Media you may have missed in the first half of 2021

Parallel film, woman looks into mirror repeated into infinity

A few times a year I mention some films and shows you may have missed. The list came pretty useful during the Covid19 pandemic, when friends said there was little on. As usual I’m looking at the stuff which gets missed in the mass media.

Movies

Together

Together
I mentioned liking locked down a while ago, this is the BBC equivalent with less nonsense at the end. Its good and worth watching.

Wrath of man
This came out of nowhere but I found it a good watch. Not the best of Guy Richie but its a good heist and good to see Jason Statham in a serious role.

Horizon line

Horizon line

I shared this with a friend who flies light planes, I don’t think she was impressed but the drama is high and there is a feeling it can’t get any worst throughout. It does…

Cruella
Emma stone makes this so so Disney movie actually good. To be fair I am not a Disney fan but this and Soul were actually good.

Stowaway

Stowaway

Stowaway seemed to come with little press, even with a good cast. It could be seen as another gravity and it wouldn’t be far off but its got depth and humanity.

Plan B
Classic teenage hi-jinks but with 2 women in an American state where the morning after-pill isn’t easily available. Fun tale with unexpected conclusions.

 Long Weekend (2021)

Long weekend

This film is a romantic comedy/drama but with a level of depth which of course is revealed at the end. Its a surprise and impactful.

Parallel

A mirror, the multiverse, greed and betrayal. What more do you need to check it out? Surprising film out of nowhere.

Searching

Searching

This is a little older but I missed it first time around. Its a good film capitalising on modern technology as an advantage and disadvantage. Well crafted and nicely put together.

A storybook ending

I’m pretty sure most people have never come across this one but its 18mins of clever crafted storytelling layered nicely on top of its self. You want more but you don’t need more.

TV

Loki

Loki

Ok I know a lot of people are watching Loki but its worth mentioning if you missed it so far. Its really good, funny and clever. Likewise  The Falcon and the winter soldier I didn’t really pay attention to the Falcon and the winter soldier. I am so glad I did check it out as the last episode genuinely left me with a tear in my eye. Its worth watching seeing what happened on social media after Euro 2020.

Time

I heard people grumble that Time was too harsh? I think its not but I did think its got links to the grittiest prison drama I have ever seen, OZ. Prison is no walk in the park and its important to remember that.

Russian doll
Russian doll

Recommended to me from friends, after talking about time looping films and TV. This one is a good and smart one with a strange ending.

Love, death and robots

The little known Love, Death and Robots was great in season 1. Season 2 takes the same impact with some great storylines you would expect in Black Mirror.

Startup

Startup

I missed this first time round but its good and clever. I watched all 3 seasons over a period of time and enjoyed it a lot. Shame it ended too soon as it was going somewhere. But its worth viewing for the tech drama.

Calls

Based on the French original. Its hard to describe this show. Its like nothing else on TV, mainly visualisation and voice overs. If I say Einstein-Rosen bridge you might get the general drift.

The irregulars

The irregulars

This new take on Sherlock Holmes is actually seems a bit strange but the story is quite intriguing. The show didn’t make it to season 2 which is a shame as it had the right amount of mystery and drama.

Soulmates

This is very much like black mirror but instead of each episode being completely different concepts, this is the same concept throughout. What if an algorithm could tell your one soulmate? The rest is drama like you can’t imagine.

Sexy beasts, another fad dating show, yawn…

I heard Netflix had commissioned the dating show, Sexy beasts (Remember it was a BBC Three show in 2014)

Sexy Beasts is a new dating show where real-life singles sport elaborate makeup and prosthetics to put true blind-date chemistry to the test.

There seems to be a bit of stir about this one, although lets be honest its another fad dating show. Will it go beyond a couple of seasons? I very much doubt it. Its certainly not a first dates, which just keeps going and going.

People need to remember just like dating services/apps, everything is very fickle. Anything new gets attention and is seen as innovative. Well I guess they couldn’t strip any more clothes off people. Sex has been done, doing it in the dark had mixed success, trying to turn dating into a soap has had mixed sucess and attempted to go large has had zero success. Bring on the next fad, tons of make up and masks to hide their true looks.

