Recent Movies and TV

  • Invisible Man (2020) -- This movie was bullshit in 30 different ways. Let's start with hack filmmaking: a jump-scare sound effect is not what passes for suspense. The plot, such as it is: a woman's being stalked and gaslit by a jerk in a scramble-suit, who apparently has some mad commando skills and Jason Vorhees levels of stealth despite being Science Nerd. So if you want to see someone crying and not being believed while being smacked around for two hours, this is the movie for you. Maybe I'm late to this, but I have finally come to realize that anything with "Blumhouse" on it is garbage with a topping of vomit. Like, a Michael Bay level of both contempt for the audience, and misogyny.

  • Onward: This is just OK. It really didn't grab me at first, because it's so "family drama", but it got funnier towards the middle. I did enjoy the fact that, much like the merman in Cabin in the Woods, they keep mentioning gelatinous cubes, and so you know that you're gonna see one. And when you do, it delivers. I also liked the feral unicorns. More like raccoonicorns.

  • 24 Hour Party People: I hadn't watched this in years, and it really holds up. I liked it much more this time around. When I first saw it, I couldn't really get past the fact that I absolutely despise The Happy Mondays, but this time around I enjoyed hating them rather than just being annoyed by them. It's such a weird movie. How did this even get made? The licensing alone... I always want to recommend it but it comes with such a long list of footnotes. Like, if you don't already know all about these people, it's probably best to watch this movie with me sitting next to you on the couch, yelling.

  • Snatchers: This may be the greatest monster movie since Night of the Creeps. Excellent and snappy dialog, great comedic timing, hilarious gore. Chef kiss.

  • Underwater: Not bad. The claustrophobia of it makes it be more The Descent than The Abyss. Obvious plot is obvious, but the suspense and effects are good.

  • Vivarium: What if Cube but suburbia. A couple checks out a house and can't escape. Extremely nightmarish and well done.

  • She Never Died: A loose sequel to He Never Died. It's kind of the same movie again with a different cast, but it's enjoyable.

  • Tales from the Loop: This was absolutely fantastic. A series of interconnected stories based on the artwork and short stories by Simon Stålenhag, who is amazing. It's so different than almost any other scifi I've seen. It has a bit of a Twilight Zone feel, but mostly there aren't any villains, and the whole thing is just very calm. Calm and sad.

  • Beforeigners: I will make an exception to my ban on police procedurals when some of those police are time traveling vikings. Ok, fine. You got me. It's pretty good.

  • Siren: Season 1 was really fun, but season 2 went all relationships and babies and feeeeelings and I wasn't really there for it. But season 3 really picked up: they went full World War Mermaid.

  • Homecoming: Season 2 is a lot better than season 1! And season 1 was pretty good.

  • Motherland: Fort Salem: "What if the US Army was made up of pretty teen girls who are also witches" sounds like a completely idiotic plot for some Young Adult Paranormal Romance nonsense, but it's actually kind of ok. The worldbuilding and backstory really had me scratching my head, but they didn't dive deeply enough into it to lose me yet.

  • Charlie's Angels (2019) This was more entertaining than I expected. Much punchy, so fashion. It had kind of a Spice World feel to it, very 90s Girl Power.

  • Gretel & Hansel: It was fine, but I find that I've already forgotten it.

  • Jumanji: The Next Level: I laughed, but I've already forgotten it.

  • Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: This is absoutely fantastic. You may recall that Penny Dreadful season 1 was amazing, season 2 was OK, and season 3 was really pretty bad. Well fortunately, this show is not season 4 of Penny Dreadful: rather, it is season 3 of Carnivàle! And that's a really good choice.

  • Upload: This is kind of a sequel to "The Singularity Ruined by Lawers", and it's pretty funny. It strays into an unresolved murder mystery at some point, which is less interesting. The core achievement here is ridiculing social media trying to monetize your dreams.

