TV Superlatives: June, July, August – 2020

It’s that time again! We must discuss only the most prestigious of TV Awards: Favorite Sidekick, Best Revenge, Most Horrifying Fashion, Favorite Ship, and more!

A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching with such awards, whether they’re currently airing or not. As always, any awards with spoilers will be very clearly marked. As a reference point, here are the shows I’ve been watching for the past few months:

Agents of SHIELD (Season 7)
Village Survival: The Eight (Season 2)
Star Trek (Season 2: Ep. 7-10)
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (June 7th – August 30th)
13 Reasons Why (Season 4)
Floor is Lava
Mystic Pop-Up Bar
Dear White People (Season 1)
Unsolved Mysteries (2020)
Dark (Season 3)
The Baby-Sitters Club
I Remember You (Hello Monster)
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Chip-In
Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Drawn by Clouds)
Lovecraft Country (Ep. 1 – 3)
Running Man (er, just a bunch of random episodes from multiple seasons)

(You may notice that some shows have two titles listed. K-dramas usually have at least two, and sometimes my brain flip-flops helplessly between both. I’m going to attempt some consistency throughout these superlatives, but I make absolutely no promises.)

Also, clearly, it’s just . . . it’s a lot of K-Dramas, folks. MY LIFE HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY K-DRAMAS AND VARIETY SHOWS, AND I’M OKAY WITH IT.

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Triple Scoop Reviews: Shazam!, Joker, and Little Women

Shazam!

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: HBO Now
Spoilers: Yup
Grade: Vanilla

Imbalanced, but cute. Tonally, Shazam! is wildly different than its DC live-action brethren, which makes it both a breath of fresh air and also a little, like, huh? Shazam! doesn’t always feel like a superhero movie to me; instead, it’s more of a fantasy-action film about magical kids, a film geared towards young children and their long-suffering parents. I’m having trouble describing exactly why those two sub-genres are different, but they have become different, at least in 2020.

There’s a fair bit in Shazam! that doesn’t work for me. Mark Strong’s villainy game, for example, is usually on point–all hail SEPTIMUS!–but he makes for a pretty boring villain here. Dr. Sivana’s origin story has potential, but it goes nowhere interesting, and the film would be better off if the majority of his scenes were cut. Zachary Levi, meanwhile, is generally funny, but it rarely feels like he’s actually playing Billy; mostly, he comes across as any random kid who’s been magically transported into an adult’s body. It creates a real disconnect for me throughout the film, especially when it comes to the conflict between Billy and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). Which is unfortunate because that relationship is a huge part of the story. This movie falls down hardest, I think, in its second act.

OTOH, I really do love Billy’s foster siblings, especially Freddy and Darla (Faithe Herman), who are charmingly chaotic and adorably sweet, respectively. The script is sometimes (okay, often) very on the nose about the found family stuff, but fuck it, these kids are cute, and their parents are sweet and well-meaning, and I just want them to all be happy, OKAY? And can I tell you just how much I adored these kids becoming superheroes at the end? The cameos are fantastic: I am 100% here for Adam Brody as Superhero Freddy, plus Ross Butler was a nice surprise, and Meagan Good was delightful as Superhero Darla. It’s especially awesome they get to remain superheroes, too, like I just assumed this would be a one-time sidekick deal, not that we’d end the movie sharing a secret lair. (Obviously, other viewers were prepared for this, but the majority of my Shazam knowledge comes from animated movies like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and TV shows like Young Justice.) I’m kinda so-so on this particular film overall, but I find the ending so charming that I’m genuinely interested in seeing a sequel.

A few quick asides:

A. Poor Djimon Hounsou. He so rarely gets to play anybody interesting, and this movie is no exception to that rule. Hounsou plays the Wizard who gifts Billy with his powers, and the most interesting thing about him–other than his hilariously fake hair–is that he is just such an incredible dick. Like, I just called him Asshole Dumbledore the whole movie. (Yes, Dumbledore himself is also Asshole Dumbledore, but still.) Cause, sure, you can’t hold this guy responsible for everything our villain does, but you can definitely hold him responsible for being needlessly cruel to a small child, traumatizing countless people across the world, and, oh yeah, that whole car accident thing. I’m just saying.  No one’s weeping for you, my dude.

B. It’s a very minor complaint, but when your bad guy unleashes the seven deadly sins as his henchmen, like, I just wish they were a lot more fun and distinct than this.

C. That last scene with Superman? Fucking amazing.

Joker

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: On Demand, I think? (My friends rented it)
Spoilers: A few, yes
Grade: Strawberry

Well, I watched it. And as suspected, I just wasn’t into Joker. Joaquin Phoenix is undoubtedly creepy with his weird laughter and off-putting grin and seriously disturbing ribs–like, man’s got a freaky AF energy to him, I will absolutely give him that. But his performance also feels pretty static to me, like, once I’d seen roughly 15-20 minutes, I felt like I’d seen the whole thing. Plus, I’m just kinda tired of awarding rich white dudes for being difficult to work with, and continuing to glorify actors who starve themselves for roles? Like, no, this is so unhealthy for everyone involved; please, let’s just stop.

