Recent movies and TV

Taking a shot at writing up these reviews more often than once a year. Current technique: scribbling these down on my phone as I'm watching them instead of only obsessively playing Threes.

Future Man: They spent almost the entirety of the most recent season doing a Mad Max pastiche with almost no time travel in it, and I was totally not here for that. BUT the last episode snuck in so much fantastic time travel humor that it almost made up for the rest -- why wasn't that episode the whole season??

Deadly Class: I'm on the fence about this. On the plus side, I love shows set in historic San Francisco; the characters, though clichés, are charming clichés; the music is good. On the minus side: OMG clichés; they are doing nothing to make this organization or its mission make any damned sense. We're talking "less sense and less exposition than John Wick" and that's not a high bar.

Sex Education: Virgin teen becomes freelance sex therapist. Antics ensue. Much dong. It's pretty hilarious.

Russian Doll: First of all, it was bold to release it on Groundhog Day! I loved it, but apparently I'm a sucker for Groundhog Day movies. And I am happy that Groundhog Day has become a genre: Happy Death Day, Before I Fall, About Time, Groundhog Troopers or whatever it was called...

Anyway, I normally I can't get in to shows where I dislike all of the characters, and nearly everyone in this show was a deeply unpleasant person -- the lighter on the retractable keychain might be the most irritating affection of any character ever -- but I really liked this show and even rooted for them. Especially all of the cosmological theories that she kept throwing out while trying to work out why it was happening: "New theory! You're me!" And the REDACTED being used as a clock was nice.

Some review called it "the most New York show ever" but I think it might be the most New York hating show ever. Whoever wrote this has spent time at some absolutely intolerable parties.

Prospect: This was excellent. It felt like a small story set in the Firefly universe. Prospectors and double-crosses and missing the last train out. The tech looked very Nostromo and the MacGuffins were not over-explained.

Destination Wedding: This is the greatest. Keanu and Winona just snark at each other the whole time. Literally nobody else has a line. It is just so full of bitterness and bile, it's like if Hal Hartley or David Mamet made Before Sunrise. I loved it completely.

Replicas: Oh Keanu. Why. Things were going so well. Why. Why. Why did you make this.

Summer '03: A teen coming-of-age-disaster movie. It's cute and funny.

Juliet, Naked: A woman starts having a thing with a washed-up rock star who is idolized by her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend. It's a rom-com in the vein of Nick and Nora or High Fidelity, except the people are older and even more sad and bitter.

The New Romantic: A girl decides to be a "sugar baby" for an older guy and eventually realizes, hey, this guy's not really boyfriend material and is kind of a piece of shit. It was decent. Also, love is dead.

Double Indemnity (1944): A great "let's do a murder" noir. The plan seems really solid. Spoiler: it doesn't work out.

Don't Bother to Knock (1952): A Marilyn Monroe movie I'd never heard of. Damn, this is dark! Without spoiling it, I enjoyed how they messed with your assumptions about who the villain was going to be.

Lifechanger: A story about an obligate bodysnatcher. It has first person narration, and yet the protagonist is a murderous stalker, which was an interesting choice.

Mandy: The fuck did I just watch? It was stylish but there was nothing there.

Overlord: Nazi zombies. Yawn. Was this written by a bot? I'm going with yes.

Prince of Darkness (1987): This movie still rules. This is such an excellent example of taking goofy Christian mythology, and goofy quantum physics theories, and even a hint of time travel, green vomit, and Alice Cooper as a creepy homeless zombie dude, and managing to put it all together in a way where the audience says, "With you so far, do go on." Bravo. "I've got a message for you. And you're not going to like it..."

Mortal Engines: Rarely have I heard worse dialog or more pathetic technobabble. What a nonsensical, hackneyed piece of shit. Even the effects didn't keep my attention for five whole minutes through the entire movie. This is exactly the kind of movie where you might be saying, "Ok, but the effects were good" but, no. Just no. I had to go and rewatch Howl's Moving Castle just to get the bad taste out of my mouth. (Howl's Moving Castle is still excellent, BTW.)

Tales from Earthsea: A Ghibli movie that I somehow hadn't heard of. I don't remember anything about the Earthsea books, besides liking them as a child. This was ok.

Monster Party: A fun locked-room twist on a family of psychos (subclass "millionaire" rather than "hillbilly"). I liked the "we are recovering addicts" aspect of it. Not to be confused with Murder Party, which was also fun.

The Nun: Honestly, I only watched this because I saw someone do a really good Halloween costume of it. It was forgettable, but it has some good scares and makeup. I gather it is set in some "Amityville" timeline? Is that the same as the Fast and Furious timeline? It must be. It also must be as loose a connection as the Hellraiser timeline.

Into the Dark: This is an anthology series, and mostly it's garbage. It's odd how each of the episodes seems interesting for about 10 minutes and then becomes completely hateful and annoying. The Body was ok (but too long). The Pooka was particularly bad. The "trapped in an elevator" one started out ok then reminded me, oh wait, there's literally only one story to tell about being trapped in an elevator. Then they told that one.

Episode 4 was pretty good, though: New Year, New You is on the theme of, "Instagram Influencers are awful, awful people". It was not terribly predictable and had a great ending. I like that "Instagram Hate" is a genre now. That has a future. See also A Simple Favor, Ingrid Goes West.

