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.

Triple Scoop Reviews: Hotel Artemis, Ocean’s Eight, and The Last of Sheila

Welcome to My Geek Blasphemy’s first Triple Scoop Review–a concept I may or may not stick with, depending on how well it goes and also how hungry I am. (Let us be under no illusions here: the criminal lack of ice cream in my freezer probably has much to do with this whole “triple scoop” idea in the first place.) Triple Scoop Reviews will function much the same as Lil Spooky Reviews, only they won’t be limited to horror movies, and I will assign each film thematically flavorful ratings. A Chocolate rating will be awarded to my favorite of the bunch, while my least favorite will clearly be inferior Strawberry and the middling film will be assigned an equal middling Vanilla.

Like I said, we’ll see how long this lasts; if I start getting frustrated that I can’t rate everything Chocolate, for instance, I may have to tweak the formula. In the meantime, however, let’s get started.

Hotel Artemis

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: Only super mild ones
Grade: Vanilla

I enjoyed this, though by the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling it was missing something. I like all of the actors: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, and Dave Bautista are particularly great, and I’d happily watch more of their characters any day of the week. It’s a fun concept, too (high-tech hospital/hotel for criminals), and I like how the film sets up a lot of moving parts in the beginning with various little mysteries and parallel storylines. (Who is the woman outside, what is the significance of the pen, who does Nice want to kill, etc.)

Unfortunately, I don’t know that the payoff to these mysteries works as well: multiple side characters feel underused or extraneous, the few Big Reveals are unsurprising, and at some point the plot complications just sort of whimper out. I can’t help but wish the futuristic backdrop had played more into the story, too. It kinda feels like the whole idea of this plot structure is to light six matches near a powder keg and wait to see which one goes off, which is a neat idea in theory, but how it plays out in actuality . . . you know, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Everything just runs in a horizontal line, one event after the next in a chopped, hurried fashion, all racing to wrap up as quickly as possible. Like they’re on a deadline. Like the chaos is suddenly, noticeably scripted.

Hotel Artemis is totally enjoyable (it even clocks under 2 hours) and I’d watch a sequel in a heartbeat, but that third act is just missing something, making it a B movie when it could easily have been an A-.

Ocean’s Eight

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: YES
Grade: Strawberry

Man, I wanted to like this one so much. Ocean’s Eleven might have been the first movie I remember thinking, “God, how cool would this be with all women?” And parts of it are genuinely great. The idea of a heist at the Met Gala is just fun. The cast is amazing. I enjoy some of the callbacks to the 2001 film, and I really love a lot of the smaller moments, like Nine-Ball’s little sister, Debbie and Lou blowing bubbles, or pretty much every line out of Mindy Kaling’s mouth. Also, holy shit, I should probably go over to Archive of Our Own and find all the Debbie/Lou fanfic because sweet Jesus, there must be a ton of it.

Unfortunately, this plot’s got some serious weak sauce writing, particularly in the second half. I could forgive the scene between Debbie and Lou that feels like an inferior version of this scene. I could forgive how Anne Hathaway’s involvement is pretty obvious to anyone who can do basic math. I could maybe even forgive how every Reveal in the last third of the movie (including Hathaway) feels clumsy and rushed, but I cannot forgive the abysmal lack of plot complications and stakes in this movie. Pretty sure the last thing to actually go wrong for our crew is the busboys stopping to chat. It takes Sarah Paulson less than a minute to solve that problem, and then there’s still, what, twenty minutes left in the movie? Maybe thirty? The magnet problem prior is also just as quickly solved, and while I actually like the idea that there’s another act after the Big Heist, Insurance Investigator James Corden comes out of absolutely nowhere and isn’t even remotely a hindrance to our crew: shit, he helps them. Admittedly, I kind of enjoy that scene with him and Debbie at the diner, but again, it takes all of twelve seconds to turn him from potential antagonist into eager collaborator. A heist story where everything goes smoothly isn’t much of a story. Even comedies need basic tension, and this film has almost none.

Mek and I wracked our brains, trying to figure out how to fix this. Like, I know I said I could forgive them, but some of those last-minute twists (Hathaway’s involvement, the theft of multiple necklaces, etc.) are really a problem for me because they depend upon needless secrets being kept from the team and thus come across as lazy writing. Unless Debbie, who’s been burned before, secretly brings in Anne Hathaway because she doesn’t trust anybody on her team, maybe not even Lou. Now, that could create some genuine plot complications: perhaps Debbie has good reason to doubt her team because, say, Helena Bonham Carter betrays them, or better yet, maybe Debbie’s mistrust almost gets them all caught at some point, causing a rift/chaos/whatever, until they all work past it and pull the whole thing off like the badass ladies they are. That just leaves Scummy Ex-Boyfriend, who I’m mostly inclined to drop anyway, because his presence at the Met Gala feels like another failed setup, a potential complication that proves no trouble whatsoever. It’s really hard to have payoff if the characters face no actual challenges along the way.

