Category Archives: Video

The Magicians — Off to a Good Start

On this season’s first episode of The Magicians, Elliot suddenly realizes that the Fairy Queen is magically using Margo’s missing right eye to spy on the Good Guys, and anticipate their moves. (Long story. Don’t worry about it, just watch the first two series, currently playing on Netflix.) To avoid revealing that he now knows he’s being constantly observed, he shares this insight through coded pop cultural allusions, which are helpfully subtitled for those of us playing along at home.

Warning: Possibly NSFW. The language is presidential.

It’s scenes like this one that make me love the show.

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Altered Carbon — Two Teasers and a Trailer

Netflix has adapted Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan’s award-winning 2002 cyberpunk novel, into an initial 10-episode series. The company released a couple of teasers late last year, and a full trailer this week. Here are the teasers:

[No, I haven’t accidentally slipped a porn video into the blog. That initial image is just Netflix being Netflix. They call these things “teasers” for a reason.]

And here’s the new trailer:

Ah, the “old brains in new bodies” trope!

I don’t know about this one. On the one hand, Joel Kinnaman and James Purefoy are both solid performers. On the other hand, the CGI is less than dazzling. It looks on the cheap side.*

All 10 episodes of Altered Carbon will become available on 2 February 2018.


*On the third hand, some of the most impressive CGI-heavy trailers I saw last year were for Ghost in the Shell, and that didn’t turn out so well, did it? I’m still a little embarrassed about getting so overheated about that one.

Early Man — New Trailer

Let’s end 2017 on a happy note. This is the new trailer for Early Man, from Aardman Animations and Studiocanal. Voices by Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Ayoade, and Maisie Williams.

Early Man opens on 26 January 2018 in the UK and on 16 February 2018 in the US.

Apparat (with Soap&Skin) — “Goodbye”

I’ve been watching Dark, the eerie, difficult-to-describe German TV series running on Netflix. The show delves into a number of seemingly unrelated but interlocking mysteries.

For me, the first mystery arose even before the plot kicked in:  Why did the theme song seem so familiar?

A little research revealed that the name of the song is “Goodbye”. It’s the creation of German synth musician Sascha Ring, who uses the stage name Apparat. On this song, he collaborates with Austrian musician Anja Plaschg. She uses the stage name Soap&Skin.

No help there.

And then I got it.

“Goodbye” is playing in the background of “Face Off”, the stunning final episode of the fourth season of Breaking Bad, as Gus Fring heads toward Casa Tranquila to kill Hector Salamanca. I must have watched that episode a dozen times.

Mystery solved, and a certain anxiety relieved.

But now I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I got so into “Goodbye”, Apparat, and Soap&Skin that I’ve just spent a couple of hours exploring dark wave and contemporary Middle European ambient music, when I should have been doing important stuff like emptying the dishwasher and reorganizing my socks by colour.


2018 New Year’s Resolution Number 3

Don’t worry about falling down rabbit holes. That’s where the good stuff is hidden and the joy can be found.

Budapest Miscellania

Well, Christmas Is Icumen In, and I’m rapidly using up what’s left of 2017. Considering what a terrible year it’s been—even worse than 2016, which I wouldn’t have believed possible when I was drinking my traditional New Year’s Eve Kir Royale last December—this is probably a good thing.

So here’s a condensed and somewhat random round-up of a few of the interesting things I explored in Budapest. I’m working on three final posts about my Hungarian adventure, which I hope to publish over the weekend, and then I’ll be ready to coast into 2018.


Over the River

The Fővám tér subway and tram station in Budapest’s excellent* metro system was a block from my hotel, so I used it almost daily. As I entered the station, I always looked across the Danube and saw this sight, which looks straight out of a fairy tale.


Buda Castle


During Hungary’s long and bloody history, Buda Castle has been destroyed four times, most recently by the Red Army in 1945, and rebuilt three. It’s now part of the Budapest World Heritage Site.


The Hungarian National Gallery

The Budapest History Museum, the National Széchényi Library,  and the Hungarian National Gallery are part of Buda Castle. I spent most of my time in the Gallery.*

The collection of Late Gothic winged altarpieces was overwhelming.


And in the 19th Century Art galleries, I was repeatedly drawn back to Pál Szinyei Merse’s portrait of a “Lady in Violet”.


The Best Way to Travel

Join me for a ride on the Castle Hill Funicular from the Palace to the banks of the Danube. I don’t know why, but I just love these things! Maybe it’s because they’re sort of like roller coasters, but without the screams and the sudden plunges.

For most realistic results, watch it on full screen.


House of Terror Museum

This grey building, on Budapest’s fashionable Andrássy Avenue, was used successively by fascist and communist secret police to interrogate, torture, and kill “enemies of the state”.

It’s now the House of Terror Museum, and visiting it is a grim and chilling experience. The museum makes full use of multimedia to show how authoritarian governments can take control of a nation, and the terrible results that follow.

In the basement, you can enter the (reconstructed) cells that once held political prisoners.


Strolling Váci Utca

My hotel was at one end of Váci Utca, the famous pedestrian walkway lined with upscale stores, restaurants, and tourists traps. Vörösmarty Square, site of the Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival, was at the other end, a pleasant and colourful 15-minute walk.

Many of the shops along the way were decorated for the season.


Winter Is Coming

Despite appearances, these equestrian statues have nothing to do with Game of Thrones.

They represent the seven Magyar chieftains whose tribes settled in the area in 896 AD, and founded what would become Budapest. Their monument is in the city’s Heroes’ Square.


The Best View Biggest Disappointment in Budapest

On one of my first days in Budapest, I went to the Citadella, which sits atop Gellért Hill, and is famous for having the best view of the city, as you can clearly see from this picture I took.

If you look closely, you might be able to make out the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid.

Here’s a picture I took from the grounds of Buda Castle on a less-San Francisco-like day:


*In many ways, it’s much better than Washington’s unreliable Metro. Trains arrive every three and a half minutes, the stations are bright, airy, and well marked, and the escalators are fast. It’s one of the most user-friendly mass transit systems I’ve used.

**Since it is a gallery dedicated to Hungarian art, I knew I’d be spared any possible exposure to the vile and treacly works of that talentless French hack, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Avoiding Renoir has become my main criterion for deciding which museums to visit, and which to avoid. See, most recently, Renoir Sucks at Painting 2, Renoir 0 for details.

More 2017 British Christmas Ads

A while back I posted some of this year’s Christmas advertisements from the UK. Here are a few more:

Heathrow Airport

Waitrose

Tesco


My Favourite British Christmas Ad Ever

John Lewis, a chain of British high-end department stores, consistently produces some of the most memorable Christmas ads. The 2017 John Lewis advertisement is at the above link.

Here’s the ad John Lewis from 2014, which I think is their all-time best: