Thursday, March 29, 2018

My annual pack of baseball cards

Happy Opening Day, everyone! Time for over 6 months of smug baseball writers mocking older writers, sports radio hosts, and dumb fans for their "takes." Of course some of the highlights of the season include the annual smug expression of superiority when discussing the Hall of Fame, the smug rejection of non-"smart" opinions around the trade deadline, and best of all the smug lambasting of awards voters who don't agree with the cool kids.

If I sound cynical, it may be because the Pirates won't contend, I haven't renewed the MLB.TV package (and why do the blackout rules still apply to that, anyway), and when I bought my annual pack of Topps baseball cards the other day, I could only find a jumbo pack that cost 5 bucks.

I still  love baseball, even though I have all but stopped regular watching of basketball, tennis, boxing...Australian Rules Football (OK, I weaned myself off that one years ago), and curtailed my overall sports viewing. Buying a pack of cards is a ritual for me, a way to reconnect with the game and summon nostalgic feelings for the days when I didn't grasp just how much of a ripoff these things were.

I would have liked a chance to get a smaller, less pricy pack, but on the bright side, I got more cards and more chances to get some of my favorite players, like...Well, I think I need to develop some favorites. I hoped to get some Pirates, and I did get two--Opening Day starter Ivan Nova (see what I said about the Pirates in the second paragraph) and John Jaso, who looks cool on the card but is no longer in The Show.

Here are some other scattered impressions I have after looking at my cards:

*I say it every year, but, wow, these pieces of cardboard look and feel better than they did when I was scooping them up and actually collecting.  Great graphics, good stock, attractive photos--and these are the "regular" ones.

*I never knew exactly what "embossed" meant, but Topps has embossing all over these cards.
*The wrapper touts "ONE EXCLUSIVE KRIS BRYANT HIGHLIGHTS CARD INSIDE!" This may be a dumb question, but why? I do indeed have a Kris Bryant card now, but why does HE get a card in every pack? Does his uncle run the company now?

*I remember when "League Leaders" cards were LAME, but this Jose Altuve (led the AL with a .346 BA) looks pretty much just like a "regular" card with only an unobtrusive label above his name on the front. It's like, hey, I got a Jose Altuve. Cool.

*I am not a big fan of the "Legends in the Making" subset. The design just doesn't appeal to me.

*Other notable players I got:  Adrian Beltre, Carlos Carrasco, "Fielding Award" Nolan Arenado," Daniel Murphy, Luis Severino, Avisail Garcia.

*By far the coolest card in the pack: A Sandy Koufax in the style of the 1983 Topps set.  I'd almost pay another 5 bucks to get another of these special cards.

Play ball!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Behind the Rankings: Stuff like "The Best of Years of Our Lives" helps make Filmstruck a winner

As long as I have Filmstruck and am able to watch it, I am going to rate it high in the weekly power rankings. It's great to be able to sit down and watch The Best Years of Our Lives just because, as I did last week. William Wyler's 1946 film depicting the troubles of servicemen returning home won multiple Oscars including Best Picture and is widely considered one of the best of its era. For what it's worth, it made a ton of money in initial release and is #37 on the American Film Insisitute Top 100 list.

Also, in a recent podcast interview with Ken Levine, TCM host Ben Mankewicz said Best Years is one of the most popular films the channel shows. In an interesting bit of dissent, Levine says he hates the movie because it is so heavy handed. I know Mankewicz feels otherwise because, one, he defends it in a non-aggressive way on the podcast, and, two, he talks about it on Fi;mstruck.

One of the interesting things about Filmstruck is that it has extras. In the case of Best Years, it has about 10 different intros/outros. I mean, it is almost overkill considering the movie itself runs nearly 3 hours and there are 20 minutes of intros. I'm glad they are all there, though, and no one is forcing you to watch them--not even Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is in "gracious guy who seems like he would be pretty cool" mode in several clips from when TCM screened the movie as one of The Essentials.

