Legion: Season 1 (2017) a (just about right on time!) review

Earlier this week FX played the 8th, and final, episode of the first season of the series Legion.

The series, tied in to the Marvel Comics X-Men series and, coming into it, I heard it was an ambitious, at times mind-bending work.  How “close” it was to the various X-Men comics it is I cannot say.

What I can talk about is the series itself, which I found incredibly entertaining, with some caveats, the biggest of which is that at times the show ventured from weirdly engaging to just plain weird.

The show’s pilot was, as I stated in my original review, was humorous as weird but at times one admittedly had to have patience.  The story was intriguing enough to keep me going, though even at a mere 8 episodes there was at least one which maybe could have been trimmed out without much loss (I forget which one it was…I think it might have been episode 6 which was simply one wild head-trip).

The show concerns David Haller (Dan Stevens) who is mentally disturbed and in an institution…and may have the mental power within him capable of destroying the world.  One of his best friends there is Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) who may or may not be real.  The nature of Lenny becomes a central plot point of the series and Aubrey Plaza is a delight in a humorous and at times very scary role.

Into the institution appears Syd Barrett (Rachel Keller) who has secrets of her own, and the two are drawn to each other.  Turns out Syd also has her secrets and her interest in David extends beyond mere attraction.

There are also a group of military figures who are interested in David and they kidnap him from the institution which, in turn, sets off Legion’s story.

I don’t want to give away more than this but suffice to say the series is intriguing, creative, suspenseful, and at times howlingly funny.

I also believe I know one of the show’s biggest kept secrets, which I’ll get to in a second (it does involve rather huge SPOILERS).

Anyway, if you haven’t given the show a try, do so.  It’s weird and at times requires a bit of patience but it gets better and better as it goes along and its final two episodes, in particular, were knockouts.

Now, for those pesky…


(abandon hope all ye who enter here)


Still there?  Required statement: You have been warned.

So Legion involves a group of mutants led by Dr. Melanie Bird (Jean Smart) who are running from the government.  The government, rightly, fears the mutants and wants to stop whatever they’re doing.  The mutants, of course, want to survive.

In the course of the series Dr. Bird, it is revealed, has a husband, Oliver Bird (Jemaine Clement) who is apparently a very powerful mutant who got himself stuck in the “astral plane” for the past 20 or so years.  He figures into the series, particularly the conclusion, and is at this point a confused individual who fancies himself a beat poet.

Ok, here’s the big SPOILER/SECRET I believe the show has hidden in plain sight:  Dr. Melanie Bird and Oliver Bird are somehow the future/older versions of Syd Barrett and David Haller.

No, seriously.

Take a look at these images of Dr. Melanie Bird…

Image result for legion fx images

…and Syd Barrett:

Image result for legion fx images

As the series progressed, I was struck by how similar these two looked, as if one was an older version of the other.

Syd Barrett’s mutant power is that whomever she touches “switches” bodies with her.  This process is painful to Syd and therefore she wears gloves and makes it a point of not touching people.

In the entire 8 episode run we’re never told -at least not to my memory- what Dr. Bird’s powers are.  Why not?  She runs a mutant enclave…surely she has a mutant power as well, right?  So why make a secret of it?  Could it be that revealing it would reveal she has the same powers as Syd?

My evidence, beyond simple visuals: Dr. Oliver often wears gloves, just like Syd.  She also doesn’t touch others.  Whenever Dr. Oliver talks to Syd and Syd tells her she’s going to do something -sometimes something Dr. Bird looks about to protest- Dr. Bird nonetheless holds her tongue and doesn’t question Syd’s judgment.  It’s almost as if she realizes that Syd and her are the same person and therefore, how does she question the judgment of her own, albeit younger, self?

There’s a further point: Dr. Bird reacts very curiously to the attraction Syd has for David.  It’s almost as if she realizes the person Syd loves is the same person she loves, which leads to the following:

If Syd Barrett and Dr. Bird are the same person, could David Haller and the astral-plane stranded husband of Dr. Melanie Bird, Oliver Bird, also be the same person?

Here’s Oliver Bird…

Image result for legion fx david and oliver images

…and here’s David:

Image result for legion fx david and oliver images

There is less visual similarity between the two versus Dr. Bird and Syd, but note the curious resolution presented in the show’s finale.  When the parasitic creature within David is finally drawn out, it bounces around but where does it ultimately land?

In Oliver.

