to watch it on fast forward. Let's see what we've got.

The pilot starts within a world of hope, where people and "evos" can live in peace. Then... kaboom! Some terrorist attack and the whole world changes. Yeah, I know, it sounds familiar, doesn't it? Maybe it will open up some eyes, but I doubt it. After all, the same message was exposed in the first series and no one cared. The same comic book feel, with the titles and the chapters and so on. I like that Jack Coleman is still in it as Noah Bennet, I am really glad Claire Bennet is not a character anymore and I see Hiro in the cast, which is nice. Let's see where it goes. I am not ready to dismiss it right off the bat, but I believe that is almost identical to the first series, save the different cast.

Continued in part 2

Yesterday, a CBS original announcement was published stating that a new Star Trek series will be produced to be released in 2017! Yes! Finally! However, I am not all enthused about this. The news item is doing nothing more than promote a generic product. It's like saying "We are going to release the newest detergent brand in 2017" without saying what makes it special or what it is supposed to clean. The entire announcement is about the old Star Trek, the 50 year anniversary (or the 47th of it's cancellation, I guess... morons!) and how the people who wrote the worst Star Trek films yet are on board for it. At least J.J.Abrams is not in. They basically are advertising "Generic Star Trek series. Get you space ship high at the lowest cost in our store".

Yes, I do have a problem with the Kurtzman/Orci team. Take a look of the filthy trash made for the lowest common denominator that they have worked on: Hercules and Xena, Alias, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow, Scorpion; all shows that look interesting, but have no story, no substance, no end. You just watch them for watching's sake, on fast forward, hoping you will see a fun monster or to see how an episode ends. They also worked on the new Star Treks, which personally I disliked with a vengeance.

I mean, look at the announcement. A generic Star Fleet symbol in a shiny, misty light and a text saying nothing. You know what says something? The "Shop" section in the right, where you can already buy T-shirts and Spock ears.

Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Orci, if you are reading this, please, pretty please, prove me wrong. Show me some light in the pit of cynicism that I fell into. Demonstrate to the world that you are still in it for the stories, for the emotion, for the fun, not just for the money. Make this great concept and then you can say "Ha, Siderite! You're just another moaning critic on the faceless web and you don't know what you are talking about!"

Rumors about a new Star Trek series have appeared and died many times, but the most recent and believable ones stem from March this year, where two pitches seem to be favored: a Michael Straczynski and Bryce Zabel complete reboot, which is highly unlikely, and a further in the future Federation story, where the entire quadrant is at peace and complacent and has to jolt back to action after a surprise new enemy attack. This one seems likely to me for many reasons: Picard is way too old to play any significant role, so is Kirk, while all other attempts at heroic leaders have misfired. CBS doesn't have the guts to make the captain or even the entire vessel alien, so the captain will be a human, like always, and they already went through the phases of black captain, female captain, young captain. Therefore they need a completely new human captain, one that is again a rebel white male and navigates the ship through the moral labyrinth created by alien concepts, which are veiled concepts from other non Western countries. Also, the complacent peaceful empire attacked from outside seems connected to the political reality of the present, which is a constant in the successful Star Trek series.

I don't know how I feel about this. I felt that Star Trek was best when there was no arch enemy in the mix. Next Generation was without question the best Star Trek series ever made and it wasn't based on the war of the Federation with anyone. There were new crises and skirmishes all the time and aliens with long term aggressive intent like the Borg, but the show was never about the war. Deep Space 9 was also like that, until they entered the Dominion War phase, and nobody cared about it much. Enterprise failed terribly with its ridiculous time war, while Voyager started well, then collapsed under the stupid idea that the show needed to be about a strong female character, and therefore they created strong male enemies for her to defeat. Ha, in a way, Voyager's end - the defeat of the Borg Queen - showed not only how stupid it is to try to put females in charge just for the sake of political correctness and no other plot related reasons, but it showed it twice, and then both died at the end, saving the Universe from the great PC threat :) The original series of Star Trek was also not about a specific war and people remember it fondly because of that, regardless of the silly budget and production values. However, that doesn't mean this Star Trek: Federation thing couldn't work. Because it would be anchored in the present, they would always have some ideas on how to go on without having to pull concepts out of their ass while stoned. People would empathize with one side or the other, which I believe to be crucial: paper villains always make bad shows.

