TV Superlatives: September, October, November – 2021

It’s December, which means–well, a bunch of things, really, but today it means that I’ve come to talk about all the television I’ve been watching for the past three months. Here are the shows:

What If . . . ? (Episodes 1-5)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season 2, Episodes 4-10)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8, Episodes 7-10)
Running Man/Classic Running Man (Random Episodes)
Black Spot (Season 2)
Last Week Tonight
Nailed It! (Season 6)
Squid Game
Slasher: Flesh and Blood
Yumi’s Cells (Ep. 1- 7)
Evil (Season 2)
The Great British Bake-Off (Collection 9)
Nancy Drew (Season 3, Ep. 1 – 7)
Hawkeye (Ep. 1-3)

A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether it’s currently airing or not. As always, I will do my best to clearly mark all awards with appropriate spoiler warnings. I may discuss events from past seasons, however, without such a warning. Which is to say, I won’t spoil any of Nancy Drew, Season 3, without a big heads up, but any Major Revelations from S1 or S2 are totally fair game.

Shall we begin?

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TV Superlatives: June, July, August – 2021

Well, shit. I regret to inform you that there hasn’t been a lot of TV this summer. For a few different reasons, but primarily because one of my cats has been very sick and TV just kinda fell by the wayside. Some shows got dropped (I’m so far behind on Legends of Tomorrow that I’ll just have to wait until the season pops up on Netflix), and others never even got started (I promise I haven’t forgotten about you, The Witch’s Diner!). Still, here’s the list of everything I’ve managed to watch over these past few months:

Legends of Tomorrow (Season 6, Episodes 1-5)
Sell Your Haunted House (Episodes 14-16)
Doom at Your Service
Star Trek (Season 2, Episodes 23-26)

Running Man/Classic Running Man (Random Episodes)
Last Week Tonight
Black Spot (Season 1)
Evil (Season 1)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Season Two, Episodes 1-3)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8, Ep. 1-6)

A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether it’s currently airing or not. As always, I will do my best to clearly mark all awards with appropriate spoiler warnings.

Let’s get started, shall we?

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Triple Scoop Review/Year of Monsters: BONUS VAMPIRE ROUND – Drácula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Dracula 2000

Drácula

TFW you have to improvise because there aren’t any GIFs or trailers for the 89-year-old movie you’re reviewing.

Year: 1931
Director: George Melford
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Yep
Grade: Vanilla

In 1931, Dracula (the English language film starring Bela Lugosi) was shot during the day, while Drácula (the Spanish language film starring Carlos Villarías) was shot during the night. Earlier this year, I’d wanted to watch Drácula to compare and contrast; alas, I wasn’t able to find the film streaming anywhere online. Fortunately, I have an incredibly sweet friend, Rob, who bought me a special edition DVD copy of both films because he is the absolute best. Thank you, Rob!

In regards to which film is better . . . honestly, I like both for different reasons. On one hand, I think Pablo Álvarez Rubio makes for a fantastic Renfield. I didn’t have any particular problem with Dwight Frye, but Rubio is the superior choice as the bug-eating lackey, and delightfully, this film gives him a little more screen time to work with. (At least I’m pretty sure it does, but admittedly, I have watched like four different adaptations of this novel now, and they are starting to bleed together a bit.) I like this version of Mina (named Eva here) a little better, too, specifically when she’s all dark and vampire-influenced. And this version actually bothers to give Lucía’s story an ending, unlike poor Lucy in Dracula, who is pretty much just forgotten about between scenes. There are some particularly nice shots in this film, too, specifically the last one where Eva and Juan Harker ascend the staircase, leaving Van Helsing below with Renfield’s body–although to be fair, I like some shots in the English language version, too, like when the vampire brides back away from Dracula and Renfield’s unconscious body.

OTOH, I’m afraid I can’t take Carlos Villarías as Dracula seriously at all, like, he’ll have an okay moment or two, and then he’ll smile, and I’ll just start cracking up. Dude’s just so damn goofy. Bela Lugosi is very stagey, but somehow that feels more stylized, theatrical. This is different. This just feels absurdly cartoonish. And I prefer Van Helsing in the English language version, too, probably because this one seems shocked by things that just aren’t very shocking. Like, he’ll present some hypothesis (for example, Dracula is a vampire, and therefore must not have a reflection), and then seem flabbergasted when he immediately proves himself correct. He also has a hilarious reaction when Dracula threatens to kill him; likely, he’s supposed to seem scared, but it comes across more like, “Whaaaat? You’d . . . you’d really kill me?”

Watching both of these movies is absolutely fun, but my perfect film would be some unholy combination of the two, with Bela Lugosi and Pablo Álvarez Rubio and, most especially, the Philip Glass score from the 1990’s.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Year: 1992
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
First Watch or Rewatch: Re-Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon, I think? TBH, it’s been a few weeks.
Spoilers: Yep
Grade: Strawberry

Look, there are some amazing things about this movie. The opening music, for instance? Fantastic. And the fashion? Oh my god, the FASHION in this film. Dracula’s costumes alone, like, we’ve got the grey suit and top hat pictured above, his memorable Transylvania look, the red armor he wore as a human (which is basically just what J-Lo wore in The Cell,) etc. Then, of course, we have Mina’s lovely green dress and hat, as well as Lucy’s hilariously anachronistic red dress. And then, of course, Dead Lucy, which is the absolute cream of the crop. God, I’d love to cosplay the hell out of this someday.

