Recent Movies and TV

Hunters: When I heard about this -- "So, Inglorious Basterds was good, but what if we upgrade that Tarantino to a Jordan Peele?" My reaction was, "Shit, that's all you had to say." And it starts off very, very strong -- but then it kinda loses its way. There's a bit of that Grindhouse weirdness, but they never lean in to it, and the ending is just... pretty dumb. You already had a gang of old Jews extracting violent revenge on actual Nazis -- just inject that right into my veins. Trying to spice that up with another goofball conspiracy because Operation Paperclip wasn't spicy enough? Anyway, I enjoyed it, but it really went off the rails in the last 2 or 3 episodes.

Lovecraft Country: This is absolutely amazing. Best thing on TV right now. It's only up to episode 4 and they've already blown through half the book (which was very good too). The book was more of a collection of several novellas, so I guess that lends itself to episodic TV pretty well.

Bill and Ted Face The Music: This is everything it should have been. It's a triumph. It has all the goofiness of the first one and not a mean-spirited bone in its body.

Star Trek Lower Decks: This is just The Orville. The Orville already met its goal of debasing Star Trek. Why is Star Trek now taking a sarcastic shit on itself? What if Star Trek, but cynical, barely-competent dimwits? If Star Trek is The West Wing, this is Veep.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I really enjoyed this, it's very funny. But a lot of it is, "Oh, these rich people are so unhappy at their boring lives." Speaking of Star Trek, it has a weirdly post-scarcity feeling to it. All of their problems are that they could do anything but they don't want to.

The Wretched: A very 80s-feeling monster movie. Good effects without dumb jump-scares, and a twist or two that I didn't see coming.

VFW: This feels like it was made in the 80s, thematically: a bunch of old former soldiers fight a bunch of "young punks" who are all hopped up on goofballs. It's got that weirdly classist fear of cities that you saw a lot back then. Probably Giuliani's fault.

Super Mario Bros. (1993): This movie is nuts in kind of the way that Tank Girl was nuts. I wouldn't say it's good, but it sure is... very much its own thing. We should have shown this movie at a Cyberdelia that nobody would have come to!

The Night Before (1988): I hadn't seen this since it came out, so I was worried. Teen Keanu blacks out and accidentally sells his prom date to a sex trafficker, then tries to piece the night back together, Memento style. It's actually pretty funny, though it does contain the expected "80s comedy" level of low-key racism and sexism. One big surprise: the pimped prom date is Lori Loughlin, currently more famous for failing to bribe her kids' way into college. Also, that scene in every 80s movie where they go into a dive bar and nobody's paying any attention to the super famous band playing? Usually that band is Oingo Boingo, but this time it was George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars.

True Romance (1993): I had fond memories of this movie, but that must have been from before additional decades of exposure to Tarantino and his creepy tics. This movie is crappy and mean! And the whole time I was watching it I was constantly thinking, "This scene would play as a bunch of horrifying psychopaths without this perky steel drum score behind it." So chalk that up to the power of music I guess.

Stargate Universe: I re-watched the whole series, and it's still really good! I always say that my favorite Star Trek series is Stargate Universe. It was obviously a reaction to Voyager, which should have been a show about "how bad do things go when a starship has no supply lines" but instead Voyager was the same old garbage, including firing all all 121 of their 38 photon torpedoes.

Stargate Universe was all about scarcity. The first few episodes were literally climbing the hierarchy of needs: EP1: "We're venting atmosphere." EP2: "We're out of water." EP3: "Getting hungry." There's a throwaway gag where someone wistfully says, "So, that was the last of the coffee, huh?", and someone replies, "You should see the smokers." At some point they lose the shuttlecraft, and that's it: now having no shuttlecraft becomes a major plot point for the rest of the season.

I also loved how, for the first half of S1, they mixed up who the antagonists were. It started off as "The military are doing their best but these crazy scientists keep trying to get us all killed" and then a few episodes later they flip the narrative to "the smart people are doing their best but these fascists keep trying to get us all killed."

The thing I HAAAATED about the show, though, was the magic "telepresence stones". They relied on them as plot elements SO heavily and SO often that the show was almost about those. They were more overused than -- and as bad as -- holodeck episodes. (All holodeck episodes are bad. Fight me.) It also didn't make a lot of sense, especially in season 2, why SGC was so eager to get access to Destiny. Sure, they wanted to rescue their people, but it went way beyond that. They almost started a war over it. It's not like they didn't have access to tons of Ancient ships and tech already, e.g. the entire Atlantis facility.

Overall, though, a great show that deserved a third season.


