Let it never be said that I don't have my finger on the pulse, because I just watched that hot new movie that everyone's talking about and definitely hasn't forgotten even came out: Ready Player One. And I kind of hated it, but not really as much as I expected to. I don't know, it was fine.
Much has been made of the basic premise, i.e. "What if you, a useless white guy who has nothing to offer the world except a tiresome, pedantic knowledge of pop culture touchstones, were actually the coolest guy around and will save the world through a series of plot-convenient epiphanies helping you solve puzzles at just the right moment?" and, yeah, that's exactly what this movie is. I feel like this movie is the spearhead of the nerd glorification trend we've been seeing as movie studios realise that comicbook movies are where all the money is, so they're just starting to make movies about dorky losers so audiences can self-insert and pat themselves on the back. And, worse, I feel I am probably this movie's target audience, because I have wasted my life consuming all this stuff and I do get all the references. Ready Player One wants me to sit up and clap by showing me a lousy, worthless internet person (just like meeee) saving the world. Take that, everyone who bullied me in high school!
But joke's on them, baby, because they're about fifteen years too late to catch me in my "Yeah, I am pretty great" phase. These days it's all about self hatred and regret over having wasted so much of my finite time on memorising the names of fictional spaceships instead of talking to people, and the idea of seeing someone like me in a movie makes me want to run. At least someone like me as the hero. Casting a socially-awkward doofus as someone who isn't glorified in any way? As, say, the bad guy? As, say, perhaps, just for example, hypothetically, the main villain of a new series of followups to a beloved trilogy of the very same movies that Ready Player One encourages idolizing? Now we're getting somewhere...
Anyway, Ready Player One is a movie about overly-busy CGI setpieces so stuffed with recognisable characters that you'll miss seven of them in the time it takes you to say "Oh that's Robocop". There's a laughably self-congratulatory bit where our hero meets his cyber-crush in real life and finds that, HORROR OF HORRORS, she's a perfectly made-up, traditionally beautiful young woman with red hair... with a cool-looking facial birthmark, and he assures her that he is open-minded and magnanimous enough to accept her as she is. What a guy. But, whatever, it's OK. Spielberg knows how to put a movie together, so even if it is too long and a bit boring it's still totally watchable.
I watched The Incredibles 2 and Venom, and I found them both surprisingly enjoyable!
I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised about liking The Incredibles 2, since I did like the first one and, y'know, Pixar doesn't really make bad movies. But I haven't actually watched any of them since Inside Out, and I haven't really liked one since Toy Story 3, so I guess I just fell off the Pixar bandwagon. I don't want to say that I've grown out of this kind of movie, because I still love them when they're good, but at this point I can't really sit through a mediocre one. I need a bit of groundswell to get me interested, I suppose. Or maybe I just need a recognisable brand, and I only watched this because it had the word "Incredibles" in the title and I'm a helpless slave to the marketing machine like everyone else is.
It was good. It was fine. I don't know, it was a little bit on the boring side but it had some fabulous action scenes carried the rest of the movie. Boy oh boy, kinetic thrills and inventive superpower usage and all that good stuff. If there's one thing I can't fault Pixar on, they know how to make stuff look real good when it moves. Elastigirl is the main focus here, and they have such great ideas about what she can do with her powers. She's half Spider-Man, half Mr Fantastic, and she has this amazing way of doing basically everything. They convey her elasticity so well through her animation, and she's just a joy to watch. There's a new character named Voyd who can make Portal-style portals appear whenever she likes, who's another highlight of the show, and then the rest... don't really make an impression. I was a little disappointed they didn't do anything with Dash, whose running-on-water scene in the first movie is still one of my favourite moments in cinema, but you can't win them all.