So, yeah. I’d watch the hell out of this movie as a series of well-made fanvids; unfortunately, as a whole ass film, I have . . . problems. The entire prologue, for instance: like, the BS reincarnation love story I don’t care about (I was so baffled by this addition the first time I watched this movie), or how Anthony Hopkins is playing this ancient priest dude for no apparent reason. The fact that someone apparently fetched Mina’s perfectly undamaged corpse out of the river just to throw her ass on the floor, even taking the time to grab her suicide note and artfully tuck it into her hand. (Oh, apologies, there was physical damage: a single trail of blood from the corner of her mouth. Holy shit, that just makes it even funnier.) And Gary Oldman’s rage freakout, like, don’t get me wrong, I know the guy is a good actor, but also, dude sometimes makes some ridiculously over-the-top choices that I just cannot take seriously. I was giggling like mad throughout this whole prologue, which I really don’t think was Coppola’s intent here.

If the whole movie was like that, I could happily enjoy Dracula as a so-bad-it’s-great film. But those kinds of movies are generally best appreciated when they’re under two hours; this film is 2 hours and 35 minutes, and unfortunately, its dreadfulness isn’t always the sheer delight that is this gloriously terrible train ride into Hell scene. Which is to say, some of the bad stuff just drags, particularly in the second half of the film, where I slowly became consumed by boredom. And honestly, there’s a lot of bad to go around: Dracula as a wolf-troll-thing raping Lucy? Nope. All the orgasmic vampire shit and the plethora of relentless boob shots? Thanks, pass. I’d love to know whose idea it was to make Dr. Seward a morphine addict for, like, a scene. Also, why, in a movie with such fantastic costumes, does Keanu’s gray hair look like someone just threw flour over his head? And while I’m genuinely delighted by the current Resurgence of Keanu Reeves–he seems like a nice dude, and I enjoy a lot of his movies–like, this is easily his worst performance, and I’m including Much Ado About Nothing in that. (A film I have a huge soft spot for, honestly, but there is more than one woeful miscasting in that movie.) It’s not just that Reeves’s accent is terrible, though it is; it’s more that he’s so damn stilted here. Winona Ryder’s accent isn’t winning awards, either, but at least there’s some flow to her dialogue.

Finally, a few random things:

A) Everyone’s kind of an asshole in this movie, including Jonathan, who doesn’t like Mina staying with her BFF cause Lucy is rich, and what if Mina wants a rich boy now? Jonathan, you’re a tool. Van Helsing, though, is probably my favorite asshole because of hilariously casual lines like this: “Yeah, she was in terrible pain; we cut off her head. She’s dead now.”

B) The Texan suitor, played by Billy Campbell, is shockingly the least objectionable character, which is presumably why he dies.

C) Wow, I forgot there are so many other people in this movie! Cary Elwes! Richard E. Grant! Tom Waits as Renfield, what?

Renfield’s hair, at least, is properly fantastic.

Dracula 2000

Year: 2000
Director: Patrick Lussier
First Watch or Rewatch: Re-Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Definitely
Grade: Chocolate

Okay, sure, this isn’t a great movie, but unlike Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it never really pretended to be, either. Dracula 2000 is so incredibly of its time, and I have all kinds of silly nostalgia for it. Ton of people in the cast, too: Jonny Lee Miller (the hero), Justine Waddell (the heroine), Christopher Plummer (the dead meat vampire-hunter mentor), Vitamin C (the dead meat BFF and vampire bride #1), Jennifer Esposito, (the brief fake-out love interest and vampire bride #2), Jeri Ryan (the random hot reporter and vampire bride #3), Sean Patrick Thomas (a thief), Danny Masterson (a thief who gets a leech to the eyeball), Lochlyn Munro (a thief and also the First to Die), Omar Epps (the Thief Boss who very suavely wears glasses), Shane West (the cameraman who dies very, very quickly), Nathan Fillion (a young priest who shockingly doesn’t die), and, of course, Gerard Butler (the Big Bad, AKA, Judas “Dracula” Iscariot).

Miller and Plummer probably do the strongest work here, but I enjoy pretty much everyone except maybe Jennifer Esposito, who I never quite buy–although to be fair to the actress, she does get some of the worst dialogue. Like the “all I wanna do is suck” pun or the “how does one become a lover” exchange, ugh. There’s some bad dialogue to go around, though: JLM’s “never ever FUCK with an antiques dealer” is beyond awful, like, as a blooper line? It’s hysterical. I’d have laughed my ass off had I seen this in the blooper reel. As an actual line in the movie? NO, GOD, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS, NO.

OTOH, I do genuinely enjoy a lot of the humor, even the very on-the-nose stuff. I’ll admit to laughing at the “sorry, sport, I’m an atheist/God loves you anyway” exchange; also, Masterson’s hilariously petulant “I said I was sorry.” The sheer outrage in Miller’s delivery when he says “undead–UNDEAD!” cracks me up every time. I’m also very amused by Dracula calling the Bible “propaganda” as Simon tries to defend himself with it. And when Dracula perfectly describes Mary’s Mom’s interior decorating style as “Catholic,” yeah, I laughed pretty hard at that.

And while Dracula’s secret origins as Judas are kinda unbelievably silly, I suspect someone could actually make this work in a miniseries or TV-show, something with a serious, historical bent and plenty of room to focus on the themes of evil, forgiveness, and redemption in a universe where choice and action are presumably predestined. Dracula 2000 was obviously never gonna be that story, as it’s a campy ass horror film, and its reliance on Dracula’s origins as a twist means it only has about 15 minutes to even remotely address the philosophical and theological ramifications of this identity reveal, while also wrapping up the entire main plot. So, yeah, that was kinda doomed to silly failure. But credit where credit’s due: this is the first and only time I’ve ever seen a vampire die by hanging.