You also get a conversation B-Mank had with a representative of a disabilities interest group, a segment aired when TCM screened the film as part of a theme. Did I mention that TCM shows Best Years often? Plus there's a short clip of commentary from Wyler's son, producer David Wyler; as well as a new intro by B-Mank himself.

The movies are the thing, but it's nice to get a little added value with your viewing and, maybe more importantly, a little extra TCM. These kinds of extras help make Filmstruck more like the TCM on Demand we wanted.

Monday, March 26, 2018

'Mooners Monday: More "On Stage"

 Last week I looked at the "poloponies" gag around which the episode was constructed. The other great thing about "On Stage" is Ralph's glorious hammy acting as "Frederick." His voice, his little nods, his facial expressions--all are great. Let's take a look at Ralph Kramden, Master Thespian:

If I had to pick one favorite line reading, it's when he tells Alice, "Rachel, you've come mmm-back."

Ralph's face, even just looking at the script is funny enough.

Humblebrag mode after the show




Saturday, March 24, 2018

Streaming Video Rankings #103

We had a bit of weather this week, so you might think I had more time to consume streaming video (wow, that phrase sounds pretentious). Yes, because I worked so hard I didn't feel like doing anything as strenuous as...reading. Here's the top 10:

1) Netflix: I don't know how much Netflix I watched. I don't know what half of these so-called Netflix Originals are even about anymore. I surrender, though, to the ubiquity of Netflix. They are still the top dog, whether their shows are any good or not. Maybe I will get around to Santa Clarita Diet or The Mechanism or Requiem. In the meantime I can only bow down to the onslaught of original content.

Plus it bought the streaming rights to the entire Monty Python catalog, indicating it hasn't totally given up on vintage material.

2) Filmstruck: Now that I am actually paying attention to this service on a weekly basis, I am thrilled that so much new content arrives each week. Just this weekend, there is a collection of Hepburn/Tracy, an assortment of movies directed by Herbert Ross, a few of Scorcese's first flicks, and a fun collection called Troubled Waters with The Breaking Point, His Kind of Woman, and more.

3) Warner Archive Instant: Yvonne Craig on Dr. Kildare alone justifies a high ranking.

4) Hulu: Is anyone out there watching Hard Sun? I'm not sure anyone is. I know I am watching Gotham and Brooklyn Nine-Nine now that they have returned

5) Hoopla: This 100% free app is available through your local library (hopefully), and the only hitch is the monthly rental limit determined by the agreement it has with Hoopla. It makes it difficult to watch a TV series this way, but it's great for ebooks and movies. I just used this for the first time to "borrow" a video on Roku, and the 72-hour rental period is annoying, but it's free.

For the record, I saw an hour of Ric Flair footage--not coincidentally from territories with murky non-WWE-owned library rights: Flair against Billy Jack Haynes from Portland and Flair against Jerry Lawler from Memphis. The whole process was smooth and easy. Thumbs up to Hoopla/

6) Amazon Prime Video: Amazon didn't bring a lot of flashy new adds this week, but I don't really mind when I can sit down and watch a few Make Room for Daddy episodes.

7) YouTube: The PRO Classics channel from Peter Rodgers Organization is quietly uploading dozens of uncut episodes of shows like The Rifleman and lately My Favorite Martian. It's free!

8) The CW: Black Lightning continues to stand out in its point of view and different slant than the other superhero shows. It's not my favorite show on TV by any means, but it is solid entertainment that manages to be distinctive.

9) NBC: Out of the blue, NBC added Punky Brewster to its "Throwback" section. Reminds me of how you may be lonely and then one day you're smiling again.

10) Pub-D-Hub: An interesting add this week was an episode of Dial 999, a show about a Canadian solving crimes in London.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

5Q Movie Review: Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Note: I saw Godzilla Raids Again on The Criterion Channel/Filmstruck.

Note #2: This post contains major spoilers for the original Godzilla. You can avoid them by skipping the last Q/A.