I'll be good and gosh darned if I can tell you what the moral of this story is, though, or if it has any kind of deeper message beyond "superheroes are good, though". It's a premise vague enough that you can project your choice of uplifting triumph-over-adversity story onto it, like "be proud of the things that make you different" or whatevs, but the movie itself doesn't really say anything specific. They didn't really do any character development or arcs or anything, either. I thought they were going to have Bob learn a lesson about stepping back and letting someone else do the hero-ing, but they don't. I thought they might address the whole catastrophic collateral damage thing that got superheroes outlawed in this universe in the first place, but they don't. It's this weird water-treading thing where all the characters more or less end up exactly where they were at the end of the first movie, only now superhero-ing is legal again. Violet even finishes the movie asking the same boy out on a date due to some memory wiping shenanigans. Dash doesn't really do anything. They didn't even catch The Underminer. It's an odd direction to go with a sequel fourteen years in the making.
I don't know where to begin with Venom. What a weird movie. It's this totally boilerplate superhero-origin-by-numbers movie, where the only thing they really did to disguise the off-the-rack story structure is replace the customary beam of light shooting up into the sky in the third act with... a space rocket shooting up into the sky. The trailers all looked terrible, and by all accounts this Venom movie without Spider-Man, made by Sony without Marvel's input was bound to fail. But then you actually watch it, and it's honestly a lot of fun. Tom Hardy puts in such a bizarre performance that you can't take your eyes off him, and every now and then it'll zig when you think it's going to zag in some really silly ways, and I had a good time with it.
Tom Hardy makes all the acting choices in this movie. He shouts, he whispers, he sweats bullets the entire time and drenches not only his shirt but the hoodie above it. He talks like he fell from the top of the accent tree and got hit by every branch on the way down. He sounds like a completely different person from scene to scene, sometimes shot to shot. Sometimes it even looks like he's lost a significant amount of weight between two scenes. He's one of those actors who's bounced between being normal-sized and juiced up on steroids so many times that his body is all screwed up and he's kind of skinny, kind of buff and kind of fat all at the same time, and all these things I'm mentioning take place BEFORE he gets infected with Venom and really starts getting weird. Tom Hardy is unintelligible at the best of times, but Tom Hardy playing a guy with alien goop inside him is a spectacle worth seeing.
The villain this time is a California tech billionaire who brought a bunch of Symbiotes down to Earth for some reason I didn't catch, and wants to goop people up with them, and generally does a bunch of stuff you've seen movie villains do a dozen times before. The most interesting thing about him is that his assistant is named Dora Skirth, which is just so bizarre a name that I can't imagine how anyone thought it up. The first time she introduced herself I heard it as "Doris Girth", and then when they showed a close-up of the spelling on her business card I wasn't sure which name I liked better. Dora Skirth. Amazing.
So it pretty much goes the way you'd expect, but Venom living inside Tom Hardy's head makes for some nice scenes along the way. Michelle Williams is there in a pretty thankless role, and her boyfriend is Dan from Veep. The action ranges from reasonably OK to laughably bad, with these teeeerrible reaction shots from Tom Hardy during an awful motorbike chase. The idea of an action scene where the main guy's body is being controlled by another entity was done much better in Upgrade, which just so happens to star that guy who looks exactly like Tom Hardy:
To continue my series of "Ocelot is too old to go to the cinema so he waits for things to come out on streaming and then talks about them when nobody cares any more", I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and I LOVED IT!
What a great movie! Who would've thunk they'd just go and make the best Spider-Man movie out of nowhere like that? I really had this movie all wrong; I expected it to be good after all the praise, but, like, not good good. Like Incredibles 2 good, where it was perfectly enjoyable while I was watching but I've never thought about it again since. No, man, this movie was for-realsies good. I just loved all the characters, the wonderfully motivational message, the gorgeous artistic style and that delicious animation. It's just such a treat to watch, with that vibrant colour palette and some of the most inventive action scenes and, y'know, just stuff I've ever seen from a superhero movie. Boy I liked it a lot.
Just watched the final episode of Gotham, or as I like to call it, Got Ham. Normally I can't stand superhero TV shows since they're corny and nonsensical, but somehow I ended up watching Gotham (perhaps because it's Batman) despite the fact that it too shares these universal qualities. The show is bizarre and twisted, closer to the Tim Burton bat-verse than more recent adaptations, but that's not even what's bad about it. The worst part is the story is just a whole heap of "whatever the writers felt like doing at the time," with no rhyme or reason. I think every single character died and came back to life at least once, and that's not an exaggeration. And nearly all of them turn evil and then turn back again and everyone just forgives them. It all gets frightfully confusing, but somehow the biggest question left unanswered is: just why in the hell would anyone live in Gotham? It's the worst place on earth!
