Coffee Talk #666: Random Thoughts on Jessica Jones

Following up on Marvel’s excellent Daredevil original series for Netflix comes Jessica Jones. While the titular heroine has a small following among comics readers, I expect that the general public will react to her name with a, “Who?” Thankfully, Marvel’s latest Netflix series allows people to get to know her intimately, in a fantastically cerebral ride. I was really impressed with the job Marvel did with Daredevil and while Jessica Jones isn’t as broadly appealing, in many ways it’s a superior show. Here are some random thoughts on the Jessica Jones Netflix series, using the trusty RPadTV binary system.

[Turn your spoiler shields on!]

Better Than Daredevil (Good): My biggest problem with Daredevil was that the supporting cast was better than the lead. Charlie Cox was decent, but not as good as the actors and actresses that surrounded him most episodes. That’s not an issue with Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter was phenomenal playing a damaged, layered, and gritty hero. Her Jessica Jones was complex and interesting, powerful and vulnerable, charming and off-putting. Thanks to some great writing and a strong performance, Jessica Jones is one of the most fascinating characters the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen.

As Good As Daredevil (Good): That isn’t to say that Miss Ritter wasn’t surrounded by similarly strong performances. Her antagonist and supporting cast were great too. Jessica Jones‘ Luke Cage and Trish Walker were a little bit better than Daredevil’s Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. Most of my nerd friend’s liked Daredevil’s Kingpin better than Jessica Jones‘ Kilgrave, but to me they were equally strong — but very different — villains. Similar to how Jessica Jones is one of the most unique heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kilgrave is one of its most unique villains (more on him later).

Poor Hell’s Kitchen (Bad): People that aren’t familiar with New York City will think that Hell’s Kitchen is the most dangerous part of Manhattan. In reality, it hasn’t been dangerous for decades. On the plus side, Hell’s Kitchen in Jessica Jones wasn’t as ridiculously dark as it was in Daredevil (where apparently there was a lightbulb shortage). Still, the real Hell’s Kitchen is a gentrified neighborhood, complete with several Starbucks, Subways, and other soulless franchises. Seeing it portrayed the way it is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes me laugh.

Jessica Jones Kilgrave Purple Man

Kilgrave? More Like Deprave! (Good): Jessica Jones‘ villain, Kilgrave, is…f*cked up. With the ability to control minds, Kilgrave makes everyone do whatever the hell he wants. He’s depraved and debauched, enjoying his powers to the fullest. He has no problem making a daughter shoot her parents to further his goals. He’s fine with taking both of a man’s kidneys, leaving the victim to rely on dialysis for the rest of his life. He steals, kills (indirectly, most of the time), and rapes as he sees fit. You get the sense that he doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything too wrong; he’s just using the powers he ended up with. Actually, you get the sense that he doesn’t think about the consequences of most of his actions. Kilgrave is a villain of pure id.

A Faithful Sidekick (Good): As a longtime Marvel Comics reader, I’m curious to see where the show goes with Patricia “Trish” Walker. Jessica Jones’ best friend, the two have a long and complicated relationship. I loved how Trish’s background as a child actress was used throughout the series. While she doesn’t have her bestie’s super powers, she’s a strong woman in her own right. Trish grew from a manipulated child star with a hellacious stage mom to a confident and capable adult. Comics fans know that she becomes Hellcat and joins The Defenders. With The Defenders series looming, I’m hoping that Netflix Trish follows a similar path. Plus, the It’s Patsy (the show she starred in as a kid) theme song is funny.

Jessica Jones Trish Walker

Fizzled Nuke (Bad): The Will Simpson character had lots of potential, but ultimately didn’t live up to it. Simpson started out in an interesting way — a cop controlled by Kilgrave that tried to kill Trish. After coming to his senses, he was remorseful and started a relationship with his victim. He interrupted the dynamic between Jessica and Trish while adding a direct connection to the police…and then he got powered up by super drugs…and became an uninteresting psycho. This character was better off as a somewhat meddlesome good guy than a generic baddie.

Sweet Christmas! (Good): Also looming in Netflix’s future is a Luke Cage series. A supporting character in Jessica Jones, Luke shines in the time that he’s given. In the show, he’s a bartender that’s getting over the senseless death of his wife and hiding several secrets. He’s a great complement to Jess, as they’re both damaged, but deal with things in different ways. I really liked this version of Luke Cage as a supporting character and am looking forward to seeing him star in his own show. I love that they kept his “Sweet Christmas!” phrase, but wish they slipped in an old photo of Luke wearing a yellow silk shirt and a metal tiara. That would have been awesome.