If Oliver is an “older” version of David, where else would a parasitic creature go to but to the one whose “soul” it most knows?

Now, as I stated before: I never read the comic books which featured these characters and therefore don’t know if this is an already known story concept (or, indeed, if I missed some clearer hint to this in the series itself).

Regardless, these are my theories.  Perhaps they’re close to true?

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) a (very) belated review

With the upcoming release of the Scarlett Johansson live action Ghost in the Shell, I admit to having gotten curious to revisit what I could of the original series.

I picked up the three new trade hardbacks reprinting the comic books and found them…ok.  The first book was the best but even that one, alas, didn’t impress me here and now as much as it probably would have when it was first released.  The original 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell movie, likewise, was recently revisited by me and while I enjoyed the film, I was surprised by its non-ending (you can read my full review here).  It was almost like the movie was a prologue to a longer, more involved story, one that I suppose came with 2004’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

While I enjoyed the original Ghost in the Shell animated film, I must admit its sequel left me…weary.

The story, what there is of it, involves robots that are turning on their masters and killing them, and the investigation lead by Batô, the original cyborg partner of the Major (the character Scarlett Johansson plays in the new movie), and Togusa (also a character from the original film) into those killings.

Their partnership, in true movie form, is an uncomfortable one, with the more “human” Togusa worrying about his wife and child and the far less emotional Batô willing to push things as far as needed to solve the case.  He’s also not afraid of violence.

I’ll be blunt here: I didn’t like the film.

While its premise was intriguing enough, the film, to me, had difficulties setting a tone and sticking with it.  What should have been a good action/adventure with some intriguing questions about humanity in the age of cybernetics instead became too often too dull with those ruminations.  Further, it was so clear, even from the opening minutes, that (SPOILER, I suppose) the Major would make a re-appearance after her “disappearance” in the original film that this proved to be the only thing keeping me watching.

As a character Batô isn’t bad, but in the first film he worked because he was a secondary character and our focus was on the enigmatic Major.  In this film, Batô is the main character and his emotionlessness becomes…dull.

Indeed, there was only one sequence in the film that I found incredibly enjoyable, and that was Batô and Togusa’s visit to a Yakuza den.  It was action filled and, especially, hilarious in the set-up and payoff.

I just wish the rest of the film had that vibe.

Visually, this film, like the original Ghost in the Shell, is very pretty, though some of the computer generated images show their age.  When the film was released in 2004, I suspect the computer graphics were quite state of the art but in terms of computer graphics 2004 is a very, very long time ago and it shows.

Anyway, if you liked the original animated Ghost in the Shell and are curious to see the story’s continuation, you should probably check out Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, if only to see where things go.

Just tamper down your hopes.  The sequel, while enjoyable in spurts, doesn’t do so as a whole.

Tesla now more valuable than Ford…

Interesting article by Fred Lambert and found on electrek…

Tesla (TSLA) is now more valuable than Ford and why it doesn’t matter

Without giving away too much of the article (or, conversely, simply offering a summary), the article notes that Tesla’s stock has for the first time risen above Ford’s: $45.47 billion versus $45.35 billion.

The article also notes that there remain sharp criticism and critics against Tesla who will no doubt wonder what in the world people see in the company.  It is operating at a loss and Ford sells far more vehicles than it does and operates at several billion dollars worth of profit.

However, the article examines what exactly Tesla is and comparing it one on one to another car making company doesn’t do Tesla justice.  It is, after all, a company that not only produces cars but it also working on solar power, batteries for the home, and software.

I was in a mall this past weekend and it happened to have a Tesla “store”.  Within were two Tesla vehicles, the S and X model (the upcoming “cheaper” model 3 completes the S 3 X –sex– label…if nothing else, Elon Musk has quite the sense of humor).

They were freaking gorgeous.

I’ve long noted that it is my belief with the coming automated driving we will soon not have personal vehicles, instead relying on a Uber/Lyft app that will call self-driving vehicles to us, will take us where we want, then be off to pick up the nearest passenger.

However, if I should ever get myself another car, I suspect it will be the model 3…at least once it is readily available.

If my predictions of what’s to come with self-driving cars prove right, that might well be the last actual vehicle I own!


Meanwhile, back in the 1980’s

Over the weekend I had an appointment at my bank regarding a long term CD that was maturing and what I wanted to do with it…

Image result for rich person images
This picture is obviously not of me.