Yawn!

Master of none series 3, its come alive

When I saw Master of none series 3, I was very surprised. Partly because of whats happened previously with Aziz Ansari. I thought that was it for the show full stop.

Interestingly Aziz isn’t in it much but he does direct it with Lena Waithe. The story is well told (no spoilers) as it centres around Lena and her partner’s relationship ups and downs. It does have those master of none funny and deeply tragic moments (especially s3ep4).

There is a lot to be said but I’m glad to see the series move forward in a new direction.

The universal remote I have owned for 15 years

Philips universal remote

I heard the news Logitech are not making or selling Harmony remotes anymore, it made me reflect on my own remote which I can’t really believe I have owned for over 15 years. The Philips SHU 5170, its not a Harmony as I always wanted one but couldn’t justify the price back then.

Its good news Logitech are supporting the remotes for as long as people are using them. Might be time to snag a Harmony before its too late?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Contains mild spoilers…

I have seen Justice League a couple of times and didn’t like it at all. Pretty sure I gave it 4/10 in the end after the original 5/10. Zack Snyder’s Justice League got a well deserved 7/10 and seen it twice now.

Although not much of a comic book person but frankly I do like the darkness of DC compared to Marvel (I am aware there are many others, but its clear distinction). If you want the DC vs Marvel side, I’d suggest this review by this youtuber.

The plot is fully developed over the 4hours, yes a full 4hours. You thought Tenet, Interstellar, Dark Knight rises were long? So long there is a planned intermission. To be fair its split into chapters, so you could take breaks at natural points.

Justice league on my projector screen
Justice league on my projector screen

The one thing which completely surprised me and wound me up was the aspect ratio of 4:3. I actually thought I selected the wrong streaming option or something. But I get it and when its finally on the IMAX screen, I may go watch it. Even my projector screen doesn’t quite work at the 4:3 ratio.

So between the darkness, fully fleshed out character development and enough foreshadowing for a future DC universe. I’d look forward to Snyder’s vision of where the DC universe could really go.

Films you may have missed during the later part of 2020

Matrix on the big screen
Watching the matrix on the big screen during lock down

Following on from my previous post about films to watch during covid19 and again during mid 2020. Some of us have been consuming a lot of media. Its never been a better time to own a full home cinema.

Having just gone through my trakt year in review and its almost 2021, it might be worth another blog post for the locked in. Believe it or not there has been some good stuff to watch on the small screens in our living rooms.

Films

Just mercy

Just Mercy

This is a genre which always gets me, court room dramas. I didn’t think that much about the trial of the chicago 7 especially after watching Small Axe’s Mangrove and this film. Its powerful and emotional, it deserves a lot of respect and perfect timing with the on going anti-racism protests. Don’t miss this film!

Parallel

As the name suggests its a film about parallel universes. This film comes across off as a lower budget movie but the concept is neat and it has legs. It surprises in different ways and within the serious plot points still has elements of comedy. It reminds me very much of the film Time lapse.

Run

This took me by surprise. Not usually into horror but this is clearly more on the thriller side. I can’t even start to explain how messed up this film is on so many levels. As the film develops you get a real sense of the subtitle, you can’t escape a mothers love!

The honest thief

Nice easy going action film which isn’t too stressful but has its moments of action too. Liam Neeson is wooden than his usual roles in Taken, but still has edge. Nice plot and the actors do carry the film well. Good quality hollywood action.

12 Hour Shift

This film is a bit of dark humour and comes across as serious. Its a simple film about staff in a hospital but the things which happen are, lets say intriguing and there reactions are hilariously dark. Been a while since I seen a dark comedy like it

The Secrets We Keep

I wasn’t quite sure where this one was going but its a thriller which strikes where it hurts. Partly revenge film but its not for the faith hearted. Not an amazing film but strong and worth watching.