The narrative structure of Joker goes something like this: introduce a mentally ill man and present him with about 80 triggers until he inevitably explodes. Which is . . . fine, but the build feels off to me here. The revolution is weak, primarily off-screen and inspired by murders I never quite bought as a rallying point. The social commentary feels thin, too; like, “eat the rich” is a pretty popular theme these days, but this might be one of the least successful versions of it I’ve seen. There are some ideas I like, if not always their execution: Gotham from the POV of the lower classes, for instance, or reinterpreting Thomas Wayne as a mega Chief Asshat. The eternal, cyclical nightmare that is this city, how Gotham creates villains by failing the people, and how those villains in turn create our heroes, who only ever perpetuate the system . . . but the writing is just such weak sauce, lazy and muddled. If this wins for Best Adapted Screenplay over Little Women, I swear to God . . .

I also can’t say I’m particularly impressed with any of the female roles, either. Zazie Beetz is criminally underused: her character has no real function, except to serve as a Big Twist, one that fails to be meaningful, compelling, or even surprising. It would, at least, take a modicum of effort before one could cut Penny (Frances Conroy) out of the film, but still, the whole backstory about Joker’s mom is just so . . . meh, all of it, meh. Joker is hardly the worst film I’ve ever seen: the acting is generally fine, and I quite like the cinematography. I had a good time hanging out with my friends and eating pizza, at least. But I just didn’t connect to this film at all, and I remain a bit baffled by its multiple Oscar nominations. There are so many better movies than this. My nerdish heart wants more.

Little Women

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: Actual Goddamn Movie Theater
Spoilers: Yep
Grade: Chocolate

Initially, my interest in Little Women was mild. I’ve never read the book, and I was pretty content with the 1994 adaptation I’d grown up with. I didn’t know I needed another version of this story. But then I became more interested, partially because I’d like to support more female directors, partially because I desperately didn’t want Joker to be the only Best Picture nominee I’d actually seen, and partially because of this video by Be Kind, Rewind, which examines four different film adaptations of Little Women and discusses how each teaches us something about the era it was made in. (Oh, and because I wanted to finally check out the Alamo Drafthouse, and Little Women was the only film playing that I wanted to see. Not gonna lie, folks: if either Parasite or the less cinematically beloved Underwater had been available, you probably would’ve gotten a different review.)

Happily, I thought Little Women was fantastic. I was surprisingly engaged throughout the film, which is partially due to the changes in narrative structure. It’s not that telling a story using flashbacks is some groundbreaking approach never accomplished before; it’s that using flashbacks to tell this story gives these characters so much more dimension (and their respective arcs better shape) that I could’ve possibly imagined. Not to mention, the juxtaposition of certain scenes, like watching Beth’s miraculous recovery right before Beth’s tragic death, is just beautifully heartbreaking. And while I had my doubts, initially (as “ambiguous” and “meta” are not always words I enjoy when applied to endings), I quite like how this movie concludes. I love that Little Women never forgets Jo’s consistent antipathy towards marriage, and the more I learn about Louisa May Alcott, the more this ending really appeals to me.

The acting, too, is all-around spectacular. Amy is a much more interesting character in this version of the story, and I think Florence Pugh does an absolutely fantastic job. Her acting nod feels well-earned, and the same for Saoirse Ronan, who I think makes for a very compelling Jo. I quite like Emma Watson as Meg, too; considering she previously played both Hermione and Belle, Meg is the non-standard choice, and I’m kind of obsessed with it. I also like Eliza Scanlen as Beth, but I’ll admit, she’s probably the character that suffers most by comparison, if only because “Claire Danes,” “90’s,” and “ugly cry” are so inextricably linked in my head. You know who really gets me to ugly cry in this movie, though? Mr. Laurence, as played by a nearly unrecognizable Chris Cooper. Jesus Christ. I was bawling well before Beth even died because of this kindly motherfucker.

TBH, my only real problem with Little Women is that for a film which gives us a much more sympathetic Amy, I’m at least twice as mad about the whole “burning Jo’s book” scene. Partially because I’m slightly more inclined to forgive Kirsten Dunst purely on the basis of age, partially because Pugh’s Amy is much more deliberate, methodical, and smug about what she’s done, partially because Amy’s apology here feels so obviously forced and insincere . . . but mostly, I think, because there’s something about this new version that seems to especially condemn Jo’s fury, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’ll freely admit to carrying some personal baggage with “be the bigger person” arguments, but there are times when that message works for me: Jo not lashing out at Amy about Europe, for example, is one such occasion. But to expect Jo to forgive Amy in less than 24 hours, to show Jo’s righteous fury wholly and immediately redirected at herself after Amy’s near-death experience . . . you know, maybe it’s not that this version is any more cruel than the others. Maybe it’s just that in such a revisionist adaptation, I wish Greta Gerwig had updated this scene as well. Because the idea that you have to forgive your family, no matter what, simply because they’re your family . . . I think it’s an unhealthy message, and it’s my only real disappointment in what I think is otherwise a thoughtful and fantastic film.

10 Life Lessons TV Has Taught Me

As an avid TV watcher, I think it’s important to occasionally pause and reflect on some of the lessons that television has taught me over the years. And now, just because I can, I will share some of those lessons with you.

1. Misfits: The most dangerous job in the world is probation officer.

2. Teen Wolf: Parents are the best. Teachers, though, are the fucking worst, so FEAR THEM.

3. Entire Berlanti Universe: Never keep secrets. Seriously, just stop.

4. Game of Thrones: Don’t go to weddings. Or, honestly, any public gathering of any kind.

5. Voltron: Legendary Defender: Never fear. In a moment of crisis, when all hope seems lost, your lion will tell you what to do.

