Friday, April 20, 2018

Half-Assed Gourmet: DQ is your source for country gravy and toast?

On various "apps" and streaming video services, I keep running into a Dairy Queen ad touting "fan food"--not fast food, mind you, but fan food--in the form of a chicken strip basket. I am not a regular Dairy Queen customer, and it's been years since I had anything besides ice cream, but when I have indulged, I have enjoyed it. I recall the best thing being how freaking hot it was. I guess when you are the only idiot that comes in and makes them fire up the grill for a burger, you have a good shot at getting something fresh and sizzling.

I don't think this promotion is going to lure me in there. The chicken strips look fine--I mean, they're chicken strips; how can they not be--but DQ muddies the waters by introducing an actual murky liquid: GRAVY. It's not just any gravy, it's country gravy.

I hate gravy. I don't like it with turkey, not with sausage, and not with chicken strips. I hate gravy so much that if nacho cheese, which I love, were called Mexican gravy, I would hate it. Under no circumstances do I want any gravy-ish substance in a basket of fast food. How about some honey mustard of buffalo sauce instead? That's how I roll. No disrespect intended to Rural America.

Fortunately, DQ offers its country gravy in a side cup, so I presume that even if I begged them to leave it out of the basket and they forgot, I could pluck it away from the food and hurl it into the sun the way Superman did when Lex Luthor tried to poison the Metropolis water supply with generic country gravy (Ed. Note: See Weird-Ass Adventures #46.4). That's a good thing, but we need to talk about something else, the other thing that the commercial feels worthy of a hearty brag.

This basket comes with toast.

Yep, toast.

Part of the reason I eat fast food is that I want something I can't make at home with speed or ease. Toast is perhaps the single easiest thing one can make. Why go to a fast food joint and pay for it? Even if you consider it a throw-in, it looks superfluous. Chicken, fries...toast. Just how good can it be to make it seem like a big deal? IT'S TOAST!

Are we supposed to dip our toast in the country gravy? We know that ain't happening. Look, I don't mind toast as a delightful complement to real food in a breakfast platter, or as a quick wake-me-up in the morning, but let's not make toast a fast food thing, country or not.

Hey, wait! I just figured out how Dairy Queen can make me care about its toast. Put some ice cream on it, then some whipped cream, then some bananas slices, and then some chocolate syrup. Then just hold the toast, bring me a bill for the banana split, and then you haven't broken any rules.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Behind the Rankings: To find out about Netflix, go to YouTube

I mentioned before my pet peeve of websites that run a list of "What's Coming to Netflix Next Month" but either just run a list of titles or, worse, describe movies like Lethal Weapon or Zootopia but give zero info on the long list of originals. In any given month, there are a few Netflix Originals I have heard about, a few others I heard about but forgot long ago, and then a whole bunch about which I know nothing.

THAT is the kind of info we need, not propaganda like, "You're gonna love the fact that the original Batman movies are back for their annual stint!" Have you really investigated all the original series and movies before they drop? There are documentaries and foreign series and standup specials and--oh, no, now I am starting to sound like propaganda.

My point is that if it doesn't have Adam Sandler or a talking robot, chances are we don't know much about it. This is why I now appreciate the Looper YouTube channel so much. Each month, the site puts together a sizzle reel of sorts highlight all the stuff coming to Netflix. It distinguishes itself from the sizzle reel Netflix itself puts out by showing many more titles and by using words.

Yes, words. See, pretty pictures are enough to sell a project sometimes, but when you have 5-10 seconds before moving on to the next glamour shot, it helps to have a little context. Looper does this with concise, sometimes cheeky voiceover commentary that explains what the heck these Netflix Originals are.

It sounds like a simple concept, right? Yeah, it is, but I don't see many others doing it. I don't need to see a bunch of cool shots of Lost In Space; the trailer for something like that has already been circulating.  What I need is a bit of background on the Brazilian crime drama or the war movie or the reality show about fashion models competing in barbecue contests. OK, actually, I am fine prejudging that last one and don't need any info, but my point stands.

So consider this a shout-out to Looper. It looks like they run a lot of clickbait, but, hey, clickbait ain't always bad.  More importantly, at least once a month they offer a great service to Netflix subscribers.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings Week #106

We are a little late with the rankings this week, but that doesn't make them any less rank. Hopefully you were able to hold your wagers until now. It's been a busy week at Cultureshark Tower with less time for streaming video, but we will give it our all as always.

