It’s that time again! Over summer, I watched a fair bit of television, definitely more than I managed during spring. Here’s a list of everything I’ve been watching, including the few shows I heartlessly abandoned for other things:
Obi-Wan Kenobi Another Floor is Lava (Season 2) Last Week Tonight (Season 9, Episodes 13- 22) Running Man (Episodes 63-75 and 606-618) Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Stranger Things (Season 4, Volumes 1 and 2) Evil (Season 3) Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Tomodachi Game The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim Inspector Koo Harley Quinn (Season 3, Episodes 1-7) The Sandman Soundtrack #1 Adamas (Episodes 1-10) KinnPorsche (abandoned) Baking Impossible (abandoned) Resident Evil (abandoned)
A quick reminder for how these work: superlatives may be bestowed upon any show I’m watching, no matter whether said show is currently airing or not. This summer, I’m splitting my superlatives in half, so Part I is generally spoiler free; however, I may discuss events from past seasons. For example, I won’t spoil Season 4 of Stranger Things, but any major revelations from Seasons 1, 2, or 3 are totally fair game. Also, I allow ties. Get used to ties because there are gonna be a LOT of them.
Year: 2022 Director: Kenneth Branagh First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max Spoilers: YES, for both the film and the book Grade: Rocky Road
I mean. It’s watchable? It’s a little weird watching it, mind you, considering the public trainwreck of a cast, up to and including Possible Cannibal Armie Hammer. Still, I like Agatha Christie stories, and I’m always a sucker for a whodunit, so I didn’t have a bad time watching this, just, whew, some of the choices they make. Why?
Let’s begin with World War I and The Secret Tragic Mustache History of Mr. Hercule Poirot, a real sentence that I’m really saying right now. We get non-canonical flashbacks to our hero as a soldier, which is . . . fine, I guess, and see that Poirot is A) typically brilliant, B) too brilliant to become a farmer, which is, uh, apparently what he’s planning to do after the war? And C) clean-shaven, at least until he gets kinda blown up, and his nice fiancée suggests that he grows a mustache if he hates his facial scars so much. And, I mean. None of that’s awful. I probably wouldn’t blink twice at it in a non-Hercule Poirot story, but here it just feels so silly, like finally, AT LONG LAST, we learn the Secret History of the Ridiculous Mustache—a question that absolutely nobody was asking. (Also, at the end of the movie, Poirot shaves off his facial hair, which like, yay for acceptance of scars, but also . . . IDK, the Angst Beard has a long tradition in Hollywood, but the Angst Mustache is somehow just so much harder to take seriously?)
Anyway, what’s much worse is how Death on the Nile doubles down on one of my least favorite things about Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express: Poirot’s random dead fiancée, Katherine. The actress who plays Katherine is totally fine. But her tragic death is why Poirot, you know, Renounced Love, and became a great detective instead of a farmer, and how he can be so cold and removed and unfeeling, and ugh to all of this, especially this fucking line: “He told me how much he hoped you’d be happy one day, too. That you’d get tired of being just a pure cold detective. Be human instead.”
Look, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this. I know I’m tired of saying it. But it is VERY POSSIBLE to be both happy and human without romantic love in your life. And what’s funny is, I’m not even 100% against the idea of a Poirot Love Story, like, do I think that shit is necessary? Nope, not remotely. But I will say that—in one of the many, many deviations from the original text—Poirot and Salome (Sophie Okonedo) have this whole quiet, flirty thing where she’s all awesome and he’s kinda cutely awkward, and it actually does work for me? But Death on the Nile pushes so HARD on this idea that you’re not truly living without romantic love, and that bullshit is just annoying AF.
Other unexpected adaptational choices: killing off Buoc, a character who isn’t even in the original novel. Instead, he’s the comic relief from Murder on the Orient Express, and his death is both surprising and genuinely pretty sad. It’s funny because I did think Branagh was gonna change up the third victim here, but I was so sure it was going to be Annette Bening, not Tom Bateman. Buoc’s death is much more tragic, and on one hand, WAAAAH, but OTOH, I think this switch-up actually does play pretty well. Certainly, Poirot’s sorrow about his dead friend feels way more earned than it ever did about poor dead Katherine.