There is, of course, the possibility that the new show would be a completely different idea. Perhaps the Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy series that I am expecting for so long, just because it is the last stage of a franchise: adolescent audience, adolescent actors. But the ideas could be fresh as well: think Star Trek meets Harry Potter via Ender's Game (or even better: Fisherman's Hope).

So here is my pitch: a well aged alien teacher is training a class of young cadets, too young to do anything, mind you, except learn. While on a training mission with a shitty training ship, they encounter an unexpected situation, one that requires study, for the survival of the Federation. Notice that I didn't define this as "an enemy", but just something that needs to not fall into adversary hands, perhaps, something that would help the Federation, but would threaten it in the hands of anyone else. Unable to communicate or return, the old teacher must become a captain to his students and solve the situation through ingenuity and hard work. Instead of Spock, Data, 7 of 9 as a counterpoint to the human captain, the captain is now utterly non human, the alien voice of reason, while the entire crew of kids would be a young virile emotional counterpoint to the cold calculation of their captain. It would be controversial because it would also put children in situations where children should not be put, making every experience in every episode a coming of age thing, changing all the characters as the show progresses. They would be the rebels, the bringers of new ideas, the brave bodies and minds that would employ unexpected tactics to achieve their task, but also the stupid kids that die needlessly, that put others in danger, that get physically and psychologically abused.

It would be also anchored in the reality of the moment, because it would touch subjects like teaching methods, the way adults often dismiss or discredit the young, the stupidity and beauty of said youth, the traps they fall for and the people who want to take advantage of their untrained minds and souls. It would also bring god damned sexuality in a show that always looked like made for people that are 50 years old. It would have a political side as well, since the reasons why a discovery cannot be shared because it is too powerful, but should not be destroyed because it is knowledge, will always be controversial.

Oh, dear, I knew that writing a Star Trek post would just never end. Perhaps I should start ST fiction and be done with it. I hope my Star Trek reader fans have enjoyed this and that the rest were not utterly bored. Can't wait for 2017! Perhaps if I would run really fast towards the sun...

Continuum is a strange TV series. It starts as some sort of police procedural, only set in the past from the standpoint of a future in 2077, where the corporations won and the future is stateless, corporate run business, where the police is just another private security force, etc. The crisis point is one from which a cell of anticorporate terrorists are sent back in time, together with a Protector (a cop from the future) to the near future (from our perspective). Each season from there on is more or less a different story, where the viewers much suspend their disbelief (again) to understand the new timeline story. As usual, a time travelling idea destroys, rather than rejuvenates, a story. Instead of a steady, involving plot, we get an all you can eat buffet of redefining the story. Each season we get basically a new series, but with the same characters. And it kind of works, but it loses all sense or meaning. (Meaning you would be dumb as fuck - and as me - to watch this)

I was fortunate enough to watch the last episode of the series (season 4, episode 6), when I was inebriated. I have to say that this is the only way Continuum will make sense to you: utterly drunk and on fast forward. This way, the storyline invented by cocaine driven Hollywood execs makes a little bit of sense and gives one the feel that the idea Continuum had has a sort of ... pardon my pun... continuity. Other than that, you should definitely avoid this series.

Rachel Nichols is super sexy and cute. That's the only thing going for the TV show. I am not kidding; I actually watched the series exclusively because she was hot. The story, the characters, the way everybody would get in bed (so to speak) with everybody - without having sex, mind you - was just puerile. And the last episode (read this: the last episode they had the budget to finish) was so underwhelming that it made me cringe with pain and disgust, only I was so piss drunk I didn't care. And I would definitely bone Rachel Nichols if I had the chance, so you, the more moraly advanced human beings, should ignore this series altogether.

Bottom line: everything that happens in Continuum feels natural when you are piss drunk. You should avoid it, if possible, if not inebriated.

Update 31 December 2018: After five seasons, Z Nation was cancelled. It had its ups and downs, with inconsistent levels of quality and storytelling, but it was very nice overall and I am glad to have watched it. Personally, I loved the innovation in the sci-fi and the way the show did not take itself too seriously, but sometimes tackling serious and contemporary social issues was important, too. The last season, for example, was all about democracy and egomaniacs trying to subvert it. Perhaps it wasn't the right show to try that on, but I appreciate that the creators thought it was worth it. So, no Z Nation in 2019, but maybe SyFy will learn from this and continue with fun and intelligent storytelling. I certainly hope so.