  • Scoob: It's a "reboot" and it's 3D-modelled, so it's obviously inferior, but it does have some good gags. I laughed. I was enjoying it well enough until about 15 minutes from the end, when it seems like an entirely new writer took over, which is probably what happened. How do you fuck up the ending on Scooby Doo? By leaving out all of the jokes and filling it with saccharine nonsense and sequel-bait instead. Dude, we know there's going to be a sequel. This series is like a thousand years old. Also it just feels wrong to me that Shaggy isn't voiced by Matthew Lillard. (Greets to Cereal Killer!)

  • Blood Machines: Sooooo Carpenter Brut made a movie that's like.... Farscape fanfic or something? It's very pretty, but the plot, such as it is... it's straight out of an 80s issue of Heavy Metal, where all the men are creeps and all the women are naked, and that's pretty much the single defining characteristic of each. As a music video it would have been excellent, but there wasn't enough music and people kept talking.

  • Star Trek: Picard: This is... boring. How did they manage to make it so boring? I wish the show was about Picard doddering around the mansion with his Romulan housekeepers instead of whatever nonsense it was actually about. Which was mostly, "Data: is he a Real Boy??"


    Ok, first of all, why does Star Trek have synths at all? The only reason to build them is to have a slave caste, and A) you're a post-scarcity society, so why, and B) you've got a whole galaxy full of people with funny noses who can all inter-breed, so you've got options there too, if you're feelin' all slavey. So they spend dozens of episodes whinging over "BUT IS IT A PERSON" in a way they never do over Ferengi or Mexicans.

    There was a little movie called Blade Runner, it closed the book on this. Why do you keep reminding me of a better movie I could be watching instead?

    The way Peter Watts tore apart Humans is highly applicable here: "What a pleasant 101-level introduction to AI for anyone who's never thought about AI before, who's unlikely to think about AI again, and who doesn't like thinking very hard about much of anything."

    In the hundreds or thousands of episodes of the various Star Trek shows that exist, it's hard to pick a Most Irritating Character -- it's a target-rich environment -- but Data has always been the character I despised most. Not just because of the terrible, hackneyed "beep beep boop" writing, but because stories around him make no sense.

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33 Responses:

  1. Julius Yang says:

    Out of curiosity have you seen Coherence? I took a chance on it after reading the blurb on Prime Video and I was pleasantly surprised. Then I read about how it was made and was amazed.

    I will admit I am a sucker for "whoami" movies so ymmv.

  2. Barry Kelly says:

    Data is fanservice for autistic spectrum, aspie and otherwise socially ill-fitting kids.

    • jwz says:

      No, he's really not. He's just bad fucking writing.

      • Barry Kelly says:

        I can only write about my own perception of his character from the early 90s: he was my favourite!

        It's not just me:

        Deanna Troi's character, on the other hand, especially early on...

        • k3ninho says:

 say spectrum and don't have capacity for the far end of the scale: Data thinks he lacks humanity because he has no sense of emotion; Troi senses emotions for the whole room (or ship or nearby planet) and has to deal with their impact on her as well as counselling the captain and crew of a starship.

          If we fanservice in Data for you, which fans are you excluding by exiling Troi as 'not a character'? Why can't you take the show's creator's vision and the writers' direction for the thing it is?!?

          I don't know you from the rest of us herp derp on Jamie's web site but I'm going to guess that talking about or dealing with emotions is taboo in your culture. Call it the bullsh_t it is -- you're no less feeling those feels but don't acknowledge and accept the waves and tides you're riding.


  3. Pronoiac says:

    > anything with "Blumhouse" on it is garbage with a topping of vomit.

    Uh. Upgrade, Happy Death Day, Get Out, and BlacKkKlansman?

    • jwz says:

      Upgrade was nothing special, but yeah, I can't fathom why Peele and Lee were involved with them. However, I see that and I raise you: 30 Purge movies, 30 Paranormal Activity movies, 30 more haunted-doll movies that are maybe also Paranormal Activity movies?, Unfriended, Cam, Fantasy Island, The Hunt, the entire Into The Dark series. They seem to have found their niche, and that niche is loud jump-scares and "smirking rapey dudebro with a knife".

