Netflix Recommendations- The Last Dance

All hail Michael Jordon! We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!

Wow, how was that? A walk down memory lane! Sitting here thinking about it now, I must have been in year 5 perhaps 9 or 10 years old in 1993, when I was first aware of Michael Jordon. Sure, he had been a world-wide phenomena for 9 years by that stage and had already 3-Peated by then……. But I was growing up in Australia, in the Western suburbs of Sydney and back in those days, kids like us were only interested in Rugby as a sport. Not a whole lot of basketball was being played out there in those school yards back then.

However in year 6, when I changed schools to a more affluent Inner West educational institution, everyone there had NBA and Michael Jordan fever! I remember at the back of the classroom where we kept our bags and boaters, our teacher used to allow us to stick-up our favourite posters- no surprise, MJ’s dunk from the three throw line was one of those glossy posters up there. And all of a sudden I too was a basketball fanatic! I remember trading in my old NRL Rugby league trading cards for Upper Deck NBA Basketball cards, and my mum even enrolled me into after school basketball classes (which I utterly sucked at). And I remember how we used to take running jumps, to randomly reach for and touch low hanging beams pretending to dunk like his Airness,and everyone in my class wanted to be like Mike!

Fast-forward 26 years, and we’re all locked down due to Covid19 isolation, where no live sports are being played- but for ESPN and Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’!

The Last Dance is a 10 part sports documentary, focusing on the Chicago Bulls and that man- Michael Jordon! The title of the documentary doesn’t spell out ‘Basketball’, but it was named as such, as entering the 97/98 NBA season, after winning 5 of 7 NBA championships, the 97/98 Bulls were told that this was going to be their ‘Last dance’, as after the conclusion of the season their team would be disbanded. Thus they had one last shot to complete a two time 3-Peat, a rare feet in any sport!

The documentary uses archival footage, from as early as the early 80s (even before I was born); behind the scenes footage shot during the 97/98 season; and interviews with 90 people who were all present during the 1984 – 1998 timespan. Even 2 former Presidents and 1 Playboy centrefold were interviewed!

Aside from capturing MJ’s life through the years of his basketball career, through an interesting method of telling the story of the 97/98 season- it told the back story of the team and it’s key players by travelling back in time to the start of Michael’s career. And slowly telling his story, the story of those around him, until the past catches up with the present day (1998). And through that re-telling, it pretty much re-told our own life stories as well, as we cast our mind back to where we were in our own maturations, when all of these events unfolded. E.g. the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where the Dream Team were assembled for the very first time- that was the first Olympic Games I could remember as a child. Or the off-season when Michael was filming Space Jam- I remember being in year 7 eating chips and collecting Space Jam TASZOS as in-packet collectables. Or stimulating a memory of the days when I used to play video games, i.e. NBA Live 96 and 99- and feeling so devastated that in both of those years, Michael was retired thus I couldn’t play as the Bulls with the man MJ as my avatar. D’oh! All these memories flooded back thick and fast as I watched the Last Dance, so thank you, thank you Jason Hehir for this experience!

And if you want to experience the Last Dance in a more in-depth way? You have to re-watch the series, and listen to the companion podcast- Jalen & Jacoby- the after Show! Where former NBA star Jalen Rose and commentator David Jacoby host a podcast that dissects each episode of the Last Dance, immediately after its airing (or ‘Hehirring’, according to Jacoby). And it’s not just two fan boys chatting about what you had also seen, but they have behind the scenes intel, as each episode they’re joined by the Director of The Last Dance- the man of the hour, Jason Hehir! And after you hear from the man himself, you appreciate the 10 hour show even more, and my respect for Jason has utterly gone through the roof! He is one cool, measured man- and is a fantastic story teller.

From the pod, I learned that even though the documentary is pretty much a 10 hour homage to Michael, but the production crew had only interviewed him twice, once as red shirt and once as blue shirt. And I learnt of all the effort the production team had put into the soundtrack of the documentary, that each montage showing one of Michael/Bulls runs- the music which was playing were tracks taken from that exact year to heighten the   authenticity of what you were seeing and hearing. And ‘no way, how could Michael be the only one who got food poisoning from eating that mid-night pizza in Salt Lake City? When he was in a room with a bunch of boys playing cards? But I learnt that MJ often spat on his food, ensuring that no one else could eat from it, thus it was plausible that he was really poisoned ahead of game 6 of the 96/97 NBA finals! So if you want to learn all these truths for yourself, you’ll just have to listen to the After Show pod HERE!