Death on the Nile is a bit hard to judge as a whodunit since I already know, well, whodunit. I do feel like it’s less rushed than Murder on the Orient Express, which is good . . . although it also takes quite a while before the murders begin, which is less good. The cast may have been a PR disaster, but they’re a decent bunch of actors, and I’m mildly amused by how almost everyone here is putting on a fake accent. (The American actors are playing English, the English actors are playing American or Belgian or French, etc.) Strongest players are probably Kenneth Branagh, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, and Sophie Okonedo. (She’s the MVP for sure.) Armie Hammer probably gets Worst Player, if only because, wow, I burst into laughter during his weepy scene, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be funny. If I hadn’t already known he was one of the bad guys, I definitely would’ve figured it out then.
Oh, this has gotten way too long. Some final random thoughts: A) JFC, the camera angles in this film have only gotten weirder, WHY, why are you doing this to me, Branagh? B) The CGI is also pretty terrible, like, that pyramid shot? Oh no. Oh, no. C) The sexy dancing in this movie seems incredibly forced to me, like, I am not always the best judge at what qualifies as steamy? But good Lord, this is just, like, lingering, awkward, faux-fucking on the dance floor. D) Some of the quippy dialogue is fun. I’m a simple girl, and I like a good quip. And E) I love, love, LOVE that Poirot straightens the dead woman’s foot. That might’ve been my favorite moment in the whole movie.
Year: 2022 Director: Matt Reeves First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max Spoilers: VERY MUCH YES Grade: Vanilla? Or, IDK. Vanilla-chocolate swirl, maybe?
TBH, I was kinda dreading watching The Batman, mostly because of the three hour runtime (superhero movies, when will you stop), but honestly? I was pretty entertained. Like, I wouldn’t call it the Batman film I’ve been waiting for my entire life or anything, but I had a good time watching it.
I like that The Batman is a slow burn mystery, that we really do get more of a detective story than any of the previous films. I like some of the dark humor (thumb drive, heh), and I’m utterly grateful that we skip the Crime Alley scene. I also enjoy how the film really commits to its whole emo noir aesthetic. (Holy shit, does Bruce lives in a gothic cathedral now? WTF.) Did those emo vibes occasionally make giggle? You’re damn right they did. I was absolutely grinning through Robert Pattinson’s noir VO (though, TBH, I think we could’ve cut that down just a bit) and definitely at Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” . . . but IDK, even though I couldn’t quite get through that with a straight face, it still worked for me, somehow, particularly with Pattinson as a younger, reclusive, moody AF Bruce Wayne. It felt fitting. I think there’s only one moment in the hospital where I just couldn’t quite buy him; otherwise, I like RP just fine as Batman.
Most of the cast is pretty solid, honestly: Jeffrey Wright feels instantly correct as Jim Gordon, Zoë Kravitz is enjoyable as Catwoman, John Turturro works really well as Falcone, I like Andy Serkis’s take on Alfred, and though it’s a kind of a minor role, I really enjoy Peter Sarsgaard as D.A. Colson. Paul Dano and Colin Farrell, though, I have mixed feelings about. Dano, himself, chews scenery like no one’s business, which . . . IDK, kinda works for me, but also not always? I do like the parallels between Riddler and Batman, and I did love Dano singing the “Ave Maria,” but I also definitely started cracking up when he was all “NOOO!” and IDK. It felt silly and over the top in a way that—unlike Batman’s bangs or Kurt Cobain—just didn’t quite work for me. Meanwhile, I actually enjoy pretty much all of Colin Farrell’s line deliveries here; he’s kind of the comic relief and—to my very great surprise—the jokes aren’t generally about his size or appearance. (They’re more about him trolling Batman and Gordon for their mediocre Spanish, which I am absolutely here for.) Still . . . I hate the fat suit. I hate the prosthetics. Sure, Farrell is unrecognizable, but that doesn’t add anything to this story; mostly, it just kept distracting me. At least, this doesn’t piss me off the way that Dune did or anything; it’s just like . . . why? Why not just cast someone else?
With a 3-hour runtime, I expected The Batman to drag considerably, but I actually think it’s pretty well paced for the most part. I do wish Batman and Catwoman worked together more throughout the film, partly because their quasi-romance felt a bit forced to me, and partly because I just wish we had more time with Catwoman in general. Alfred, too, gets pretty much dropped after the hospital scene, which disappointed me, although at least they didn’t kill him. (Oh, I would’ve murdered people.) I do wonder if we could’ve trimmed the third act a bit and maybe given those two characters a bit more time?
