Recent Movies

Carnival Row: I loved this so much! Not-England's Imperial adventures in Fairyland blew up badly, and now we've got a show about immigration policy, the slave trade and racism with fairies and satyrs. There's a huge amount of world-building backstory that is hinted at, oh, and also a Lovecraftian horror stalking from the sewers. The Officer John Snow parts of the plot are pretty dull and remind me of Ripper Street, but overall it's good stuff.

Also they stuck the landing on the finale, while leaving open enough non-essential plot threads that I'm really looking forward to S2.

And how amazing is it (and how sad that it's so rare) that this is not an adaptation of anything? Someone sat down and wrote a story and then they filmed it. It wasn't a series of YA novels first, or a graphic novel, or a hundred year old movie. Just something new. Is that even allowed?

Under the Silver Lake: This movie is bonkers. It's pretty brazenly a Vertigo pastiche, but since the lead is an unsympathetic hipster douchebag stalker amongst LA starfuckers, maybe Body Double is the more apt comparison. (Much as Werner von Braun aimed for the stars but mostly hit London.) Anyway, it was interesting and not predictable. The first half was an exercise in "everything I hate about Los Angeles" but the second half went all noir conspiracy kookoopants and that was fun, and full of odd, awful characters.

Still, the De Palma flavor always gives me acid reflux so I watched To Catch a Thief next to wash that down. Mmmm, smooth.

Huntress, Rune of The Dead: From the title I assume they have series intentions, but this was pretty good. A small family of Vikings living alone in the forest have a zombie problem. The zombies show up late, but the acting and environment are well done; it reminded me of The VVitch in a lot of ways. One of the nice things about it was that none of the plot points relied on someone lying or being deceptive or withholding information. That's pretty rare.

Anna: I loved Nikita but I think that every time I watch a Besson movie I retroactively like Nikita less. Was this movie made in 1985, by Simon LeBon, about how hard high fashion modeling is? I was more than 40 minutes in and Anna had only gotten around to covering the same plot points that Nikita blasted through before the opening credits. Also what the hell was going on with everyone having Fremen eyes? They painted them all so bright blue, and the same color on every character, that it was like those creepy photoshops of baby pageant entrants. It was even more distracting than Teal and Orange.

Ok after I finished it, the plot was slightly more complex than it seemed at first, but not particularly good or even clever. Pbbbbtttttt.

Hotel Artemis: If you wanted a spinoff story about the John Wick hotel manager, this is that. I did want that. It delivered.

Pennyworth: It's a 60s spy/gangster thriller set in an anachronistic London and it's extremely satisfying. It has fuck-all to do with Batman and that's great. Why is this branded as a Batman show at all? I'm guessing that it's because that's the only way you can get a "60s spy/gangster thriller set in an anachronistic London" made. Just rub some Batman on it, like what they did with those later Hellraiser movies. Let's dust off this old script and stick a puzzle box in it, done.

Twilight Zone (2019): An adequate revival. Not excellent, but pretty decent. More tense and less tongue-in-cheek than I expected.

Crawl: This is a movie about being trapped in a basement during a flood with an alligator. I did not have high expectations for a movie with that description, and what expectations I did have were very specific. Those expectations did not include spending 3/4ths of the movie listening to two people whining about Dad's Divorce.

Also sometimes when a gator bites you, you just need to tie a knot in a t-shirt, but sometimes it goes through you like you're tiramisu. Good to know.

Dark: I enjoyed the first season, even though it took me nearly until the last episode to have any idea what was going on at all, but the second season was terrible. "People liked it when we confused them for ten episodes, let's do that again!" And then it had a sequel-bait non-ending that resolved nothing. It is dead to me now.

Undone: A rotoscoped ghost story, ish. I liked the story a lot and it made really good use of the medium, flipping between standard filmic framing and the kinds of transitions normally reserved for animation.

Midsommar: Those people who said "It's not just another Wicker Man" lied, it's totally just another Wicker Man. It doesn't make a lot of sense, and most of the characters aren't particularly sympathetic, but the weirdly-friendly and wholesome cultists do make it creepier.