Finally, a couple last thoughts:

A) I owned a fair amount of horror and SF movie soundtracks in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and you better believe that Dracula 2000 was one of them. (See also The Faculty, Scream, Queen of the Damned, and The Matrix.) I still listen to songs from it, too, especially System of a Down’s cover of “Metro.”

B) Remember in The Last Jedi, how Rey and Kylo spend a lot of time psychically gazing at each other from separate locations? Well, Dracula and Mary Heller-Van Helsing did it first, only with Godhead (and Marilyn Manson) playing in the background, so, obviously, they kinda win.

Shit. Now I just wanna see TLJ with the Dracula 2000 soundtrack. SOMEONE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

Triple Spooky Scoop Review: The Conjuring, Insidious, and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Well, I’d intended to post this a few days ago; however, due to the insane winds and the Kincade Fire up north, my sister and I had to evacuate over the weekend, along with nearly 200,000 other people in the county. I’ve gotta tell you: fire season is really doing its best to dampen my enthusiasm for what’s otherwise the greatest time of the year.

I’m back home now, though, and as of writing this, the Kincade Fire is contained at 45%. (Earlier, I mistakenly told people it was 45% when it was really 30%, and then maybe an hour later, it actually jumped to 45%. I’m pretty sure this just means I’m psychic now.) Hopefully, things will only continue to improve; in the meantime, it’s back to business as usual at My Geek Blasphemy, which is to say, more Horror Bingo!

Happy Halloween!

The Conjuring

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Some, yes
Grade: Chocolate

I enjoyed this for the most part. It’s a decently creepy film with a lot of good scare moments, especially considering there’s very little bloodshed. Some bits that particularly stood out: many of the shots with the music box, the ghost perched on top of the wardrobe, the entire “hide and clap” game. I like that the haunting is spread out amongst the family: one girl has the invisible friend, one continuously sleepwalks into the wardrobe, etc. I also like there are multiple children: sure, these characters are based on real people, but families in horror movies usually consist of one, maybe two kids. Here we have five daughters, and that’s just kind of neat. I was also extremely relieved that Roger didn’t spend the entire movie insisting his family was imagining things. I’m very tired of the whole “woman is superstitious and scared/dude believes in facts and science” dynamic. In fact, the general lack of skepticism in this movie was a refreshing change of pace. And speaking of refreshing, hey, Drew made it out alive! This was also a delightful surprise.

There are things that don’t work so well for me, though. While I like everyone in the Perron family (Lili Taylor is my MVP here), I don’t always buy our actual exorcists. Patrick Wilson is often a hit-or-miss actor for me, but I’ll admit, Vera Farmiga was a surprise because I’ve liked her in just about everything I’ve seen. In Farmiga’s defense, though, some of that expository dialogue is pretty rough; for instance: Look, I’ve got to tell you, you have a lot of spirits in here, but this is the one I’m most worried about because it is so hateful. I genuinely don’t know if anyone could’ve pulled that line. I also didn’t love the whole “yeah, Salem witches were real witches who actually sacrificed their children to Satan” backstory because one, ick, and two, why? I’m not thrilled with the score, either: some of the “tense” music threw me out of the story, and the happy times music at the end was like something out of a Disney film. OTOH, I was kind of delighted–if utterly bemused–by the anachronistic appearance of Dead Man’s Bones halfway through the film. I’m always up for some Dead Man’s Bones.

I enjoyed The Conjuring enough to potentially check out the sequel, although I don’t have much interest in any of the Annabelle movies. Still, I kinda adore the fact that a relatively small haunted house movie was the starting point for this whole shared universe of horror.

Insidious

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Strawberry

Huh. It appears we’re following up James Wan and Patrick Wilson with more James Wan and Patrick Wilson. Unfortunately, I don’t find Insidious nearly as successful as The Conjuring, and not just because it has that superstitious wife/skeptical husband dynamic that I was specifically hoping to avoid. I do like the basic story well enough. I also thought the first attempt to communicate with Dalton was pretty fun (holy shit, I love the medium’s gas mask), and everything in The Further looks pretty cool–even if I do think a name like “The Further” is trying way too hard, like, it just doesn’t feel natural. (Like when American Muggles became No-Majes, for example, and basically every American was all hard pass.) I also like that Patrick Wilson used to astral project as a child, though I think that particular reveal comes way too late, and I’m disappointed the movie doesn’t follow-through on exploring his repressed childhood trauma.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot that just doesn’t work for me on any level. For one, I don’t find this movie creepy at all. Basically none of the scares were scary: I laughed out loud at the opening credits when INSIDIOUS popped up on screen to the sounds of excessively dramatic violin, and sadly, things didn’t improve much from there. (Darth Maul the Ghost was not a turn of events I was expecting.) I’m bummed that Rose Byrne gets nothing interesting to do in the second half of the film; I’m even more disappointed that Lin Shaye bites it, something that surprised me–even though it shouldn’t have–because I knew she was in all the sequels. (In my defense, I didn’t know some of those films were prequels.) How awesome is it, I thought, to actually have an actress play a heroic character who a) survives multiple horror films, and b) is above the age of 60? What other franchise has done that? Poltergeist, maybe? (I don’t actually know; despite loving the original film, I never did see the sequels. Are they worth watching? Does Zelda Rubinstein make it through the whole trilogy?)