Love and Monsters

Another fun hollywood film which I would say is similar in notion to Zombieland but less adult. Its a fun teen flick with some enjoyable moments. Light relief from the pandemic.

Follow Me

I’m a bit of a sucker for these escape room type films and this one has all the right ingredients to keep you guessing. Part of you wants bad things to happen as this youtuber is just the wrong side of arrogant. If you don’t like follow me, try escape room.

Opening Act

A film about stand up comedy with stand up comedians. Light entertainment again but with the strength of everyday life as a comedian. Heckling, trying out jokes, fighting for spots, its all there in the film.

Black Box

Psychological thrillers, some hate them and sometimes they are awful. This one is good, not great but challenging. Its great to see Mamoudou moving into the prime time. Its a good film but be prepared for a small mind screw.

Boss level

A fun film which reminds me of a three way between Shoot’em up, Groundhog day and Scott Pilgrim vs the world. Light entertainment but good entertainment on these dark nights.

TV

A Teacher

A interesting story about a student and a teacher. The emotional side is treated well and respectful over the episodes. Usually these type of things are rushed and A teacher doesn’t do that. The topics are adult and dealt with in that way.

Small Axe

There is so much to say abut Small Axe, the director worked on these 5 almost feature length episodes showcasing different aspects of Black British culture in London. Each episode is unique with for example episode 2 having a completely different tempo and feel from episode 1. Each one is worth while watching alone, together they marked a excellent series.

The Queens Gambit

The Queens Gambit

Such a beautiful and short TV show. Most people have seen or heard of it but honestly watch it on a big screen at the highest resolution you can. You will notice every short is just beautiful. The story is great too.

Industry

This was recommended to me and its quite a interesting series, looking at new graduates aiming to permanently join a investment bank. What I like is its not too stereotypical. Yes theres drugs in the bathrooms, yes the women get a much rougher experience than the men. But each character has more depth than you first imagine.

The Flight Attendant

A fun comedy drama with Kaley (known for the big bang theory) with a bit of a edge. The story unfolds slowly but the comedy elements keeps the flow. There is a message about alcoholism there but its not clear cut and well produced. Worth watching but don’t expect something deep and meaningful or even light entertainment. Look forward to second series?

Sneakerheads

Following the flight attendant, something actually light and fun comedy. If you are a sneakerhead or take your trainers a little more serious than most people… this short series is for you. Funny and entertaining, some light relief.

Ted Lasso

Another fun TV series but with a heart. I’m really not a football fan, so I was expecting this to be a bore. When I first came across it, I thought this is going to be a joke which will get old. But it surprised me as the characters backstory holds up well and keeps you interested. Like the flight attendant sure there will be a second series.

Pulseaudio filling my flat with sound

Pulse audio DLNA in action
Pulse audio DLNA in action while watching the NGI summit and using the picture in picture feature

I usually listen to podcasts during the morning but with Covid19, I have been listening to a lot more podcasts and audiobooks. I use Xbian (Kodi) to listen to podcasts and Yatse without needing to look at a computer screen.

Its a good setup, as it does my bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. I recently removed the FM transmitter and replaced it with a bluetooth transmitter finally avoiding all the interference I was getting. However when I’m watching something on my laptop, I then wish I could send the sound through the same system.

This is when I discovered puslseaudio-dlna, allowing any output from the laptop to be sent over DLNA to my Xbian and to my Kodibox in the living room. Perfect, the only issue I have is the delay which can be sometimes as high as 10seconds. I also learned it can be used to interface with the chromecast, I’m also found out its possible to wire it up to send to two or more outputs at the same time, meaning I could have a sonos type system. Extremely useful to know when next I have a party?

Films you may have missed during the Covid19 lockdown

Host (2020)

Following on from my previous post about films to watch during the Covid19 lockdown. Now the cinemas are starting to open, I thought I’d write another set of films and TV I have watched between June – August.

The list of films I usually post are ones you may not have seen or skipped over.