Q: When this movie came out, were Japanese critics all like, "Oh, great! All they ever make these days are sequels and comic book movies?"

A: The film was a box office success in Japan in 1955, but I can't say for sure this reaction wasn't common. My Japanese is a little rusty, but I did find some reviews saying, "God help us all if this becomes some kind of endless 'shared universe' deal."

According to Wikipedia, though, critical and popular reception to the movie itself was disappointing, with the consensus that it was a rushed sequel.

Q: Is this just a carbon copy of the first movie? IS it a rushed sequel?

A: Not at all a carbon copy! The tone is a little lighter, and most of the humans are different. The director is different, with Motoyoshi Oda replacing Ishiro Honda. I wish I knew why Honda didn't return; I'd like to say he had creative differences with Godzilla, but Honda did return to direct multiple other pictures in the franchise. It's not a great sequel, but it is entertaining enough in its own right, and in one important respect, it actually improves on the original.

Q: So what IS better about this one?

A: The filmmakers realize that while it's fun to see a giant lizard smash houses, trains, and buildings, it's even more funner to see it smash other monsters. Therefore we see Godzilla clash with Anguirus,  who returns later in the series. Godzilla fights dirty, by the way, but it's hard to hate on him for it.

Q: Is there as much subtext in this follow-up?

A: It's more text-text. The nuclear origins of Godzilla and the problems associated with testing are much more explicit. I don't mean that a professor with a tweed jacket speaks into the camera  about them while occasionally puffing on a pipe, but several characters do discuss them more openly than in the previous film.

It's OK to admit it--I'm kind of envisioning that scene with the professor in tweed, too, and how cool it would be.

Q: Hey, how do they explain the sequel, anyway? Wasn't Godzilla taken out by the Oxygen Destroyer in the first movie?

A: He was, and I have to confess that I did not realize this: THIS Godzilla is...a different monster! I always assumed they weaseled out of the original ending or ignored it, but nope, Raids Again is explicit in declaring this is a second monster. It's kind of amazing I was able to focus and get through the movie, really, let alone enjoy it as much as I did, after learning this.

Monday, March 19, 2018

'Mooners Monday: On Stage

"On Stage," which premiered April 28, 1956 on CBS, gets better each time I see it. There isn't a lot of hilarious moments compared to some of the other Classic 39 episodes, and really there are only two things that stand out to me. Yet it's a solid episode with a warm (if hokey) ending as Alice once again throws away a chance at improving her life in favor of staying trapped in that dinky Chauncey Street apartment all day.

Well, that's a harsh way of putting it. Maybe Alice really doesn't think she can be an actress and maybe, more importantly, she doesn't want to be. Either way her and Ralph have a nice moment at the end of the story.

What stands out in "On Stage" is the hilarious way Ed pronounces "polo ponies" as one word when he is reading lines for Master Thespian Ralph before the latter stars in the fundraiser the Raccoons are staging. It gets into Ralph's head, of course, and he can't say the word any other way, and I bet you can't, either, after seeing this.

An interesting note is that according to The Official Honeymooners Treasury, writers Leonard Stern and Sydney Zelinka built the entire teleplay around that word. Stern tells the authors:

That one word came first, and we built a whole sketch around it. When the word 'poloponies' came up,  we started to devise a character who would be rich enough to have polo ponies. Then we came up with the play, and who he would rehearse with. The whole thing was worked backwards, just to  justify having 'poloponies' in a speech.

A string of poloponies?


That's a string of POLO PONIES!

How can Ralph go on with such a rank amateur? 
Ralph says it himself.

Now he's got ME doing it!

Ralph's face when he has to tell famed producer Herbert Whiteside, "I made a little mistake. It should have been polo ponies."

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #103

I will try to be concise this week. I confess I actually (GASP) watched some DVDs this week, too.