1) Netflix: It remains my go-to #1 for weeks in which I am not watching much, and I don't see a lot exciting going on here, but despite mediocre reviews, Lost in Space interests me. A certain YouTube channel, of all things, has bolstered my appreciation for Netflix. Finally, if you are like me and the news of R. Lee Ermey's death makes you want to check out Full Metal Jacket to see one of the most memorable performances in modern film, then this is the place to stream it.

2) Warner Archive: OK, I lied. I have been streaming a lot. It's just that soooo much of it is Eight Is Enough and Dr. Kildare. The former might show up on Hulu or Prime someday--maybe--but I fear something like Kildare will never stream again, to say nothing of lesser shows like The Gallant Men and Cain's Hundred.

3) WWE Network: I didn't partake in WrestleMania this year, but many did, and the Network is coming out of its biggest stretch of the year. The Network version of the smash hit podcast Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard might actually bring some new subscribers, and co-host Conrad Thompson promoted it on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast this week.

4) YouTube: In addition to the channel I mentioned in item #1 (see a Behind the Rankings this week for more on that), SeanMc's channel brought lots of great promos and commercials. Don Giller continues to do tremendous work with his Letterman-centric channel. This weekend he uploaded a clip of Milos Forman on Late Night to mark the director's death. I mean, I have come to expect a timely upload on this channel when a celebrity dies, but Milos Forman on Letterman? Great pull.

5) Prime Video: It gets credit for providing fodder for my podcast this week, and I should give it credit for premiering the new season of Bosch this week, even though I screwed up and said it was debuting several weeks ago. Also, Amazon made an interesting deal with FilmRise to provide ad-supported free Prime streaming of some TV series.

6) Filmstruck: I didn't watch anything here this week--shame on me--but the service added dozens of films based on themes like Charles Laughton, John Ford comedies, Los Angeles, and Vincente Minelli. Plus it is streaming the original The Big Sleep. How can you not appreciate a service that offers The Big Sleep?

7) Hulu: Did you see that survey that showed how little original content versus licensed content is streamed on here? The big takeaway: Put up the rest of those FoxMary Tyler Moore shows. Of course, that's my takeaway for any story involving Hulu, but still.

Anyone else think King of the Hill is an ideal and necessary fit for Hulu?

8) The CW: The season is winding down, but it's been a strong one for my core 3: Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, The Flash. It surprises me to write Flash may be the least compelling of the 3 this year, and, wow, I think I almost forgot about Supergirl on its hiatus--not a good sign.

9) HBO Go: Look for this one to shoot up in the rankings next week after I get to some more stuff. I enjoyed the Andre the Giant doc, but I haven't been able to see the Paterno movie nor all of the Garry Shandling doc (hey, that one IS 4 hours, after all). The new Wyatt Cenec series is intriguing, as does the two-part Elvis documentary (It's kind of ironic that every HBO documentary is so massive now except the Andre one).

10 Watch ESPN: The Roku ESPN channel that allows access to on-demand programming and the ESPN3 live events cable/satellite subscribers get. I list it here because getting DirectTV Now reminds me how useful this is. It may be the last week it makes the rankings, though, because ESPN-Plus, a new PAID SVOD service, has stripped this of much of its content. 'Fortunately" there is no Roku version yet, so people like me haven't seen the exodus of so much material from Watch ESPN...yet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

5Q Movie Review: These Three

I enjoyed These Three  (1936, directed by William Wyler and written by Lillian Hellman) on Filmstruck last month. It is not currently streaming there, but it is available on DVD via Warner Archive.

Q: Hey, whatsa big idea writing about something you saw on Filmstruck that isn't on Filmstruck anymore?
A: Well, excuuuuse me! I watched it when I did because it was leaving the service, and I didn't get to this quick enough. However, it shows up on TCM, it is available on DVD through Warner Archive, and it may well return to Filmstruck. I recommend catching it when you can! It stars Joel McCrea, Miriam Hopkins, and Merle "The Pearl" Oberon (OK, that's not her nickname, but I have been watching a lot of Eight Is Enough) in a compelling melodrama about...well, read on.

Q: How does this compare to other adaptations of Hellman's infamous play The Children's Hour?
A: Uh, I can compare them this way: There is this one, which I have seen, and then all the others, which I have not seen. So that's how they compare.