      • Dude says:

        If I had to guess why Spike Lee and Jordan Peele work with Blum - and this is just a guess, based on interviews they've done - I think it may have something to do with Blumhouse (schlock factory though it may be) being the only ones who'd finance their films at the time. Jordan Peele conceived of Get Out as a film "no one will make", until Blum gave him a low budget and full autonomy. And Spike Lee had come off a string of flops (one of which was funded via Kickstarter, another one as part of a quickie deal with Amazon) before Blum agreed to finance BlacKkKlansman.

        It's like when I read Scorsese actually didn't want to do The Irishman for Netflix, but... well, in his own words: "Nobody was interested in making a film with me and [Robert DeNiro] anymore. [..] And that's when Netflix stepped in."

        The first comparison that comes to mind is New Line Cinema: they just did bargain-basement schlock until they fell backwards into the surprise hit that was A Nightmare on Elm Street. Then they became the company that made the Lord of the Rings films. Blumhouse has fallen backwards into a couple highly-regarded films, but shows no signs of trying to rise about their usual schlock at this point.

  4. Sean Graham says:

    I really enjoyed the film Extra Ordinary, but then again, I liked The Invisible Man...

  5. Steve Holmes says:

    I think I like Tales From The Loop, but it is so depressing that I have to put two uplifting media days in between each episode.

  6. Liked Jeri Ryan, but that Borg plot was meh, and the pacing. Oh boy the pacing.

  7. nooj says:

    24 Hour Party People: It's probably best to watch this movie with me sitting next to you on the couch, yelling.

    Where can I buy tickets to this DNA Lounge riff trax?

    • the hatter says:

      I could see that being a winner with several slices of DNA Lounge regulars, and any passing brit ex-pats of a certain age. I should go see if I can find my/a copy to rewatch - more often I get a smirk from my music randomiser when it pulls one of the film quotes on the OST into my playlist.

    • Elusis says:

      Came here to say this. Sell me a ticket to this, please.

  8. Koleslaw says:

    I only got 3-4 episodes into Picard before I couldn't handle it. It was just dumb. I'm glad you mentioned a "post-scarcity society" because isn't there a scene where a character is mad at Picard because he lives on a fancy plantation while she has to live in a trailer in a desert? That trailer looked like the same one Budd lived in in Kill Bill: Vol. 2.

  9. Zygo says:

    Back in TNG there was an episode "The Measure of a Man", where Maddox and Picard spent at least half an hour arguing over who held Data's reverse-engineering rights. The whole thing turned on the question "Wait, are you just planning to make copies of Data and build a race of slave robots?" and the answer, we now know, was "Wow! That's a great i... I... I... uhhh... I have no concrete plans to make copies of Data and build a race of slave robots at this time, as long as I can continue my research within the parameters of my current grant funding."

    Fast forward a decade or three, there's Maddox's race of counterfeit Data robot slaves, right before the episode 2 opening credits, doing blue-collar work in a manufacturing plant. At least they were running firmware with remote code execution vulnerabilities--gotta give the writers credit for some realism.

  10. fakedbecausetroll says:

    Couldn't stand Underwater. Started to skip a few minutes in, then fast forward to the end, while only hearing "Uh, Arrg, Oh, Ugh, Ugh, Arrrg" and so on. Been disappointed with Tales from the Loop, had somehow expected so much more...

    Will try Blood Machines now :)

    • fakedbecausedontwanttobetrolled says:

      Checked out the bloody machines, and while i usually dislike synthwave liked the soundtrack. Also the space titties!

  11. Bob says:

    I need to get this off my chest. Troi was the one thing I hated most about STNG.

    I always thought of her as a commissar, making sure everyone was being "acceptable". The whole idea of a counselor was at best a joke.

    The sheer number of crazy people on the Enterprise, episode after episode, was ridiculous.

    Now if she was locked down in Medical, next to the real doctors, maybe it would be OK, but as part of the bridge crew?

    • k3ninho says:

      I've herp-derp'd up there about Troi adding to the cast. I'm going to say a similar version of the same: Troi adds in a way we can't initially imagine, but which allows Star Trek to stretch our view of what humanity can be.

