Netflix Recommendations- Hyperdrive

How fitting, just as our ‘Beast’ was in the shop being modified into a genuine ‘Hyper Hatch’, Netflix uploaded their latest original production reality game-show! I’ve heard others describe it like this, and it is one of the first things which comes to mind as well – but it’s literally like Ninja Warrior for cars! Imagine guys and girls pushing themselves to the edges of their physical limits and performance? But insert heavily modified sports cars, driven by guys and girls pushing their machines to the limits of performance and challenging the laws of physics! This is Hyperdrive!

As difficult as ‘drifting’ already is, but drifting a vehicle was the minimum skill the international list of competitors had to master to be even considered for the tournament! Then include ‘Walk on Water’ which tested drivers’ wits, insert the Leveller which tested drivers’ patience and touch, just add water…….blaster which tested drivers’ timing, and include a set of rails which tested the drivers’ nerves! And each step of the way, our nerves as viewers were tested as well! I can’t tell you how many times I cringed from seeing people’s pride and joys being smashed-up and written-off. Let’s just say we’ll never be attempting to drive through a flooded curb-side drain ever again! RIP baby pink BMW 1-Series.

Look, it’s given that rev heads will enjoy Hyperdrive, but honestly it was the best Netflix original I’ve ever seen on Netflix to date! But if you’re not a car-nut, you’ll still enjoy it as well! As it’s exciting, it’s narrative driven, and it’s not American-centric nor gender-centric! To tell you the truth, this post is a little light-on and premature, as I’ve purposefully avoided Googling ‘Hyperdrive’ for interesting facts and details, as we haven’t finished the series yet- surprisingly Hyperdrive has quite a few episodes to get through. Which is great! So, at time of writing this post, I’m still unaware of who ultimately wins the tournament, but whoever does? They’re completely deserving of the crown! DK baby! DK!

If you’re interested to check it out? Just click HERE!        

Netflix/Podcast Recommendations- Last Chance U/Hard Knocks Podcast

Wow! Here’s a first – a cross medium recommendation! But the underlying point of similarity is the fact that they’re both football reality shows!

Netflix- Last Chance U season 1

East Mississippi is a long, long way from Sydney NSW, and this is why we love reality TV, as you get a real glimpse into real lives, oftentimes quite different from our own reality. For us, Last Chance U wasn’t so much the football aspect which made the show interesting for us. But it’s the individuals, it’s the stories, and seeing a side of people which you’d otherwise never see. Be that the good, bad and the ugly of being a coach of young men; the gentleness behind a 250-pound defensive lineman; the genuine connection faculty staff develop with their students; and how this game of football really is the last chance for these young men! And although it wasn’t all about the football, it was still nice to see my wife show interest and attempting to understand the confusing game of American football (if you’ve never followed it before) e.g. asking why it was bad to run up the scoreboard with seconds to go in the second quarter? Haaha.

We’re currently taking a break before we return to Scuba for season 2 (as it was a bit of an emotionally draining series) but we’ll be back to see how the Lions go in season 2016!

If you’re interested to check out Last Chance U, click HERE!

HBO- Hard Knocks Podcast

And if watching Hard Knocks isn’t enough for you, there is even a companion app! Or in my case, I don’t have cable TV and Hard Knocks the podcast is all that I have to keep up with the goings on of Hard Knocks season 14 – starring the Oakland Raiders! Grrrrrr.

For us Aussies who aren’t all that familiar with Hard Knocks, HK is an annual NFL Films production, where camera crews follow a given team for 5 weeks during their pre-season as the team prepares for a new start to a new season. The stories usually centre on the Rookies (college kids who were just drafted to the professional world of football); unsigned or undrafted players who are attempting to make it onto the final 53 man roster (pre-season starts off with almost 100 players); and we discover who are the quirky characters on the team. For the Oakland Raiders the quirkiest characters have been their coach Jon Gruden, their superstar Wide Receiver acquisition Antonio Brown, and Rookie Johnathan Abram “Is it Salmon or Sal-mon?”

Hard Knocks the Podcast is hosted by NFL Network’s Peter Schrager; the pod is a tight professionally produced show (less than 30 mins), discussing the highlights from the latest HBO episode, further insights to the key stories through interviews with people close to the action in Oakland, and if you just can’t get enough of the HBO show, then you have an extra 30 mins of content to enjoy! Great as a re-cap, even better as a summary of the show if you haven’t had the chance to see it- due to lacking access to HBO content.

If you’d like to enjoy the Hard Knocks series in a different way? Check out the Hard Knocks Podcast, just click HERE! Enjoy!