Much like Hotel Artemis, I’d honest-to-God watch a sequel to this movie, but I’d definitely want different writers on board. Because the problem here isn’t the ladies. The problem is the script.

The Last of Sheila

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: My God, YES.
Grade: Chocolate

It is a well-documented fact that Mekaela and I are mystery junkies. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a good classic mystery these days: dinner parties with a side of murder just aren’t the rage anymore, much to our infinite sorrow. So we ventured into the way-back machine and found The Last of Sheila, a 1973 film where a young James Coburn invites six guests to his yacht a year after his wife, Sheila, was killed in a hit-and-run. Entertainment is provided in the way of a mystery scavenger hunt, where each guest is assigned a pretend-secret and has to discover everyone else’s . . . only the secrets are all-too real. Naturally, people start dying.

The Last of Sheila is actually one of the more clever and engaging mysteries I’ve seen in quite a while, not to mention boasts quite the cast and crew: the film stars a young Ian McShane, Raquel Welch, and Dyan Cannon, and was written by–wait for it–Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim. What? There are lots of small clues and red herrings to sort through, enough that just remembering them all provides a bit of a fun challenge. Mek and I immediately figured that Lee had killed Sheila; also, that Clinton was already dead when Lee supposedly murdered him and that Tom was either the outright killer or, at the very least, involved. That last bit seemed clear because we never forgot the A is for Alcoholic card–though I initially seized on it for the wrong reason, considering I thought Tom was the alcoholic. At any rate, we had a lot of fun watching this. I like the idea that two group detectives, so to speak, were actually the guiltiest people in the bunch. I really enjoyed Tom and Phillip’s extended standoff (including the WTF puppets). And I like that the mystery is also a bit of a Hollywood satire, especially considering Tom’s “rewrites are a fate worse than prison or death” ending. There’s really a fair amount to recommend here.

But. But. But.

The biggest twist in this movie is that Clinton’s party game is just that: a party game. He didn’t write the Hit and Run Killer card and he certainly isn’t trying to find out who murdered Sheila. Actually, the secrets he chose were relatively small: shoplifting, for instance, or being an ex-convict. But you know what else Clinton considered a small secret, an embarrassing bit of gossip, a Not Big Deal? Being a child molester. YEAH. Phillip–probably the most likable character of the bunch and lead protagonist after the last lead turned out to be a double-murderer–has apparently molested kids, which not only puts the audience in the deeply uncomfortable position of rooting for a pedophile, nobody else in the movie gives a shit about it. Seriously, Mek and I just kept sitting there, dumbfounded, waiting for one of the other characters to justifiably freak out or denounce the guy or discover the accusation isn’t true . . . but it is true, and everyone in the story is just like, well, directors, you know. For Christ’s sake, Phillip gets a happy ending!

And seriously, what the fuck? What the holy fuck? What the fucking holy fuck?

A Bunch of Season Finales: The 2016-2017 Edition

I try to plan my time well. Sometimes, I fail. And when it came to updating my reactions to season finales as they occurred, well, I totally kind of failed.

So here are some thoughts on just a whole bunch of season finales, some which aired last week and some which aired quite some time ago.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, MATEY.

Legends of Tomorrow

“Aruba”

Okay, seriously, I know. This episode was like two months ago, but it felt weird to talk about every CW superhero show except for this one.

No show has earned its Most Improved Certificate like Legends of Tomorrow has. It was a huge turnaround. There are still the occasional problems, like, ignoring Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Dominic Purcell’s natural chemistry in favor of a sudden Vixen/Steel romance, who are not only pretty boring together but are also sometimes actively terrible teammates, like that episode where they’re just busy have sex while everyone else is actively in harms way? No. Vixen is SO much better than that. Otherwise, though, the show has fully embraced how fun and silly its concept is. The Legion of Doom were great antagonists. And it helps that the show got rid of its three worst characters, too.