And while I don’t mind that Josh gets possessed, exactly–dude’s a weird combo of shifty, bland, and really annoying–I find the actual ending of the film fairly uninspired. Ultimately, this one’s just not my favorite.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Shudder
Spoilers: Surprisingly, no
Grade: Vanilla

The weirdest thing about this moody Iranian vampire-western is that it was filmed in Taft. Taft is a tiny ass town in Middle of Nowhere, California; it also just happens to be the place where I saw Rogue One on Christmas with my dad a few years back. This is not relevant to the film, of course, but it blows my fucking mind.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is interesting, and I haven’t totally made up my mind about it yet. It’s extremely well-crafted and something I’d recommend, but it’s also unlikely to be a personal favorite. (Well. Maybe. I don’t know. Some movies take time and space to sink in.) The overall pace is slow, which is fine, but I find myself itching to shave minutes off multiple scenes, like, it often takes four beats too long for my liking for anyone to actually use their words. It’s all intentional, of course; this movie is definitely a mood piece, and good God, it’s got aesthetic like whoa. The music, the filming, just the whole style of it . . . this movie has such voice, and that’s pretty cool. It’s also always awesome to see horror movies directed by women, and considering this was the first Iranian vampire film at all? Like, that’s just neat.

I do wish I cared a little more about the relationship between Arash and the Girl. I do like the role reversal here–boy vamps can be so boring–and the Girl herself is pretty awesome. She’s strange and eerie, particularly whenever she’s mimicking and/or trailing after someone–and of course, I’m all about her striped shirt, chador, and skateboard. That is some cosplay gold. And yeah, Arash is fine, too, with his whole James Dean thing going on, and I get it–two lonely people in the night–but still, I just can’t seem to make myself care about them together. They spend so little time with one another, like, it’s really only a few scenes, and after, well, events . . . I’m just not sure I totally buy the ending. Which is frustrating because I actually love the ending: it’s interesting and original, and you can see exactly what Arash is thinking and when he comes to his decision without him ever saying a word. It’s such a cool conclusion, but that doesn’t mean I buy it exactly, not from him, not quite yet.

I don’t know, dudes: ask me again in six months. I’m still mulling over here.

Triple Spooky Scoop Reviews: Ghost Story, The Wailing, and The Purge: Anarchy

Ghost Story

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Strawberry

So, I like parts of this. I can’t really judge it as an adaptation because while I’ve technically read the novel, that was roughly 15-20 years ago, and I remember very little about it now. I knew a bunch of old dudes (AKA, the Chowder Society) liked to meet up and tell ghost stories. I knew spooky supernatural shit would happen. And I remembered that I was disappointed by the novel’s resolution, though for the life of me, I can’t recall what troubled me about it. But that’s about it.

I enjoy the movie’s setup: an elegant old school horror society, a secret coming back to haunt them, a second generation drawn into the mystery, etc. (Although I think it would’ve been way more awesome to see the wives get involved in the investigation, too.) I like the revelation that Eva was still alive when she went into the water–frankly, these geriatric assholes deserve to die–and I enjoy how the film’s conclusion cuts between Ghost Eva menacing a helpless Don and Ricky finally revealing Eva’s rotting corpse. It’s also just neat to see these cinematic legends here, like, Fred Astaire in a horror movie! How cool is that?

Still, on the whole, Ghost Story isn’t my favorite. A lot of that’s due to writing and poor adaptational choices: the idea of ghost servants, for instance, is interesting on the surface, but Gregory and Fenny Bates have little actual purpose in this story. Fenny murdering Sears is an especially big letdown, and hey, whatever happened to this feral child, anyway? There are a number of logic leaps that annoy me, too, like when Don decides his fiancee isn’t “real,” despite the fact that all evidence at this point indicates a mentally ill woman with, like, a thyroid condition to explain her occasionally low body temperature. I mean, come on, Alma had a job! Other people saw her! I get that she literally ghosted him and all, but nothing that Don’s experienced thus far should make him think “ghost” yet. I also have no idea why Eva is so desperate to marry either Don or David, like, at first I assumed she needed someone to physically take her across the Milburn threshhold, but that’s clearly not the case, so, yeah, IDK. Also, what triggers the haunt to begin now? Don gives us some offhand bullshit about how decades of the Chowder Society’s ghost stories has given Eva/Alma’s spirit power or something, but man, they don’t sell that at all.

And unfortunately, the writing isn’t my only problem here. While most of the acting is fine (Alice Krige is enjoyable as Eva, and I like all the old men, especially John Houseman as The Asshole Friend), I find Craig Wasson as Don very hard to take seriously. Some of the scares are pretty laughable, and sure, 1981, but man, David’s death scene is ridiculous. (Points, I guess, for the surprising full-frontal shot? Sadly, Alice Krige has to be naked about 78 more times, so let’s not pretend this is equal opportunity nudity here.) The pacing is off. The score doesn’t fit the film at all. It’s just kind of a hot mess.

The film did provide some generation gap amusement, though. These fancy old fuckers are whining that men will soon only wear ties to wedding and funerals; meanwhile, Mekaela and I were completely baffled by Edward’s reaction to his son’s appearance. Dude basically says, “Don, you look like a hooligan!” And we’re like ” . . . uh, he’s wearing a sweater?”

The Wailing

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Shudder
Spoilers: YES
Grade: Chocolate

I didn’t know a lot about The Wailing before watching it. I knew it was critically beloved. I knew there was a mystery element of some kind. And I knew it was long, like, not quite It: Chapter 2 long, but pretty close. Good news, though: I really enjoyed this one! It’s lengthy, yes, but I was quickly engaged in the story, and while the pace is slow, it’s also steady, never dragging unnecessarily or crashing to a halt at the halfway point. I enjoy the blend of mystery and horror; even the comedy works for me, which I find interesting because similar comedy didn’t work for me at all in The Host. The acting here is great, too; Kwak Do-Won gives a strong, multi-layered performance as our protagonist, and I really enjoy Kim Hwan-Hee as his possessed daughter: she has some amazing facial expressions.

