Recent movies and TV

  • The Serpent Queen (2022): This is what House of the Dragon could have been, if they weren't fucking cowards. It has basically the same themes of marriage slavery, child brides and political assassinations, but it doesn't read like it was written by some sweaty gross dude getting off on how cool that all sounds. Also, not shot in the dark and doesn't have crappy CGI lizards.

  • Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2022): Girl wakes up psychic from a coma in the loony bin, busts out, befriends stripper, does crimes. It's a lot of fun.

  • The Invitation (2022): This is fantastic. A black artist from New York takes a DNA test and finds out she's related to rich English twits. Things Are Not As They Seem! It takes a classic Hammer turn.

  • Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo (2022): This is everything I wanted from a Scooby Doo movie; so much better than that 3D thing from a couple years ago. It is more self-aware than usual, and surprisingly anti-cop and anti-prison!

  • Thor, Love and Thunder (2022): This was fine, I guess. It wasn't as funny as Ragnarok, and the whole Jane Foster thing was really poorly explained. Her character was kind of wasted, really. What does it mean to be "a Thor", anyway. It's a job description now? But isn't he supposed to be like two thousand years old?

  • Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022): Idris Elba is no Robin Williams, but this was cute.

  • Confess, Fletch (2022): A fun, wisecracking, low-stakes detective story. The opposite of grimdark. I've already forgotten it.

  • Bullet Train (2022): Who let all these mother fucking assassins on this mother fucking train? It's dumb fun. I've already forgotten it.

  • Meet Cute (2022): Someone gave Harley Quinn a 24 hour time machine and she uses it for repeating a first date. It's pretty funny.

  • Emily the Criminal (2022): Aubrey Plaza does a low-key Breaking Bad. It's very tense, because you just know all of these bad decisions are going to pile up.

  • Lou (2022): Alison Janney and June Smollett fuck up a bad dad and some commandos in the woods. It's fun.

  • Fall (2022): Two women climb an abandoned radio tower and get stuck. I thought this would just be a forgettable Open Water kind of thing, and I also thought I wasn't afraid of heights, but this movie was absolutely terrifying.

  • Clerks III (2022): Ok, objectively, this is a bad movie. But nostalgically, it's like slipping into a warm bath. With a bottle of whiskey and a straight razor.

  • Andor (2022): This really is fantastic. It's often very slow, and pretty non-episodic despite being divided into episodes, which leads to some episodes feeling like not much happened, but it's more like: the episode stopped at 48 minutes, but the act break was somewhere else entirely. There's very little action for a Star War, though the action scenes are particularly intense. It's mostly about personalities and politics, which is a nice change. This show is not about "prop up the monarchy" or "find the MacGuffin", it is about the banality of fascism, and that is amazing.

    Also the sets are just gorgeous. I am constantly hitting pause to admire the backgrounds and architecture. And it's not just a re-tread of the designs we've seen in every other Star War. The soaring damp-concrete brutalism of Trantor Coruscant (sorry, I always forget which of those is Greek and which is Roman) just feels so much more lived in than any other depiction of that kind of world.

  • Cyberpunk Edgerunners (2022): This is such a slog, and so bad. I have never played the game, so maybe if I had shot people as these people I would give a shit, but this was just a bunch of amazingly cliched characters doing cliched things, most of whom had no personality or backstory beyond "I'm big" or "I smoke a lot". Also the animation was so basic and boring. It made me pine for Altered Carbon and I hated Altered Carbon.

  • Pantheon (2022): This, on the other hand, is fantastic! Characters with real personality, great voice acting, smart dialog, characters come into conflict not because one is just "evil" but because they have different ideas about how to deal with fucked up situations. It owes a lot to one of my all-time favorites, Serial Experiments Lain, but it is not as surreal.

    (By the way, if anyone has a torrent of an HD version of Lain with with both English and Japanese audio and non-hardcoded subs, lemme know. I've only found some of those things but not all four.)

  • Little Demon (2022): Danny Devito is Satan and knocked up Aubrey Plaza? Shit man that's all you had to say. This is delightfully foul.

  • The Midnight Club (2022): A bunch of kids in an implausibly-fancy hospice tell spooky stories. Interestingly this inverts the usual anthology framing-story structure, in that the framing story is the meatier story, where usually the frame is paper thin and just and excuse to do the sub-stories. Also, there aren't really any villains, except, like, cancer. They do a few fake-outs where they start setting up one of the characters as a heel but then that turns out to be no big deal.

  • Cabinet of Curiosities (2022): The first four episodes were just kind of dull. Every character is shitty and when they get their shitty asses killed I don't care. Lots of screaming in the dark, and so, so much dark. It's the new trend: I can't see what the fuck is going on. I expected better from Del Toro.

  • Hellraiser (2022): Having seen some Hellraisers in my time, this was... an adequate Hellraiser. I was not wowed but it was ok. You will be shocked to learn that it, also, is often too dark too see.

  • Barbarian (2022): This was scary, and does not take the completely predictable path I expected from the trailer. I am, however, left with some pretty major questions about the dynamics behind the whole thing, though, particularly related to AirBnB customer support. It's hard to say more without spoilers, but I was left with an awful lot of, "but... wait... how??"

  • Blade of the 47 Ronin (2022): Snappy dialog, good fight choreography, and most refreshingly, even the night scenes were well lit.

    There's a quote I've heard attributed to Peter Jackson: when lighting a battle scene, someone asked him, "Where will the audience think the light is coming from?" and he said, "The same place the music is coming from."


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28 Responses:

  1. David says:

    > The soaring damp-concrete brutalism of Coruscant [...] just feels so much more lived in than any other depiction of that kind of world.

    Some Coruscant scenes were filmed in the Barbican estate in London, as noted on reddit . Lots of CGI on top, of course, but the damp, concrete and brutalism is real.

