Recent Movies and TV

  • Prey (2022): This was just fantastic. Excellent action movie, good characters, great writing, the stakes are set correctly. No notes.
Then I did some slumming and watched a few earlier Predator movies.

  • Predator (1987): Aside from the monster design, this is really not very good. The first hour is macho bullshit posturing, and it is a liiiiiiitle bit self-aware about that, but not much. The last half hour is muddy Arnold being slightly smarter than a machine gun, but it still drags.

I skipped Predator 2 and both Alien vs. Predator movies because even after all of these years I still remember quite clearly that they are absolute shit.

  • Predators (2010): Another ensemble band of idiots in a jungle. Not many surprises, but it's not bad. There are a few "wait... what? Why?" moments like "Why did the predators airdrop these people using Earth-manufactured parachutes?" and why even bring up that "big predator vs. little predator" subplot at all which went nowhere?

  • The Predator (2018): Another ensemble band of idiots, this time in an office park. This one is quite a bit better because the characters are more interesting, funnier and have better lines. And the effects are pretty good. This movie would have been improved by a factor of 5 by just omitting the last 10 minutes, the sequel-bait epilogue with the Tony Stark armor.

  • Dave Made a Maze (2021): Guy builds a cardboard maze that accidentally becomes a pocket dimension and attracts a cardboard minotaur, like you do. It's funny and the sets and effects are amazing -- very Michel Gondry.

  • Day Shift (2022): Plot-wise it's your absolutely standard vampire hunting movie, but it has some great fight scenes. This movie was full employment for every spider-walking contortionist in LA, and the stunt director was, I'm gonna guess, a Jackie Chan fan.

  • Moloch (2022): It's kind of exactly the same predictable plot as every other "folk horror" movie, but it's nice and moody.

  • The Gray Man (2022): Ok first of all that's not what "gray man" means at all. But it was a big dumb action movie where manly men punch each other and make wisecracks. Captain America had a hilarious porn stache. I've already forgotten everything that happened.

  • Diabolik (2021): I am an enormous fan of Danger: Diabolik! (1968) so I was extremely skeptical of this going in, but it's awesome! It's actually a prequel, more of a story about Eva than Diabolik. It's much less campy than the original, but they did a fantastic job on the look of it: not just being set in the 60s but (mostly) looking very much like it was shot in the 60s. It was a little weird that instead of Diabolik being a charming rogue, in this one he's just a straight up psychopath Dirtbag Batman.

    There was a lot of heavy construction for his various underground lairs. I know we're supposed to just overlook this kind of stuff, but, I dunno, were 60s Italian heavy earthworks contractors noted for their discretion?

  • Sandman (2022): Watching the first half of this was a constant repeat of: "Oh, I remember this scene from the comics... No, I'm remembering an earlier, better version of this same scene from Moore's run on Swamp Thing." Was reading Sandman the first time around like this? Probably. I wish those short-lived Swamp Thing and Hellblazer shows had been given a proper chance, because while they both had some rough spots, they were both better than this!

    The Hob Gadling half-episode was great. Everything else, especially all the Rose Walker stuff, was a complete snore. If we're going to let elderly sad goth 80s comics writers continue to get high on their old supply, at least give Grant Morrison more TV, you cowards. (They can never take Flex Mentallo away from us.)

    Also the single half hour episode of Harley Quinn that featured Swamp Thing and Constantine was better than the entire 6+ hours of Sandman.

  • Doors (2021): A series of short stories set in a world where some incomprehensible aliens dropped weird gateways onto the planet that drive people nuts. It has a bit of a "cosmic horror" feel, and it is a bit reminiscent of Annihilation. It's ok but it doesn't really go anywhere. Which it also has in common with Annihilation.

  • Better Call Saul (2015-2022): I loved everything about this show, and they stuck the landing on the series finale. I also enjoyed Breaking Bad but Better Call Saul was so, so much better.

  • Atomic Blonde (2017): Just want to mention that I've watched this for like the 8th time and it's still just absolute fucking perfection. Has there been a better spy movie? I even bought the soundtrack, and that was only like 80% for that Health cover and 20% just out of respect.

  • Lord of the Rings, The Rings of Power (2022): I am surprised to report that I am quite enjoying this so far. I say this as someone who did not have the constitutional fortitude to even finish watching Return of the The King, let alone any of The Hobbit.

    (I keep thinking Galadriel is iamamiwhoami.)

  • She-Hulk, Attorney At Law (2022): Absolutely loving this. It is so dumb and fun.

    Though I am disappointed that She-Hulk is not more buff and even taller.

    (Fun fact: it is Marvel canon that hulks import their extra mass from a pocket dimension filled entirely with striated green meat.)