Patient Seven: An anthology where a doctor talks to some evil patients. Some of the stories were good but all were mercifully brief: only about ten minutes each. The framing story was well acted, but didn't make a whole lot of sense in the end. Oddly, one was a repeat: The Body was the same story as in Into the Dark! It was done much better here (proving that Into the Dark took ten minutes of story and stretched it to 90.)

After my last trip to Disneyland, it occurred to me that I barely remembered a bunch of the movies that the rides are based on, so I spun through a few of them:

Mary Poppins: I'm pretty sure that somehow I never saw this movie at all, and wow, it's pretty great! And it has a decidedly anticapitalist bent. Enough to make me wonder if Walt was secretly a Red. (Yes, I am aware of the revisionism of Saving Mr. Banks.) (No, I haven't seen the sequel yet.)

Peter Pan: Daaaaaaamn this is racist. Every character except Tink is a horrible person, and she's a pretty nasty piece of work, too.

Sleeping Beauty / Snow White: Why do these two movies have exactly the same plot? What the fuck are the dwarves? No wonder I get the Evil Queen and Maleficent confused all the time. These movies are Pretty but Not Good.

Pinocchio: I would say that mostly this is just unnecessarily long. (See what I did there. Yeah but it's true.)

The Gong Show: (2017) I love all incarnations of The Gong Show unrepentantly. This revival came out a year and a half ago but I've been making my way through it slowly, like gum stuck to my headboard or an everlasting gobstopper, because I don't want it to end.

Now let me be clear: the acts are great! However, the weird-assed mutant that Mike Meyers is playing as the host is intolerable, and the judges mostly aren't that funny -- but they are, at least, not overly mean. And that's an important feature in a Gong Show judge. It's too easy to just go mean.


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20 Responses:

  1. Rodger says:

    The Return of Mary Poppins gave me 2 hours of panic attacks. I mean it's about a guy whose going to lose his children's home because he can't pay his mortgage. It was not fun. And it completely loses the nods to social conciousness that the original had.

  2. CRC says:

    The new Mary Poppins is a second generation photocopy of the first film. And has precisely zero catchy or memorable songs.

    Plus an odd BMX section.

  3. Tha_14 says:

    I really gotta watch Prince of Darkness I guess.
    Also, Is Replicas any good? It's on my list to watch.

  4. JDS says:

    Have you not seen Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse yet??! Why would you go see Mortal Engines, especially if There's a Colon: But It's Still Really Good is still in theaters.

    No joke; I don't really care for superhero drek, and I'm not particularly invested in Spider-Franchise. But this was a really good movie despite it all.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      Seconded. This is a very long list with a critical lack of Spider-Verse on it.

      (It is an entirely reasonable complaint that the market for spider-films has been completely saturated, and that an animated film where the entire hook is that there are multiple spider-people in it is the opposite of helping with that problem. And yet: it was really good.)

    • jwz says:

      Oh yeah, I loved Spiderverse. I just forgot!

      Your question, "Why did you watch ___" could be generalized to "why do you watch so many crappy movies" and I don't really have a good answer for that. They're free and I fast-forward liberally?

      • JDS says:

        Yeah, I watch crappy movies too. Can't fast forward in the theater, though, and I go so rarely (babysitter, driving, etc) that I really resent going to a bad movie. I got dragged to Fantastic Beasts 2: Into the Depp-verse last year and it sucked and I knew it was going to suck and I still had to sit through it.

        The trailer for Mortal Engines made it really obvious that it was the sort of outlandish setting that you couldn't possibly both establish the world and actually tell a story in any reasonable length of time. Put Peter Jackson on top, who can't make adaptations that are less than 4 hours long no matter the source, and I decided right there those 2 minutes were the only ones it would get from me.

        • jwz says:

          outlandish setting that you couldn't possibly both establish the world and actually tell a story in any reasonable length

          Except... people do this thing. People who are good at writing. It's not common but it is demonstrably possible.

  5. michael says:

    Oh man, I haven't seen Prince of Darkness in forever, but that was one of my favorite really scary movies of my childhood. I even bought it on Laserdisc!

  6. Paul N says:

    These summaries are so great.

  7. Lloyd says:

    Threes? Try Hearthstone.

  8. Unholyguy says:

    The first three Earthsea books are actually very very good and worth a re read as an adult

    • tfb says:

      The fourth is, I think, the best.

      • Agreed. The first is basically "Boys-own-Wizadry" (about the best of that genre), but the further through the series you go the less "traditional high fantasy" it becomes, and the more interesting, as she deconstructs the assumptions of the first novel.

        • tfb says:

          That's one of the reasons they get better, but in fact the reason I like Tehanu best (better than the later ones as well) is that there's at least one bit of shivers-down-your-spine writing in it, and perhaps several.

  9. Hylyx says:

    Ooo Prince of Darkness. Because I grew up under a rock in the 80s, another seminal 80s movie I didn't see till like college. Definitely time for a rewatch!
    Probably the same reason I never got into Disney movies, saw them all too late. Except for Fantasia. I think I wore out the VHS on that one.

    That Mortal Engines trailer looks like Wild Wild West with an even bigger budget and more predictable plot. I don;t even know if Rifftrax could make it worth watching.

    • jwz says:

      "I don't wanna see him in the suit, I don't want to see him fly, and I want him to fight a giant spider in the third act."

  10. DC says:

    If you want to wash out the Pinocchio/Sleeping Beauty sappiness, I highly recommend Winshluss' "Pinocchio". It's a gorgeous comic book, and a twisted punk mashup of both stories.