So, what the hell happened in the finale anyway? Right, Tiny Rip Hunter attacks Damien Darhk in his Itty Bitty Wave Rider, which, I think I can let Neal McDonough speak for all of us when he asks, “Isn’t that adorable?” The Legends go back in time, try to avoid their past selves, predictably fail the hell out of that, and somehow manage to both fix time and break time, all at once. One version of every team member dies, and while this was pretty much inevitable, the death scenes generally work anyway. Sara gets the Big Decision moment of using the Spear of Destiny wisely, which I loved. And Reverse Flash finally died, which was–well, kind of sad, actually, because I know he’s the bad guy who’s been kind of, sort of dying for years now, but . . . come on, he’s pretty awesome, right? Oh, and of course we end with dinosaurs. Everything is better with dinosaurs. Except Terra Nova. Even with them, it still sucked.

Last year, I wasn’t sure if I’d even give Legends of Tomorrow a second go. This year, it’s easily my favorite superhero show on CW and a serious contender for favorite superhero show on any network. (Its main competition? Luke Cage.)

Finale Grade: A-
Season Grade: A-

The 100

“Praimfaya”

The 100 has its problems, but it tends to rock season finales, and this one was no exception. Instead of their usual setup, though (Clarke makes a hard choice that saves a bunch of people and gets a bunch of other people dead), this episode had a lot less murder and a lot more race-against-the-clock action, which was fun. I liked a lot of the small moments: Monty hugging Murphy, Raven and Bellamy looking down at the fire-swept Earth, Bellamy stopping Echo from killing herself (not to mention Raven’s reaction when she walks in).

I don’t think it was a big shock that Clarke got left behind, but that’s okay because all the surprises and questions were left for the last few minutes anyway. Like, the prison ship? WTF is up with that? Why haven’t Octavia and the majority of humanity come out of the bunker? Why haven’t Bellamy, Raven, and the others come down from space? Has anyone important died during this six-year gap? You’ve gotta assume someone has, right? I mean, this is The 100. People die on this show every two weeks. Also, Monty: does he have hands anymore? My money says he lost at least one. (He better not have died. Him, or Raven. I will be extremely displeased.)

I think my biggest concern for the next season is to make sure we really feel the time jump. Six years is a big gap: relationships are going to change. Some of my closest friendships are with people I met less than six years ago. That length of time really needs to be addressed. (Also, if we can continue avoiding Season 2 and 3 mistakes, where a previously reasonable character commits a massacre for totally BS reasons, that would be good too. Oh, and if Bellamy and Octavia reunite, just for one of them to get dead moments later? I HATE that kind of bullshit. That’s tragedy that’s just trying too hard. Don’t do it, show.)

Finale Grade: A-
Season Grade: B+

Agents of SHIELD

“World’s End”

So, that was enjoyable. This has been, for the most part, a pretty consistently good season of Agents of SHIELD. Ghost Rider worked a lot better than I would’ve imagined, The Framework was fun, and Aida is just the fucking BEST. “World’s End” wrapped up things pretty well, not to mention gave us a time-jump cliffhanger that worked a lot better for me than last year’s. Like, um, Coulson’s in space. I mean, yeah, I wanna know how that happened.

Some random notes on the finale itself:

A. When Talbot got shot in the head, I was immediately all, “NOOOOO! NOT ADRIAN PASDAR!” But then he had a pulse, and I was like ” . . . huh. What are you doing with that, I wonder?” Cause while people obviously can and have survived being shot in the head, it’s not usually the kind of thing that happens in a movie or TV show unless there’s a very specific reason for it. Survive a shot to the gut or chest, okay. Survive a shot to the shoulder, whatever. But a shot right to the noggin? That speaks of A Plan. Will Talbot turn out to be an Inhuman? Was he an LMD? Is the real Talbot dead somewhere, or will we return to discover he has plot-relevant brain trauma? Adrian Pasdar is a huge scene stealer in this show, and I find I’m very curious about this.

B. Dude, Coulson is (temporarily) the Ghost Rider! AWESOME. That was a great little twist. Also, what exactly is this secret deal Coulson made? Oh, the intrigue.

C. Mack reassuring Hope that he’d never leave her, and Hope disappearing in the middle of that reassurance? That was sad. It was a really nice scene. That being said, I still and forever can’t take “hope” seriously as a name. I’m sorry, all you Hopes out there. I’m sure you’re wonderful people, but lines like “Hope is dead” or “Hope was never real” kinda make me wanna claw my face off.

D. Radcliffe’s “death” scene was also nicely handled, especially the part where I didn’t have to hear him finish quoting T.S. Eliot. I mean, I get it: it’s all kinds of thematic, it’s where the episode’s rather literal title comes from, etc. It’s just that this particular bit of “The Hollow Men” is awfully overused.