While the documentary filled in a load of gaps for me, sure as a pre-teenage kid I picked up some of the detail which was going on at the time. But the doco fed me those facts again, and I was able to take it all in as an adult- which has now clarified and deepened my understanding of those iconic Bulls teams, and of Michael. And I guess, the one thing which I didn’t want to learn about MJ, which we all have now learnt, is the fact that Michael was probably a bully, a jerk, and a man who used to love to rub people’s faces in it. It’s a bit disappointing to have my image of him tarnished by firsthand accounts from people who knew him intimately, but hey! I guess you need to walk over others, to get to where you want to be.

But yeah, thank you Jason Hehir for giving this gift to us, while we were in iso. When I think back in a further 26 years’ time, to these weird days of 2020, I’ll always remember the experience of watching The Last Dance for the very first time! Woohoo! I’m so going to watch it all over again! To stream the Last Dance now, click HERE!

Disney Plus Recommendation- The Mandalorian

This some-what explains the Boba Fett cult following!

The jewel of the Disney Plus crown has been their first Disney Plus/Star Wars original- The Mandalorian! But is it enough to keep DP subscribers maintaining their monthly DP subscriptions?

For those who haven’t heard of ‘The Mandalorian’ before, like me, prior to my 7 day free Disney Plus trial…….. But The Mandalorian is Star Wars’ first live-action series, this first features a Mandalorian- a bounty hunter who is adorned head-to-toe in rare hard-to-destruct Mandalorian armour. The story is set in a time period after ‘Return of the Jedi’ and before ‘The Force Awakens’, in a genre which has been described as an out-of-space country-western. The Mandalorian travels the galaxy alone in his space ship, taking up bounty contracts to hunt down and exterminate (when required) individuals for clients. The first bounty that we witness as viewers, is the capture (and extermination if needed) of a 55 year old ‘child’ of the same green race as Yoda. And after locating the child, and bonding with him after a near death experience- the   Mandalorian not only refuses to deliver the child to the Client, but takes him across the galaxy as his protector and care giver (It’s like ‘Daddy Day-care’- in a  galaxy far far away!).

Sure, it all sounds a little bit corny, but Star Wars has become just that ever since Disney acquired Lucas Films? But it still has all the elements which appeases the most hard-core Star Wars fans, and with a touch of cutesy- The Mandalorian pretty much appeals to all people!

Like I’d mentioned before, prior to starting my Disney Plus free trial, I had never heard of The Mandalorian series before. The first I’d heard of the  series was when I was surfing the net, reading up on what is recommended viewing on the new streaming service; and I even told one friend “NO, I’m not into Star Wars” when she asked me if I had gotten DP for the Mandalorian-  when she heard that we started an Disney Plus account. But out of curiosity I started viewing it, and even my wife got into the series- although stuff like this usually doesn’t appeal to her.

The series really is epic! You can tell that they’re working with a budget which is usually only reserved for the big screen, not for Tele-series. And after reading the history of the series’ production, you know and can see that nothing is held back because it’s a small screen production. The sets, the costumes, and the effects are all big-time, except for the lack of a star studded cast…..

Each episode has a distinct start, and a resolution before the screen fades to black, while the on-going story of the Mandalorian and the Child is always there throughout season 1. While as the series unfolds, we learn more and more about the man behind the Mask/Helmet, and on several occasions we almost get a chance to see who this guy under the t-shaped visor is! But alas, the chin strap remains resolutely farcin under his chin, and we have to wait for the ‘Disney Gallery’ The Mandalorian, a behind-the-scenes series which documents the making of the series, before we finally spy the actor who plays Mando (i.e. Pedro Pascal).

From my opinion, the Mandalorian was fun, it has re-ignited an interest in Star Wars for me (currently watching episode 1 through to 9), and it provides DP with a true asset which can’t be viewed anywhere else, making me wanting to keep my DP subscription until the release of season 2 in October 2020. And who hasn’t enjoyed all the whimsical ‘Baby Yoda’ memes out there!? “Aw, he’s so cute for a 55 year old!”