I do know the source material was about lesbianism, and 1936 wasn't ready for that, so we get a love triangle of sorts. Oberon and Hopkins are best friends who open a boarding school after graduating college, and they meet a strapping young doctor (McCrea) who they both admire...only Oberon is the one who gets romantically involved. There is a misunderstanding and a mean (some might day evil) maneuver by Bonita Granville's horrible brat character, and it leads to...SCANDAL!

This film, Wyler's breakthrough as a studio director, exposes the biggest problem facing sensible people in the olden days.

Q: So what was the biggest problem facing sensible people in the olden days?
A: Some might say gossip, some might say rumor, some might say jumping to conclusions, but I say that These Three reveals the menace of...OLD BIDDIES! That's right, the film is loaded with annoying old biddie-ism, from Hopkins' ultra-annoying freeloader of an aunt to Granville's ultra-powerful and ultra-close-minded granddaughter. The performances are fine, but, wow, are those characters irritating. You want to yell at the screen. Granville's malevolent brat is the villain of the piece, but she's just a kid. The old biddies should know better.

Q: How long is the movie?
A: It's about 93 minutes, and I'm glad you asked because it's about 15-20 minutes too long. I don't mean that the pacing is slow or anything. The movie is absorbing for much of its running time, but the last portion of it (pretty much starting with the trial) isn't as satisfying as the rest. Surely the Production Code restrictions had a lot to do with that.

Q: Filmstruck occasionally offers supplemental material for its movies. Did it make available the music video of Heart singing These Three with gauzy clips of the Wilson sisters vamping on stage alternating with shots from the movie?
A: All...All they had up was a brief clip of Wyler's son talking about the movie, and I was...I was happy to have that. Now...I kind of want this.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #105

1) Amazon Prime: In addition to the joy of the Dean Martin roasts and Laugh-In, Prime quietly added seasons 1, 3, and 5 of The Dukes of Hazzard and seasons 1-4 of Chips. So we get to see the New Dukes but not the New Cops in the final days of the latter least not yet!

These aren't the most prestigious adds Prime has had this year, but it may be a good sign that some of the TV product that might have gone to Warner Archive Instant might show up elsewhere. Now, Prime, how about adding the old Filmation DC Comics cartoons?

Also, Prime added The Florida Project and in a surprise move (Remember, those "Here's what's coming on __ in the month of __ are not definitive) started streaming 4 NBC/UNI series: House, Friday Night Lights, Parks and Recreation, and Eureka. I confess I totally forgot what Eureka was, but it sounds like a fun show. Good week for Prime.

2) Hulu: Thanks to Hulu for enabling my furious season 1 Atlanta watch so I could catch up before FX yanks the season 2 episodes from its app. See, the FX "app" is stingy, but that's a story for another post. Prestige series The Looming Tower ends this week, but I still can't motivate myself to watch it. Another set of National Treasure episodes just premiered, too.

3) Filmstruck: Folks, I don't want to stop getting Filmstruck when the free period expires. It's so great to know that at any given time, there are tons of great movies available, and the variety is better than ever. This week, I personally watched My Favorite Year and Rodan, but just added are The Thing, Reservoir Dogs, Infernal Affairs, T-Men, Gigi, The Spirit of St. Louis, and more. I was curious about a certain director's work, and I looked for the availability of some of his movies, and, bam, a bunch were on Filmstruck.

4) WWE Network: It's WrestleMania weekend, and that means it's the biggest week of the year for the network. Also, it uploaded a pretty sweet Andre the Giant collection timed to coincide with HBO's new documentary and a large drop of library content.

5) Pix 11:  It uploaded some assorted archival WPIX stuff last week, including a complete newscast from 1980. Boy, was it a far cry from the fancy-shmancy sets that would come later. This show, highlighted by coverage of a looming transit strike, consists of a guy reading news in front of a bank of video monitors in an editing room. it even has original commercials.

6) Warner Archive Instant: I'm almost done with Eight Is Enough season 4, and then...dare I attempt to make it through the morass that is season 5 and the Ralph Macchio Era?

7) Netflix: The lowest it has been in a long time, but it's a weird week. Yeah, it added a lot of Originals, but there is a BUT for every one. David Letterman's chat show is back, BUT I have no interest in hearing from Jay Z. There's a big comedy special, BUT I am not a big Seth Rogen fan. There's a big-budget historical epic series (Troy: Fall of a City), BUT it has a 2.8 average rating on IMDB. There's a new animated series, BUT it's based on The Boss Baby. There's a new reality show,'s a reality show. There's a new movie that sounds intriguing (6 Balloons), but it has Dave Franco. Seriously, right after I poke fun at how much stuff the guy shows up in, here he is again?