It also must be said that I just can’t bring myself to give a shit about that Joker tease, like, no disrespect to the actor, but Christ, I could go another full decade without the Joker; I am begging you. Still, I genuinely like that Batman ends this movie realizing that being vengeance isn’t enough, that he needs to be a symbol of hope as well. (Side note: I kinda loved the Vengeance name, if only because I kept thinking of this song and wanting people to come up to Batman and be all, “What’s up, Vengeance?”) The idea of Batman as a symbol of hope as well as a symbol of fear interests me, maybe because it’s kinda the whole antithesis of movies like The Dark Knight and is actually something I’d love to see explored in a sequel, should a sequel be made. I am all about character growth, and if we could actually get a compassionate Batman in a live action film, not just in cartoons like JLU? IDK, that could be pretty neat to see.
Appointment With Death
Year: 1988 Director: Michael Winner First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – ScreenPix Spoilers: Some Grade: Vanilla
And we’re back to Agatha Christie! Funny story: I’ve been wanting to check out Appointment With Death for actual years now, only it’s not an easy film to find, streaming or otherwise. However, while working on the Death on the Nile review above, I found myself looking up a list of obscure whodunit movies, and while looking up Green for Danger (number #1 on the list), I stumbled across the fact that Appointment WithDeath was available on ScreenPix. A free one week trial later, and here we are!
Peter Ustinov will never be my favorite Poirot, but I enjoy watching his movies well enough, and while Appointment With Death definitely isn’t knocking Evil Under the Sun from its top spot, I had a decent time watching it. This movie is, truthfully, a bit on the forgettable side, but I also feel like I have less glaring problems with it than I did with Branagh’s Death on the Nile—although that isn’t to say there aren’t flaws to be had because oh, there are. For one, we wait quite a while before anyone gets murdered—although admittedly, this does allow us more time with Piper Laurie, who excels in this film as the cruel Mrs. Boynton. For another, the insta-love between Dr. Sarah King and Raymond kinda kills me, although I’m pretty sure Agatha Christie is the one to blame for this. Insta-love is pretty common in these mysteries. There’s also the fact that Appointment With Death is about a bunch of white, snotty, British and American people in Jerusalem; there are definitely a few cringey moments, up to and including how little anyone cares about Hassan, a boy who tries to give Poirot critical information and ends up getting murdered for it. This immediately leads to a scene where Sarah, who initially looks guilty of Hassan’s murder, is briefly menaced by a bunch of silent men with brown skin, and it’s . . . yeah, it’s not great.
On the upside, this cast. Along with Peter Ustinov and Piper Laurie, we have Carrie Fisher, Lauren Bacall, and Hayley Mills, all of whom I had fun watching. Hayley Mills doesn’t have a super interesting role, but I enjoyed seeing her all the same, having grown up on the 1961 version of The Parent Trap. I like Carrie Fisher in this (I mean, when do I not like Carrie Fisher), and Jenny Seagrove is good, too. Honestly, all the women in this movie are more interesting than the men, but it’s Piper Laurie and Lauren Bacall who are the true standouts here. I would’ve paid, like, so much money to watch a film solely about these two squaring off. They are both an absolute delight.
Anyone who doesn’t generally enjoy whodunits is not gonna be won over by Appointment With Death, which is, well. Pretty formulaic in the long run. But since I’m a person who is deeply comforted by dysfunctional murder families, secret wills, and detectives who insist on giving dramatic reveals for absolutely no good reason, well. I’m ecstatic that I finally managed to track this one down.
Year: 2021 Director: James Gunn First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – HBO Max Spoilers: Yes, but only in the last paragraph Grade: Chocolate
You know, I liked this. In comparison to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, obviously, which was a convoluted disaster, but also as its own thing. Gunn’s a pretty solid fit for the irreverent, kooky violence of this particular franchise, and I laughed a lot watching the film. Which isn’t to say that every joke or plot beat works for me. There’s this whole running bit with Polka-Dot Man’s mom that fell flat almost every time. There’s something about the Harley and Silvio Luna subplot (subplot might be a stretch) that feels a bit contrived, although I absolutely love how it concludes, so. It’s not a big complaint. The movie kinda comments on America’s propensity for fucking over other nations, while also . . . IDK, how to put this, exactly. Sorta makes a joke out of it? Which, you know, felt poorly considered. And I do think Peter Capaldi is a bit wasted here.