Jessica Jones Luke Cage

Atypical Heroics (Possibly Bad): If you like your heroes large, loud, and bashing things then Jessica Jones isn’t for you. As I mentioned in the intro, the show is cerebral. This isn’t a beat-em-up action show. Daredevil was beaten up a lot in his show. By contrast, some of the biggest hits Jessica takes are mental and emotional. While there are some nice action sequences in Jessica Jones, there are even more mystery, thriller, and film noir elements. When Daredevil first aired, I enjoyed how different it was from anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jessica Jones takes it to a whole other level.

Contrary Backlash (Bad): Some people are hating on the show because it’s so different. Some feel that critics are overly praising Jessica Jones because it has several strong female characters. RPadholic Smartguy mentioned that he thought the show was about sexual abuse because of an article he read. Try to ignore all the backlash, because you’ll be missing out on a great show. Yes, Jessica Jones has several strong female characters, but that’s a wonderful thing. It also has physically and emotionally strong male character in Luke Cage. Yes, Kilgrave has sexually abused some of his victims, including Jessica, but the show and the characters are about much more than that. This is a complex television show and some people are oversimplifying it.

Bottom Line: While I loved Jessica Jones and think that’s it’s even better than Daredevil, I understand why some people won’t like it as much. It is, perhaps, too different from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has more in common with CSI than it does with The Avengers. As for me, I enjoyed the show’s distinct tone and characters. The protagonists are all wonderfully flawed and layered. While he’s not as powerful as Loki, Kilgrave is an even scarier villain. Jessica Jones has continued Marvel’s tradition of exceeding expectations with its Netflix series. In many ways, what’s happening in the small-screen corner of the MCU is more interesting than what’s happening on the big screen. Jessica Jones is a big reason why.

Coffee Talk #665: ESPN’s Closure of Grantland is Disheartening

On October 30, 2015, ESPN made the horrible decision to shut down Grantland. The website offered a fantastic combination of sports and pop-culture coverage. It quickly became my favorite website on the Internet shortly after it launched. Grantland’s writing was longer, smarter, and sharper than most of what you’ll find on the Internet. The site’s closure is disheartening on several levels.

As a readerGrantland’s closure is disappointing because it had some of ESPN’s best writing. The site excelled at long-form articles that were informative and entertaining. It had a wide variety of writers that skillfully covered a wide variety of topics. While sports was Grantland’s emphasis, it also covered movies, music, television, pro-wrestling, and more. No matter the topic, I could always depend on a well-written article on Grantland that always entertained me and often left me a bit smarter than I was before I read it.

As a reader, I also appreciated Grantland’s simple layout. The design emphasized content and the advertising was tame by today’s standards. Grantland loaded quickly on desktop and mobile devices, unlike some of my other favorite websites (I’m looking at you, The Verge). Sadly, a website with great writing and user-friendly design is uncommon these days. That Grantland offered both was extraordinary.

As a longtime Internet writerGrantland’s closure is depressing. It shows that corporate hacks are unwilling and/or unable to support great content creation. It’s sad that the dozens of fantastic editors and writers at Grantland no longer have jobs, while ESPN continues to pay Stephen A. Smith to act like an idiot on television. It makes me wonder what kind of support the website had from the suits, its advertisers, and its readers. Obviously something was missing. The high-quality content was there, but did the suits support it with enough marketing? Did the site not get enough ad dollars? Were people uninterested in longer articles? It’s baffling.

As a longtime ESPN.com reader, I’m amused that Grantland’s closure killed the best writing the company had to offer. I used to love ESPN.com, but it has become garbage. While the site is ESPN’s Internet flagship, the writing on Grantland and FiveThirtyEight (another ESPN-owned website) was superior to anything on the “main” website. ESPN.com has devolved in a mashup of moronic click bait, AP reposts, thoughtless opinion pieces, daily LeBron James updates, and the occasional solid article. Copyediting is, sadly, optional on ESPN.com.

Add it all up and it’s disheartening. My favorite website is gone. Another corporate overlord has pissed on the value of quality content. Instead of enjoying my daily dose of Grantland, I’ll have to read the crap on ESPN.com. Oh well, maybe it’s time to give Yahoo! Sports another look.

Coffee Talk #664: Freddy vs. Jason

Since it’s Halloween week, let’s have a horror-based column and poll in today’s Coffee Talk. I want to know which horror series you like best. In the red corner, it’s Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the blue corner, it’s Jason Voohees and Friday the 13th. Both series have scared millions of moviegoers and have earned millions of dollars. Both have had frightful high points and unfortunate sequels that are best forgotten. Come to think of it, both series have gotten the reboot treatment as well. While A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th certainly have a lot in common, I’m certain that you guys and gals prefer one over the other. Kindly vote in the poll below and explain your choice in the comments section.