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28 Responses:

  1. Doctor Memory says:

    I imagine you've seen this, but just in case and for anyone else who hasn't: an oral history of the making of Super Mario Brothers.

    A thing I hadn't known before reading that: it was the same production crew that did the Channel 4 Max Headroom movie! Sadly, SMB pretty much ended their careers.

  2. o.o says:

    Bill & Ted: You're not the first person I've seen who isn't inclined to tolerate bullshit lightly that has really talked this up. I was highly skeptical, but I may have to watch it.

    True Romance: I had a similar experience when I rewatched it recently for the first time in a while, although I still liked it overall. The lesser of three (four?) evils is still evil.

    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I'm a big fan of Gilmore Girls (not even ironically, it's just a really, really well-done show--my crush on Lauren Graham in this role aside, it's got Edward Herrmann, Melissa McCarthy before she tapped into her inner sociopath, and a metric crapton of obscure pop culture and music references), so several friends have recommended this to me. I've had it on my watchlist forever, I should really just commit to it. Also, if you haven't watched Gilmore Girls, you should.

  3. Unlikelylass says:

    You could do a Cyberdelia double-feature with Super Mario Bros. and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension and get like three people attending! Lolsob.

  4. Patrick says:

    Yeah, I thought SG:U was tough going in the first season with all the telepresence stones and back-home time and ... c'mon give us the magic spaceship we came here for, guys. I think it hangs together better in rewatches and modern bingeable scheduling, since you get through a lot of the emotional heavy lifting in a couple of hours and not half a damn year.

    And that said, I don't know that I'd do it differently? I mean, I suppose they could've just gone completely without, and accepted that it would've been hella dark the first time someone needed a medical specialist. But by the end of the show you knew a lot more about the characters, sooo.

    • jwz says:

      The "know more character backstory" and "we blew our budget for sets" aspects of the telepresence stones could have been accomplished with plain old flashbacks.

    • jwz says:

      Also the fact that they used the actor who was speaking instead of the actor whose body it was just made the whole thing too easy. It would no way have been that easy. That was a huge cop-out. "We want these to be teleporters but that's not what they are in the lore, so we'll just pretend instead."

      • Patrick says:

        But then you wouldn't have had those super creepy scenes of the whole Young / Telford / Young's Wife marital dispute triangle thingie, with the breakdowns during jumps into and out of lightspeed.

        I dunno, I guess I'm thinking more of the episodes where Eli struggles with telling his mom what's actually happening, or... well, mostly the Eli episodes. Chloe's separation from her father's achievements and Scott's essentially orphaned kid storyline, or Wray's love life, eh, not so much, yeah.

  5. Lloyd says:

    I thought Star Trek, but with barely-competent dimwits, was Enterprise.

    Archer arguing against installing weapons! Malcolm losing hardware on an away mission! Trip, T'Pol and feelings!

    but I may be referring to the. acting. Apart from A Mirror, Darkly, where the acting of the midriffs was truly excellent.

  6. MattyJ says:

    Have you given Cobra Kai a shot? I was surprised at how good it is, though it could have something to do with my age and my affection toward the original movie.

  7. Kyzer says:

    What I remember of SGU is that areas of the ship are its equivalent of Star Trek's torpedos; any time the plot needs a kick, another area of the ship mysteriously opens up.

    Also, my enduring, perhaps unfair memory of it is it had filler. You gave me an epic space mystery, SGU, now you want to go to Canadian Forest Planet, solve a mystery and come home in time for tea? I can't recall BSG having filler like that.

  8. thielges says:

    After seeing the trailer for Lovecraft Country, I was thinking “great premise but why monsters?” The monsters seem superfluous.

    Could it be that the majority of the American public is so insulated from the horrors of Jim Crow south that real world stories of oppression aren’t enough? Monsters are ironically more relatable to the modern psyche steeped in pop culture.

    If so then the creators of LC made a brilliant play. Eventually the audience will realize that even if the monster fantasy were removed, the protagonists still face unimaginable horror.

    • jwz says:

      Besides being a great story about sunset towns and whatnot, it's also a reaction to Lovecraft himself, flipping the script on his virulent racism. Asking, how can you still enjoy these stories after you realize what they were really about? There's been quite a lot of that sort of thing recently, and it's good stuff. Besides Lovecraft Country, I also loved Winter Tide and She Walks in Shadows.

    • Not Frank says:

      Another comment I've heard back when it was just a book, paraphrased: it turns out that learning how to deal with the unimaginable horror of Jim Crow is good prep for dealing with unimaginable horror of Lovecraftian monsters.

