Triple Scoop Review: Big Match, Inseparable Bros, and The Villainess

Big Match

Year: 2014
Director: Choi Ho
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Viki
Spoilers: Nah
Grade: Vanilla

Big Match is enjoyable, pretty light-hearted fare. Once again, Lee Jung Jae is playing a dude trapped in a high stakes game where rich assholes bet money on if he survives; unlike Squid Game, however, Choi Ik Ho (Lee) isn’t playing various deadly children’s games. Instead, he’s a hothead MMA fighter forced to complete various dangerous tasks (escape the police, attack a bunch of gangsters, sing karaoke, etc.) if he wants to see his brother alive again. Shin Ha Kyun, who I’ve been pretty much obsessed with since watching Beyond Evil, plays the villainous mastermind Ace, and his hair in this movie is just . . . it is art. It is perfection itself. If I owned a curling iron, or hair spray, and actually knew how to do anything with my hair, I would 100% style it this way. His whole aesthetic in this film is just . . . *chef’s kiss.*

But yes, yes, the movie itself. Big Match is fun and silly—there are zero tonal similarities between this and Squid Game—and never takes itself too seriously. My attention did start to drift, I don’t know, maybe the last 20-25 minutes of the movie? And of course, it’s always hard whenever an actor I love is playing the villain, since I just end up rooting for them the whole time, particularly since I never did care very much about Ik Ho. (I do feel sorry for his brother, though, poor dude.) Still, I had a decent time watching this. Shin Ha Kyun is campy and petulant and delightful, and it’s fun to see Lee Jung Jae as this buff martial arts dude. I was both surprised and pleased to see Choi Woo Shik pop up, and I enjoyed Ra Mi Ran as Ik Ho’s sister-in-law, Hyung Soo. If you’re in the mood for an easy watch with ridiculous action scenes and fantastic hair, you could probably do worse than Big Match.

Inseparable Bros

Year: 2019
Director: Yook Sang Hyo
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Viki
Spoilers: Some, yes
Grade: Chocolate

. . . LOL, I’m not at all convinced that this trailer does a great job establishing the overall tone of this movie. Like, parts of the film are definitely comedic, but . . . yeah, this isn’t quite it. Also, fuck it, this whole Triple Scoop Review is just gonna be dedicated to Shin Ha Kyun, I guess, because I’ll apparently watch all kinds of shit that I wouldn’t normally sign up for so long as he’s in it. Case in point: Inseparable Bros, which—in fairness—I didn’t watch solely for Shin Ha Kyun. I also wanted to see Lee Kwang Soo and Esom, too. But yeah. My wheelhouse is pretty firmly horror/fantasy/SF/action/mystery. I’m not saying I never venture out of these genres, but inspirational comedy-dramas, particularly ones based on true events, are really not my jam. And a story about two good friends—a very intelligent quadriplegic man and a sweet swimmer with intellectual disabilities—who’ve closely relied on one another for years . . . like, Jesus, I already watched The Mighty, okay? I know where you’re going with this, and my soul’s not in the fucking mood. (I feel the way about tearjerkers that some people feel about horror movies: why would you willingly do that to yourself, why?)

That all being said . . . I actually did enjoy this one.  It helps that while I did get a tiny bit emotional once or twice (because there are sad moments, and/or because I’m a weepy mess of a person), it wasn’t quite the soul crushing tragedy that I’d anticipated. And the movie didn’t feel too, like, cringeworthy inspiration porn, either? (Though as a non-disabled person, I could very well be missing things here.) To me, the focus, really felt like it was on Se Ha and Dong Goo’s relationship, rather than just some, IDK, triumphant underdog story that makes able-bodied people feel good about themselves?

The cast is excellent: Shin Ha Kyun and Lee Kwang Soo both give really solid performances as Se Ha and Dong Goo, respectively, and they have a great rapport. I like Esom in this, too, although I do feel like her character is a bit off balance with the rest of the story; I wish she either had less screen time or a stronger arc. (Although I do like that this isn’t a romance and that any jealousy aspects are minimal. Also, I enjoy the mildly antagonistic friendship between her character and Se Ha.) I was delighted to see other familiar faces in this movie, too: Kwon Hae Hyo, Kil Hae Yeon, Ahn Ji Ho, and Park Chul Min. Ahn Ji Ho and Kim Hyun Bin are both really well cast as Young Se Ha and Young Dong Goo, and despite limited screen time, I really enjoyed Kwon Hae Hyo as Father Park as well.

Inseparable Bros. is kind of a simple story and there aren’t any big surprises except that—SPOILERS—our leads both live! But overall, I think it’s told pretty well: I like Se Ha’s reserve and crankiness, I like Dong Goo’s complicated relationship with his mother, and I think a couple of the flashbacks near the end of the film are used quite nicely. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that I, notably cold of heart, enjoyed a heartwarming dramedy, but there you have it. Sometimes, we just can’t help ourselves.

The Villainess

Year: 2017
Director: Jung Byung Gil
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Amazon
Spoilers: Yes, absolutely
Grade: Vanilla

Hm. You know, I have mixed feelings on this one, and I’m still trying to sort them out. The Villainess has some serious La Femme Nikita vibes (with a few parts that strongly reminded me of Kill Bill), and obviously, I’m a sucker for badass assassins and revenge flicks. I generally enjoyed all the frenetic action scenes. There are one or two pretty brutal surprises. I’m obsessed with the shot of Sook Hee in a wedding dress holding a sniper rifle. And the cast is pretty great, too. I enjoy Kim Ok Bin as Sook Hee, our assassin protagonist whose life just gets increasingly more and more tragic. Kim Seo Hyung is great as Kwon Sook, the chief of the spy agency who recruits Sook Hee. (I loved Kim Seo Hyung in Nobody Knows; this woman was just born to play a mega cool badass in charge.) Obviously, I continue to like Shin Ha Kyun; motherfucker just exudes charisma in this film, like, hot damn. He is one insanely cold-hearted (and sexy) bastard here. And it was nice to see a couple of actors I didn’t expect: Sung Joon (who I enjoyed in White Christmas) plays Hyun Soo, a spy who falls in love with Sook Hee, and Park Chul Min pops up for the second time this week, this time playing Sook Hee’s father.

Still . . . I feel like something’s missing here, and I’m trying to decide exactly what that is. I saw a lot of reviews arguing that The Villainess has second act problems, and . . . yeah, I probably wouldn’t disagree with that. In a way, I feel like this movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be about—or maybe it does know but never quite supports the thesis? Like, okay. By the end of the film, Sook Hee has lost everything—her child, her husband, her (admittedly not great) spy/assassin job—and all she has to show for it are a bunch of dead bodies (including the body of the man who ruined her life) and yet another arrest for mass murder. That, I think, is supposed to be the tragedy here: Sook Hee could (possibly) have had the normal life she longed for, but her obsession with revenge (and with Joong Sang, himself) ruins any chance of that. Kwon Sook tells her as much shortly before Hyun Soo and Eun Hye are murdered, and Joong Sang tells Sook Hee that the real pain will begin once she kills him—which she does, giving way to the last shot of the film, which (in true cycle of violence style) echoes the beginning of the movie, with Sook Hee violently grinning as she’s arrested.

Of course, “revenge destroys you and everyone around you” is not the most original moral, as far as these things go, but that’s not really my problem here. I think my bigger problem is that I never quite buy that Sook Hee does long to have this normal life. We’re told she does, but . . . I don’t know, I never quite felt it. Maybe I would have if we got more into her acting career, or if we spent more time with her daughter, or if I ever bought her romance with Hyun Soo—but I never did. The actors are both fine separately, but I’m not convinced they have much chemistry together—frankly, I think Kim Ok Bin has the best chemistry with Kim Seo Hyung—and while I think Hyun Soo is supposed to come off as an awkward but ultimately good-hearted spy stuck between a rock and a hard place, he mostly struck me as a Nice Guy creeper, and I spent half the film chanting for his death. I totally buy Hyun Soo’s thing for Sook Hee, but I never quite buy her thing for him, and maybe because of that—because Sook Hee never seems all that invested in her relationship or her career or really becoming this new person who puts her old life behind her—I don’t think the tragic arc hits nearly as hard as it could—even though they kill off her small, adorable child, which I will admit surprised me. Likewise, I don’t think Sook Hee’s implied descent into villainy makes for a particularly strong or satisfying conclusion, either. It’s totally a cool shot, but the emotion doesn’t linger. Which . . . yeah, might be how I feel about the movie as a whole. I could totally watch it again, didn’t have a bad time at all, but was also definitely left with the impression that it could have been so much better with a stronger script.

Triple Scoop Review: Green For Danger, Free Guy, and The Lost City

LOL, I started writing up reviews for these movies ages ago, and then got sidetracked with other projects, travel, etc., and just sorta . . . forgot about them? Whoops.

Anyway, here are some movies I watched, like, probably back in May or something!

Green For Danger

Year: 1946
Director: Sidney Gilliat
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service – ScreenPix
Spoilers: Not really, no
Grade: Chocolate

Before I cancelled my free trial ScreenPix subscription—because dudes, I have way too many channels as it is—I wanted to check out this 1946 British whodunit. I’m glad I did, too, because it’s an awful lot of fun. Green For Danger is apparently based on a novel of the same name by Christianna Brand, and it’s set at an English hospital during World War II. A patient mysteriously dies on the operating table, and when the person who claims it was murder is also very quickly murdered, Inspector Cockrill is sent to investigate.

The basic setup is a lot of fun because we’re told a few things right from the start: there are six people at the scene of the first murder, two of those six will die, and one of those six is the killer. And I mean. You’ve already got me right there because I just adore this kind of shit, trying to guess which of our suspects will die, who is the killer, etc. I really enjoy the hospital setting, and the script is an awful lot of fun, too, particularly if you, like me, also love that dry and snappy British humor. The banter back and forth between Inspector Cockrill and Mr. Eden, for instance, or Mr. Eden and Nurse Woods is just fantastic.

The solution to the mystery is fine—not awful, not great, just sort of there. There are fun suspects to choose from and shadiness which abounds, but probably not any twists or developments that are gonna break your brain with OMG. That being said, there is at least one surprise at the very end that I rarely see pop up in detective stories. Also, the cast is spectacular, particularly Leo Genn as Mr. Eden (wait, surgeons are referred to as Mr. and not Dr. in England? That’s so weird) and Alastair Sim as Inspector Cockrill. Some great detectives are known for their fastidiousness, others for their aloof nature; Cockrill’s defining quality appears to be that he’s an impish little shit who loves riling his suspects up and watching the drama unfold. At one point, he all but eats popcorn as he watches two doctors come to blows, and it’s hysterical. In fact, I happily would’ve watched a whole series with this guy, and I’m a little disappointed that this is the only adaptation we got. Still, even on its own, Green For Danger was an awfully good time.

Free Guy

Im Up Good Morning GIF by Regal - Find & Share on GIPHY

Year: 2021
Director: Shawn Levy
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service – Disney Plus
Spoilers: Some, yes
Grade: Chocolate

I didn’t know much about this film going in, other than that Ryan Reynolds plays a video game NPC who becomes self-aware, but I’m really glad my sister convinced me to check it out. Free Guy is an awful lot of fun. It’s very Stranger Than Fiction meets The Lego Movie (not a bad combination), with a pretty delightful and charming cast who really pull the whole thing together. Ryan Reynolds is kinda tailor-made for Guy, of course, excelling in both quick-witted, breaking the fourth wall humor and being able to surprise you with sudden Feels. But I also really enjoy Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi, Lil Rel Howery, and Joe Keery. (NGL: Joe Keery  is at least 70% of the reason I watched the fourth season of Stranger Things; that, and I really thought it was the final season of Stranger Things. Goddamn it, show.)

Honestly, I’m not sure how much I have to say about this one. I know there were a bunch of moments that made me laugh, but fuck, I don’t remember them now. (Actually, I do remember one: “They don’t have thumbs, Phyllis. No thumbs!”) I really like that our designers acknowledge that they’ve created the first A.I. because I thought that was a neat development. I like that Guy doesn’t just wake up and become self aware because he sees, you know, some random attractive girl; it’s because Keys coded his love story into the game. I’m happy that a certain character survives.  I enjoyed the surprise cameos. (Though Alex Trebek was a bit sad. Threw me for a minute, too, since he passed back in 2020.) I honestly don’t have too much to complain about here.

