Recent movies and TV

Normally I try to focus these reviews on shows that I actually enjoyed, but there's been a lot of crap lately so here comes some snark.

  • Shadow and Bone (2021): It's a fantasy world where like, Thailand and Spain are right next to each other and they're both the size of Los Angeles? And for some reason the Big Bad decided to plop an Evil Fog Bank right down the middle of the continent? I watched two seasons of this crap and I have no idea what was going on or why anyone cared. The whole time I kept feeling like I needed to flip back to the front of the book to consult the map again, but there's no map. Any show hinges on its villain, of course, and the villain in this show looked like he wandered in from a different sound stage. He looked like the kind of guy who would be trying to shut down the rec center to build a condo, not an evil wizard. Everyone else had their Tolkien costume on, and this guy just looked like some douche you'd have met at a goth club in the 90s who called himself "Vlad" and carried a wolf-head cane. Maybe there was a casting mix-up and some lawyer show ended up with a prosecutor with a giant Gandalf beard.

  • The Mayfair Witches (2022): This was ok for an episode or two but really the whole story is "pretentious stalker ghost is shitty" and wow did I not care. And that thing I said about the villain in Shadow and Bone? This dude was like the same dude. Total "90s goth club wolf-head-cane" vibe. I kept expecting him to start droning on endlessly about polyamory and BDSM. I know I read the book, ages ago, and I don't remember anything about it. I think there was some bullshit about haunted babies recursively giving birth to haunted babies like some kind of meaty fractal? That wasn't in the show, but it was pretty stupid.

  • Wolf Pack (2023): A bunch of high school kids trapped in a school bus during an LA wildfire get some red hot werewolf action. It was ok for the first 2 or 3 episodes and then lost my attention entirely, but one of the things that was so incredibly disconcerting about this show is how the whole thing seems to have been shot with an Instagram filter on it. Every single character, even the adults, have that weirdly plastic skin with no pores. Gruff, 50-year-old firefighter? Sure, he's got some ash smudges. Still has the plastic skin, though. Sarah Michelle Gellar is in this -- she's 46, and playing a grown-assed adult, but still has the filter that makes her look like a 24-year-old pretending to be 17, or a 17-year-old pretending to be 24, I can't tell which. Anyway, it was just fucking weird. I kept watching largely because I was more interested in "what the fuck is up with their faces" than in the (dumb) plot.

  • Unwelcome (2023): This starts off in a pretty standard way, but once the rubber-mask practical-effects evil GNOMES show up, I was all in. It has kind of a fairytale look, and the production is a real throwback to classic 80s schlock horror. It's great.

  • Puppet Master: Doktor Death (2023): Speaking of, yeah, they're still making these. This was no Chucky, that's for damned sure.

  • The Watchful Eye (2023): A grifter gets a job as a nanny to search for buried treasure in a New York Upper East Side Rich Twit condo building, and maybe there are ghosts. It was ok but nothing special. Upper East Side Rich Twit stories need more Steve Martin in them.

  • The Night Agent (2023): A pretty standard Bourne-style potboiler, if you're into that kind of thing. A giant slab of gee-shucks FBI agent has to protect The Woman Who Saw Too Much. The supporting characters are interesting, and the casting is surprisingly diverse for a show in this template. The conspiracy, once revealed, is pretty dumb and doesn't make a lot of sense, but the chase was fun. As with all Netflix shows, you can stop paying attention right after the big-boom finale, because they tack on their traditional 15 minute epilogue that ties up a couple loose ends and introduces 3 more, but those new threads are A) dumb and B) pointless, because this is Netflix, so there's like a 99% chance that there will be no season 2. This crap is especially irksome because it's so obvious that these plot decisions did not come from the writers' room, but were a mandate from marketing.

  • Righteous Thieves (2023): This was a heist movie about some jews and brown women fucking up some nazis, so it was their game to lose. And it was dumb fun, but wow, it had some of the laziest dialog ever. Within the first 20 minutes I heard, "We're not so different, you and I", and "<hacker voice> I'm in" twice, and "<heist recruit> I'm in" once. There was a fourth "<hacker voice> I'm in" later, and if someone had said, "You son of a bitch, you've got a lot of nerve coming here" I understand that I would have been expected to finish the bottle. But to their credit, they did correctly use the word "pwned" twice, and they spelled it right in the subtitles. Plus there was a good "weaponized PDF" gag.

  • Lockwood and Co (2023): What if England used their orphanages to train Ghostbusters. Not a lot happens. Maybe you have to give a shit about the shocking revelation that English private schools are awful in order to care about this.

  • Scream Queens (2015): I watched the first few episodes of this when it first came out and hated it, mostly because I was already deep into hating everything about the hack-fest of American Horror Story and this just seemed like more of the same. But I gave it a second try and enjoyed it more this time. I think it works best if you ignore or sleep through the plot entirely and just enjoy zingers from awful people. It's less of a "show" and more of a series of insult-comic one liners. Normally I can't watch shows where there is literally no one to root for, and this is one of those, but something about their commitment to raw bitchiness grabbed me.

  • The Menu (2022): The worst people in the world have dinner, and then get murdered. There's not a lot more to it than that, and it's better than that sounds, but I definitely feel like I've been to that irritating restaurant and met most of those shitty people.

  • Infinity Pool (2023): This is extremely fucked up but you knew that when you saw the name Brandon Cronenberg. It's White Lotus with a body-horror murder cult.

  • Cocaine Bear (2023): There is no reason this movie should have been any good. But it's pretty funny, and had great characters!

  • Carnival Row (2019): I absolutely loved season 1, but season 2 is weaker. There's not as much exploration of the world, and the political stuff isn't as interesting. Where season 1 had stuff to say about Imperial Britain, racism and the slave trade, season 2 took a stand against... Stalinism and the International Communist Conspiracy, I guess? Just seems like a weird choice for a show not made in 1955.

  • Avatar, The Way of Water (2022): So they pivoted from Ferngully to Free Willy. That's 3 hours I'm not getting back.

    I feel like I should have watched this on VHS, just in case Cameron would feel that disturbance in the Force and sit bolt upright in bed because of it. Or maybe a VHS rip AI-upscaled to 4K. With 60fps motion smoothing turned on.


Tags: , , ,

  • Previously