  9. Ugh, this just made me sad at the state of Sci-Fi on TV these days. Discovery is... okay. I guess. Certainly compared to the travesty that was Picard. Just, ugh. I just wish The Expanse was 24 episodes a season.

    I will say I sort of enjoy Lower Decks because I like Ensign Mariner's sarcastic Vulcan greeting, but that said it's a show that makes no sense. Star Trek is a very specific tone and this show shits all over that and it's a bit off-putting, and being animated it pretty much loses any semblance of gravitas. Plus they keep making plot points based on scarcity in a post-scarcity society, which is grating to my logic circuits.

    • jwz says:

      To be fair, the post-scarcity thing has been completely incoherent and inconsistent in every Trek series.

      • But like, why do the food replicators for officers have better food? Why can't they replicate T88 tricorders?

        A better question is, why does this bother me so much?

        • jwz says:

          But like, why do the food replicators for officers have better food? Why can't they replicate T88 tricorders?

          Based on the primary themes of this show, I would assume the answer is "out of spite."

          A better question is, why does this bother me so much?

          Because it's taking a dump on your nostalgia!

        • Dude says:

          As much as I love the franchise, Trek has always had problems with exactly how things work - something that stands out for a series thought of as "scientifically-grounded".

          For me, one of the biggest problems has always been the massive plot hole-generator that is the transporter. Aside from the fact that it's essentially killing the people it transports and replacing them with exact molecular duplicates (which the franchise briefly touched upon with the 2 Rikers from TNG), there's also the fact that since the transporters are so exact... why can't they just beam up injured people fully healed?

          Hell, TNG (and, I think, TOS?) both explicitly say that the transporters filter out elements during the process so as to prevent contamination aboard the ship (which leads to several episode-specific plot holes on its own), but since the transporter is recreating a person's pattern, why the hell is "Beam them straight to Sick Bay" even an option when everything suggests the transporter can probably beam in a healed version of the person?

          And yeah... as Jamie mentioned above, Trek's in-universe economics and politics have always been fuzzy (I've been watching a lot of this YouTuber's videos lately, I know):

    • Andreas says:

      it pretty much loses any semblance of gravitas

      I hope (wish) the culture ship reference was intentional.

  10. Your description of "climbing the hierarchy of needs" reminds me of playing Oxygen Not Included. If you're ever in the mood to play videogames that don't even slightly resemble DOOM ][, I'd recommend it. It's a management sim where you help a bunch of space dweebs survive inside an asteroid.

    A typical ONI game is a lovely progression of resource-exhaustion problems to panic about. Air then water then food are the expected early game ones (and they keep coming back up as you expand), then every industrial ingredient, plus there are fun ones later on such as entropy. It's possible for the industry you need for survival to accidentally warm up the entire rock you live in until it's too hot to grow food.

  11. Hunters really did start out well but man, it ended so badly. Still interested to see where they take a possible season two. Mrs Maisel also great. Someone above recommended Cobra Kai, and it's actually not terrible.

  12. Eric TF Bat says:

    I keep coming back here to check if you've reviewed Raised By Wolves yet. I've seen the first two episodes so far, and it feels like Earth 2 (remember that? No, neither does anyone) but without Tim Curry so therefore even less interesting. Ridley Scott directed, and proved that he's now officially just a parody of Ridley Scott. At least it's a better take on the idea of humanoid androids than your close personal friend Data.

    • jwz says:

      I've been watching it, and I expect to forget that I ever watched it not too long from now.

    • jboy says:

      Yes, Earth 2! That's near the top of my list of cultural experiences about which I've wondered "... Did I... dream that?".

      There was about a decade, in the earlier days of Google & IMDB (presumably beginning somewhere in the mid-200xs), when I searched, but couldn't find any mention of Earth 2 online. It's such a disconcerting feeling, as a child of the '90s Web, to find that some cultural experience is not mentioned anywhere online.

  13. Schwartz says:

    I hated Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The danger with making a show about someone who is 'funny' is that it's hard to show. The eponymous Mrs. Maisel is supposed to be some kind of comedy savant, but she is rarely funny.

    More than that, I was bothered by the casting. A show about Conservative NY Jews really appealed to me as those are my people. This might have been a show about my grandparents. They could have cast a Jewish actress in the lead, but instead we get a shiksa doing a poor impression of a NY Jew accent, which isn't really the same thing. I know it's not quite blackface, but I don't understand the choice.

    Tony Shalhoub is also not Jewish, but he's very good. He and Kevin Pollack are the only real spots of light in season 1 for me.

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