There may be something for someone in here, and Despicable Me 3 is a nice premiere to have, but I am busy enjoying other streaming services right now.

8) TuneIn: If TuneIn only offered Deep Oldies, it would still merit consideration. My pick for "Hey, They Played THAT of the Week": Words by The Monkees.

9) DirectTV NOW: It's a little odd to put this here, but I set precedent by ranking PlayStation Vue when I signed up for a month of that. It IS a channel on Roku, sort of. There is a great introductory deal floating around I decided to grab, and while I wasn't missing it, it is nice to have access to mainstream live television. The big drawback right now: No DVR for Roku, and they claim to be working on it, but if they want to be taken seriously as an option for more than a month or two at a time, they need to get that going.

A great thing about this service is it offers HBO for only $5 a month. Therefore...

10) HBO: I have the GO version after getting authorization through DirectTV Now, and I gotta say, getting this for 5 bucks a month makes you realize how overpriced some other things are. I haven't had much time to explore this, but I love that so much of the HBO library is available on demand (unlike with you. FX), and by the way, I watched a 1979 episode of Sesame Street that may have been the most entertaining thing I saw all week.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

MLB Teams Ranked in Ascending Order of the Coolness of Their Managers' Surnames

THE BOTTOM TIER (Nondescript/not much to say about them):

30) Philadelphia Phillies Gabe Kapler

29) Atlanta Braves Brian Snitker

28) Milwaukee Brewers Craig Counsell

27) Cincinnati Reds Bryan Price

26) New York Yankees Aaron Boone: Aaron just doesn't seem as outdoorsy as Boone, so he suffers from the dissonance.

25) Anaheim Angels Mike Sciosia: I checked 3 times and still can't spell it right, and this is a guy I remember catching for the Dodgers.

24) Miami Marlins Don Mattingly

23) Texas Rangers Jeff Bannister

22) Boston Red Sox Alex Cora: Needs a cool nickname, like "CoCo Cora."

MIDDLE-TIER (sound like decent salt-of-the-earth types you could have a beer with)

21) Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon

20) San Diego Padres Andy Green

19) L.A. Dodgers Dave Roberts

18) Washington Nationals Dave Martinez

NEXT TIER: (Something distinctive but not worthy of the top tier)

17) Detroit Tigers Ron Gardenhire: Decent guy, runs the hardware store, fixture at the local VFW.

16) Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Cash: Maybe a tick away from having a good action star name.

15) Cleveland Indians Terry Francona: I am ranking him higher than he deserves because I can't detach him from the "Tito" nickname.

14) St. Louis Cardinals Mike Matheny: Elevated slightly by the alliteration.

13) Toronto Blue Jays John Gibbons: Sounds like he should be a snooty Humanities professor at a Liberal Arts school--not that it's a bad thing, mind you.

12) Seattle Mariners Scott Servais: I always liked the fact that at one point there was a Scott Service and a Scott Servais on active MLB rosters. Hey, is Scott Service managing anywhere?

11) Minnesota Twins Paul Molitor: I was always fascinated by the name "Molitor," which I have never heard anywhere except attached to this Hall of Famer-turned-manager

10) Chicago White Sox Rick Renteria: bonus points for "Rick."

9) Arizona Diamondbacks Torey Lovullo: This name just...confounds me. I don't know what to make of it.

8) New York Mets Mickey Callaway: Should be playing Vaudeville as part of a family act.


7) Baltimore Orioles Buck Showalter: BUCK earns a man automatic entry into the upper tier of baseball names.

6) Houston Astros A.J. Hinch: Similar to "Buck."

5) Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin: This name is so uncool that it somehow becomes cool. This is like the Pabst Blue Ribbon of baseball names.

4) Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle:  I am a big Pirates fan, but I like Clint because he sounds like he's one syllable away from being a Flintstones character.

3) San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy: "BOACH" may be the best managerial nickname in all of baseball. It sounds like a crude gesture of some kind.

2) San Diego Padres Bud Black: I mean, this could be a superhero's secret identity.

1) Kansas City Royals Ned Yost: I don't think Ned Yost is a particularly cool manager, but yyou betcha he has a great salt-of-the-earth kind of name. I KNOW they don't make "Ned Yosts" anymore, but the question is, do they even HAVE Ned Yosts anymore? Well, they got one here in Kansas City, and maybe another one in a bowling alley in Iowa, and that's it, so let's appreciate them while we have them.