6. Goblin: You’re never too old to be petty.

7. Star Trek (like, all of them): Every event that will ever happen in an alien society, no matter how far in the future, has a thematically parallel event in human history, especially around the 20th century.

8. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: Sometimes, it’s up to the non-powered member of the team to save the day. Like, a lot of time. Pretty much all the time, really.

9. Batman: Label makers are your friend.

10. Riverdale: It’s all about the maple syrup, baby.*

(I should probably wait to watch the Riverdale finale tonight before posting this, but . . . to hell with it. I get way too much joy out of merely hearing the words “maple syrup” now thanks to this show.)

“We’re Bad Guys. It’s What We Do.”

So, Suicide Squad was out for about a week before I had the opportunity to see it, and the reviews in that week were . . . not kind. I’d heard from a few people directly who enjoyed the movie, but overall it was sounding like yet another DC live action fail.

The thing is I’m, like, contrary and opinionated and shit, so despite the poor press, I had to make my way to the theater to try it out myself.

ss cover2

Ultimately, it’s a bit of a hot mess. More than a bit, honestly; I want to edit the holy shit out of this movie. On the upside, it’s way more enjoyable than Man of Steel or BvS!

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MEGA Coming Soon-Ish: Not-So-Live From Comic Con

It’s been years since I’ve gone to Comic Con. I’m always deeply envious when it’s going on, but luckily, the internet provides some of the shiny without me having to get up at the crack of dawn for a 5:00pm panel in Hall H.

Here are a bunch of trailers that came from San Diego’s massive annual nerd convention.

Justice League

I did not like Man of Steel. I did not like Batman v Superman. But God help me, Justice League actually looks pretty fun so far.

I mean, I’m not totally getting my hopes up. It’s super early days and, to my eternal disappointment, Zack Snyder is still at the helm. There is still the serious likelihood that this will be another stupidly angsty, convoluted mess.

But I actually liked Ben Affleck as Batman in BvS, and I really enjoy his chemistry with Gal Gadot. Ezra Miller is working for me, so long as they don’t push that whole awkward nerd thing too far into the ground. And Aquaman, naturally, looks all handsome and manly. Disappointingly, we don’t see much of Cyborg, but overall it’s not a terrible first look. If the movie can create interesting team dynamics and remember to actually be entertaining (and, you know, make sense), I could be into it.

Wonder Woman

And speaking of promising . . .

I have a lot more hope for Wonder Woman, although I have to say that if I don’t like it . . . I might not be going to see Justice League after all, cause, like, I’ve already given this franchise two chances and been pretty disappointed with both films. Fourth times the charm kind of isn’t a thing.

This trailer is decent. I don’t know if I’m totally wowed by it, but I am interested. I definitely liked that moment where Wonder Woman’s all, “What I do is not up to you.” YES. More of this, please. In fact, all of this.

I admit, I’m curious to how they’ll treat love interest Chris Pine: will he primarily function as a typical love interest, or will he get to do more just because he’s a guy? The latter would kind of annoy me, but so long as Wonder Woman’s motivation doesn’t solely revolve around him (and the movie doesn’t solely focus on leg shots), I could be into this. I desperately want it to be good, anyway, considering if it’s not, plenty of people won’t just consider it a bad superhero film. Rather, people will use it as “proof” that female-led superhero movies are terrible and don’t attract audiences. But we’ll have to wait a while to see how that turns out.

Doctor Strange

It’s interesting. I have the same casting problems that everyone has already mentioned, but . . . hot damn, are the visuals in this stunning.

I’m sure I’ll see this movie. It has a great cast, and it looks both beautiful and weird. Marvel meets Inception, you know? But as much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton . . . I wish they weren’t in this particular story.

The LEGO Batman Movie

I’m still worried that this is going to be a one-joke story that can’t fill up a whole movie, but this latest trailer does make me smile. LIFE DOESN’T GIVE YOU SEAT BELTS. Although poor Robin. Someday, Robin will get to be cool on screen. You know, when Michael Cera isn’t the one voicing him.

Luke Cage

I don’t think I have anything to say to this but DAMN.

I’m into it. I’m definitely into it.

Legion

Er . . .

I honestly don’t really know what to make of that. I know I watch basically every superhero show on television, but TBH, I didn’t really have any plans to watch Legion. A show about Professor X’s abandoned son who thinks he’s schizophrenic? Eh, no. Not my thing. Still, I figured I’d check out the trailer at least, and now that I have, I feel like I should at least check out the pilot. I like the cinematography, anyway, and it certainly looks . . . interesting . . . although I do find Dan Stevens’s American accent a bit grating.

So, yeah, I’ll probably try it. It could be entertaining, but if the whole show is about Am I Crazy/Am I Not? Yeah, I’ll probably fall out of it pretty fast.

The Flash (Season 3)

So, now we know what Barry did to the timeline.

Is it wrong that I’m still hoping this is all resolved in two episodes max? This could be temporarily fun, but please, please say we aren’t stuck in Flashpoint all season long. RESURRECT THE HARRY AND CISCO SHOW. Cause, yeah, this isn’t fully doing it for me.

Arrow (Season 5)

Eh. I’m always hot and cold on Arrow, often within the same episode, but this trailer is leaving me pretty much just cold.