So now, this kinda explains some of the Boba Fett fandom which hangs around out there, which I never quite understood as the dude was a minor minor character! But the whole t-shaped visor, the Armor and the jetpack all makes a bit more sense now! If this doesn’t make sense to you? Then check out The Mandalorian- you can literally be binge watching the 8 episode series for FREE right now! Just click HERE to start viewing!   

Netflix Recommendations- Sex Education (Season 1)

Surprisingly thoughtful and “it’s really not what you think it is!”

Ok, you know how the Netflix app highlights and recommends to you all sort of random stuff? And when I first spied ‘Sex Education’ as a new release, I honestly thought it was a series which gave you actual sex advice like ‘Sex Life’ (for those who grew up in the 90s). And if we’re being honest, who doesn’t want a better sex life? Right?

But when I eventually got around to checking it out, I was massively disappointed to learn that it wasn’t sex Ed, but instead a British comedy drama about teenagers at a fictitious high school. Boo! For one, we’re in our mid 30s and way too old for teen dramas; secondly we don’t watch many dramas in general; and thirdly my wife found the first 5 minutes of episode 1 so distasteful and cringing, that she literally took her meal and left the room- finishing her lunch alone in the study. And that was that, I stopped the stream and tried pleading with her to come back (which she never did).

Now that was back in January, I still remember it as it was during the Christmas-New Year break, thus we were both at home on a weekday watching Netflix during lunch. Now we fast-forward a few months and for me at least, I’m working from home due to Covid isolation and during lunch breaks (tired of watching 24/7 news reports on Coronavirus) I started to watch during my lunch hours, all the Netflix shows which my wife wasn’t interested in i.e. ‘Kim’s Convenience’, ‘Master of None’, ‘The IT Crowd’, and I gave Sex Education another go……..

To give you a super quick synopsis on the main premise of the series, essentially Sex Education is a British comedy drama produced by Netflix, following a bunch of teenagers in their final year of high school. The main protagonist is Otis Milburn, an awkward wall-flower who is largely unnoticed by his peers at school. He only comes to the attention of his year group, when the school’s bully finds out that his mother Dr Jean Milburn is a renowned Sex therapist, and broadcasts on the classroom’s TV a clip of her giving sex advice using vegetables as handy propts.Which leads to Otis fleeing the classroom in shame, resulting in bringing Maeve Wiley (the ‘attractive bad-girl of the year’) into the same orbit as him. And after a humorous (for us at least) scene, Maeve notices Otis’ natural talent in giving others sex advice which leads Naeve to suggest that they start a sex clinic together, giving their peers sex advice for cash (as she needs the money). And then the dramas and the laughs unfold from there.

The premise does sound a bit young, while not being appropriate for a young viewer either- but oddly for an ‘older’ person, I quite enjoyed the series. Although it’s crude at times, and touches on all the teenage taboo topics under the sun, but Sex Ed manages to capture the drama in an honest and thoughtful way. Dare I say…..? A tasteful way? I personally think it’s due to the British approach. If this was an American series- it would have been like ‘American Pie’, crude, filled with dick jokes, and the bullies would have been jocks. Although Sex Ed still had the occasional dick joke, bullies, and all that typical teenage stuff, but oddly the British still managed to make it classy and real in the end. Dick jokes which weren’t as crude as others; bullies who still had a vulnerable side; and they got down to the core of every teenage anx……… Not to mention it has a killer soundtrack!

And here is where I drop a huge bombshell….. A   secret which I’ve been keeping for the past 18 months while blogging ‘Four Senses- Touch Smell Taste Sound’, which is…….I’m blind! So yeah being unable to see, I found it impossible to believe that the mother Jean Milburn is actually played by Gillian Anderson! Yes, that Gillian Anderson from the 90s, the American actress who played Scully in the X-Files! For someone who only hears things, I found it nearly impossible to associate the mature British sounding woman, to the red head FBI agent from that 90s Sci-fi show! A true ‘Bravo’ to Gillian for completely transforming herself in the intervening years, and she does a superb performance in Sex Ed!

Although I wasn’t completely comfortable with all of the scenes and themes from season 1, as there are parts where they really do push the envelope of mainstream entertainment- but it’s an honest reflection of today’s society and a realistic reflection of what teenagers are really going through in this day-in-age. And again, although they could have made the scenes crude and over-the-top as the Americans would have, but the producers of Sex Ed brought in some true emotion to the scenes, which then evoked some pretty genuine and real emotions from us the viewers.