E. “Robot May was way more supportive.”

F. I really like the moment where Daisy is nice to Fitz, not just cause she’s summing up the theme of the season, but because I’ve always liked their friendship moments. Like, when he was there for her back in Season 2 when she found out she was an Inhuman. More Daisy & Fitz moments!

G. Finally, the diner scene managed to be both cute and creepy. I was like, oh, shit, we’re not heading into some crazy Sopranos bullshit, are we? Thankfully, everyone just got frozen. And somehow Coulson goes to space. As you do.

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: A-

Santa Clarita Diet

“Baka, Bile, and Baseball Bats”

Okay, so, this is even worse than Legends of Tomorrow. I think Santa Clarita Diet aired all the way back in February, but I pretty much just binge-watched the whole thing last weekend, so, here it goes.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the hell out of it. There are times when the humor feels a bit uneven to me, like I get it, zombies in suburbia, it’s funny . . . but you’re leaning just a little too hard on that joke. There are also times where I find myself thinking Drew Barrymore could be a bit stronger. Not always. She has a lot of moments I like, actually, but there are times it doesn’t quite feel natural. This could be because Rose McIver from iZombie has spoiled me for Outstanding Actress in a Zombie Comedy. (I mean, it’s not Highlander. There can totally be more than one. It’s just that when the comedy does feel a bit stilted, I usually notice it the most from Barrymore.)

That all being said, I laughed a lot while watching this show. Seeing Timothy Olyphant continuously on the verge of total hysteria after watching him play stoic Raylan Givens for six seasons on Justified is just the gift that keeps on giving. He is spectacularly well cast. I’m also a huge fan of Abby (Liv Hewson), and her dynamic with . . . well, everybody, actually. The satire sometimes gets a bit on the nose,  sure, but the show does a surprisingly awesome job addressing relationships within the family. The character work never gets forgotten, which is kind of great. The dialogue is often witty as hell, and some of the cameos are AWESOME.

I don’t have too many specific thoughts on the finale itself. It was decent, though I think I enjoyed the episodes leading up to it more. Although it did have one of those awesome cameos I was talking about: Portia de Rossi. I actually haven’t seen her in quite a while, and I liked her in this. And a-ha, we’ve left on a cliffhanger, I see! You bastards. Here’s to hoping that Abby badasses her way into saving the day. And Eric helps by science-ing the shit out of the not-cure. (I’m super relieved we’ve already addressed that the not-cure won’t actually turn Sheila back into being a human. Cause that sort of kills the show, and yeah. No one wants that.)

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: B+

Elementary

“Hurt Me, Hurt You”

I liked this finale, even if I totally guessed the brain tumor (or whatever) twist because, yeah, that woman was absolutely not real, and dude, Sherlock don’t sleep. I like that we finally got DarkJoan!, something that’s been hinted at a number of times but has never really gone anywhere until now. Dead Mom might have been a bit obvious, but I do have something of a soft spot for Sherlock’s mommy issues, so, you know. I’m okay with it. And Aidan Quinn’s pinky swear line was just the best thing ever.

Sadly, I just really haven’t been into this season of Elementary at all, which has been pretty disappointing after how much I enjoyed Season 4. I’ve been trying to figure out why it hasn’t worked, and I think maybe it’s because the whole season has felt out of balance. I liked the idea of Shinwell, and Nelsan Ellis did some awesome work, but at a certain point it seemed like the show forgot about his relationship with Joan and only focused on Sherlock’s relationship with Shinwell, which I found frustrating. The finale is mostly solid, but does feel a bit rushed, particularly in regards to Sherlock’s medical crisis. I kind of wish Shinwell had died at least three episodes before he actually did; then we’d have time to really build Sherlock’s memory problems, not to mention give Joan a story arc that lasts more than two episodes.

Also, did the cases seem even more convoluted than normal this year? Admittedly, I’ve never really watched this show for the procedural aspect, but still. A clown got murdered and it ended up being about, what? Tainted water supplies and trying to shake down the entire city of New York, or something? The hell? I may not generally watch for the procedural stuff, but this is the first year I started actively tuning it out.

