Category Archives: television

The Twilight Zone S3 E5: A Game of Pool

“A Game of Pool” is an episode of The Twilight Zone that has become one of my favorites. I admit I ignored it at first, mostly because I wasn’t interested in an episode that centers around the game of pool. But once I checked the episode out, and then watched it several times, I realized it’s a particularly good entry in the series and one that I needed to write about.

The thing with “A Game of Pool” is that its premise is a little difficult to figure out at first. On the surface, this episode appears to be a clear-cut case of “be careful what you wish for.” Pool shark Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman), tired of continually being compared to the late legendary pool player ‘Fats’ Brown (Jonathan Winters), makes the mistake of saying he’d give anything to play one game with Brown to prove who is the best. This being the Twilight Zone, Brown appears to accept the challenge.

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So in a sense this is “be careful what you wish for” but it’s also something more. As the episode plays on and Jesse eventually agrees to a game with Brown, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that something else is in play. While the episode acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with becoming the best at something, it does remind the audience that this shouldn’t be done at the expense of having a life outside of that something. Jesse openly acknowledges that his entire life has revolved around pool for years, to a disturbing degree:

Do you know how many hours, how many years I’ve put of myself into this game? How many nights I slept on that table right there? Yea, I did that. I made a deal with the owner so I could practice after the place closed. I haven’t been to the movies in years, I haven’t dated a girl, read a book, because it would take time away from the game.

Jesse is so obsessed with being the best at pool that he’s literally withdrawn from life. If they were to remake this episode today, they’d probably replace pool with video games, because to hear Jesse talk reminds me of stories of gamers who shut themselves in for days at a time, relentlessly playing a game to hone their skills. It’s frightening to think about: he’s spent all this time working to perfect his skills at pool, even Fats Brown didn’t go that far, and he tells Jesse as much, but the pool shark doesn’t listen.

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And that’s the other thing about “A Game of Pool.” If you listen to Fats Brown’s dialogue closely, it’s clear that there’s a lot more to the stakes than what he’s telling. Given the stakes of the game seem to include Jesse “dying” if he loses, Fats tries several times to get Jesse to lose the game, right down to the last shot actually. But once he sees Jesse really won’t listen, he gives up and lets fate take its course. As with all Twilight Zone episodes, this one has its own doozy of a twist. When Fats said the pool game would be a matter of “life and death” he wasn’t speaking literally. Because Jesse won the game, he will now live forever (after death), until someone else can beat him the way he did Fats. If he’d lost, he would’ve “died” in the sense that he wouldn’t be a legend and would simply pass on once his life ended.

I suppose Jesse Cardiff’s fate isn’t the worse thing that’s ever happened to a character in The Twilight Zone. After all, Fats Brown was beat eventually, one would assume someone would beat Jesse in time also. But the way Jesse talked at the end about never letting anyone take the title of “being the best” away from him, I suspect it will be a long time before Jesse is allowed to “rest.”

Let me know what you think about “A Game of Pool” in the comments below and have a great day!

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The Twilight Zone S3 E 9: Deaths-Head Revisited

I’ve wanted to write about this particular episode of The Twilight Zone for a long time, but I hesitated because I was thinking about the right way to do it. Finally I decided to just dive in and have at it.

So here we are with Deaths-Head Revisited, one of the most powerful episodes of The Twilight Zone ever created in my opinion, not least because it deals with the aftermath of an event that was very much in living memory at the time: the Holocaust. The episode is set in Dachau (both the town and concentration camp of the same name), and sees Gunther Lutze (Oscar Beregi Jr.), a former SS officer once in charge of the camp, returning to visit its ruins and gloat over past memories. But of course, this being the Twilight Zone, Lutze is far from alone, and it’s long past time he received punishment for the crimes he committed.

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I said before that this is one of the series’ most powerful episodes and I meant it. Even Rod Serling’s introduction has a touch more bite in it than usual. Of all the despicable characters that have populated this show, Lutze is surely the worst. From the moment he enters the camp (at least until he meets a certain someone), the unrepentant Nazi is clearly in his element, strutting around as if tens of thousands of people didn’t die on the ground he’s walking on.  Every time I see this episode, I have to think that this is what Hell looked like for everyone responsible for the Holocaust.