If it sounds like I’m purposefully skirting only at the edges of the show, and that I’m being purposefully opaque? You’ve got me, I’m just trying not to give too much away, while trying to convince you that it’s “really not what you think it is.” 

So if you’re stuck in isolation and looking for something different to watch, check out Netflix’s Sex Education, it’s oddly worth-your-while! And season 2 is also available if you want to binge on!

**Tip: If you don’t like seeing certain ‘acts’ on TV, try only listening to shows- just turn on ‘Audio description’ on your Netflix app and Bluetooth the audio to a SMART speaker. Enjoy shows with your other four senses! 

Netflix Recommendations- Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 2

Anti-climactic, boring, chronologically-confusing, and disappointing, to say the least!

The above ABCDs of Netflix’s second season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive says it all! I really don’t know what was more disappointing, the cancellation of the first handful of races for the 2020 F1 season, or how bad Season 2 of Drive to Survive was?

For those who aren’t familiar with Drive to Survive, it is a sports documentary produced by Netflix, which follows the teams and drivers from the Formula 1. In Season 1, the film producers captured the 2018 season perfectly, camera crews following the main players from the teams, from pre-season right through to the final race of the year! What we loved about the first season was how they made racing into a completely compelling production, for both race fans and non-fans alike – featuring a different team and driver per episode, and by telling their story they managed to tell the unfolding tale of the 2018 season, developing both driver and the main stories from that year in a logical and riveting way.

However unfortunately for Season 2, Season 1 had set the bar so high, and had already told so many of the back stories for both drivers and Team principals alike, that they frankly didn’t have many new compelling stories to tell in Season 2! Yes, we all thought that with Mercedes and Ferrari joining in for S2, that it would add more flavour to the story line – as they’re the high-flying teams of the championship. But sadly not, neither Lewis Hamilton nor Sebastian Vettel were featured much in their respective episodes, so they were there, but we didn’t learn anything new from either of them – to the extent that, I don’t believe that Lewis was even properly interviewed once for a sound grab. Also, the entire prancing horses’ story was woven into an episode which featured multiple other teams and drivers – being a Ferrari fan, this left me wanting MORE!

We were hoping as the Drive to Survive season went on, they were setting us viewers up for a dramatic conclusion! But unfortunately not, the 10th episode was just as low gear as Episode 1 was- meaning that it never really went anywhere exciting. Like doing laps of an empty car park.

DtS was boring, half of the time I was zoning out mid-episode as there was nothing interesting to really capture my full attention. And half of the time I was just hoping the episode would end, so I could go and watch something else.

In the first season, as each driver’s story was developed it was positioned nicely in the midst of the season, so as the driver’s story was told, it inevitably told the story of the 2018 season. But for season 2, it was chronologically-confusing, with early episodes starting their stories mid-season, when the other half of the time the driver stories were jumping back-and-forth chronologically, so you couldn’t get a good sense of how the 2019 season was actually unfolding. So much so that they had to do a little 5 minute montage at the end, to summarise how the 2019 season ended, with Lewis achieving his 5th world championship! Not to mention, if a documentary is well produced, the primary interviews would already tell the story- no need for a narrator to jump in to tell you what’s going on. But this season was so confusing, and the stories so unclear- they had to bring in a F1 analyst to give 10 second sound grabs now and again to develop and to push on the narrative of the episode, pretty poor really.

And boiling right down to it, it was DISAPPOINTING! Even more so, as now we know that much of the 2020 season is already lost due to Covid19, thus much of the cliff-hangers they were building up to, teasing a 3rd season of Drive to Survive? We know that it isn’t going to happen. So season 2 was a pure disappointment, meanwhile season 3 will probably be wiped out as well?

In the end, if failure and disappointment is deemed to be drama-worthy, and binge-worthy viewing? Then that is where the film-makers focused their full attention – focusing on all the negative storylines from 2019 and the drivers on the edge of success and failure. While at the pointy end of the competition, where your Hamiltons and Vettels reside, they hardly spent any time with them on the podium. But instead we were made to watch the grim stuff – deaths on the track, relegation to a lower tier team, and high hopes not meeting high expectations. To me, this ain’t compelling viewing.