    Also we can thank this show for bringing Law and the Multiverse back out of retirement.

  • Harley Quinn S03: Perfect, no notes. See Sandman, above.

  • Only Murders in the Building S02: Not as good as S01 but still fun. They kind of loaded the entire plot into the last episode, but it was still fun to watch the three of them bumbling along.

  • Tales of the Walking Dead (2022): This is crap. They tricked me by having one good episode, the one with Parker Posey, but the rest of it is crap. Like all Walking Dead shows, it is full of deeply stupid, unlikable people, but at least as an anthology, you only have to put up with each of them for less than 42 minutes.

  • House of the Dragon (2022): Apparently the entire show is going to be about selling little girls into marriage/slavery? The other series was largely about that too, but it at least had other sub-plots. And did the writers learn everything they know about uncle/stepsibling dynamics from PornHub?

    Also the big dragon fight at the beginning was shot so dark I couldn't tell WTF was going on. You had one job! It's in the title of the show!

  • Blood & Treasure S02: Still enjoying this one a lot. It's less globetrotty than S01, but the characters are great.

  • The Resort (2022): A couple at an all-inclusive resort stumble on a decades-old mystery -- but they're idiots. It's pretty funny. The ending goes kind of off the rails.

  • Nope (2022): I love Peele's other movies but I wasn't really crazy about this one. It's got a bunch of different plots going on that only barely tie together, and the whole "monster" plot was just kind of a let-down.

    I enjoyed this (spoilery) Nope fanfic far more than Nope itself.

  • The Bear (2022): Dysfunctional boneheads try to run their restaurant. So much yelling! I enjoyed it, but watching this is not what you'd call a relaxing experience.

  • Paper Girls (2022): I was looking forward to this because I enjoyed the comics it was based on, but the show didn't really grab me. It's alright? Somehow I missed that it had even been released, and it has already been cancelled. One of the interesting things about the comics was that the time travel cosmology is really weird, but they didn't get into that in the show, and now they never will.

  • The Imperfects (2022): Some folks get superpowers and go looking for their mad scientist to make him take them away. It's pretty fun, and it's a nice take that they never even consider superheroing, they just think of themselves as monsters.

  • The Munsters (2022): This was not great. It's all schtick, though. It's like if someone said to Kingfish of Hubba Hubba Revue, I am going to give you half a million dollars, and you are going to make me a Munsters movie. You have exactly 3 months. Go!

    "And that's how I cast my brother as the Werewolf."

    The actors nailed it and the sets were great, but that didn't make it work. It felt like the first 2 episodes of a TV series, and in that context, I would probably still be giving it a chance to find its footing.

    Also, as a prequel / wedding, it was the same plot as the absolutely terrible Addams Family cartoon that came out a couple years ago. Which is stragely appropirate, Munsters biting Addams' style.

    Every movie now has to be a prequel that explains everything. Let me tell you the backstory of that little spaceship toy Luke played with in the garage for 5 seconds! Hey, where did Han get those fuzzy dice? Who gives a shit!


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36 Responses:

  1. Nik says:

    She hulk - worth it just for the constant digs at the entire franchise it's part of

    Only murders S2 - summed up perfectly right at the end, looking forward to s3

    The imperfects - seems to be throwaway garbage knock off of everything else in the genre, but SPOILER Tilda and the actress behind her do a phenomenal job with attachment and emotion.

    Cobra Kai at - unmentioned and undeserving of a s5. Still great fun but that shark skin trampoline is groaning under the weight.

  2. Doctor Memory says:

    Sandman suffers from the same problem that Good Omens did: too much of the audience would clearly riot if the show diverged more than 8% in any direction from "Neil Gaiman reads that one Neil Gaiman story that you remember really loving as a teenager in a soothing tone of voice as you drift off to sleep." Only much  worse because of course it's Sandman and the size of the audience with an unearned sense of emotional entitlement to it is an order of magnitude larger. And there's no John Hamm, Hamming it up.

    Kirby-Howell Baptiste is great as Death and it's apparently not really possible to fuck up The Sound of Her Wings or Hob Gadling, but every time the show tries to have a plot it's so ham-handed that it makes me seriously wonder if I just had no taste as a teenager: the first six episodes basically boil down to "Dream's shitty ex-roommate pawned all of his stuff and he has to run around town getting it back" only, like, really portentously. Then later we spend a lot of time considering what nice roommates might look like.

    • 2

      The show motivated me to go back and re-read the original comic run (I was a goth kid in the 90s, of course I had them on-hand). My theory on the ham-handedness: The overarching story of the comic was more "vibe"-driven than narrative-driven; that worked for the comic, as the vagueness leaves lots of room for the reader to attach their own emotional baggage to the vibes, giving a feeling of depth (and the original reader base had baggage to spare). For TV they needed something more concrete--but the moment you remove that vagueness and don't add on your own baggage, it becomes clear the emotional/narrative content of the story itself was fairly straightforward and not all that deep.