And how Lutze’s punishment plays out is just…so fitting it’s hard to describe. The presence of their former tormentor is enough to rouse the ghosts of the dead and serve Lutze up with more than a taste of his own medicine. It would be frightening, actually, if the person at the center of it all weren’t absolutely deserving of everything he got. I should note that Oscar Beregi Jr. is absolutely brilliant in this episode, just oozing arrogance and a firm denial that he is at fault for anything.

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The biggest clue that something unnatural is going on comes the moment Lutze meets Becker (Joseph Schildkraut), a former prisoner at the camp. That Lutze doesn’t notice the following issues shows just how unrepentant and clueless he really is. First, Becker is still wearing his camp uniform, even though 17 years have passed since the war ended and there would be no logical reason for him to keep it on. Second, and more importantly, Becker hasn’t changed or aged a day since Lutze saw him last. It isn’t until nearly the end of the episode that Lutze remembers a very important truth: he killed Becker right as the war was ending, and he’s been talking to a ghost the entire time. That Lutze could ever forget that he killed the person he’s been talking to is just mind-blowing and indicative of how evil he is.

On a final note, while it might seem strange that the ghosts don’t kill Lutze, what happens instead is just as bad, if not worse. In his new condition, Lutze can’t do anything, he can’t enjoy life, he can’t talk, he certainly can’t run and hide. All he can do is be strapped to a bed in a hospital, pumped so full of sedatives he’s practically comatose. And that’s just what happens in this life, there’s so much more hinted to come once he enters the afterlife.

Everyone should see Deaths-Head Revisited at least once. It’s powerful, it’s intense, and its message is just as important today as it was then. Let me know what you think of the episode in the comments below and have a great day.

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My Thoughts on: The Mandalorian, Season 1 (2019)

As much as I love Star Wars, I will admit to being slightly dubious when I first heard about The Mandalorian, a show that is exclusive to Disney+. It’s not that I didn’t doubt the casting or talent behind the production, I was just more interested in learning if there would be any new productions featuring Ahsoka. Any doubts I did have quickly vanished once Disney+ arrived. One season in, The Mandalorian is a brilliant addition to the Star Wars universe, albeit one that’s currently left me with more questions than answers.

Let’s start with a few background details. First there’s the timing of this show: in the grand scheme of things, The Mandalorian is set 5 years post-Return of the Jedi. So the Emperor is dead, Vader is dead, there’s no Death Star, and nominally the New Republic is in charge of the galaxy. In truth though, taking out the Empire has left a power vacuum in large chunks of the galaxy, leaving many to scramble to get by as well as they can, which is where the titular Mandalorian comes in. He’s a bounty hunter, a good one too. But his bounty hunting lifestyle is turned upside down when he accepts one particular job.

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By the time the first episode was over, I was completely hooked on this show. The Mandalorian feels like Star Wars in a way that’s hard for me to put into words. From the gritty details, to the many, MANY hidden Easter eggs throughout the season, everything in this season just fits into the existing mythos. That being said, there are a few things this season left me thinking about, the first of which is baby Yoda.

I wish a camera could’ve recorded the look on my face when baby Yoda was first revealed (yes, I know that isn’t actually Yoda, but the name is cute). Of all the things I thought the asset could be…this wasn’t it. This is one of the details I have so many questions about: where did he come from? What is his name? What did the Client want with him? Was baby Yoda originally a youngling at the Temple? (hey, he’s 50 years old, that last one is technically possible) I’m hoping that at least some of these questions are addressed in season 2, because I need answers!

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Another major question, and one that I suspect will be answered next month: what the frack happened on Mandalore? Better question, what happened to Mandalore? I ask this question for several reasons. The first is that the Mandalorians are revealed to be few in number and in hiding, something that was not true the last time we saw any Mandalorians. The fact that the Darksaber is in the hands of an Imperial Moff (more on that in a moment) means that something really bad happened. Keep in mind, the last time we saw the Darksaber, it was about a year before the Battle of Yavin and it had been given to Bo-Katan Kryze by Sabine Wren. The latter was going to unite Mandalore against the Empire, a plan that obviously failed spectacularly. I’m hoping that the upcoming last season of The Clone Wars will give some insight into part of what happened to Mandalore, or at least lay the foundations for it.