1) Filmstruck: This one continues to impress, and as I have been telling people, it actually has me watching movies on a regular basis again. New collections this week include "Young Love" (with Splendor in the Grass) and Bob Rafelson's Hollywood (with Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces). If you were curious to see A Brief History of Time after the death of Stephen Hawking, it's right here.

2) Amazon Prime: It's pretty slow on Prime Video unless you're into Sneaky Pete, but I am still enjoying Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The fact those Dean Martin roasts are up here should give Prime a pass for weeks if not months.

Fascinating numbers leaked this week, including a metric Amazon uses that gives credit to a series for pulling in subscribers. Let this be a lesson to you: If you start binging a show after getting Prime, Amazon is gonna count it as a notch on that series' belt.

Oh, and I think this new add Moonshine County Express (1977) looks pretty cool.

3) Warner Archive Instant: I'm still spending a large portion of my streaming video time here, but sadly, I saw an actual end date for WAI: April 26. Watch up until then, existing subscribers!

4) Hulu: Hulu should be high in the coming weeks now that the network shows are back (and debuting) after the Olympics. This week, though, it gets credit for putting up that OJ interview show a day after it aired and running it without commercials like a movie. Yes, I watched it, and no, I am not proud.

5) Netflix: I am curious about Carey Mulligan in the new series Collateral, which was totally overshadowed by Jessica Jones and Love. And, wait, there is a docuseries about the Rajneesh movement in Oregon? Yes, there is! That might get me away from Cheers and Frasier reruns.

6) YouTube: I love that there is a user on here who uploads stuff like 1998 MTV Spring Break specials.

7) Boomerang: Kudos to Boomerang for launching a curated Easter collection this weekend with a mixture of specials and shorts.

8) The CW: I don't watch Riverdale, but the sight of Andy Cohen on an upcoming episode (according to the ad I saw while watching Black Lightning) would get me to stop.

9) Acorn TV: I have never seen 1990s Britcom Goodnight, Sweetheart, but it looks pretty good. Acorn also announced acquisition of Reilly Ace of Spies. Britbox seems to get more headlines these days, but Acorn is still doing work.

10) Nosey: Yes, I watched another episode of Sally, OK? It was hilarious! I regret nothing!

Actually, I do. I was less ashamed to watch that OJ special.

Friday, March 16, 2018

5Q Movie Review: Gah-Gah-Godzilla (1954)

I watched Godzilla on Filmstruck and thought it would be nice to answer some reader questions about the film.

Q: Is this the one with Bryan Cranston, the one with Matthew Broderick, or the one with Godzooky?
A:  Ahem. No, Filmstruck streams the original 1954 film by Ishiro Honda, the one that started all, in addition to the Americanized Ray Burr version that--wait, Godzooky???

OK, now many of you are gonna want to see this clip again now anyway, so here it is embedded for your convenience:

Q: So this is the original, not-watered-down granddaddy of them all? That means there's lots of fun carnage and destruction, right?
A: Well...yeah. But also, if you've never seen the 1954 movie that started it all, you might be surprised at how somber it is. Honda creates and sustains a melancholy atmosphere that makes this a much more thoughtful film than I remembered.

It's still hard not to sing Deep Purple to yourself every now and then. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Q: Are there political overtones?
A: The context of Godzilla, which was released in the wake of real-life incidents involving atomic testing by the U.S., to say nothing of the actual bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is important. There is also a strong environmental message, but to me the fascinating thread in the story is the debate over the devastating weapon a scientist has developed--the "oxygen destroyer."

It can be used to take out Godzilla--but should it be? What are the consequences of using such a weapon? Is it moral to take out the monster who has been stirred from the ocean depths by human activity? All of these questions play out in credible form over the course of the movie.

Plus you do get to see a giant monster smash stuff.

Q: Are the human characters all disposable and lame?
A: There are some broad notes with the small core of human characters, but they are all effective. Jealousy, sacrifice, honor...all and more play out against the backdrop of the big ol' lizard.  It's surprisingly moving and makes for a great watch. If you haven't seen a Godzilla movie in a while, this is a great place to start. I mean, it's the beginning, so that's kind of obvious, but still.