I’m not particularly interested in New Team Arrow. Curtis, yes. Curtis can always stay. But that other dude seems annoying, and the girl . . . well, let’s just say that Artemis was my absolute favorite in Young Justice (well, her and Robin, anyway), so I’m far more likely to be critical of her. If they screw up Artemis, I’m going to be deeply  unhappy, and if I’m being honest, I fully expect them to screw up Artemis. (Her background, for instance, is already completely wrong.) Not to mention, I’m not really looking forward to multiple scenes of Oliver screwing up as a superhero mentor and everyone threatening to leave him and blah blah blah. (I just assume.)

I’m still planning to watch, just . . . I don’t know how many more seasons of Arrow I have in me.

Kong: Skull Island

All right, I think we’ve finally gotten past the superhero stuff.

I’ve gotta admit: with a roster like Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman, this certainly has the cast to beat. And I like the general look of the movie. Still, my interest is middling at the moment: a rental, probably, rather than a theater visit. The last Kong movie didn’t do a whole lot for me, and I worry about the predictability factor: right now I’m predicting Goodman dead, Samuel L dead, a bunch of extras/minor characters dead, and Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and their probable UST alone surviving to tell the tale.

This could be totally wrong, of course–in fact, I hope it is–but if not, I’m already yawning.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

So far, I haven’t been able to muster up much interest in this, despite how much I enjoyed both the Harry Potter books and movies. This trailer, though, is the first thing I’ve seen that makes me think, Okay, maybe I could check this out. On one hand . . . I kind of feel done with the HP universe, like, I love it, I’ll revisit it, I desperately want to go to Universal Studios and visit Diagon Alley–but I also don’t feel a lot of need to see prequels, sequels, side stories, etc. On the other hand, magic in this particular time period is always kind of fun, and I could enjoy this.

Although. I must say that while No-Maj didn’t bother me so much when I first read it . . . it’s kind of jarring to hear it out loud. It just really does not sound like American slang to me at all, and I hope that’s not a consistent problem throughout the film.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Well, this looks about as ridiculous as you’d expect a Guy Ritchie version of King Arthur to be.

I have no real plans to see this anytime soon, but I’ve got to admit: the trailer with its anachronistic music, super fast action, and 110% Guy Ritchie-ness did make me smile. Of course, I’m not a purist: Arthurian mythology, on the whole, has never done much for me, so I totally don’t care that Guy Ritchie’s probably going to mess it all up. And the cast is sort of fun: along with Charlie Hunnam, Djimon Hounsou, and Evil Jude Law, we also have Littlefinger, Roose Bolton, and Morgana . . . although, sadly, I don’t think Katie McGrath is playing Morgana here. Still, the actual story itself makes me just kinda shrug. I doubt I’ll pay theater prices for the experience.

American Gods

Well, shit. It’d be really helpful if I had Starz, huh?

It’s been quite some time since I re-read it (I’m trying to decide if I want to do it again before the show or not), but I picked up American Gods when I was, oh, 18? And I adored it. I’m so excited to see it come to life as a TV show. This is a pretty promising first look, and I’m very hopeful. I mean, the cast alone . . . damn. There are a ton of great people in it, but I’m just dying over these pictures of Gillian Anderson as Media. SUCH a lady crush right now.

I desperately want this show to be as awesome as it sounds. Please be awesome, show. Please be awesome like I know you can be.

Teen Wolf (Season 6)

Well, my friends. We have our first look at our final season–Teen Wolf is saying goodbye to us with Season 6, and much as I love the show, it’s probably time. Here’s to hoping it can end on a good note. (It’s always so sad when shows can’t.)

It looks pretty cool. I like the idea of a Big Bad that abducts and erases people from all memory. The story is Stiles-centric, which obviously appeals to me. And the Sheriff doesn’t remember him? NOOOOOOO! On the downside, we lost Kira and got Theo in return? BOO. This is not a great trade, in my book.

And finally . . . Dirk Gently

Oh, this looks kind of fun.

I’ll admit, I’m getting a little tired of that one genius detective character who does whatever they want and suffers no ill consequences. Still, this definitely looks offbeat and I think I was pretty much sold when Elijah Wood screamed, “I am NOT your Watson, asshole!” Plus, it looks like there are some interesting side characters (I’m already intrigued by the one kickass black lady near the end of the trailer) and . . . is that Richard Schiff? Hey, it is! YAY!

This trailer doesn’t really jive with what little I remember from The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, but it has been more than a decade since I read that book, so who knows. I’m sure I’ll try this one. I’m such a sucker for quirky detectives, although, historically, the weirder they are, the faster they get cancelled. (RIP forever, Terriers, The Unusuals, etc.)

Coming Soon-Ish: Cowboys, Babysitters, and The Joker’s Crappy Origin Story

The Magnificent Seven

So, this looks cool. It’s not the all-girl version of The Magnificent Seven I was dreaming of, but Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Matt Bomer, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio,     and some big ass guns? Could be fun. Plus, while this appears to take place in one of those universes that are populated by 40-men-for-every-1-woman, it also seems that our sole main female character will have some action-y stuff to do, so, yay! I doubt she’s one of the titular seven, and it’d be really nice for a western or action film to have more than one (or even two) important female characters, but still, one woman is one more than I seem to remember from the original Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai. So, er, progress? (Unless I’m misremembering, of course. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen either film.)

Also, “I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge” is a pretty great line.