Until that final act, where both Old Japanese Dude and Mysterious Woman seem shady AF, I was pretty confident that Old Japanese Dude wasn’t the bad guy because a) I was getting shades of “mob justice dooms us all” themes almost right away, and b) I had Mysterious Woman near-immediately pegged as a ghost, and I was all, Oh, no, she’s totally leading these guys into killing the one dude trying to help. But then Mysterious Woman insists she’s been protecting them, and I’m like, Well, shit. Now I don’t know WHAT the fuck to think. This part of the film was spectacularly well done. Also, like Jon Snow, I clearly know fuck-all since I was so obviously wrong about literally everything.

I am still trying to decide how I feel about a few things. I find myself wanting to know more about how that trap works: how does Jong-Goo returning home ruin it, exactly? Is it comparable to breaking a line of salt? Much more importantly, what would’ve happened if he had waited? How would it have stopped Hyo-Jin from killing everyone? I haven’t fully decided how I feel about the shaman yet, either; his secret villainy does seem a bit convenient to me, but to be fair, dude absolutely does come off as shifty throughout; he just seems more like a potential scam artist than, IDK, Devil’s helper? Maybe that’s the problem I’m having, the fact that I don’t really know the shaman’s relationship to the demon. It makes his villainous turn feel a bit out-of-nowhere, although I’m not certain that it actually is: an exorcist getting rich while working with his supposed enemy does, of course, make a certain grim capitalist sense.

It’s difficult. Sometimes, we need more than one viewing to fully appreciate a story’s layered complexity, not to mention that as long as we tell stories, we’ll almost certainly argue about how much information needs to be revealed in order to make a story successful versus being lazy, a cheat, or weak. And, of course, we can’t overlook the cultural component, either: as an American, I’m an outsider looking in here, and that obviously influences my perception of the film. One notable example: basically every character in this movie uses a slur to refer to the Old Japanese Dude, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a factor into how quickly I latched onto the “mob justice” narrative. But it’s also important for me to remember that America and Japan have a very different history than Korea and Japan. Also important: my knowledge of Korean mythology and folklore is extremely limited, which means that exposition I might consider necessary (like the nature of that trap, or the upper body/lower body symbolism of stolen items) is information that Korean audiences might not require at all. It’s not that my ignorance makes me a bad person or anything, but expecting a foreign film to stop their story just to give global audiences Folklore 101 is probably an ethnocentric dick move.

I will say, however, that no matter how much I learn, I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied by the police officer who, I guess, is too horrified to point out the pictures/stolen items he discovered while they’re at the Old Japanese Dude’s cabin. And then Jong-Goo doesn’t even come back until the next day, and he’s upset because the guy burned all the incriminating evidence? Of course he did, you worthless sonofabitch. I mean, I genuinely do feel bad for this guy, but also? Nope. All the nope.

The Purge: Anarchy

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

Believe it or not–and by now, you probably will–this is actually the first time I’ve seen any of the Purge films. What surprised me here is the genre itself: this has elements of horror, I suppose, but mostly, Anarchy just feels like an action movie, especially when we get to the Most Dangerous Game portion of the evening: the Sergeant kicks rich people ass, while our other survivors twiddle their thumbs for 15 minutes. I’ll admit, it’s not my favorite section of the movie: the Sergeant just isn’t interesting enough to dominate this much screen time. He’s so one-note, it’s not even funny; I genuinely don’t know why we waited the whole movie to confirm that, yep, he’s out here to murder the man who killed his son. Surely everyone understood this within the first 15 minutes? Surely?

Despite the lack of horror, I think this universe is pretty fun. Outlandish, sure, but I’ve said it before: I’ll take most wacky premises, so long as they’re given upfront. And it’s fun, contemplating what you’d do during the Purge: I can tell you what I sure as shit wouldn’t do, though, and that’s go to the grocery store the evening before, like, you assholes, you’ve had a year to plan for this. (The wife grew on me, and I liked that she stayed with the rebels. The whiny ass husband did not grow on me, and I clapped when he died.) But yeah, there’s a lot in this universe to play with, and I really find myself wanting to know more about how things specifically work. Like, I know emergency services are out for the evening, but what about long-term/gravely ill patients who can’t be discharged? Are they just left to die, or are there, like, secret underground hospitals somewhere? (I would 100% be up for a crossover between The Purge and Hotel Artemis, BTW.) Conventional horror movie wisdom insists the former, but personal experience and anecdotal evidence from real life natural disasters suggest otherwise. I kinda want to see sequels where specific communities (rather than individual families and/or random strangers) work together to survive the night. I’m also wildly interested in the story about the morning-after clean-up crew. You think I’m joking, but I’m dead serious: I would watch the shit out of that movie.

There are a shocking amount of people I recognize here, mostly in very small roles. I knew Justina Machado would be in this, and mourned her character’s death accordingly. Michael K. Williams was a delightful surprise, as was John Beasley, Edwin Hodge, and Lakeith Stanfield. (I specifically liked Stanfield because his character was just a morally bankrupt kidnapper-for-hire. Like, why aren’t there more thieves running around? Why is it only bloody murder and attempted rape here?)

A few final thoughts:

A. Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul were absolutely fine in this movie, but I immediately started daydreaming about a fanfic crossover where Penelope and Elena Alvarez from One Day at a Time replaced their characters. I’m now trying to come up with a semi-likable Unhappy Married Couple and a Mournful Badass who’s more interesting than Sergeant.