OTOH, this is an absolutely fantastic cast. I adore Idris Elba in this, like, he has just so many great lines and reactions. Obviously, Margot Robbie as Harley continues to be the Best, and I really like Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, too. (Although I’ll probably always wish Waller was being played by a fat actress.) Joel Kinnaman got a serious glow up as Rick Flag, like, I enjoyed him so much more this time around. John Cena has pretty great comedic timing, and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 is sweet and sleepy and awesome. Also, a big shoutout to the scene stealers playing Waller’s support staff: Tinashe Kajese, Steve Agee, and Jennifer Holland.
Some things I can mention without spoilers: the music is great. I think Gunn is really fantastic at creating a fun, vibrant soundtrack without completely overwhelming every scene. I enjoy all the silly gore, obviously, and the flower gunfight scene, too. King Shark, of course, is a violent delight. And like I mentioned before, I laughed a LOT. That opening scene alone, like, holy shit. It’s been a stressful time. I appreciate the laughter.
With SPOILERS: I’m still tired of the Daddy Redemption trope (I swear to God, I just watched this exact setup in The Long Kiss Goodnight, it’s so ubiquitous), but I will say that Idris Elba and Storm Reid screaming at each other was kinda fun. Rick Flag bites it, which–not unexpected, but more of a bummer than I was prepared for. Captain Boomerang dies super early, which I called, as did almost everyone on Team 1. (Including Michael Rooker, who is the Nobu–that is, the character who exists to prove the bomb collar/bomb chip actually works). I really love all the background check fails: Weasel can’t swim, Bloodsport has a rat phobia, etc. Also, the intertitles are great, especially “Warner Bros Pictures presents” and “The Suicide Squad vs. Starro The Conqueror.” Finally, I was really hoping King Shark would eat Peacemaker, but . . . alas, spinoff. And as much as I enjoyed John Cena here, like. Why, of all possible characters, is Peacemaker getting a spinoff?
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times
Year: 1972 Director: Emilio Miraglia First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Shudder Spoilers: Not really, no Grade: Strawberry
So one day, I’m hanging out, flipping around on Shudder, as you do, and I see the title of this giallo movie. Naturally, I’m like, “Holy shit, that’s the best title ever,” and check out the plot description, which reads: Two sisters inherit their family castle that is supposedly haunted by their murderous ancestor. When their friends begin disappearing, they suspect that there might be some truth to the rumors. And I’m like, “OMG, this was MADE for me.”
And yeah, I did enjoy this one. The bad guy isn’t super hard to guess, like, Mek and I got that straight away, but there were enough red herrings and general shifty behavior to keep things interesting; also, a couple of twists I genuinely didn’t expect. The murders are fun and appropriately bloody, the killer has a signature maniacal laugh, the score by Bruno Nicolai is great, and JFC, the fashion in this movie. (Much of which can be seen in this fan-made trailer.) I basically wanna own Kitty’s whole wardrobe, not to mention, steal one of Rosemary’s outfits, the one paired with the most spectacular glasses I’ve ever seen. Martin’s sexy robe amuses me (more mid-thigh robes for men!) and Franziska’s nightgown is, uh. Well, it’s certainly a look.
There are things I’d change here, like, I’d straight up cut the completely unnecessary sexual assault that has absolutely zero bearing on the plot and is never mentioned again by anybody. I’d seriously rewrite almost everything about Elizabeth, “the crazy wife” character. And I’d kill off one of the survivors because, nah. Never liked them, anyway. But overall, I had fun. Like, cool clothes, great hair, multiple ridiculous murders, weird dream sequences, spooky old family legends, and mildly perplexing castle designs? I mean, really, what’s not to like?
The Green Knight
Year: 2021 Director: David Lowery First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon Spoilers: Only mild ones Grade: Vanilla
You know. This was okay. I can see how The Green Knight might be a love-it-or-hate-it movie for some folks, but I find myself kind of caught in the middle. Again. It’s shocking, I know. Some of that might be the subject matter: Arthurian legends aren’t, by and large, my jam, and the only part of this story I knew prior to watching the film was the opening act. TBH, I really thought that was the whole story for a long time: Dude A says, “You can take the first shot, but I’m gonna hit you back just as hard next year,” Dude B says, “Ha-ha, no, you won’t,” and decapitates Dude A, and then Dude A picks up his decapitated head and says, “See you in a year, sucker!” I’m starting to wonder if maybe I read this in a spooky stories for kids book or something. But I digress.