Finale Grade: B+
Season Grade: C

Supergirl

“Nevertheless, She Persisted”

So, this was okay. It felt a little unbalanced to me, maybe because it was so focused on Supergirl and Mon-El that other characters just seemed to be twiddling their thumbs in the background, especially Alex. (James too, though.) I really assumed the show was writing Mon-El out (I always got the sense that he was a one-season character, and that Happy Times dream sequence near the beginning of the episode only seemed to strengthen that hunch), so I wasn’t surprised by his departure . . . until we hit that last shot, where he seemed pretty freaked while heading into that wormhole (The Phantom Zone?) or whatever. So now he kind of has to come back, right? (Which I’m actually glad for: I always rather liked Mon-El, despite not always caring about his storyline. Maybe he’ll just have to wear, like, an EVA suit or something? It’s funny how aliens never really seem to think of that . . . although, to be fair, I’m not sure I’d wanna try and conquer a planet that would literally turn me into dust after ten seconds of exposure, either.)

Still, there were some cool moments in that finale. Supergirl’s and Superman’s fight scene was fun. (So much punching!) Winn mouthing the words “I love you” at Superman. And Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl! YES! Also, I see we’re setting up our next Big Bad, which is cool but also kind of unintentionally hilarious. I can’t help myself: anytime anyone sends a Baby Rocket off from Krypton, my eye twitches a little and I’m like Okay, SERIOUSLY? Why do you only make infant-sized spaceships, you lunatics? I don’t know a whole lot about Reign, but considering how subtly they dropped the word, it wasn’t too hard for Mek to do a quick Google search and find her.

I sometimes struggle with Supergirl (usually with both Kara’s completely baffling understanding of journalism and her frustrating tendency towards petulance, something she and Barry Allen really, really have in common), but overall I thought this was a much stronger season than the first one, despite the tragic lack of Cat Grant. Alex’s self-realization and coming out storyline was great. I really like Winn and James’s friendship/partnership, and I’ve been very happy with Lena Luthor so for. I’m all about her friendship with Kara, and I’m happy to see more of her next year. Gotta be honest, though: if they do ultimately go down the ‘All Luthors Are Eventually Evil’ road, I’m gonna be extremely disappointed, and y’all are gonna be the ones hearing about.

Finale Grade: B
Season Grade: B+

Arrow

“Lian Yu”

For the most part, I thought this was a pretty decent season finale . . . although I’ve gotta admit, Slade’s whole “the mirakuru burned outta my system ages ago, so sure, I’m totes sane and on your side” thing? Yeah, I really didn’t buy that. (Also, I didn’t remember Digger Harkness at all–well, except as That Awesome Guy From The Expanse–so when he showed up on the island, I was like, wait, what? Who the fuck is this dude?)

But the action was enjoyable enough, we officially wrapped the island (by blowing it to hell, natch), and best of all, Adrian Chase is finally dead! YAY!

Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with this season, as I almost always do with Arrow. I don’t want to give it up because I’ve been watching it since the beginning and, well, crossovers, but unless the ratings take a dive or Stephen Amell wants out, I doubt Season Six is going to be its last . . .and I kinda think it should be.

I will watch the premiere next season to see how that dubious cliffhanger shakes out; I don’t know, maybe it’s the optimist in me, but I’m thinking Arrow probably didn’t just blow up almost its entire cast. That being said, I think someone at least semi-important should probably die, cause otherwise that cliffhanger is gonna end up feeling a little cheap. Not really sure who I’d want it to be, though. Thea, maybe? I mean, I doubt it after Malcolm apparently bit the big one saving her life, but after five years (in Hell) this show still doesn’t know what to do with her. (I know, though! Ship her to Legends! She’d be so much more fun there! Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?)

Finale Grade: B
Season Grade: C

The Flash

“Finish Line”

Oh, The Flash. I have lots and lots of thoughts about The Flash.

This has been a very rocky season with significant ups and downs, and I think the finale suffered because of that. On one hand, there were a lot of things that I really liked: Iris killing Savitar, Cisco not forcing Caitlin to take the cure, Caitlin saving Cisco and taking off for a journey of self-exploration, not quite Caitlin Snow anymore but not quite Killer Frost, either. These are all good things . . . that all feel rushed in this jam-packed finale.

I’m especially disappointed about Caitlin, because that scene where she turned on Savitar could have been such a Big Moment . . . but it just feels like the show ran out of time. (Caitlin’s been something of a mixed bag all season. On one hand, I never truly bought how they handled her whole ‘my powers cause my evil split personality’ or whatever. On the other hand, it’s still a remarkable improvement over last season because it finally gave her something to do, and didn’t wrap up as easily as it could have.) Honestly, even Barry going to the Speed Force Prison feels a little rushed to me. I’m glad he’s going because a) consequences and b) every other speedster already has, like, dude, it’s totally you’re turn, bro. Still, the cliffhanger feels a little tacked on to me. And, c’mon, it’s not like he’s gonna stay there.