Cell

Well. That looks spectacularly bad.

Here’s the thing about Cell: I read this book back when it first came out in 2006, and it was super creepy (until it suddenly wasn’t–I had problems with the second half) because I was late to the cell phone game and didn’t get one until, oh, maybe the following year? So I’d look up from my book on the bus and everyone would be on their phones, and I’d be like, Shit, the zombies are here, THE ZOMBIES ARE HEEEEEERE. By 2016, though, pretty much everyone and their grandmother and their grandmothers’ dogs have cell phones, which in theory would make the story even more scary but somehow makes it feel obsolete instead. There isn’t really any lingering ‘cell phone causes brain cancer or whatever else’ dread going around these days. The whole premise just feels a little silly.

More importantly, though, this just looks like a terrible movie. My only real interest in watching it is as a possible candidate for next year’s Bloody Hearts.

The Killing Joke

I actually just read this comic for the first time the other night. It’s generally considered to be one of the best Batman graphic novels ever. Naturally, I hated it.

I want to be interested in this. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are involved, so that’s a huge plus. I’m all about R-rated animated movies, and the attention to detail in this is exquisite. I mean, damn. This looks to be a spot-on recreation of the comic. But I guess that’s the problem because I really, really did not like this comic. Between the abhorrent treatment of female characters, Joker’s sad sack backstory, and Gordon’s S&M gear at the circus . . . yeah. I liked one of the ideas (if not the execution) and the last page. That’s about all.

Probably going to skip this one and watch Under the Red Hood again instead. Oooh, or Batman vs. Robin. I’ve been meaning to get around to that.

Approaching the Unknown

This looks interesting. It’s hard to know exactly where it’s going to go, and I’m guessing it’s the kind of movie you don’t want to know too much about before going in. Mark Strong, Luke Wilson, space, and mysterious, mind-trippy stuff are enough to catch my eye . . . but I have a couple of concerns.

One: my tolerance for ‘am I going crazy’ stories is pretty minimal, so while some mindfuckery is fine, I can’t have that be the driving question for the entire movie. (Also, I’d deeply prefer it if the answer wasn’t yes.) Two: I’m having a real hard time buying the idea that one guy would be sent alone to Mars, especially if it’s not supposed to be a routine, ‘we’ve done this a billion times already’ kind of trip. I can generally buy all sorts of ridiculous premises, as long as I know about them up front, and admittedly, I don’t know much about NASA that Packing to Mars and Armageddon didn’t teach me–but a lone wolf astronaut in space? Pretty much stretches my credulity to the limit.

Still. I have to admit I’m way more curious about this one than, say, Snowden or the next Jason Bourne movie. (I watched trailers for both but couldn’t manage to drum up enough reaction about either of them to bother jotting down.)

And finally . . . Adventures in Babysitting

Oh, what the shit is this?

Apparently, the Disney Channel has heartlessly decided to mine the depths of my childhood by remaking Adventures in Babysitting, and I mean “remaking” in the loosest possible sense. Godamn vultures.

Look, it’s been forever since I’ve seen the original Adventures in Babysitting, and fine, it probably doesn’t hold up all that well, but this . . . this . . . travesty just makes me sad. Come on, Disney Channel! Does your TV movie have Elizabeth Shue rocking this dress while dancing to “Then He Kissed Me,” or Bradley Whitford as a sleazy boyfriend with terrible excuses, or Vincent D’Onofrio playing Thor (well, sort of)?

I think not, Disney Channel. I think not.

Coming Soon-Ish: Peculiar Children, Biblical Epics, and LEGO BATMAN

First, let me just go ahead and put this on the record: I absolutely refuse to watch a trailer for the deleted scenes of a movie, even if that movie is The Force Awakens. And no judgment on you if you did! Just, I can’t do it. I can’t. STOP TRYING TO OWN MY SOUL, STAR WARS.

Now. On to some other trailers.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I read this book, and it was one of those stories that I loved in concept but not quite in execution. When I heard Tim Burton was going to adapt it, I fully admit I groaned because I seriously doubted he would solve any of those execution problems for me. I used to love his movies, or at least be interested in them, but lately every time I watch a Tim Burton trailer, I feel like I’m getting something I’ve already gotten from him repeatedly, and I want something new. His recent work often seems like it’s trying too hard to be strange, and I feel like it’s lost the peculiar charm that his earlier movies held.

But I’ve got to admit: this trailer actually works pretty well for me. The visuals look lovely, not cartoonish. My inner child has been successfully summoned; it desperately wants to go to this odd house with all its weird and wonderful magic. (My inner horror movie enthusiast, meanwhile, would be horrified–the twins remind me way too much of the kid from El Orfanato.) I don’t know how good the movie will actually be, of course, but I’m far more interested than I was a month ago.

Ben-Hur

I’m going to admit something right now: I’ve never seen (nor particularly wanted to see) the original Ben-Hur. In fact, I virtually know nothing about it at all, like I could not have described even a basic plot synopsis for you before today. So, certainly, the levels of cinematic blasphemy on display in this trailer are going over my head, but even as its own independent feature, this just . . . looks bad. Like, really bad. It basically seems like a dumber version of Gladiator and, upon reflection, was Gladiator really all that bright? Think I’m going to pass on this one, and by pass, I mean hold it off with fire and my fingers making the sign of a cross.