B. I kinda enjoy that the Sergeant’s mercy is what saves him in the end, but I hated Big Daddy’s whole “we can’t have heroes” speech, like, dudes, come on. Even for me, this is too on the nose.

C. I find it very difficult to hear “purge” as a verb and not think of vomiting, which means I had trouble taking it seriously whenever a character, ominously holding a gun, would say something like, “I’m here to purge,” or whatever.

“Say Goodbye To Classical Reality.”

I have something of a hit-and-miss relationship with John Carpenter’s work. I adore The Thing. I like Big Trouble in Little China. Escape from New York is enjoyable enough, but ultimately, I liked Snake Plissken more than the actual movie itself. Halloween is a classic that I don’t love nearly as much as I’m supposed to, and The Fog, unfortunately, really didn’t much for me. All I remember about Vampires is that it was goddamn dreadful.

Today–as my first reward essay for the Clarion West Write-a-Thon–we’ll be discussing John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, which, I can tell you right now, is not destined to be one of my favorites. But there are aspects of this movie that I find really intriguing.

Let’s talk about them, shall we?

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Season Premieres & Finales – March 2016

Ugh, I’m so far behind on things. I really should just wait until later tonight when I can discuss the season premiere of Daredevil, but that means I’d have to, you know, actually stop watching Daredevil long enough to write about it. Which, ha. I’m only going to stop watching Daredevil when my sister needs to sleep. (Damn her. Damn her to hell.)

So. We’re just going to do a combo post today, two birds, one stone, you get the idea. As always, SPOILERS ahead.

SEASON PREMIERES

Hap & Leonard

hap leonard

For the most part, I enjoyed this. I read the first two books in the series a long time ago, and the show seems to have stuck pretty well to the novel’s 80’s, offbeat, country noir tone. (I actually still own the first book, but I’m waiting for the season to wrap up before I look it over.)

The show has a fantastic cast. I like Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) and I’m interested in their friendship, specifically those ominous looking flashbacks. Christina Hendricks appears to be a hippie femme fatale, so that’s fun, and I see Jimmi Simpson is continuing his career path of Total Weirdo Character Roles. (It’s not a complaint, mind. I always enjoy seeing him.)

The only one I’m not currently feeling is Chubs, not because the actor is bad, but because I suspect he’s going to lead to six episodes of fat jokes, and boy, is that something I’m not looking forward to. But otherwise, I’m interested in the show. It’s not quite filling the hole in my heart that Justified left behind, but to be fair, that’s a pretty significant hole.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B+

Damien

damien

Oh, wow. Oh, man. That was terrible. Like, on a level even I wasn’t anticipating. Maybe not in the realm of 2 Broke Girls or 10th season X-Files terrible, but yeah. I won’t be coming back for more.

Look, the concept of Damien is kind of interesting. I’m all about fated characters potentially breaking away from destiny, especially if their destiny is to be evil. (Good Omens, for example? Totally my thing.) So the idea of Damien as this protagonist dude who has all these repressed memories and has to come to grips with the fact that he’s the Antichrist is somewhat intriguing to me. Especially if you consider what his infamous birthday day party would have been like for a kid who doesn’t know he’s the son of Satan. Like, holy shit, that’s the most traumatic birthday party ever! There are potentially interesting ideas here.

But oh my God, the is writing terrible. The show gives us an okay teaser, but as soon as the hilarious opening credits roll, we jump into an exposition nightmare. It’s bad. It’s so, so bad. It kind of reminds me of the Supernatural pilot, but even worse. The ex-girlfriend, Kelly, jumps on the Something Biblical is Happening train ridiculously fast, and that’s not even getting into the scene where Damien’s trying to deny that anything strange is going on . . . until five seconds later, in the same scene, when he and Kelly wildly reverse positions. I’d like to say that Kelly’s death is a surprise but unfortunately it isn’t, although to be fair, that’s very possibly because I was already familiar with Megalyn Echikunwoke, the actress who’d been cast as her sister, and I was like, “Show, you’re not fooling me. I know this is your actual leading lady.” (And as a side note . . . um . . . why the hell are Damien, Damien’s Friend, and Kelly’s Sister all riding alone in the backseat of the ambulance with Kelly’s body in an unzipped body bag? Like, is that normal? That totally doesn’t feel normal.)

On the positive side . . . well . . . they actually say Book of Revelation instead of Revelations! So, that’s cool! Barbara Hershey seems wonderfully creepy. And there’s a shot of an upset Damien touching a huge statue of Jesus Christ and making it crumble to pieces. That’s actually kind of neat, or could have been. But the show overplays its hand trying to be ominous, especially in the scene where some Rottweilers hellhounds kill that old guy. It wants to be scary and tense, like SO HARD, but really, it’s just various shots of religious iconography set to the movie’s Oscar-winning theme music, and admittedly, that music is amazing, but you know, you can’t just pair it with anything and call it a day. The whole show just feels kind of lazy.

I eagerly await your cancellation, Damien, so I can go watch Bradley James in something more worthy of his talent. (Also, maybe we can get that Vixen live action TV show? Or Echikunwoke could at least join Legends of Tomorrow and liven things up a bit.)

TENTATIVE GRADE:

D

SEASON FINALES

Agent Carter

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Overall, a pretty solid conclusion to a very enjoyable second (and possibly last) season. (Please come back, show. PLEASE COME BACK.) I did feel like Whitney Frost went down a little too easily, like, the fact that she didn’t notice the giant cannon thing behind her was hilarious, but I probably could have let it go if there had been more complications or a fight involved or something. Unfortunately, the Big Threat seemed to be dispatched awfully quickly, and I feel like Whitney deserved better because she was a fantastic villain.