Although I am mad about one thing: Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” It is played a LOT during this movie, which is a serious problem. Not for other people, mind, but definitely for me because that song always gets stuck in my head, Jesus Christ. It’s playing in my head now just because I typed the song title. (See also Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You.” FFS, Mariah. Release my brain, I beg of you.)

The Lost City

Channing Tatum GIF by The Lost City - Find & Share on GIPHY

Year: 2022
Director: Aaron Nee & Adam Nee
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Streaming Service: Paramount Plus
Spoilers: Nah
Grade: Vanilla

This is pretty cute, for the most part, although the romance between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum doesn’t totally work for me. I want to be into it. They’re both very funny actors, and I’m 100% here for a grumpy/sweet romance with an older lady/younger dude. I genuinely like, too, that Alan is just totally into Loretta right from the start. He’s earnest and enthusiastic and not terribly bright; basically, Alan is the textbook definition of a himbo, and I think that’s neat. The thing is, Loretta is in a depressed funk at the beginning of this film. She’s still mourning her late husband and is extremely bitter about how her life has turned out, all of which is super valid. Actually, I quite like her whole arc. My problem is that Loretta takes her bitterness out on Alan a lot in this story,  and since Alan is basically a golden retriever personified, their supposedly cute banter mostly comes across as Loretta kicking a puppy  for half the movie. It does improve for me in the second half of the film (when Alan gets a bit more backbone, not to mention slightly cleverer and quippier dialogue), but by then, the damage is kinda done, at least for me.

Still, The Lost City is a pretty fun story with some solid LOL moments. I am, per usual, entirely charmed by Daniel Radcliffe. (Actually, the whole press tour has been pretty charming. I’ve watched way too many interviews with Radcliffe and Sandra Bullock riffing off one another.) Comedic villain is a good fit on him; I should really rewatch Now You See Me 2 at some point because I seem to remember both roles having a very similar energy. I also enjoyed Brad Pitt’s small role in this film, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph made me laugh a lot, too, although I’m still not entirely sure if Beth is Loretta’s. . .  editor? Publicist? Agent? Beth totally deserved her own B- romance storyline, I think. At the very least, she deserves so many drinks after going above and beyond to rescue Loretta. (I think she does get one, but still. ALL THE DRINKS.)

Someone oughta write another “romance novelist adventure romcom” so we can have a spiritual trilogy with this and Romancing the Stone. (I’m trying to think of who I want to cast. Ooh, maybe Ashley Nicole Black could write and star. She’s hilarious.) Also, I know I haven’t hit the novelist stage of my writing career yet, but something tells me that when I get there, this movie will not be an accurate representation of how it works. Alas. No sequins for Carlie.

“Kill Her, Mommy! Kill Her!” – Friday the 13th (1980)

Recently, I went to New York for the very first time. I had an awful lot of fun, and in between the more expected tourist attractions (Central Park, various museums, going to a live TV show taping—we got to see Last Week Tonight!!!), Mekaela and I watched the original Friday the 13th on this rooftop terrace in Midtown. This was the first movie I’ve seen on a big screen in actual years, and I had a very yummy (and very overpriced) margarita in hand, so obviously, I had a pretty good time. Considering we’ve been slowly making our way through this franchise for like a decade now, finding this showing felt pretty serendipitous, especially since the next film on our To Watch list was the original Friday the 13th.

This being something of a special occasion, I decided to write up a slightly longer review for the movie that started it all.

Warning GIF by Friday the 13th - Find & Share on GIPHY

Year: 1980
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Rooftop Cinema Club!
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Vanilla

1. It’s been a  pretty long time since I watched Friday the 13th all the way through, and though it’s obviously not as campy and self-referential as later installments in the franchise, there’s actually a bit more humor than I’d remembered, which was a nice surprise. Overall, I was delighted to find that the movie holds up better than I expected. Friday the 13th knows exactly what it’s about. Some of the death scenes are quite fun. (Kevin Bacon’s, in particular, still absolutely gets me.) I adore the score, the silly title card, the ki ki ki, ma ma ma. And Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees is both fun and charmingly over-the-top. Did you know I dressed up as Mrs. Voorhees for Halloween last year? Now you do! (Obviously, I had to wear my Friday the 13th mask to match.)

Friday the 13th is not, admittedly, a particularly innovative slasher—no one involved has been particularly shy about how much it deliberately rips off other movies, notably Halloween, Carrie, and Psycho—but it is an iconic horror film that hugely influenced the slasher genre, and I still very much enjoyed watching it. Particularly since the weather decided to lend a helping hand and provide something of a 4D cinematic experience.

2. If you’ve seen this movie, you may remember that most of the camp counselors are murdered during a big rainstorm. Well. About the time it started raining on screen, it also started raining in New York—just some light sprinkling, really, with a bit of wind, but the timing of it was hilarious. I’d actually spent half the day convinced the showing was gonna be cancelled, considering the weather forecast for that night, and when thunder rumbled in my headphones, I had to doublecheck to make sure it wasn’t also happening in real life, too. Honestly, it was kinda the best.

3. Unfortunately, much as I enjoy Friday the 13th, I still find Alice (Adrienne King) a boring and mostly useless Final Girl, which is a funny sorta thing to say about someone who full-on decapitates a serial killer, I know. And like, credit where credit’s due: when Alice finally commits, she commits. Still. Up until that moment, Alice is pretty meh, and—though I hate to say it—the fact that she bests Pamela Voorhees so many times is a little bit embarrassing for Mrs. V.

Betsy Palmer Mrs Voorhees GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Like. I say this with love. I am always here to celebrate the awesome ladies of horror, and for the most part, Mrs. Voorhees does a phenomenal job murdering people. Her kill count in this film is 9, which is very respectable, particularly for a middle-aged woman in a cable knit sweater. She uses knives, axes, and arrows in her work, hauls corpses through windows, and even takes the time to impale dead bodies to doors for maximum terror. And until Alice, Mrs. V has no trouble murdering anyone; only Annie provides even the smallest challenge, and really, that’s just an extra minute Mrs. Voorhees spends casually strolling through the woods before finding Annie and slitting her throat.

Alas, for unknown reasons (i.e., the Final Girl has to live, boo, hiss), Mrs. Voorhees decides that Alice is the one counselor she’s going to fuck with, rather than immediately murdering. I mean. Some of that is amazing, obviously. Calmly introducing herself, then later hamming it up, all “what monster could’ve done this,” HA. I’m all about that. But then Mrs. V just slaps Alice around a bunch rather than stab her in the face, and obviously, that’s just silly. Worse, Alice easily manages to knock Mrs. Voorhees down like, what, four different times or something before finally decapitating her? Our killer deserved a better Final Girl, that’s all I’m saying.

4. Here’s a hypothetical scenario for you: you’re half-naked in some cabin in the middle of the woods. Maybe you’ve been playing strip Monopoly with your friends, or maybe you just had sex with Kevin Bacon; whatever your reasons, you’re now in a bra (or shirt) and panties, and have to leave the cabin in the middle of a rainstorm. Before leaving, do you put on A) shoes, B) pants, or C) a short little rain slicker that maybe hits mid-thigh? If you answered D) gosh, I think I’d put on all of them, congratulations on being a reasonable person, unlike Marcie and Brenda, who both opt for the rain slicker and nothing else, like, what the actual fuck, ladies? It is pouring. There is thunder. You are in the middle of the woods. Maybe I could understand forgoing the pants (not really), but what do these bitches have against shoes?

5. Speaking of strip Monopoly (sort of), one of the first things we watched after coming back home was Psych, specifically, “Tuesday the 17th,” the Friday the 13th homage episode.

It’s probably my favorite episode of Psych, but I’d forgotten just how many parallels there are between it and this movie: Erwen, like Crazy Ralph, shouting the line, “You’re all doomed!” The introduction of Shirtless Billy chopping up wood vs. the introduction of Shirtless Steve chopping up wood. The breaking glass title card, naturally. The character Jason Cunningham named after Jason Voorhees and director Sean S. Cunningham. And of course our counselors playing a friendly game of strip cribbage. (I’ve never played cribbage, but strip Monopoly, at least, has to be an improvement on regular Monopoly, if only because it won’t take fucking DAYS for someone to finally win the game.)

6. Finally, you can’t talk about Friday the 13th without discussing the ending.

Friday The 13Th Horror GIF by filmeditor - Find & Share on GIPHY

. . . I mean, truthfully, I think it’s silly as hell. I like the shot and all, but I’m also rarely a fan of the One Last Scare trope, and while Sue having a nightmare works well in Carrie—because it’s less about the villain still being alive/setting up a sequel than it is about Sue still being traumatized, still being caught in that endless horror—Alice’s nightmare of an undead boy she never met and has no reason to actually believe in feels, well. Yeah. Damn silly.  (Unless Alice secretly always has psychic visions when she sleeps, which certainly seems unlikely, but would definitely make her more interesting.) That whole “he’s still out there” line would work so much better if this movie had ever bothered to make Undead Child Jason an actual possible threat.

Still. As much as I love our Jason Voorhees—and I do so love him—I would totally pay good money to watch a reboot/sequel where Undead Drowned Child Jason (rather than Inexplicable Grown Ass Man Jason*) comes back to creatively murder camp counselors. It would never happen of course, partially because the franchise seems to be stuck in eternal lockdown due to lawsuits/rights shit and partially because most fans would absolutely lose their shit, but I think it could be a lot of fun. It would, at the very least, make for one hell of an anime AU.

*Don’t give me that whole “Jason survived and has just been living in the woods for 20 years by himself for no reason” BS backstory; that is the dumbest shit ever. Look, one of my favorite things about this franchise is the weirdly slow evolution of its iconic killer—I think it’s fascinating, I think there’s a paper in it—but come on now. We must all simply accept that Jason’s transformation into adulthood makes absolutely NO logical sense, and no amount of retconning will make it any less ridiculous. Considering this franchise eventually (and gloriously) goes to space, I think we can all handle that.

CONCLUSIONS:

The genesis of one of my favorite horror movie franchises of all time! Pamela Voorhees deserves better, but I still enjoy this one.

MVP:

Betsy Palmer, no doubt.

MORAL:

Don’t work anywhere that the locals call ‘Camp Blood.’ Very obviously, things will go badly for you.

TV Superlatives: March, April, May – 2022

Well. I’ve definitely been ignoring my blog lately. This is partly because of travel and partly because of writing, more specifically, because I started work on this fanfic that, Jesus Christ, has exploded into a novella-length monstrosity and has taken over my entire life. Which means I’m well past due for my Spring TV Superlatives, among other things. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to catch up on a bunch of shit and also, really didn’t watch as much TV as normal, so today we’ll be doing Modified TV Superlatives. (Don’t worry. I’ll still manage to make this post at least 1000 words longer than it needs to be.)

Here’s a list of everything I’ve been watching (and in some cases, abandoning) over the past three months.

The Guest
Running Man (Episodes 50-62 and 594-605)
Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 3-13)
Our Flag Means Death
The Crowned Clown
Tomorrow (abandoned, may return to)
Vincenzo (abandoned, may return to)
Moon Knight (abandoned for good)
A Black Lady Sketch Show (Season 3)
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (abandoned, will return to)
Star Trek TOS (Season 3, Episodes 4-12)
Nobody Knows
Don’t Call It Mystery

Today, we’ll briefly discuss most of these shows. (Not all. I’ll probably ignore the ones I gave up on.) You’ll be safe on spoilers unless you venture into the clearly marked Spoiler Section, where you will definitely see me rant about certain character deaths because gah. STILL so annoyed about it.

But that’s for later. For now, let’s begin with . . .

The Guest

Creepiest Moment; Most Horrifically Tragic Character; Longest Previously On; Grand Prize for Survival (TIE); Worst Plan (TIE)

A priest, a cop, and a psychic taxi driver walk into a ghost-infested bar . . .