Q: What would you do with an oxygen destroyer?
A: I wish no harm on any human being, but, as much as I love Filmstruck, maybe we could take one and just kind of wave it in the face (but not use it) of whoever decided to let Warner Instant die a slow death without trying to improve it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Toys R Us closing inspires some false narratives

You know the "retail apocalypse" is bad when the nation can't support a toy store chain. Toys R Us is closing all of its stores. All of them. This is a sad day for America.

I am not just sad, though, but angry reading all the false narratives out there. Here are a few I keep seeing and why I ain't buying them:

FALSE NARRATIVE: The Internet killed Toys R Us
How about it was just managed poorly? The stores often looked kind of dumpy, but they did business. We can't blame everything on the Internet. Maybe some of the debt restructuring plans killed it.

If people buy all their toys on Amazon, they are not doing their homework. Many if not most toys on Amazon are priced over regular retail price and are subject to wild fluctuations and quick shortages. Toys R Us is never a great bargain paradise, but even MSRP is better than paying inflated third-party vendor prices online, not to mention outrageous shipping costs.

FALSE NARRATIVE: Kids don't play with toys anymore. They play with tablets, video games, etc.
Ridiculous. Maybe out in public. You don't see a kid take a GI Joe playset down to the park or with him on a trip to the store, but at home, kids love playing with toys if you let them.

FALSE NARRATIVE:  Toys R Us sells only junk like movie and cartoon tie-ins and nothing that appealed to kids' imaginations.
Another goofy talking point. Every store I visit features an aisle each devoted to the following brands: Imaginarium, Melissa and Doug, Crayola...  You see stuff with Animal Planet and Discovery Channel branding, plus classics like Crayola and specific old-school favorites like Lincoln Logs.

As my astute sister points out, stores that are devoted to "imagination" toys have one thing in common: they have outrageous prices. Parents who can afford to overpay on adult things can afford to overpay for "smart" toys, but the rest of the population would like a place to get stuff at reasonable prices.

Let's hope the major general merchandise joints step up their game. Wal-Mart is great on price, Target less so. Both shrink their selections after Christmas shopping season. I just refuse to believe that this country is done buying toys in stores. This isn't like DVDs or books or all these other things that are going online. Kids like to see stuff, and parents like to see what they are buying their kids.  Maybe we need a return of this place:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Behind the Rankings: Do I really need to see all 5 seasons of Eight Is Enough?

(NOTE:  'Mooners Monday will return next week)

I continue to rate the remnants of Warner Archive Instant high in the weekly rankings, and I appreciate the chance to keep plowing through the stuff I'm watching, Eight Is Enough. However, now that I am through the first 3 seasons, I find the show is straining a bit.

Susan's boyfriend-soon-turned-hubby Merle the Pearl is all over season 4, and his character's 'push" seems a bit too fast, too soon.  David's wife Janet is essentially a cast member now, but at least she was built up over the course of season 3.  What concerns me more is the use of more shtick, sillier situations, and the kind of stuff that plagues most shows that pass their peak.

I saw a season 5 and a season 4 episode last week that each made me think about that issue. In the season 4 episode, though, I had a sense it was deliberately "zany." The hijinks and coincidences were stacking up on top of each other because of a specific intent to create sitcom chaos. In the season 5 episode, though, I just felt like the show didn't know any better at that point.

The worst thing about season 5 is the introduction of Ralph Macchio's Jeremy, who is shoved into the cast and practically adopted right away by the Bradfords. This leads to a sappy episode in which the family agonizes over the thought of Jeremy's real father taking him away. I keep thinking the departure of that poser wanna-be hustler would be addition by  subtraction, but Tom and Abby don't see it the same way.