Anyway, I missed most of the last season since I lost interest in the lame rehash of Dark Knight Rises they were doing, but I tuned in for the final episode just because Batman was finally gonna show up. But it was a big letdown after the epic-scale-war "Escape from Gotham" arc they just wrapped up. It just felt tame in comparison. Gordon's wife Barbara is somehow still alive and now has red hair (but her daughter Batgirl doesn't??), and they got a new actress for Catwoman since the girl who played her in the beginning wasn't cute anymore, but Batman seemed to be the same dweeby kid for some reason (weird, since we never see his face). The only thing that happens in the whole episode is: the all-time worst portrayal of the Joker comes back to life, murders his apparently-not-Harley-Qunn after Barbara stabs her, and then kidnaps baby Batgirl and takes her back to the chemical plant where he fell in. Then Batman comes and throws some stuff at Joker's head from the shadows (that's seriously all he does - it's comical) while Gordon saves his daughter. Then Batman stands up in a spotlight right after they had been talking about Bruce Wayne's strange absence, Bullock goes "OMG who is he I wonder??", and the show's over.
What a silly show. Lots of incredibly good-looking actresses in it though, so it wasn't all a waste.
Hey speaking of good-looking actors, I watched a little movie by the name of Avengers: Endgame, and wow.
Wow wow wow wow wow. And some more wows. After liking, but also being a tiny bit underwhelmed with Infinity War due to certain things like a criminal lack of one Captain America, and some narrative decisions I just couldn't get on board with (making Vision, of all 'people', the crux of the 'we can't sacrifice a life to stop this whole thing' idea), I'm happy to say that Endgame was maybe one of the most perfect movies ever made.
I got that Mad Max Fury Road feeling, where, yeah, if you really wanted to you could make some complaints, but in terms of making a movie exactly what the movie needs to be? No, baby, they nailed it. Avengers: Endgame is the perfect cap to this ridiculous, decade-long, 30-something entry, single continuity movie thing. Everyone's here. Everything you hoped would happen happens, and a whole bunch of stuff you didn't think would happen happens anyway and it's awesome. It's three solid hours of pure fanservice, but it's actually good fanservice where the things fans wanted to happen were the right things to happen in the first place. I cried like six times watching this movie. I'm a wreck. We did it. We got there. With all the world's hopes resting on this one, climactic movie to put a bow on this whole era of cinematic universes, they did it.
I'm going to do spoilers now, but if you want my recommendation: YES. Go and see it it's so good oh my god. OK spoilers:
Wow they really did the Ant-Man/Thanos thi- OK, no they didn't, but they did have Cap fighting Cap, Cap lifting Mjolnir, and then CAP TRAVELLING BACK IN TIME TO LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER WITH PEGGY! Did you see when he used Mjolnir to bat the shield back at Thanos like a baseball? The Hail Hydra joke? The TWO WHOLE SCENES devoted to his muscular ass in the Avengers 1 suit? Did I write this movie!? I TOLD YOU CAP X PEGGY WAS OTP!
Everyone came back. They got Robert Redford to be there for like ten seconds. Rene Russo, Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving again. They even got the kid from Iron Man 3, even though they had to know nobody would recognise him because he grew up and doesn't look like a child actor any more! They even got human Jarvis from Peggy's TV show that no one watched! The funeral scene at the end where the cameraman slowly walks through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe was... oh boy, here come the waterworks again. RDJ saved the world one last time. It's the end of an era, and no one's going to fill those big ol' iron boots he's leaving behind. RDJ's Iron Man will, deservedly, be rubbing shoulders with all of cinema's greats for decades to come. He brought that character to life.
God what a movie. What a movie. Three hours just flew by. A TIME HEIST? All the fun of time travel and heist movies, mixed right in with all my favourite MCU characters? Forget about it. Beautiful. I love it. Oh, and a time skip, too, for that cheeky little bit of "Where are they now?" fun. Of course Cap is helping people. Of course Black Widow is running a task force. Of course Hawkguy is... *checks notes* an edgelord ninja with a bad haircut? Well, hey, that's still better than regular Hawkguy. Tony's daughter was adorable, and so was Professor Hulk; the only one I'm not too jazzed about was Fat Thor. I kept waiting for them to magic him back into shape with the time machine or the Infinity stones or something. His fat suit wasn't great and, as I have mentioned once or twice in the past, the MCU is about the pretty people. No fat gods. Seeing him still with the belly running in to fight Thanos at the end... I don't think they pulled it off.
I loved it, you guys. Have I mentioned that? I'm still riding this high from seeing Cap and Peggy at the end (lol get rekt Sharon nobody even cares if you came back after the snap). Remember when Star Wars came along and revolutionised movies by splitting one story into three parts? The MCU feels like the next step in our culture of consuming entertainment like the full-belled hogs we are. The first of the cinematic universes, the first one to wrap itself up (not really wrapped up, obviously, but you know what I mean), and far and away the best one yet. And we don't even have to pretend that the MCU's Return of the Jedi analogue didn't drop the ball a little bit!
Oh my God John Wick 3 you guys. JOHN WICK 3. I have been LIT. ER. ALL. Y. SHAKING for like two hours. Those fight scenes have me so hopped up on adrenaline I can barely type. I actually teared up during the first Keanu/Halle Berry/the dogs tag team brawl. Not because it was sad (the dogs don't die, don't worry!), but because it was SO AWESOME that my body didn't know what else to do!
Here are some things you should know about this movie:
- The dogs almost exclusively bite people's testicles. This might have the highest ball kill count of any movie ever. 13/10 good bois
- Mark Dacascos is 100% straight up ridiculous, like he just walked off the set of Iron Chef. I love it.
- This is the greatest movie ever made
- Mark Dacascos leads a gang of actual Ninjas
- Halle Berry is kind of scarier than Keanu in their big action scene. She is incredible
- The last half hour is one giant video game action scene
- John Wick KILLS EVERYONE
I loved it so much. They're still doing that wonderful pulp adventure writing trick where everyone in the world either knows or knows of the main character, so when they introduce a new character it's never "Hello, nice to meet you", it's "John Wick, you low down dirty sonuva..." and you can't help but wonder what the story is. This one goes even deeper off the deep end into the ridiculous assassin's hotel lore, so if you're one of those reprobates who prefers the mundane world of John Wick 1 this might not do it for you, but if you're ready to get silly then this movie is down to get silly with you. It's basically a comedy, but everyone plays it straight (except Dacascos), and I am so on board with everything.
This movie is a 10/10. They have so much fun with the action scenes, coming up with new ways to play with your expectations from a John Wick fight. They didn't just make another movie of the ol' Judo Shoot-o, even though they totally could have got away with it; instead they came up with new stuff, and new twists that force John to think of different things or show off all the other ways he knows how to kill people. The dogs fight earns a place on my top 10 action scenes OF ALL TIME list, but that's only the tip of the iceberg for this movie.
Y'know, after three whole movies, the only part of John-Wick-ery I don't really like is the final 20 minutes or so of the first movie, and even that has the cool car fight that leads up to the disappointing chubby old man fight. Everything else in the John-Wick-o-verse is pure, distilled, face-cratering brilliance. I think John Wick might be the best movie trilogy, you guys. The best one. John Wick, John Wick 2 and John Wick 3. Perfection.
Eh, I wasn't a huge fan of that part. I dunno, they felt like they belonged in a different film. I've always thought of John Wick as a gun movie first and foremost, and these guys seemed like they flipped their way out of a more typical kung-fu flick. Having some of that stuff in John Wick is fine - I know it's a big influence on the style - but these guys were a little too much. How were they able to effortlessly cut through all of the Ruska Roma gang (the one John Wick himself originally came from!) and all of Laurence Fishburne's badass hobos without losing a single ninja? I also thought John Wick's final boss fight against the ninja waves dragged on a tad too long.
Still a great movie though. Some truly fantastic scenes, as usual. All of the horse stuff, Halle Berry and her dogs, the knife-and-axe-throwing fight... but my favorite was probably the little scene where Wick assembles this entire custom revolver just to shoot one guy with it. Great Western nod. Reminded me of the part in... was it The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?... where Clint Eastwood just barely finishes putting his gun back together before the guys burst through the door and he mows them down. Wish John Wick had kept the revolver for a while. It was pretty sweet.
I was glad
Laurence Fishburne's hobo king character survived. Love the way he hams it up in the role. He also provides a great contrast to the wealthy pseudo-sophisticated world of the High Table, with his orange Fanta and his Applebee's.
In some ways I wish they'd wrapped up more of the story here, maybe killed off the whole High Table at the end of the trilogy, instead of dragging it out more... but on the other hand, what other action movies do I have to look forward to?
In some ways I wish they'd wrapped up more of the story here, maybe killed off the whole High Table at the end of the trilogy, instead of dragging it out more... but on the other hand, what other action movies do I have to look forward to?
Yeah, the ending took me by surprise, too, but honestly I'm just happy there's more John Wick coming. I'd love to see John Wick become Keanu's Mission: Impossible, where they'll just keep making them until the incredibly-spry-but-inevitably-ageing lead actor finally runs out of knee cartilage and just can't do the work any more.
I feel like John Wick 3 very deliberately sets up a string of characters who have a grudge against the High Table (Sofia, Anjelica Houston, Laurence Fishburne, Winston), because John Wick 4 is going to be the big team up where John leads a charge against the HT with his squad. Now we just need to get Carrie Anne Moss in there as another one of John's endless line of old friends/enemies, and Hugo Weaving as the leader of the High Table.
I've been sick as a DOG recently, to the point where just lying in bed makes my body so sore that I can't even relax properly and each new day is a fresh hell to acquaint myself with. So I've been watching some stuff.
Counterpart: I really like this show. It's got J.K. Simmons, who I think is the best actor in the world, and it's a spy story set in a world where a doorway to a parallel universe was opened in a nondescript building in Germany in the '80s. Or rather, it splits one world into two, and the moment the copy comes into existence the two worlds start to diverge. And, crucially, to be suspicious of the other. So we've got a story of quiet, subtle espionage where not only to double agents exist, but doubles exist. As in, maybe the other side has sent a mole in through the gateway, and maybe that mole is someone you know. Maybe that mole is your wife. Maybe your wife is actually the woman from the other side who killed your real wife ten years ago and you never noticed. It's so good.
The other nice thing about it is that it's two seasons long, ten episodes each, and that's it. It ends before it ever gets to that point of wasting your time inventing lame stories for supporting characters to fill out three more seasons just for the sake of it. You can blast through the whole series in a week or two and it'll tell you a wonderful story with a satisfying ending. I'd strongly recommend this one if you have any love for the 'grey men in grey buildings upsetting the balance of superpowers' genre.
Chernobyl: k, so this is the TV show of the year, without a doubt. A kind of pseudo-documentary/dramatization of the events of what I now understand was so nearly the worst disaster in this planet's history. I'd learnt about Chernobyl in High School, but they never went into much detail and, to be honest, High School Ocelot wasn't equipped to understand the full scope of the petty bureaucracy that almost lead to the entire continent of Europe being uninhabitable for centuries. This show is as heartbreaking and confronting as it is infuriating, like a dark version of Catch 22 where a nuclear disaster cannot happen in the Soviet Union, so a nuclear disaster has not happened in the Soviet Union, and any assertion otherwise is seen as traitorous to the state even when THE ENTIRE BUILDING HAS BLOWN UP.
Oof, it's hard to watch. Graphic depictions of how such horrific levels of radiation can just ruin a human body aren't even the worst of it; it's watching rational, educated people desperately trying to explain the enormity of the situation to bureaucrats who simply aren't willing to listen. They killed so many people through gross negligence and incompetence, like, oh my God. It's a real tear-jerker, too, which really played havoc with the agony inside my sinuses. So many scenes of people being forced to expose themselves to lethal doses of radiation and being essentially dead but for the falling over. One of the most horrific things I've ever heard is that, in late stages of radiation poisoning, the veins and arteries simply fall apart, leaving doctors unable to even administer morphine for the pain.