HR’s death didn’t really work for me, either. I didn’t mind him dying; hell, I predicted it months and months ago, and the idea that I might finally get Harry back in some meaningful capacity makes me grin from ear to ear . . . but I also wanted to have some emotional reaction to HR’s sacrifice, and I had zip, zero, nada. It’s not just because I prefer Harry, either; HR has, surprisingly, grown on me, and he’s had some nice moments this season. I should have felt something. Instead, his death scene actually struck me as pretty corny. This may in large part be due to how ridiculously rushed his romance with Tracy is, like, c’mon, these two have know each other, what? 20 minutes? (I do, however, like that the show acknowledge that every version of Harrison Wells has a connection to Cisco. I’m curious to see how that will go next season, assuming Harry does stick around . . . which he better, goddamnit.)

Hey, and you know what else didn’t work for me? Barry extended his hand to Savitar. I wanted to like it. I really did. If he had tried a couple of episodes ago, I might have. Or if happened several episodes after HR died, maybe. But Barry trying to make nice with our Big Bad, like, seven seconds after he murdered a member of Team Flash didn’t ring true to me at all. I want Barry to be a compassionate hero. I totally agree with Captain Cold on this one: The Flash oughta be capital ‘g’ Good. But come on. Would this have happened if Savitar murdered Iris? What about Joe? Or Cisco? Would he really be trying to offer an olive branch then? I think not, which makes HR’s sacrifice feel even less important, like he was always basically disposable. And if he was disposable, how am I supposed to take Team Flash’s grief for HR seriously?

Finally, Iris. Oh, Iris.

Candice Patton deserves so much more than this show. The entire back half of the season was about saving Iris from her foretold demise; how many episodes, then, do you think focused on how Iris felt about that? Right, one. ONE. Iris has, once again, become little more than The Woman Barry Allen loves, and it’s so fucking frustrating. For one thing, I just know from the dark, murky depths of my soul that if this “I’m doomed to die” story had been handed to any of the male characters, they’d have been given so much more time for interiority. But my anger also stems from the fact that Candice Patton does so much with the very few badass moments she gets; she could have rocked this storyline, and they gave her no opportunity to do so.

Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, and Willa Holland really need to have their own superhero show. Shit, they could be Gotham City Sirens! Patton could be Catwoman, Panabaker could be Poison Ivy, and . . . well, while it’s kind of hard to picture Holland as Harley Quinn, I’d be willing to see her try it! After all, it’s hard to know how much range an actress has when she’s conveniently out of town for five episodes per season.

Finale Grade: B-
Season Grade: B-

Riverdale

“The Sweet Hereafter”

For a while, I was super into Riverdale. I loved, in no particular order, all the absurd campiness, Betty and Veronica’s friendship, scheming Mrs. Cooper, Cheryl and her insanely gothic family, MAPLE SYRUP, etc. Also, lines like “I’d love to stay, but I’ve got to shake down an evil adventure scout,” those were gold.

But unfortunately, the show really lost steam for me as it went on, and the finale was no exception to that. I’m glad we wrapped up Jason Blossom’s murder, even if I’m disappointed that it was ultimately Clifford Blossom who did it, but the show faltered pretty hard when it strayed away from the mystery aspect, and it did that way too often. No one cares about Archie’s singing, okay? NO ONE.

And, look. Sometimes I struggle relating to criticisms about queer baiting, not because I don’t want to see more canon queer relationships, but because I thrive on stories that center on platonic relationships, and sometimes find it difficult when people want to turn those relationships romantic. It feels like people are saying these relationships that I find so significant don’t really matter because they’re Just Friends. Intellectually, I know that there’s so much more to it than that, but instinctively, I struggle a lot.

I’m bringing this up now because for as much as I love its maple syrup and murder, Riverdale is the rare show where a sense of queer baiting did hit home for me, only it wasn’t really the moment in the first episode where Betty and Veronica kiss. (I took that as a joke that didn’t quite play the way show intended it to, critiquing teen movies in the 90’s and early 2000’s that tried to be “edgy” by having two women kiss for, you know, one scene.)

No, my problem was with Jughead’s sexuality. The creators said Jughead wouldn’t be asexual . . . but then they also said Season 1 was an “origin story” and implied the teens would learn about their sexuality or lack thereof as time went on. Then Cole Spouse talked a lot about how he’d argued for the character to remain canonically asexual, but while he’d lost the battle for this season, who knew for future seasons down the road? Which, hey, that all made sense: sexuality isn’t static and not everyone figures this shit out right away, so there’s hope, right? And Jughead and Betty’s relationship was important, but not exactly hot and heavy (at least, not until the finale), and often their romance felt more like a friendship punctuated with occasional kisses–so I could easily see a story about how an aromantic Jughead doesn’t know exactly what he’s feeling for this friend who’s been with him through all this crazy murder shit and confusing it for romantic love.