I’d been meaning to check out this Korean supernatural horror-drama for a while now, and overall, I had a pretty good time watching it. (I wish I could find a decent trailer to link to, but it’s proving difficult. This FMV captures the tone and visuals pretty well, though, and I don’t think there are any big spoilers?) I do wish Kang Gil Young (Jung Eun Chae, AKA, the cop) got a little more to do in the Big Finale. And I probably wouldn’t recommend this one if you’re looking for something, you know, upbeat and lighthearted? Like, The Guest is all exorcisms and ghostly possessions and childhood trauma. (A few of my favorite things!) Not to mention, seriously, Most Horrifically Tragic Character can definitely apply to more than one person. I do think one character wins the tragedy competition, but it is, admittedly, debatable.

Still, if you’re in the mood for something a little creepy and a lot angsty with a bit of mystery and some fun side characters (Detective Go Bong Song is precious to me), you might enjoy this one.

(Also. I am not kidding about those Longest Previously Ons. Holy shit. I just clicked on a random episode to time this segment, and it was literally two minutes long.)

Our Flag Means Death

Favorite Canon Ship; Favorite Kiss; Favorite Individual Song (TIE); Favorite New Show (TIE)

Now if you do need something a little lighter and adorable, and you’re also a fan of queer pirates and shenanigans (and who isn’t), Our Flag Means Death might be more your thing. I generally enjoyed the first few episodes well enough (generally, because awkward comedy can be rough for me), but I was definitely sold in “Discomfort in a Married State” when Blackbeard and Stede meet for the first time. Taika Waititi is awesome in this, I adore his cute chemistry with Rhys Darby, and I am just so here for the actually canon Blackbeard/Stede ship. These two have so many cute moments—the wardrobe swap, the foot touch (spoilers in this clip, but also, God bless any movie or show that uses Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”), THE KISS. This show has a pretty great support cast, too; I’m particularly fond of Jim, Oluwande, and Lucius.

Thank God HBO Max finally renewed OFMD for Season 2, cause otherwise, there was gonna be a riot. (Seriously, dudes. No need to wait for Pride next time. Don’t torment us like this; it’s cruel.)

Running Man

 Best Dance Scene; Favorite Betrayal; Best Product Placement; Favorite Scene Stealer

Just assume that I’m always watching this show. We literally have it on twice a week: Thursday is Classic Running Man Day and Sunday is Current Running Man Day. It is my silly time, and I need it, damn it.

Things this show is pretty much always good for: hilariously blatant product placement (in one episode, even the producer starts laughing and tells Jae Suk and Jong Kook to stop overdoing it), silly dances (So Min and Ji Hyo’s birthday dances for Jong Kook are fun, but Sexy Security Guard obviously wins ALL the awards—he needs to come back immediately), and betrayals (the face Jong Kook makes in one episode when Jae Suk betrays him, holy shit, I was dying). Ah, this show makes me so happy.

The Crowned Clown

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Favorite Sidekick; Favorite REVEEEEENGE; Favorite Holy Shit Moment; Most Unexpected Tears; Best Death; Worst Death; Favorite New Show (TIE); Favorite Individual Song (TIE); Worst Plan (TIE)

Oh, man. This show. This show. With a few notable exceptions, I’m not generally drawn to doppelgänger and identity swap stories, but I got super invested in this one: the characters, their relationships, the badass moments, the plot twists, the absolutely lovely score (my favorite song might be “The Way of Truth,” but it’s a very hard call, like, “Before Fall Down” is pretty amazing too, not to mention, uh, every other song). And the fantastic acting, my God, especially by Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Sang Kyung. NGL: I mostly checked this show out to see Yeo Jin Goo play batshit crazy—and whew, he does it well—but watching him flip back and forth between Yi Heon, Ha Seon, and Ha Seon pretending to be Yi Heon is especially a treat. And Kim Sang Kyung is wonderful here, too, particularly as we watch Lee Gyu’s dynamic with both Yi Heon and Ha Seon shift over time. There’s this one scene, especially, that just . . . oh, oh, my heart.

Really, though, this whole supporting cast is excellent. I enjoy Lee Se Young as So Woon (restrained, dignified, very different from her delightful role in A Korean Odyssey) and Jang Gwang as Eunuch Jo (I would die for this old man; his relationship with Ha Seon is so sweet). There are our villains: Jang Young Nam as the Dowager Queen (man, I love this actress, the notes she hits when she’s enraged) and Kwon Hae Hyo as Shin Chi Soo (this fucking guy, I swear to God). And I can’t forget about Yoon Jong Seok as Officer Jang, either (quiet badass, and cool to see in a more substantial role after a small part in The Guest). Truly, there is so much good about this show, so much to recommend . . .

. . . but by God, I hate the last 15 minutes so much . . .

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Meet me in the Spoiler Section, The Crowned Clown, because boy . . .  we’ve gotta talk.

A Black Lady Sketch Show

Most Welcome Return; Favorite Opening Credits

Man, I wish this show had longer seasons. Six episodes is not enough! I was super happy to see A Black Lady Sketch Show come back, mostly because this show is a delight, but also because I’m always excited to hear the new theme song and see the new opening credits. (They change every season.) These opening credits, in particular, are great because they vary a little bit with each episode. Like how Skye Townsend is playing “the rich jilted bride” in Episode 1, but by Episode 6 has become “the rich jilted bride who just committed murder but has no regrets because she killed for righteous reasons including exposing her now dead fiancé as the man who accidentally ran over Robin’s leg at her inaugural parade in the Maldives.” I mean, that’s perfection. No notes.

Moon Knight

Moon Knight Disney GIF by Marvel Studios - Find & Share on GIPHY

Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment

. . . so, despite the fact that this show is only six episodes total, we gave up on it just two episodes in. Much as I like Oscar Isaac, Moon Knight just didn’t do much for me at all. I’m only bringing it up now because holy shit, that time when Ethan Hawke speaks “Mandarin,” like . . . let me tell you, I 100% do not speak Mandarin, watching a couple of C-dramas does not make me an expert on literally anything related to Mandarin, and even I was like, ” . . . are you shitting me?” If you’d given me three guesses on what language Ethan Hawke was speaking in that clip, Mandarin would not have been any of them. FFS, Marvel. Hire some people for this shit, Jesus.

Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek Slapping GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Best WTF Moment, Worst WTF Moment, Most Historically Relevant Moment, Character Who Most Deserves a Better Show; Worst Plan (TIE)

I know I’ve taken a hiatus—again—but I really am going to finish watching TOS sometime this year. In the meantime, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is extremely notable, not only for broadcasting the very first interracial kiss between a Black/white couple, but also for containing the Best and Worst WTF Moments, all in one episode. (The best, obviously, is the GIF above—good for every occasion—while the worst is when Michael Dunn rides on Kirk’s back like he’s a pony. Seriously. WTAF.)

Meanwhile, I just so desperately wish the supporting cast in TOS got, like, subplots and actual shit to do. I know this was the 1960’s, and it was legitimately a big deal to even have, like, a Black woman or a Japanese character onboard. I’m not arguing that, just, I want so much more from Uhura and Sulu. I want more of everyone, really, that isn’t in our Holy OT3, but Uhura and Sulu especially. You two deserve more than this!

Nobody Knows

Favorite Bromance; Most Improved Character; Favorite Like-a-Parent & Child Dynamic; Favorite Kicked Puppy Face; Favorite Plot Twist; Grand Prize for Survival (TIE); Favorite Individual Song (TIE)

I randomly stumbled across this show while browsing Pinterest, of all things, and decided to check it out, partially because I’m a sucker for a good mystery, and partially because of the support cast: I’d just enjoyed watching Jang Young Nam and Kwon Hae Hyo in The Crowned Clown, and had also recently seen Ahn Ji Ho and Yoon Chan Young in All Of Us Are Dead.

I do think the first half of this show is stronger than the second (where I feel like the mystery gives way to a slightly weaker cat and mouse thriller), but I still really enjoyed watching this one. There are some clever plot twists, a fantastic score (unfortunately, most of my favorite instrumentals—including “Grandfather Clock” and “The Long Sleep”—aren’t available on Youtube, but “The Secret Not Revealed” definitely got stuck in my head a lot),  and excellent acting all around. I really like Kim Seo Hyung as Cha Young Jin, our kickass female lead detective; she’s no-nonsense, clever, and goddamn, that woman gets me whenever she cries. I really like her relationship with Eun Ho. Actually, I really like all the kids quite a bit. Naturally, I enjoyed all the cast I was already familiar with—it was almost funny, how bad I felt for Kwon Hae Hyo after hating his character so much in The Crowned Clown. I also really liked Ryu Deok Hwan as Lee Sun Woo and Park Hoon as Baek Sang Ho. Sun Woo is such a delightful scamp, but also constantly looks like he’s on the verge of tears, like, you just want someone to hug this guy. Meanwhile, Sang Ho is, well,  one crazy motherfucker. (I actually have seen Park Hoon before in Descendants of the Sun, but I remember so little about that show; it only exists in my brain as a vague montage of Song Joong Ki, tears, and an improbable number of emergencies.)

Don’t Call It Mystery

Favorite Non-Canon Ship; Favorite Hair; Worst Hair; Worst Plan (TIE)

This quirky Japanese detective show was Mek’s pick, and for the most part, I had a lot of fun watching it. I like Totono as our lead Sherlock. He’s a college student with just the most amazing hair, a serious appreciation for food, and a deep reluctance to solve mysteries for the police department, even though they keep coming to him and interrupting his dinner. Poor Totono. He so rarely gets to eat his curry.

Don’t Call It Mystery has a pretty lighthearted tone, overall, but there are some surprisingly serious and affecting moments, and I definitely found myself invested in the (presumably non-canon) ship of Totono/Garo. (Although my God, Garo needs to fix his hair, STAT.) I’d be happy to be wrong, BTW, about the non-canon thing. It is possible; I’ve never read the manga. Mostly, I’m just hoping we aren’t actually going forward with a Totono/Furomitsu ship. In fact, if we could just kill off this one-sided thing Furomitsu seems to have for Totono, that would be great, too. In general, I would like Furomitsu to get an upgrade in Season 2 (assuming there is one), because even her subplot in the bonus episode doesn’t quite work as well as I’d like. (She gets a friend, who is fantastic; I 100% approve of New Lady Cop and their dynamic in general. But Furomitsu’s plans leave something to be desired, and the Lesson she supposedly learns, well. Without spoilers, let’s just say that I remain unconvinced that she actually demonstrated learning anything, no matter what the other characters insist.)

Finally, before spoilers . . .

Legends of Tomorrow

Most Painful Cancellation

You may have noticed that Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t on my Shows I’ve Been Recently Watching list, and that’s because I fell behind on Season 7 and haven’t yet caught up. I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling the beginning of this season quite as much as seasons previous, and thus it fell by the wayside when I got busy. Still, I was absolutely planning to catch up because Legends is charming and ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny, and unlike pretty much every other CW superhero show I dropped, I really wanted to see this one through.

Only then in May I found out that the show had been cancelled, which sucks for all sorts of reasons but especially because I’m pretty sure it ends on some kind of (now forever unresolved) cliffhanger, and I’m trying to decide if I even want to bother finishing it, if we’re only gonna end on some terrible, unhappy note. CW, you absolute bastards. I saw that awful, AWFUL Gotham Knights trailer. You’re cancelling my beloved Legends for shit like THAT? Unacceptable.

And now, let us continue into the . . .

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

SPOILER SECTION

I wanna wrap this up, so I’m only gonna talk about a couple of the shows that I mentioned before. First, let’s discuss . . .

Nobody Knows

Favorite Plot Twist; Grand Prize for Survival; Favorite Bromance; Most Improved Character

So, Eun Ho is a fifteen-year-old kid who ends up in a coma after mysteriously falling from the roof of a ten-story hotel. Of course, that’s far too high a fall for anyone to reasonably survive in real life, but Plot Contrivance is a powerful god, Eun Ho was definitely on the roof at some point, and salvation is a Big Damn Theme in this show, so sure, it was possible that Eun Ho had actually fallen from the roof . . . and yet, I wondered. Was Sun Woo’s disbelief that Eun Ho survived not just honest shock but also foreshadow? Was Sang Ho pushing that “miracle” narrative a touch too hard? Eun Ho falls, certainly, but was it possible that he actually fell from somewhere else?