Another thing, holy crap the Darksaber has made its live-action debut and I still can’t quite believe it. For those who might not know, the Darksaber is a legendary lightsaber made by a Mandalorian Jedi named Tarre Vizsla thousands of years ago during the Old Republic. Unlike traditional lightsabers, the Darksaber has a black blade, one shaped to look like a sword. The Darksaber eventually became associated with the rule of Mandalore itself, with would-be leaders challenging for the right to wield the blade and rule the planet. It cannot be overstated how important the Darksaber is to any surviving Mandalorians. Once it gets out that Moff Gideon has the Darksaber….oh heads will roll in an attempt to get it back.

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And speaking of Moff Gideon…who is he? How did he get his hands on the Darksaber?? And am I the only one who noticed that his armor bears a distinct resemblance to Vader’s? I’m secretly hoping Gideon gets introduced in the last season of The Clone Wars, because I need to learn more about this character as soon as possible.

Hopefully all of these ramblings demonstrate that I really, really liked The Mandalorian and I’m really excited for season 2 when it arrives this fall.

Let me know what you think about The Mandalorian in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials (2019)

*apologies for taking so long to get this one out, I meant to publish this one weeks ago but November has been a very busy month for me, I hope you enjoy it!

In The Musical Anthology of His Dark Materials, an introduction to the music from the television series, composer Lorne Balfe delves into the story and character themes from His Dark Materials, the new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Lorne Balfe (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Lego Batman Movie, Churchill) is a Grammy Award-winning, EMMY and BAFTA nominated composer. Whether on an impossible mission, the heartbreak of the Queen, the perils of the cape crusade or the soul of a genius, Lorne Balfe creates a musical voice that reflects the characters and the stories that embody them.

Available on digital as of November 2019, this collection features a number of key musical themes that appear throughout the HBO series. Presented on this soundtrack album are the opening title theme, together with key character themes for the young protagonists Lyra, Roger and Will and the adults Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel and Lee Scoresby. Other themes present the majestic locations of Oxford and Svalbard, the people that Lyra encounters on her epic journey, the Gyptians, the Witches of Lake Enara, the machinations of The Magisterium, and The Alethiometer, the device that helps set all the events in motion.

“Since the beginning, myself and the rest of the music team knew we wanted a mixture and a hybrid,” says Lorne. “What I wanted people to feel when listening to the music is they don’t necessarily know if it’s real or not or whether it’s in the present or in the past. There are no rules and musically, it’s constantly evolving. Another crucial element we strived to accomplish was to always have a clear journey of each character’s theme. I wrote their themes separately as a journey, so that we knew musically what would happen throughout the series.”

The timeless nature of the music is evident right away. You literally can’t tell what time period this is taking place in. Sometimes the music sounds contemporaneous, other times it seems to snap back to the Renaissance (or what sounds like the Renaissance). This does a great job of muddling the senses and creating a musical environment for the alternative world that His Dark Materials takes place in. If the show is half as good as this  soundtrack, then this is an amazing show indeed.

Let me know what you think about His Dark Materials (and the soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

Tracklisting:
1. His Dark Materials
2. The Alethiometer
3. Lyra: The Child of Prophecy
4. The Settling of a Daemon
5. Scholastic Sanctuary
6. The General Oblation Board
7. The Life of Roger Parslow
8. The Machinations of Lord Boreal
9. A Gilded Cage
10. The Strength of Gyptians
11. A Plea to Fate
12. The Legacy of Svalbard
13. Mrs. M. Coulter
14. The Magisterium
15. The Path Foretold
16. Release the Spy-Fly
17. The Tales of Lee Scoresby
18. The Compass Points North
19. The Witches of Lake Enara

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Soundtrack Review: The Dragon Prince Season 3 (2019)

Lakeshore Records will make the soundtrack of season 3 of the hit Netflix original series The Dragon Prince available on digital starting November 22nd. The soundtrack was composed by Frederik Wiedmann (Batman: Hush, Green Lantern: The Animated Series), who is one of the most diverse and cultivated composers working in motion pictures today. With over 140 titles to his name in all realms and genres, Wiedmann has established himself as an insightful artist with an enduring passion for storytelling. Wiedmann has been a main stay in the DC cinematic universe, starting with his work on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, for which he earned two consecutive Annie Awards nominations. His success on the series led to further popular Warner Bros’ DC projects such as Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Son of Batman, Death of Superman, Justice League: Gods and Monsters, and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight among others.

