Recent Movies and TV

  • Severance (2022): What if your memories of "at work" and "not" were completely partitioned? This is Office Space crossed with Get Out, or maybe, if Philip K. Dick had written Bullshit Jobs. It's very creepy and absolutely fantastic. (Peter Watts wrote a great review of it.)

  • Hellbender (2022): This is in the "Magical Girl homeschooled in the woods" genre, but this time they're cannibal witches? It was interesting, but I really need a little more detail on why someone who is like 160 years old is so into 90s indie rock.

  • Station Eleven (2022): Stop me if you've heard this one before, but there's a global pandemic... It flips back and forth between the breakdown and 20 years after, and that's handled pretty well. It feels a lot like the early seasons of Walking Dead if the characters were all a lot less stupid and shitty. Also a bit of Lost in that every single person has some wildly-coincidental connection to every other from the Before Times. Mostly it's about how traumatized all of these people are, even the weird, halfassed serial killer, who ends up being neither that big of a threat, nor someone I cared about at all. A strange show.

  • DMZ (2022): This is based on a very bad comic book series that I read for like 2 or 3 years. There's been another revolution, and the United States is now Queens, and the Confederate States are everything else? I was never clear on the geography. Anyway, Manhattan is the DMZ, so it's Escape From New York meets The Warriors, except that in the comic, instead of Snake Plissken, the main character is a whiny man-child journalist. See, I was a big fan of Brian Wood's first series, Channel Zero, but all of his subsequent work seemed to be of the "whiny man-child protagonist" variety. Anyway, later in the comic they switch protagonists to a medic, and that's where this TV series begins, which was a better choice. But, the plot is entirely constructed of ludicrous coincidences. Our Hero has 48 hours to find her son, who has been missing for years. Coincidentally, there's a mayoral election happening right now, and coincidentally, she used to date both of the gang leader candidates, and coincidentally, one of those candidates is the baby-daddy, and coincidentally, her son is now the World's Greatest Assassin.

  • Shining Vale (2022): Writer's block in a haunted house, sounds like a yawn, but the ghost has a personality instead of just being a poltergeist, the supporting cast are good, and the dialog is snappy and foul-mouthed. I'm enjoying it a lot.

  • The Bubble (2022): This combines what, if you've been reading my reviews for a while, you know are two of my least favorite things: A) every character is a complete piece of shit with nobody to root for, and B) it's a movie about making a movie, meaning it's Hollywood's favorite pastime, "licking its own asshole". That said -- this is pretty funny. I laughed. Disclaimer: I was also pretty drunk.

  • Halo (2022): Strong opening in the first episode, but so far it's kinda... The Mandalorian with not-as-good sets? It feels very Syfy Channel, like, is this just Dark Matter but less Canadian? I have never played the game, but I do vaguely recall watching a few other Halo-based productions, and they were all terrible. They were basically Warhammer fan-films and super boring. Here's the extent of my background knowledge about Halo: it's Starship Troopers but "Halo" means "Ringworld". Ok, so if there are ringworlds, what I want is lots of deep technical nerding about orbital mechanics, and terraforming, and some kick-ass CGI simulations of stellar-mass megastructures with deep zooms. I have received none of these things thus far, meaning that this series has failed me.

  • Star Trek Picard (2022): You may recall that I despised the first season. Amongst its many sins was that it was a show about Data, and fuck Data and all his god damned re-treads of the Pinocchio story. This season started off with Q, and my eyes rolled so hard that I think I sprained my face, because, come on, though there's nothing worse than a Data episode, the next worst thing is a Holodeck episode, and right after that is a Q episode. And then... TIME TRAVEL! Not only time travel, but a Borg Queen, another hack-ass betrayal-of-the-entire-concept that should never have been allowed into the franchise in the first place, but that now they have to live with forever! Ok, but that said... this season is kinda great. I am enjoying it a lot and I don't know how they managed to make something good out of these incredibly shitty ingredients.

    Update: The preceding review was written about the first half of the season. The second half managed to squander all of my goodwill. It was absolute garbage.