Oh, of course I am going to keep watching, but the gentle and more grounded dramedy of the early seasons is losing out to the more contrived, sillier farce that the series contained pretty well in the beginning. If WAI does pull the plug soon, at least I will know I saw the best the show has to offer.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #102

Daylight Savings Time is ridiculous. For one thing, it's one less hour to stream this weekend, and then an extra hour of daylight just means, what, we're supposed to go outside? There had better be good wi-fi outside.

1) Filmstruck: I am loving, loving, loving this, and I am pleasantly surprised that it seems to add stuff every few days. It actually has me watching movies again instead of just old TV shows (not that there's anything wrong with the latter). New this week=Peter Falk movies, Christopher Guest joints, and Texas-themed flicks like Giant and The Last Picture Show, and for TCM Select, the original Father of the Bride. All this plus a bunch of foreign films. 

In fact, this gives me another criticism to add: The "Recently Added" section isn't very useful because it doesn't include enough films to cover the whole week. Another small but important thing it should fix, yes, but a good problem to have.

2) Warner Archive Instant: Folks, it's essentially free for me now, so as long as it sticks around, I'm gonna rank it high. I mean, I AM watching it more than just about any of these other services even though on paper it doesn't exist. Stay tuned for Behind the Rankings this week and a little more on WAI.

3) Netflix: Another week, another bomb of a movie that Netflix blew who knows how much money on. Netflix did "win" the Oscars, I think, in terms of the SVOD services, so there is that, and several original series return this week with new episodes. How about a round of applause for the first two 1970s Benji movies?

4) Amazon Prime: Is the premiering Aftermath (also new to Hulu) the lowest-profile Ah-nuld movie ever? I haven't seen Sneaky Pete, but I am still loving Mrs. Maisel and the Dean Martin roasts. Prime Video added an awful lot of reality TV reruns this week, too, but I will try not to punish it.

5) Hulu: It's really nice to know The Oscars are here for on demand viewing and I can just skip the interminable live telecast. I still haven't gotten around to watching the show, but I like having the option.

6) Shout! Factory TV: So they have this "VHS Vault" section that has the movies begin with faux tracking issues and FBI warnings (I think this is how they appear on the DVD). I finally watched one of the movies and thought the gimmick was hilarious and the movie a lot of fun, too (More on that in the future).

7) The CW: Part of me keeps thinking I shouldn't enjoy Legends of Tomorrow as much as I do, but the goofiest of the DC shows on the network (and that says something) makes me smile each episode. I also appreciate that the tone on Black Lightning is so different than the other DC Comics series.

8) YouTube: It warms my heart to see a music video posted with a comment along the lines of, "The greedy bastards from Vevo and [insert name of record company] won't upload a decent version of the original video, so here is the song in good quality."

9) Boomerang: It finally added some new old content this week in the form of some Yogi Bear cartoons.

10) The Lee Van Cleef Channel: The movies and TV shows here are pretty much the same public domain stuff you can get in a million other places--you won't see The Master here--but I have to rank this at least once for the name and concept alone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Behind the Rankings: Initial impressions of Filmstruck

Why is Filmstruck so high in this week's streaming rankings? Well, because I go gaga over any channel right after I "subscribe" to it, and a free subscription makes me a very happy man! However, it's also a great service with only a few annoyances.

To recap, my Warner Archive Instant subscription earned me two free months of Filmstruck when the powers that be pulled the plug on the former. So I am playing with house of money as I explore the curated arthouse/indie/NOW classic Hollywood SVOD service. It's normally 7 bucks a month, 10 bucks if you want the broader selection of The Criterion Channel, and I will tell you right now that I have both and it's hard for me to judge the value of one option over the other because I'm not paying close attention at the moment. The fact that there are two pricing tiers in the same channel (and there is a division of content, not just no ads vs. ads) is something that is surely a nuisance to someone who doesn't have the higher tier, and it makes things more confusing than is necessary.