The cast is great. Dev Patel is a solid leading man, and Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Alicia Vikander, Erin Kellyman, and Ralph Ineson all make up a strong supporting cast. There are several scenes or small moments that I enjoy: Kate Dickie reading the Green Knight’s challenge, or basically any other time the Green Knight is on screen, all the fabulous costumes and crowns and hair, the fox, the intertitles, pretty much the entire subplot with Erin Kellyman, etc. “A Meeting With Saint Winifred” was easily my favorite part of the journey, partially because I like the actress, but also because it’s such great classic ghost story shit. (Also, I was already familiar with Saint Winifred, so I got to be all, “Ha! See, I know some references!”)
It’s interesting because, in some ways, The Green Knight actually isn’t as weird as I was expecting. Surreal? Sure, and I definitely didn’t catch all the symbology involved, but the basic plot is easy enough to follow, and while the the ending is arguably ambiguous, I also wasn’t blinking, all, WTF just happened? Much of the cinematography is, of course, lovely, although to me, some of the editing choices and camerawork just felt kinda distracting. (In fairness, the Ibuprofen for my headache had not fully kicked in, so some of the spins probably weren’t doing much for my mood.) My least favorite part, without question, was the whole section with The Lord and The Lady cause, like. I was so bored. I’ve now skimmed through several interviews and reviews explaining all the hidden clues, context, visual metaphors, interpretations, etc., but . . . I’m sorry. SO. BORED.
This is my thing about The Green Knight: the trailer looked wild, and I’m glad I tried it out, but while I enjoyed bits of it, on the whole, I felt kinda *shrug* about the movie after it was over. I honestly don’t have many criticisms and would never suggest it was a bad film, but sometimes you try something and find that, meh, maybe it just wasn’t for you. Which is fine! And it’s totally possible that I might like the movie more on repeat viewings, although at present, I don’t feel any particularly need to watch it again. If I do, though, it’s definitely gonna be around Christmas. I’m always on board for more non-traditional Christmas movies. Adding this to list!
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.
Well. All is chaos right now, and it’s an absurd time to be talking about TV Superlatives. Regardless, that’s what we’ll be doing here today because at MGB, we believe that when people could use a moment’s break or distraction, what they really want is 5000+ words about cartoons, Chinese dramas, and CW shows.
Still. Before we get to any of that, let me list a few of the many places you can donate to help protestors and support Black Lives Matter:
Please feel free to comment with links to any other related organizations or crowdfunding campaigns that you think need attention/donations. Please do not comment to say “blue lives matter” or any other inane bullshit. Save that crap for your Facebook page that nobody wants to read.
And now for the main event: our Spring TV Superlatives!
A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Most Adorable, Best Kiss, Most Unintentionally Hilarious Moment, etc. 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:
The Untamed Altered Carbon (Season 2) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 7) Star Trek: Picard Nancy Drew Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5) Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness Nailed It (Season 4) Harley Quinn (Season 2) Kingdom (Season 2) Medical Examiner: Dr. Qin (Season 1) Village Survival: The Eight (Season 1) She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Season 5)
A quick reminder for how these work: I will bestow whatever TV shows I’ve recently been watching (whether they’re currently airing or not) with awards like Favorite Bromance, Favorite WTF Moment, Best Profanity, etc. 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:
Busted! (Season 2)
His Dark Materials
DC Universe’s Harley Quinn
The Expanse (Season 4)
A Black Lady Sketch Show
Barry (Season 2)
The Good Place (Season 4)
Star Trek: Picard
Legends of Tomorrow (Season 5)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 7)
Birds of Prey (and The Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) apparently underperformed at the box office last weekend–although, also kind of not, like, maybe we could wait half a second before pronouncing it DOA and throwing its corpse to the wolves, thanks? (ETA: Don’t even get me started on the rebranding. I’m flat out ignoring that nonsense.)