The Dragon Prince Season 3 continues the stories of aspiring mage Callum, crown prince Ezran, the Moonshadow Elf assassin Rayla, and Zym – the infant sky dragon and titular “Dragon Prince.” Having been split apart after the huge events of Season 2, the young heroes continue their separate journeys: Ezran returning to Katolis to assume the throne, and Callum and Rayla taking Zym deeper into the unknown wilds of Xadia. The Dragon Prince is co-created and led by the visionary team of Aaron Ehasz (Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Justin Richmond (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception).

Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond were ecstatic about collaborating with Frederik Wiedmann for Season 3 praising, “Without question Freddie’s epic and emotional score is what elevates the Dragon Prince storytelling into something that soars and swells our hearts.”

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For Season 3, in approaching how best to build upon the story arcs and emotional threads of the first two chapters of The Dragon Prince, Frederik Wiedmann said:

“The third season of The Dragon Prince offered an amazing opportunity to work with all of our established themes for the characters from Seasons 1 & 2, to take them further, and also to expand them into new ideas as this incredible story continues to unfold. We pushed hard to really dig deep into all the emotional threads in Season 3, as well as amplify the imminent threat and impending darkness that our heroes face during their quest. Once again, we put our best foot forward and recorded a beautiful orchestra for some of the most pivotal scenes in this season to deliver the most emotional impact possible. We also feature again the amazingly unique solo instrumentalists that we introduced in the first two seasons. It was difficult for us to narrow down which tracks deserve to be on the soundtrack, so we decided to make the Season 3 soundtrack a full 1 hour and 40 minutes of music. We hope the fans will enjoy it!”

You can digitally purchase the soundtrack for The Dragon Prince season 3 now! Let me know what you think about The Dragon Prince (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

Track list:

01. Ultimatum
02. The Fall of Sol Regem
03. A Lesson in Stealth
04. Hand in Hand
05. A Stupid Idea
06. The Breach / The Scarf Trick
07. All Hail King Ezran
08. Katolis Sunrise / Everywhere You Look
09. The Prince of Neolandia
10. Hold On Tight
11. The Weight of the Crown
12. Adoraburrs
13. The King’s Verdict
14. Silvergrove
15. Heartbloom
16. A Human With a Pure Heart
17. There You Are
18. Trustworthy Allies
19. Understanding, Love, and Jelly Tarts
20. One Feeling Too Far
21. Bringer of Tarts / Beneath the Sands
22. Shadow of the Ambler
23. Broken Links
24. Because She’s Rayla
25. A Single Drop of Blood
26. Weary Wings
27. Thunderfall
28. His Name Will Be Vengeance
29. Ghost Feather
30. A Way Forward
31. Noble Aims
32. The Eclipse of Lux Aurea
33. Midnight Sun / Draw Your Last Breath
34. Don’t Make Me Choose / Hearts of Cinder
35. The Queen’s Slumber
36. Manus Pluma Volantis
37. Prelude to War
38. Battle of the Storm Spire: Hold the Line
39. Battle of the Storm Spire: Fading Hope
40. Battle of the Storm Spire: The Tide Turns
41. Aftermath
42. How Could You?
43. Nowhere to Run
44. The Leap
45. My Love, My Hope

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My Thoughts on: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

One of the great things about October is that it’s now time for one of my favorite Peanuts animated specials, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I grew up watching the Peanuts holiday specials (this one, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas), and as a result I hold them all very close to my heart. While many think of A Charlie Brown Christmas as the Peanuts special, I think it could be argued that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is just as good as its Christmas counterpart.

