TV Show Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Details: More information can be found at https://www.netflix.com/title/80234304 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10048342/

Score: 7.4/10

There’s a lot I like about The Queen’s Gambit and I finally figured out why. Much of what appeals to me in this show are the same exact things that appealed to me in the show Mad Men.

The Queen’s Gambit is a fictional story that takes mostly takes place around 1960’s America. The story centers on a young chess prodigy and her ascent in the world of professional chess.

An interesting facet of this story is that this is a purely fictional story, but it is well researched and takes heavy inspiration from the real world of professional chess. Many of the fictional characters are based off real people and many of the matches based off real matches. The story is based of a book of the same name and the author of that book spoke to many real chess players to get a feel of the culture of professional chess in the 1960’s. Despite being a fictional story, you get a feel of that authenticity here.

You also get a bit of that history tourism you get from shows like Mad Men and movies like Forrest Gump. The Queen’s Gambit does not go into big historical events, but it does lean heavily into the atmosphere at the time. As we go through each time period, the music from that period plays in the scenes. Little nuances like the use of animal tranquilizers for children and the heavy dose of Christianity in most people’s lives is there. The biggest indication of the time periods is simply the style. The clothing, the cars and interior decorating are all very 1960’s.

In terms of story structure, again I am heavily reminded of Mad Men. The story centers on an attractive protagonist, a prodigy at what she does who has a dark past. The protagonist in Queen’s Gambit is basically a female Don Draper. While the story is about chess, the chess is really just a vehicle to deliver the interpersonal drama between characters, much like how Mad Men used the advertising industry of the 1960’s as a vehicle for drama. It’s all a bit redundant and done-before, but I loved Mad Men so I can’t help but enjoy this story as well.

Also like Mad Men, the pacing and cinematography are very similar. There a slowness to it all where the camera often seems to just linger on characters. Mad Men did the same thing. I think it’s just something about dramas that take place in the 1960’s that spurs directors to adopt this sort of style. Then again, maybe the makers of this show deliberately tried to emulate the style of a success like Mad Men.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable drama. While this show is undoubtedly about chess, it is more so about the coming of age and growth of its protagonist, as well as the relationships she has with other characters. I would’ve liked to have seen more about the technicalities of chess, but I understand how difficult it can be to convey the mechanics of such a complex game to audiences who just want to be entertained. You don’t need to know anything about chess to enjoy this story. If you knew nothing about chess before you watched this show, you will still know mostly nothing about chess by the end of it.

Anime Review: Violet Evergarden

Details: This is a review of the thirteen episode series and the single episode OVA. More information can be found at https://www.netflix.com/title/80182123 and https://myanimelist.net/anime/33352/Violet_Evergarden

Score: 7.4/10

Violet Evergarden is an anime whose primary purpose is to make you cry. Each story seeks to be heart wrenching or uplifting in some way so as to extract tears from you. Whether or not the stories will resonate with you, depends on how much you enjoy anime or drama. If you enjoy both, then there will be some meaningful moments throughout this show.

This show takes place in a fictional world much like Europe post World War I. The story focuses on Violet Evergarden, a young girl and an orphan who served as a soldier during the war. Soon after losing both her arms, the war ends and she enters civilian life, something she has no experience with. She soon finds herself employed as an Auto Memory Doll, basically a ghostwriter who writes letters for other people. By helping people write letters, Violet hopes to learn more about human emotions and about her own trauma.

The first thing that struck me about this show are the visuals. This show looks amazing. This is movie quality animation and art. I don’t know what the budget for this show was, but it must’ve been enormous. I know that they made a deal with Netflix to stream this show in the United States, so maybe this is some of that Netflix money. Regardless, this show looks amazing.

The music is also great. It’s mostly a fully orchestrated soundtrack with many memorable melodies throughout. This is just more evidence of that big budget.

As for the story, it is mostly well done. As said above, the show creators really try to pull at your heart strings and I found them mostly successful. There are some moments that were so excessive in how it tries to make you cry that I found myself in an very meta, out of body moment where I couldn’t feel anything because of how obvious the story was. Other than those moments, I found most of the show fairly moving.

It is a very slow show. Ninety percent of this show is dialogue, drama and introspection. Don’t expect too much action or explosions. If you’re not a fan of dramas, you’re not going to enjoy this.

Overall, I really enjoyed this show and look forward to the upcoming movie coming out this September.

Comedy Show Review: 8:46

Details: The show can be viewed on YouTube for free. The above clip is the show in its entirety.

Score: 5.8/10

This show isn’t really comedic, but a rant by Dave Chappelle of his opinion on the George Floyd protests. I agree with what Chappelle says, I just didn’t want to hear it from Dave Chappelle the comedian. I’ll explain why.

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Docuseries Review: The Last Dance

Details: More information can be found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8420184/ and https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28973557/the-last-dance-updates-untold-story-michael-jordan-chicago-bulls

Score: 7.5/10

I am not a big sports fan, but even I remember watching Michael Jordan play on the Chicago Bulls. It’s kind of like how so many people loved Mike Tyson or the New England Patriots. There’s just something about watching a champion absolutely dominate their field. While this story is about the Chicago Bulls at arguably their greatest, it is primarily a documentary about Michael Jordan at the height of his popularity and dominance.

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Movie Review: Extraction

Details: More information can be found at https://www.netflix.com/title/80230399 and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8936646/

Score: 6.4/10

Extraction is an action movie starring Chris Hemsworth and premiered on Netflix. It’s okay. It tries to inject a little emotion into its John Wick-esque action, but mostly fails at that. What I enjoyed in this film is decently choreographed action and getting a good look at Bangladesh, where the film is mostly filmed.

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