Since I did actually see Birds of Prey last Friday, though, let’s talk about the movie, shall we? Because it’s an awful lot of fun, and I really hope more people go out to see it. If Charlie’s Angels meets Deadpool with a side of, IDK, Smokin’ Aces sounds intriguing to you–or if you liked Margot Robbie and the cotton candy sparkle of Suicide Squad but hated the inconsistent tone, the incoherent storyline, the muddy action scenes, the Joker, and basically everything else about that film–well, this one might be worth checking out.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been years since I’ve been to Comic Con, but my little nerd heart still fills with envy every July. All that cosplay, all those panels, and so many, many trailers.
Fortunately, you can get most of that online now.
This looks pretty damn awesome.
I’m not gonna lie: I never actually watched Iron Fist. I figured I’d at least try it, but I read so many crappy things about the show that my already lukewarm interest just fizzled out. There are so many shows that I’m actually interested in trying; I couldn’t make myself waste time on one I just didn’t care about.
I have, however, read a bunch about the show (and have, of course, watched Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Daredevil), so I’m hoping I’ll be more or less prepared for The Defenders because it looks pretty great. Evil Sigourney Weaver looks AMAZING, and I’m absurdly excited by the shot of her and Madame Gao together, like, holy shit, BADASS VILLAINESS ALERT. (I should probably be counting Elektra in that, too, but I had very mixed feelings on Elektra after the giant mess that was Daredevil’s second season.) Meanwhile, our heroes–well, the three I actually care about anyway–are just perfect. I like all their banter, the not-exactly-camaraderie between them. (Particularly, “God, you’re weird.” Jessica Jones is the best.) I am, as ever, super excited about the team dynamics.
But. One thing? It has occurred to my sister and I that Claire is the only character who’s crossed over to all four shows, the only character currently connecting all of our heroes together, and I need to be absolutely clear about this: if Claire dies so that our heroes can have a thematically relevant “push,” I willburn things to the fucking ground.
Otherwise, I’m into it.
I almost didn’t watch this trailer. They already sold me with the teaser, and once I’m hooked, I usually try to avoid seeing too much before watching the actual film itself. Ultimately, though, I caved and I’m actually glad I did because this is a spectacular trailer. Still. It’s the last one I’ll watch voluntarily. (I mean, within reason. If a Ragnarok trailer plays while I’m at the movie theater or something, I’m not, like, gonna close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and sing “LA LA LA” to avoid it. Mostly because I’d rather not get murdered by angry nerds. Or at all.)
But man, this looks great. I’m into ALL of it: Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Jeff Goldblum as Alien Jeff Goldblum, a team-up between Thor and Bruce/Hulk, another team-up between Thor and Loki, Cate Blanchett as the Goddess of Death. (Seriously. I NEED that hat. I NEED IT.) The action looks spectacular, the music is perfect, and oh my God, Hulk talks! Like, for more than three words at a time!
I’m ready for this, you guys. I’m so, so ready.
Eh. Flash made me laugh a couple of times, especially the line, “It’s really cool you guys seem ready to do battle and stuff, but I’ve never done battle. I’ve just pushed some people and run away.” HA. I suspect that he and Wonder Woman are easily going to be my favorites. And I’m definitely into J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.
Still, I feel like my reaction to this trailer was more lukewarm than most, partly because some of the action feels muddy to me, or perhaps because I just couldn’t get past the line: “Superman was a beacon to the world. He didn’t just save people. He made them see the best parts of themselves.”
Cause like, no? I mean, traditionally, sure, that’s exactly what Superman’s supposed to be around for, but you don’t get to just throw in a bullshit line like that after Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman, where Superman was kind of a glum asshole and half the country didn’t trust his alien ass. That is some what-the-fuckery of the highest order. I am not okay with this.
Ready Player One
This is . . . sort of interesting? It’s been quite a while since I’ve read the book, which if memory serves was enjoyable enough, though I liked it more in concept than execution. That’s kind of how I’m feeling with this first trailer: I’m still interested in the world, in OASIS, in catching all the many, many pop culture references. Considerably less into the VO, however, and many of the CGI/action scenes. I’m not exactly blown away by the look of the film, which is a unfortunate. A story like this, you kind of want it to look spectacular. You want it to look like nothing you’ve ever quite seen.
Then again, it’s only the first teaser. I might be more impressed with other trailers down the road. All I know is, at this point, even I’m starting to get a little tired of everyone’s 80’s fetish. Can we finally skip forward a decade, please? (In the film’s defense, there are 90’s references here: the most obvious one being The Iron Giant. But that line “I wish I’d grown up in the 1980’s like all my heroes” . . . yeah. Cue some serious eye rolling.)