      For me, it kind of feels a bit like revisiting my teenage angst as an adult--at the time that angst felt vast and mysterious (the causes of it were unclear at the time), but now that adult life has forced me to build a more concrete understanding of myself it all seems a lot more prosaic (shitty parents make you feel shitty about yourself when you're a kid--duh).

  3. CSL3 says:

    So weird to see Jamie praising a Tolkien project...

    It's unreal that Prey is so damn good! It's like someone figured out the franchise's potential. I love the goofiness of the original and the so-bad-it's-good (to me) aspect of Part 2, but the rest are physically painful to sit through for me.

    Only Murders... had the same problem as fellow Hulu series Woke: the first Se. was smart and funny, but the second showed a major drop in quality. At least with Woke it was because they switched showrunners, but Yr. 2 of Only Murders... felt like they were surprised by the first year's success and had no idea how to follow it up, so they just threw shit at the wall.

    After suffering through a month ago 31, I'm skipping The Munsters just to stay clear of Rob Zombie.

    • Doctor Memory says:

      "Drop a Predator into a group of historical fighters" is such a gimme concept that it's insane that it took us the better part of 30 years for the films to get here.  (The comics, to their credit, were all over it.)

      Honestly I hope we get a bunch of disconnected sequels in this vein.  Predators Vs Vikings basically writes itself, but I'm crossing my fingers for Predators Vs Zulus -- mfers held off two european empires for a good long time using nothing but spears and better tactics so sure, why not throw in a Predator?

    • CSL3 says:

      ALSO: seeing Kingfish do a Munsters or Addams Family routine would almost be worth braving COVID to see.

      And I likely won't see Sandman, but I find it mind-boggling that the film rights were once owned by Jon Peters... who tried to give it the same giant spiders he wanted in Superman and later put into Wild Wild West.

      (I'd joke about Peters having a fetish, but that fucker's been sued for sexual harassment and assault about as many times as Elon Musk - both of whom take credit for others' work and paid lots of money to hide their balding scalps.)

    • CSL3 says:

      Curious what you thought of the new Hellraiser, especially given your thorough chronicling of the franchise. I dug most of it, but thought the ending was a bit weak.

      Also, the first two ep.s of Chucky Se.2 have been really strong! Chucky himself gives one of the best assessments of Uber that I've ever heard!

  4. Rodger says:

    On House of the Dragon I can’t think of a more succinct critique of Martin’s work that referring to it as “Peter Stringfellow’s Middle Earth”; like you, I was in awe of how perfect Prey was. Just so spot on. And it seems to have managed to mostly appeal to super fans of the original, which is remarkable given that the combination of toxic nostalgia and a non-white woman in the lead role is the sort of thing that would normally degenerate into incoherent fury.

    The original Predators never hit me as a great 80s action film - compared to Commando where the air hostess/student pilot character is used to mock the film as well as the film indulging itself in nonsense.

    As far as Sandman goes, the first collected graphic novel is generally the roughest. It didn’t really hit its stride until The Sound of Her Wings, so extending the role of Dr Dee and the time spent on those plots really does feel like the wrong decision - and rejigging the Corinthian is a mistake. The oldest game felt like the Gandalf vs Sauruman scene in the LoTR movies, and that is not a complement.

  5. Rezmason says:

    Doors didn't go anywhere? How's that possible? 🥁

  6. MattyJ says:

    For those of us that like the finer things, Prey was also pretty phenomenally shot and sound designed. On a big 4k TV with Atmos, it was pretty great. That Predator sound circling around the room, I had a nightmare about that sound the night after I watched it. The night scenes lit by firelight, damn.

    Elvis - Very Baz Lurhman-y if that's your thing, and that's my thing. Loved this one.

    Thor: Love and Thunder - Very much the same tone as Thor 3 if that's your thing, and that's my thing. Comedy kicked up a notch. I enjoyed this one a lot. If you hated Thor 3 you will hate this one even more.

    • Nik says:

      Thor Love and Thunder is objectively a bad film but subjectively I'm a man-child and it had me in stitches at times.

  7. 2

    You are simply wrong about Predator 2. It is not "absolute shit" in any sense. It is wholly joyful shit made of distilled stupidity in a way that has vanished from our broken world.

    It's the second best Predator movie after Prey.

    • Jeff says:

      It's also the best Lethal Weapon movie.

    • Chris W. says:

      So you're saying it's the Starship Troopers of the Predator series?

      • jwz says:

        Anyone who criticizes Starship Troopers in this way did not understand Starship Troopers.