But after the season finale, it just feels so clear to me that Riverdale never had any intention of doing anything like that, and I was like, Goddamn, I didn’t realize how much I wanted this until a brief hope was offered up and then snatched away again. It’s funny, too, because before I’ve always laughed at CW’s cheesy “Dare to Defy” slogan (especially in that promo where Stefan has his arms stretched out like Jesus, like, OMG, the giggles), but whenever I heard it while watching Riverdale, all I could think was Please. Exactly what are YOU defying these days?

Other random thoughts on the finale itself:

A. Wait, there’s another high school? Seriously? This town is big enough for a second public high school, one where all the poor kids go? I call bullshit, sir.

B. I’m not exactly sold on the kids’ critical thinking skills. It’s too dangerous to go out on the ice to save Cheryl, except that when she goes under, they ALL go out there . . . but mostly just to stand around while Archie does all the work (first time for everything). Like, come on, guys. You could have done that from the shore. Then, defying all sense of logic, reason, or common sense, our young heroes don’t take Cheryl to the hospital (cause sure, she only drowned in freezing water in a suicide attempt, but whatevs, she’ll be fine), and somehow making matters even worse, they leave her ALONE, even allowing her to go back home to The House of the Damned?

Nope, not having it. These kids are the worst.

C. Loving Josie’s hair in the finale.

D. While I’m not deeply interested in Betty and Jughead’s impending Trouble in Paradise (and while I’m really not interested in restarting the Betty/Archie/Veronica love triangle), I am kind of into Jughead becoming one of the Serpents. That moment felt earned.

E. No, they shot Luke Perry! Actually, I kind of don’t care that much, although I generally enjoy him on the show, even if he didn’t end up being the murderer like I’d foolishly hoped. I just know that this is going to fuel Archie’s Angst, and while this hopefully means Archie will end up doing something more interesting than singing angsty songs at talent competitions . . . I don’t know. I have the sneaking suspicion Archie going to get Kara and Barry levels of petulance with his angst.

F. Seriously. Did they just burn up Nana? (Maybe she’s a fire-witch, or otherwise immortal. Seriously, these fucking show runners. They teased and teased and teased that Sabrina the Teenage Witch would make it on the show, only to give us some bullshit Easter egg comic in the finale. How awesome would it have been if the last episode switched genres on us? I mean, it’s not like there hasn’t been some buildup for it. I’m completely bummed by what will apparently be a supernatural-free second season, to the point where I’m starting to wonder exactly how invested I am in checking the second season out all.)

Finale Grade: C
Season Grade: B-

“I’ll Drink Your Tears, Frankenstein!”

The inauguration was less than two weeks ago. It feels like my country has been set on fire half a dozen times since then. God knows what will have even happened by the time I post this. I never had any illusions that it was gonna get racist, scary, and dangerous, but I have to admit . . . I didn’t think it’d get there so fast.

Possibly what Mekaela and I should have done to “celebrate” the inauguration was to stockpile food and medical supplies for the impending apocalypse. Instead we made Jell-O shots, got delivery, and watched Death Race 2050.

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It certainly kept to the spirit of the original.

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Coming Soon-Ish: Mockingjays, Teen Wolves, Regency Zombies, and Kidnapping George Clooney

Hail Caesar

I don’t wholeheartedly adore the Coen Brothers the way that most film nerds do, but I’ve got to admit: this looks pretty delightful. And dude, the cast is ridiculous: when I glanced at IMDB, I recognized 14 out of the first 15 stars listed. We’re talking George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Clancy Brown, and more. (The plot summary is also almost charmingly unhelpful: “A Hollywood fixer in the 1950’s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.” That is somewhat less specific than “George Clooney is kidnapped by The Future.”)

I’m definitely intrigued by this one. And it’s not just to watch Channing Tatum dance, either, although I’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty big plus, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t watched any of the Step Up OR Magic Mike movies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Yay, it’s finally coming! I’ve been waiting for this one for a long while. I read the book when it first came out, enjoying it for the silly good time that it was, but this is definitely a story just screaming for a film adaptation. I mean, what’s not to love about mixing some Jane Austen with some zombie action? Plus, it’s got Matt Smith as Mr. Collins, Charles Dance as Mr. Bennett, and Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Now I just need Night of the Living Trekkies to become a movie, too.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

I’d been avoiding trailers for this movie since almost clicking on one with supposed Big Time Spoilers — but I decided to check this one out, and I think I remain Spoiler Free, as the trailer is mostly just one big speech and a bunch of corresponding action shots. Although there are some totally creepy monster deals that I wasn’t at all expecting, since they look like they’d be more at home in a horror movie like The Descent than a blockbuster YA action franchise. Mind you, that’s not a complaint at all. Bring on the creepy monster deals!