Anyway, while going through the various -truth be told pathetic– interest rates available should I squirrel away what little money I have for up to five years, the person dealing with me noted how when they started working at the bank in the 1980’s, there were long term CDs available with interest rates over 10%.  Today you’re lucky to get anything between 1-3%.

Now, before your eyes glaze over and/or you run away screaming from this website thinking I’m about to get into investment and banking:  Relax, I’m not.

The banker’s story of what was going on in the 1980’s reminded me of something I experienced back then, in those heady days, the days when banking wasn’t quite as well regulated and Miami, let’s be honest here, was a place many used to launder their money.

Today, if you try to deposit more than $10,000 at a bank, you will be scrutinized.  Back in the 1980’s, this wasn’t the case.  Do some quick research and you discover that banks were -wittingly and unwittingly- laundering vast amounts of “dirty” money made through drug dealings.

But it wasn’t limited to banks.

Back in/around 1986-7 or so, I was in the market for a car.  I finished High School and was in the University and had a budget of about $16,000 for a car.  I looked around and this one caught my eye…

Image result for alfa romeo spider veloce 1986

That’s an Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.  A fairly economic car to buy at that time yet one you could only purchase from dealerships that offered much higher priced exotic cars.

So my Dad and I headed to one of those dealerships (he’s an expert at haggling for the best price for a car), I looked around the lot and was wowed by many of the incredible, exotic vehicles available there.  While I was there for my more modest priced Alfa Romeo, my eyes lingered on two beautiful Lotus Turbo Esprits…

Related image

If the car looks familiar and you are a fan of films, you may recognize an earlier (circa 1977) model, one that is still very familiar, in the most famous scene of the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me

Anyway, I was impressed by the two Lotus cars and curious what they cost and asked the guy we were dealing with what it would take to buy them.

“Sorry, you can’t have them,” the dealer said.  “They’ve already been sold.”

I stiffled a laugh.  There was no chance in hell I had the money to buy one, much less both, of these vehicles.  But back in those pre-internet days, the only way to find out about these things was to ask.

“I was just curious,” I said.  “What do each of them cost?”

“$50,000 each,” the dealer said, then continued: “Yesterday a guy comes in carrying a suitcase with $100,000 in it.  He bought them both on the spot.”

So I picked my jaw up from the floor and my father and I tried -but failed- to make a deal on the Alfa Romeo.

There is no way to know for sure if the cars’ buyer was anything but an honest man who made the $100,000 honestly.  Honest.

Yeah, there’s no way of knowing.

Nonetheless I suspect I came away with what may well have been the closest I ever got to the drug laundering going on in real time in Miami during that time.

The success of Netflix…

I use Netflix.  I suppose most people do.

It’s a nice service that offers both streaming films as well as, if you want to, DVD/BluRays sent to you that are not currently streaming.

Of late they’ve been busy making original shows and features, perhaps most preeminent being the Marvel related series.

Now, according to Devindra Hardawar at engadget.com, they’re expanding into big budget movies…

Netflix’s big budget Death Note remake lands on August 25th

While the headline is about the Death Note movie (included is an intriguing, if not quite great, trailer), Mr. Hardawar notes:

Netflix is no stranger to original films these days, but Death Note is one of the first big budget gambles for the company. It won’t be the last, though: Netflix has also shelled out $90 million for the Will Smith film Bright, $60 million for Brad Pitt’s War Machine and it reportedly spent over $100 million on Martin Scorsese’s next movie, The Irishman, starring Robert DeNiro.

Netflix makes a hell of a lot of money and it seems natural they should invest in movies/TV shows they can show on their services.


As much as Netflix makes, if one counts the supposed budgets of all these films (Death Note cost 45 million to make), they represent a total investment of (gulp) $295 million dollars.  That’s a terrific amount of cash to invest in what amounts to “only” four movies, regardless of the big names attached to them.

It’s not my money, of course, and if the films are successful they will pave the way toward making Netflix not only a movie provider, a proper movie maker.

I just hope they’re wise with their investments.

Impossible foods…?

If you’ve followed my posts here, by now you know I’ve got a pretty liberal mindset.

I feel climate change is a very real danger and we not only should, but need to invest in alternate sources of energy that are more environmentally friendly.  I’m also optimistic and very open to new technologies and hope they offer us a better way of living.

I’m also, it must be noted, a meat eater.

I love meat.

I love steaks.  I love hamburgers.  I love sausage and pork and bacon.

For that matter, I love eating chicken, turkey, and shrimp.