As for me, I’m going with A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are so many things that I love about the movies and, especially, its villain. The movies had several moments that were legitimately scary. The movies also had some of the earliest instances of “meta” jokes that made sense to me in my youth. I love that Freddy Krueger was portrayed by the guy that played the goofy alien in V and later by the guy that played Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. In addition to being a fun movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street III exposed Dokken to a mainstream audience.

Most of all, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund’s version) was a charming villain. He was funny and had a warped sense of humor. There were several times when I was rooting for him to kill the Elm Street kids, which felt all kinds of wrong but is a testament to the character’s actor and writers. While Jason Voorhees certainly had a more physical and intimidating presence, he was slow and stupid. If I wanted to be entertained by slow and stupid, I’d just watch a Batista match on WWE Network (zing!).

Anyway, that’s my vote and explanation. Now let’s hear yours! Kindly take the poll and expand on your choice.

[poll id=”196″]

Coffee Talk #663: Colbert, Fallon, and Nerd Guests

Earlier in the week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert featured music from The Legend of Zelda played by The Symphony of the Goddesses. Colbert has had several nerdy guests on his show, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. As a nerd, I absolutely love that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has had tech and gaming segments. Considering that many of his viewers grew up as gamers and technology is more mainstream than ever, it makes sense for his audience. Still, I was surprised (pleasantly) that his show’s guests have been so nerd-friendly.

Changing the channel to NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has been a disappointment in terms of nerd content. When the comedian hosted Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, guests from gaming and tech were common. Off the top of my head, I recall Kudo Tsunodo giving a demo of Xbox Kinect, Cliff Bleszinski showing off Gears of War 3, and journalist Josh Topolsky talking tech gear on the show. For whatever reason, these types of guests have largely been absent from The Tonight Show. Perhaps the producers felt that gaming and tech content weren’t appropriate for the “big” show. Perhaps some hack executive mandated that Fallon go with traditional guests that have movies, music, and TV shows to promote. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing that Fallon has mostly abandoned nerdy programming.

The unfortunate programming choices on The Tonight Show, have made me appreciate the guests on The Late Show. Hearing the wonderful music from Zelda on a late night talk show was brilliant. Watching CEOs of the companies that make products and offer services that I love (or in Tesla’s case, dream about) was outstanding. It’s fantastic that these types of segments are mixed in with the overly polished “artists” promoting their latest movie, album, tour, TV show season, etc. When Colbert debuted on Comedy Central, I was delightfully surprised by his mix of comedy, intelligence, and satire. With The Late Show, he has delightfully surprised me with his nerdy guests. Keep ’em coming, Mr. Colbert!

Coffee Talk #662: Amazon Prime Now is the Future of Shopping

I recently received my first Amazon Prime Now order and was mostly delighted by the experience. For those of you not familiar with the service (only available in select cities), Prime Now is a mobile shopping service that offers delivery in two hours or less. The company claims that tens of thousands of goods are available though the service, including groceries, electronics, media, household supplies, and more. The products in my initial order were priced comparably to what they’d cost at Target or my local grocery store. With a stellar combination of speed and convenience, Amazon Prime Now is the future of shopping.

The Prime Now experience starts with an app, available for Android and iOS. Shopping with the app is okay — easily the weakest part of the Prime Now experience. The search features and grouping weren’t the best. The challenge of making thousands of items easy to find in an elegant app is tough and Amazon hasn’t quite figured it out. I would have preferred being able to shop on a full-featured site on my laptop and have my order sync with the app.

My first Prime Now order was for five six-packs of Zevia soda, three boxes of protein bars, and two large containers of yogurt. As I mentioned earlier, the prices were inline with local brick-and-mortar stores. In addition to the price of the goods, you have the option to tip the driver.The cool and nerdy part about Prime Now is that you’re able to track the progress of your order via GPS. The app notifies you when your order has left and you can see the driver’s progress on the in-app map. It’s similar to tracking an Uber driver or a friend that has given you an ETA via Waze.

As expected, Amazon’s packaging was very good. The soda and protein bars arrived in brown paper bags, while the driver kept the yogurt in an insulated bag while the order was en route. Everything arrived in great condition and the driver was very cheerful (he was geeking out about Prime Now too).

Amazon Prime Now bag

While the pricing was great for the products I ordered, it does pay to do some comparison shopping. Coupon cutters and shoppers that revere weekly grocery circulars will, of course, still want to hit up the local market to take advantage of sales. That said, I hate most brick-and-mortar retail experiences and love the convenience of Prime Now.