Films

Archive

Target Number One (2020)

Based around a true story, its a slow but insane story of drug addict Daniel Leger. Being built up as a major international drugs smuggler. Its well worth a watch

Irresistible (2020)

Quite funny film written by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show fame. Really points the finger at the system of money which drives the elections and politics in America. No one gets away clean in this one

Swallow (2020)

There are a short list of films I will only watch once a year as they are just uncomfortable. I’m going to add Swallow to this list. Its a difficult subject reasonably told but a bit slow in parts.

Archive (2020)

Intriguing AI type film, its no Ex-Machina but it will surprise you in the end. Solid Sci-fi which slowly builds and hits you out of nowhere. I don’t want to say anything more.

The Rental (2020)

Every Airbnb nightmare ripped large with hidden cameras and a over bearing host. Nice little twists and the tension is about right for this thriller rather than horror.

One Night in Bangkok (2020)

This reminds me very much of Hummingbird and Vengeance. Its a bit slow in places but there are some soft twists and the character development does help you feel for them.

Host (2020)

Not a fan of horror, only because I find the jump silly and the gross parts just stupid. Host surprises as its of a moment, while we are in the pandemic using zoom. Host comes along and leans right into it. Well worth watching even if your not into horror.

Ava (2020)

I mentioned in the last review a film called The Rhythm Section and its similarity to films like Anna, La Femme Nikita, etc. Its a good film and likely better than the Rhythm Section thanks to Jessica Chastain’s performance.

TV

Tell me who I am

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

Yeah I know it was available in 2019 but I hasn’t come across it till someone mentioned it to me recently. What a story and then it gets very dark very quickly. It reminds me of the film called Rewind which I recommended a little while ago. Both are worth your time and patience around this incredibly difficult subject

On the Record (2020)

I heard bit of the story during the peak of the movement but it got drowned out by other women’s experiences. Its clear it didn’t get the absolute attention it deserved and for f-sake, Russell Simmons and others are pretty untouched. For the record, Russell has stepped down from his positions in Def Jam Recordings and other companies as a result of these allegations. He moved to Bali where there is no extradition treaty to the U.S.

Alex Rider (2020)

I wasn’t sure about this one. It kinda fell under the radar for what ever reason, but it surprised me. Its well thought-out and well told. Its a got a lot of production behind it and it really shows. Expect a series 2 maybe?

Upload (2020)

I wrote about Upload early in the pandemic, comparing it to the now ended Good Place. There’s a lot of comparisons but its going to take a season or two to get up that level. Get the first season and enjoy potentially the start of something special?

Manctopia: Manchester’s housing boom

Manctopia

When I first heard there was going to be a TV documentary about Manchester’s building boom, I was very sceptical it was going to do the justice to the sheer amount of building going on in Manchester and its effect on the people.

Manctopia: Meet the people living and working in the eye of Manchester’s remarkable housing boom.

After watching the first episode I thought it did do a good job. Theres reasonable number of view points from some people living on the streets to a person looking for a multi-million pound 3 bedroom penthouse with great views of the city.

Its of course strange to see where I live in the shots and seeing the backstory of the buildings opposite me in Piccadilly East. Wondering if Ancoats, Angel fields, Ponoma and Salford Quays will make it into future episodes.

Its available on BBC iplayer and BBC two every Tuesday at 9pm

Re-watching the Watchmen TV series

Spoiler alert!!!

If you have not seen the Watchmen the TV series, Do not watch the explainer above. Instead watch this one,

I can’t tell you how amazing the TV series is and its excellent follow up to the excellent film.

I’m watching it again because although its amazing, and I needed to watch it all again to understand it all. However I also wanted to watch it during the black lives matter protests for its extremely strong race in America storyline and references. This is how I found out about Tulsa in 1921.

The secret episode of Seinfeld in the age of Covid-19

I mentioned how weird it is seeing films with lots of touching and no social distancing.

Someone decided to pull together a bunch of Seinfeld into a Covid-19 special.