Speaking of 80’s nostalgia.
I’m definitely more excited about this than Ready Player One. Cause, like, c’mon. Thriller. Plus, so much great spooky imagery and just . . . I don’t know, neat stuff. Sorry, apparently I have no articulation today.
I’m super interested in Will, which is cool because last season was mostly about the people around Will. (That’s not a knock. That’s what first season needed to be. I’m just happy to see second season move past that.) I completely forgot they got Sean Astin for this, which is obviously perfect 80’s casting. And Eleven! ELEVEN!
If I had a negative–and I’ll admit there wasn’t much of one–my initial reaction to seeing Jonathan was this: Oh, right. So you still exist. *sigh*
But honestly, there’s so much awesome here that I’m pretty sure I can deal with Jonathan. And hey, there’s always the chance that he gets eaten by a monster!
Nice little teaser. Atmospheric. Violent. Solid music choice.
I don’t have too much else to say about this except that I’m interested, and for the love of God can we find Elsie yet? (Preferably alive, but I suppose I’ll take confirmation of her dead body, too.)
Voltron: Legendary Defender
VOLTRON! While I’m extremely bummed to hear that Season 3 is only 7 episodes, I’m ecstatic to hear Season 4 is coming out in October. So. Okay. I can handle this.
I’m pretty into this trailer. (Definitely more, anyway, than I was into that weird leaked footage or whatever that came out a month or two ago.) I’m happy to see that we haven’t just skipped ahead to a time where Voltron is up and running again, like, I definitely want to deal with Shiro’s disappearance, not just easily replace him and move on until he’s found. Hopefully found? I’m interested in seeing what the team dynamic is like without Shiro: like, there ought to be changes, not just a single scene of Keith angst–although I’m all on board for the Keith angst. Still, I don’t want Shiro to permanently vanish. I like Shiro!
Anyway. I’m jazzed. Less than two weeks to go!
I’m interested in this. I don’t know if I’m quite as sold as the rest of the internet, and the words “from the director of Suicide Squad” make me shudder just a bit, but a cop movie with orcs and elves and fairies and Will Smith? I mean, how could I not be at least a little interested?
Also: Toyota Corolla. Yes.
Star Trek: Discovery
I feel like every Discovery trailer leaves me feeling pretty iffy, and this one is no exception. Some of it looks interesting: casting, some nice shots. But the trailers still aren’t grabbing me intellectually or emotionally yet, and I really wish I could shake off all the ‘doomed Captain Michelle Yeoh’ vibes I seem to be getting.
Mostly, I have no new thoughts here other than disappointment that Jason Isaacs has an American accent for no good reason I can tell. Also, it’s been officially released that our hero Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is Sarek and Amanda’s adopted daughter, and while the creators have promised that there’s a great, non-continuity-breaking explanation for that, I’m raising an extremely skeptical eyebrow here.
Come on, people. Haven’t we already deja-ed this vu? Have we not already learned our lesson that giving Spock a sibling that no one’s bothered to mention for decades is a really lousy idea?
Okay, I had my problems with this show by the end of the season, but I absolutely have to check out Season Two now. Oh my God. The melodrama. I laughed so hard at this one line. I’m not even going to tell you the line. I think you’ll know it when you hear it.
I’ll admit to some confusion: I thought Cheryl’s Evil Mom made it out of the fire unscathed? Maybe I’m remembering wrong? Or maybe she ran back into the burning house for some reason? (Perhaps to save Spooky Granny, who was the one I actually thought might have burned alive?) Either way, what matters it that Cheryl is as charmingly disturbing as ever. I appreciate this.
Also worth a mention: do they not have ambulances in Riverdale? Or was it actually quicker for Archie to pick up his bleeding and bullet-ridden father and haul him to that hospital from the 1950’s? Oh, Riverdale, and you’re amazingly outdated town aesthetics. On a positive note, I’ve discovered that my interest in Archie himself has picked up a bit, now that he’s possibly keeping dark secrets and there’s nary a hint of an acoustic guitar in sight. Maybe we can keep that up?