The Nice Guys

Oh, this looks pretty fun. It wasn’t anywhere on my radar–I literally just clicked it because it was on a list of Most Recent Trailers–but I love offbeat funny PI stories, and I know from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang that Shane Black can make those stories sing. Plus, I generally enjoy Ryan Gosling, and–despite what this year’s Academy Award ceremony gave us–he looks to be pretty funny paired up with Russell Crowe. I’m definitely interested in checking this out.

The Lego Batman Movie

Originally, I had little interest in The Lego Movie and only saw it because I kept hearing such great things about it from virtually everybody. I found the movie delightful beyond any and all expectation, and Will Arnett’s Batman, of course, was one of the film’s many highlights. So I will undoubtedly watch this at some point (like I’ll watch basically anything that has ‘Batman’ in the title), but I can’t help but wonder if this particular version of Batman might work better in a team rather than headlining a movie? I’m just hoping it doesn’t become one of those 90-minute films that basically tells the same joke over and over again.

Then again, I just looked at the cast list and was like HELL YES when I saw Rosario Dawson was voicing Batgirl. And I did smile pretty much all throughout the trailer, even if I was like . . . wait, the Bat Computer talks? The Bat Computer is Siri? We better not be editing out Alfred for a poor man’s JARVIS, you bastards. (Luckily, I’ve since confirmed that we aren’t. Alfred will be voiced by Ralph Fiennes. I hope he’s deliciously snotty.)

High-Rise

This trailer came out a while ago, but I must have missed it the first time around. It looks intriguing. Basically Snowpiercer if it wasn’t on a train and had Loki instead of Captain America. The film looks gorgeous and the cast is spectacular, but I’m wondering if this is going to be one of those movies where I either despise everybody, or arrive at the end and wonder what the hell I even bothered watching it for.

Still. I’m curious about this one. I’d definitely like to see some reviews.

And finally, Dead7

The Syfy original Weird Western featuring basically every 90’s boy band vs various members of the undead that you didn’t know you wanted, needed, or could possibly exist on this Earth. Isn’t it glorious?

Season Premiere Review Round Up – Numero Uno – 9/20-10/2

It’s that time of year again: Fall TV has begun. Normally, this is a pretty exciting time for me, but I’ve got to be honest: the shows I’m most looking forward to (Agent Carter, Person of Interest, Lucifer, Daredevil) all begin mid-season, like, January at the earliest. (And in Daredevil’s case, possibly much later.) Even the fall shows I’m most excited about (The Librarians, Jessica Jones, Elementary) don’t start till November. Still, I did watch a fair number of shows these past two weeks, some new, some returning, and some I thought I’d given up for good.

Here’s what I have for you so far — but fair warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. If you haven’t watched the episode in question, you know. Go do that first.

Agents of SHIELD

porcupine!

Okay, this was pretty awesome.

Last season of Agents of SHIELD had some balance problems for me, mostly in the second half, and I remain fully annoyed by the turn in May’s character, which I never even remotely bought. “Laws of Nature,” though, was a great way to start the third season. I was invested in all of it — the rise of the Inhumans, the pitiful plight of Joey Gutierrez, Coulson adjusting to his new lack-of-hand, Coulson vs Rosalind on the train, Hunter’s commentary on basically anything, this new WTF Porcupine Big Bad, Fitz’s desperation to find Jemma, etc. Man, that scene at the end with Fitz screaming at the monolith? So, SO good. It still amuses me that my least favorite character in the beginning of this show has easily become my favorite now.

Other random thoughts:

A. I will inevitably slip up and call Daisy “Skye” at least once, but I will try not to do this.

B. I kind of forgot all about May — who I normally love — until the very end of the episode, when Coulson pointed out that she was MIA. Whoops. When she returns, I would really like to immediately move past that whole BS “betrayed by Coulson” thing and just get back to them being awesome. Also, I hear Blair Underwood’s coming back, which is great. You know who should also come back? Tsai Chin. She was only in this show for, like, four seconds, and she was spectacular.

C. I’m deeply glad that Bobbi and Hunter aren’t seriously on the outs already. Also, I couldn’t help but laugh at the throwaway line about Bobbi’s apparent biology degree that no one’s ever mentioned before. She comes in wearing that white lab coat, and I’m like, “Uh, sure?” (Yes, fellow nerds, I have since discovered that this is IC with the comics, but considering they’ve never brought it up even once on the show, it felt kind of hilariously OOC to me.)

D. So, that’s where Jemma went. Man. Ominous alien monoliths never take you anywhere fun anymore.

E. Finally, the WTF Porcupine Big Bad? I’m looking at it, thinking to myself, “Okay, what the shit is that?” But also thinking, “You know, that silhouette looks really familiar to me.” It took me about an hour to remember the monster guys from The Village. Heh.

FAVORITE PART:

Easy: Fitz taking a shotgun, blasting his way into the monolith, and screaming at it to do something. Seriously, so, SO GOOD.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

daily show

So, this was funny. I don’t know how much I have to say about it, really. Like most Americans, I knew very little about Trevor Noah before this, but he made me laugh pretty consistently here and I’m looking forward to watching more of the show. Whole thing seemed pretty solid.

FAVORITE PART:

Hm, hard to say. I enjoyed all of these:

“And it’s weird because Dad has left. And now it feels like the family has a new stepdad. And he’s black.”
“Nooo. Why leave now, I just got here?”
“And to you, the Daily Show viewer, both new and old, at home or on your phone, thank you for joining us as we continue the War on Bullshit.”