It turns out, yes on all counts! Eun Ho, being chased by Sang Ho’s people, finds himself trapped on the roof and uses the emergency ladder to try and escape—but he only gets roughly halfway down before one of the bad guys gets hold of the rope and starts hauling him back up. Desperate, knowing that being captured will mean certain death, Eun Ho does the only thing he can think of—he jumps, trying to escape. Which means his survival is still pretty miraculous, considering that fall,  but not quite so damn impossible. It’s really a clever and nicely executed twist.

Also, I just need to mention that I became so damn invested in the unlikely friendship between Eun Ho and Dong Myung, Dong Myung and Min Sung, and just all three of these kids together. I adore sullen but sweet Dong Myung, sweet but frustrated Eun Ho, and, er, sweet-post-redemption Min Sung. This kid definitely improves over time. Another character who improves over time is the one total jerk cop on the team who apparently just . . . realizes he’s being a total jerk? And then, like, stops? It’s kind of neat, actually; I really ended up enjoying the dynamic of Young Jin’s team, especially once she starts actually being honest with them.

The Crowned Clown

Most Unexpected Tears, Best Death, Worst Death; Worst Plan

Before I get into extended ranting, let’s discuss the excellent death scene in this show. Actually, there are multiple good death scenes here—Lee Gyu is another very strong contender, sob—but nothing surprised me as much or hit quite as hard as Yi Heon. It’s a surprise partially because Yi Heon is a Big Deal Character, one of the two roles being expertly played by Yeo Jin Goo, a primary villain and a king gone mad. Upon starting this show, I certainly didn’t expect him to only make it halfway through before getting murdered—a surprise, but absolutely the right call.

But it’s not just the timing that’s a surprise. I was genuinely shocked by how heartbreaking this scene was. If you haven’t watched The Crowned Clown, let me tell you: Yi Heon is the actual Worst. I’m not saying he doesn’t have some cause, like, the kid has definitely had it rough: his dad never loved him, people tried to assassinate him, and advisors he should’ve been able to trust deliberately hooked him on opium and slowly drove him crazy. OTOH, dude becomes so monstrously paranoid that he orders the murder of his own adorable baby brother, like, seriously, this kid can’t be more than, IDK, 8? Yi Heon abuses his servants, orders his wife’s execution, and sometimes violently loses his shit and kills people. (Admittedly, not great people. Still, this man should not have access to a sword.) Trust me, we were rooting for Yi Heon to die during this show.

And yet when it actually happened . . . I mean, I wept. This scene is so heavy that Mek and I actually took a small break from the show. Yi Heon is so achingly vulnerable, so childlike, in this episode. The drugs have ravaged his body and mind to the point that he can barely hold a sword or feed himself; at one point, he barely seems to understand where he is. And then he’s betrayed ( justifiably so) by the only person that he trusts: Lee Gyu, his one loyal advisor since childhood, the man Yi Heon wishes was his own father. (You know, just to really dig that knife in.) The acting between Yeo Jin Goo and Kim Sang Kyung in this episode, just, gah. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so GOOD.

Less great, unfortunately, is the death of Officer Jang and, generally, the whole ending of The Crowned Clown.

Okay, so. Here’s how this goes: in the last, say, 15 minutes of the show (give or take, I didn’t go back and count), when we seem to be at our relatively happy ending, Ha Seon has decided to abdicate the crown and go off to live in the countryside. For God knows what reason, he leaves the palace by himself, only Officer Jang knows that’s dumb, so he secretly sneaks out to protect him. Of course, Ha Seon is immediately set upon by a handful of enemies who stab him, and Officer Jang dies trying to protect his dumb ass. (It’s supposed to be worthwhile because we flashback to the moment when Officer Jang says that he wants to serve Ha Seon and die a glorious death while defending him, which, like. Technically? But writers, this is not a glorious death, especially considering he dies presumably thinking that he failed.) We then fast forward two years later and reunite Ha Seon (who survived, possibly—we’ll get there) and So Woon, who’s been waiting for him all this time. And . . . that’s it. That’s where the show ends.

And I’m like, okay, NO. Folks. Lovelies. I know I’ve ranted about many character deaths on this blog, but I haven’t been this unhappy about a lousy death scene in a long, long time. This is such a bullshit way to kill off an important supporting player. Unlike the other heartbreaking deaths on this show, Officer Jang goes out in such a shitty throwaway moment. The whole scene takes maybe less than a minute and feels incredibly tacked on for one last moment of cheap and unnecessary drama. The only consequence of this last minute attack is that it takes Ha Seon and So Woon a little longer to reunite. That’s it. That’s the whole reason Officer Jang gets killed. It’s so infuriating, especially because A) Ha Seon’s decision to leave alone is just unthinkably stupid, and B) the people who kill Officer Jang aren’t even cool villains! They’re just some nameless henchmen of the dead Queen Dowager, and FFS, there aren’t even that many of them! Officer Jang has definitely survived worse odds before, but now he bites it fifteen minutes before the credits roll? Nope. Fuck that. Don’t buy it at all.

It’s also worth pointing out that The Crowned Clown has a somewhat ambiguous ending because it’s been interpreted in one of two ways: either Ha Seon and So Woon reunite after Ha Seon nearly dies, OR Ha Seon also dies with Officer Jang, and his reunion with So Woon is actually in the afterlife. In which case . . . holy shit, that is not better. Not only is it a horrifically tragic and unnecessary twist to pull during the last few moments of a show, it also means that Officer Jang died for nothing. Seriously, NO.

I don’t regret watching The Crowned Clown, like, it legitimately became one of my favorite K-dramas, and I would still recommend it to people (with, admittedly, a pretty big caveat), but the way it ended . . . holy shit. Like, this honestly goes on my Worst TV Endings Of All Time list. Probably not as high on that list as other shows, say, Game of Thrones or Battlestar Galactica, but . . . yeah. It’s definitely on there.

Well, guess that’s it for now. Feel free to agree with me or argue with me or talk about the shows you’ve been watching in the comments, and I’ll be back with more superlatives in two or three months!

World’s Worst Trekkie: Plato’s Stepchildren, Wink of an Eye, and The Empath

“Plato’s Stepchildren”

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Oh shit, it’s this episode.

So, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is best known as the first time an interracial couple (or specifically, a white/Black couple) kissed on US television. Obviously, I’ve been waiting to see this episode, although it turns out I’ve been waiting to see “Plato’s Stepchildren” for different, less historic reasons, too. You see, I’ve often come across GIFs like this—

I Caanotttt Breathe Star Trek GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

—and of course—

Star Trek Slapping GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

—and wondered, Okay, what the hell is happening here? When am I gonna get to this what-the-fuckery? Well, folks. We’re here, and let me tell you, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is 99.5% what-the-fuckery.

Basically, it goes like this: the holy OT3 beam down to some planet in response to a distress call. They find the Platonians, a telekinetic and functionally immortal alien species who are, uh, followers of Plato, I guess? Sure, I’ll go with it. Their leader, Parmen, has been gravely injured from a small wound, as these people have never had to deal with sepsis before. Bones cures him, so yay! Unfortunately, these people are also total assholes, and they want Bones to stay behind forever in case of any other medical emergencies. Bones refuses, and thus we get roughly 40 minutes of Parmen trying to make Bones change his mind by humiliating Kirk and Spock, psychically forcing them to do all sorts of weird shit: sing, dance, hurt themselves, put on little plays, etc. The absolute most bizarre shit is when Parmen makes Alexander (their servant, a dwarf without any telekinetic abilities) jump on Kirk’s back as he crawls around, making whinny noises. Yes. This is a thing that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

The kiss comes about because Parmen uses his mind powers to A) beam Uhura and Nurse Chapel down to the planet, and B) force Kirk to kiss Uhura and Spock to kiss Christine. So, it’s, uh. Not at all consensual from anyone involved, which is kind of a bummer for such a historic television moment. Although it’s still pretty awesome that William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols deliberately fucked up any of the non-smooch versions, so the studio had to use the kiss take. On a character level, though, Spock kissing Nurse Chapel is much more interesting because she’s had this crush on him for so long now, and she never imagined (or wanted) their first kiss being anything like this. Poor Nurse Chapel. I wish the episode bothered to check in with her again afterwards, but unsurprisingly, they do not. (Apparently, in the original script, Spock was supposed to kiss Uhura, but then William Shatner intervened. I find the tiny glimpses of Spock/Uhura in TOS fascinating, so I find this a little disappointing, too.)

Anyway, our OT3 discovers that the Platonians get their superpowers from their food supply. Bones quickly synthesizes similar chemicals, and Kirk overpowers Parmen. And . . . yeah, that’s about the whole episode. And, like, there are a few things I enjoy besides the historical significance of that kiss. Uhura has a very pretty dress. Spock pisses off an alien by guessing her age at 35. (I definitely felt this moment, having once angered a coworker by guessing her age correctly.) I enjoy Spock suffering from emotions that are psychically inflicted upon him, mostly because I’m a monster. And I really like Michael Dunn, who plays Alexander. The character is much more nuanced than I would’ve expected from TOS, has a whole emotional arc and everything, and Dunn plays the part well. But that Kirk-as-horse scene is pretty fucking painful, and also the writers apparently couldn’t resist throwing in one “little” joke by the end at Michael Dunn’s expense, which, UGH.

Mostly, though, the episode is just . . . plotless and weird. I can kinda see how it might’ve worked on paper, like, maybe they were conceiving it as a fun, cracky episode à la “I, Mudd.” In execution, unfortunately, it’s mostly just uncomfortable and strange.

Chief Asshat: Parmen, obviously

MVP: Definitely Alexander. I’m so happy he  lived!

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: 

“The release of emotions, Mr. Spock, is what keeps us healthy. Emotionally healthy, that is.”
“That may be, Doctor. However, I have noted that the healthy release of emotion is frequently very unhealthy for those closest to you.”

“Wink of an Eye”

The Enterprise responds to a distress call; once again, it’s a trap. I feel like that’s been happening a lot lately? Anyway, our bad guys this time are the Scalosians. Years ago, due to a series of devastating environmental catastrophes and tons of radiation, the Scalosians somehow became accelerated in time, like, they’re basically just stuck in the Speed Force nonstop. They move so fast that they’re invisible to the human eye, and the only evidence of their presence is an occasional high-pitched, insect-like noise. The Scalosians (presumably, just the men) also became sterile, so now they abduct people into the Speed Force and use their captives as breeding stock to propagate their species. Only human bodies aren’t meant to live at accelerated speeds, so even the smallest bit of cellular damage will eventually rapidly age and kill those captives. This happens to the Red Shirt that helps sabotage the Enterprise.

Deela (Kathie Browne) is the Queen of the Scalosians, and she is easily the best part of this episode. She wants Kirk to be her baby daddy, so she doses his coffee with Speed Force accelerants—I was wondering why we had a yeoman for the first time in ages—and then proceeds to spend half the episode sexy flirting with him. And while I find Kirk a boring choice for this storyline, I will say that “Wink of an Eye” is one of the rare episodes where his flirting doesn’t creep me out, probably because both characters are clearly using one another to get what they want. While Deela genuinely likes Kirk (because he’s stubborn and feisty and “pretty”), she also never falls head over heels for him, either, as is typical on TOS.  She never stops seeing Kirk as a means to an end, and I enjoy that. Deela is a calm and confident villain: cool, amused, and utterly unapologetic for what she considers necessary to save her people. It’s refreshing to see, honestly. Also, I think she’s got some serious Natalie Dormer vibes. Obviously a plus.