The liberal inside me is, yes, bothered by this.  I don’t want to think about what went into me getting my latest meal, as much as I may enjoy it.

I’ve tried alternate tofu patties, vegan burgers, etc., and found them…lacking.  However, I’m optimistic the industry will, over time, twerk the formula and soon enough we’ll have artificial meats that taste as good as and are healthier than real meats.

Impossible Foods is but one company involved in creating artificial meats and, in this article by Dara Kerr for C/Net, they’re about to expand…

Impossible Foods to supersize production of lab-grown burger

The article is fascinating and this passage from it, in particular, I found very encouraging:

The idea is that not only can these faux meat products be healthier, with less antibiotics and hormones, but that they’re also less resource intensive and more environmentally friendly. For example, Impossible Foods says producing one of its burgers requires only a quarter of the water and 5 percent of the land that making a conventional burger calls for, and that the process emits only 13 percent of the greenhouse gases.

Very encouraging stuff…if Impossible Burgers finally does arrive to my local grocery store, I’ll most certainly give it a try.

Hope it tastes good!

Little Egypt…

Once in a while I stumble upon articles that fascinate me.  Here is one such article, written by Kat Vecchio and found on Salon.com concerning a notorious late 19th Century, early 20th Century dancer Katherine Devine, better known as “Little Egypt”:

Katherine Devine, the Kim Kardashian of the 1890’s

It is truly fascinating to see how our culture has both changed and remained fixed in time over the years, especially when seen through the story of Ms. Devine.

I don’t want to give too much away from the article, but Ms. Devine achieved a level of notoriety at the turn of the Century 1800’s into the 1900’s because of her “risque” dancing, specifically a party she was hired to dance for involving some wealthy patrons.

The story of how Ms. Devine took what was a scandal and made it an opportunity is classic Americana.  Not the Americana people like to pretty up, but the real life flesh and blood that made much of this country…despite attempts by many to hide the “darker” aspects of our lust.

Based on the article, Ms. Devine was hardly a stunning woman, and I actually laughed out loud at this description, offered by The New York Daily Tribune, of her appearance in court following the “scandalous” dance she gave the millionaires:

The New York Daily Tribune reported, “The woman spoke with a French accent that didn’t work much more than half of the time.”

If you truly dig below the surface of the American dream, you’ll find so many people like Ms. Devine…people who used whatever “talents” they had and pushed them to their limits to make a nice life for themselves.  Considering the status of women in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and presented in snippets through the article, one had to take whatever advantages one could to make a living.

While Ms. Devine, at least according to the article, was not a prostitute but rather a bawdy vaudeville dancer, the role of sex in the rise of the American West is fascinating because of the things we don’t talk about.

When I visited Seattle, one of the startling things I discovered was, among others, the role madam Lou Graham had on the rise of that city.  She was a successful madam and loaned money to various businesses as well as helped the women (and men!) under her wing get an education so that once their “scandalous” days are done they will have the potential to continue their lives productively.

The saddest part of the article on Ms. Devine was the nature of her passing, an apparent gas leak in the building she resided in.

Here’s to Ms. Devine and others like her, who managed to take on the hypocrisy of society -on the one hand many of them so high and mighty fighting “smut” while on the other hand incredibly quick to devour any little piece of information on it- and make a life for herself.

Berni Wrightson, Rest In Peace…

When I was very young, there were four works that influenced/inspired me.

For the movies, it was Steven Spielberg’s Duel, the first film I recall seeing and understanding, even at the very young age of 5 or so.  It helped that the film was essentially a silent movie!

For TV, there was the original Star Trek, then on its first wave of reruns. For comedy, there was Get Smart! For books, I recall being hospitalized with a kidney problem while very young and being given the very first of the many Hardy Boy books released and, though it was hard at the time, I read through it and that first step lead to me becoming a voracious reader and wanting to be a writer.

For Comic Books, it was Swamp Thing #10…

Image result for swamp thing #10

What I didn’t know when I bought that book at a drug store waaaaaaay back when was that this would be the last time Berni Wrightson illustrated his co-creation.

The book mesmerized me and made me realize comic books, like movies, like TV shows, and like books, could be works of art. It took me several years but over time I managed to get the other 9 issues of the run and found the pairing of Len Wein’s writing and Berni Wrightson’s illustrations among the absolute best runs of ANY comic book series.  To this day, it remains one of my very favorites.