Netflix Recommendations- Blown Away

You know you’re starting to scrape the bottom of the reality-TV competition barrel when you’ve dropped millions in producing a glassblowing competition. Oh goodness.

But well, if you’re Netflix, you’ve got the available funds to do so, so why the heck not!

I have to admit prior to watching Blown Away, I hadn’t thought all that deeply into how glassware is made (although I have been to Corning HQ in up-state New York). But since watching the 10 episodes of Blown Away, I have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the delicate art of glassblowing.

In Netflix’s original reality-TV competition, 10 contestants compete and vie for the grand prize of $60K and an Artist Residency at the Corning Museum of Glass. Over 10 challenges, the contestants sweat away in a purpose built facility enabling all 10 Glassblowers to work simultaneously on their gelatinous works of art. And being newbies to the glassblowing scene, we became familiar with new terms like punty and glory holes…….. And watch how volume, colour, texture and shape is added to an  inanimate object- delicately brought to life by the Master Glassblowers- showing off their artistry and creativity! Truly incredible!

So if you want to experience the highs of pulling off an incredible glass masterpiece..Or watch the heart-breaking lows when pieces of art go smashing to the floor in a devastating error! You can experience all the highs and lows of glassblowing on Netflix’s Blown away! To start streaming, click HERE!

That’s it babe! I’m going to retain every empty beer bottle from now on!

Netflix Recommendations- American Vandal

**Note: This post contains language which may offend some readers.

I was happily listening to a sports podcast (ESPN’s 30 for 30) when they interviewed a pair of documentary producers Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, first discussing sport mockumentaries they had produced, then they flipped their conversation to the pair’s most critically acclaimed work – their 8 episode American Vandal mockumentary which aired on Netflix. From hearing this interview alone, my interest was piqued! So I stowed the information to memory – to be used later on that night.

As my wife and I were settling in for another dinner in front of the TV, I asked Google to play ‘American Vandal’ on Netflix. And with some puzzlement from my wife (we had been following other shows) I sat back to enjoy the show and also to see my wife’s reaction as I hadn’t told her that this was a mockumentary.

Dick, dick, dick! There! I’ve gotten it out of the way! Adult language warning come and gone! If you don’t like crude youth culture and the ‘D’ word, you might not like American Vandal. The premise of the show is that an act of vandalism had occurred at this suburban Ohio highschool. 27 cars in the staff parking lot were vandalised in 23 minutes with graffiti, defaced with red spray-paint depicting the male genitalia. An eye-witness claimed that school clown Dylan Maxwell was seen doing the phallic symbols, which subsequently leads to his expulsion from school (and potentially liable for the $100K damage bill).

And when the mockumentary properly starts rolling, the two main characters are Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund, a pair of sophomores from the school’s Morning Show (student news program) as they interview  students and teachers to get to the bottom of this ‘True crime’. Their motivation – they didn’t want to see a potentially innocent guy go down for a crime he didn’t commit, especially when facts and witness accounts didn’t stack-up. The first couple of episodes are still all about the crime, but as the series unfolds it delves into the themes of modern-day youth culture. And as unlikely as the show can be, it actually becomes a very interesting mystery, with cliff hangers at the end of each episode, and it does a commendable job in depicting today’s youth.

So as Episode One finished, I sat back and observed my wife’s reaction. If she didn’t know it was all fake and scripted, would she think that this was a proper true crime documentary? Would she believe that this act of vandalism actually occured back in 2016 (March 15 to be exact). The signs that she had her doubts was during some scenes she questioned how the documentary obtained “that” type of video footage. And for me, the weak link which exposed it as a fake, was Dylan Maxwell. In my opinion, no normal non-acting Stoner would come off like he did. To describe it, would be to say he acted like an actor being asked to act like a stoner youth. And then proceeding to apply the stereotypical stoner traits to his character, but not all that convincingly.  But when I told my wife, “It’s all fake! It’s a comedy!” I could sense her pause and process this new information, and while she wasn’t completely shocked by this revelation, however the acting was 85% good enough that it could have fooled anyone who didn’t know as being a real true crime doc. And after knowing this, she got even more invested in the show, and I think she enjoyed it more than I did?

For me, American Vandal just reminds me of how grateful I am that I’m no longer a teenager! Especially thankful that I wasn’t a teenager who grew-up with social media, with mobile phones always at the ready. And I’m just so glad to be out of school, just  imagining being  back at school makes me anxious, that whole playground setting where everyone has a label, i.e. the stoners, the jocks, the geeks, the popular ones etc. *Shudders*.

So if you’d like a bit of a laugh, a surprisingly engrossing ‘who done it’ mystery, and a slight throw-back to your youth? Check out American Vandal on Netflix. Click HERE to begin streaming! 