On the downside: Deela’s Jealous Scalosian Dude is very dull, I sorta wish Kirk had fallen under Deela’s spell (they imply it’s an inevitable side effect, hence Red Shirt’s brief betrayal), some of the timing seems a bit off (Scotty gets stuck in the same spot for like 80 years?), and the ending is . . . not great? See, Bones figures out how to accelerate Spock’s speed so he can go rescue Kirk. Spock also has the cure (admittedly, experimental) to get everyone back to normal speed. He has every opportunity to tell the Scalosians this, too; instead, Spock says nothing as they beam our bad guys back to their planet where they’ll inevitably go extinct. Only then do Spock and Kirk take the cure, and like, yeah, these people are the villains, and Red Shirt deserves justice and all that, but . . . wow, our heroes don’t even try to help. Spock and Kirk are just like, “Well, too bad these people are doomed to isolated annihilation, I guess,” and fuck off to the nearest star system with their miracle cure in hand. It’s fucking weird.

Chief Asshat: I mean, I’m giving it to Kirk and Spock because of that ending. But admittedly, Rael the Jealous Lover is a bit of a pill, too.

MVP: Obviously Deela

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: Hm, difficult. Kirk has a pretty great line when he says, “I can think of nothing I’d rather do than stay with you . . . except stay alive,” which is an excellent example of correct priorities. Deela, too, has a number of quotes I enjoy, from introducing herself as “Deela, the enemy” to coolly telling Rael, “Allow me the dignity of liking the man I select.” Still, this one might be my actual favorite:

“Why?”
“Because I like you. Didn’t you guess? Or are you so accustomed to being kissed by invisible women?”

“The Empath”

On today’s adventure, our Holy OT3 beams down to some science colony that’s been observing a sun about to go supernova. The scientists are missing, though; all our heroes find is a truly comical level of dust before they quickly get abducted themselves, taken somewhere deep underground where they find a mysterious mute woman who they decide to name Gem. Gem is our titular empath, and she’s . . . not great. She makes a lot of weepy faces and melodramatic body gestures and is pretty much impossible to take seriously. It’s also hard to know how much Gem actually understands. She doesn’t make much effort to communicate, and it’s insinuated at one point that she might not understand human speech at all, but if she doesn’t even know why she’s here . . . well, we’ll get there.

Soon, a couple of alien doctors appear. They’re doing a series of experiments, most of which involve torturing our heroes. Kirk, who gets tortured first, is told he can decide who will go next: Bones or Spock. Bones takes the choice out of his hands when he sneak-sedates Kirk, then quickly does the same thing to Spock and volunteers himself for almost guaranteed death. And indeed, Bones is in rough shape after his torture. His only chance of survival is Gem, who, as an empath, can also heal people, I guess? It does hurt her, though, and it’s unclear if such a serious healing could potentially kill her. But it turns out that’s the whole point of this experiment: to see if Gem will willingly risk her own life to save another.

See, the doctors have the power to save only one planet in this dying solar system. They’re considering saving Gem’s world, but only if she proves that her people are worthy of being rescued. Gem heals Bones, a little, but is too frightened to finish the job. She does go back, though, only this time Bones stops her, not willing to be saved if it means she might die. Spock argues that her offer should be enough to call the experiment a success, and Kirk accuses the doctors of being all intellect, no heart. (UGH). Eventually, the doctors agree—or at least, they agree to heal Bones. Gem and her planet’s fate are left a bit more ambiguous. One of the doctors scoops up the unconscious woman in his arms, and they all disappear.

And like, okay. Number one: can you imagine our entire planet depending on one asshole proving he’s a selfless person? What if the aliens abducted Elon Musk? Donald Trump? Your shitty coworker who clearly learned nothing at sexual harassment training? How are we possibly judging an entire species on a sample size of one? And for that matter, what happens if Gem does fail her worthiness test? Are we giving similar tests to other people in this system?  Remember, we’ve been presumably testing Gem for at least 3 months, considering that’s when the first scientists were taken. Could we maybe use this time more productively, like, IDK, figuring out a way to save more people? (Not to mention, the aliens insist that the scientists only died because of their own fears and imperfections, which, uh. Is that supposed to imply that these dudes weren’t as noble and self-sacrificing as our heroes, and thus Gem couldn’t learn from them? Cause one way or another, I’m pretty sure the scientists actually died from, you know. Torture.)

ALSO. Does Gem even understand that her people are depending on her willingness to become a martyr? Because we’ve been pretty unclear about how much language she comprehends in this episode. And whether or not she does understand, are we really condemning Gem as a shitty person just because she’s afraid to sacrifice her life to save three dudes she’s known for approximately 15 minutes? PLUS, are we really supposed to be okay with the fact that Gem’s been abducted and emotionally tortured for months just because these docs have ultimately good intentions? She doesn’t even go free at the end of the episode, at least not that we can verify! EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS WHOLE EXPERIMENT VEXES ME SO MUCH.

On the plus side, “The Empath” is basically someone’s H/C fanfic becoming canon, which I personally think is pretty great. Also, Bones gets to say, “I’m a doctor, not a coal miner,” and at one point, William Shatner has to move like he’s in slow motion, and that shit is hysterical. It so, so bad. So. Not a total loss, I guess?

Chief Asshat: Obviously, the alien doctors. They SUCK.

MVP: Bones. He’s a sneaky, heroic motherfucker.

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: 

“Why did you let him do it?”
“I was convinced in the same way you were, Captain: by the good doctor’s hypo.”

World’s Worst Trekkie: Day of the Dove, For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, and The Tholian Web

“Day of the Dove”

You know, this one is pretty fun: silly sword fights,  psychic manipulation, a bit of a mystery, etc. Our heroes respond to a distress call and beam down to some planet, only to discover zero evidence that anyone’s ever been there. Soon, a beat to hell Klingon ship appears, and the surviving Klingons, led by Kang, briefly capture the away team, insisting that the Enterprise attacked them. (They also say the Klingons and the Federation have been at peace for three years without incident, which seems, uh . . . wildly inaccurate?) Kirk surrenders, which infuriates Chekov because his brother Piotr was murdered by Klingons, which—wait, Chekov’s brother was murdered by Klingons? Holy shit, how did this not come up in The Undiscovered Country? Did we just transfer his familial angst to Kirk or what? (The answer is no, but we’ll get to why in a moment.)

Kirk, of course, is only pretending to surrender. He secretly signals Spock, who beams everyone up. The away team properly materializes on the Enterprise, while the Klingons are temporarily held in the transporter buffer, effectively shelving them in oblivion for a hot second, which—holy shit, we can do that on purpose? That’s horrifying. I’ve never wanted to write a Star Trek horror movie so badly IN MY LIFE.  Kirk lets the Klingons materialize again (despite Chekov’s protest) and takes them prisoner, but unbeknownst to everyone, a weird spinny light has followed them all on board.

And then shit gets weird. First the Klingons escape when a bunch of random objects suddenly transform into swords. Then Chekov openly defies Kirk to seek vengeance, but Sulu, who knows his bro (or boyfriend, shippers you do you), is all, “But Chekov . . . doesn’t have a brother, though?” And then almost everyone gets extremely irrational and aggressive, like, Uhura just seems a little upset, but Bones becomes weirdly racist about Klingons (it’s weird because it’s not Vulcans, see), and Scotty gets super racist about Vulcans, and even Spock gets quietly, ominously violent for a hot second there. Kirk, unfortunately, mostly just becomes increasingly melodramatic, wondering if they’re all doomed to become so wantonly violent, is this Armageddon, etc., (Kirk’s dialogue is easily one of the worst things about this episode; see also, the Klingons’ makeup, which is awful for, well. A multitude of reasons, really.) Chekov, meanwhile, isn’t just seeking vengeance for his imaginary brother; he also tries to rape Kang’s wife, Mara, which, WTF. This scene isn’t necessary at all, but I will say that Walter Koenig is surprisingly creepy in it. TBH, I kinda wish I’d seen him play a villain now cause damn.

The weird spinny light, it turns out, is basically an evil emotional vampire, creating and feeding on everyone’s negative emotions. Once Kirk convinces Kang that they’re being manipulated, they both order their men to stop fighting. They also laugh as they tell the alien to hit the road, which is pretty funny,  particularly when Kang smacks Kirk hard on the back, and Kirk, nearly falling over, has to keep laughing anyway. HA.

Chief Asshat: I mean. We’re told Chekov isn’t at fault for assaulting Mara, but it’s worth pointing out that he’s the only character who tries to rape anyone. Also—and this is obviously less important—he keeps holding his sword with one hand around the blade like, Chekov, my dude. What the fuck are you doing here?

MVP: Sulu, no question. He seems to be the only person who’s never affected by the alien, and he awesomely takes out one of the Klingons with a magnificent judo chop to the neck. (Though sadly, he rarely gets to use the sword he carries, which is just poor continuity, considering “The Naked Time” and all.)

Grade: Chocolate

Line of the Episode: Shit, this one’s hard. Kang actually has several great lines, like when Kirk tries to convince him that the alien is keeping anyone from dying, and Kang’s all, “Then no doubt you will reassemble after I’ve hacked you to bits.” Also, when he’s telling the alien to fuck off: “Out! We need no urging to hate humans!” (Kang is pretty great, TBH.) Still, this exchange with Chekov might be my actual favorite.

“You killed my brother!”
“And you volunteer to join him. That is loyalty.”

“For The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”

Whew. Look, I know I just sold a story that has a nine-word title and all, but goddamn. This one’s a mouthful.

So, this episode is . . . less great. The Enterprise successfully avoids a mysterious missile strike and discover that they were attacked by a 10,000 year old ship that looks like a giant asteroid. The asteroid-ship is on a collision course with a very highly populated planet. No lifeforms are detected, so Kirk, Spock, and Bones head down to the surface, where they are almost immediately captured by aliens who live underground. Whoops. Also? Bones is dying. See, just before beaming down, Bones reluctantly tells Kirk that he has some fatal disease and only has a year to live. (Kirk is sad about it, obviously, but also immediately asks Starfleet for a CMO replacement, and you just know that bullshit wouldn’t have happened if Spock was the one dying. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, it turns out these aliens are the descendants of the Fabrini, and they’ve lived on this generation ship so long that they believe they’re on an actual planet. Even the high priestess and leader Natira doesn’t realize this; she only follows the commands of the Oracle, a (sigh) secret supercomputer which actually runs everything. This complicates Kirk’s whole “let’s change the collision course” plan, particularly because these aliens aren’t allowed to do all sorts of things that might clue them into the fact that they’re on a spaceship. Climb mountains, for instance. If they do, a chip in their head (ominously known as the Instrument of Obedience) will quickly kill them.

Kirk and Spock get caught sneaking around and are sentenced to death. Thankfully, because Bones and Natira have (SIGH) instantly fallen in love, Kirk and Spock are allowed to return to the ship. Bones, however, decides to stay behind, get married, and enjoy what time he has left with Natira. He also allows her to put the death chip in his face— which, okay, NO—and finds out some secret info. He tells Kirk and Spock about it and immediately gets punished. Natira, too, gets punished when she questions the Oracle. Thankfully, Kirk and Spock (ignoring Starfleet Command) return and manage to stop the Oracle from killing anyone. They change the course of the asteroid-ship. They also happily find a bunch of lost Fabrini medical knowledge which lets them cure Bones. He decides to go back to the Enterprise, and Natira decides to stay on her ship, but they’ll likely rendezvous for a quick date in 300 or so days when the asteroid-ship finally lands at their original destination, a new home world.

And, like. There’s just a lot of dumb to go around in this episode. How about those missiles that instigated this plot? Yeah, they’re never mentioned again. Where the fuck were the Fabrini coming from that they couldn’t reach a new planet for 10,000 years? Is their destined home world even A) still habitable and B) unpopulated after all this time? Why does the Oracle try to slowly cook everyone to death when it previously just zapped the shit out of people—something to which neither Spock nor Kirk had any defense against? How is the Oracle still functional at all since apparently no one’s been maintaining or repairing it for a millennia? Also, why did we even create a five second obstacle with Starfleet Command when absolutely nothing came from it? I can’t even get into how awful the insta-romance between Bones and Natira is. Their whole relationship is sped through so quickly that the emotional beats don’t even make sense.

On the plus side, we do get some downright hilarious costumes to laugh at. Also, I do really like the scene where Spock finds out that Bones is dying, and also just generally DeForest Kelley’s whole performance in this one. It’s too bad that we didn’t get this subplot in a much better episode.