TENTATIVE GRADE:

A-

Gotham

gotham

I gave up Gotham sometime last year when I just couldn’t take its downward spiral anymore. I hadn’t planned to go back, but skimming through the recaps on io9 changed my mind because it really sounded like Gotham had decided to ditch their poor attempts at Serious Batman Show and fully embrace their balls-to-the-wall crazy. And I figured, Well, that could be entertaining, at least.

People. I was not wrong.

I giggled like a fiend while watching this, and not only that, I was giggling mostly when the show wanted me to. Like, at least 85% of the time. Barbara’s black-and-white striped Arkham Asylum dress? It is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I kind of want to cosplay as Barbara Gordon now — and I named this woman as the Worst Female Character on Television last year. Possibly ever. Now that she’s evil, though? Fantastic.

I’ll admit, the whole story where Gordon loses his job and goes to Penguin to get it back? Eh, it didn’t do much for me, considering I thought Gordon already learned this lesson last year. On the other hand, the fact that Bruce is the one who talked him into compromising his morals for the greater good is sort of interesting — in a weird way — and holy shit, I did not expect Gordon to kill the dude. For someone to die, sure. But I didn’t actually think Gordon would do the deed himself, even in a kinda-sorta-self-defense way. This is, however, the rare instance where I’m actually hoping they won’t dwell too much on the emotional ramifications of this. I know that’s bad, but my favorite flavor of Jim Gordon — at least, as acted by Ben McKenzie — is cranky as hell, not super broody. It’s not that I don’t buy McKenzie’s broody, necessarily; I’m just not interested. Personally, I loved the scene where he took down Sword Wielding Crazy and brought him to the police station. I want more of that from Gordon.

Mostly, though, this episode cracked me up. I mean, pretty much everything about Bruce and Alfred blowing up Thomas Wayne’s Secret Door was great. For instance:

  • The level of pure condescension in Bruce’s voice when he argues that he too knows how to make a bomb because he “read a book.”
  • “Don’t you start talking French to me.”
  • “I’m building a bomb to blow that door down. You may assist me or not, as you wish, but if not, some tea would be nice.”
  • How happy Bruce and Alfred are when they successfully blow shit up.
  • Bruce apparently not thinking to try his own name as a combination on his father’s secret door. Oh, Little Bruce. You still have so much to learn about the human heart and, also, cliches.

Also on the Side of Awesome: James Frain (who, sadly, is not British here), an a cappella farewell to Commissioner Loeb, Bullock telling Gordon to slow down his drinking literally as he pours him another drink, “two A’s,” and Riddler’s split personality saying, “Dude. It’s a mirror. That’s how they work.” (Although I’m not quite sold on Riddler having a split personality yet. We’ll see.)

If the show can keep up this level of crazy . . . yeah, I could potentially get back into this.

FAVORITE PART:

ZOMG THAT DRESS.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B+

Quantico

quantico

I kind of miss being hooked on a juicy night soap, especially one that’s a mystery, even though I don’t think I’ve ever made it through a whole series without inevitably giving up on it. (See: Scandal, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries, etc.) I’ve been considering checking out How to Get Away With Murder, especially now that the first season is on Netflix, but in the meantime I decided to try out Quantico.

I sincerely doubt that I’m going to stick with Quantico until the bitter end, but as pilots go, this actually wasn’t a terrible one. There are some neat things, some annoying things, and some ridiculously silly things. I figure I’ll keep going with it until I hate virtually every character. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen in Season One, but will see. Likable characters wasn’t one of this pilot’s strong suits.

The Neat:

  • An Indian protagonist
  • Aunjanue Ellis, who I just adored on The Mentalist.
  • Josh Hopkins, who I adored on Cougar Town. (Though, sadly, he looks to be more annoying here, and I assume there will be significantly less guitar playing.)
  • The revelation that Ryan Booth is spying on Alex. (Because thank Christ – I rolled my eyes HARD when they just happened to be on a plane together.)
  • Alex liking casual sex, and not caring if anyone knows that she and Booth hooked up.
  • “Paradise Circus” by Massive Attack. I love that damn song.
  • Elder Eric killing himself, mostly because I called that shit from the second we saw him. Possibly that’s not fair because I did know he was a main player on Sense8. Still, who knows when that show’s even coming back? Hell with it. I TOTALLY called it.

The Annoying:

  • At this point, the only characters I actively like are Alex and Miranda Shaw. Nimah and her secret twin sister are okay, I guess. On the other hand, I’m not loving Booth or Ryan, and I already seriously dislike Shelby, Simon, and King Douchebag Caleb.
  • Of course King Douchebag Caleb appears to be out, but I didn’t buy that even before I looked him up on IMDb. (I wanted to see where I knew him from. The answer: Revolution. Oh no.)
  • For Christ’s sake. How hard is it to write a virgin character who’s not the most pathetic nerd in all of existence? I am tired of this.

The Ridiculously Silly:

  • Nimah’s twin sister. I actually called that, too, but I’ll admit — I was kind of hoping I’d be wrong. Even for a silly show that’s obviously going to have a lot of ludicrous twists . . . I don’t know, man. I worry.
  • I’m confused. Do any of these people have any kind of law enforcement experience in their pasts? Doesn’t that seem like a thing people would have before joining the FBI?
  • Pretty much everything about the dorms.
  • Sexy FBI swimming, apparently, is in our future.