I’m looking forward to watching this. I’ve seen all The Hunger Games movies in theater, and I’m trying to decide what the death toll will be. I’ll always remember talking for hours with Mekaela about who and how many of our favorite characters would die in The Return of the King, and actually being a little disappointed by the relatively low body count. It’s not that I wanted Pippin to die or anything, just, you know. Stakes. Price. All that jazz.

I guess I’ll find out this November. (Let it be Gale. Please let it be Gale.)

Ratchet and Clank

So, this looks cute. Very silly, very much like the video games. Actually, I’ve only played one of the them so far, but I found it pretty enjoyable — although Dr. Nefarious was easily the best character and, unfortunately, he’s not in this trailer very much.

Still. I could totally try this at some point. It seems like a good candidate for an  “I Feel Crappy, I Need Lighthearted Kids Fare” movie marathon. Also, it’s cool they got the original voice cast for the main players, while adding in other Hollywood actors (Rosario Dawson, John Goodman, Paul Giamatti, Armin Shimerman, etc.) for what I presume are supporting roles.

Teen Wolf

Well, this came out earlier than I was expecting. Season 5B returns in January, and for some reason I’d just assume I’d have to wait a little longer for any real footage . . . but I forgot about New York Comic Con. Bless you, New York Comic Con.

Despite a slightly uneven ending, I really enjoyed Season 5A, and this promo looks pretty great. On the downside, Deucalion appears to be back — which is actually probably for the best, considering the massively stupid way his storyline ended, but still, boo, Deucalion. On the upside, Papa Argent is also back, which is far, far more important. Also: Lydia’s continuing to have an especially lousy time at Eichen House, Stiles throws Scott to the ground in pretty spectacular fashion, and Kira continues to be a total badass.

I am pumped for January. Speaking of . . .

Person of Interest

Finally, I had to post this promo because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Well, for established fans anyway. I’m not sure the actor switcheroo would do much for anyone who’s just considering checking the series out, but for the rest of us die-hards . . . guys, it’s just delightful. I have re-watched this trailer a stupid amount of times. I will never get tired of seeing Michael Emerson and Amy Acker play Reese. Really, I could just watch that all day.

“If We Burn, You’ll Burn With Us!”

So, I have this ongoing quest: I would like, just once, to go see a movie when my friends and I are the only people in the theater. I don’t know why this is my quest, considering there are approximately 78,000 other goals that are my worthy of my time and energy, and yet, here we are. Quests are rarely chosen, right? They are something that is given, something laid upon you. Quests are a thing of destiny.

I’ve come close to fulfilling my quest at least half a dozen times now, only to have some asshole wander in during the previews, unwittingly ruining everything I’ve longed to achieve. I don’t throw popcorn at this asshole, partially because I’m a mature young woman but mostly because I don’t eat popcorn.

I mention all of this because last week I finally went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I. This movie came out roughly two months ago. You would think that the majority of people who wanted to see it would, in fact, have already seen it. This was clearly the cinema’s expectation as well, considering we were obviously sitting in their teeniest-tiniest theater available. And yet, as soon as we sat down in the empty room, about twenty-five more people walked in.

You know, I’m not my namesake. I’m not asking to slay dragons here. I’m not even asking to lead any rebellions.

k4

On the upshot, I generally enjoyed Mockingjay, Part I.

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“A Half-Finished Book, After All, is a Half-Finished Love Affair.”

I never had much interest in watching Cloud Atlas. I didn’t read the book, and while the trailer looked somewhat intriguing, everything I heard about the story itself kind of made the movie sound like a convoluted nightmare. And if it had been a convoluted nightmare starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tatiana Maslany, I’m sure I wouldn’t have hesitated, but Tom Hanks and Halle Berry aren’t particularly big draws for me, and what little interest I did have quickly dwindled after the film left theaters.

But recently my sister struggled through Cloud Atlas (the book) and wanted to watch the movie to compare. And I had just finished struggling through Rebecca (the book) and wanted to watch that movie to compare.

somni 2

A compromise was arranged and a review was born. (A review for Rebecca may come next week.)

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