Chief Asshat: I’m giving this one to the Fabrini. Their planning skills are seriously lacking.

MVP: DeForest Kelley. It’s not his fault that Bones makes absurd decisions like, “I met a girl so pretty that I’ll let a suspicious super computer put a death chip in my head.”

Grade: Pistachio

Line of the Episode: 

“Bones, this isn’t a planet. It’s a spaceship on a collision course with Daran V.”
“I’m on a kind of a collusion course myself, Jim.”

“The Tholian Web”

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Ah. Good old Swear Trek. I regret to inform you that Bones does not actually talk about farting in this episode, but our heroes do wear space suits again! I think the last time we saw anything remotely like this was way back in . . . yeah, “The Naked Time.” Those were two-piece biohazard suits made out of shower curtains, and they were the most functionally useless things I’ve ever seen in my life. These new suits are A) a huge improvement and B) definitely another addition to my Star Trek Dream Cosplay List.

This episode is partly great and partly maddening, so pretty par for the course for TOS. We begin with the Enterprise finding the missing Defiant in an uncharted part of space where space itself seems to be, er. Thinning? Look, kids, l know science isn’t my strong suit, but I’m reasonably sure that space doesn’t do that. Anyway, the Defiant is drifting (and ominously green), and while everyone can see the ship, it doesn’t actually show up on sensors. An away team beams over to investigate and finds some absolutely creepy shit. Not only is everyone on the Defiant dead, it’s obvious that they all murdered each other. Some of the corpses are strapped down in Sickbay. Also, Bones tries to touch a few things and his hand goes through them. Like, Act I is some awesome space horror, and I am absolutely here for it.

Since the Defiant seems to be dissolving, Kirk orders everyone to beam back home. Unfortunately, the Enterprise is now having its own mysterious malfunctions and can only beam up three people at a time. Kirk is left for last, and the Defiant disappears before he can materialize on the Enterprise. Spock, though, thinks there’s a chance Kirk’s still alive in some alternate universe. They have to beam him back at exactly the right moment, and also not expend any energy that might disrupt the dimensional rift. Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with that plan. People aboard the ship begin to go crazy and attack one another. The Tholians appear, insisting that this is their space, and eventually attack when the Enterprise refuses to leave. The ship, now drifting, are helpless as the Tholians begin creating an energy field that will trap the Enterprise once completed. Also, Bones is just a massive dick to Spock the entire episode, only apologizing once they watch Kirk’s “In Case of My Death” message, in which Kirk essentially reminds them to chill the hell out and trust one another.

Spock now thinks that Kirk is dead, but Uhura briefly sees him in her mirror. She tells Bones, but she’s also  borderline incoherent and faints in his arms because, you know. Women. (SIGH.) So, everyone thinks she’s just hysterical. Eventually, though, other people see Kirk too, and Spock figures out the next interphase moment. They get just enough power to beam Kirk to safety and escape the Tholian web. Meanwhile, Bones figures out the antidote to Space Rage, which looks like tangerine juice and is actually some Klingon nerve gas diluted with alcohol. Finally, Spock and Bones troll Kirk by pretending they never even bothered to watch his final message.

And look, there are definitely good moments in here! The whole first act. More evidence that Sulu has heart eyes for Chekov. I genuinely like Kirk’s final message, as well as Bones and Spock trolling him about it. (Chekov, certainly, thinks it’s hysterical.) We get to see Uhura in off-duty clothes, which is cool, and Nurse Chapel subdues a guy attacking Bones, which is very cool.

Unfortunately, the conflict between Bones and Spock doesn’t work at all, mostly because Bones’s arguments are nonsensical even for him. He’s mad at Spock for putting Kirk ahead of the crew, despite the fact that he’s definitely chewed Spock out in the past for prioritizing the crew over Kirk. He’s mad at Spock for, IDK, being power hungry and hoping that Kirk is really dead, which isn’t just ludicrous; it’s almost the exact opposite of what Bones was arguing five minutes ago. Some of that could work, if you take grief and Space Rage into account, but these scenes never really play that way, and there are a lot of them. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch.

Also, it must be said that the Tholians are building the slowest and most worthless prison of all time. Whole generations were born and died in the time it took to create this fucking web, and one energy discharge is all it takes for the Enterprise to escape it. I know the episode is literally called “The Tholian Web” and all, but truthfully, this whole story would be better if our bad guys just weren’t in it.

Chief Asshat: Bones, no question.

MVP: Spock, for not punching Bones in the face. I know that kind of behavior is atypical for a Vulcan, but honestly? I think we all would’ve understood.

Grade: Vanilla

Line of the Episode: 

“The renowned Tholian punctuality.”

Triple Scoop Review: Death on the Nile, The Batman, and Appointment With Death

Death on the Nile

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Year: 2022
Director: Kenneth Branagh
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max
Spoilers: YES, for both the film and the book
Grade: Rocky Road

I mean. It’s watchable?  It’s a little weird watching it, mind you, considering the public trainwreck of a cast, up to and including Possible Cannibal Armie Hammer. Still, I like Agatha Christie stories, and I’m always a sucker for a whodunit, so I didn’t have a bad time watching this, just, whew, some of the choices they make. Why?

Let’s begin with World War I and The Secret Tragic Mustache History of Mr. Hercule Poirot, a real sentence that I’m really saying right now. We get non-canonical flashbacks to our hero as a soldier, which is . . . fine, I guess, and see that Poirot is A) typically brilliant, B) too brilliant to become a farmer, which is, uh, apparently what he’s planning to do after the war? And C) clean-shaven, at least until he gets kinda blown up, and his nice fiancée suggests that he grows a mustache if he hates his facial scars so much. And, I mean. None of that’s awful. I probably wouldn’t blink twice at it in a non-Hercule Poirot story, but here it just feels so silly, like finally, AT LONG LAST, we learn the Secret History of the Ridiculous Mustache—a question that absolutely nobody was asking. (Also, at the end of the movie, Poirot shaves off his facial hair, which like, yay for acceptance of scars, but also . . . IDK, the Angst Beard has a long tradition in Hollywood, but the Angst Mustache is somehow just so much harder to take seriously?)

Anyway, what’s much worse is how Death on the Nile doubles down on one of my least favorite things about Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express: Poirot’s random dead fiancée, Katherine. The actress who plays Katherine is totally fine. But her tragic death is why Poirot, you know, Renounced Love, and became a great detective instead of a farmer, and how he can be so cold and removed and unfeeling, and ugh to all of this, especially this fucking line: “He told me how much he hoped you’d be happy one day, too. That you’d get tired of being just a pure cold detective. Be human instead.”

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Look, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this. I know I’m tired of saying it. But it is VERY POSSIBLE to be both happy and human without romantic love in your life. And what’s funny is, I’m not even 100% against the idea of a Poirot Love Story, like, do I think that shit is necessary? Nope, not remotely. But I will say that—in one of the many, many deviations from the original text—Poirot and Salome (Sophie Okonedo) have this whole quiet, flirty thing where she’s all awesome and he’s kinda cutely awkward, and it actually does work for me? But Death on the Nile pushes so HARD on this idea that you’re not truly living without romantic love, and that bullshit is just annoying AF.

Other unexpected adaptational choices: killing off Buoc, a character who isn’t even in the original novel. Instead, he’s the comic relief from Murder on the Orient Express, and his death is both surprising and genuinely pretty sad. It’s funny because I did think Branagh was gonna change up the third victim here, but I was so sure it was going to be Annette Bening, not Tom Bateman. Buoc’s death is much more tragic, and on one hand, WAAAAH, but OTOH, I think this switch-up actually does play pretty well. Certainly, Poirot’s sorrow about his dead friend feels way more earned than it ever did about poor dead Katherine.

Death on the Nile is a bit hard to judge as a whodunit since I already know, well, whodunit. I do feel like it’s less rushed than Murder on the Orient Express, which is good . . . although it also takes quite a while before the murders begin, which is less good. The cast may have been a PR disaster, but they’re a decent bunch of actors, and I’m mildly amused by how almost everyone here is putting on a fake accent. (The American actors are playing English, the English actors are playing American or Belgian or French, etc.) Strongest players are probably Kenneth Branagh, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, and Sophie Okonedo. (She’s the MVP for sure.)  Armie Hammer probably gets Worst Player, if only because, wow, I burst into laughter during his weepy scene, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be funny. If I hadn’t already known he was one of the bad guys, I definitely would’ve figured it out then.

Oh, this has gotten way too long. Some final random thoughts: A) JFC, the camera angles in this film have only gotten weirder, WHY, why are you doing this to me, Branagh? B) The CGI is also pretty terrible, like, that pyramid shot? Oh no. Oh, no. C) The sexy dancing in this movie seems incredibly forced to me, like, I am not always the best judge at what qualifies as steamy? But good Lord, this is just, like, lingering, awkward, faux-fucking on the dance floor. D) Some of the quippy dialogue is fun. I’m a simple girl, and I like a good quip. And E) I love, love, LOVE that Poirot straightens the dead woman’s foot. That might’ve been my favorite moment in the whole movie.

The Batman

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Year: 2022
Director: Matt Reeves
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max
Spoilers: VERY MUCH YES
Grade: Vanilla? Or, IDK. Vanilla-chocolate swirl, maybe?

TBH, I was kinda dreading watching The Batman, mostly because of the three hour runtime (superhero movies, when will you stop), but honestly? I was pretty entertained. Like, I wouldn’t call it the Batman film I’ve been waiting for my entire life or anything, but I had a good time watching it.

I like that The Batman is a slow burn mystery, that we really do get more of a detective story than any of the previous films. I like some of the dark humor (thumb drive, heh), and I’m utterly grateful that we skip the Crime Alley scene. I also enjoy how the film really commits to its whole emo noir aesthetic. (Holy shit, does Bruce lives in a gothic cathedral now? WTF.) Did those emo vibes occasionally make giggle? You’re damn right they did. I was absolutely grinning through Robert Pattinson’s noir VO (though, TBH, I think we could’ve cut that down just a bit) and definitely at Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” . . . but IDK, even though I couldn’t quite get through that with a straight face, it still worked for me, somehow, particularly with Pattinson as a younger, reclusive, moody AF Bruce Wayne. It felt fitting. I think there’s only one moment in the hospital where I just couldn’t quite buy him; otherwise, I like RP just fine as Batman.

Most of the cast is pretty solid, honestly: Jeffrey Wright feels instantly correct as Jim Gordon, Zoë Kravitz is enjoyable as Catwoman, John Turturro works really well as Falcone, I like Andy Serkis’s take on Alfred, and though it’s a kind of a minor role, I really enjoy Peter Sarsgaard as D.A. Colson. Paul Dano and Colin Farrell, though, I have mixed feelings about. Dano, himself, chews scenery like no one’s business, which . . . IDK, kinda works for me, but also not always? I do like the parallels between Riddler and Batman, and I did love Dano singing the “Ave Maria,” but I also definitely started cracking up when he was all “NOOO!” and IDK. It felt silly and over the top in a way that—unlike Batman’s bangs or Kurt Cobain—just didn’t quite work for me. Meanwhile, I actually enjoy pretty much all of Colin Farrell’s line deliveries here; he’s kind of the comic relief and—to my very great surprise—the jokes aren’t generally about his size or appearance. (They’re more about him trolling Batman and Gordon for their mediocre Spanish, which I am absolutely here for.) Still . . . I hate the fat suit. I hate the prosthetics. Sure, Farrell is unrecognizable, but that doesn’t add anything to this story; mostly, it just kept distracting me. At least, this doesn’t piss me off the way that Dune did or anything; it’s just like . . . why? Why not just cast someone else?

With a 3-hour runtime, I expected The Batman to drag considerably, but I actually think it’s pretty well paced for the most part. I do wish Batman and Catwoman worked together more throughout the film, partly because their quasi-romance felt a bit forced to me, and partly because I just wish we had more time with Catwoman in general. Alfred, too, gets pretty much dropped after the hospital scene, which disappointed me, although at least they didn’t kill him. (Oh, I would’ve murdered people.) I do wonder if we could’ve trimmed the third act a bit and maybe given those two characters a bit more time?