On the upside, I’m relieved that Sousa didn’t die in the vacuum like I totally assumed he was going to. Seriously, I so had this guy marked for dead, and I’m glad to have been wrong. (It’s nice that Peggy has her own Man in a Refrigerator, but I didn’t really want her to have another one, at least, not so soon.) And I’m happy that Sousa and Peggy got together, although I feel like the storyline with Sousa’s fiancee this season was an unnecessary and dumb complication that should have just been written out entirely. (Again, I assumed she’d come back and play some kind of role. For her to just disappear like she did, meh. Why even have her?) I did like how Peggy and Wilkes ended things, though, and I’m excited about her staying in LA. More sunshine! More Rose!

I’m a little surprised that everyone seems to assume Jack is unequivocally dead. He could be, of course, but he didn’t get shot in the head or anything, and he wasn’t making Dead Face. I guess we’ll find out if, mercifully, Agent Carter comes back for a third season. (Seriously, show. COME BACK TO ME.)

FINALE GRADE:

B+

SEASON GRADE:

A-

How to Get Away With Murder

ct

Oh, this show. I fell mad in love with HtGAWM last fall, but second season has been a little off-balance for some time now. I still enjoy it, but I’m also deeply relieved to say goodbye to this season and move onto the next, like, I don’t even care how ridiculously quick the Hapstall murder mystery was taken care of; I was just thrilled it was DONE.

The season finale was, you know, okay. Cicely Tyson is always a delight to watch, and I’m happy that Annalise seems like she might kinda, sorta be on the emotional mend? Like, I’m all for her being a damaged, flawed character–Viola Davis is, quite obviously, a powerhouse, and I expect her to get the meatiest material to work with–but after a while, self-destruction actually gets a little repetitive, and I’m desperate to see the show focus a little more on her as the cool, hard-as-nails badass she used to be. It’s rare that I say this, but I actually think the show might do a little better to focus on weekly cases again. I miss those from first season. They gave it a sense of structure.

The very sudden demise of Adam Arkin was great, too, although I’m not gonna lie: I’d have been happier if they’d killed Wes instead. (Yeah, I know it’s not going to happen. I can still dream. I find Wes incredibly annoying. Sorry, Dean Thomas.) And Oliver’s deception is interesting, and by interesting, I mean holy shit, what a dick move. I really need this to be about something more than the fact that Oliver doesn’t want to move to California. Like, if he’s involved in some secret conspiracy or mystery, awesome, but if it’s just because he wants to continue hanging out with Annalise’s crew to provide some thrills? Please, no. I kind of need a halfway decent character to root for in the bunch, and that person should be Oliver. Connor and Oliver are, like, one of my favorite ships ever. Please don’t make me hate them.

Here’s what I need to see from Season 3:

A. Less Annalise damage, and more focus on the other characters. Seriously, Viola Davis is amazing, but the rest of the cast is pretty great, too, and we’re really underutilizing them at this point. Especially Michaela. Please give Michaela a better storyline. In fact, please give Michaela a storyline that doesn’t mostly revolve around a man. Even if that man is Asher. (I, uh, have not made up my mind about this ship yet.)

B. Also, we should probably really delve into Laurel’s family stuff now, instead of just skirting around the edges as we’ve been doing.

C. More Connor/Oliver time. Feel free to include Oliver being cute, remembering that he once wore glasses, and finding out that he’s hanging with a bunch of murderers and dead body-disposers. Connor, meanwhile, can feel free to take off his shirt, tightly hold onto a pillow, and/or have more nervous breakdowns that may or may not include manically singing.

D. No more about the Hapstalls. Seriously. For the love of GOD, let that be the end.

E. Maybe a scene that’s actually in law school?

F. MORE CRAZY MURDER. Always.

FINALE GRADE:

B

SEASON GRADE:

B

The Shannara Chronicles

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So, that . . . kind of sucked? Like, okay, this show wasn’t amazing, but I thought it had some potential in the beginning. Unfortunately, I didn’t really like where it went at all.

The idea of Amberle becoming the tree was kind of cool, and I’m happy that she wasn’t immediately all like, “Well, if that’s my duty, then of course I’ll do it!” But that she only became ready after having sex with our boring half-elf hero? Please. More importantly, I’m seriously annoyed that her fear of, you know, becoming a tree for the rest of her life was somehow all about Will. Like, come on. Even if these two had chemistry (which they don’t) or had been together a long time (which they haven’t), this would drive me crazy. Also, the L-word? Nope. Not having it. This show’s romantic relationships are the very definition of bland.

Interesting to note: there are a lot of women sacrificing themselves in this finale. (The men, you’ll notice, don’t sacrifice shit.) Eretria staying behind so the others can escape works for me, and Amberle becoming a tree (theoretically) does too, but Commander Tilton, the badass warrior elf? She doesn’t even die doing something important; she is literally only killed for Ander’s epic man pain, and guys, this dude already lost his dad and his brother in this season alone, not to mention his other brother in the past and is about to lose his niece. Tilton’s death is some serious bullshit. (Also, did Zombie Arion feel totally random to everyone else? Have there been other zombies running around before?)

Also, the whole story with Bandon felt pretty mishandled to me. I really wanted to care about him, but everything was so poorly plotted that I just couldn’t bring myself to. It sucked for Catania, too, who showed such promise in the pilot and then just become Bandon’s Totally Insignificant Love Interest. Frankly, I’m slightly surprised she didn’t sacrifice herself as well.