So, yeah, watch this show. It manages to ride the line between historical documentary and dramatic miniseries really well, and (speaking of not wasting your time) it's only five episodes long. Get yourself learnt about a historical event, and maybe also the horrors of the totalitarian regimes that are making their unfortunate return to the world of late.
Us: a.k.a. Jordan Peele's new movie. a.k.a. the one that was inevitably going to be compared to Get Out. I feel like Us probably needed a disclaimer at the start cluing people in that it's just a straight horror movie with no kind of political statement or deeper meaning, because it definitely would have helped a lot. I liked it, but I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop... and it never did. It's still a good horror movie, though.
EDIT - For those keeping score at home, today's version of my ever-changing flu is that I'm swallowing razor blades and my diaphragm is spasming so horrifically that I actually can't stop coughing. Like, for realsies. Like, people say they can't stop coughing when they have a really bad cough, but I'm over here popping forehead veins trying to hold these coughs in and basically looking like I have hiccups, except each hiccup is a massive, chest-tearing cough.
Anyway, good excuse for watching more stuff, starting with...
The Death of Stalin: I feel like this movie really flew under the radar, and I only just remembered it existed today. It's made by Armando Iannucci, the creator of The Thick of It and Veep, whose particular style of political satire mixed with hilariously juvenile swearing is just wonderful, and it's a depiction of the titular event played for laughs with actors like Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor playing the highest echelon of the Soviet government. Nobody even tries to put on a Russian accent, or even agrees on one single accent they should all attempt, so it's a ridiculous farce all the way through. It's great, you should watch it.
The Predator: a.k.a. The 2018 one. This is one of the silliest movies I've seen in a long time. Not necessarily in a bad or unwatchable way, but definitely in a 'someone needs to talk to Shane Black about cutting back on the cocaine' way. He wrote every scene of this movie like the "We're getting beat up by the inventor of Scrabble" scene from The Last Boy Scout, where every line is trying to be funnier and more subversive than the last. A lot of it is still really funny, to be fair, but a lot of it is just, like... really? That one couldn't have stayed on the cutting room floor?
The CGI is really bad (and there's a lot of it), and there's a spectacularly ill-advised subplot about the main army dude's autistic son whose autism gives him the magic power to operate Predator tech. Olivia Munn is actually great in the movie, but she's had a looooot of plastic surgery and her face is really distracting. I don't know, I had some fun with it, but it's a weird one.
OK kiddoes, I have been watching some stuff. It starts bad but then it gets really good, so stay with me:
Ralph Breaks the Internet: I had a really strong feeling about fifteen minutes into this that I should cut my losses and watch something else, but for some reason I stuck with it, and I should have listened to my instinct. I don't know if it's outright bad, but it definitely isn't one of those "fun for children and adults alike" kind of animated movies. It's very much for kids only, and I wasted two hours of my ever dwindling adult life on it. The best thing I can say about it is that it has some of that giddy thrill of Ready Player One, where it packs recognizable things from real life into the corners of every scene for you to say "Oh, I know that thing!". Except where Ready Player One had Robocop and stuff, Ralph just has... brands. "Oh look, eBay! And Amazon! Ha ha, hey that reminds me, Alexa send Jeff Bezos more of my income".