It also must be said that I just can’t bring myself to give a shit about that Joker tease, like, no disrespect to the actor, but Christ, I could go another full decade without the Joker; I am begging you. Still, I genuinely like that Batman ends this movie realizing that being vengeance isn’t enough, that he needs to be a symbol of hope as well. (Side note: I kinda loved the Vengeance name, if only because I kept thinking of this song and wanting people to come up to Batman and be all, “What’s up, Vengeance?”) The idea of Batman as a symbol of hope as well as a symbol of fear interests me, maybe because it’s kinda the whole antithesis of movies like The Dark Knight and is actually something I’d love to see explored in a sequel, should a sequel  be made. I am all about character growth, and if we could actually get a compassionate Batman in a live action film, not just in cartoons like JLU? IDK, that could be pretty neat to see.

Appointment With Death

Year: 1988
Director: Michael Winner
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – ScreenPix
Spoilers: Some
Grade: Vanilla

And we’re back to Agatha Christie! Funny story: I’ve been wanting to check out Appointment With Death for actual years now, only it’s not an easy film to find, streaming or otherwise. However, while working on the Death on the Nile review above, I found myself looking up a list of obscure whodunit movies, and while looking up Green for Danger (number #1 on the list), I stumbled across the fact that Appointment With Death was available on ScreenPix. A free one week trial later, and here we are!

Peter Ustinov will never be my favorite Poirot, but I enjoy watching his movies well enough, and while Appointment With Death definitely isn’t knocking Evil Under the Sun from its top spot, I had a decent time watching it. This movie is, truthfully, a bit on the forgettable side, but I also feel like I have less glaring problems with it than I did with Branagh’s Death on the Nile—although that isn’t to say there aren’t flaws to be had because oh, there are. For one, we wait quite a while before anyone gets murdered—although admittedly, this does allow us more time with Piper Laurie, who excels in this film as the cruel Mrs. Boynton. For another, the insta-love between Dr. Sarah King and Raymond kinda kills me, although I’m pretty sure Agatha Christie is the one to blame for this. Insta-love is pretty common in these mysteries. There’s also the fact that Appointment With Death is about a bunch of white, snotty, British and American people in Jerusalem; there are definitely a few cringey moments, up to and including how little anyone cares about Hassan, a boy who tries to give Poirot critical information and ends up getting murdered for it. This immediately leads to a scene where Sarah, who initially looks guilty of Hassan’s murder, is briefly menaced by a bunch of silent men with brown skin, and it’s . . . yeah, it’s not great.

On the upside, this cast. Along with Peter Ustinov and Piper Laurie, we have Carrie Fisher, Lauren Bacall, and Hayley Mills, all of whom I had fun watching. Hayley Mills doesn’t have a super interesting role, but I enjoyed seeing her all the same, having grown up on the 1961 version of The Parent Trap. I like Carrie Fisher in this (I mean, when do I not like Carrie Fisher), and Jenny Seagrove is good, too. Honestly, all the women in this movie are more interesting than the men, but it’s Piper Laurie and Lauren Bacall who are the true standouts here. I would’ve paid, like, so much money to watch a film solely about these two squaring off. They are both an absolute delight.

Anyone who doesn’t generally enjoy whodunits is not gonna be won over by Appointment With Death, which is, well. Pretty formulaic in the long run. But since I’m a person who is deeply comforted by dysfunctional murder families, secret wills, and detectives who insist on giving dramatic reveals for absolutely no good reason, well. I’m ecstatic that I finally managed to track this one down.

World’s Worst Trekkie: And The Children Shall Lead, Is There In Truth No Beauty, and Spectre of the Gun

“And The Children Shall Lead”

Ah, I see it’s time for another episode of Kirk vs. Creepy Children!

In this particular episode, the Enterprise responds to a distress call from some science colony and finds A) a bunch of dead scientists who’ve died by suicide, and B) the scientists’ very alive and disturbingly cheerful children. Bones is concerned that the children won’t cry or otherwise acknowledge their dead parents and thinks they’re in traumatic shock. He insists that Kirk shouldn’t interrogate them until they’re seen by a child specialist, and like, I am genuinely happy that Bones is a strong advocate for kids here, but as we don’t have a child specialist on board the ship, FFS, yes, we should still probably question them about what the hell happened to their very dead parents.

Well, it turns out that the kids are secretly in contact with  an “angel,” AKA, this malevolent alien entity who’s been giving them psychic powers so they can take over the Enterprise. The five children are able to do this absurdly easily, mostly by making our crew hallucinate shit they fear. Like, Uhura sees herself as a super old and wrinkly woman (sigh), and Sulu sees, er. Giant floating space swords? (They’re hysterical.) Kirk, meanwhile, is infected by an overwhelming anxiety that he’s losing command, so obviously Spock comes to the rescue by dragging him from the Bridge and meaningfully murmuring Jim into his ear. It’s fantastic. I mean, it’s also hilarious because Shatner is overacting, per usual, but come on. The ship. The SHIP.

Kirk then saves the day by emotionally torturing the children with happy home movies juxtaposed with recordings of their parents’ corpses and graves. This makes the kids cry and turn their back on the entity, who gets all melty/gross and quickly fades away. Bones insists that—with the children finally experiencing their grief—they can be helped now and everything will be okay! Personally, I think he might be calling victory a mite early, because these kids are absolutely gonna be traumatized for life.

“And The Children Shall Lead” is often considered one of the worst episodes of TOS and, like. Yeah, it’s not good. Characters make wild leaps in logic, the kids take over the ship far too easily, and also they do this whole “shake their fist in the air” routine whenever they use their magic powers, which gets old real fast. Also, uh. The Enterprise tries to beam two officers down to the planet, only due to magic fuckery, they don’t realize they’ve long left orbit, so I think . . . I think they just beamed two dudes into space? And no one ever mentions it again? Holy shit. Still, I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t even crack my Top 5 Worst TOS Episodes. Remember, I just watched “The Paradise Syndrome.” This show’s gonna have to work pretty hard to top that bullshit.

Chief Asshat: I mean. Psychologically terrorizing small children isn’t great, but Kirk kinda had to do it to save everyone on board and all. Still, he could probably stand to feel a little worse about it afterwards, instead of standing around like a smug asshole.

MVP: George Takei has to pretend to be afraid of giant floating space swords. I’m giving this one to him.

Grade: Rocky Road

Line of the Episode: “Humans do have an amazing capacity for believing what they choose and excluding that which is painful.”

“Is There In Truth No Beauty?”

First, it needs to be said that these red visors are nothing short of glorious. Move over, “Spock’s Brain” because I’ve got a whole new dream cosplay.

Fashionable visors aside, I actually think this is one of the more interesting TOS episodes I’ve watched in a while. The Enterprise has been tasked with escorting Ambassador Kollos to his home planet. Kollos is a super highly evolved alien, basically a bunch of weird psychedelic light in a box, and this physical appearance is apparently so ugly that if any human were to look upon him, they’d instantly go mad. Only Vulcans can manage it, and even then, only if they’re wearing the proper “warding off insanity” visors. BTW, guess what these aliens are called? Medusans. SERIOUSLY.

Assigned to the ambassador is Dr. Miranda Jones, AKA, Diana Muldaur, and I like her an awful lot here. (Way more than I liked Pulaski in TNG and more than I remember liking Mulhall in “Return to Tomorrow,” too.) Miranda is human, but she’s also a born telepath and has studied on Vulcan for several years for the chance to achieve a true mind link with Kollos. It’s her passion and life’s work, and she has absolutely zero time for romance, which will not stop literally every dude listening to this bullshit toast—

“How can one so beautiful condemn herself to look upon ugliness the rest of her life? Will we allow it, gentlemen?”

—from nodding along in agreement. Creeps. It also doesn’t stop Bones from kissing Miranda’s hand or Kirk’s usual icky flirting or this other dude, Larry, from declaring his extremely unrequited love. Ugh, this guy is so gross. This is apparently like his sixth unwanted confession, and he kisses her without asking, and whines shit like, “Why did I ever meet you?” This petulant fucker even manages to whine when Miranda, psychically intuiting his murderous impulses, still kindly offers to listen to him and get him psychological help. (I would’ve run screaming in the other direction, myself.) Larry’s response: “Great psychologist. Why don’t you try being a woman for a change?” THROW THIS WHOLE MAN INTO A FIRE.

Thankfully for everyone, Larry soon dies. He tries to murder Kollos, gets an eyeful of THE HORROR, loses his mind, and drops dead. (We get an honest to God, “He’s dead, Jim!” and I was so happy!) Unfortunately, Larry also briefly gained control over the Enterprise before dropping dead, speeding the ship up super fast and stranding them in some completely uncharted space—because weird shit happens on Trek when you go faster than warp 9. The Enterprise’s only hope is to achieve a mind link with Kollos, who has the superior knowledge to navigate them back home. However, Kirk and Spock decide that Miranda can’t make the link herself because she doesn’t know how to operate the ship—which kinda seems like bullshit to me, personally. I mean, there are plenty of people onboard who could help with that. This feels like it could’ve been a group effort. Furthermore, they don’t even bother discussing the situation with her because Miranda’s had (an admittedly pretty obvious) chip on her shoulder about Spock and Kollos interacting so far. (She wouldn’t have received the position if Spock hadn’t previously turned it down, see.) Thus Kirk decides to distract her with his Sexy Seduction Skills, while Spock secretly mind melds with the ambassador.

To my absolute delight, Miranda is wholly uninterested in Kirk’s creepy flirting and psychically senses what Spock’s up to. She insists that she can do the job. However, Bones tells her that while she can do almost anything a sighted woman can do, she can’t pilot a starship if she can’t see the controls. It turns out that Miranda is blind and that the elaborate beading on all her dresses actually provide this super sophisticated sensor web, which is just awesome. It’s extremely exciting to see far-future vision impairment and mobility aids, and combining them with fashion? YES. Also, Miranda’s quietly angry monologue here about pity is pretty fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s decided that Miranda’s blindness disqualifies her, which . . . IDK, maybe it’s cause I grew up on TNG and I’m used to Geordi doing all sorts of neat shit, but I just feel like they could’ve made this work. I’m seriously bummed for Miranda.

So, Spock does the mind meld with Kollos, allowing Leonard Nimoy the chance to smile, which is, admittedly, always delightful. They successfully navigate the Enterprise back home, but oh noes! Spock forgets to put his red visor on before he and Kollos break the mental link, so naturally, Spock goes mad. There’s only one chance to save him: Miranda must psychically connect to Spock and restore his sanity.

. . . And sadly, here is where the episode kinda goes to shit because when Miranda—not currently wearing her sensor web, BTW—says that she can’t save Spock, Kirk insists that she secretly wants Spock to die. He accuses her of psychically causing Spock to forget the visor in the first place and then full on manhandles her, like, throws her up against a wall and everything. Yup, that’s Kirk, our hero, just blatantly assaulting a disabled woman. He seems to regret it pretty quickly, but less because it was a terrible thing to do and more because it’s a pretty stupid way to treat the only person who can save your first officer/boyfriend/BFF.

Of course, Miranda does save Spock, and vexingly, thanks Kirk for his violent assault, telling him that he was right about her motivations, which just—doesn’t feel even remotely true. I mean, sure, she was jealous of Spock. I get that and, TBH, actually like it—people are flawed, after all—but nothing in this episode has convinced me that Miranda is so goddamn petty that she would’ve either attempted to MURDER Spock or happily allowed him to die. It’s frustrating because Miranda is otherwise such a fantastic character: intelligent, disabled, reserved, compassionate, envious, confident, and potentially aromantic. (Fuck it, that’s my headcanon, anyway.) So, I’ve chosen to raise my hand and wave this bit of blatant fuckery away because, without it, “Is There In Truth No Beauty” easily makes my TOS Top 10.

Chief Asshat: I think both Larry and Kirk are taking the crown here. Assholes.

MVP: Diana Muldaur, obviously. She’s absolutely fantastic in this.

Grade: Chocolate, if you subtract the last five minutes.