  • Spider-Man No Way Home (2022): Wowwww, was this a pile of hot garbage. It is like a remake of Into The Spiderverse by someone who hasn't actually seen it, and lacking all of the charm. There's so much about it to hate, but I'll just leave it with "Why was Dr. Strange wearing a wig from the Spirit Halloween Super Store with aerosol-spray temples?"

  • Dead Sushi (2012): What if Tampopo but Reanimator?

  • Fresh (2022): Bad date is a cannibal. It's a bit torturey and kind of your classic Final Girl, but well done.

  • Madelines (2022): A slight coding error with the time machine results in another Madeline materializing in the back yard every day. Murder and body disposal at that kind of scale is time consuming and difficult. This is super low budget, but clever and funny.

  • Kicking Blood (2022): An alcoholic and a vampire go cold turkey together. It's straightforward, but ok.

  • The Ipcress File (2022): British spies in 60s East Berlin. It's no Atomic Blonde, or even Pennyworth, but it's fun. I guess it's a remake. I never saw the original.


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11 Responses:

  1. Jeremiah Cornelius says:

    The original Ipcress File is a GREAT movie. It was my fave film when I wa s8, which shows you what kind of kid I was...

    It was the "anti-James Bond" movie, with a working-class fuck-up as the anti-hero, unwilling secret agent. A very early film for Michael Caine, after his breakthrough lead as Alfie, and worth every time I've re-watched it, since 1973.

    The original had oblique lighting, unusual camera positioning and angles, and was un-glossy. I'd be surely disappointed by any attempt to remake it.

  2. Jim says:

    Raised by Wolves

    • George Dorn says:

      The second season seems to be dropping all pretense about being serious sci-fi and just embraces the all-weird-shit-all-the-time instead. Admirable honesty, I guess, but I still couldn't make it through the first episode.

  3. CSL3 says:

    I was gonna say I'm surprised someone adapted DMZ into a series, but as I was typing, I suddenly remembered, "Oh wait - they adapted fuckin' Y: The Last Man last year, didn't they?"

    All bets are off. At this point, I expect someone to adapt Mark Millar's entire canon.

  4. bq Mackintosh says:

    I'm honestly stunned that the shameless plotblocking in Severance hasn't turned you off.

    I mean, I love the production design and premise. Love it. But the only purpose of the plot is draw itself out.

    My personal hypothesis of what's happening in the show: Lumon Industries is actually Red Hour Productions, the producer of Severance. The hapless employees of the Macro Data Refinement department are analyzing encoded copies of next week's script, and their job is to identify parts of the script that would allow the plot to progress, and then delete them. The folks down at MDR are doing a fine job.

    Or, alternate hypothesis: someone actually managed to make a TV adaptation of Infinite Jest with Kubrikian license taken with the plot.

    I know you have a short list of qualifications for plotblocking. My version is this: if you're a writer, don't aim your product at people who will be intrigued by puzzles and mysteries, and then give them an obviously unsolvable puzzle or mystery. You need to aim that at some other demographic.


    A couple of weeks ago the episode ended by teasing that in the next episode, the internal employees would wake themselves up in the outer world. Then that next episode also ended with a tease that in the next episode, the internal employees would wake themselves up. That's where I decided that I was tired of the writers telling me the joke, "How do you keep a sucker in suspense?"

    Since then, I've found that reading about the production process of the show is far more satisfying than watching the show.

    • jwz says:

      Well, I completely disagree. I don't think it's plotblocking at all. It has a self-consistent world and characters with goals that they make progress toward. It does not rely on keeping things secret from the audience that are known to all of the characters, and the goalposts don't move. It's nothing like Lost or Westworld, in other words.

      I never watch "next episode" teasers, and criticizing a show for what's in those is the same as criticizing a movie for its trailer. Those aren't even made by the same people!

      Peter Watts also loved it, and I agree with most of the things he said.

      • k3ninho says:

        It's slow. Slow enough I can't distinguish intentional pacing from plotblocking. Yes, it's beautiful (although dark so you have to watch with curtains closed) and, yes, the time is invested in the characters so you care for their plight.

        I've just arrived at Ep9 and ... this should be Ep3. Then the story can explore "What next?"


  5. k3ninho says:

    New Cronenberg, with two trailers, found via


  6. Just want to say I called it on Picard.  Just turrible.

    I'm not holding out much hope for Strange New Worlds either.

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