      You might come from a culture where feelings are icky and you're made to feel bad for having feelings. I'm sorry about that. Troi might teach you that everyone has feelings, that despite their complications we get the best outcomes when we manage our feelings, even if it's really hard and not what we're good at. And helping people to manage their emotiions at the very top of the tree, the people whose decisions are life-and-death for the 1000+ people on the Enterprise, seems like a great idea to me and a solid example for all of us.


    • Lloyd says:

      Troi had to pass bridge exams to be there (the excuse for an outfit change in an early series; it would have been better had Wesley failed his bridge exams) and occasionally you do see her at her counselling job -- after Geordi is mindcontrolled by the, um, Romulans, while on a a shuttle trip, after a crewman dies and his partner wants to destroy all his belongings, but she knows exactly what is treasured and to keep back. Counselling with traumatised ex-Borg Picard is minimal, that could have been an arc.

      I have more of a problem with splitting Kirk's role into Picard and Riker, the man whose sex drive leads to a mindcontrolled crew.

      Looking at Troi through the cynical lens of Californian HR worker rather misses the point.

  12. Pinback says:

    A team of people must've had an unfathomable loathing for Montgomery Scott, and used that motivation to write every line and scene for Miles O'Brien. Ah, skip this episode, it has the useless twat potato head in it.

    • Lloyd says:

      Sure, you can loathe Montgomery Scott, a character brought to life by a WW2 veteran who became a father again at eighty, but why?

      You just can’t put his finger on it.

  13. Lloyd says:

    One way of looking at Picard: from ST:TNG onwards, Star Trek was always about a soft liftoff into the singularity -- holograms got better, computers got smarter, but for the most part, people remained people and could even be rescued from the Borg, and singularity-like effects were reversible

    Picard was an attempt to present a hard singularity, which failed, partly by treating it as a Lovecraftian extinction event (tentacles in space from the mind that lies dreaming beyond the sky) and partly because one never makes an actor Executive Producer. That leads to emotion-laden scenery chewing and no plot. But mostly because androids. Yeah, androids.

    • jwz says:

      Oh, come on, this is absolutely not the show I watched, in any incarnation. Since when did Stross write Star Trek?

      Also it's common (possibly even the rule rather than the exception) that lead actors get Executive Producer credit as soon as their show is renewed for season 2 or 3.

      • Lloyd says:

        Popularising the singularity these days is attributed to Vernor Vinge; none of his work has been filmed, to my knowledge.

        But if Stross's work ever gets filmed, I'd expect tentacles in space. In Milton Keynes, and space.

  14. Michael V. says:

    If you can still find it, I highly recommend the book "24 Hour Party People" by Tony Wilson. You might think that it's a memoir that inspired the movie, but no - it's the novelization of the movie. Written by the movie's subject.

    This leads to some wonderful bits of fourth-wall breaking where Tony writes "Such and such happened in the movie, but here's what I actually remember about it..." (Kind of like the Howard DeVoto scene in the film, but moreso.)

    And, of course, it has a FAC number - 424.

    • Michael V. says:

      And with Onward, I really feel like the soundtrack was a missed opportunity. You've got a movie where one of the main characters sports a denim vest festooned with patches, plays RPGs, and drives a van with an airbrushed fantasy scene paintjob. How do you not spring a few bucks for some Iron Maiden or Ronnie James Dio on the soundtrack?

      Heck, there's one chase scene where there's a poor 38 Special pastiche playing. I watched it thinking, "Hey, you're Pixar - you can afford the real thing! 38 Special has to be cheaper than all those lousy country rock acts you scared up for the Cars franchise."

  15. incster says:

    Speaking of 24 Hour Party People, while traveling around Europe in the summer of 1985, I slept on Dave Haslam's floor for a few nights. He was just as interesting as you would expect. We went to the Hacienda one night. It was happening, and the center of the whole Manchester scene.

    The movie was great. Dave had a cameo, as well as Mark E. Smith.

  16. ducksauz says:

    Thanks for the recommendation for Beforeigners. Watched it over the last couple of days and thought it was great. However, I don't know that I'd really call it a police procedural. While it does have cops as the main characters, I don't think it really has the strict story rhythm of a procedural.

    Side note: I loved that the cops had to check out their guns for a particular operation where they might be needed and then return them promptly when done. Would love to see that here in the states.