Line of the Episode:
“Bones, why hadn’t you told me?”
“She’d have told you herself if she wanted you to know.”

“Spectre of the Gun”

Well. It’s the Wyatt Earp episode, I guess.

The Enterprise has orders to enter Melkotian space and make contact, but the Melkotians are all, “GTFO, invaders, we don’t want you here.” (In fact, they’re like “GTFO” in every language, which is honestly pretty cool.) You’d think the Federation would respect that, but . . . nah. They’re more like, “Look, if a non-space faring species needs our help, we can’t do shit, but if an advanced species says, ‘Fuck off, we don’t want you here” . . . well, obviously, we have no choice but to ignore them.” So, Kirk’s all, “Well, I’ve got orders, so I guess we’re gonna go ahead, anyway,” which, IDK, like . . .

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Kirk, sadly not nearly as cool Samuel L. Jackson, ends up beaming down to the planet with Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and Chekov, where they are quickly confronted by a Melkotian, who looks kinda like a giant rock head with glowy eyes, and is also (pretty rightfully) pissed off. Our heroes, sentenced to death, are seemingly transported to Tombstone, Arizona in 18-whatever. Everybody there is convinced that they’re members of the Clanton gang, which is obviously unfortunate, since the Clantons are destined to die at the hands of the Earps later that night. And if you’re thinking, gosh, this seems like a really random and unlikely execution method, well, you’re not wrong. I mean, it’s kinda neat that our telepathic aliens devise punishments based on the memories they uncover, but come on. The year is 2268. Wyatt Earp, really? Besides, think how neat it would’ve been to see our heroes act out some old Vulcan tragedy or something. That would’ve been WAY more interesting than watching Kirk run around, trying to convince everyone he’s an interstellar traveler from the future.

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Our heroes try to escape, but can’t. Chekov isn’t quite as bummed as the others because he’s got a girlfriend here; unfortunately, he dies while defending her honor. (Kirk displays regret for half a second, all, hey, maybe I shouldn’t have ignored the Melkotians’ warning. Like, yeah, MAYBE NOT.) Happily, since Chekov died hours before he should’ve, the gang realizes their futures can be changed. They try making a sedative to use against the Earps, but their test run fails for seemingly no reason, causing Spock to realize that this is all an illusion. Chekov didn’t die because he was shot by real bullets; he died because he believed the bullets were real. Since our heroes will also die if they have even a smidgeon of doubt, Spock mind melds with each one of them, instilling the belief that nothing here can kill them. It is kind of interesting to see Spock do, like, conveyor belt mind melds, though—per usual—I wish this led to some kind of cool side effects or consequences. It’s also at least mildly interesting that the Earps are portrayed as full on villains here. I mean, it’s been an admittedly long time since I watched Tombstone OR Wyatt Earp, but I feel like the whole town isn’t usually quite so supportive of the Clantons?

Anyway, the away team obviously survives the climactic gunfight. They have the chance to kill the Earps, but Kirk refuses to take it, which of course impresses the Melkotians enough that they decide to allow for some friendly chitchat, after all. And everyone’s magically returned to their ship, including Chekov, who is—not surprisingly—still alive.

Chief Asshat: Kirk, for obvious reasons, but also Bones and Scotty, too, who are absolute dicks to Spock about his typically reserved reaction to Chekov’s death. (Thankfully, they at least look mildly chastised when Spock reminds everyone that he is, in fact, half-human. But man, sometimes, I really wanna slap Bones.)

MVP: Leonard Nimoy, mostly, because Spock’s the only character here who doesn’t piss me off. But also, whoever designed the Melkotians, cause sure, they’re kinda hilarious, but also, it’s pretty fun seeing aliens who actually look very alien.

Grade: Hm. Vanilla?

Line of the Episode: “Captain, since we have seen that death is the one reality in this situation, I seriously suggest you reseat yourself immediately.”

Now Announcing: You Fed Us to the Roses – A Collection of Short Stories Written By ME!

I don’t usually post much on the weekends, but I have a pretty exciting announcement today: Robot Dinosaur Press is going to publish my debut short story collection You Fed Us to the Roses on October 18th, 2022! It will consist of ten contemporary horror and dark fantasy stories, including one original that’s written exclusively for this collection.

You can read more about You Fed Us to the Roses here, including some early buzz (which, NGL, made my whole morning) and links for pre-order. Right now, pre-order is only available for the ebook version, but the collection will also be printed in paperback and hardcover as well, and I’ll update here when those links are ready.

Also, just. LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS COVER IS.

Evangeline Gallagher provided this gorgeous cover art, and if you have not had the opportunity to check out their work before, you should absolutely do so, because it is stunning. I feel so incredibly lucky that they agreed to this project, and am just as fortunate that Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (whose writing I’ve adored for years) acquired and edited this collection for Robot Dinosaur Press. Truly,  I’m feeling pretty blessed today.

Triple Scoop Review: Seo Bok, Scream, and Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

So, I’ve basically been ignoring movies in favor of marathoning television for the past three months, but hey! Here are a few films I’ve watched recently!

Seo Bok

Year: 2021
Director: Lee Yong Joo
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Spoilers: Not directly, I don’t think, but inferences can probably be made
Grade: Rocky Road

Whew. That was . . . yeah, a bit darker than I was expecting from a “jaded ex-agent has to protect the first human clone” movie. Although sometimes, that can be kind of a fun thing about watching foreign films: genre expectations are not necessarily universal, so sometimes, damn, you get a surprise.

Truthfully, I haven’t quite made up my mind about Seo Bok just yet. There are parts that I genuinely like. The acting, in particular: Gong Yoo and Park Bo Gum are  strong leads—I mean, obviously, they’re like 95% of the reason I watched this movie in the first place. I especially enjoyed Park Bo Gum, who was giving me some serious Hello, Monster nostalgia, but I was also happy to also see Jo Woo Jin (who I really enjoyed in Happiness) and Jang Young Nam (who I quite liked in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay). The action is fun. Some of the shots were rather lovely. Some of the thematic material works well for me.

However, not all of it does, and I’m still trying to pinpoint why that is, exactly. Admittedly, the basic thesis of this movie—we’re not meant to be immortal—has never been one of my favorite morals in the world. Still, I think my bigger problem isn’t so much the message but its execution. Seo Bok feels murky, convoluted. Too much going on and not nearly enough time to explore it. I often felt that characters—particularly the antagonists—were making decisions that felt nonsensical and inauthentic. Our heroes are essentially caught between dueling villains here, and I quite like the idea of that; however, that structure can go somewhat awry when you have villains with nebulous motivations making pretty dubious choices.

 Seo Bok is certainly not meant to be an upper; in fact, to me, it sorta feels like the nihilist answer to Space Sweepers. Still by the end, I feel like I was perhaps left with an even stronger sense of futility than the film actually intended. I don’t regret watching it at all, but I also feel like there’s a stronger story here, waiting to be whittled free.

Scream

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Year: 2022
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Paramount Plus
Spoilers: ABSOLUTELY
Grade: Chocolate

I admit, I was pretty excited when news of the latest Scream movie was announced, considering it’s probably my favorite horror franchise of all time, and I figured the guys who did Ready or Not might be a good fit for it. But I was also a bit nervous because, you know. It’s probably my favorite horror franchise of all time, and there comes a point when you just really don’t want to see certain characters die. For me, that specifically meant Sidney. I am emotionally invested in Sidney Prescott’s survival. Fortunately, I have good news: she makes it!

Overall, I enjoyed Scream. TBH, I enjoy all the movies in this franchise. Even Scream 3, which is probably the worst of the bunch, surprisingly has more to recommend than I’d initially remembered. Which isn’t to say I don’t have criticisms because, well. Me. My biggest problem here is that Melissa Barrera does very little for me as Sam. I wish I liked her more, I really do. I adored Jenna Ortega as Tara and spent the majority of the film wishing she was the primary Final Girl. Actually, I really like most of the cast. Jack Quaid being a villain isn’t exactly, er. Surprising? But I don’t even care because he’s hilarious, and I’ve really liked this actor in everything I’ve seen him in thus far. Also shoutouts to David Arquette, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette, Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and Skeet Ulrich—but NOT to Skeet Ulrich’s CGI because good Christ, stop. Just stop.

And I really do love the idea of our Final Girl being cheered on by hallucinations of Evil Daddy Billy Loomis. The scene where Sam stabs the shit out of Richie is easily her best in the whole film. Still, I would’ve loved it so much more if I ever bought Sam or had any investment in her character. I also think Scream might have some second act problems, but I’m not quite sure yet where I think it missteps. I do feel like Tara’s friends get dropped too long, which makes the Amber reveal a little underwhelming. Wes and Judy’s death scenes are good, but feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the film. (I still can’t bring myself to give a shit about Judy, but I do feel sorry for Wes.)  And I’m still trying to decide how I feel about Dewey’s death. I don’t mind that it happened, exactly, just . . . it’s so obvious that he’s gonna die when he goes back that it ends up feeling like a stupid move to me. IDK. I’m still thinking on it.

(Also, FFS. Is the hospital a 9-5 gig? Where are ANY of the employees here? Or for that matter, other patients? Hollywood continues to drive me crazy with this nonsense.)

Overall, though, I was pretty entertained. I had fun guessing suspects and motives and how many killers there would be this time around. Toxic Fandom is the Real Killer here feels pretty apropos for this franchise, and almost all of the dialogue and in-jokes worked well for me. (Poor Courtney Cox is never gonna live those terrible bangs down.) I also enjoyed the step up in gore, and while I may find Sam very dull, I’m always happy to see sisters survive. (See also, Sidney and Gale—I know, not actually sisters—who I really liked in this movie.) I do wish Kirby had come back, but it’s nice that we got confirmation she’s alive! (Though I admit, I absolutely missed said confirmation when it happened.) This movie isn’t perfect, no, but compared to some other horror franchises and their dismal ass sequels? Yeah. The Scream movies still got it.

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

Year: 2017
Director: Kim Yong Hwa
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Spoilers: Nah
Grade: Vanilla

So, this is a Korean fantasy-action film about a firefighter who dies and is escorted through the afterlife, facing seven trials in seven hells to see if he can be reborn. It’s a fun premise and an overall great cast with several actors I’ve enjoyed in other shows. Joo Ji Hoon from Kingdom. Kim Hyang Gi, who was (briefly) in Space Sweepers. I’m currently watching Kim Dong Wook in The Guest, and—like presumably many Americans—first saw Lee Jung Jae in Squid Game. Also D.O. (Hello Monster—yes, I know he’s also in EXO, but I know him from Hello Monster), Kim Soo An (Train to Busan), Ye Soo Jung (also Train to Busan), and a half a dozen other people I’ve seen pop up here and there. This is actually the first thing I’ve seen Ha Jung Woo in, but I enjoy him here, too.

My main problem with this film is easily Kim Ja Hong (Cha Tae Hyun), our firefighter, who is just . . . boring. He’s so boring, just zero personality whatsoever, and it feels like half his dialogue is incessantly calling after his mom. Literally everyone around him is much more interesting. My personal favorites are Joo Ji Hoon, who gives a very funny performance that’s wildly different from his work in Kingdom, Kim Soo Ann, because the God of Deceit is just the Best, and Kim Dong Wook, whose performance here alongside Ye Soo Jung provides the movie its heart. I’m probably supposed to feel moved by Ja Hong, too, but unfortunately . . . yeah, no. That’s partially because the character is so boring, but also because we learn some things about this guy that, well. I don’t want to get too deeply into spoilers, but let’s just say that the movie really wants me get into this heartwarming redemption, and I just couldn’t quite get there.

I do think the script could be tighter, and I wish the visual effects did justice to the premise (cause the CGI here is, uh, hilarious), but I also probably enjoyed the film enough to check out the sequel, especially since my least favorite character isn’t in it. Man. I wish that happened in more films. Like, give me Scream 6 without Sam. Or Guardians of the Galaxy 3 without Peter Quill, or Jurassic Whatever without Owen Grady, or . . . yeah, feel free to just pass up Chris Pratt at any opportunity in favor of Chris Pine, Chris Evans, or Chris Hemsworth, please and thank you.