And now for the original post:

Due to the sheer number of TV series I am watching, I've abandoned the list format, in which I would give a short review of each. I am thinking that I will periodically review shows that I think are exceptional in some way or another. Z Nation is something that sounds stupid from the get go: a low budget Walking Dead clone from SyFy, made by The Asylum. I mean, can this be good at all? The Asylum are famous for the low budget rip-offs and SyFy... well, they changed their name from SciFi Channel to reflect their utter disrespect for the genre that they were supposed to promote. And, to paraphrase Woody Allen, it involves zombies.

The answer to the question is a resolute YES. While it doesn't take itself seriously at all, it is not a comedy. It is not like Sharknado, for example. Most humor in it is ironic with some occasional and subtle references to other work in the genre. The characters are complex and wacky, the story gets more original as we go and the show is full of death and gore. Let me tell you this: Walking Dead is a boring piece of crap compared to Z Nation.

Is it also bad? Yes. Some of the non permanent actors can barely act, the pacing is all over the place, the budget is low and the things that go on in the series don't always make a lot of sense. But compare it with, say... Farscape, which was much better funded, it is more consistent and more fun.

Bottom line: I don't believe this is a show for everybody, but it certainly is not a fringe thing, either. It's like somebody said "We know TV series are mostly crap and instead of trying to pretend they are not, we accept it. But we will make fun crap!". It is a really refreshing TV series and I enjoyed every episode. Give it a go!

A day ago there was a "leak" of three TV series pilots. I know, it sounds like someone out there is pissing TV series, but a look at most of them and you start seeing the truth of it. I don't really believe they were stolen or anything, either. I think they were deliberately distributed to gauge viewer reaction. The three shows in question are Blindspot, Lucifer and Minority Report. What do they all have in common? Law enforcement. It gets ridiculous from here on, you've been warned.

Blindspot is about a young woman (lovely Jaimie Alexander - the actress playing the Asgardian warrior Lady Sif in the Thor Marvel universe) found naked, without memories and tattooed all over her body. The tattoos are clues about future crimes and our Jane Doe helps the FBI solve them. The series has the obvious hallmarks of the post Lost era, with just enough artificial mystery to keep one guessing, but not really caring. Anyway, all I can say is that if you make a show about Jaimie Alexander found naked you should bloody show her naked! Stupid Americans! The French should start remaking these shows and demonstrate how it is done!

Lucifer is about... the devil. He comes to Earth because he got tired of ruling Hell - which was his divine punishment from his father, God. And by Earth I mean Los Angeles. Yes, very subtle. He teams up with another lovely (Lauren German) who is a police detective. Why, you might ask? Devil may care, he just loves solving crimes and has daddy issues. The show is so ridiculously pompous that it raises hackles. It reminds me of the well deservedly cancelled The Transporter series.

Minority Report is based on a movie about "precogs" used to stop crime by predicting it, leading to the paradox of arresting and incarcerating people because of crimes they did not commit. Yet. I haven't watched it. Yet. But since the movie was based itself on the works of famous paranoid sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick, it is the only one that I have hopes for. Of course the detective will be a young attractive person, teamed with another young attractive person with some special power that helps solving some type of crisis, probably crimes and possibly related to terror attacks. I can see it... in the future...

Update: I was right. One of the precogs in the movie helps a young black female police detective to prevent crimes. This is a horrible perversion of the film, which ended with showing the precog system not working and putting innocent people in jail. In the series, the police is frustrated that the precog era has ended and is convinced that every released arrestee from the program would have become a killer. Yuck!

Shinsekai Yori, translated as From the New World in English, is the anime adaptation of the homonymous book from 2008, written by Yusuke Kishi. It shows, too, as the subjects touched are deep, the characters are complex and the story is wonderful. It is a true sci-fi, not only set into the far future, but also using serious concepts such as what it means to be human, what is the price of peace and questioning if we can ever change as a species and as a culture.

It is a complete plot told in 25 episodes, well animated, but I wouldn't call the animation special, yet the story is certainly worth it. If you want to compare it with something, try a combination between The Village and some fantasy kid school movie. While it begins like a post apocalyptic version of Harry Potter, it quickly turns into a discussion about the sacrifices required to preserve peace. It doesn't just stop at the young adult audience, but continues with new and new twists until it feels like you have a collection of stories that just happen to follow one another, yet they are very connected. The film is filled with Japanese ways of seeing the world, from the absolute obedience towards authority to the horror they instinctively feel when talking about mass destruction, but also random cruelty based on a class system, or that sense of duty that permeates everything everybody does, or girls always stumbling or being interrupted by men when they talk and told what to do. However, it doesn't stop there and it explains, in a way, why things are like that and what are their consequences.