P.S. Season 2 of American vandal is also available on Netflix, and it’s even better and more binge-worthy than Season 1!

Netflix Recommendations- Dating Around/Back with The Ex

Dating shows aren’t a new concept, 80s dating show ‘Perfect Match’ immediately comes to mind, while more modern iterations like ‘Married at First Sight’ draws in the crowds. However ‘Dating Around’ and ‘Back With The Ex’ are different and refreshing takes on the usual dating show.

Dating Around (2019)

Dating Around is a Netflix original production, here a guy (or girl) embarks on a first date….but not any first date, but 5 first dates! In the same episode the same guy (or gal) dates 5 different people! Talk about ‘all the best’ with remembering their names….. Not at the same time though…..but through slick editing by the after-production team  it presents and feels like it’s all one big first date fest!

Each episode features a brand new single looking for love, and as each ep is only 30 minutes in length, there isn’t any wasted time so the interaction and show progressions move right along! Each episode follows the same formula, i.e. friends say what a great guy or gal they are; then we finally set eyes on him or her; then we find out more about them as they meet their 5 first dates; all dates are conducted at the same restaurant which helps the magic of editing, as conversations with one date seamlessly transitions to another usually when they’re chatting about the same topic; as they dine they peel the layers of the onion back until the end of the meal when he/she suggests to kick on to a bar; if the first date is going well, their dining companion are usually more than happy to kick-on…….while a few dates had declined and parted ways after the meal; and in the final seconds of the show, it’s another day, the lead walks purposefully to a rendezvous and then you finally find out who they hit it off with and who was going to have this second date with them (then fades to black).

Dating Around is less about romance and trashiness which comes with some dating shows, but it’s more a sociological experiment which you have a front-row seat for! So if you’re one who loves eavesdropping on another couple’s dining conversation,  then you’ll love this! And the show features a wide cross section of people (same sex, older demographic etc.), so it’s quite enlightening, while being confronting at times.

Back With the Ex (2018)

On the other hand, Back with the Ex is a Channel 7 Australian production, why it differs from the usual dating shows is because the couples already know each other (there are 4 couples). Not only do they know each other, but they were once girlfriend/boyfriends, some being together for as long as 6 years! But for one reason or another, they had broken up and been separated for as short as 3 years, to as long as 28 years!? What the? But for our entertainment purpose (and no doubt some sweeteners from Channel 7), one party has reached out to their ex, floating the concept of getting back together, while a video crew follows them around and films every intimate moment. Sounds interesting? Or does it sound like the most cringing viewing ever?

The couples range from a cute couple in their early twenties, to an equally cute couple in their late 40s/early 50s. And through the seven 60-minute episode series, we follow the 4 couples across a 3 week period in their lives, cameras filming them re-kindle their friendships. We’re invited in to watch them squirm through scripted scenarios like taking turns to temporarily live together at each other’s homes; meet again (or for the first time) family and friends of their ex; go out on lavish dates clearly paid for and organised by Ch7; the awkward (so awkward) drinks with all the other Exs (guys at one venue, girls at another) and have that footage replayed back to their ex, evidence of their behaviour when they’re not around; and the most exciting part for the couples (and probably the single reason why they signed onto the show) was the epic overseas trip they take together before they decide …..if they’d give their relationship another go or not.

Again, it was another interesting watch if you’re into psycho-analysing people, trying to predict if they’re genuine (and if not, if their ex could see through it), and I found myself trying to predict which couple were going to give it another shot, and who was going to crush the other’s dreams. And for one or two, they didn’t come off looking too good, not sure if being on the show might hinder their future attempts at love. I guess only time will tell.

But if you want to nosey into others’ lives, and watch a real-life drama unfold, check-out Dating Around and Back with the Ex as they’re currently both available on Netflix. Enjoy!

Movie Review- Toy Story 4

I don’t think there is another movie franchise where we (society) have all grown up with. Hearing other people’s tales, they all have memories of how old they were and in which stage of life when they first watched Pixar’s original Toy Story. And how they felt when they sat through Toy Story 3, and just when we all thought Toy Story was a trilogy and the 3rd was the last and what a wonderful ending it was!…Pixar releases no. 4! Could they ruin the franchise for everyone!?