        • Eric TF Bat says:

          Ah, so regarding Starship Troopers, you're in the "it's too ironic to be stupid" camp, rather than the "it's too stupid to be ironic"?  I think it's both. Or maybe neither? I'm not sure.

          • jwz says:

            It's not a stupid movie, or too ironic to be stupid. It's a very clever satire that happens to have some very stupid characters in it. At the time, nearly every critic mistook it for the thing it was satirizing, and that continues today. It's not an adaptation of the Heinlein novel, it's a rebuttal.

            • Eric TF Bat says:

              That actually works.  First explanation I've seen that does.  Mind you, I loathe most of Heinlein's stuff, so I start from a particular viewpoint.

              • jwz says:

                I mean, dude grew up under actual Nazi occupation.

                Casper Van Dien was so close to the images I remembered from Leni Riefenstahl’s films. [...] No one saw it at the time. I thought Neil Patrick Harris arriving on the set in an SS uniform might clear it up. [...] People were expecting a new Star Wars. They got that, but not really: it stuck in your throat. It said: “Here are your heroes and your heroines, but by the way – they’re fascists.”

      • 1

        "Starship Troopers" is an entirely different genre.

        "Split Second" is a better comparison.

  8. MrSpookTower says:

    > (I keep thinking Galadriel is iamamiwhoami.)


  9. jjkaczor says:

    If you are in the market for a good spy TV series, the best I have watched in ages (since Patriot), is "Kleo" on Netflix.  Very well done.

    So - if the creature from Nope is an airborne predator, how well does that work with a single eye?  Am thinking depth perception may be an issue...  Oops, smacked the ground again, picking off another horse...

    • david konerding says:

      Binocular vision is only one component, and not the most critical one, of depth perception.  Monocular cues are more important- people who lose vision in one eye can still drive.

      • Eric TF Bat says:

        There's a SF story from the 1990s or so where an intelligent monocular species that evolved from brachiating (ie tree-climbing, Tarzan-swinging) ancestors turns out to have a sort of laser range-finder capability that nobody knew about, and this is deduced by someone who starts with the question "how do you leap from tree to tree when you can't see in 3D?".

        (Yes, I know the name of the story, but that's a plot point so I hope by not naming it I'll reduce the chance of spoilers.)

  10. Johannes says:

    Predator 2 (the one with Danny Glover, not any other of the newer crap that could share the name) wasn't that bad.

  11. Dave says:

    I liked Gray Man but things didn't make a lot of sense.  So I tracked down the book and it did explain a way a lot of the confusion I had.   So I know why things happened, but they still don't make much sense.   It's basically for people who thought Reacher and John Wic were to realistic, and wanted to turn the cartoony up to 11.

  12. TreeSpeaker says:

    As a former AFOBTAS (Adult Fan of Batman the Animated Series) thank you for the mention of the DC TV, wait, Hulu, um I meant HBOmax Harley Quinn. It wasn’t just WB adding “fuck” as punctuation to the dialogue and dubbing it “adult”, but actually having season-long story arcs, reasonable character development (as reasonable as you can get and staying true-ish to the Gotham universe anyway), and some truly laugh-out-loud gag writing. The voice casting is also spot-on, even without Mark Hamill as Joker. Recommended.

  13. Joe Luser says:

    Minor correction: Dave Made a Maze is 2017. I watched it last week because of a recommendation from a commenter on your previous media update and enjoyed it immensely (thank you, previous commenter!!). Definitely some Gondry in there. And there certainly seems to be a bit of debt to Forbidden Zone

  14. thielges says:

    Those disappointed by the modern Addams Family and Munsters movies, but still want an updated dose of 1960s goth shlock should check out Tim Burton’s spin on Dark Shadows.  The critics panned it though I found it to be  good fun.  

  15. Carlos says:

    Thank you for this, as always.  jwz is the mixtape for the mod generation.


  16. djm says:

    The Grey Man was indeed shit, but it had the redeeming feature of including a tram chase

  17. Aw, see, the charming rogue stuff, the wink at the end, the fact that he would do anything Eva asked of him, that's all part of what made Danger: Diabolik so interesting! To remove that is to remove the character from the story.

  18. Jyrgen N says:

    Slightly disagree re Better Call Saul. I don't think it is better than Breaking Bad, but it is a different direction. Slower, grittier, with a more realistic appearance. I liked it a lot, not the least for Kim and Nacho being such wonderful characters, more interesting – and more likable – than Saul himself. Breaking Bad has a more, how shall I say, kind of lyric, fantasy-like quality, composing ideas, in parts very strange ones, to an imaginative whole. It has its own peculiar charm that IMO is not second to Breaking Bad, but the same is true vice versa.