Saturday, August 24, 2013

Netflix Wins: North & South, Mushi-shi, Frasier, and The Life of Mammals

I've decided that I should try to put all my time in front of the TV to good use. Kind of. Maybe?
You see, I know how frustrating it is when you finish a decent series on Netflix and you just don't know where to go next. I watch a little bit of everything, so, hopefully, as I review four of my new favorites, I can help give you some new viewing ideas.
And, in return, you tell me some of yours! Yay for movies and series!!!

For this installment we have:

I'm a sucker for BBC mini series. Really, I am.
I opened up North and South not knowing what to expect. I was HOOKED.  It's a four-part series about the Hale family who moves from their pleasant parsonage in Southern England to the industrial North.  Within two minutes of meeting factory owner John Thorton, passionate Margaret Hale has decided she hates him. And, folks, it is ON.
She thinks he's harsh and heartless. He thinks she's arrogant and without a clue. And, wouldn't you know it, that's not the case AT ALL.
Ok, so this review makes it sound like any shallow romance. It's NOT.  There's great depth to the characters and the issues of social justice and welfare in the time period. Basically it's Pride and Prejudice with a cause. You see the issues of the upper class, the plight of the lower class, and how they all fit together. The growth in both Margaret and John is really well done, transforming the characters slowly and believable through a shared series of events. You pretty much know where this story is going, but the suspense is great. I couldn't wait to turn on the next episode to see how it all played out.
And Richard Armitage, people? Oh my goodness. More please.
The whole cast is fantastic, but RICHARD ARMITAGE. Brooding has never been so sexy.
If you enjoy period pieces, Victorian Britain, and anything resembling Jane Austen, turn this on and enjoy. I adored every second of it.
Now I just have to find the book!

I confess: I love anime. I just do. I find some of the most creative and well-written stories hidden within Japanese animation. It's a wonderful escape and a feast for the imagination.
Mushi-Shi is a collection of short stories surrounding invisible creatures between flora and fauna--"mushi"--that are tied to all life. The entire series feels like an anthology of ancient folk tales attempting explain problems and illnesses by attributing them to these bizarre creatures.  
Ginko is a "mushi master" traveling historical Japan, searching for exotic mushi and aiding those who find themselves pestered or plagued by the spirit creatures.  Sometimes the stories are happy little vignettes, others not even remotely. It's hard to tell how each episode will end.
It's a beautiful mood piece--the music and artwork are simple but wonderfully fitted to each scene and emotion. Sadly, Netflix only carries the English dub, but it's not too bad.  I look past English dubs WAY more easily than the hubs does--he won't watch anime unless it's in Japanese.
Considering how short each episode is, I thought the characters were pretty well developed. Their feelings and decisions make SENSE in a world that is both fantastical in concept and gritty in its reality.  You feel for their struggles.
If you want an escape into a realm of fantasy, I highly recommend Mushi-shi.  At twenty-six episodes only twenty minutes long, it's not a terribly long watch, but it's worth it.

Julie used to tell me how she would sneak into Chris's room late at night to watch Frasier with him. Chris continued to recommend it, so FINALLY I checked it out.
It was worth it.
At some point, I will learn that Chris is almost always right.
You know, I tried really hard to come up with a time when he wasn't right and I couldn't think of one. But I'm sticking with "almost" anyways.
Frasier Crane is a successful radio psychiatrist dishing out advice to the citizens of Seattle despite the fact that his life is kind of falling apart. He's newly divorced, his widowed father just moved in, and his married brother has a crush on their physical therapist. Plus, his dad's dog won't stop staring at him.
I love the juxtaposition between Martin--Frasier's tough and practical ex-cop dad--and his two sons who would rather discuss fine art and opera than watch a football game. Beer is out of the question--Cabernet Sauvignon is far superior--and, if you must partake, PLEASE use a coaster.
The dialogue is witty, and the characters are hysterical but entirely human.  Good writing and humor is never goes out of style . . . even if Frasier's mullet in the first seasons drove me batty. Thank goodness some hairstyles die and never come back.
If you're looking for some laughs with a sprinkling of sophistication, check out Frasier.  It never fails to put a smile on my face

David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals
I ADORE documentaries, especially nature documentaries, and ESPECIALLY nature documentaries by David Attenborough. Something about his voice . . . I don't know if the documentaries are just plain BETTER than others or if his pleasant voice only makes it seem that way. Either way, he's a winner.
The Life of Mammals involves ten episodes categorized by the different feeding habits or habitat of a mammal group (insect hunters, plant predators, opportunists, etc.)
Each one is filled with stunning photography and just heaps of information all delivered conversationally by Sir Attenborough. It's almost as if we were only discussing the mating habits of hedgehogs over tea instead of viewing an educational program. 
What, YOU don't talk about lions, bats, whales, and hedgehogs over tea and biscuits? How astounding.
No really, I laughed out-loud at the hedgehog scene. Because, um . . . SEX. I'm a twelve-year-old boy sometimes, I swear. (and um, on that note, these documentaries aren't shy at all about that whole mating thing . . . just in case you were considering putting little kids in front of the screen. Animals hunt, kill and mate. Circle of life and all that jazz).
 I loved this series. Every minute of it. I have learned that if a documentary has David Attenborough's name on it, you've discovered a real gem. 

And those are four of my top choices (there are SO many that I love, but I thought I'd start with a handful of more obscure ones and maybe work my way into the more popular titles).

What are some of your favorite Netflix picks?


  1. I struggled with North and South, but perhaps I gave up too early. I'll try again. I have to. I think I may have spent too much time on the couch this summer...I seem to have reached the end of now it's time to go around again...

  2. We just canceled our Netflix subscription...back to library dvds for us! But North and South sounds like something I could have gotten into!

  3. Your husband and mine would get along. He won't watch any anime unless its in Jap. I can't understand it (he is slightly fluent? not sure how much, since I only know the words "hi" and "love" and "cat" lol) We LOVE anime...I've seen the muschi one on Netflix

  4. I will not tell you because you will laugh at me.

    Okay fine.

    Here's my queue/recently watched list: The Office (always and forever amen). Sister Wives (it's like a bad wreck and I can't look away even though I'm horrified). Animal Hoarders (oh, you watch a show about the lives of animals? Me too.). Sherlock (DO YOU WATCH? OMG SO GOOD!) Arrested Development. And that's about it.

    Okay, it was mostly bad with a little good.


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