Captain Marvel: I'd put this one in the middle-to-bottom tier of the grand Marvel movie hierarchy. I liked it well enough, but ultimately it's another throwaway origin story; totally watchable and with a few fun moments, but not something you're going to remember by next week. I saw Endgame before I had any idea what Captain Marvel's deal was, and I guess I had loftier expectations for how she turned out to be more powerful than an actual god, but this movie doesn't really bother itself with those particulars. "She got blasted with energy and it made her strong" is about all you're going to get. I feel like it was aimed at an unusually young audience for a Marvel movie, too, with a lot more goofy CGI and slapstick moments than you'd expect would please the usual 20-something manchild demographic. I can't say it really left much of an impression on me, but what does still stick in my mind is the explanation of how Nick Fury lost his eye, which I'll spoiler tag just in case:
He gets clawed in the eye by a cat, but instead of, y'know, immediately grabbing his eye and shouting in pain and dashing to a mirror and then a hospital to deal with the three bloody clawmarks across his EYE, he just tries to play it off like it's nothing. Then later than evening, with his eye swollen to the size of a golf ball, someone asks him how he's doing and he says it's fine. Then like a week later in movie-time he's picking out a glass eye. Like, what? I get that the idea is he's embarrassed and doesn't want to admit a cat clawed his eye out, but, seriously, A CAT CLAWED HIS EYE OUT, and he just didn't do anything about it. Never once attempted to treat the wound. Just lost HIS EYE without doing anything about it. The man treated his own eyeball like a papercut on his finger that you ignore until it gets infected. His EYE. BALL. It's so bizarre.
The Equalizer 2: If you asked me whether I'd watched this movie or simply stared at a blank screen for two hours, I'm not sure I could tell you; both those options seem like they'd have about the same entertainment value. I don't know how they managed to make a simple "famous actor kills a bunch of people" movie so uninteresting. On paper, these Equalizer movies are in the same genre as John Wick, but that's one of those statements like how elephant shrews and actual elephants are technically part of the same species. I have absolutely nothing to say about this movie. Nothing happens in it. I left it less fulfilled than I was when it began. The only remarkable thing about it is that it has the most screamingly obvious, amateurish "this character is going to die in the next five minutes" scene where Melissa Leo's character tells Denzel she's his only friend in the world. She might as well have looked straight into the camera.
The Romanoffs: This is a super high budget 'prestige' miniseries from the guy who created Mad Men, an anthology series about a bunch of different people in different places who are all linked by being descendants of a secret, surviving member of the titular Russian royal family. It's pretty uneven. Of the eight episodes I found three really good, a couple pretty watchable, and the rest to be long, self-indulgent wastes of time. I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you have a high tolerance for rich white people with mundane issues.
I watched both this and The Equalizer 2 through Amazon Prime's video service, after signing up for a Prime trial during their big sale, and I really wouldn't recommend that, either. I don't know if it's just because I'm in Australia and maybe I have a drastically smaller library to work with, but there's nothing there. They have like four movies released this century that anyone would want to watch, and a few TV shows that are all from that particular genre of "OK, the first season's kind of a slog but once you get through that it's, like, decent!". Speaking of...
The Expanse: I think I started watching this a couple of years ago but couldn't get through the first few episodes. I was immediately turned off by the fact that it's so desperately ugly, with a painfully blown-out white balance that gives every character that ghastly, hospital-waiting-room pallor, and that half the characters speak in a made-up space creole that's really hard to take. The characters are paper thin and you won't even remember their names for two seasons, so it's up to the story and setting to do the heavy lifting, but if you saw Battlestar Galactica a decade ago then you've seen grim space drama done better. Thomas Jane and Shohreh Aghdashloo are the only bright sparks in the long, ten-episode trudge through season one, and I wouldn't blame anyone for not sticking with it.
But, it gets better. Little by little, it actually gets quite a lot better. In fact, I just finished season 3 this morning, watched the new trailer for season 4 that just came out of Comic Con, and boy I am hyped. Every time the show introduces a new character it's a great change for the better, and the initial cast from the first season get a lot more interesting as the seasons go on. Season 2 introduces aliens to what had been a totally mundane story of near-future human space politics until then, and Season 3 goes all in on those aliens, and it's great. Also, this is Shohreh Aghdashloo's best role. You know her as the Iranian woman with the amazing voice who's always typecast as the wise politician or wife of politician, and she is still that here, but with a twist: this time she swears like a sailor and is perpetually irritated with everyone around her. Tell me this doesn't make you want to watch this show (big language warning):
There's some neato stuff in there that tickles my sci-fi bone, too, like the way all the space ships have to flip around and fire their main thrusters backwards in order to slow down, or the way people in space suits will simply bonk their helmets together to communicate via vibrations when they think someone's tapping their comms. It's set in a future where the three main powers vying for dominance in the solar system are Earth, Mars and the workers of the asteroid belt, but humans born on Mars or in space are permanently ruined by the effects of growing up in lower gravity, a fact that the Earth politicians love to lord over their opposite numbers when they invite them to diplomatic meetings and watch them squirm under the harsh gravity of 1G.