ALSO, shouldn’t Will suffer something for using magic to bring Eretria back to life? That’s how big deal magic works in this verse, right, that there’s pain and consequence for spell craft? (Like how Will’s Daddy’s life turned out totally sucky?) If this is coming in second season, well, I won’t be around to see it. Despite the show ending on something of a cliffhanger, I was so utterly disinterested by the last few episodes that I have no desire to continue watching the show. I’d love to see MTV take on YA epic fantasy, but this one is far too generic for me.

FINALE GRADE:

C-

SEASON GRADE:

C

Coming Soon-Ish: Bad Comedies, Bad Horror, and the Ghostbusters!

Ghostbusters

I just don’t have the same level of nostalgia for Ghostbusters (the original) that other people do, but I’ve found that, over time, I’ve become more and more excited about seeing a female-led remake. After seeing the trailer, however, my interest has . . . dimmed.

Of course, one trailer might not mean much. I’ve found plenty of trailers disappointing and loved the actual films themselves. But I feel like this is missing something. Bill Murray’s asshole shtick doesn’t always work for me–look, my blog is appropriately named, just deal with it–but his bevy of amazing sarcastic one-liners are kind of what make the movie, and this trailer doesn’t have much of that sharpness going for it. The humor feels a little broad for me, a little less clever than I’d like, although I will say that Kate McKinnon seems pretty awesome. I’m absolutely interested in her total weirdness.

My other concern is about Leslie Jones’s character. I’ll admit, I was kind of hoping that this movie wasn’t going to repeat the three white scientists, one black everyman structure, but still, it could work. After all, I liked Ernie Hudson in the original movie; I just felt that he was wildly underused and deeply random. Perhaps this script will treat Jones better. (Although I am no more convinced that you need an everyman for this story now than I was then.) But my bigger problem is that, based off this trailer, I found a lot of her jokes kind of the opposite of funny, particularly that bit at the end with “THE POWER OF PAIN COMPELS YOU!!!” Being white, I’m probably not the best person to delve into the Sassy Black Woman trope, so I won’t get into that too deeply. What I will say is that I feel like this trailer is giving me the shriekiest version of that trope, and whether it’s a stereotype or just a specific brand of humor, it’s not something that I, personally, particularly go for.

Hopefully, the second trailer will do more for me because I want to be interested in this. I want more female-led comedy, sci-fi, and action movies with groups of women taking charge, not being relegated to, say, The Love Interest and/or The One Badass Chick in the Group. But this was pretty so-so for me.

The Brother Grimsby

On the other hand, this appears to be the comedy they’ll play for me on endless repeat when I go to Hell, so take back everything negative I said about Ghostbusters; I will happily watch the worst version of that movie a zillion times if I never have to watch this.

Sorry, Mark Strong. Not even for you.

Finding Dory

I watched Finding Nemo years after it first came out and thought it was a totally decent movie (with a thoroughly depressing beginning) that I didn’t really need to watch again. I mean, I could see it again. I just have zero need to. Finding Dory kinds of strikes me as more of the same. It looks cute enough, and I like the whale shark. But I have no particular desire to see it, either, so I’ll watch it when someone eventually makes me, likely think it’s decent, and then never watch it again.

The Other Side of the Door

Man, I’m really striking out on trailers today. I bet something awesome will come out later, too, just so I’ll be like, “Damn, I should have waited a few more hours. Now I’m stuck with the scary movie that appears to be going down the How To Make a Generic Horror Movie checklist.”

For example:

Mother loses son and life loses all meaning.
A person with brown skin tells the white heroine big mystical secrets.
The heroine does the one thing she’s not supposed to do.
The dead come back wrong.
The remaining living child is a bit creepy because she Knows things.
Starring recognizable faces but certainly not A-list names (in this case, Sarah Wayne Callies and Jeremy Sisto)

Although it should be said that if you’re going to let a grieving mother say goodbye to her dead child, you really have to do more than just tell her she can’t open the door separating them. If you really don’t want her to open that door, someone is going to have to restrain that woman, and I think you know that. Of course, if you just don’t care or are secretly hoping she opens it, that’s totally fine, but if you’re really going to get all righteous about it, you need to post a few guards at the secret temple.

Definitely a pass for me. Although, again, I’d watch it ten times before The Brothers Grimsby.

And finally . . . Damien

Okay, I’ve seen a better trailer for this show, but even if I hadn’t, I’d probably try it out regardless. Come on, it’s a completely unnecessary sequel to The Omen starring Arthur/Lowell! What’s not to like?

I’ll admit, I’m fully expecting this to be awful, but what if it’s actually good? The cast isn’t bad, after all, with some familiar TV faces playing the supporting roles, although I am disappointed that Bradley James apparently isn’t using his English accent. Come on, guys. I’m disappointed in you. He’s the Antichrist. Haven’t we all just accepted that evil is British? I thought we knew this by now.

Hopefully, this will either be surprisingly good or, more likely, a super cheesy and terrible guilty pleasure. Hopefully it is not takes-itself-so-seriously-it sucks-all-the-fun-out-of-life bad. I wouldn’t put any money down on that or anything, but I still plan to give it a shot.

“Everyone Believes in Him A Little Bit, Even Guys Like You Who Pretend You Don’t.”

I remember the first time I heard about this movie.

I was at Comic Con, watching Trailer Frenzy, when a preview for Devil started. At first, everyone seemed to be into it—more than they were into cutesy crap like Alpha and Omega, anyway—and then these words appeared across the screen:

. . . from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan . . .

The booing was so loud, it could have been mistaken for thunder.

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