But if you still haven’t been put off by my scathing review, you can view Formula 1: Drive to Survive HERE

Product recommendation- Disney Plus

A more family-oriented streaming service!

Since Disney announced the release of their own streaming service and began to take back all of their original content from their new-found competitors, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was tempted to try Disney Plus.

And that day of weakness came last week, when we finished listening to Artemis Fowl and we learnt that the feature film was going to be released directly to the streaming service, skipping its stop in the cinemas (although the 2020 release date has not been announced yet).

And its way, waaaay too easy to get started with Disney Plus, with a 7 day free trial, a very affordable $8.99 a month if you decide to stream on, and the process to download the app literally took seconds!

What you get is access to the huge Disney backlog of content, from animated and non-animated movies, TV series, specials, and brand new Disney content just for Plus viewers!

The entire Pixar library, including short never-seen-before content!

The entire Star Wars franchise – ‘The Mandalorian’ being the main drawcard!

Plenty and plenty of Marvel content (although not everything), but there’s still enough!

And content from the National Geographic channel, if you want some realism in your life!

So what there is, is more wholesome family oriented content, when compared to other streaming services. Granted, most of the content is for the kids, so great during Covid19 isolation to keep the kiddies entertained while you’re trying to WFH!  While there is plenty of stuff for Star Wars and Marvel fans to re-watch. However if you’re not a kid and not into sci-fi nor superheros, I still think you’ll be happy, if  you gain happiness from seeing your kids and partner entertained by their content.

With a DP account, it allows the creation of 10 accounts (customised with your favourite Disney Plus character), and the $8.99 per month enables 4 devices to be streaming content at the same time! And if you’re all in, you can elect to pre-pay for a year’s subscription which saves you 15% ($89.99 per year).

However you might elect to go month-by-month, as the one downside of Disney Plus is that much of its content you’ve already seen before, and you might only ever want to watch it one more time – thus after a while there isn’t much more to consume. But slowly there will be more new original Disney content uploaded, which you can’t get anywhere else!

But while we’re all stuck at home, and living day-to-day, and the future is a little bit uncertain…YOLO! Go for it! Keep the kids and the big kids happy……. To start consuming all that is good about Disney and its wider portfolio of entertainment right now! Click HERE!

Netflix recommendations- Tiger King

It really was murder, mayhem and madness!

Let’s back-track to late March early April, and literally everywhere you turned, someone was referencing Tiger King. Be that on a Zoom chat with family from the States, to hearing it on podcasts in passing conversations between two sports podcasters – literally everyone was watching and talking about Tiger King!

But what I have found since completing the show, is that everyone raves on about it when they’re half way through the series, but not so much after completing all 7 episodes on Netflix. *Raises eyebrows*.

Ok, just for those who are unaware of Tiger King: murder, mayhem, madness, it started off as a harmless documentary, the creators putting together a film following individuals in the States who have their own private zoos? But as the filming and interviews with big cat and exotic animal owners unfold, they quickly realise that there is much much more to owning/exhibiting wild animals in a backyard home zoo. And what started off as a documentary, turns into an unfolding true crime mystery with the camera crew right in the midst of it!

The series follows a number of strange individuals, Joe Exotic being the strangest of them all – i.e. G.W. Zoo owner, country music singer, Presidential hopeful, and Oklahoma Governor Candidate. And soon it’s his story and his ongoing feud with Carole Baskin (animal rights activist) which takes centre stage. And when you’ve just reached the point when you think things can’t get any stranger? It only gets stranger and stranger still, like they say, ‘only in America’. All the while you’re left wondering ‘What has Joe done?’ as built into the intro is a teaser that Joe is currently behind bars for a very very long time.

The first 3 episodes were all together riveting, as the show peeled back the layers of the onion to this complex story. However when you’ve reached the halfway point, you start to realise that everything is rotten – where it isn’t clear who is the real villain and who is the real victim of this story. And even to this day, I still haven’t worked out in my own mind who I feel sorry for in this sad tale. And I guess for this reason, it has made Tiger King a point of conversation because everyone will have their own opinion on who is the villain and who is the victim.

But the one thing which is clear, and you should feel sorry for, is the state of the tigers and other exotic animals, as they are the real victims of this tale, and have been locked up from start to finish. #Free the cats!

So if you’re one to experience FoMo and you must must find out the mystery to this sad tale, Click HERE to start binging!