How would Seinfeld look like in a world taken over by the coronavirus? Well, Jerry would probably disinfect everything. Kramer would try to find his own cure. George would think he’s dying all the time. Elaine would try to take everyone in her path. Lucky for us, there’s a secret episode that was never finished to find out!

I may reconsider getting a Google home mini now

Google local apk diagram

When I got my Pixel 2 it came with a Google home mini. I decided I would give it a shot so other people can control the Hue lights in my flat.

However I was deeply disappointed to find I could only make it work if I open up two holes in my firewall, allowing Google Home mini to talk to Google then Google talking to Philips who then talk through my other hole in my firewall to my Hue lights!

Even saying the above is a clear sign of how stupid the whole thing is…

So annoyed I sold it straight away. But it looks like I wasn’t the only one who fed back to Google how stupid this all was and early last year they included some code in their SDK to include local access.

Now it looks like its ready and I noticed Philips Hue and TPlink are one of the first lot of services to support this.

If this works as it says I may buy a Google home mini or I noticed the Google home hub is going for half price right now. Of course I’ll make sure the firewall stay closed and will be watching how people find the local access. What a field day people will have if Google screw this one up…!

Hardware-Accelerated Plex media server on Ubuntu?

Plex logoI have been using Plex media server on my AMD six core machine for a while and its good but cooling is a issue. About 9 months ago I installed a Nvidia graphics card hoping to take advantage of the new hardware acceleration option. However I realised its a non-starter as it required a Intel chipset not AMD.

Then over the last few months I got my hands on a secondhand HP Z800 workstation with 4x quad core 2.8 ghz processors (yes 16 cores in total). It came with 12 gig of memory which I was planning to upgrade if things work out. It came with a PCI-Express Nvida Geforce graphics card, so I was thinking everything is set. just install Ubuntu with Plex media server, install the proprietary Nvidia display drivers and sit back and enjoy?

I wish…

Here is Plex transcoding inception from 1080p with DTS (Blu-ray sourced) to something suitable for my Pixel 4 (I had to turn off play original, to force it to do the transcoding)transcoding with htop

You can see it much clearer in the htop terminal. Look at those cores running transcoding tasks.

Plex with transcoding

Here is Plex not transcoding inception from 1080p with DTS (Blu-ray sourced) to my Pixel 4

not transcoding with Htop

Quite different from the above, the machines is hardly doing anything over its 16 cores. But the bandwidth is a problem outside a local network environment

Plex not transcoding

If anyone has successfully got hardware-Accelerated Streaming working on a Ubuntu server, let me know!

Plex’s future, without its server?

halt and catch fire

Plex recently announced they were making major changes and that we should be excited about Desktop AF. What wasn’t said was the media server is being killed?

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV, almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless.

dates

Upset? Absolutely and its now in direct competition with Kodi too.

I’m now in the market for a alternative to Plex. Originally I was looking at Emby a long while ago but frankly I don’t want to switch to another freemium product.

Jellyfin and Triton look good but its early days.

Jellyfin is a personal media server. The Jellyfin project was started as a result of Emby’s decision to take their code closed-source, as well as various philosophical differences with the core developers. Jellyfin seeks to be the free software alternative to Emby and Plex to provide media management and streaming from a dedicated server to end-user devices.

TRITON is a media pipeline that aims to go one step further than services like Jellyfin and Plex provide. Media is fetched from a magnitude of supported protocols (HTTP, S3-compatible, Usenet, etc), converted into multiple different quality levels, and then uploaded to a S3-compatible storage provider. This enables cheap storage and ensures that buffering is never a problem.

Lots more research is needed, including a look at what others are doing with the Plex announcement. Although I did find Ampache and Airsonic which could be useful for my mixcloud issues. Imagine if they were federated too?

The best technology can be used for good and for bad

Plex

I was very much reminded of this when reading about a user abusing Plex’s share.

Earlier this week the man in question informed fellow Plex users on Tweakers that he was approached by local anti-piracy group BREIN, which had become aware that he was running a Plex share with 5,700 movies and 10,000 TV-shows.