In the end, you feel like humanity has been deconstructed and its ways of functioning laid bare and put to trial. I liked the characters and the emotional rollercoaster the anime has put me through. Really nice, Hollywood should take heed on how to do a good story and put it into motion. I highly recommend it.

Just a quick reminder that there are a lot of Star Trek productions out there, some really terrible, some really good. I am going to talk about three(ish) of them today.

First one is Star Trek: Federation One. It is with a lot of actors you have seen in other Hidden Frontier and Studio Areakt productions and focuses on the chief security of the presidential office of the Federation. While the plot is kind of a mess, the acting was decent and I was actually very sad to see that after the first "season" of two episodes they continued the story in an audio format. Even if the main character looked like he was on speed all the time, I had fun with it.

Another one is Star Trek: The Infinite Chain. Even if it is split into "episodes" it is actually a feature film. The acting is a bit amateurish, but decent. No obese teens in this one. It uses the now tired plot of a Federation starship thrown into unknown space by "an anomaly". The worst part of it was the "doctor" that was assigned to the mission. His character was believable: the guy in charge of the project creating the sensors used to study the anomaly, but in truth not a good manager or having any merit in the team. He just explodes randomly in childish emotional outbursts, threatening everybody with his artificial authority, and everybody hates him. I totally know people like that. However the actor was just goddamn awful and his script lines ridiculous! The makeup was ingenious, but really cheesy.

The last, but certainly not least, is something made by the Hidden Frontier team, but not set in the Star Trek universe. I am talking about Frontier Guard. The casting is made with the better actors of previous productions and, while the universe seems very similar to the Star Trek one, it is actually a different thing altogether. They use another type of space propulsion, it involves a FederationFrontier Guard academy and it concerns The Arc, a huge alien artifact that may have seeded the galaxy with intelligent life. Unfortunately, after some great episodes, they completely lost it. They began (some) episodes with "My name is..." evoking feelings of remembrance towards all the bad DC superhero series and movies, they started pointless subplots like the gay relationship thing - which always pisses me off, not because of the gayness, but because of the relationship that doesn't further the plot in any meaningful way - and threw in the towel after the 12th episode (which was an elevator show, basically).

From these three Frontier Guard was the best. My guess is that they wanted to do a Star Trek Academy series - which makes total sense and it should be the direction of the next Star Trek series - but they didn't get the approval. Since this sounds like a really good idea and one that might attract a lot of fans, I believe studios are keeping the story in reserve. However, not being Star Trek allowed them to evolve both stories and characters and I was really excited to see this done. In a world where everybody is remaking remakes, we need and deserve original content. Just look at David Feintuch's Seafort Saga series of books. That would make a fantastic TV series and has enough material to allow for several companion feature films.

For people just considering starting to watch these, do not expect Star Trek Next Generation. The actors are amateurs, I mean real amateurs not professionals who just started acting, most of them are American Trekkies and - even if I don't want to insult - some of them are just humongous pieces of fat with big glasses, which kind of explains the whole geek high school thing that is kind of difficult to understand in Europe. The stories, the lines, the makeup, the uniforms, the special effects, they are all done by enthusiasts. Sometimes they feel cheesy, sometimes they look completely and horribly fake. But once you realize that they are people like you, enjoying the wonderful universe of Star Trek, you can begin enjoying these productions.

I've watched other things as well, including Machinima style animations like Borg War - which I wouldn't recommend, but wasn't bad, and I will continue to look for these things. Just by looking at people like Hidden Frontier, who start doing something for the fun of it and end up doing original stuff with veteran amateur actors, I get filled with hope for the whole fan made universe, not just the Star Trek one. Keep up the good work guys (and if you can't do it good, keep working and it will get there eventually :) )

The best thing about it is that most of these series are online, on YouTube, free to watch. Here are some links to the shows above and others:
Star Trek Federation One - 1.01 Unity
Star Trek Federation One - 1.02 Institutions

Star Trek: The Infinite Chain

Frontier Guard

Star Trek: Digital Ghost

Special mention: Star Trip - a humorous parody of Star Trek.