  2. Eric TF Bat says:

    What's astonishing to me is that, of the 22 shows/movies/whatever that you listed, I've only heard of five of them.  How is it possible that there's so much being produced it what is, after all, still a pretty tiny genre?  It gives a vertiginous sense of the sheer size of what used to be called "Hollywood" and now can probably only be called the media industry.

    • jwz says:

      Uhhhh what genre is that?

      • Eric TF Bat says:

        Hmmm... Mostly SF/Fantasy/Horror, which all get thrown together by critics, though I guess you tip over into Adventure and Comedy a bit here and there.  Say 80% SF/F/H, which feels like a large range until you realise just how much "two people arguing" fiction is still out there.

    • George Dorn says:

      "Hollywood" or what passes for it these days continues to believe that the best way to advise the public on the existence of new SF/Fantasy/Horror is through advertising, either on television or online.

      I'd hazard a guess this is the audience most likely to be using effective ad blockers, so...

  3. Lou says:

    (not really a spoiler about Barbarian). The thing that annoyed me about Barbarian is that they twice dwelled on the electric toothbrush charging on the bathroom floor in a "this will be important later" way and then... nothing. It's like Checkov's anti-toothbrush.

  4. Doctor Memory says:

    Glad to see you on the Andor train.  This is what I was hoping for when Lucasfilm sold out to Disney: let some people who actually have a story they want to tell in that universe that's not about anyone in the Skywalker family actually go tell that story.  (Mandalorian seemed to be promising this as well but then every check it wrote in its first 4-5 episodes eventually bounced sky high.)

    Also worth calling out on Andor: the soundtrack! It's very, very good! It's not a John Williams pastiche!  Nicholas Britell just absolutely knocked it out of the park; apparently "let the guy who composed Whiplash and Moonlight do the score for a Star War" was a very good idea indeed.

    • MattyJ says:

      I also appreciate the acting and writing. I give a shit about these characters, even some of the villains.

  5. Andrew says:
    7 is a well seeded torrent with the US bluray version of Serial Experiments Lain, including english and japanese audio and subtitles

  6. Billy says:

    Loved Fall. So much open space and yet so claustrophobic.

  7. Carlos says:

    Just wanted to say Thank You for continuing to post these.


  8. chaosite says:

    > Cyberpunk Edgerunners (2022): [...] Also the animation was so basic and boring.

    Say what now? Edgerunners nailed the aesthetic it was going for and then some. It was just pretty. It had really interesting compositions, excellent use of color, and fluid animation. The visual style was simply amazing; for example, the after-images used to convey slow-motion. There were also over-the-top action scenes (which the people involved are well-known for) and maybe that's not for you, but I don't see how anyone can call the animation "basic and boring".

    100% agreed on the story being weak and the characters being underdeveloped. The main cast are all original characters too, so the game doesn't have anything to do with it sucking. It's just enough story and character to nod along to, I suppose.

    • jwz says:

      Well, maybe that was to your taste, but it just looked like all of the cheap-ass 3-frames-per-second, pan-across-a-still kind of anime I remember from the 80s, AKA "why I dislike most anime". I'm sure that was an aesthetic choice and it was all digital and didn't need to be that cheap-looking, just like South Park isn't really made with paper cutouts and a 1994 copy of Flash. But thanks I hate it.

      • chaosite says:

        I feel like it's a safe bet that the creators behind Edgerunners like that anime you remember from the 80s, and want their stuff to look like that. But I also don't think that this is animation that's supposed to look cheap-looking as an aesthetic choice. To me, it doesn't look cheap at all.

        Check out this clip from the beginning of the first episode:

        The whole show is full of action sequences that look like that, especially the bit that starts around the two minute mark. I can see where you're coming from with the "cheap-ass 3-frames-per-second, pan-across-a-still" comment, yeah, the clip uses those. But still, to me that's anything but "basic and boring".

        • jwz says:

          Yeah, there were a couple scenes like that (and even that one has weird frame-rate shit) but the vast majority of it was Terrance and Philip-level.

        • Ben says:

          How does looping the same two or three frames over and over not look cheap to you? Do you prefer "lazy"? The whole point of the style is to be able to put out animation without paying for even twelve actual frames per second.

  9. thielges says:

    The recent “too dark to see what is going on” stylistic fad is also a reflection of our modern day experience with night.   Before the smartphone people’s eyes had time to adjust to darkness and see their surroundings by just moonlight or stray urban light.    Now we voluntarily blind ourselves every time we check our phones.   

    • Robert Atkins says:

      I just assumed the producers assume everyone who counts has an OLED TV these days. I don’t, but I guess I have to bloody get one now.

      • jwz says:

        There have absolutely been a few times when it was so dark I started to question the health of my projector, and then I pulled up the same file on my computer, and nope, it's just fucking black and no amount of contrast-fiddling will fix that.

  10. Jeff says:

    You may enjoy Brockmire. Hank Azaria is a raunchy everything-aholic play by play guy for major league baseball. It was over the top vulgar and funny.

  11. Aracan says:

    My biggest "wait, how?" in Barbarian came at the end and concerns the relative velocities of roughly equal-massed bodies in freefall. Just no way.

  12. AK says:

    I love your "recent movies and tv" posts, I discover things I hadn't heard about.

  13. CSL3 says:

    Lots of screaming in the dark, and so, so much dark. It's the new trend: I can't see what the fuck is going on.

    You're not alone:

    More than a century went into refining cinematography, yet modern film-makers somehow want you to see less than ever before. It's the 🟧🟦 thing all over again.

  14. Andor really is very, very good.  From the first episode it felt like European cinema.  Three dimensional villians, whodathunk it!

    More of this please Disney, thanks.

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