When I managed, after a while, to work in the comic book field for a few years, I attended a North Carolina convention and, much to my regret, didn’t attend a “professionals” party given that first night. It proved to be my one and best chance of meeting Mr. Wrightson and, alas, I blew it.

Mr. Wrightson’s works had a HUGE influence on me and, to this day, Swamp Thing #10 remains my all time favorite comic book ever.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Wrightson.

While I’m sure many lavished you with praise for your work and your illustrations for Frankenstein are probably remembered the best by the most, it was your work on Swamp Thing that will forever remain in my mind.

Fascinating find…

Found this article by Kate Springer on CNN.com:

Secret treasure: Historic banknote found inside ancient Chinese sculpture

At the risk of giving away too much from the article (you should read it!), this is a photograph presented in the above link showing both the sculpture and the banknote found inside it:

Specialists at Mossgreen auctions in Australia discovered this Ming dynasty banknote hidden inside the head of this 14th century Buddhist carving. The wooden sculpture represents the head of a Luohan -- an enlightened person who has reached Nirvana in Buddhist culture.

The banknote is 700 years old and, naturally, a rarity.  Makes one wonder how it got there (did the owner of the sculpture hide it there with the intention of using it later?  What happened then?  Did he/she simply forget it was there?  Did they pass away before telling anyone it was there?  Did they sell/give away the sculpture and forgot they had cash stored within?  The possibilities are, I suppose, endless)

Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

This was also in the article and provides yet another fascinating look at how things rolled back then:

The (discovered) bill is endorsed by the emperor himself, with three official red seals and a line that reads: “Authorized by the Department of Finance, this bank note has the same function of coins. Those who use counterfeit banknotes will be beheaded, the whistle-blower will be rewarded 250 Liang silvers plus all the properties of the criminal. The third year of Hong Wu period.”


They took counterfeiting very seriously back then!

The Other Side of the Wind…finally released?!

In the history of film, there is perhaps no more triumphant/tragic figure than Orson Welles.  Despite a troubled and tragic youth, Mr. Welles would rise to prominence in the New York theater circuit and radio (including notoriety for his War of the Worlds broadcast) before releasing his first film, the critically acclaimed -and the film many consider the best ever made- Citizen Kane.

But despite critical acclaim, Citizen Kane was not a huge financial hit at the time of its release and its reputation grew over the years and at a time when the studios couldn’t make much money off the film, either through video release or TV presentation.

Mr. Welles’ career following the release of Citizen Kane was up and down.  Mr. Welles’ followup film, The Magnificent Ambersons, was ultimately taken from his hands and as he assembled a rough cut and at least an hour of footage was cut and a “happier” ending tacked on.  Mr. Welles’ notes on the movie and his views of what he wanted to make with it are available but, unfortunately, the footage cut is lost forever.  Still, the film as it stands is considered another classic despite the fact that it clearly did not represent Mr. Welles’ vision.

After this, Mr. Welles took on acting jobs and, when he found the funds, directing work.  Many consider Touch of Evil (1958) his last great directorial film but even this work was taken from his hands by the studios and reworked before its theatrical release.  For many years that version was the only version of the film available.  Mr. Welles would pass away in 1985 but years later his notes on how he envisioned the film were rediscovered and, in 1998 a version closer to Mr. Welles’ was released to home video and proved a far better cut (certainly IMHO) than the theatrical version.

Mr. Welles’ last directed film, The Other Side of the Wind, was filmed in the early 1970’s and starred John Huston and Dennis Hopper, among others, but was never completed.  Unlike Touch of Evil, a rough cut of the film was never made and due to financial and legal issues, Mr. Welles never was able to finish it.

Now, in an article by Elyse Wanshel for Huffington Post, it appears the film will eventually be released after all:

Netflix will complete and release Orson Welles’ unfinished film

Though Mr. Welles never created a rough cut of the film as he did with Touch of Evil, his notes were available and, after Netflix cleared the legal/financial issues surrounding this movie, they now have the right to complete and release The Other Side of the Wind.

I’m a fan of Mr. Welles’ work and am curious to see the assembled product.  Because Mr. Welles passed away so many years ago, it is obvious what will eventually be available, by necessity, has to be assembled by other hands.  Nonetheless, given the great results for Touch of Evil, a film which I thought was only “ok” in its theatrical cut and nothing short of a revelation in the new, closer to Welles’ vision cut, I’m curious to see what the people working on The Other Side of the Wind do with that film.