As you might guess from the title card, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is set on Halloween, as everyone gets ready to celebrate in their own way. One of the things I love best about this special is that Charlie Brown actually gets invited and goes to Violet’s Halloween party; just seeing his happiness at getting the invitation warms my heart every single time (being a victim of bullying, I’ve always taken issue with how Charlie Brown gets treated by the other kids). And, as usual, Linus is preparing to meet the Great Pumpkin, a Halloween entity similar to Santa Claus that only he believes in, much to Lucy’s embarrassment (and the amusement of everyone else).

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Part of what makes It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown so endearing is how much fun it is to watch. From the moment Linus and Lucy set out to choose a pumpkin, to the end when Linus vows to see the Great Pumpkin “this time, next year” the jokes and animated mayhem never really stop. The humor is innocent, pure, and a reminder of what it was like to celebrate Halloween as a kid, which is a big part of why I love it so much.

Of course, I can’t leave a review about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown without discussing what happens with Sally and Linus. I can’t tell you how many years I felt terrible on Sally’s behalf: she ends up spending the entire night in the pumpkin patch, only for Linus to mistake Snoopy for the Great Pumpkin. Upon realizing that she’s missed Halloween for nothing, Sally lets loose on Linus in a tirade for the ages:

I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could’ve been out for tricks-or-treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle! I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks-or-treats, and it was all your fault! I’ll sue! What a fool I was! I could’ve had candy, apples, and gum! And cookies and money and all sorts of things, but no! I had to listen to you. You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick-or-treats come only once a year. And I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead.

YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!!!

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(quick side note: Sally’s voice actress actually couldn’t pronounce “restitution” no matter how much she tried, so the sound people had her pronounce each individual syllable and then strung it together to make it sound like she says the word)

I can almost quote Sally’s diatribe from memory, but it never gets old. And the look on Linus’ face after Sally gets through with him has me in stitches every single time. There’s also the subplot of Snoopy pretending to be a World War I flying ace that is as brilliant as it sounds.

If you’ve never seen any of the Peanuts specials before, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown provides the perfect jumping off point. Despite being 53 years old, the special feels as fresh and funny as ever.

Let me know what you think about It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Euphoria (2019)

A soundtrack album featuring music from the first season of the HBO series Euphoria is now available from Milan Records, an imprint of Sony Music Masterworks. The album features music by multiplatinum-selling artist and producer Labrinth. Euphoria marks Labrinth’s first-ever project as lead composer. Written and recorded in close collaboration with the show’s writer Sam Levinson, his original compositions feature prominently throughout the series as a sonic companion to the show’s angst-driven narrative.  The resulting 26-track collection is a genre blending mix of gospel, soul and electronic influences, indicative both of Labrinth’s imitable style as well as the show’s deeply moving storyline.

Regarding the soundtrack album, Labrinth had this to say:

My experience with Euphoria has made me a better musician. It was a dream come true to give wings and add magic to the different storylines. It was a collaborative effort among Sam Levinson, the crew and the cast – I only added texture to an already phenomenal show. I hope that anyone who listens to the music embraces feeling something.

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Euphoria, if you didn’t know, follows a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma and social media. It is an American adaptation of an Israeli show of the same name, and all episodes are written by Sam Levinson.

I haven’t seen the show myself, but having taken a peek at the soundtrack, I can say that the music is definitely interesting. It’s not traditional in the slightest, but that’s a good thing since I firmly believe that not all music should sound the same (for example, not all shows need to sound like Game of Thrones). If you’re a fan of Labrinth’s work, or just a fan of the series in general, I think you will like this soundtrack album very much.

Let me know what you think about Euphoria, and the soundtrack, in the comments below and have a great day!

EUPHORIA – SCORE FROM ORIGINAL HBO SERIES
TRACKLISTING –
1. New Girl
2. Formula
3. Preparing For Call
4. Forever
5. Planning Date
6. Nate Growing Up
7. Home From Rehab
8. We All Knew
9. Say Goodnight
10. Shy Guy
11. Following Tyler
12. Still Don’t Know My Name
13. Kat’s Denial
14. Slideshow
15. Family Vacation
16. Grapefruit Diet
17. WTF Are We Talking For
18. Euphoria Funfair
19. The Lake
20. Maddy’s Story
21. Demanding Excellence
22. McKay & Cassie
23. Gangster
24. When I R.I.P.
25. Arriving at the Formal
26. Virgin Pina Coladas

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