Finally, everyone’s obviously taking bets on who the traitor is. I wonder if there might be two of them. Honestly, I don’t really trust anyone at this point, although I guess I’d be pretty surprised if it was Nimah or her twin. (Maybe one, but surely not both.) At the moment, I’m looking the closest at the blonde who lost her parents on 9/11, and — as much as I hope this isn’t the case — Aunjanue Ellis. Pathetic and Deeply Annoying Gay Virgin could be evil, but if that’s the case, he’ll either get a) even shrieker and more annoying, or b) far more intimidating before revealing he isn’t gay OR a virgin, especially that last one. Cause, you know. Heaven forbid.

FAVORITE MOMENT:

Honestly, I laughed pretty hard at Eric saying, “I’m assuming none of that applies to you?” Good zinger, Mormon dude. Too bad that guy’s dead now.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

Scream Queens

sq

So, this was . . . okay. I’ll probably continue watching it for now, though I’m not exactly in love with it yet. I am in love with Jamie Lee Curtis, though. Holy shit, she’s AMAZING. I’m tempted to say this is my favorite thing I’ve ever seen her in, and this was just a two-hour pilot. She was hysterical, and I can’t wait to see more of her.

On the other hand, while some of the jokes made me laugh, a lot of the humor felt forced. One of my problems with Ryan Murphy shows in general is that the jokes often feel like they’re trying way, WAY too hard for edgy. Sometimes, they worked for me. Often, they did not, like I’m thinking maybe a 30/70 success rate here, so. Not all that successful.

My other main problem with the show is that I’m not sure it knows what kind of comedy it wants to be. Some of it feels like it’s going for more of a Scream or You’re Next vibe, while other parts — like Ariana Grande going to Twitter while the serial killer is currently trying to murder her — feel like they could have been deleted scenes from broad parodies such as Scary Movie. And there’s nothing wrong with either kinds of comedy, but they don’t blend that well. The first kind is trying to be funny and scary; the second, not so much. You’re Next would never have been frightening if Erin had turned to the First to Die and shrieked, “Oh my GOD, why do you have an arrow in your head?!”

A few last notes:

A. The main girl, Grace (Skyler Samuels), is surprisingly okay so far. I’m kind of into the idea of her staying at the sorority as this, like, investigative reporter type, bent on making the kind of sorority she dreamed about. She’s a little funnier than I expected her to be, especially in some of the scenes with her new stalker boyfriend (Diego Boneta). I seriously hope stalker boyfriend bites it, though.

B. Zayday (Keke Palmer) is easily my second favorite character. I want her to live, even though the BS rules of the genre are very much against her.

C. I feel that I’ve somehow managed to grow an irrational dislike towards Emma Roberts. I’m trying to work on that because I honestly don’t know where it’s come from. I’ve found her work in the past somewhere between disappointing and adequate, but this feels like an overreaction to two meh performances. Still, she’s just okay to me here. It’s not that I don’t buy her in the role; I do. But there’s a way to do Queen B’s, like you’re kind of rooting for them despite yourself? (Leah Pipes in Sorority Row is a great example of this.) And I just feel like Emma Roberts isn’t quite there for me yet, like I buy her as this awful character, but that just makes me wish I spent less time with her. I am definitely not rooting for her. (On the other hand, I’m totally rooting for Asshole Popular Guy, Chad {Glen  Powell}. He’s actually kind of hilarious.)

D. Lea Michelle did not annoy me nearly as much as I thought she would. Considerably less enamored, though, with the Deaf Taylor Swift (now deceased) and the Candle Vlogger (unfortunately still here).

E. Finally, I thought Nick Jonas looked familiar, but I was probably wrong because I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen Nick Jonas before this. I cringed at some moments with his character but other parts did make me laugh, and I liked the twist that he was still alive, although obviously we’ll have to wait to see how that unfolds.

FAVORITE PART:

Basically any time Jamie Lee Curtis was on screen.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

The Blacklist

blacklist

Meh. You’d think Red and Keen being on the run together would be a little more exciting, but honestly, I kept finding my attention drifting during this premiere. The only storyline that really interested me at all was Dembe’s, partially because I like Dembe, and partially because I was interested in this new baby-snatching villain, Darwin. (Okay, the guy’s name isn’t Darwin. I didn’t actually catch his name, but he’s played by Edi Gathegi, the actor who played Darwin in X-Men: First Class.)

Otherwise, eh. Keen running to the Russian Embassy at the end was kind of an interesting twist — and vastly more interesting than, say, running to Tom or turning herself in — but mostly I found her pretty boring in this ep. (And of course she looks just like her mother. Of course she does.) Meanwhile, I wasn’t remotely interested in Ressler’s angst/guilt/anger/whatever either, which saddens me, since I used to enjoy that kind of thing. And no one was in a car accident or kidnapped at all. Samar was in mortal peril for a second there, but no abductions or SUV flips.

I’m going to stick with it, for a while, but even taking Keen’s fantastic fugitive hair into consideration — I have the sinking feeling that this is the year I give up on The Blacklist.

FAVORITE PART:

When the adorable baby is adorably touching the face of a dude who’s calmly insinuating baby-murder. It’s so cute and so evil, all at the same time!

TENTATIVE GRADE:

C