Hopefully the service continues to grow. I remember being enamored with online grocery services like Kozmo and Webvan when I was living in San Francisco…and having my heart broken when those companies went out of business. Amazon, of course, has much more money than those two companies and can afford to ride out any growing pains. Amazon also offers a much wider variety of goods, which should help Prime Now appeal to more shoppers.

I was very, very impressed by my first Prime Now experience. After some minor annoyances with the app’s search functions and sorting, it was a smooth experience. The speed and convenience were fantastic for me personally, while I love the disruptive nature of the service on a macro level. Certainly there are things that I still have to go to a proper grocery for (though Amazon is working with grocery chains in select regions), but Amazon Prime Now has everything else, as well as thousands of products that the grocery doesn’t have. I am absolutely sold on Prime Now.

Have any of you tried Amazon Prime Now? I’d love to hear about your experience with the service. If it’s not available to you yet, do you see yourself shopping this way when it does arrive to your area? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

 

Coffee Talk #661: Coffee Naps — Are They Really a Thing?

Earlier this year, several Bay Area friends tried to get me to buy into coffee naps. They swore that coffee naps are the most efficient way to refresh and recharge during the workday. To me, the practice sounded like the latest Silicon Valley trend — the kind of thing that employers love because it gets their underlings to work more and employees use to justify their overzealous efforts. I’m still unsure if coffee naps are truly effective or if they’re a placebo, so I thought I’d use today’s Coffee Talk to think out loud and get your opinion on the practice.

If you’re not familiar with coffee naps, the idea is to quickly drink a cup of coffee before taking a short rest. While you’re napping, the coffee is working its way through your system. By the time you’re done resting, the stimulants will have kicked in and you won’t feel sluggish when you awake.

Initially, I thought that coffee naps sounded ridiculous, but after reading about the relationship between caffeine and adenosine, I wondered if there might be something to the practice. While they’re hardly a proper substitute for getting a full night of sleep, there’s a chance that coffee naps could be effective for some people.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I tried coffee naps and completely failed at them. My problem is that I’m slow (mentally, physically, etc.). With coffee naps, you want to drink your coffee quickly so that the caffeine doesn’t have time to kick in. As a slow person and a coffee nerd that enjoys the flavor of the beverage, it usually takes me 30 minutes to finish a 16-ounce cup of coffee. It just doesn’t feel right to down a good cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because I want to nap more efficiently. The handful of times I attempted a coffee nap, the caffeine was already playing around in my brain and I couldn’t sleep.

Anyway, I wanted to get your opinion on coffee naps. Do you think that they’re useful or are they another silly Silicon Valley trend? Do you see yourself trying them out? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

Coffee Talk #660: I Love Hearthstone. I Hate Hearthstone.

Ah, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft…. I have such a love/hate relationship with this game. In many ways, it feels like being in a broken relationship. There are times when I love Hearthstone — when playing it leaves me utterly fulfilled and satisfied. There are times when I hate Hearthstone — when playing it pisses me the f*ck off. And like being in a broken relationship, a lot of it is my fault and I knew exactly what I was getting into.

While I messed around with Hearthstone during the beta period, I only really got into it last year. My friend Marcus and I were goofing around with the game when we had downtime during Blizzcon 2014. We had a lot of fun and it kind of steamrolled from there. Hearthstone is pretty much a daily habit for me, while Marcus…he actually plays on the pro circuit now (follow him on Twitter, please).

What I love about Hearthstone is its marvelous blend of complexity and simplicity. It’s just an extremely well executed card game. It’s easy to get into and difficult to master. It’s also extremely addictive and I tend to gravitate towards addictive things. Hearthstone has kept me completely entertained for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.

What I hate about Hearthstone is that it’s blatantly pay-to-win. Out of sheer stubbornness, I refuse to buy card packs. This leaves me at a severe disadvantage in many games. As you can imagine, my card collection is modest, ergo it absolutely sucks going against players with stacked decks. I’ll think I’m in the middle of a good game when all of the sudden some trust-fund kid busts out five legendary cards in a row. Hearthstone has angered and frustrated me for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.

With the release of The Grand Tournament expansion, the pay-to-win aspect of the game has become even more pronounced. The first couple of days after the expansion was released, I played several players that had tons of new cards. It’s safe to assume that most of those players spent money to get those cards and didn’t grind 24/7 for freebies. It was frustrating coming across new cards — especially new legendaries — that I had no counters for. It made me feel helpless, which isn’t a feeling that I want to have while playing a game.

Like many people in dead-end relationships, I’m not going to do anything to change my situation. I’m going to stick to playing Hearthstone as a free-to-play guy. Yeah, it’s going to suck and be frustrating a lot of the time, but there will also be moments when the game gives me sheer joy. Or perhaps I should seek out a Hearthstone therapist. If you know a good one, please let me know.