It's still hard to recommend The Expanse because of how slow it is to get going, but if you can just throw it on in the background while you're doing something else and power through those early stages it really does get good. Season 4 has one of the most fertile premises for hot sci-fi goodness, too.
The Boys is probably the greatest comic book adaptation of this decade, not gonna lie to you guys.
It takes everything we love about superheroes and turns it on its head, and it's fantastic. The writing, the acting (good golly Homelander is terrifying) the action, the violence and the comedy. It just works. It feels more like a comic book on the screen than anything else I can think of in the past decade. Even The Avengers which was world changing way back in 2012 didn't feel this fun. I blew through the entire series in less than 24 hours and I gotta tell you guys, you're missing out.
Next I'm gonna finally finish The Expanse because I miss my sci fi, and then I'm gonna sit here and be sad because the Amazon Lord of the RIngs adaptation won't be here until 2021 and from everything I've read it sounds like they're going to be doing that very, very right (and if The Boys is any inkling of how they can adapt a page-to-screen story then hot DAMN am I friggin excited)
I really liked The Boys, too. I read about half the run of the comics years ago, and I don't think I actually liked it, but the sheer morbid curiosity of "How are they going to top that?" certainly kept me turning the pages. The comic version of The Boys is maybe the edgiest thing I've ever witnessed; right past 2edgy4me into 3edgy5me territory. But the TV show smooths out all that edge and I think it's much better for it; there's a lot more room for good character development when you don't have characters eating babies and gratuitous rapes in every other scene. Homelander in particular is a way more intimidating character than he ever was in the comic, now that they've given him more of a personality and aren't just using him as a way of shocking the audience by showing Superman doing heinous stuff.
I'm really excited to see where they take it in the second season. It's like a reverse Game of Thrones situation where the original content created for the show is a lot better than the material they're adapting, so now that they're going off-book it's even more interesting.
I just finished Stranger Things Season 3, and at this point I'm pretty sure I just don't like this show. I mean, it still looks great, and it's entertaining enough to have on in the background while I'm getting some stuff done, but I just don't know... what this show is. Who is it for? Sometimes it feels like your standard nostalgia-bait for grown adults trying to relive their wasted youths through pop culture, but then in the very next scene it'll drop into the most tired tropes that were overplayed even back in the '80s movies this show tries to crib from. "Will they/Won't they" romances, over-protective father doesn't want his daughter seeing boys, young kids in love but ooh they're too scared to say the word 'love' out loud. And then just when you're watching two girls trying on clothes and talking about boys and you're thinking, OK, is this show actually for children...?, there'll be a gruesome scene of townspeople melting into puddles of flesh, or a bunch of Russians getting straight up murdered.
I think I'm just sick of it. I've had enough of these characters. I've seen enough of El dramatically grimacing with outstretched hands at CG monsters. Telekinesis is the most boring superpower to watch, and goopy slick flesh monsters that can be thrown through walls and shot full of lead without sustaining any discernible damage make for unsatisfying bad guys. I liked the subplot with Steve and Dustin and Uma Thurman's Daughter cracking the Russian code, and it's not like I hated the rest of it, but I don't know, man. I still think I would have preferred it if they'd dropped all these characters after Season 1 and made Stranger Things an anthology series with a whole new cast every time.
I also watched a bit of Wu Assassins, which is exactly as bad as it looks in the trailer:
I don't know what's worse, the CGI or Iko's shaky English delivering all the generically bad TV show writing, but it's basically unwatchable. They hired Mark Dacascos to be in it and they don't even let him go full Dacascos; he barely even gets any lines. I scrubbed through it looking for fight scenes, and a lot of them are pretty great, but boy I can't sit through the non-action parts.