Creepshow (2019): Garbage. Well, The Man in the Suitcase was ok, but the other 5 were garbage. But I have a special level for hate for that whole "Look it's a COMIC BOOK" visual style. It was a lazy cliché when the first Creepshow movie did this in the 80s and it hasn't gotten any more clever since then. When they throw those skeuomorphic panel gutters and word bubbles onto a movie what they're really doing is just a comics-insulting dog whistle: they are saying, "Hey, we know the plot is stupid and the characters are one dimensional but it's just a COMIC BOOK". And by so saying, they manage to debase both comics and filmmaking at the same time. With the notable exception of the inexplicably great outlier Scott Pilgrim, every movie that has aped the comics panels has been terrible.

Climax: Two hours of tripping assholes screaming at each other in French. An infant cries continuously in the background. Nothing happens. There's some good dancing I guess. I couldn't hear it over the screaming.


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19 Responses:

  1. Rae says:

    Oh geez. I just worked with the art dept of Under the Silver Lake. The whole thing was made for less than $2 million and was traumatic for all involved.

    • jwz says:

      With movies like that I always wonder, do they know these characters are terrible people? Or are they just drawing portraits of themselves and their friends?

      • Rae says:

        Approximately halfway between. It’s like “oh he’s a difficult troubled character but that makes him interesting”.

      • NT says:

        I haven't seen this one, but by the end of the original Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart's unsympathetic stalker tendencies are the center of the movie. Nobody thinks Hitchcock did this by accident.

  2. MattyJ says:

    Damn, I came here for some Downton Abbey hot takes.

  3. Jai says:

    I really wanted to love Carnival Row, but I found the acting and dialogue stilted and just terrible. One or the other is OK, but both tend to reinforce each other.

    I'll try a bunch of the rest, though - thanks for the reviews.

    • k3ninho says:

      I passed on Carnival Row, too, because it managed to trigger my allergy to Steampunk and my allergy to fantasy dragons without actually having either. I was convinced they'd rip off Under the Pendulum Sun when they venture into the Fae land of Tirnanoc.


  4. I am 0 for 13 on even hearing about any of these. I guess that is on-brand for both me and jwz.

  5. EK says:

    Always appreciate these, thanks.

  6. Not Frank says:

    You liking Carnival Row has made it sound much more interesting than it had to this point.

    I'm halfway through the second season of Dark, and what is keeping me going is that they have indicated in advance the 3rd season will be the end of it, which will keep it from going full LOST. That and I'm a glutton for punishment, plus the friend I'm watching it with is into what he calls a "grimdark Twin Peaks vibe."

    Okay, and I'm curious whether they are non-American in sensibility enough to have [REDACTED] and his aunt boink. (Those who haven't seen enough of Dark: makes more sense in context. I think.)

    • Not Frank says:

      Since you posted another recent movies post that linked here...

      I completed watching S2 of Dark between then and now. I thought your comment on the end applied to the end of S1, after all. How bad could the end of S2 be?

      Bad. Very, very bad. I think they wrote themselves into a corner, given it's supposed to be wrapped up with S3.

  7. thielges says:

    ” And how amazing is it (and how sad that it's so rare) that this is not an adaptation of anything?”

    That’s because shows produced by streaming content providers are a product of the new quick loop feedback methodology streaming allows. They’re tracking their viewer’s every move and using that to infer what elements their audience finds captivating.

    For example if a few hundred viewers pause and replay the same ten second excerpt then you’ve found a nugget of gold to reuse in the next production. (Unless it was a boob flash. That secret has been known since at least Shakespeare’s day) Old fashioned writers on typewriters cloud based word processing don’t know which pages are read and reread and therefore don’t produce that quick recycled content.

    Within a few years all content will be a direct reflection of what our reptilian stem craves.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      ...and some particularly sedentary viewers literally explode.

    • Pavel says:

      In my particular drop of anecdote, I rewind 10 seconds because I couldn't make out what a character said.

  8. Rich says:

    Dark was like Stranger Things but for people who thought there were too many minorities and not enough fucking. We just weren't interested in finishing it.

    • jwz says:

      I couldn't watch Stranger Things because I am allergic to Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and heavy-handed nostalgia.

  9. Elusis says:

    It is dead to me now.

    [cries in German, but backwards in time]