The service just looks cool, with great themed collections, like The Art of the Con and Mic Drop: Singers in Acting Roles, along with more straightforward ones like Written by Paddy Chayefsky. I was pleased to see a new selection of films added this week, like a Peter Falk assortment, so the service is constantly refreshing its selection.

The bad news is that it is constantly rotating movies out, too. However, the site is transparent about when titles expire, which is unique in the often shadowy world of SVOD licensing agreements, so it gets some slack. My advice is that if a movie is in the Criterion Collection on DVD or Blu-Ray, you can expect it to be around a bit longer or at least to come back, but if it is NOT, then it is probably licensed from another source and you should get to it quicker.

It's great to see supplements like trailers and extras and other features on a streaming service (Remember, this is CRITERION and CINEMA, so it's not "bonus material," it's "supplements"). By including this stuff and offering host intros for many of its titles, Filmstruck offers the respect for the medium that Netflix never did even though many cinephiles may have hoped it would.

I have joked about the pretensions of arthouse cinema in general and Filmstruck/Criterion in particular, but even without the new TCM Select category and the influx of Warner Brothers classics, there is a wide variety of movies available from all genres. At launch the one thing I found lacking was the classic Hollywood era, and now Filmstruck has that covered, too.

Part of me still looks at the TCM Select collection and laments that I already have so many of the titles on DVD, but, hey, it's still cool that they are there. I really hope that more rarities find their way on here soon. I can't imagine any lover of movies having trouble finding something to watch, although she might have to rewatch something if she has really seen a lot of stuff.

So what are the drawbacks? The Roku channel lacks some of the features of the website version, and it loads slower than many other of my channels. I really hope that changes, but given how terrible the Warner Archive Instant channel was, I am not optimistic, especially since they have already had months to fix this. The watchlist is rudimentary and could have better functionality.

The single most irritating thing is the lack of practical "continue watching." I read an explanation on the site about how to utilize the bookmarking, and it requires such a specific circumstance that it's essentially useless. Perhaps the site frowns  on people not watching their Kurosawa in one sitting, but if you're in the middle of a 170-minute movie and are interrupted, it's nice to be able to pick it back up at that spot. Otherwise, you  might as well just watch it on DVD!

Overall, I am impressed with Filmstruck and understand why movie lovers are so high on it. It seems like it will offer good value. Everything is uncut and ad-free, and there is a lot to enjoy, and, again, it just feels cool. if it can really take advantage of this TCM partnership and open those vaults, this will be a must-keep each month and not just an occasional splurge.

Monday, March 5, 2018

'Mooners Monday: Potpourri

A few notes on this 'Mooners Monday while I try to figure out why my computer's DVD drive doesn't like my Classic 39 discs anymore:

ITEM: Last week was The Great One's 100th birthday. Can you imagine Jackie Gleason at 100? No, me, neither.

Joyce Randolph, 93 years young, is still with us.

ITEM: Amazon Prime has the standalone Dean Martin roasts (that is, the full-length ones, not the ones that were segments on Martin's show), including the Gleason one. Not only do Art Carney and Audrey Meadows appear, but so do Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean...though not poor Joyce Randolph.

ITEM: The PIX 11 Roku channel still has its Honeymooners collection up, but it hasn't added much of note lately. I wish it would just put all the old episodic promos it has up and be done with it.

ITEM: In my discussion of "The Loudspeaker" last week, I didn't mention one of my favorite aspects. When Ralph struggles to tell the "knight on a dog" joke, he calls Lancelot "Launcelet." I always loved that.

LAUNCELET. Is that a New York thing? A Gleason thing? A 1950s thing? Each time I see the episode, I chuckle at that.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Streaming Video Power Rankings #101

Now we have that pesky "milestone" edition out of the way, we can get back to the normal routine, though I am sure we are all a little drained after that huge special extravaganza last week.