Meh. I mean, I’m still going to watch it. I think S2 was definitely an improvement on S1, but this trailer does so little for me. Normally I’m all about the weird, strange dichotomy between superhero and alter ego, but Kara acting like the decision she made to choose duty over love is an essentially alien choice, and how her whole life as a human has been a lie and angst angst blah blah, just, nope, not here for that. Besides, if two seasons have taught me nothing else, it’s that when Kara gets angsty about something, it usually means she reacts like a snappish 13-year-old, and it’s literally my least favorite thing about the show.
On the upside, I perked up considerably when Adrian Pasdar appeared.
Legends of Tomorrow
This looks like considerably more fun, although some of the footage is old, and I had to roll my eyes a little at the line “Rip has been hiding something from us,” because, like, of course he has. That’s basically what Rip does. (Also, Victor Garber’s Titanic joke, which made Mek laugh and made me go, “Oh, you assholes.” Although we both agree with the sentiment: never, ever step foot on the Titanic.)
I am, however, into Billy Zane and all the circus stuff. And “DIE, CLOWN” definitely cracked me up. Is that a band name? It oughta be a band name.
Aaaaaand back to the angst, although I’m actually a little more interested in this particular angst. Seeing the dichotomy between how Iris and Cisco are coping without Barry is kind of fascinating, and makes me wish that Barry was going to be gone for longer than an episode, which I seriously doubt. I love that Iris seems to be leading Team Flash, and I find myself desperately hoping she won’t just disappear on the sidelines when BA returns. I really shouldn’t let myself hope that hard.
I’m . . . okay that Caitlin appears to be on Team Flash again, but I need the show to actually address her dual nature, not just act like everything’s okay again. Cause, like, Jesus, that was one of the only things I praised about the goddamn finale. I’m also pretty bummed that her hair is brown again (c’mon, her Killer Frost look was the best!) and that Tom Felton is apparently leaving the show. That’s disappointing. I liked Julian, and if he’s not going to be around, I really need Caitlin to just be single for a year.
Bleh. Not really feeling it.
Considering the nature of last season’s cliffhanger, I’m not surprised about how little we see from most of the cast. (Other than Black Canary, who apparently does survive.) Unfortunately, that means half this trailer is just summarizing the season finale, and the other half is all about Oliver’s relationship with his son. What’s interesting to me about this is that I probably could’ve been okay with William as a recurring character earlier, like Dad + Mayor + Vigilante could have been interesting to see if they balanced it right. But if their whole relationship is just gonna be William, like, semi-brainwashed and blaming Oliver for everything, up to and possibly including his mom’s death? Yeah, I’m not really up for that.
This trailer looks a little better than the first one. Unfortunately, Medusa’s already terrible wig somehow looks even worse in motion. The effects here are pretty awful, and this isn’t some low budget show on TNT or Syfy. I’m not forgiving that crap.
I want to be interested in this. I like superheroes. (Obviously, considering how many superhero trailers I just talked about.) I like Ken Leung and Iwan Rheon. There’s a giant dog. I’m excited about a hero who only speaks through alien sign language. Unfortunately, said hero is coming off awfully blah to me thus far. Rheon appears to be disappointingly typecast, like, I kind of wish he was playing Black Bolt instead. (Or if they actually got a deaf actor, maybe? I don’t know that much about Black Bolt, but couldn’t they use a computer generated voice for the few times he has to speak and kill people?) And I’m still not sure if the show is connecting to Agents of SHIELD, even though AoS is where we were introduced to the Inhumans in the first place. (Agents of SHIELD, man. They’ve been so screwed over by Marvel.)
Finally, Teen Wolf
This trailer isn’t from Comic Con. The season premiere is airing this Sunday, and I decided not to watch any more new footage before then. But I figured I’d post this trailer I saw a couple weeks ago, since it did manage to reignite my interest, what with Stiles and Derek and Jackson and everyone else who isn’t Danny coming back again. (Poor Danny. We’ll never know what happened to you, will we?)
The idea that all the humans are going to be, like, infected with fear or something and turn on all the supernatural folk is kind of fun. My obsession with the show has seriously waned after the last disappointing season, so I’m glad that this trailer has managed to grab me again. Cause, like. Final season. I have to finish it.
But people. I am not here for what appears to be a steamy Scott/Malia hookup in the shower scene. No. Don’t do this, show, not in the last season. Don’t be the Chakotay and Seven of Nine of MTV.
Be a dream sequence, or there will be fierce-if-relatively-impotent disapproval.