When the original Toy Story was released, I was only 12 years old in Year 7, and I still remember watching it at the cinemas with my sister. And wasn’t it ground breaking at the time! We can all recall the amazement we felt when we first caught sight of the scenes in Andy’s bedroom with the fake sky/cloud wallpaper! Before Toy Story, animation was what we used to call ‘cartoons’, but Toy Story had brought another dimension to animation, making things seem so life-like. *Eyes Boggle*. Toy Story 2…… for the life of me I can’t remember where or when I watched it? I probably saw it on pay-TV or something, long long after it was first released! As by this time in 1999 when it was released, I was 17 years old and I was too old and too cool for animations. Funny how at that time, we still didn’t know what Toy Story was going to become? A film which bridged generational gaps.

Now Toy Story 3 was an entirely different story (no, the animated story was still the same, but it was a different story for me!). TS3, this was the very first film I watched with my now wife, at that time in 2010 I had a huge crush on her, and my cousin even joined us for the film, acting as a chaperone for us. Haaha.  And that was 9 years ago, so much has changed in the intervening time.

So fast forward to today, I woke up with the idea to go watch it (although the last time I’d watched a film in cinema was at least 18 months ago). Watching a film at the big screens had become one of those things, victim to the progression of time, like the death of the CD player, our DVD player, and the purchase of physical books to read. But a podcast which I had listened to earlier in the week, they devoted an entire 90-minute episode going through the movie, and it sucked me right in!

So after church we rushed around completing all our Sunday arvo chores, and come 2:30pm we were sitting in the George Street Event cinemas (with many, many young kids and their folks) as the curtains widened and the movie begun.

One thing I noticed, was that Toy Story actually relies heavily on its musical score, the music set the mood for what the creators wanted you to feel each time as you watch the Toys come to life when their kid walked away.

I did notice that the sound actors who played the now iconic toy characters, all sounded a little older (but aren’t we all), but as always the visuals were paired perfectly with the emotions conveyed in the actor’s voices. I’ve heard that the voice actors actually record their lines first (some were recorded 5 years ago) and the animators then create the visuals to match-up with the voices. And it’s this level of detail which brings all the characters to life, and you can be forgiven when you forget that Woody and Buzz and all the gang, aren’t actually real!

The preface of the story is that Andy’s toys have now been handed down to Bonnie (as seen in the final moments of Toy Story 3). Where Toy Story 3 reflected the true passage of time in the real world e.g. Andy was a kid in TS2, and then a uni-aged teenager in TS3. However the gap of 9 years in between 3 and 4 was not reflected in TS4, as Bonnie at most was now 6 years old? When she was perhaps 3 years old in TS3?

So now Bonnie is starting Kindergarten, Woody and the gang are starting to be neglected again, as their kid starts to grow up. And at Bonnie’s first day at school (orientation), she makes herself a new toy companion out of a discarded plastic spork, with pipe-cleaner wire for his arms, and a snapped paddle pop stick as feet (with blue-tack/plasticine ankles). When Bonnie takes him home, Forky comes to life and the gang rally around him, teaching him what it means to be Bonnie’s favourite toy.

When Bonnie and her folks go on a road-trip (a final trip before she properly starts kindergarten), Forky makes a break for it and Woody, who had taken on himself  the responsibility to look out for the disposable utensil, goes after him and then the shenanigans begins in earnest!

Many actors have lent their voices to the characters of Toy Story over the years, the latest to join the fold are Keegan-Michael Key (Ducky), Jordan Peele (Bunny), Keanu Reeves (Duke Caboom), Christina Hendricks (Gabby Gabby), and Ally Maki (Giggle McDimples).

The best part of the film for me was……hearing my wife laugh and giggle throughout the film! ‘Heart’ you babe! And it was so interesting to hear so many kids in the cinema, but for the entirety of the film (the film must have been close to 2 hours in length) the kiddies were completely silent, sucked into the visuals and actions of the film! The kid right behind us, she was probably 4 years old? I wonder if she’ll remember her first Toy Story experience, in 10 years’ time when she is 14 years old in year 9. I wonder then, if she would be like us, able to recall the first time she watched the Toy Story franchise on the big screen?

Recently I’ve been pondering existential questions, like what are we all doing on earth? What are we doing with our time? Are our professions truly necessary? Is our toil actually meaningful? And on face value, an actor or animator being paid the big bucks to make movies? Seemed a bit trivial when compared to nurses and teachers who are paid so much less. But if films can help you mark the passage of time, and help you reminisce fondly on times past, then perhaps there is a vital part to play by actors and creators in this world? I hope for that little girl who was sitting behind us today, that when she watches Toy Story 5, Toy Story 6 etc., she’ll remember her first experience with Woody and the gang, and remember that Sunday arvo all those years ago with her dad, I hope she remembers how he cared for her – making sure she could see over the heads of us big people, sharing salty pop-corn with her, and pouring apple juice for her (whilst she pointed out that it was too much). Oh the cycle begins all over again for another generation!