1) Warner Archive Instant: One more glorious week at the top for WAI. Yes, I complained about it for months, but it's quite sporting of the powers that be (but not be paying attention) to leave it running for enough time to watch more of what I want, like the 1987 movie Big Shots. Why did I watch that movie? Because I could. I don't think you'll find that one on Filmstruck in the near future.

2) Amazon Prime: The Dean Martin roasts alone are enough to justify a Prime Video membership considering the Time Life DVDs cost a small fortune. The roasts appear to have only minor edits, and while only the "full-length" ones are on Prime, that's still pretty great.

3) Netflix: You ever get the nagging feeling that most of the Netflix originals wouldn't seem like a big deal at all if they premiered on ABC? This week, it didn't matter to me because I was watching Friends and Frasier, plus my kids are still into one of those teen mermaid shows (apparently there's more than one of them).  Elsewhere, I am not really a fan of Netflix amping up its reality show content, but if it's gonna be all things to all people, I guess it has to include the bad things as well as the good.

4)  Filmstruck: So for now I am a Filmstruck "subscriber," and I have to say it's pretty cool, though there are two glaring flaws. Check out "Behind the Rankings" later this week for my early impressions of this impressive service that has only improved with the addition of the TCM movies.

5) Tune In: You know, the Classic Hits station on here plays the same 70s and 80s songs we've heard a million times, but sometimes you want to hear the same 70s and 80s songs you've heard a million times.

6) WWE Network: Farewell for now WWE Network, but I enjoyed you while I could, and I am going to regret not having you when you drop those 70 hours of All-Star Wrestling tomorrow.  The Network is much, much better than it was several years ago, though it's still frustrating seeing the lack of features and functionality it could have. Maybe someday.

7) Hulu: Down lower on the list than it has been in some time, but this will change soon as some of my broadcast shows return. I saw a lot of good press for The Looming Tower, too, though these days it's much easier for me to watch Golden Girls reruns than a drama about the failures of U.S. intelligence. Here's hoping March brings those old Fox shows we're waiting for, and I promise I won't bring it up again until April.

8) Shout! Factory TV: The March adds are unimpressive (and not yet on Roku), but I enjoyed a lot on Shout! this week, including more Starcade, and as a consolation prize for letting go of WWE Network, some really, really bad GLOW and Herb Abrams UWF wrestling. Shout! continues to be the most underrated of all streaming services.

9) Adult Swim: Newish app from the Turner Networks family has a surprising amount of free content, and by that I mean it's surprising any of it is free without cable provider authentication. Most, of course, is free but with authentication required, but there are livestreams, "marathons," and a decent amount of sampler material from a whole bunch of new and current shows. Stoner heaven!

10) CBS Sports HQ: This is a modest but 100% free offering of sports news, info, and scores. It provides a live feed with short videos available on demand. I haven't seen a lot of it yet, but I admire this unpretentious effort. It looks a lot more professional than Stadium and provides cord cutters a steady stream of scores and sports news. Come to think of it, can cord HAVERS even get that? Isn't ESPN News just reruns of argue shows now, anyway?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Half-Assed Gourmet: SO RIGHT micro meals get at least one thing right

As a longtime connosieur of processed microwave-ready convenience meals, I have experienced many small annoyances when reading the instructions. Sure, it's easy enough on the surface--put it in the microwave, heat it up, eat it. Ah! But HOW LONG should you heat it up?

Many of my preferred meals go vague on this one. "Heat for 2 1/2 minutes to 4 1/2 minutes. "Heat for 3 to 5 minutes." This PLUS the standard disclaimer that microwaves are different so preparation times may vary.

That's  why it was so refreshing to see the So Right frozen dinner come out strong: Heat for 4 minutes. PERIOD. Not "3 12 to 4 1/2 minutes." Here is a brand that takes a stand! 4 minutes. Beautiful! No guesswork. Just put it in and GO!

Indeed, I put it in and went. Was it the most delicious meal I ever had? No, but for under two bucks, it got the job done and was good enough for a simple lunch.

It probably could have used another 30 seconds or so in the microwave, though.